« PreviousContinue »
of vigour which comes not from the muscle but from the mindof sentiment making action her auxiliary, and a look of life and reality are stamped on all his statues, busts and groups. He courts repose—he seems not averse to gentle action, but has never yet sought in violent motion for elements either of sadness or solemnity. We call this not only the true but the classic sculpture of our country. The Greeks charmed the whole earth by working exactly in this spirit. But the liberties which the Greeks took with their Olympus gave them an advantage over modern sculptors. A Christian artist allows not his fancy to invade the sanctities of heaven-he presumes not to embody its shapes—he dares not define the presence of God. Our best sculpture is therefore of a grosser vature-less ætherial in form, and less god-like in sentiment.
The works of Chantrey are all of a domestic or historical kind; he has kept the preserve of pure poetry for the time when his hand may have uninterrupted leisure, and the cares of providing for existence shall no longer have any right to interfere with fancy. His statues are numerous, and we like his sitting ones the best. Meditation and thought are at their freedom when the body is at rest; and though some of our poets have conceived and composed in the act of walking, we hold that a man who thinks seated will always look more like a man in grave thought than one who stands, let him think ever so stoutly. James Watt is still living as far as sculpture can prolong life; his perfect image meditating on the extraordinary power which man wields so easily and profitably is preserved to the world. The statue of Chief Baron Dundas is graceful and unaffected; that of Dr. Anderson is the literal and perfect image of the happy and benevolent old man; and that of Dr. Cyril Jackson must please all who knew the Dean, or love flowing draperies and the memory of Christ Church Walk. Of his erect figures Washington is our favourite; the hero of American independence seems the very personification of one wrapt up in thought-a man of few words, of prompt deeds, with a mind and fortitude for all emergencies. Grattan is a being of another class~-earnest, voluble, in motion more than any other of the artist's works, and yet with something both of dignity and of serenity beyond what the orator possessed. Horner is anxious, apprehensive, and mildly grave; you look, expecting him to speak. General Gillespie is a fine manly martial figure.
In all these works we admire a subordinate beauty--a decorous and prudent use of modern dress. All its characteristic vulgarities are softened down or concealed. There is no aggravation of tas
sels, no projection of buttons. Though we are conscious that there is an art used in hiding these deformities, the skill of the sculptor has contrived to conceal it in nature.
Mr. Chantrey's groups, though the most admired, are not perhaps the happiest of his works. The Two Children, the Two Feinales on Wildman's monument, and the Mother and Children on that of David P. Watts are our favourites. The pathos of his Two Children goes to the heart of every mother; the exquisite sweetness of workmanship is subdued by the sentiment. His Lady Louisa Russell is one of those fair and happy images of youth, which even old age might go a long journey to worship.
Chantrey is a very prolific genius; his marble progeny are numerous. His busts first brought him into notice, and laid the foundation of his fame; and they are besides the most admirable productions of that kind in the world. Of his statues and groups there are scores, but of his busts hundreds. We must name some few of our chief favourites :-Horne Tooke, Rennie, Watt, Wordsworth, Scott, John Hookham Frere, Raphael Smith, Professor Playfair, the Bishop of London, The King—but we must have done. Of all these, perhaps that of Sir Walter Scott is the best. The poet has à face as changeable and various as the characters he draws in his works, and an expression which nothing but genius something akin to his own can hope to seize. In this remarkable bust the brow is full of thought, the eyes look through one, and there is a grave humour about the mouth which seems ready to escape in speech. The whole face is finished with the most fascinating skill. The poet sat whilst the sculptor chiselled; and there was many a merry word between
Bailey studied under Flaxman. His conceptions are in general just, and his workmanship almost always good. His Eve is lovely; and Poetry inspiring Painting, a group of considerable promise. Painting is breathing of enthusiasm, but Poetry seems
a severe instructress—the grouping is skilful and natural. We would advise him to seek fame in works of softness, and grace, and find the subjects at home. With his knowledge of nature, and his skill-in using it-and with his feeling for the antique as an inspirer, and no more--he cannot fail of success.
The excellence of our present school of sculpture, and the general regard which its works command, have had an influence on the youth of our island; and among many aspirants, F. Smith, Bebnes, Joseph, and Scoular, seem to be the most hopeful.
The genius of England has never yet flowed out so freely in sculpture as it has done in poetry. There is, indeed, less room for its ardour, less fame when perfection is attained, and less
chance, when all is done that art can do, of its enduring amidst the accidents of time and the changes of nations. The winged words' of poetry fly over the face of the earth; but the sculptor's work is of a heavy and fragile kind: it suffers by remoyal, loses sadly in copying, is stript of all its external grace if exposed for a few years to our damp chill climate, and when the original model is broken or injured, the memory of its beauty is all, or almost all, that it can live by. Our domestic sculpture and our public monuments have found refuge in our churches, but there they are locked and bolted up from the curiosity of mankind and from the eyes of our children, who have not always money in their pockets to pay for a sight of the heroes and sages of their country. The public monuments scattered thinly about our squares, are of bronze; and these metal kings, warriors and statesmen, grim with dust and smutched with smoke, look at a little distance like so many black shapeless masses, without form or character. Our poetic sculpture stands in the galleries of the noble and the rich, and is inaccessible to the general.' The thoughtless barbarity of individuals in times past has thrown great obstacles in the way; and we are far indeed from blaming those whose duty it is to preserve, from adopting the only effectual means of preservation. But it is impossible not to see and regret that Sculpture cannot become a national passion till the people feel what it is; and that before they can feel it, they must see it freely.
Another reason for our indifferent success is to be sought for in the cold petrifactions of allegory, which speak a language the mass of the people will never learn; and a third in the slavish regard for the antique, which, following its external shape rather than feeling the impulse of its spirit, has driven almost all that is of English growth from its studies. To this school of frozen form the heart of Britain will never respond. To give new varieties of Venus and Mars, to impress the external character of ancient Greece upon what is addressed to the popular taste of this island, is a vain labour. The Apollo and the Venus, the Laocoon and the Dying Gladiator, are works which the sculptor should feel it is presumptuous to imitate ; and not only presumptuous, but vain. The works, of which these wonderful creations form a part, have carried away all the admiration that the world has to spare to antiquity; they have their own excellence and the fame of thousands of years upon them, and rivalry is hopeless. But artists are an audacious race. Your youth from the counter or the plough must needs aspire to make his Venus, his Apollo, his Hercules. He attempts forms when he begins, which he never can equal when he leaves off; but to measure his updisci
plined strength with the demigods of antiquity he accounts a noble daring, -and his vanity is gratified with a medal. This kind of slavery may fill our artists studies with fine shapes and heads conformable to act of parliament; but the soul which animates with thought, or endows with pathos, is not there; and the skill to bestow it cannot be found among all the oracles of all ancients. The artist who follows nature, who embodies the forms which fancy creates from life, and who desires to give an original image of his day and people, what can be take from the antique ? let us emulate but not imitate.
So long as shape is the chief object in sculpture, there is little hope of excellence. To express a sentiment is something, to have a visible meaning is much; but to have a fine form without them is nothing. The remains of ancient genius which have descended to us, are all nature of some kind. But in our national sculpture what will posterity see?-dark and undefinable allegories usurping the pedestals where the spirit and sense which were. abroad in old Greece would have placed statues of our princes, our poets, our warriors by sea and land, our priests, our counsellors, and all those who have established the fame of Britain. Let us look into St. Paul's and see what art'has done for the heroes of our last great war. There are, we believe, thirty-nine government or public monuments. Some seven of these are statues of their excellence we say nothing. Six more are strictly bistorical in their nature--of them also we are silent. This leaves twenty-six; and let us examine these in the mass, for they will not singly, with the exception of one or two, bear any thing like particular handling. - In those twenty-six monuments, there are nine Britannias, six Fames, five Valours, thirteen Victorys, one Minerva, and seventeen Neptunes, Rivers, Histories, Sensibilities, Geniuses, Múses, British Lions, and the like, all full grown-besides a countless multitude of lesser allegories strewn over the pedestals. Now to what far distant land is invention fled ? Is there any merit in repeating the same figures for ever-in stereotyping Britannias and Victorys? Poetry long ago purified its page of this lumber. Painting has nearly succeeded in expelling the demon of abstract personification from her canvass, but sculpture continues her worship in spite of the laughter of mankind. Siinple statues, without'any of these accompaniments, would make the best monuments, and illustrate history in a way worthy of the country. Plutarch—for classic authority is great in matters of Gothic mouths and noses— Plutarch looked for portraiture in the statues of Athens, and since the Greeks condescended to have their heroes in marble, looking as they looked in life, we may safely do the
same ;-nature and history, and the antique, luckily unite iu demanding it.
It gives us great pleasure to observe, that the works which the Committee for the Government Monuments have lately sanctioned are of this kind, and that those artists at least who aspire to such patronage, will be no longer allowed to substitute their worn out fictions for the fresh images of life.
ART. VII.-1. Faust, a Drama, by Goethe, with Translations from the German By Lord Francis Leveson Gower. 2d
Edition. London. 1825. 2 vols. 2. Posthumous Poems. By Percy Bysshe Shelley. 8vo. Lon
don. 1824. THIRTY years have elapsed since Sir Walter Scott com
menced his literary career by a translation of Goethe's earliest drama, Götz von Berlichingen of the Iron Hand. That spirited essay appears to have attracted little notice at the moment, and has never been reprinted; while, in the intervening years, bald and feeble versions of Werther, Herman and Dorothea, and some minor dramas, have been doing much injury to the author's fame in this country. His Memoirs of Himself, maimed and burlesqued by some drudge who must be ignorant of the first elements of the German language, have afforded much matter of merriment even to our professional critics; and, upon the whole, the reader who has trusted to English and French translations can have had little chance to form any thing like an adequate notion of Goethe. The great poet who has contributed more perhaps than any other person to the continental fame of Shakspeare, and latterly to that of Byron, has been ill requited amongst us; although the admiration of many eminent individuals may have sufficiently consoled him for vulgar neglect, and even for the petulancies of our small wits.
Within the last two or three years he and we have been more fortunate. The romance of Wilhelm Meister has been faithfully, and not inelegantly, rendered by Mr. Carlyle, of Edinburgh; Mr. Anster, of Dublin, has given us several of the minor poems -in particular the Bride of Corinth-with much felicity; the late Mr. Shelley has bequeathed us some fragments of the Faust; and there now lies on our table a second edition of a translation of that extraordinary drama, by Lord Francis Gower.
The German critics distinguish three periods in the history of Goethe's genius, and attribute the conception and the chief part of the execution of the Faust to the first of these, although it was not, it seems, published until long afterwards. We are by no