figure of St. Paul; and yet what an addition to that nobleness could Raffaelle have given had the art of contrast been known in his time! but, above all, the flowing line, which constitutes grace and beauty! You would not then have seen an upright figure standing equally on both legs, and both hands stretched forward in the same direction, and his drapery, to all appearance, without the least art of disposition.' The following picture is the Charge to Peter. 'Here,' says he, are twelve upright figures; what a pity it is that Raffaelle was not acquainted with the pyramidal principle! He would then have contrived the figures in the middle to have been on higher ground, or the figures at the extremities stooping or lying, which would not only have formed the group into the shape of a pyramid, but likewise contrasted the standing figures. Indeed,' added he, 'I have often lamented that so great a genius as Raffaelle had not lived in this enlightened. age, since the art has been reduced to principles, and had had his education in one of the modern academies; what glorious works might we then have expected from his divine pencil!'

I shall trouble you no longer with my friend's observations, which, I suppose, you are now able to continue by yourself. It is curious to observe, that, at the same time that great admiration is pretended for a name of fixed reputation, objections are raised against those very qualities by which that great name was acquired.

Those critics are continually lamenting that Raffaelle had not the colouring and harmony of Rubens, or the light and shadow of Rembrandt, without considering how much the gay harmony of the former, and affectation of the latter, would take from the dignity of Raffaelle; and yet Rubens had great harmony, and Rembrandt understood light and shadow; but what may be an excellence in a lower class

of painting, becomes a blemish in a higher; as the quick, sprightly turn, which is the life and beauty of epigrammatic compositions, would but ill suit with the majesty of heroic poetry.

To conclude; I would not be thought to infer, from any thing that has been said, that rules are absolutely unnecessary; but to censure scrupulosity, a servile attention to minute exactness, which is sometimes inconsistent with higher excellency, and is lost in the blaze of expanded genius.

I do not know whether you will think painting a general subject. By inserting this letter, perhaps, you will incur the censure a man would deserve, whose business being to entertain a whole room, should turn his back to the company, and talk to a particular person.-Idler, No. 76.




OLIVER GOLDSMITH, born 1729, at Pallasmore, in County Longford, was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, 1745–1749. After some studies at Leyden, he took a medical degree at Louvain, and travelled on foot through a part of the Continent, 1754-1755. Having tried without success to earn his livelihood as a schoolmaster, he became a hack writer for booksellers in 1757. He attracted the attention of critics by the essays entitled The Citizen of the World, in 1760; and in 1764 produced his two most successful works, The Traveller, a poem, and the Vicar of Wakefield, a novel. From that time, partly as an essayist, partly as a writer for the stage, Goldsmith kept himself constantly before the public. He produced another classical poem, the Deserted Village, in 1770, and compiled School Histories of Rome, England, and Greece, and a History of Animated Nature, for the London booksellers, 1767-1773. But, careless of making or saving money, Goldsmith was always in difficulties, and his early death, in 1774, was probably hastened by mental disquietude.

The peculiar merits of Goldsmith's writings are clearness of thought, ease of style, and simple language. He never writes for effect, and there is scarcely a sentence in his works that a child might not understand. Yet in powers of judgment and thought, as well as in warm and deep sympathies, he was far above the great mass of his contemporaries. He was the first to predict the French Revolution, and the Swedish coup-d'état. He is perhaps the only writer of his times who thoroughly understood the social condition of the Continent. Nor was he less observant of English

society, and the Deserted Village has been often quoted by economists in illustration of the change which has gradually substituted large estates for the small holdings of a numerous yeomanry. Among modern authors Goldsmith has been especially imitated by Washington Irving.

1. The Political Condition of Sweden, France, and Holland.

SWEDEN, though now seemingly a strenuous assertor of its liberties, is probably only hastening on to despotism. Their senators, while they pretend to vindicate the freedom of the people, are only establishing their own independence. The deluded people will, however, at last perceive the miseries of an aristocratical government; they will perceive that the administration of a society of men is ever more painful than that of one only. They will fly from this most oppressive of all forms, where one single member is capable of controlling the whole, to take refuge under the throne, which will ever be attentive to their complaints. No people long endure an aristocratical government, when they can apply elsewhere for redress. The lower orders of people may be enslaved for a time by a number of tyrants, but, upon the first opportunity, they will ever take a refuge in despotism or democracy.

As the Swedes are making concealed approaches to despotism, the French, on the other hand, are imperceptibly vindicating themselves into freedom. When I consider that those parliaments (the members of which are all created by the court, the presidents of which can act only by immediate direction) presume even to mention privileges and freedom, who, till of late, received directions from the throne with implicit humility; when this is considered, I cannot help fancying that the genius of freedom has entered that king

dom in disguise. If they have but three weak monarchs more successively on the throne, the mask will be laid aside, and the country will certainly once more be free.

When I compare the figure which the Dutch make in Europe with that they assume in Asia, I am struck with surprise. In Asia, I find them the great lords of all the Indian seas; in Europe, the timid inhabitants of a paltry state. No longer the sons of freedom, but of avarice; no longer assertors of their rights by courage, but by negotiations; fawning on those who insult them, and crouching under the rod of every neighbouring power. Without a friend to save them in distress, and without virtue to save themselves; their government is poor, and their private wealth will serve to invite some neighbouring invader.— Citizen of the World.

2. Dr. Primrose in Prison.

THE next morning I communicated to my wife and children the scheme I had planned of reforming the prisoners, which they received with universal disapprobation, alleging the impossibility and impropriety of it; adding, that my endeavours would no way contribute to their amendment, but might probably disgrace my calling.

'Excuse me,' returned I, these people, however fallen, are still men, and that is a very good title to my affections. Good counsel rejected returns to enrich the giver's bosom ; and though the instruction I communicate may not mend them, yet it will assuredly mend myself. If these wretches, my children, were princes, there would be thousands ready to offer their ministry; but in my opinion, the heart that is buried in a dungeon is as precious as that seated upon a throne. Yes, my treasures, if I can mend them I will;

« VorigeDoorgaan »