« VorigeDoorgaan »
and that over the sea. Over the ice the sky was perfectly cloudless, whilst the sea was overcast with stormy-looking clouds, which passed heavily along with the gale, until they reached a line nearly perpendicular to the edge of the packed ice. At this point, or line of demarcation of the two hemispheres, it was curious to mark the rapid motion of the clouds to the right or left, and how immediately they became condensed, or were dispersed on arriving at it; and although masses of clouds were continually borne towards the spot, by the impetuosity of the tempest, the line of termination did not encroach upon that of the serene atmosphere overhanging the pack. This contrast between the two atmospheres, so remarkable in cloudy weather especially, is termed the “ice blink," and enables the experienced mariner to judge of the nature and position of the ice, even at a distance. The effect of a south-west gale upon the ice, especially when it is of long continuance, is first to pack it so closely as to exclude every pool of water, and then to propel the whole body to the northward. But, as soon as the wind ceases, the floes separate with an apparent elasticity; the prevailing current, which has been pressed up by the gale, resumes its course, the ice opens in every direction, and may be seen travelling at a rate scarcely credible. Thus, on the 23rd, we found the field to which we were fast, setting to the southward at the rate of three miles an hour, and the pack beginning to open in every direction.
Nothing made of wood can withstand these pressures; so that if a vessel be caught in them, she must either be crushed, or rise and allow the ice to advance until it meets an opponent as unyielding as itself.
After a time and numerous dangers as well as struggles, Captain Buchan resolved to proceed westward, and follow the margin of the barrier-ice towards Greenland. Without accompanying him we may mention that his efforts did not succeed, because the success of the voyage was impossible. The utmost advance the expedition was able to accomplish, was to 80 degrees 34 minutes, and only a little further than Hudson penetrated in 1607, with a small vessel and a crew of some ten men. The Dorothea, particularly, had at length sustained such injury, that it is hardly possible to imagine how she was preserved from immediately foundering. The return homewards was therefore determined upon, the coast of Spitzbergen being surveyed while the vessels were there detained in order to repair the damage done to them. The descriptions connected with the island form an interesting feature of the volume. But although Captain Buchan was prevented from penetrating so far as Parry did, for the barrier is not fixed, but encroaches. more in one year than another, while new and different openings often occur in the ice, our author throws out a hint in his closing remarks with regard to the success that would probably attend the employment of a steam-vessel, with the screwpropeller, in a Polar voyage. He thus expresses himself:
The openings in the ice are generally of short duration, perhaps for eight or twelve hours only; during which time, an ordinary sailing-vessel, thread
ing the many tortuous channels, does not advance above ten or twenty miles in a direct line, before the closing of the fields puts a stop to her progress ; whereas a steamer, regardless of wind -and it is mostly in calm weather that the ice opens-would be able to accomplish three or four times the advance in the same period, and perhaps to come to some land in the North, which, if reached, would materially improve her prospect of success. In the event of the ice closing, the propeller could be instantly drawn up into the body of the vessel, and when wanted could be as expeditiously replaced, especially as smooth water generally prevails between the floes of ice. In cases of frost the screw is wholly under water and entirely free from that accumulation of ice which would take place about the paddlefloats and boxes of an ordinary steam-vessel, to the great detriment if not the entire destruction of the wheel. Should the vessel be caught and compelled to winter, a steam-apparatus for warming the vessel throughout could be fitted with little trouble. And as the propeller is only intended to be used as an auxiliary power, a small high-pressure engine would be all that would be required, and consequently it would take up but little of the stowage of the vessel. He
goes on to observe, that it seems as if the invention of the screw-propeller about the present period, had taken place to stimulate to further exertion towards discovery in the far North. He says that the auspicious return of Captain James Ross from the Antarctic seas, with officers and seamen already accustomed to the ice, and with two vessels strengthened, to which propellers could be applied at a moderate expense, appears to indicate that the time has arrived at which Arctic research might be most advantageously resumed; and that, in connexion with this attempt, that most interesting and important question, of the compression of the earth at the Poles, might undergo an investigation, by a direct measurement of an extensive arc of the meridian at Spitzbergen. Among his intelligent suggestions on the present subject, we also find the following, relative to other interesting branches of science.
Much requires to be done in magnetism. The correct determination of the position of the magnetic poles ; the present Dip and Magnetic intensity, as compared with results obtained twenty years ago, during which period the needle has begun to retrograde, would be particularly desirable. And amidst other natural phenomena, the stupendous ice formations, which have recently excited much attention, are not unworthy of investigation : whether they really have a progressive motion, tearing their icy bases from the firmly-frozen earth beneath, or whether they remain immovably fixed, and are thus icy monuments of at least four thousand years' antiquity, are inquiries full of interest, although they sink into insignificance compared with the magnitude of the propositions above mentioned. It has been shown that the highest latitude has been reached in the vicinity of Spitzbergen, and, consequently, that is the point from which any expedition sent upon this service should start. And as the sea here does not become clear of ice until the summer is well advanced, the ships would have ample time to land, and to settle the
party engaged in the measurement of the arc of the meridian, and to push other useful inquiries, before they would be required to start on their grand enterprise. If they should chance to arrive at an auspicious moment during one of these favourable openings in the ice, and if any land should be discovered in, or near the situation marked in an old Dutch chart, and its coast should stretch to the northward, and be approachable, there is but little doubt that the expedition would be able to advance along its western side, owing to the prevailing motion of the ice, and perhaps attain a very near approach to the Pole. In any case we shall have acquired knowledge, and a positive benefit to science, by a more accurate determination of the figure of the earth than we have hitherto possessed.
ART. VIII. - The Life of Sir David Wilkie ; with his Journals,
Tours, and Critical Remarks on Works of Art ;- and a Selection from his Correspondence. By ALLAN CUNNINGHAM. 3
vols. Murray. The faults of these three volumes are bad arrangement and injudicious selection. The sudden death of the biographer may in some measure account for the character of the book ; but yet no ordinary revision would have removed its blemishes of repetition, or those many details that are now needless with regard to the career of the artist. No doubt there is abundance of materials in the work as well as in Sir David's history, for a biographer to work with and pithily set forth. But still neither was the painter's life so crowded with strange events, nor is there shown such a discriminating and sifting criticism of his later history as to warrant the bulky publication.
Wilkie was the son of a respectable Presbyterian minister of a small parish in the county of Fife, whose family was large and his stipend very limited. The father, however, managed to afford the boy a decent education in art, who "would draw before he could read, and paint before he could spell." Both grandfather and father originally designed the lad for the church, but his love of the pencil was too strong to be thwarted or to cease in endeavouring to master the difficulties of the profession. He even took likenesses in the church, to the scandal of well-meaning people, and at length, through the interest of the Earl of Leven, was admitted, but not without scruples on the part of the secretary, to the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh, where he remained four years studying hard both from the antique and from nature in the fields and streets. He exhibited some other traits of character in his early years, such as quietness, quaintness, and kindly disposition, preferring standing and looking at his companions to joining them at play. He was, at the same time, fond of mechanical pursuits, and is said to have had a taste for some of the more humble arts, such as constructing useful implements,
wielding the blacksmith's fore-hammer, trying his hand at the loom, or making use of the shoemaker's awl.
When his fellow-students followed him into his two-pair-of-stairs study in Nicholson Street, they found all in keeping, they said, with his demeanour in the Academy. The Bible and The Gentle Shepherd, a sketch or two on the wall, a table and a few chairs, with a fiddle whose strings, when he grew tired with drawing, he touched to a favourite air, were the chief articles ; neither lay-figures covered with silk, nor easels of polished mahogany were there ; a few brushes and a few colours, and a palette made by his own hands, may be added. The fiddle was to him then and long after an useful instrument; its music, he said, not only soothed himself, but put his live models, who sat for his shepherds and husbandmen, into the sort of humour which he desired; nay, he often pleased so much, that one of them, an old rough mendicant
Whose wallets before and behind did hang, to whom he had played a welcome air, refused the pence when offered, and strode down the stair, saying, "Hout! put up your pennies, man; I was e'en as glad o' the spring as ye were !" He sometimes, too, in a land where living models of any other part save the head or hand are difficult to obtain for either love or money, made himself into his own model; and with a bared foot, a bared ancle, or a bared knee, would sit at the looking-glass till he confessed that he was almost benumbed by exposure. Nor did he desist when a friend knocked ; he would say, “Come in,” nor move from his posture, but deliberately explain his object, and continue to draw till
he had made the sketch.
He was the most industrious in his artistic studies, and at length felt that his progress was so great and his reliance upon himself so strong, that he removed to London, believing that he might maintain himself in the metropolis. He took this step in 1805, when he was twenty years of age, having by his limited practice in Scotland as a portrait-painter, earned some fifty pounds, which he brought to London:
Something of his Edinburgh fame had come before him ; Jackson, at that time a student, seems to have seen as well as heard of him, for he wrote to Haydon, then young and ardent, to hasten from Devonshire, for that a tall, pale, thin Scotsman had just come to study at the Academy, who had done something from Macbeth, of which report spoke highly. " Touched with this,” said Haydon, "I came at once to London and went to the Academy; Wilkie, the most punctual of mankind, was there before me. We sat and drew in silence for some time : at length Wilkie rose, came and looked over my shoulder, said nothing, and resumed his seat. I rose, went and looked over his shoulder, said nothing, and resumed my seat. We saw enough to satisfy us of each other's skill, and when the class broke up we went and dined together. Wilkie was, as Jackson had described him, tall, pale, and thin, with blue and uncommon bright eyes, a nose rather short, and mouth full of humour of the quietest and richest kind.
VOL. II. (1813) 10. 1.
His first year in the capital was his year of trial; his genius and his success soon rendering him an exception to the generality of artists. His first step was to enter the Royal Academy, where, as he had hitherto done, he laboured indefatigably, although several times reduced within the bounds of the last half guinea. “However, I have still as yet," he writes to the minister of Cults, “ cleared my way and kept out of the pawnbroker's." He soon expressed himself to the same fond and anxious friend with increased confidence, hoping that Scotland might one day become “proud to boast of David Wilkie.” He declared that he liked London better than Auld Reekie. Among other commissions he obtained one from Lord Mansfield for the “ Village Politicians," which was exhibited at the Academy in 1806, astounding Mr. Angerstein and others by its excellence. The noble purchaser of the picture, however, endeavoured in a way not the most generous to obtain it for fifteen guineas, but subsequently paid for it twice the amount. We quote a letter that will substantiate the remark which we prefix to the nobleman's chaffering on the subject :
Portland Place, May 9, 1806. Sir, I this morning received your letter informing me that you had been offered thirty guineas for your picture of The Village Politicians. I beg leave to remind you that that picture was painted for me, expressly at my desire; that while it was yet unfinished you informed me that the price was fisteen guineas, frame excluded ; and that in answer I mentioned that I did not object to the price, but advised you to consult Mr. Smith, or other artists of eminence, as to the charges which you ought to make; conceiving, as I then told you, that the only chance a young artist has is to affix a very moderate price to his pictures till he is well known ; and this, from the absurd fashion which prevails of paying large sums for very indifferent portraits, instead of purchasing superior pictures of another description at a fair rate. I therefore conceive that the picture is mine, and at the price of fifteen guineas; and upon this I am the more tempted to insist, from the conviction that it will be advantageous to you to have it in your power to say, that notwithstanding the success of your picture, and the offers which were made to you, you adhered to your original engagement. I hope you will see this subject in a proper point of view, and in so doing you will believe me) consult your present as well as future advantage.
I am, Sir,
MANSFIELD. Wilkie, however, continued to find greater and greater favour for wonder-working London, as is shown by one of his accounts at a period when he was in the habit of getting his dinner and daily lessons in foreign languages at a French cating-house in Poland Street, for the small charge of thirteen pence.
Here, if you have money, you may do anything; and nobody will make the least inquiry, or trouble their heads about what you are doing. I have