Page images




HAVING expressed a wish to see the curiosities of the place, the good prior the next morning offered his services as my cicerone. As I followed him to the chapel, he observed, that his convent had little to gratify the taste of an ordinary traveller; but if you are a connoisseur," he added, "you will find few places better worth visiting. I perceive you think the picture opposite hardly bears me out in this assertion. I agree with you. It is certainly very insipid, and the mass of our collection is little better; but we have one that redeems them all-one picture worth twenty common galleries." As he said this, we stopped before a crucifixion by Lanfranco. Next to his great work at St. Andrea della Valle, it was the best I had seen of that master. Though eccentric and somewhat capricious, it was yet full of powerful expression, and marked by a vigour of execution that made every thing around it look like washed drawings. Yes," said I, supposing this the picture alluded to, " and I can now agree with you, 't is worth a thousand of the flimsy productions of the last age." "True," answered the prior; "but I did not allude"Here he

was called out on business of the convent. After waiting some time for my conductor's return, and finding little worth looking at besides the Lanfranc, I turned to leave the chapel by the way I had entered; but, taking a wrong door, I came into a dark passage, leading, as I supposed, to an inner court. This being my first visit to a convent, a natural curiosity tempted me to proceed, when, instead of a court, I found myself in a large apartment. The light (which descended from above) was so powerful, that for nearly a minute I could distinguish nothing, and I rested on a form attached to the wainscoating. I then put up my hand to shade my eyes, when-the fearful vision is even now before me-I seemed to be standing before an abyss in space, boundless and black. In the midst of this permeable pitch stood a colossal mass of gold, in shape like an altar, and girdled about by a huge serpent, gorgeous and terrible; his body flecked with diamonds, and his head, an enormous carbuncle, floated like a meteor on the air above. Such was the Throne. But no words can describe the gigantic Being that sat thereon-the grace, the majesty, its transcendant form; and yet I shuddered as I looked, for its superhuman countenance seemed, as it were, to radiate falsehood; every feature was in contradiction -the eye, the mouth, even to the nostril-whilst the expression of the whole was of that unnatural softness which can only be conceived of malignant blandishment. It was the appalling beauty of the King of Hell. The frightful discord vibrated through my whole frame, and I turned for relief to the figure below; for at his feet knelt one who appeared to belong to our race of earth. But I had turned from the first, only to witness in this second object its withering fascination. It was a man apparently in the prime of life, but pale and emaci

ated, as if prematurely wasted by his unholy devotion, yet still devoted-with outstretched hands, and eyes upraised to their idol, fixed with a vehemence that seemed almost to start them from their sockets. The agony of his eye, contrasting with the prostrate, reckless worship of his attitude, but too well told his tale: I beheld the mortal conflict between the conscience and the will-the visible struggle of a soul in the toils of sin. I could look no longer.

As I turned, the prior was standing before me. "Yes," said he, as if replying to my thoughts, "it is indeed terrific. Had you beheld it unmoved, you had been the first that ever did so."

[blocks in formation]

AMONG the students of a seminary at Bologna were two friends, more remarkable for their attachment to each other, than for any resemblance in their minds or dispositions. Indeed there was so little else in common between them, that hardly two boys could be found more unlike. The character of Maldura, the eldest, was bold, grasping, and ostentatious; while that of Monaldi, timid and gentle, seemed to shrink from observation. The one, proud and impatient, was ever labouring for distinction; the world, palpable, visible, audible, was his idol; he lived only in externals, and could neither act nor feel but for effect; even his secret reveries having an outward direction, as if he could not think without a view to praise, and anxiously referring to the opinion of others; in short, his nightly and his daily dreams had but one subject-the talk and the eye of the crowd. The other silent and meditative, seldom looked out of himself either for applause or enjoyment: if he ever did so, it was only that he might add to, or sympathize in the triumph of another; this done, he retired again, as it were to a world of his own, where thoughts and feelings, filling the place of men and things, could always supply him with occupation and amusement.

Had the ambition of Maldura been less, or his self-knowledge greater, he might have been a benefactor to the world. His talents were of a high order. Perhaps few have ever surpassed him in the power of acquiring; to this he united perseverance; and all that was known, however various and opposite, he could master at will. But here his power stopped: beyond the regions of discovered knowledge he could not see, and dared not walk, for to him all beyond was "outer darkness;" in a word, with all his gifts he wanted that something, whatever it might be, which gives the living principle to thought. But this sole deficiency was the last of which he suspected himself. With that self-delusion so common to young


men, of mistaking the praise of what is promising | for that of the thing promised, he too rashly confounded the ease with which he carried all the prizes of his school with the rare power of commanding at pleasure the higher honours of the world.

But the honours of a school are for things and purposes far different from those demanded and looked for by the world. Maldura unfortunately did not make the distinction. His various knowledge, though ingeniously brought together, and skilfully set anew, was still the knowledge of other men ; it did not come forth as in new birth, from the modifying influence of his own nature. His mind was hence like a thing of many parts, yet wanting a whole-that realizing quality which the world must feel before it will reverence. In proportion to its stores such a mind will be valued, and even admired; but it cannot command that inward voice -the only true voice of fame, which speaks not, be it in friend or enemy, till awakened by the presence of a master spirit.

Such were the mind and disposition of Maldura ; and from their unfortunate union sprang all the after-evils in his character. As yet, however, he was known to himself and others only as a remarkable boy. His extraordinary attainments placing him above competition, he supposed himself incapable of so mean a passion as envy; indeed the high station from which he could look down on his associates gave a complacency to his mind not unfavourable to the gentler virtues; he was, therefore, often kind, and even generous without an effort. Besides, though he disdained to affect humility, he did not want discretion, and that taught him to bear his honours without arrogance. His claims were consequently admitted by his schoolfellows without a murmur. But there was one amongst them whose praises were marked by such warmth and enthusiasm as no heart not morally sensible could long withstand; this youth was Monaldi. Maldura naturally had strong feelings, and so long as he continued prosperous and happy, their course was honourable. He requited the praises of his companion with his esteem and gratitude, which soon ripened into a friendship so sincere that he believed he could even lay down his life for him.

It was in this way that two natures so opposite became mutually attracted. But the warmth and magnanimity of Monaldi were all that was yet known to the other; for, though not wanting in academic learning, he was by no means distinguished; indeed, so little, that Maldura could not but feel and lament it.

The powers of Monaldi, however, were yet to be called forth. And it was not surprising that to his youthful companions he should have then appeared inefficient, there being a singular kind of passiveness about him easily mistaken for vacancy. But his was like the passiveness of some uncultured spot, lying unnoticed within its nook of rocks, and silently drinking in the light, and the heat, and the showers of heaven, that nourish the seeds of a thousand nameless flowers, destined one

day to bloom and to mingle their fragrance with the breath of nature. Yet to common observers the external world seemed to lie only

"Like a load upon his weary eye;"

but to them it appeared so because he delighted to shut it out, and to combine and give another life to the images it had left in his memory; as if he would sleep to the real and be awake only to a world of shadows. But, though his emotions seldom betrayed themselves by any outward signs, there was nothing sluggish in the soul of Monaldi; it was rather their depth and strength that prevented their passage through the feeble medium of words. He regarded nothing in the moral or physical world as tiresome or insignificant; every object had a charm, and its harmony and beauty, its expression and character, all passed into his soul in all their varieties, while his quickening spirit brooded over them as over the elementary forms of a creation of his own. Thus living in the life he gave, his existence was too intense and extended to be conceived by the common mind hence the neglect and obscurity in which he passed his youth.

But the term of pupilage soon came to an end, and the friends parted-each, as he could, to make his way in the world.


THE poem was at length published. Alas, who that knows the heart of an author-of an aspiring one-will need be told what were the feelings of Maldura, when day after day, week after week passed on, and still no tidings of his book. To think it had failed was wormwood to his soul.


No, that was impossible." Still the suspense, the uncertainty of its fate were insupportable. At last, to relieve his distress, he fastened the blame on his unfortunate publisher; though how he was in fault he knew not. Full of this thought, he was just sallying forth to vent his spleen on him, when his servant announced the count Piccini.

"Now," thought Maldura, "I shall hear my fate; and he was not mistaken: for the Count was a kind of talking gazette. The poem was soon introduced, and Piccini rattled on with all he had heard of it: he had lately been piqued by Maldura, and cared not to spare him.

After a few hollow professions of regard, and a careless remark about the pain it gave him to repeat unpleasant things, Piccini proceeded to pour them out one upon another with ruthless volubility. Then, stopping as if to take breath, he continued, "I see you are surprised at all this; but indeed, my friend, I cannot help thinking it principally owing to your not having suppressed your name; for your high reputation, it seems, had raised such extravagant expectations as none but a firstrate genius could satisfy."

[ocr errors][merged small]


Why, no-not exactly that; it has only not been praised-that is, I mean in the way you might have wished. But do not be depressed; there's no knowing but the tide may yet turn in your favour."

"Then I suppose the book is hardly as yet known?"

"I beg your pardon-quite the contrary. When your friend the Marquis introduced it at his last conversazione, every one present seemed quite au fait on it, at least, they all talked as if they had read it."

Maldura bit his lips. «Pray who were the company?" "Oh, all your friends, I assure you: Guattani, Martello, Pessuti, the mathematician, Alfieri, Benuci, the Venetian Castelli, and the old Ferrarese Carnesecchi: these were the principal, but there were twenty others who had each something to say."

Maldura could not but perceive the malice of this enumeration; but he checked his rising choler. "Well," said he, "if I understand you, there was but one opinion respecting my poem with all this company?"

Their opinions were as

"Oh, by no means. various as their characters."

"Well, Pessuti—what said he ?"

[ocr errors]

Why you know he's a mathematician, and should not regard him. But yet, to do him justice, he is a very nice critic, and not unskilled in poetry."

"Go on, sir, I can bear it."

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

"The next who spoke was old Carnesecchi, who confessed that he had no doubt he should have been delighted with the poem, could he have taken hold of it; but it was so en regle and like a hundred others, that it put him in mind of what is called a polished gentleman, who talks and bows, and slips through a great crowd without leaving any impression. Another person, whose name I have forgotten, praised the versification, but objected to the thoughts."

"Because they were absurd?"

"Oh, no, for the opposite reason-because they had all been long ago known to be good. Castelli thought that a bad reason; for his part, he said, he liked them all the better for that-it was like shaking hands with an old acquaintance in every line. Another observed, that at least no critical court could lawfully condemn them, as they could each plead an alibi. Not an alibi, said a third-but a double; so they should be burnt for sorcery. With all my heart, said a fourth

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

"For he compared your hero to the Apollo Belvedere, your heroine to the Venus de Medicis, and your subordinate characters to the Diana, the Hercules, the Antinous, and twenty other celebrated antiques; declared them all equally well wrought, and beautiful-and like them too, equally cold, hard, and motionless. In short, he maintained that you were the boldest and most original poet he had ever known; for none but a hardy genius, who consulted nobody's taste but his own, would have dared, like you, to draw his animal life from a statue gallery, and his vegetable from a hortus siccus."

Maldura's heart stiffened within him, but his pride controlled him, and he masked his thoughts with something like composure. Yet he dared not trust himself to speak, but stood looking at Piccini, as if waiting for him to go on. "I believe that's all," said the count, carelessly twirling his hat, and raising to take leave.

Maldura roused himself, and, making an effort, said, "No, sir, there is one person whom you have only named-Alfieri; what did he say?"

[blocks in formation]

THE sense of guilt will sometimes cow the proudest philosophy. The atheist may speculate, and go on speculating till he is brought up by annihilation; he may then return to life, and reason away the difference between good and evil; he may even go further, and imagine to himself the perpetration of the most atrocious acts: and still he may eat his bread with relish, and sleep soundly in his bed for his sins wanting, as it were, substance, having no actual solidity to leave their traces in his memory, all future retribution may seem to him a thing with which, in any case, he can have no concern; but let him once turn his theory to practice-let him make crime palpablein an instant he feels its hot impress on his soul. Then it is, that what may happen beyond the grave becomes no matter of indifference; and, though his reason may seem to have proved that death is a final end, then comes the question: what does his reason know of death? Then, last of all, the little word if, swelling to a fearful size, and standing at the outlet of his theories, like a relentless giant, ready to demolish his conclusions.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

THE air was hot and close, and there was a thin yellow haze over the distance like that which precedes the scirocco, but the nearer objects were clear and distinct, and so bright that the eye could hardly rest on them without quivering, especially on the modern buildings, with their huge sweep of whited walls, and their red tiled roofs, that lay burning in the sun, with the sharp, black shadows, which here and there seemed to indent the dazzling masses, might almost have been fancied the cinder-tracks of his fire. The streets of Rome, at no time very noisy, are for nothing more remarkable than, during the summer months, for their noontide stillness, the meridian heat being frequently so intense as to stop all business, driving every thing within doors with the proverbial exception of dogs and strangers. But even these might scarcely have withstood the present scorching atmosphere. It was now high noon, and the few straggling vine-dressers that were wont to stir in this secluded quarter had already been driven under shelter; not a vestige of life was to be seen, not a bird on the wing, and so deep was the stillness that a solitary footfall might have filled the whole air.



Ir was one of those evenings never to be forgotten by a painter-but one too which must come upon him in misery as a gorgeous mockery. The sun was yet up, and resting on the highest peak of a ridge of mountain-shaped clouds, that seemed to make a part of the distance; suddenly he disappeared, and the landscape was overspread with a cold, lurid hue; then, as if molten in a furnace, the fictitious mountains began to glow; in a moment more they tumbled asunder; in another he was seen again, piercing their fragments, and darting his shafts to the remotest east, till, reaching the horizon, he appeared to recall them, and with a parting flash to wrap the whole heavens in flame.


[MRS. JAMESON, author of the Characteristics of Women, etc., when in this country in 1838, visited the painung room of Allston at Cambridgeport, and found written on the walls many sentences, which, he said, were to serve as "texts for reflection before he began his day's work." A mutual friend was permitted to copy them, and since his death she has published the following in her Memoirs and Essays Illustrative of Art, Literature, and Social Morals.]

THE painter who is content with the praise of the world in respect to what does not satisfy himself, is not an artist, but an artisan; for though his reward be only praise, his pay is that of a mechanic for his time, and not for his art."

He that seeks popularity in art closes the door on his own genius: as he must needs paint for other minds, and not for his own.

Reputation is but a synonym of popularity : dependent on suffrage, to be increased or diminished at the will of the voters. It is the creature, so to speak, of its particular age, or rather of a particular state of society; consequently, dying with that which sustained it. Hence we can scarcely go over a page of history, that we do not, as in a churchyard, tread upon some buried reputation. But fame cannot be voted down, having its immediate foundation in the essential. It is the eternal shadow of excellence, from which it can never be separated, nor is it ever made visible but in the light of an intellect kindred with that of its author. It is that light by which the shadow is projected, that is seen of the multitude, to be wondered at and reverenced, even while so little comprehended as to be often confounded with the substance the substance being admitted from the shadow, as a matter of faith. It is the economy of Providence to provide such lights: like rising and setting stars, they follow each other through successive ages: and thus the monumental form of Genius stands for ever relieved against its own imperishable glory.

All excellence of every kind is but variety of truth. If we wish, then, for something beyond the true, we wish for that which is false. According to this test how little truth is there in art!

Little indeed! but how much is that little to him who feels it!

Fame does not depend on the will of any man, but reputation may be given or taken away: for Fame is the sympathy of kindred intellects, and sympathy is not a subject of willing: while Reputation, having its source in the popular voice, is a sentence which may either be uttered or suppressed at pleasure. Reputation being essentially contemporaneous, is always at the mercy of the Envious and the Ignorant. But Fame, whose very birth is posthumous, and which is only known to exist by the echo of its footsteps through congenial minds, can neither be increased nor diminished by any degree of wilfulness.

What light is in the natural world, such is fame in the intellectual: both requiring an atmosphere in order to become perceptible. Hence the fame of Michael Angelo is, to some minds, a nonentity; even as the sun itself would be invisible in vacuo.

Fame has no necessary conjunction with praise: it may exist without the breath of a word: it is a recognition of excellence, which must be felt, but need not be spoken. Even the envious must feel it: feel it, and hate it in silence.

I cannot believe, that any man who deserved fame, ever laboured for it: that is, directly. For as fame is but the contingent of excellence, it would be like an attempt to project a shadow, before its substance was obtained. Many, however, have so fancied: "I write and paint for fame," has often been repeated: it should have been, "I write, I paint for reputation." All anxiety, therefore, about fame, should be placed to the account of reputation.

A man may be pretty sure that he has not attained excellence, when it is not all in all to him. Nay, I may add, that if he looks beyond it, he has not reached it. This is not the less true for being good Irish.

An original mind is rarely understood until it has been reflected from some half-dozen congenial with it so averse are men to admitting the true in an unusual form: whilst any novelty, however fantastic, however false, is greedily swallowed. Nor is this to be wondered at: for all truth demands a response, and few people care to think, yet they must have something to supply the place of thought. Every mind would appear original, if every man had the power of projecting his own into the mind of others.

All effort at originality must end either in the quaint or the monstrous. For no man knows himself as an original: he can only believe it on the report of others to whom he is made known, as he is by the projecting power before spoken of.

There is an essential meanness in the wish to

get the better of any one. The only competition worthy of a wise man, is with himself.

Reverence is an ennobling sentiment; it is felt to be degrading only by the vulgar mind, which would escape the sense of its own littleness, by elevating itself into the antagonist to what is above it.

He that has no pleasure in looking up, is not fit to look down; of such minds are the mannerists in art; and in the world, the tyrants of all sorts.

The phrenologists are right in putting the organ of self-love in the back part of the head. It being there that a vain man carries his light; the consequence is that every object he approaches becomes obscure by his own shadow.

A witch's skiff cannot more easily sail in the teeth of the wind, than the human eye can lie against fact: but the truth will often quiver through lips with a lie upon them.

It is a hard matter for a man to lie all over, Nature having provided king's evidence in almost every member. The hand will sometimes act as a vane, to show which way the wind blows, when every feature is set the other way: the knees smite together and sound the alarm of fear under a fierce countenance: the legs shake with anger, when all above is calm.

Make no man your idol! For the best man must have faults, and his faults will usually become yours, in addition to your own. This is as true in art, as in morals.

The Devil's heartiest laugh, is at a detracting witticism. Hence the phrase, "devilish good," has sometimes a literal meaning.

There is one thing which no man, however generously disposed, can give, but which every one, however poor, is bound to pay. This is Praise. He cannot give it, because it is not his own; since what is dependent for its very existence on something in another, can never become to him a possession; nor can he justly withhold it, when the presence of merit claims it as a consequence. As praise, then, cannot be made a gift, so, neither, when not his due, can any man receive it; he may think he does, but he receives only words; for desert being the essential condition of praise, there can be no reality in the one without the other. This is no fanciful statement: for though praise may be withheld by the ignorant or envious, it cannot be but that, in the course of time, an existing merit will on some one produce its effects; inasmuch as the existence of any cause without its effect is an impossibility. A fearful truth lies at the bottom of this, an irreversible justice for the weal or wo of him confirms or violates it.



THE subject was the body of the virgin borne for interment by four apostles. The figures are colossal; the tone dark and of tremendous colour. It seemed, as I looked at it, as if the ground shook at their tread, and the air were darkened by their grief.



SUCH a sunrise! The giant Alps seemed literally to rise from their purple beds, and putting on their crowns of gold, to send up hallelujahs almost audible!

« EelmineJätka »