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THE SACRIFICE OS JEPUTIIAil'S DAUGETEB.
The loveliness and pathos of innocent girlhood could not be more gloriously expressed than in this figure of the fair young creature, perfectly naked and rose-chapleted, kneeling upon a lofty altar, full-fronting the spectator. Swathes of rushes for burning are behind her: at either side, her tambourine and lyre. Two maidens stand sorrowfully at each angle of the altar. Jephthah kneels in front, Ms back turned, his arms wide-spread, invoking the divine sanction upon the tremendous deed. To right and to left, clouds, here louring in brown, there blue, droop like heavy folds of curtain. This ranks amongst Blake's noblest designs.
Blake, the supreme painter of fire, in this his typical picture of fire, is at his greatest; perhaps it is not in the power of art to transcend this treatment of the subject in its essential features. The water-colour is unusually complete in execution. The conflagration, horrid in glare, horrid in gloom, fills the background: ita javelin-like cones surw up amid conical forms of buildings (' Langham Church steeples,' they may be called, as in No. 151). In front, an old man receives from two youths a box and a bundle which they have recovered; two mothers and several children crouch and shudder, overwhelmed; other figures behind are ninning.about, bewildered what to do next.
Blake was not a practical man, and, very much owing to his impracticability, had to struggle all his life with poverty and neglect, notwithstanding his genius. He was greatly beloved by his friends, hut he had queer notions ; he was apt to quarrel, and the subjects which he chose for the exhibition of his art were not likely to allure the public of his day. The title of one of his pictures was, "A Spirit vaulting from a Cloud to turn and wind a fiery Pegasus. The horse of intellect is leaping from the cliffs of memory and reasoning; it is a barren rock; it is also called the barren waste of Locke and Newton." Is any* body likely to be attracted by such a title t Another picture is entitled "The spiritual form of Nelson guiding Leviathan, in whose wreathings are enfolded the nations of the earth." The companion picture to this is described as "The spiritual form of Pitt guiding Behemoth: he is that angel who, pleased to perform the Almighty's orders, rides on the whirlwind, directing the storms
reap the vine of the earth, and the ploughman to plough up the cities and towers." It is in such titles as these, and in some parts of the artist's conduct, that the indications of insanity are recognized. For conduct, what should we say of the man who would take his little back garden in this grimy metropolis for the Garden of Eden, and, to the horror of all his neighbours, might be seen in the costume of our first parents sauntering about it, his wife bearing him. company? Mr. Butts called one day upon Blake, and found him with his wife in the summer-house, all innocent of clothing. "Come in," cried Blake, "it's only Adam and Eve, you know." Husband and wife had been reciting passages from the "Paradise Lost," and, to enter more fully into the spirit of the poet's verse, they had dressed, or rather undressed for their parts. Blake had a great opinion of the gymnosophists, and would insist on the virtues of nakedness. Nor was he alone in his views. He got his wife to accept them undoubtingly; and we are told of a family in the upper ranks of society, contemporary with Blake, though unknown to him, who had embraced the theory of "philosophical nakedness." Believing in the speedy coming of a golden age similar to the pristine state of innocence, the elders in this family taught the children to run naked about the house for a few hours every day, and in this condition the little innocents would run and open the door to Shelley. Their mother followed the same practice more privately, locking herself in her room; but she declared to her friends that the habit of going about every day for a time in a state ot nudity did her much moral good. "She felt the better for it—so innocent during the rest of the day."
It will be readily understood that the man who could thus defy public opinion had but a low opinion of his contemporaries, and had a very high opinion of himself. He had a great contempt for many men whom the world has consented to hold in high estimation. Stuthard, his friend, he could speak of theft—of stealing his ideas. Having addressed his friend Flaxman once in these terms,—"You, O dear Flaxman, "are a sublime archangel—my friend "and companion from eternity. In the "Divine bosom is our dwelling-place," he could turn upon him at another time and call him a blockhead. This, however, was but tit-for-tat He was under the impression that Flaxman had called him a madman, and so he retaliated in the couplet—
I mock thee not, though I by thee am
mocked: Thou call'st me madman, but I call thee
When he wanted to say a thing, he said it in no mincing terms. Thus he observed: "They say, there is no straight line in nature. This is a lie." And so he thought nothing of calling men fools and blockheads—even his friends. It was in this way, as we have seen, that he hit Flaxman and Stothard, both his friends; and so also he flew at another friend. Hayley had been very kind to him, and he addressed Hayley in the following epigram:—
Thy friendship oft has made my heart to
ache; Do be my enemy for friendship's sake.
He said that Rembrandt, Correggio, and Rubens were manifest fools. Lord Bacon he described as the little Bacon—a fool, a liar, a villain, an atheist He winds up his opinion with the assertion, " he "is like Sir Joshua, full of self-contradic"tion and knavery." In another place he says : " Reynolds and Gainsborough "blotted and blurred one against the "other, and divided all the English "world between them. Fuseli indig"nant almost hid himself. / am hid." Speaking of Rubens and Reynolds together, he says : " Can I speak with too "great contempt of such contemptible "fellows? If all the princes in Europe "were to patronize such blockheads, I, "William Blake, a mental prince, would "decollate and hang their souls as guilty "of mental high treason." He had an inordinate opinion of himself. He
reggio, and Rubens, but said of himself that he defied competition in colouring. On another occasion he wrote, "I do not "pretend to paint better than Raphael "or Michael Angelo or Giulio Romano, "or Albert Diirer, but I do pretend to "paint finer than Rubens or Correggio, * or Rembrandt or Titian." On yet another occasion he said, "I know and "understand and can assuredly affirm "that the works I have done for you are "equal to the Caracci or Raphael, and I "am now some years older than Raphael "was when he died." Although it is not pleasant to read or hear opinions of this sort, let it not be supposed that he who held them was a cantankerous, hateful being. He was only a visionary, and, with all his inordinate self-admiration, and contempt for others, the friends who came much into contact with him found in him, and had a hearty love for, a very gentle, simple-minded man.
Before we conclude, we must say a word or two about Blake's prose writings. They display all his characteristics— force, truth, wrongness, oddity, earnestness. But his remarks are always suggestive, and sometimes very original. "If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise." This was one of his favourite maxims, and it is sufficiently suggestive. Here, again, is a clear incisive remark: "Names alter, "things never alter. I have known "multitudes of those who would have "been monks in the age of monkery, "and are deists in this deistical age." Then, for oddity, look at this :—" Moral "virtues do not exist; they are allegories "and dissimulations. But time and "space are real beings, a male and a "female. Time is a man, Space is a "woman, and her masculine portion is "Death. We do not ask whether this he true or false. We ask what does it mean? Turning a few pages we come upon a passage which has a clear meaning, though a heretical one. "The fool "shall not enter into heaven, let him "bo ever so holy; holiness is not the "price of entrance into heaven." He had a great horror of stupidity, and, like the unpardonable sin. Speaking of the stupidity of the Church,she says: "The "modern Church crucifies Christ with "the head downwards." He talks about heaven and hell as if he had been there, and knew all about them. "In "hell," he says, "all is self-righteous"ness; there is no such thing there as "forgiveness of sin." So of the angels he observes, "It is not because angels "are holier than men or devils that "makes them angels; but because they "do not expect holiness from one "another, but from God only." Next we come upon a sentence which will strike the women with consternation :— "In eternity woman is the emanation "of man; she has no will of her own; "there is no such thing in eternity as "a female will." In that case, however, eternity must be very different from time. Blake probably took his notion of eternity from Mrs. Blake's unvarying acquiescence in his whims. He was in glory when he could get people to agree with him. In general he could not get people to agree with him. He found himself sadly out of joint with the time, and in most of what he did there is an evident sense of pain. Ever and anon he seemed to be oppressed with nightmare. What we mean by nightmare is a vision of this kind:—He imagines himself descending into an infinite abyss, fiery and smoky. In the far distance the sun, though shining, is black; and round it are fiery tracks, on which revolve vast spiders, crawling after their prey. Their prey are terrific shapes of animals sprung from corruption; the air being full of them and apparently composed of them. And when Blake, descending into this horrible abyss, inquired where was to be his eternal lot, he was told, " Between the black and the white spiders."
Altogether, this biography of a man who, though continually wrong, was never weak, is one of the most curious studies of human life that we have ever come across; and we are grateful to Mr. Gilchrist and to the Messrs. Rossetti
for enabling us to become better acquainted with Blake. In saying so• much, however, it is not necessary that we should share the opinion of Mr. Dante Rossetti and his friends that the world is unjust to its great men. If Blake was a great man, and yet was not appreciated in his generation, it is not necessary to blame the world. The blame lies generally in the artist himself, and we are amazed to read the list of great unknowns whom Mr. Dante Rossetti has discovered. It is a list which fills us with a profound sense of our living in a world that is choke full of inglorious Miltons and guiltless Cromwells. Mr. Dante Rossetti is less known to the public than he ought to be. He has never exhibited his pictures, and he is known to the world chiefly through his least important works. It is no secret, however, that in the opinion of a large circle of friends, well able to judge, he is regarded as a man of extraordinary power of rare accomplishment, and certain to take a foremost place in the art records of our time.- But even from such a man we refuse to accept, as applied to Blake, the epithets "incomparable," "unparalleled," and the rest. Blake was a mighty being, but he was great as a saurian, or a mammoth that has little felt relation to the time in which he lived. We are interested in him with an intense interest, but it is the sort of interest we should feel in seeing one of the vast creatures of a prior epoch of the world suddenly come to live among us. We recognise his greatness, we wonder at the strength of his thews and the weight of his stride; but we do not wonder that Behemoth is misplaced in this present world, and we do not believe that, though his form is unwonted, one can fairly speak of it as incomparable. Our pre-Raphaelite friendsare fond of superlatives, and their style would be improved if they learnt to keep ever at hand a little pepper-box full of "buts" and "ifs" and "perhapses" with which to sprinkle their pages.
THE LAST WISH.
Old friend, you know I trust you. You have heard
See, somewhat rich must surely be contained
The case for you, so you but do my will.
You marvel. Yes, it seems a worthless prize,
They did not know 'twas this I prized above
Think you for wealth of titles or of gold
I would have bartered this,—have cast the stem
His fingers culled among the rotting mould
Of Autumn's graves, and placed some costlier gem
Upon the heart where once he laid this flower,
And I have kept my troth. God knows that jest
THE BROTHERS DAVENPORT.
BY EDWARD DICEY.
The fable of the fox who lost his tail, has always appeared to me to be especially applicable to converts of any kind . The fox, I am prone to fancy, was by no means an impostor. On the contrary— the wish being, as with most of us, father to the thought—he had wrought himself into a conviction that the absence of the caudal extremity conferred all sorts of recondite advantages on the Reynards who were fortunate enough to have undergone an experience similar to his own. Still, lurking in the vulpine mind there was always an uncomfortable doubt whether, after all, he had not committed an act of egregious folly when he parted with his tail; and, in order to remove this painful suspicion from his own mind, he felt a longing for the company of other untailed foxes. Nobody can go through life without meeting specimens of the foxwithout-a-tail order. I number many such amongst my friends; and, when they advise me, as they have done frequently, to join the caudicidal faith, I have always a latent feeling that, unknown to themselves, they are less anxious for the improvement of my moral or religious nature than they are to increase the number of persons who cannot gibe at them for not being as other foxes are. If you have not got a tail yourself, what a luxury it must be to look around you and see none but tailless friends!
So, my experience has been that the first thing a convert to any new discovery or delusion sets' his heart upon is to lead his friends to the same conclusion as himself. Whether your particular hobby is Banting or David Urquhart, Turkish baths or Homoeopathy, Women's rights or Spiritualism, you feel a burning zeal to see others strengthening your own faltering faith by the mere fact of their adhesion to
your theory. Acquaintances of mine, whose general interest in my welfare, whether moral or material, I take to be of the most ordinary kind, have shown at many periods an otherwise unaccountable desire to persuade mo that they are right, and that I and the rest of the world are wrong. It is to this feeling I attribute the frequent attempts that have been made to convert me to Spiritualism. It is not that any special value is attached to my conversion; but that, if I were converted, I should not be able to annoy my tailless friends with the possession of a tail, more or less ragged I admit, but still a tail of the ordinary description. It was only the other day that I was invited by a friend of mine, a fervent convert to Spiritualism, to witness one of the earliest seances of the Davenport Brothers. I was assured that even the most obdurate scepticism must be convinced by the performances of these gentlemen. I was not convinced ; and I wish to explain why I was not. But, before speaking of what I saw or did not see, let me say something of the state of mind under which I observed these manifestations: speaking of myself, in as far as I can, as of an impartial spectator. I admit, at first starting, that I am not prepared to say there is nothing whatever in Spiritualism. My private impression is that the whole matter is a delusion and an absurdity, but this impression is not with me an absolute conviction. I have had the pleasure of knowing many men of considerable power of mind, of very different dispositions, and of shrewd common sense in other respects, who firmly believe that Mr. Hume floats about the air in an arm-chair, and that Mr. Foster's arm is habitually subject to the operation of spiritual lithographers. The very fact that the men I speak of do believe such things is one