Abbildungen der Seite

out for the sitting, will not admit of a question. The separation. into families belongs moreover to our national character, and to some of its better parts; the quietness, the reserve, the decorum of our manners require it, and the sanctity of private feeling is thus preserved in the act of public worship. With regard to distinction of ranks, it may be observed, that the sense of those distinctions is much more effectually precluded by the present distribution in which every one knows his place, than it could be by a promiscuous assemblage, which, were there not other and greater objections to it in our state of society, would be liable to this decisive one, that the contrast would be rendered more glaring by juxtaposition, and persons in whom no thought of their relative conditions would otherwise have entered, would have that thought irresistibly forced upon them when they found themselves side by side; the scheme therefore would produce the very evil which it was intended to prevent. And this consequence is so unavoidable, that in those conventicles where the principle is professed, common sense has introduced a wiser practice. Even in quaker meetings every one knows his place, and they who are most respected for their station in life always occupy the chief seats in the synagogue.

When St. Wulstan was building the present cathedral of Worcester, and the former and ruder edifice of St. Oswald was destroyed to make room for his splendid structure, they who stood by him observed that he shed tears at beholding the demolition, and they told him that he ought rather to rejoice in the enlargement of the church over which he presided. He replied, Ego longè aliter intelligo, quòd nos miseri sanctorum opera destruimus, ut nobis laudem comparemus. Non noverat illa felicium virorum ætas pompaticas ades construere, sed sub qualicumque tecto seipsos Deo immolare, subjectosque ad exemplum attrahere: nos è contra nitimur ut, animarum negligentes curam, accumulemus lapides. However natural the feeling which Wulstan thus expressed may have been, the fashion of erecting fine cathedrals was certainly no indication that piety was on the wane. It is when old places of worship are dilapidated, or allowed to go to ruin, while no new ones are erected in their stead, that the decay of the mystical as well as of the material church has begun. There was nothing puritanical in Wulstan's feeling; it was just as well as natural: the demolition of a fabric which time and many circumstances had sanctified, forced upon him a melancholy sense of the vanity and instability of all human works, and he could not but think of the chances and changes which his own edifice must undergo, and the destruction to which it must needs come at last, long as it would outlast him, his monument, and perhaps his very name. Very different from this is the spirit which sometimes appears in monastic history, and represents the splendour

splendour of religious buildings as a sinful waste of money which might be piously bestowed on other purposes. Such remarks proceeded from the same spirit which defaced too many of our cathedrals, demolished our painted windows, sold our church organs to the tavern-keepers, strove hard to eject the altar, and for two centuries prevented us from having a school of painting in England, by refusing to admit pictures into the churches.


That spirit happily exists no longer. The organ is now introduced even in meeting-houses, and it is no longer pretended that the eye may not rest upon a church-picture with as little interruption to devotional feelings as upon a monumental tablet, or a bare wall. 'The mind of man, even in spirituals,' says South, acts with a corporeal dependence, and so is helped or hindered in its operations according to the different quality of external objects that incur into the senses. And perhaps sometimes the sight of the altar and those decent preparations for the work of devotion may compose and recover the wandering mind much more effectually than a sermon or a rational discourse. For these things in a manner preach to the eye when the ear is dull and will not hear; and the eye dictateth to the imagination, and that at last moves the affections. And if these little impulses set the great wheels of devotion on work, the largeness and height of that shall not at all be prejudiced by the smallness of its occasion. If the fire burns bright and vigorously, it is no matter by what means it was at first kindled; there is the same force, and the same refreshing virtues in it kindled by a spark from a flint, as if it were kindled by a beam from the sun.'

A forcible appeal in behalf of painting has been made upon occasion of these new churches by Mr. Haydon and Mr. Elmes. Mr. Elmes proposes that a committee should be appointed 'similar to that which investigated the merits and value of the Elgin marbles; that various architects, painters, and sculptors shall be examined by it as to the best way of using the national wealth that will be appropriated to this purpose; that this committee shall be empowered to decide on the merits of our present living artists, and give commissions for building the new churches to such architects as shall approve; that each architect so appointed shall execute his work on his own responsibility and at his own peril, and not exceed the sum entrusted him to expend; that each new church shall have one historical picture by some living painter, who shall be commissioned in a similar way to the architect by the same committee, and the architect desired to prepare his altar-piece accordingly, with double walls, &c. to resist the damp and to keep his church in a regular state of temperature; that five per cent. out of each sum appropriated be set aside for the expense of the historical picture, its frame, &c. that the committee be empowered to inquire into the


best modes of remedying the damp in churches, and every other object that may contribute to the improvement of these sacred edifices. This,' says Mr. Elmes,' will set the seal of glory and immortality on the Regency of Great Britain, and form the key-stone of the arch of British glory, and will leave pictures, statues, and buildings to shew posterity what we were.'

Mr. Haydon writes with a warmth of feeling which the consciousness of his powers may well produce. He is laudably desirous of removing from the path of the rising artists, those obstructions which all who are established in the art have but too fatally experienced. He truly observes, that the great works by which the country has been rescued from the stigma of incapacity have been produced by the enthusiasm of individuals who have devoted themselves with the spirit of the Decii, and that those gigantic individual efforts, as they are now made, are of no effect, for want of a place of public reception. There are two ways, he says, by which the powers of the country could be called forth, by commemorating the glories of our Regency in our public halls, or by illustrating the duties of Christianity in our cathedrals and churches.' He proposes that, from the money voted for the new churches, three per cent. be allotted for altar pictures.




Taking this plan,' he says, as merely a matter of art, it would produce in a few years the most beneficial effects. Considering it as connected with religion, it would greatly tend to extend the influence of the Established Church; for one great reason why the Methodists have gained such extensive sway is from their having never suffered the feeling of their congregations to flag; whereas, in our churches, there is nothing to excite pious associations in the short intervals of prayer; the buildings are generally dark, dingy and cold. Surely there is no impropriety in saying the regular church might now use all the means of intellectual power and refinement in its reach, under proper direction, and do its utmost to counteract by its associations the feverous excitement of other sects. As a matter of art it would correct the great fundamental and pernicious effects of exhibitions. Where a picture is bought or sold, as it happens, and then hurried into obscurity, no opportunity is ever given for candid examination, nothing is left to time; its errors or its beauties are pressed on people according to the interests or enmities of those who conduct, or of those who oppose, the society where it is exhibited; parties puff or censure, ridicule or praise, just as it suits; the whole town is in a whirl of feeling, and before any one has time to estimate with perspicuity, the exhibition closes, and the picture and the painter are remembered or forgotten till a new season and a new subject obliterate the recollection of both while the public vote of Parliament for a picture, as for a statue, would be sound, fair, public encouragement, and collect by degrees the accumulated talent of the country, the work would be for ever before the eye of the world, time would establish its reputation if it deserved it, or destroy it if it de

served it not; every man could always judge for himself by a walk to the building where it might be hung, and England would have something to shew the foreigner, when he asks with a sneer, "Where are your historical productions ?"—pp. 14—16.

The appeal which has been thus made, and which Mr. Haydon prosecutes with considerable warmth and eloquence, cannot fail in consequence of any prejudices against the admission of pictures into our churches, for no such prejudice exists; Jack himself is now ashamed of the manner in which he tore off the embroidery from his coat, cloth and all. And surely the importance of the object must be acknowledged. Historical painting never has flourished without public encouragement; it never has, and it never can. That encouragement is all which is wanting to complete the glories of this triumphant country, by producing an age of art in England, equal to any which Greece or Italy can boast. The poet can wait for his reward; he may live and die in poverty and neglect; but neither poverty nor neglect can debar him from the full exercise of his divine calling; nor from the sure and certain consolation. that he must finally be judged, not by envy and malice, not by ignorance and conceit, not by caprice and fashion, but according to his works, and that too as righteously as if Rhadamanthus were the judge. Truly may he sing,

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;

wherever he may be, infinity is around him, and heaven and earth are open to his excursive spirit. But the painter must have scope and room: if he do not obtain present reputation, his inheritance of futurity is cut off; without patronage his powers can no more expand themselves than the seed of a tropical forest-tree can attain its natural growth and stateliness under the roof of a hot-house. Let us suppose (and this is not merely a gratuitous supposition) that an artist, who may have devoted years to the painful study of his art, conscious of his powers, should determine to evince them by producing a great historical picture, under all the disadvantages of straitened circumstances. After years of painful toil and privation, the work is completed. Its merits are too conspicuous to be denied, and honest admiration is loud in its praise; but no purchaser appears; and the picture which, if it had its proper place in a church, or a public building, would keep the artist before the eyes of the public, and secure to him prosperity and fame, is forgotten as soon as the novelty of the exhibition is over, because it is no longer in sight, takes up room which he cannot afford to give it, and becomes-to him an incumbrance, an expense and a perpetual vexation. With what is he to comfort himself? with the proud


sense of native superiority? As well might we suppose that the eagle in a cage should take pride and pleasure in a consciousness of the strength of his wings! It is a miserable consolation to know that art has always had its martyrs, and a miserable thing to suffer a martyrdom for which there is no reward to be expected, either in this world or the next.

An annual grant for the encouragement of this noble art would be, on every account, preferable to a per-centage upon the money voted for the New Churches. A sum which would be scarcely perceived in the year's expenditure, would produce more excitement, more individual happiness, more national glory, more credit among other nations, more good in our own, than ever was obtained at so small a cost in any other manner. It would call forth a display of powers with which all Europe would soon ring from side to side.' It would do for London, by national generosity and the force of native genius, what Buonaparte attempted to do for Paris, by national robbery and force of arms; it would make it what Athens has been in the old, and Rome in the modern world, the acknowledged and unrivalled school of arts. Half a century ago Richardson said, 'I am no prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but if ever the great, ancient, and beautiful taste in painting revives, it will be in England.' Already we have seen more than one such revival in our generation. The spirit of poetry has appeared among us again, such as it was in the golden age of Elizabeth; and we are beholden for peace, safety, and increasing prosperity, to a revival of that military spirit which our forefathers displayed at Cressy, at Poictiers, at Agincourt, and at Blenheim. But in painting, our ancestors will easily be surpassed: it is with the great men of other times and other countries, that this race must be run: give but a fair course and we shall win the field: give national encouragement, and this generation will see Richardson's prophetic hope fulfilled.

[ocr errors]

Nor let it be thought that the object is, in any point of view, insignificant, except in the amount of the expenditure required for it. It is of importance even in the mere calculating view of the subject, even upon the gross principle of profit and loss. How far the character and success of our manufactures depend upon the state of art in the country may be illustrated not only by the wellknown impulse which was given to our potteries by the late excellent Mr. Wedgewood, when he introduced Etruscan models, but by a fact more recent and directly to the point. When the continent was last opened to us by the success of our arms, our printed cottons were universally objected to, because of their bad taste; and though the material was better than that of the French, the French were preferred. The Manchester manufacturers were


« ZurückWeiter »