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nises in woman the religious feeling in a quite other aspect, in its utmost depth and purity, "refined from that gross, intellectual alloy with which every masculine theologist-save only One, who merely veiled himself in mortal and masculine shape, but was, in truth, divine-has been prone to mingle it.” A writer who had composed such a work as the “Characteristics of Woman," and such another as “ Sacred and Legendary Art," was right aptly qualified to undertake such a third as “ Legends of the Madonna."
“I could never," says Sir Thomas Browne, “ hear the Ave-Mary bell without an elevation,* or think it a sufficient warrant, because they erred in one circumstance, for me to err in all that is, in silence, and dumb contempt. Whilst, therefore, they directed their devotions to her, I offered mine to God”-a practice worthy of the devout philosopher (for such was the author of " Religio Medici”), who, stanch Protestant as he was, could dispense with his hat at the sight of a cross or crucifix, and weep abundantly at a solemn procession, while his “consorts, blind with opposition and prejudice, fell into an excess of scorn and laughter.”+ In such a matter, antipodean as we are to Rome, we would rather err with Sir Thomas (not the sort of man to fall in with “ vulgar errors"), than be in rigid right (without curve or flexibility in its Protestant spine) with the over-righteous. Wordsworth, too, we can quote on the same side :
Yet some I ween,
Of high with low, celestial with terrene. Even so extreme a dissentient from aught that is Romish in faith or practice as Mr. W. J. Fox, the free-thinking member for Oldham, has emphatically pronounced the very worship of the Madonna to be “this least objectionable of all idolatries,” the “most lovely and, in its tendencies, most useful of all superstitions.” Now, Mrs. Jameson is no rash zealot in anything she handles-critical, theological, or æsthetical. Be it true or not, that the way to Rome is through Geneva, she, at least, abides at a salubrious distance from both. So far is she from blindly venerating every phase of Madonna art, that she sees fit to ask for the generous construction of those to whom every aspect of the subject is sacred--alleging that, in her investigations, she bad had to ascend most perilous heights, and to dive into terribly obscure depths; and that although not for worlds would she be guilty of a scoffing allusion to any belief, or any object hallowed by sincere and earnest hearts, yet was it not possible for her to write in a tone of acquiescence, where her feeling and opinion were shocked. On the other hand, she stands up womanfully for what there is of elevating and refining influence, or of historical and ecclesiastical value, in Madonna portraiture. She holds that if, in the old times, it was a species of idolatry to regard these beautiful representations as endued with a specific sanctity and power; so, in these days, it is a * Some MSS, read Oraison.
† Religio Medici, i. $ 3. Ecclesiastical Sonnets, No. 25. $ See (or, if you are jealous of your orthodoxy, do not see) Fox on “ The Religious Ideas." 1849
sort of atheism to look upon them reckless of their significance, regardless of the influences through which they were produced, without acknorledgment of the mind which called them into being, without reference to the intention of the artist in his own creation. She acknowledges that the Madonna and Child is a subject so consecrated by its antiquity, so hallowed by its profound import, so endeared by its associations with the softest and deepest of our human sympathies, that the mind has never wearied of its repetition, nor the eye become satiated with its beauty. Those, she affirms, who refuse to give it the honour due to a religious representation, yet regard it with a tender, half-unwilling homage; and when the glorified type of what is purest, loftiest, holiest in womanhood, stands before us, arrayed in all the majesty and beauty that accomplished Art, inspired by faith and love, could lend her, and bearing her divine Son, rather enthroned than sustained on her maternal bosom, “we look, and the heart is in heaven !" and it is difficult, very difficult, to refrain from an Ora pro Nobis.
And where, amid the varieties and successive presentments of Art, does she find the highest, holiest impersonation" of this glorious type of womanhood ? She reviews the separate schools, and points out their distinctive features, the stern, awful quietude of the old Mosaics—the hard lifelessness of the degenerate Greek—the pensive sentiment of the Siena, and stately elegance of the Florentine Madonnas—the intellectual Milanese, with their large foreheads and thoughtful eyes—the tender, refined mysticism of the Umbrian—the sumptuous loveliness of the Venetian—the quaint characteristic simplicity of the early German—the intense life-like feeling of the Spanish—the prosaic, portrait-like nature of the Flemish schools; and so on. The realisation of Mrs. Jameson's ideal she finds not in the mere woman, nor yet in the mere idol : not in “ those lovely creations which awaken a sympathetic throb of tenderness; nor in those stern, motionless types, which embody a dogma; not in the classic features of marble goddesses, borrowed as models; nor in the painted images which stare upon us from tawdry altars in flaxen wigs and embroidered petticoats.” For anything of the latter class she has a proper ultimatum of contempt, artistic and religious both. Nor is she very tolerant of that seventeenth century school, from whose studies every trace of the mystical and solemn conception of antiquity gradually disappeared, till, for the majestic ideal of womanhood was substituted merely inane prettiness, or rustic, or even meretricious grace, the borrowed charms of some earthly exemplar-and thus in depicting the “Mourning Mother," the sentiment of beauty was allowed to predominate over that of the mother's agony—" and I have seen,” she says, “the sublime Mater Dolorosa transformed into a merely beautiful and youthful maiden, with such an air of sentimental grief as might serve for the loss of a sparrow.” Once then, and once only, has Mrs. Jameson seen realised her own ideal—in Raphael's Madonna di San Sisto-in which she recognises the transfigured woman, at once completely human and divine, an abstraction of power, purity, and love, poised on the empurpled air, and requiring no other support; looking out, with her melancholy, loving mouth, her slightly-dilated, sibylline eyes, quite through the universe, to the end and consummation of all things sad as if she beheld afar off the visionary sword that was to reach her heart through Him, now resting as enthroned on that heart; yet already exalted through the homage of the redeemed generations who were to salute her as blessed.* But it is refreshing to follow Mrs. Jameson in her genial criticism of other painters, at once enthusiastic and discriminating; and indeed she purposely sets aside, in a great measure, individual preferences, and all predilections for particular schools and particular periods of Art. A few pointed words serve to hint her estimate of the several examples under review the dignified severity of the Virgins of Botticelli, Lorenzo di Credi's chaste simplicity, and Fra Bartolomeo'st noble tenderness—the imposing majesty of the true Caracci style — the Asiatic magnificence of Paul Veronese, Titian's truth to nature combined with Elysian grace, and the natural affectionate sentiments pervading the Venetian school-the soft, yet joyful maternal feeling portrayed so well by Correggio - Albert Durer's homely domesticity and fertile fancy—the sumptuous and picturesque treatment of “ that rare and fascinating artist,” Giorgione-Guido's grand but mannered style—the purity and simplicity of Bellini, whose every Madonna is “ pensive, sedate, and sweet” — the homely, vigorous truth and consummate delicacy in detail of Holbein's happiest efforts Murillo, par excellence the painter of the Conception, and embodying spotless grace, ethereal refinement, benignity, repose, “the very apotheosis of womanhood”- Michael Angelo, so good, so religious, yet deficient in humility and sympathy, semi-pagan in some of his imaginations, and sometimes most un-Christian in his conception of Christ—and Rubens, with his scenic effect and dramatic movement, his portraiture of coarse hearty life and domestic affectionate expression, and his occasionally daring bad taste. An edifying chapter might be devoted to an exposition of “bad taste” in the history of Madonna Art—a few illustrations of which Mrs. Jameson alludes to ; Caravaggio's Death of the Virgin for instance, pronounced wonderful for its intense natural expression, and in the same degree grotesque from its improprietyř-Andrea del Sarto’s habit of depicting the features of his handsome, but vulgar and infamous wife (Lucrezia) in every Madonna he painted—and indeed the introduction at all of historical personages into devotional subjects, especially when the models were notoriously worthless. More amusing are such conceits as the introduction of the court-dwarf and the court-fool in the train of the adoring Magi, themselves booted and spurred- the swollen-cheeked bagpiper in Caracci's Nativity-St. John carrying two puppies in the lappets of his coat, and the dog leaping up to him in Salimbeni's Holy Family)—the maliciously significant presence of a cat and dog in the very fire-front of the Marriage at Cana, by Luini—the Spanish fancy for seating the Virgin under a tree, in guise of an Arcadian pastorella, in a broad-brimmed hat, a crook in her hand, and in the act of feeding her flock with the mystical roses, &c. The vagaries of symbolism in certain stages of the Art are quite infinite and nondescript.
* Legends of the Madonna, p. 44.
† All these three Florentine artists were the disciples and admirers of Saranarola, who distinguished himself inter alia periculosa by thundering against the offensive adornments of the Madonna, as encouraged by the Medici family. An interesting passage in Mrs. Jameson's Introduction relates to this procedure of Savanarola, and his influence on the greatest Florentine artists of his time.
† Mrs. Jameson quotes, without demur, the saying that “Caravaggio always painted like a ruffian because he was a ruffian."
$ As in one of the frescoes in the Vatican, where Giulia Farnese appears in the character of the Madonna, and Pope Alexander VI. (Borgia) kneels at her feet as a votary.
If this graceful, tasteful book exhausts not the subject it illustrates, 'tis because the subject is simply inexhaustible. As, indeed, Raphael saw and said. For, when his friend, Marc Antonio, discovered him (we give Mr. Curtis's* version of the story) engaged upon the Sistine picture, and exclaimed—“ Cospetto! another Madonna ?” Raphael gravely answered, “ Amico mio, were all artists to paint her portrait for ever, they could never exhaust her beauty.” And on Raphael's principle the practice of Art in Christendom has been founded.
By the time this paper is in print, the concluding volume of this “ Sacred and Legendary” series will probably be before the publice. To it, as to aught besides from the same authority, we look with unsated appetite.
CHRONICLES OF A COUNTRY TOWN.
1. CHARLES HOWARD had left Calcutta with high-raised expectations of happiness—he returned to it a disappointed, almost heartbroken man. His vision of married love had been dispelled, and though he still treated Fanny with every outward mark of attention, she knew that her empire over his affection had ceased—that he had never forgotten, nor forgiven, that last miserable evening at St. Bennett's. Hers was not a temper to try, with gentle patience, to win back his love ; or, by tender kindness, to wipe away the memory of the disgraceful part she had acted. Had she done so, with a temper so affectionate, so forgiving, as Charles Howard's, she might, in time, have succeeded ; and the little girl too, who was now born to them, might have proved a bond-an olive branch, indeed, between them. But no! she had never loved her husband ; she cared neither for his happiness nor for that of his child. She saw the father's fondness for the infant, and, though feeling no affection for him, she soon regarded it as a troublesome rival, a something which made herself of less consequence—and she had ever a great regard for her own importance. Mary Smith at first shared Captain Howard's interest in her child, and indeed took an opportunity of soliciting Mrs. Howard to allow her to take charge of it. ** You can easily get another waitingmaid,” she said, " and I will take care of the baby—such care that you shall never know a moment's anxiety about her. Do, do let me, my dear Mrs. Howard !” she cried, clasping her hands imploringly. “Oh, do
* See the dedication prefixed to the “ Wanderer in Syria.”
not refuse me! I shall, perhaps, not grieve so much about my own little Willie's cruel death if you will let me love this child."
" How dare you ?” exclaimed Mrs. Howard—“how dare you speak of your base-born child to me, and propose to love my child instead? I must insist upon it that I hear no more of this nonsense. Captain Howard is absurd enough-you are not wanted to spoil it too."
6 It is better so, it is better so," said Mary Smith; “ I was wrong."
That night, when “ alone again with her own thoughts,” she whispered to herself, “ I am glad of it, I might, perhaps, have forgiven her, if she would have allowed that. My Willie! my own little Willie ! I might, perhaps, have even forgiven your death! But she will not let my heart be softened to ber or hers.” And, from that day, Mary Smith never evinced any affection for the little girl, nor paid it any of those attentions which young women love to shower on children, but she continued to show as much deference to her mistress as at first.
By his old acquaintances in Calcutta, the change on Captain Howard was soon commonly remarked. Among the rest, Fanny's sisters observed it, and Louisa, now Mrs. Colman, named the subject, with a hint that she feared all was not right; but Fanny laughed at her, and said:
“I always told you that we should make a very fashionable couple one day. We need not all live like turtle doves, you know."
Captain Howard's house soon became the resort of the idle and fashionable in Calcutta. Mrs. Howard, its dashing mistress, eagerly entered into all the expensive amusements of the place, and gaiety succeeded gaiety, as though life itself had been intended for one long holiday, with nothing but the pursuit of amusement and pleasure to occupy the holiday keepers. If Mrs. Howard felt weariness and discontent amid these glittering scenes, she did not suffer them to appear; and, on looking at her, radiant with youth, health, and beauty, a suspicion that all was hollow beneath would scarcely have entered the thoughts of a casual observer. Mary Smith knew better than any one what was the true state of the case : she saw the graceful dancer in repose, she heard the voice of the syren when none were near to be enchanted with its music; but she was silent, and few, very few, detected the cheat. The fashionable Mrs. Howard, the beautiful, the elegant, the accomplished Mrs. Howard, was admired and followed everywherebut loved nowhere. She and her husband seldom met; he occupied himself in the duties of his profession, and spent his leisure hours either in his study, or in the nursery with his child; but was seldom seen in his own house, except when a large party made it necessary, for the sake of appearances, that he should be present. In the midst of all this, however, Fanny's conduct was perfectly correct; not a single blot was cast upon her fair fame, and on that point her husband had no fear. So when, after about a year of this heartless life, he was called on duty for some time into the interior, he left home without a misgiving-without, except for his child, a single regret; and taking as kind a leave as he could of his wife, and embracing his little girl with all the warmth of his loving heart, he bade adieu to Calcutta.
For a short time after his departure Mrs. Howard remained more secluded than had been her wont, for she lived for the world, and valued its opinions; and though her conduct was never controlled by principle,