Page images


(Born 1779. Died 1843.)


This illustrious person, though chiefly dis- 1811 he went again to England. One of his tinguished as an artist, entitled himself to an first works after his arrival was the great picenviable and enduring reputation by various ture of The Dead Man Revived by Elijah's works in literature, which, particularly those Bones, which obtained a prize of two hunexecuted in his mature years, have much of dred guineas from the British Institution, the character and excellence of his pictures. and is now in the Pennsylvania Academy.

Some specimens of his poems, which are While it was in progress he was seized with chiefly on subjects connected with his other a dangerous illness, and retired from London art, may be found in The Poets and Poetry to Cliffton, a rural town, where on his reof America, in which volume are also con- covery he painted portraits of Coleridge, tained more particulars than will here be Southey, and some others. When he went given of his life.

back to the city his wife died, suddenly, and WASHINGTON ALLSTON was born in George-"left me,” he says in one of his letters, town, South Carolina, on the fifth of Novem- “ nothing but my art; and this seemed to me ber, 1779. His family is respectable, and as nothing." His intellect was for a while several members of it have been distinguished deranged, but the assiduities of friends, and in the public service. When he was seven his own will triumphed, and when his mind years old he was removed to Newport, Rhode had recovered its tone he painted The Mother Island, where he continued at school until and Child, now in the collection of Mr. 1796, when he was transferred to Harvard Mac Murtrie of Philadelphia; Jacob's Dream, College. At Newport he became acquainted which is owned by the Earl of Egremont; with Malbone, whose beautiful miniatures Uriel in the Sun, which was purchased by were then beginning to attract attention, and the Marquis of Stafford ; and some other picwas smitten with the love of art, so that meet- tures. ing him again in Boston, during his freshman In 1818 he came back a second time to Bosyear in college, he determined to adopt his ton, and he resided all the rest of his life near profession. Under the casual direction of that city. He was married to a sister of Malbone he devoted as much time to painting Richard H. Dana, a man of kindred genius, as he could borrow from his other pursuits, and had many warm friends, some of whom until he graduated, when he sold his paternal could have left him nothing to desire of symestate for the purpose of studying in Europe, pathy or appreciation. Among the pictures and sailed for London. West was then presi- which he painted are Rosalie Listening to Mudent of the Royal Academy, and he received sic, Ursulina, and The Spanish Maid, which his young countryman very kindly. In a few he illustrated with beautiful and exquisitely months he became an exhibitor, and sold one of finished poems; and Miriam Singing her his pictures. In 1804 he went to Paris, and Song of Triumph, Jeremiah Dictating to the studied in the Louvre and Luxembourg; and Scribe his Prophecy of the Destruction of proceeded to Italy, where he remained four Jerusalem, Saul and the Witch of Endor, years with Coleridge and our own Irving for The Angel Liberating Peter from Prison, and companions, and Thorwaldsen for a fellow Lorenzo and Jessica. In 1814 he had comstudent. At Rome, on account of his fine menced a large picture, Belshazzar's Feast, colouring, they called him the American Ti- which it was thought would be his master

piece; but though he continued to work upon In 1809 Allston returned to Boston, where it at times for nearly thirty years, it was never he remained nearly three years, marrying in finished. Of his genius as a painter I am this period a sister of Dr. Channing; and in not competent to write. As he himself said




of Monaldi, doubtless “he differed from his truth in the development of love and jeal. contemporaries no less in kind than degree. ousy, which is its chief purpose. Indeed if If he held any thing in common with others, it Allston had never painted Prophets, these was with those of ages past, with the mighty written pictures would have established his dead of the fifteenth century, from whom he fame as an author. The work shows how had learned the language of his art; but his capable he was of achieving a wide and perthoughts and their turn of expression were his manent literary reputation, and forms a most own." I may say with confidence that it is interesting and valuable addition to our rothe judgment of the best critics of this age that mantic fiction. he left no equal, in his department of art, in His other prose writings are chiefly on subthe world.

jects connected with the arts, and are finished While in London, in 1813, Allston pub- with the same care as his paintings. lished a small volume entitled The Sylphs of Mr. Allston lived in "retirement at Camthe Seasons and other Poems, and when Mr. bridgeport, occasionally going into the city, Dana projected The Idle Man, in 1820, he but not often. His health was feeble, for wrote for that work his romance of Monaldi. many years, but he was never idle. He spoke But The Idle Man, for some reason, was to me once of Dunlap's declaration, in his discontinued, and Allston's manuscript was History of the Arts of Design, that he was laid aside for more than twenty years. It indolent. “I am famous among my acquaintwas finally published, in.a single volume, in ances,” he said, " for industry: I paint every 1841.

day: and never pass an hour without accomThe fame of Allston's writings has been so plishing something."

plishing something." At sixty he had as eclipsed by that of his paintings that they are many pictures in contemplation as the most comparatively unknown.* All the specimens ambitious artist of thirty. An ordinary lifethat I have seen of his prose indicate a re- time would not have sufficed to finish those markable command of language, great descrip- he had sketched upon canvas. He read much, tive powers, and rare philosophical as well as and delighted all who saw him with his eloimaginative talent. Monaldi is his principal quent conversation. Not long before his death and indeed only acknowledged performance I dined with him, and was astonished when a of any length. It is a tale of Italian life writ- companion intimated that it was after midten with the vigour and method of a practised night. We had listened six or seven hours romancist. The mind of the true artist ap- without a thought of the lapse of time. His pears in several discussions, which are very manners were gentle and dignified. His dress naturally introduced, on the merits of the old was simple and old fashioned : a blue coat masters; and it is no less evident in the cha- with plain bright buttons, a buff vest, and racter of the hero, who is a painter, as well as drab pantaloons. His face was thin, and sein many very graphic descriptions of scenery. rious, with remarkably expressive eyes; his Some of the lights and shades of the land- hair, fine, long and silvery white, fell gracescape are given as they could have been only fully upon his shoulders; and his voice was by one familiar with the practice of art. The soft, earnest and musical. style of Monaldi is remarkably concise and The evening of the ninth of June, 1843, he unaffected, frequently rising into eloquence passed cheerfully with his friends. At about and never becoming tame. Its particular eleven o'clock he laid his hands upon the head merits as a story consist in the masterly anal- of a young relative, begged her to live as near ysis of human passion, the lovely unfolding perfection as she could, and blessed her ferof female character, and the dramatic manage-vently. He then retired into his painting ment of events. There is great metaphysical room, where he was found a little while after

ward, seated before one of his pictures, dead. * Any elaborate criticism upon them will soon be su

He was buried by torchlight, in the beautiful perseded by the publication of his life, which is now in

cemetery of Mount Auburn, in the presence course of preparation by his brother in law, Dana. The of a large concourse who had gathered to pay long and intimate association of the poet with the artist, their last tribute to the great genius whose and his fine insight as a critic, will enable him to analyse Allston's qualifications as an author with skill and

works had added so much to the national authority.






CONSCIENCE AND THE WILL. ated, as if prematurely wasted by his unholy de

votion, yet still devoted—with outstretched hands,

and eyes upraised to their idol, fixed with a veheHaFixo expressed a wish to see the curiosities mence that seemed almost to start them from their of the place, the good prior the next morning of- sockets. The agony of his eye, contrasting with fered his services as my cicerone. As I followed the prostrate, reckless worship of his attitude, but him to the chapel, he observed, that his convent too well told his tale: I beheld the mortal conflict had little to gratify the taste of an ordinary tra- between the conscience and the will—the visible veller ; “ but if you are a connoisseur,” he added, struggle of a soul in the toils of sin. I could look " you will find few places better worth visiting. I no longer. perceive you think the picture opposite hardly As I turned, the prior was standing before me. bears me out in this assertion. I agree with you. “ Yes," said he, as if replying to my thoughts, “ it It is certainly very insipid, and the mass of our is indeed terrific. Had you beheld it unmoved, collection is little better ; but we have one that re- you had been the first that ever did so.” deems them all-one picture worth twenty com- “ There is a tremendous reality in the picture that mon galleries.” As he said this, we stopped be- comes home to every man's imagination: even the fore a crucifixion by Lanfranco. Next to his dullest feel it, as if it had the power of calling up great work at St. Andrea della Valle, it was the that faculty in minds never before conscious of it.” 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

THE TWO STUDENTS. 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 produc- Among the students of a seminary at Bologna tions of the last age.” « True," answered the were two friends, more remarkable for their atprior; “ but I did not allude”- Here he tachment to each other, than for any resemblance was called out on business of the convent.

in their minds or dispositions. Indeed there was After waiting some time for my conductor's re- so little else in common between them, that hardly turn, and finding little worth looking at besides the two boys could be found more unlike. The chaLanfranc, I turned to leave the chapel by the way racter of Maldura, the eldest, was bold, grasping, I had entered; but, taking a wrong door, I came and ostentatious; while that of Monaldi, timid into a dark passage, leading, as I supposed, to an and gentle, seemed to shrink from observation. inner court. This being my first visit to a con- The one, proud and impatient, was ever labouring vent, a natural curiosity tempted me to proceed, for distinction; the world, palpable, visible, audiwhen, instead of a court, I found myself in a ble, was his idol; he lived only in externals, and large apartment. The light (which descended could neither act nor feel but for effect; even his from above) was so powerful, that for nearly a secret reveries having an outward direction, as if minute I could distinguish nothing, and I rested he could not think without a view to praise, and on a form attached to the wainscoating. I then anxiously referring to the opinion of others; in put up my hand to shade my eyes, when the short, his nightly and his daily dreams had but one fearful vision is even now before me I seemed to subject--the talk and the eye of the crowd. The be standing before an abyss in space, boundless other silent and meditative, seldom looked out of and black. In the midst of this permeable pitch himself either for applause or enjoyment: if he stood a colossal mass of gold, in shape like an al- ever did so, it was only that he might add to, or tar, and girdled about by a huge serpent, gorgeous sympathize in the triumph of another; this done, and terrible ; his body flecked with diamonds, and he retired again, as it were to a world of his own, his head, an enormous carbuncle, floated like a where thoughts and feelings, filling the place of meteor on the air above. Such was the Throne. men and things, could always supply him with ocBut no words can describe the gigantic Being that cupation and amusement. sat thereon—the grace, the majesty, its transcendant Had the ambition of Maldura been less, or his form; and yet I shuddered as I looked, for its su- self-knowledge greater, he might have been a perhuman countenance seemed, as it were, to ra- benefactor to the world. His talents were of a diate falsehood ; every feature was in contradiction high order. Perhaps few have ever surpassed -the eye, the mouth, even to the nostril-—whilst him in the power of acquiring; to this he united the expression of the whole was of that unnatural perseverance; and all that was known, however softness which can only be conceived of malignant various and opposite, he could master at will. But blandishment. It was the appalling beauty of the here his power stopped : beyond the regions of King of Hell. The frightful discord vibrated discovered knowledge he could not see, and dared through my whole frame, and I turned for relief to not walk, for to him all beyond was “outer darkthe figure below; for at his feet knelt one who ap- ness ;" in a word, with all his gifts he wanted that peared to belong to our race of earth. But I had something, whatever it might be, which gives the turned from the first, only to witness in this second living principle to thought. But this sole defiobject its withering fascination. It was a man ap- ciency was the last of which he suspected himparently in the prime of life, but pale and emaci- self. With that self-delusion so common to young


set anew,


men, of mistaking the praise of what is promising day to bloom and to mingle their fragrance with for that of the thing promised, he too rashly con- the breath of nature. Yet to common observers founded the ease with which he carried all the the external world seemed to lie only prizes of his school with the rare power of com

“Like a load upon his weary eye;" manding at pleasure the higher honours of the world.

but to them it appeared so because he delighted to But the honours of a school are for things and pur- shut it out, and to combine and give another life poses far different from those demanded and looked to the images it had left in his memory; as if he for by the world. Maldura unfortunately did not would sleep to the real and be awake only to a make the distinction. His various knowledge, world of shadows. But, though his emotions selthough ingeniously brought together, and skilfully dom betrayed themselves by any outward signs,

was still the knowledge of other men; there was nothing sluggish in the soul of Monaldi; it did not come forth as in new birth, from the mo- it was rather their depth and strength that predifying influence of his own nature. His mind vented their passage through the feeble medium was hence like a thing of many parts, yet wanting of words. He regarded nothing in the moral a whole—that realizing quality which the world or physical world as tiresome or insignificant; must feel before it will reverence. In proportion every object had a charm, and its harmony and to its stores such a mind will be valued, and even beauty, its expression and character, all passed admired; but it cannot command that inward voice into his soul in all their varieties, while his quick-the only true voice of fame, which speaks not, be ening spirit brooded over them as over the elemenit in friend or enemy, till awakened by the presence tary forms of a creation of his own. Thus living of a master spirit.

in the life he gave, his existence was too intense Such were the mind and disposition of Maldura ; and extended to be conceived by the common and from their unfortunate union sprang all the mind: hence the neglect and obscurity in which after-evils in his character. As yet, however, he he passed his youth. was known to himself and others only as a re- But the term of pupilage soon came to an end, markable boy. His extraordinary attainments and the friends parted—each, as he could, to make placing him above competition, he supposed himself his way in the world. 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, there

THE POET AND HIS CRITICS. fore, 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 The poem was at length published. Alas, who claims were consequently admitted by his school- that knows the heart of an author-of an aspiring fellows without a murmur.

But there was one one-will need be told what were the feelings of amongst them whose praises were marked by such Maldura, when day after day, week after week warmth and enthusiasm as no heart not morally passed on, and still no tidings of his book. To sensible could long withstand; this youth was think it had failed was wormwood to his soul. Monaldi. Maldura naturally had strong feelings, No, that was impossible." Still the suspense, and so long as he continued prosperous and happy, the uncertainty of its fate were insupportable. At their course was honourable. He requited the last, to relieve his distress, he fastened the blame praises of his companion with his esteem and gra- on his unfortunate publisher; though how he was titude, which soon ripened into a friendship so sin- in fault he knew not. Full of this thought, he was cere that he believed he could even lay down his just sallying forth to vent his spleen on him, when life for hiin.

his servant announced the count Piccini. It was in this way that two natures so opposite « Now,” thought Maldura, “I shall hear my became mutually attracted. But the warmth and fate; and he was not mistaken: for the Count magnanimity of Monaldi were all that was yet was a kind of talking gazette. The poem was known to the other; for, though not wanting in soon introduced, and Piccini rattled on with all he ucademic learning, he was by no means distin- had heard of it: he had lately been piqued by guished; indeed, so little, that Maldura could not Maldura, and cared not to spare him. but feel and lament it.

After a few hollow professions of regard, and a The powers of Monaldi, however, were yet to careless remark about the pain it gave him to rebe called forth. And it was not surprising that to peat unpleasant things, Piccini proceeded to pour his youthful companions he should have then ap- them out one upon another with ruthless volupeared inefficient, there being a singular kind of bility. Then, stopping as if to take breath, he passiveness about him easily mistaken for vacancy. continued, “I see you are surprised at all this; But his was like the passiveness of some uncul- but indeed, my friend, I cannot help thinking it tured spot, lying unnoticed within its nook of principally owing to your not having suppressed rocks, and silently drinking in the light, and the your name ; for your high reputation, it seems, heat, and the showers of heaven, that nourish the had raised such extravagant expectations as none seeds of a thousand nameless flowers, destined one but a firstrate genius could satisfy."



« By which," observed Maldura, “I am to con- but not the poor author, for he has certainly satisclude that my work has failed ?"

fied us that he is no conjuror.” Why, no—not exactly that; it has only not “Then Castelli—but, 'faith, I don't know how been praised—that is, I mean in the way you to proceed." might have wished. But do not be depressed; “You are over delicate, sir. Speak out, I pray there's no knowing but the tide may yet turn in you.” your favour.”

“ Well, Benuci finished by the most extrava“ Then I suppose the book is hardly as yet gant eulogy I ever heard." known?"

Maldura took breath. “ I beg your pardon-quite the contrary. When « For he compared your hero to the Apollo Belyour friend the Marquis introduced it at his last vedere, your heroine to the Venus de Medicis, and conversazione, every one present seemed quite au your subordinate characters to the Diana, the Herfait on it, at least, they all talked as if they had cules, the Antinous, and twenty other celebrated read it."

antiques; declared them all equally well wrought, Maldıra bit his lips. « Pray who were the and beautiful-and like them too, equally cold, company ?” “Oh, all your friends, I assure you: hard, and motionless. In short, he maintained that Guattani, Martello, Pessuti, the mathematician, you were the boldest and most original poet he had Alfieri, Benuci, the Venetian Castelli, and the old ever known; for none but a hardy genius, who conFerrarese Carnesecchi : these were the principal, sulted nobody's taste but his own, would have dared, but there were twenty others who had each some- like you, to draw his animal life from a statue gallery, thing to say."

and his vegetable from a hortus siccus." Maldura could not but perceive the malice of Maldura's heart stiffened within him, but his this enumeration ; but he checked his rising choler. 1

pride controlled him, and he masked his thoughts “Well," said he, “if I understand you, there was with something like composure. Yet he dared but one opinion respecting my poem with all this not trust himself to speak, but stood looking at company ?"

Piccini, as if waiting for him to go on. “I be“Oh, by no means. Their opinions were as lieve that's all,” said the count, carelessly twirling various as their characters."

his hat, and raising to take leave. - Well, Pessuti-what said he ?”

Maldura roused bimself, and, making an effort, “Why you know he's a mathematician, and said, “ No, sir, there is one person whom you have should not regard him. But yet, to do him jus- only named — Alfieri; what did he say?" tice, he is a very nice critic, and not unskilled in « Nothing !" Piccini pronounced this word poetry.”

with a graver tone than usual; it was his fiercest * Go on, sir, I can bear it.”

bolt, and he knew that a show of feeling would “ Why then, it was Pessuti's opinion that the send it home. Then, after pausing a moment, he poem had more learning than genius.”

hurried out of the room. * Proceed, sir."

“ Martello denied it both; but he, you know, is a disappointed author. Guattani differed but little from Pessuti as to its learning, but contended,

THE ATHEIST. that you certainly showed great invention in your fable which was like nothing that ever did, or could happen. But I fear I annoy you.”

The sense of guilt will sometimes cow the “Go on, I beg, sir."

proudest philosophy. The atheist may speculate, “ The next who spoke was old Carnesecchi, and go on speculating till he is brought up by anniwho confessed that he had no doubt he should hilation; he may then return to life, and reason have been delighted with the poem, could he have away the difference between good and evil; he taken hold of it; but it was so en regle and like a may even go further, and imagine to himself the hundred others, that it put him in mind of what perpetration of the most atrocious acts: and still is called a polished gentleman, who talks and he may eat his bread with relish, and sleep soundly bows, and slips through a great crowd without in his bed; for his sins wanting, as it were, subleaving any impression. Another person, whose stance, having no actual solidity to leave their name I have forgotten, praised the versification, traces in his memory, all future retribution may but objected to the thoughts."

seem to him a thing with which, in any case, he “ Because they were absurd ?".

can have no concern; but let him once turn his « Oh, no, for the opposite reason-because they theory to practice-let him make crime palpablehad all been long ago known to be good. Cas- in an instant he feels its hot impress on his soul. telli thought that a bad reason; for his part, he Then it is, that what may happen beyond the said, he liked them all the better for that-it was grave becomes no matter of indifference; and, like shaking hands with an old acquaintance in though his reason may seem to have proved that every line. Another observed, that at least no death is a final end, then comes the question : what critical court could lawfully condemn them, as does his reason know of death? Then, last of they could each plead an alibi. Not an alibi, said all, the little word if, swelling to a fearful size, a third—but a double ; so they should be burnt and standing at the outlet of his theories, like a for sorcery. With all my heart, said a fourth- | relentless giant, ready to demolish his conclusions



« EelmineJätka »