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by Lawrence, than the well-looking ladies and gentlemen of Sir Peter Lely to the breathing and intelligent forms of Vandyck: indeed, I could mention several other English artists greatly his superiors in portrait; and as for history, I may save myself the trouble of comparison, by asserting, that to me they appear absolutely devoid of any merit, except correctness of design.
"In the lofty style of historic painting, of which he and his school arrogate to themselves the exclusive possession, the dramatic management of the subject is the essential attribute. In none of their compositions, with which the prints have made us familiar, can a single instance be shewn in which the subject is treated with grace and dignity, or in which nature is followed judiciously, and without affectation; not a single instance can be adduced, in which a fine idea is simply and felicitously expressed." (p. 87-89.)
We are far from meaning to deny the truth of the censures bestowed upon the Baron David; but the author has somewhat unfairly made him the sole representative of the modern French school. We have not space to enter upon the subject, even were we inclined to do so; but surely Guerin and Girard deserved mention,--more especially the lat ter, whose vigorous drawing, and masterly colouring, are often pre-eminently successful: he has great failures it is true, which are the almost unavoidable consequences of great attempts. It seems to us (if we may venture to give our opinion) that the fundamental error of the modern artists in France is, that they have not sufficiently regarded the distinction between sculpture and painting; they have confounded the separate provinces of each: thus, the pictures of Guerin (instancing his Phædra and Hippolitus) are too much like statuary; while the statuary (referring particularly to a group of Orestes mentioned by Mr. Milton) encroaches on a department exclusively appropriated to painting. This observation naturally leads us to some judicious remarks made by the author before us upon sculpture and its attributes.
"The added study of each day strengthens my opinion, that the master-charm of sculpture is tranquillity. How well the ancients were convinced of this, is obvious from the very large proportion of statues which are completely in repose. The representation of strong passion, or any kind of violent mental or bodily exertion, is objectionable; but still more to be objected to is the representation of rapid motion. I am well aware that there appear to be many splendid exceptions to the truth of this. You will at once oppose me with some of the finest statues in this collection-the Laocoon, the Gladiators, the copy of the Dioscobulus after Myron, and the
Diana. Let us examine how far these statues do, in reality, make against the proposition which I would enforce.
"In speaking of the Laocoon, you must understand me as referring to the principal figure of the group only. Laocoon is represented in strong exertion, and agonized both in body and in mind; yet such is the admirable skill of the artist, that we contemplate the figure without horror or disgust; it excites no sensation which is painful to the mind; admiration and pity are the feelings which it produces, and we dwell upon the work with pleasure. The artist, therefore, has succeeded eminently, and the figure of Laocoon must be admitted as a complete exception to my rule; but I consider it the only one.
"The Dying Gladiator,* in beauty and truth of form, and in execution, is among the finest productions in the Louvre. In mental potency it may be ranked as third in the collection. To what are we to ascribe the effect of this statue on the mind, and the interest and the commiseration which it excites? Solely, as I conceive, to the tranquillity which reigns in the attitude and countenance. The gladiator is wounded mortally: aware of his approaching death, he is solely occupied by the desire of meeting it with calmness, and as may become a man of fortitude and courage: he is reclining on the ground, and with the right arm sustains his body, which leans somewhat forward with great appearance of weight and feebleness; the other arm rests heavily on the right thigh: the countenance indicates strong pain, tranquilly and silently endured; he exerts himself to bear up manfully to the last; but the rapid decline of strength is visible throughout the whole frame, and the bending down of the neck shews the lassitude of approaching death. Nothing can exceed the expression of determined composure both in the countenance and figure it is this expression which exalts the gladiator into a hero, with whom we sympathize, and whose fate we deplore: were this tranquillity, were this resignation, absent-were he represented in rage, or in despair-or did his fortitude, in any degree, sink beneath his calamity-he would be a mere swordsman, for whom we should feel no interest; and our admiration of the statue would extend only to the correctness of its execution." (p. 130—133.)
Mr. Milton is mistaken, if he supposes that, in contending that repose is "the master-charm of sculpture," he is broaching a novel position; for some writers have even gone as far as to assert, that it was also properly to be considered
"The French connoisseurs have altered the denomination of this statue, and I think on sufficient grounds: the short and bristling hair, the beard on the upper lip, and the collar which hangs round the neck, lead them to consider it as the representation of a barbarian warrior--a German or a Gaul: they termed it, Le Guerrier Blesse. The sword is of the Roman shape; but it, as well as that part of the plinth on which it rests, is modern."
one of the essentials of productions of the pencil. Introductory to the above extract, are some remarks upon the Apollo and the Laocoon, from the excellencies of both which Mr. Milton detracts: he complains first of the discordance between the ages of the father and sons in the latter, and then observes:
"But there is still a more important fault in the composition: the father, in his attitude, his exertions, his look, has nothing which unites him to his children; they implore his aid, but his efforts are for himself alone. Fine and noble, were he represented singly; thus connected, his energy becomes unnatural, selfish, and displeasing. Children on the verge of destruction are in the presence of their father, yet is no paternal feeling expressed: all the affections of the parent-which we are taught to believe powerful even in deathappear lost and absorbed in the sense of his own calamity,-in his efforts to prevent it." (p. 122.)
This objection appears very plausible in the first instance, but it originates in a confusion in the mind of the author between a sense of danger and bodily pain. Laocoon is attacked on all sides by the serpents; he is in agony under their fangs, and the venom has already penetrated to his vitals: such a state absolutely precludes all thought of others, and the artist would have shewn little knowledge of human nature had he made the father otherwise than he is represented only one of the sons is attacked, and that the instant before the moment chosen by the sculptor, while the other son in terror is endeavouring only to disengage himself from the folds of the serpents. If the sculptor had chosen to display merely the danger, and not the suffering, of an attack, the objection of Mr. Milton would have been just, because the father ought then to have been principally concerned for the safety of his children: that moment is, however, past.
We do not think it necessary to give any of the remarks of Mr. Milton upon the architecture of the public buildings in Paris, because he has not succeeded in saying any thing very new upon them: he shews that he is not ignorant; but nearly all persons who visit France have knowledge enough to be aware that, generally speaking, nothing can be in worse taste than these edifices; and their great defects are too obtrusive to need pointing out with particularity. Mr. Milton does justice to the splendour and grandeur of the Opera House attached to the Palace of Versailles, and, we think, more than justice to the style of the ornaments, than
which nothing can be more inconsistent and ponderous. We copy a few paragraphs upon the subject of theatrical repre-. sentations in France.
"A very few evenings fixed my opinion of the tragic and comic acting of the French. I am aware how liable we all are to the influence of national prejudice; but I have now attended so many of their performances, as to feel myself, in some degree, justified in giving a decided opinion. Their tragedy is bad in itself, and to an English taste intolerable; their comedy is very little short of perfection.
"My admiration of the tragedies of Corneille, Racine, and Voltaire, remains undiminished: I consider them as highly-beautiful dramatic poems; and not merely calculated to please in the closet, but to produce in the representation a powerful effect, even upon the admirers of Shakspeare: that the fail to do so is to be attributed solely to the manner in which they are performed.
"To speak of the present style of tragic acting in France is to speak of Talma: his authority and his example guide every thing. Talma may, I think, be described as a good actor, acting badly: his action and manner are graceful; his voice powerful, although occasionally indistinct. In passages of strong passion he is certainly great, and almost natural; but his action, though elegant, is too rapid, bustling, and Frenchified, to accord with tragic feeling: in pathetic passages he quits his natural voice, and whines most disagreeably. His declamation is disfigured by tricks which to me appear unpardonable, but which certainly are not considered as defects by the French, since the other actors obviously copy them. Indeed, the minute and servile imitation of Talma, in action, in manner, and in voice, which, with scarcely an exception, all the tragic performers seem anxious to render visible, rather than to conceal; although to us it produces a most ridiculous effect, proves how perfectly the original is suited to the taste of the audience. Of these tricks, the worst is the running one sentence into another: this may sometimes produce a fine effect; but Talma appears to do it when it produces no other effect than totally to destroy the sense. This practice seloccurs except where the sentence ends the line; and if the object be to hide the rhyme, the advantage is much too dearly bought. Another very frequent impropriety is, that, in order to preserve the flow of the verse, he slurs over words on which the spirit of the passage requires a strong emphasis. Propriety, and even elegance, are sacrificed to effect: thus, in despite of the sense, a dozen lines before a burst of passion, he sinks his voice, and hurries on with undue rapidity; or, if the contrast which he wishes to produce requires it, he will utter as many lines with unmeaning slowness. The mode of singing out the words, though considered by the French as indispensable to tragic speaking, is in a high degree offensive and wearying to an English ear." (p. 216-219.)
Mr. Milton is in error when he states, that the authority and example of Talma guide every thing. Probably, while he resided in Paris, Lafond was in the provinces, or he would have seen that that actor had no inconsiderable party of admirers among the visitors of a French theatre: he is comparatively a young man, and is gradually encroaching upon Talma, who, however, has at present sufficient iufluence to prevent Lafond from appearing in his parts. We are surprised that our author should have forgotten the French tragic actresses altogether: he says nothing of Mad. Duchenois, Made. George, nor of Made. Volnais: the first is the Mrs. Siddons of the Paris stage; and though, perhaps, the plainest woman on the boards, (which goes a great way with her audiences,) is much and justly admired in spite of her ugliness. Mad. George is almost entirely indebted to her beauty and fine voice for her popularity; and Made. Volnais, without either the one or the other, by her judgment and feeling never fails to draw down warm applauses.
Having thus given a sketch of the work before us, upon most of the principal topics to which it is devoted, and having inserted our own remarks as we proceeded, we have only to add, that, although not of first-rate excellence in point of originality, it has many claims to approbation from the good sense and correct taste displayed by the author.It seems obvious that the letters were not actually written in Paris, as, besides other indications, they want the freshness of remark, and ease of style, usually derived from the immediate contemplation of the objects referred to.
ART. IV.-The Monarchy according to the Charter. By the Viscount DE CHATEAUBRIAND, Peer of France, Minister of State, &c. "The King, the Charter, and Honest Men." London, John Murray, 1816.
THIS work, in which are discussed the most important topics connected with the freedom and happiness of the people of France, bas excited much less attention, or at least been much less read, in that country than in England, which is comparatively little interested in the result. We needed not the statement of the author, nor the assurances of the translator, to be convinced that all the efforts of the misguided cabinet of Paris, and of its emissaries, police, and censors, would be exerted, if not to prevent its appearance, at least to impede its circulation: to those who are at all