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Letters from an Officer in the Guards to his Friend in England. 337
Canft thou not bear the meanness of my ftyle?' &c.
ART. IV. Letters from an Officer in the Guards to his Friend in England: Containing fome Accounts of France and Italy. 8vo. 5 S. Cadell. 1778.
HE love of action is the most powerful principle in human nature. It operates with unremitting force on the greater part of mankind; and thofe who, by the confinement of difeafe, or by the weight of years, are prevented from gratifying it in its full extent, ftill receive their principal delight from relating their own exploits, or hearing those of others. Even in fuch lethargic minds as are the favourite abode of floth and inactivity, it is impoffible for thefe lazy powers altogether to filence the ruling paffion, the movements of which often difturb the profound fecurity of their repofe. The love of employment appears in all our amufements; and to render even the hours of idleness agreeable, they must be spent in some kind of frivolous exertion and indolent activity.
In that doubtful ftate, in which a man fluctuates between the defire of motion and reft, roufed on the one hand by the ardour of action, and allured on the other by the sweets of repofe, the mind often takes an intermediate direction, which is equally remote from that of either of the contending paffions. Curiofity prompts us to vifit the wonders of unknown countries; laziness deters us from undertaking the fatigues of a tedious journey; we obey not implicitly the dictates of either principle, but by taking a middle course, endeavour to accommodate their difference, and to gratify our curiofity, while we indulge our floth, by reading the accounts of former travellers.
It is fo agreeable to travel in the parlour or the study, that notwithftanding the innumerable itineraries that have been published of every part of Europe, new itineraries are ftill wanting to amufe the languor of idlenefs, and to fatisfy that compound paffion of indolence and activity which prevails fo generally in the prefent age. The work, which we are now to confider, offers a fhort and agreeable account of the principal places in France and Italy. The Author pretends not to be a virtuofo ; but he gives his opinion with freedom concerning the most celebrated pictures that are to be feen in the churches and palaces of Rome and Florence. His obfervations on this fubject may be very entertaining to his particular acquaintance, to whom he writes, but they lofe much of their merit when laid before the Public. It is to be wished that an Author would not expofe his opinions, except to his moft intimate friends, upon matters
338 Letters from an Officer in the Guards to his Friend in Englana. with which he profeffes himself to be totally unacquainted. The knowledge of pictures and ftatues, however frivolous and unimportant it may appear to fome people, is real knowledge. It is not enough to fee; we muft fee with the eyes of an artift, understand the language of his art, know what it can exprefs, where it is confined, and where it is copious. If the Author had formed the flighteft idea of fculpture, he would not have paffed over the groupe of Laocoon and his children, (see p. 172) with fimply mentioning the wondrous twisting of the fnakes,' when the ineffable expreffion of grief, torture, agony, in the human figures, ought to have excited his admiration. It is not in the countenances only, but in every attitude, limb, and mufcle of this mafter-piece of art, that the feelings of the foul are defcribed. The minuteft part has, its fenfe, and fpeaks to the heart The toes of Laocoon are drawn together like those of a dying person, and exhibit, to the learned eye, that accumulation of the evils of life which fpeedily end in death.
The rapidity with which our Author runs over the beauties of Italy, often prevents him from attending to what is most worthy to be examined. He vifits the court of the palace Farnefe (page 168), but forgets to walk up ftairs, and even to. mention the gallery, which contains the admired works of Annibal Carracci, reprefenting the agreeable mythology of the ancients, and univerfally held to be the moft delightful scene of art that is to be feen in Rome, or in the world.
But although we cannot commend this Author as a connoiffeur, juftice obliges us to obferve that his defcriptions are in general plain, fimple, and perfpicuous; and that his work may convey, in few words, a general, and, for the most part, a just idea of France and Italy, to fuch as have never visited those countries. We fhall felect, as a specimen, the description of St. Peter's at Rome:
This edifice, taking it all in all,' our Author confiders as the moft fplendid temple that ever was raifed in any age to any deity., The façade is elegant beyond defcription, and was erected by Paolus V. On the top of it are ftatues of Chrift and the twelve apostles; and beneath is the gallery or colonade from whence the Pope gives his benediction. The famous cupola of this church is fix hundred and feven Roman palmi high, and one hundred and ninety-fix broad; and the church itfelf eight hundred and forty-four palmi in length. Its double colonade, the vaft Egyptian obelisk, and the fountains, are alfo beautiful and ftriking performances; but it is a pity the colonade was not carried further, as the view from the church is now terminated by one of the ugliest and beggarly streets now in Rome. On entering into it, one is greatly truck with its perfect fymmetry and beauty; and I affure you, that although there have been fuch vaft fums laid out in adorning it, there does not appear to me to be a picture, a ftatue, or even a foot too much of carving or gilding.
Letters from an Officer in the Guards to his Friend in England. 339
On the right hand as you enter, at an altar of a chapel, is a famous dead Chrift in the lap of Mary, by Michael Angelo Buonoroti. His figure is extremely fine, but her countenance, I think, has more the appearance of fullen, or even ftupid forrow, than of amiable grief for the death of the Saviour of mankind. A little farther on is a magnificent chapel of the Holy Sacrament, with a fine altar of lapis lazuli, beautifully carved, and the whole chapel enriched with bronze and gilding; before it are feven filver lamps, continually burning; and over the altar a picture, in mofaic, of the Trinity, done after the original of Pietro di Cortona.
Before I proceed farther, I must explain to you the nature of the mosaic. It is a very curious work, and was originally derived from the ancients, who used to cut marble of different colours into very fmall pieces, and by sticking them into cement, formed flowers, figures, &c. but at prefent the modern artists make use of a compofition, which is by fire made as hard as marble; and of this they have literally near ten thousand fhades or colours, which being chiffelled into small splinters, are thruft clofe together into a cement fpread on a stone furface, and thereby they are able to copy any picture, fo that neither time nor damp has any effect on its colours. This work, indeed, takes up a long time, but it is admirably adapted for churches, and believe me, it is not in nature to conceive at what an excellence they are arrived in it. All the pictures in St. Peter's are of these materials; and they have thereby collected from different parts the finest productions of the greatest mafters, and thereby rendered their defigns almost immortal.
But to return to my description of St. Peter's:-Many of its other chapels are very fuperb, and the entire cathedral is encrufted with marble of various colours, with carvings by the most famous fculptors, baffo relievo's wrought to the highest degree of per
In every chapel, and over every altar, are large and capital copies in mofaic. Thofe that delighted me the most were the Fall of Simon, after Domenichino, and the famous Transfiguration, after Raphael of all these I have feen the originals, and shall speak of them hereafter.
Over the high altar is a canopy fupported by four twisted pillars of bronze gilt, adorned with fculpture foliage, cherubims, flowers, &c. wrought in a masterly manner; but they look rather black and dirty, as do the hundred and fifty filver lamps continually burning before it, and even the mafly candlesticks on it are in this condition but I am told thefe are changed when the Pope fays mafs there, and folid gold ones placed in their ftead; but as this is only once a year, thofe that remain there on other occafions make but a bad appearance: and indeed I have feen other altars that have been more magnificent, and pleased me much more, although the gilding of thefe columns is reported to have coft 40,000 crowns. The bronze they are compofed of was brought from the Pantheon. Behind the altar is St. Peter's chair, fupported by four figures in bronze gilt, representing four doctors of the church. In the cathedral are several fine monuments of Popes and Princes; and there is one now erecting to a late unfortunate perfonage, who once attempted to place him
felf on the throne of a nation, which never will be brought to fup. port the yoke of tyranny, or to groan under the oppreffive weight of Popish fuperftition.'
ART. V. Difcourfes on feveral Subjects and Occafions. By George Horne, D. D. Prefident of Magdalen college, Oxford, and Chaplain in Ordinary to his Majefty. 2 Vols. 8vo. 12s. bound, Rivington, &c. 1779.
R. HORNE having been prevented, by the discharge of a laborious but highly honourable office, from performing the more immediate duties of his profeffion, is yet defirous, we are told, not to lose the clergyman in the magistrate, and therefore, as he could not form new difcourfes, he has digefted and published fome which had been already compofed. This form of publication,' he obferves, is generally fuppofed lefs advantageous, at prefent, than any other. But it may be queftioned,' he adds, whether the fuppofition does juftice to the age; when we confider only the respect which has fo. recently been paid to the fermons of the learned and elegant Dr. Blair: and greater refpect cannot be paid them than they
The Doctor farther remarks, that the multitude of old fermons affords no arguments against the publication of new ones. There is a tafte,' he fays, in moral and religious as well as other compofitions, which varies in different ages, and may very lawfully and innocently be indulged. Thoufands received inftruction and confolation formerly from fermons, which would not now be endured. The preachers of them ferved their generation, and are bleffed for evermore. But because provifion was made for the wants of the laft century in one way, there is no reason why it fhould not be made for the wants of this in another. The next will behold a set of writers of a fashion fuited to it, when our difcourfes fhall in their turn be antiquated and forgotten among men; though if any good be wrought by them in this their day, our hope is, with that of faithful Nehemiah, that our God will remember us concerning them.'
But as it may be expected that the productions of every author will contain fomething new, either in matter or manner, it may be naturally afked, fays this writer, What are my pretenfions? To this question he chufes to reply in the words of the excellent and amiable Fenelon, extracted from the laft of his Dialogues on the Eloquence of the Pulpit. The paffage is too long for us to infert; the fubftance of it is, that preachers fhould pay an attentive and principal regard to the Scriptures, and endeavour to imprefs and influence their hearers by the feveral confiderations which are to be drawn from thence. This Dr. Horne has done. And although, in his view of fome
parts of the facred writings, he may differ from several worthy and learned men, yet it will be pleaded, in his behalf, that his difcourfes are fcriptural, and evangelical: while, on the other hand, fome readers may be tempted to afk, whether he does not seem to pay nearly an equal respect to the authority of the church.
Many of thefe fermons were preached on the festivals and fafts of the English established church; and he does not fail to extol the wisdom of thofe obfervances; yet it is certain that we have no fcriptural authority for confidering these days and times as holy, or a regard to them as binding on the confcience; it is alfo farther certain, that there is great danger, left such attention and regard should degenerate into dull, unmeaning formality, or ignorant fuperftition, which, indeed, fact too often verifies. Nevertheless, when it is thought proper to obferve them, we are glad to find that preachers will take any pains to explain their nature and defign to the people, and direct them to fuch improvement of thefe inftitutions as may tend to fubferve the great purposes of morality and piety.
Each of thefe volumes confifts of twelve difcourfes: the fubjects of the firft are, The Creation of Man; the Garden of Eden; the Tree of Life; the Tree of Knowledge; the Prince of Peace; the King of Glory; the Word incarnate; the Cafe of the Jews; the beloved Difciple; Rachel comforted; the Circumcifion; the Epiphany. In the fecond volume the titles of the discourses are as follow: The Righteous delivered; the Sinner called; the noble Convert; Jefus rifen; the Refurrection of the Body; the unspeakable Gift; the prevailing Interceffor; Daniel in Babylon; the Redemption of Time; Patience portrayed; the great Affize; the Origin of civil Government; the prodigal Son; Knowledge and Charity.
We have read many fermons which might be confidered as agreeable and elegant effays, having little relation to their texts, or to the fcriptures; yet it fhould feem highly proper, and indeed effential to a Chriftian minifter, to make the facred writings his authority and his guide: thus it is with Dr. Horne, who follows the directions delivered by the good archbishop of Cambray in the paffage already mentioned. If he gives a little into conjecture when treating on the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life, &c. his fermons are, nevertheless, fenfible, practical, and often animated. He addreffes himfelf more to the heart than is commonly done, in the prefent day, by our argumentative preachers; and, confequently, his dif courfes are more calculated to answer the end of preaching, than others, which might, perhaps, be confidered as fuperior in ftyle and compofition; though there is little room to cenfure Dr. Horne's compofitions in this refpect. Some of the fermons