« ZurückWeiter »
If there are any two portraits which we all expect to find hung up in the rooms of those whose tastes are regulated by the highest literary culture, they are the portraits of Shakespeare and Goethe.
There are, indeed, many and various gods in our modern Pantheon of genius. It contains rough gods and smooth gods, gods of symmetry and gods of strength, gods great and terrible, gods middling and respectable, and little cupids and toy-gods. Out of this variety each master of a household will select his own Penates, the appropriate gods of his own mantelpiece. The roughest will find some to worship them, and the smallest shall not want domestic adoration. But we suppose a dilettante of the first class; one who, besides excluding from his range of choice the deities of war, and cold thought, and civic action, shall further exclude from it all those even of the gods of modern literature who, whether by reason of their inferior rank, or by
* BRITISH QUARTERLY REVIEW: November 1852. 1.--Shakspeare and His Times. By M. GUIZOT. 1852. 2.-Shakspeare's Dramatic Art, and his Relation to Calderon and Goethe. Translated from the German of Dr. HERMANN ULRICI. 1846. 3.-Conversations of Goethe with Eckermann and Soret. Trans lated from the German by JOHN OXENFORD. 2 Vols. 1850.
reason of their peculiar attributes, fail as models of universal stateliness. What we should expect to see over the mantelpiece of such a rigorous person would be the images of the English Shakespeare and the German Goethe. On the one side, we will suppose, fixed with due elegance against the luxurious crimson of the wall, would be a slab of black marble exhibiting in relief a white plaster-cast of the face of Shakespeare as modelled from the Stratford bust; on the other, in a similar setting, would be a copy, if possible, of the mask of Goethe taken at Weimar after the poet's death. This would suffice; and the considerate beholder could find no fault with such an arrangement. It is true, reasons might be assigned why a third mask should have been added—that of the Italian Dante; in which case Dante and Goethe should have occupied the sides, and Shakespeare should have been placed higher up between. But the master of the house would point out how, in that case, a fine taste would have been pained by the inevitable sense of contrast between the genial mildness of the two Teutonic faces, and the severe and scornful melancholy of the poet of the Inferno. The face of the Italian poet, as being so different in kind, must either be reluctantly omitted, he would say, or transferred by itself to the other side of the room. Unless, indeed, with a view to satisfy the claims both of degree and of kind, Shakespeare were to be placed alone over the mantelpiece, and Dante and Goethe in company on the opposite wall, where, there being but two, the contrast would be rather agreeable than otherwise! On the whole, however, and without prejudice to new arrangements in the course of future decorations, he is content that it should be
as it is.
And so, reader, for the present are we. Let us enter together, then, if it seems worth while, the room of this imaginary dilettante during his absence ; let us turn the key in the lock, so that he may not come in to interrupt us; and let us look for a little time at the two masks he has provided for us over the mantelpiece, receiving such reflections as they may suggest. Doubtless we have often looked at the two masks before;
but that matters little.
of id th ed an ed
-W, Enhe of
As we gaze at the first of the two masks, what is it that we see? A face full in contour, of good oval shape, the individual features small in proportion to the entire countenance, the greater part of which is made up of an ample and rounded forehead, and a somewhat abundant mouth and chin. The general impression is that rather of rich, fine, and very mobile tissue, than of large or decided bone. This, together with the length of the upper lip, and the absence of any set expression, imparts to the face an air of lax and luxurious calmness. It is clearly a passive face rather than an active face; a face across which moods may pass and repass, rather than a face grooved and charactered into any one permanent show of relation towards the outer world. Placed beside the mask of Cromwell, it would fail to impress, not only as being less massive and energetic, but also as being in every way less marked and determinate. It is the face, we repeat, of a literary man; one of those faces which depend for their power to impress less on the sculptor's favourite circumstance of distinct osseous form, than on the changing hue and aspect of the living flesh. And yet it is, even in form, quite a peculiar face. Instead of being, as in the ordinary thousand and one portraits of Shakespeare, a mere general face which anybody or nobody might have had, the face in the mask (and the singular portrait in the first folio edition of the poet's works corroborates it) is a face which every call-boy about the Globe theatre must have carried about with him in his imagination, without any trouble, as specifically Mr. Shakespeare's face. In complexion, as we imagine it, it was rather fair than dark; and yet not very fair either, if we are to believe Shakespeare himself
" But when my glass shows me myself indeed,
Beated and chopped with tanned antiquity."-Sonnet 62.