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Of native American painters there are now several rising into reputation. One of these, Mr. Cole, I had the pleasure to meet in New-York; he is not more than thirty years of age, yet he has already attained to an excellence that would give him a very high rank in England. The two first of his pictures that I saw were landscape compositions,
Morning” and “Evening,” painted for Mr. Van Rensselaer, the patroon of Albany, at a thousand dollars each; and for beauty of composition, harmony of parts, accuracy of drawing, and force of effect, I have never seen any modern pictures that surpassed them.
His greatest work, however, is a series of five paintings, now in the possession of a wealthy citizen of New York, Mr. Reed, who has a very interesting gallery, which he opens to all persons properly introduced, on Thursday in each week, and to whom we had the pleasure of being presented by Miss Sedgwick, the authoress. These pictures are intended to represent the Course of Empires; and the divisions are thus characterized:
The first exhibits the savage state, in which a noble composition of mountain, bay, and forest is exhibited in all the wildness of primeval disorder. The few figures that are seen are hunters occupied in the chase. Nothing can exceed the truth to nature of this beautiful picture.
The second, though not so grand, is more beautiful. It represents the pastoral condition of mankind: the plough is in use, drawn by a yoke of oxen, and shepherds are tending their flocks; a village is built on the shore of the bay; boats are constructing on the beach, and some are in motion on the water ; while a Druidical temple, with altars of sacrifice, crowns the summit of one of the hills. The verdure is more rich, and less encumbered with weeds, than in the former picture. The trees are more open, and in the space between them, on the lawn and in the shadows, a rustic party are enjoying the dance to the shepherd's reed. The tranquillity of the sky, the clearness of the atmosphere, and the brilliancy of the tints, all harmonize with the representation of innocence and happiness, and make it delight. ful to gaze on these associated objects for a great length of time.
The third picture of the series is a representation of the meridian glory of a great empire, in the very zenith of its prosperity and fame, and it is impossible to conceive a more gorgeous picture than this. The bay, seen in its wild and savage state in the first of the series, and in the pasto.
ral condition in the second, is here lined on each side with a noble city, adorned with the most splendid architecture, in palaces, temples, bridges, aqueducts, and fountains. Á vast and crowded procession is passing over the bridge that connects these two divisions of the city, accompanying a hero, who is drawn in an elevated car by elephants, and attended by squadrons of horse and foot as he passes beneath a triumphal arch, on which incense is burning, and from whence banners and armorial ensigns float. Countless myriads of human beings throng every part of the edi. fices, pediments, galleries, and roofs. The sea is covered with galleys of the most beautiful forms and richest decorations; and everything indicates the triumph of art and the zenith of civilization.
The fourth picture introduces the elements of destruction and decay: a storm is raging on the sea, and consigning to wreck the numerous ships and boats that before were seen riding at anchor in safety, or floating in gallant trim and gay security. The horrors of war are depicted with all the force that the most poetical imagination could give to it. A battle rages in the city. The bridge, so recently the scene of the triumphal procession, is now the seat of carnage, havoc, and slaughter. Every variety of attitude and of weapon, every form of ferocity and vengeance, are depicted with terror-thrilling truth; and fire, tempest, and murder rage with unbridled fury all around.
The last picture shows the same beautiful bay in all the solitude of ruin and desolation. The fragments that remain of the vast and gorgeous city, like the ruins of Thebes, of Palmyra, of Athens, and of Rome, form a melancholy skeleton of the glorious figure which they each exhibited when in perfection. The single solitary column, of vast proportions, gray in aspect, worn in surface, overgrown with ivy and moss, rising from the ruined bridge on which the triumphal procession and the battle-scene were previously depicted, is one of the most impressive objects that can be seen upon canvass; while the surrounding fragments of noble edifices crumbling into dust, the second wilderness of nature restored, in the tangled thicket and entwined verdure of the soil, and the pale light of the moon shed over the whole, are all calculated to produce a train of melancholy feelings in any beholder of the least degree of sensibility.
On myself, perhaps, the effect of this beautiful series of pictures, representing the Course of Empires, was stronger
HOUSE OF DETENTION.
than it might have been on many others, from its rekindling in my bosom the feelings I had so powerfully experienced when standing amid the ruins of ancient grandeur at Alexandrea, Memphis, and Thebes, at Tyre, Sidon, and Jerusalem, and at Nineveh, Babylon, and Persepolis; the course of these great cities and empires having been exactly that which was here so beautifully and so pathetically portrayed; and this feeling was still farther strengthened, perhaps, by the apprehension that the same fate might probably be maturing in the womb of time for the great cities and nations that now rule the earth.
In the architecture of New York a great improvement of taste is visible. The older buildings of the town are rude in design, mean in materials, and wretched in execution ; but every successive period of twenty years exhibits a manifest advance towards a better state of things. The more modern churches are in a chaste Grecian style, some of the Doric, and some of the Ionic order. The University opposite Washington Square is a fine specimen of the Gothic; and the great hotel of Astor House has all the massiveness, simplicity, and chasteness of design adapted to such an edifice.
One of the most remarkable of the public buildings of New-York is a House of Detention, or Bridewell, sometimes called the Hall of Justice, in Centre-street, not far from the centre of Broadway.
are all the requisite conveniences for the business of the city magistrates, and the criminal courts held by them. This edifice is built in the Egyptian style of architecture; and though it has many defects, yet, as a whole, it is very imposing. The front and portico, which covers a facade of about 100 feet, is striking from its novelty. The columns, which are modelled after some of the pillars in the temple of Philoë, are well sculptured, and produce a very solemn and stately effect. The whole edifice, however, wants eleva. tion, and would have looked to much greater advantage if it had been raised ten or twelve feet above the ground. The high interior walls of the prison-department appearing over the lower and outer walls of the temple model, by which it is surrounded, is a violation of propriety and good taste ; and the small space allowed for the steps in front of the portico, with the steepness of their angle of ascent, are also great deformities. Notwithstanding these defects, however, the massiveness of the style, added to its novelty, when compared with surrounding edifices, will always cause it to be a very remarkable building.
Peculiarities in the Manners and Customs of New York.–Visits between Residents
and Strangers.--Carriages, Servants, Liveries, &c.—Want of Lamps, Numbers of Houses.-Naming of Streets, Bell-hangers and Locksmiths.-Song of Chimney. sweeps in their Rounds.-Excellent Mode of observing Newyear's Day.-Love of Quaintness and Singularity of Expression.--Examples in Announcements and editorial Paragraphs.- Visit to Newark with Mr. Webster.-Instances of Wit, Cheerfulness, and Humour.--Anecdote of Mr. Webster and coloured People.- Memorial of coloured People against mixed Races.-Boarding house Life, its Advantages and Disadvantages.- Peculiarity of Expression, Phrases, &c.
Among the peculiarities of New York, and traits of man. ners not common to other places, the following may deserve mention. It is usual here, as in other parts of the country, for the residents to call first upon the stranger who arrives; and this visit is expected to be returned before an invitation to the house takes place. It would, of course, greatly facilitate the performance of the visit if the resident who makes the call or leaves his card were to place his address on it, so as to let the stranger know where he might call; but, out of more than 200 cards that were left for us by persons calling, there were not more than ten on which the address or
place of residence was added to the name. Το
every one to whom I mentioned this defect it was admitted to be a source of great inconvenience; but the excuse was, that it was not the custom in New-York to put the residence on the cards, and many valuable hours are thus lost by the conse. quent uncertainty of this, and the inquiries to which it leads, since the Directory confines its information chiefly to places of business. The hours of morning visiting are earlier here than in England; from eleven till two is the most usual period, as many families dine at three, and few later than four or five. An excellent custom, worthy of all imitation, prevails here, which is for ladies who may be at home when called on, but not prepared or disposed to see company, to leave word with the servant that they are engaged," in. stead of saying, as in England,“not at home ;' and as this answer is given without their knowing who the parties are that call, and to all without distinction, no offence can be justly taken at it. A great improvement might be made on this, however, and a great deal of time saved that is now lost to both parties by calls made on persons who are either not at home, or, being at home, are engaged, namely, that ladies and gentlemen should, if they received morning visits at all, have one or more fixed days in the week on which they would be at home within certain prescribed hours, and have these stated in a corner of their cards, so that visiters might know when to call with a certainty of finding the per. son of whom they were in search. For the want of some such arrangement as this, many valuable hours are lost ev. ery day in unsuccessful calls on persons who are really out, and the evil seems to be on the increase.
In the equipages and dresses of the servants, male and female, there is much greater plainness here than in England. The domestics are mostly black or coloured people; and the greatest number of the coachmen and footmen are of the same race.
With these there is no difficulty in getting them to wear a laced hat, and an approach towards something like livery in their dress; but with a white coachman or footman this would be impossible, such is their aversion to wear any badge of servitude. This arises, no doubt, from the fact that in the early history of America nearly all the domestic servants were slaves. In the Southern States this is still the case; and even in the Northern, where slavery no longer exists, the prejudice against the coloured races is as strong as ever; so that while the blacks chiefly fill the places of domestic servants, the whites of this country will