« ZurückWeiter »
and the night raven flew—to plant the tree of knowledge, the fruitbearing tree of wisdom ; in short, expel the evil forms, and multiply the good—to exorcise the demon out of man, and raise him up the image of his God.
It has long been the practice with very many of the religious community, and even with very good men from whom sounder conclusions were to be expected, to flout with scorn at what they are pleased to call “mere morality.” By doing so, such individuals neither do themselves, nor their religion, nor their state a good, but an evil turn. If the halo round Britannia's crown be her religious faith, the safety of the state is her morality, the dignity and purity of her throne is her morality, the lustre of her crown itself is her morality.
Do what you will, say some, there always will be such dregs; it is a condition of society. But is there no account to be made of the quantity, of the quality, none as to the degree of putridity which they may assume? We may be grappling with an evil which we are unable totally to subdue, but is not that the case with all things human? Are we not grappling in our own families, in our own breasts, with a demon of evil which we are unable thoroughly to overcome. ?
Again, I would urge upon the most zealous supporters of high religious views the expediency of passing this measure-as members of British society they are morally bound to do so—for surely their hope of propagating the views of the true religion is not founded on the ignorance, much less the vice of the destitute masses ? The state Educator makes the metal impressible, prepares the faculties for perceiving, laying hold of truth. And is this nothing, or is it less than nothing, as some aver ? Away at once and for ever with such mistaken zeal! The time is now come when spiritual ejaculation, however piously uttered, cannot be respected otherwise than for its pregnancy of humane feeling, the soundness, the unselfishness of its reason, and where is the evidence of either in the withholding of such a measure ?
The “demons of the den" we may never be able thoroughly to expel; but are we therefore to give up, or even to slacken in the struggle ?—the hope in reason and the hope through faith forbid it. Are we to look down into this yawning abyss of misery and crime, and ejaculate with a hopeless“ I would an' if I could !" Can we be justified in turning on our heel with a heartless “It's of no use trying !” Away with such lukewarmness ! The spirit of a generous humanity prompts to the trial, the spirit of our
' holy faith inculcates it, the spirit of justice, the genius of the British constitution, demands it. It is for this House, in the spirit which looks beyond self, sect, or party—a spirit breathing from God's own altar-to do away with these false idols which we so closely worship and sacrifice to, and erect such succouring temples as our scheme suggests for the refuge of the friendless poor.
The statistics of petty larceny and crime, while they proclaim the degradation of the lower classes, proclaim likewise that the only hope of their redemption lies in their being educated. Their ignorance of
all law, social or divine, is appalling; their moral sense of the iniquity of their actions, and the vicious lives and courses they lead, is fearfully vague; misery and necessity, the mated torpedos, are ever busy at this deadening work.
Would that I could translate such as oppose our scheme to the calm table-land of the UNIVERSAL GOOD; and, freed from party strife and pious prejudice, they would see through the vista of but a few short years, our hopeful picture realised--a social regeneration of the poorest classes, through the means of a general education. From this platform, rid of the smoke of prejudice and passion, they would behold the mind in which ignorance, vice, despair, and crimo at present prevail, thinking on the responsibilities attaching to a human being constituted for social bonds, and feeling possessed, dignified with an immortal soul.
Yes, Mr Speaker, Education is the chemic power to transmute those pestiferous rivers filled with every kind of moral filth and physical corruption now flowing through the bowels of every large city—it is the true, the only power to transmute them to the public benefit, the public good.
Shall it be said that the British Government, which gave so many millions to efface the blot of slavery from her free imperial brow, begrudged a liberal grant to cure a disease in her own children's blood-prolonged indefinitely through empirical hopes—that greater curse than the enthralment of the human body—the curse of vice, with all uncleanness springing from misery and ignorance ?
Shall it be said that we who voted so many millions of the public money to support a section of the Empire visited with dearth, gave but a niggard pittance towards the support of a scheme which promises to nourish, keep alive, and strengthen the principle of the very life of life itself—the human soul? Is it not as if we should recognise our responsibility to feed the starving animal part of man, and deny that it is any part of our duty to provide for the suffering destitute soul—the immortal part of man? Shall not we rather who were so generous of aliment to the body, be even more liberal of means to clothe the utter nakedness of the mind with the garments of knowledge—the warm under-covering of conscientiousness and truth?
We have been liberal, and rightly too, of our grants to reclaim vast portions of the uncultivated, stubborn, barren soil. The class for which this was done has been largely benefited, the country has been benefited -indirectly to be sure, but not the less certainly ;and shall we refuse a liberal sum to speed the plough of Education in the turning up for fertilising influences of that still more stubborn glebe—that measureless waste-ground—the vast low-lying mons” of the British human mind? Beyond and within the confines of our boasted cultivated society lie dismal swamps and baleful marshes, gloomy woods and unyielding commons-rankly affecting its health, safety, and prosperity. Shall we, then, refuse to endow well the Educator, who alone has the power to transform this savage
state of things? While we hold him accountable for rational results, shall we not leave him free and independent of any other bridling or controlling agency? Shall we curb his skill with our ignorance? Away with such lets and hinderances on this great labourer in the field of human redemption, and progress! Let him go forth untrammelled, and ere many years roll round, the dismal noisome wilderness will have become fertile fields and fat pastures and fruitful gardens.
But, Mr Speaker, when we speak thus confidently, it is prospectively, not immediately-anticipated not instant results. It requires means, machinery, and time, before it can be brought to work so as to show how the growth and quality of this, at present, low lying mind can be permanently influenced.
Neither, at the best, are we always to expect good results. Education and Virtue are not always found hand in hand—much seldomer are they found to be synonymous terms. Education-religious, secular, or corporate-does not always influence the recipients to virtuous action or manly bearing. But are we, on this account, to abate one jot of our confidence in the belief that Education is the likeliest, the best means of securing the desired end ? Certainly no ; and Education admitted to be the best means, it is our clear duty to provide it, without stint, for those who either cannot or will not provide it for themselves; and being our duty, it follows, that, as nothing menaces the safety of the public, and hence the State, more than brutish ignorance of all law, human and divine—we yield with readiness all appliances that lie within our power to further the great end in view.
And, Mr Speaker, I verily believe, that, after we have fully set in motion this noble vessel of the state, freighted with so many human souls, we may expect a return-not only golden in the metaphorical sense of the term, but in reality ; for is it too sanguine in us to expect legacies from the benevolent and philanthropic ? Will not the lovers of their country and their kind come forward and record their names as voluntary state-givers towards the building, equiping, upholding of this Educational State Fleet—destined, I trust, soon to be enrolled as no second glory in the annals of British triumphs. As time rolls on too, may we not anticipate supporting gratitude from those whom it has reared—those who, through the blessing of the scheme, shall have pushed their fortune successfully in the busy world?
Gentlemen of Britain, mar not the endeavour-show that ye have the virtue which you boast, the dare to think, the courage to enactshow that ye have hearts larger than for self; curb not your generous promptings with whispered fears; be men to give freely as to receive —the blessing felt, spread it abroad to all—the good man's alms to poor humanity. If I should fail, there is, at least, this pregnant solace
“In great attempts 'tis glorious even to fail.” The victory may not be won in this campaign, but I feel my heart at
this moment beat proudly with the pulse of the coming triumph. DeLAYED FOR A TIME IT MAY BE- DENIED IN THE END IT DARE NOT BE.
I shall, therefore, rest content, under the shade of this broad leaf, that, irrespective of all meaner interests, I have discharged what I believe to be a duty to my country.
FINE ARTS. ROYAL SCOTTISH ACADEMY'S EXHIBITION OF PAINTINGS. The works in this Exhibition are not to be judged of by the standard of high or ideal art. In general their aspect is feeble and unimpressive. The landscapes, which, with the usual impertinent superabun lance of portraits, make up nearly the whole Exhibition, are rarely anything more than efforts to copy the most ordinary moods of Nature. The simple feeling and almost religious placidity, which characterise the works of our great Pre-Raphaelite painters gave them a charm which their cruder colouring and most ungainly composition could not quite defeat. Their theory was sound but their practice rushed into every extreme of fantastic exaggeration. Their effort at simplicity and truth, their intense sense of natural fact, led them to overstate the truth. In their intemperate molesty, they overstepped the modesty of Nature. But still their pictures were full of sentiment and ideality. If in their hands Nature appeared to have the ascetic plainness, she had still the fervent and beautiful devotion of a nun. Our men of genius are returning from their follies, but Art among the people pays the penalty of their unfaithfulness, and Nature is wronged and degraded in the eyes of the people, by crowds of imitators, who find no difficulty in rivalling their flatness, crudity, and poverty, or in a painful accumulation of petty detail, unhallowed by their devotional earnestness and solemnity, and unrefined by their certain inexpressible intellectual grace. It may be, too, this injudicious imitation of the great Pre-Raphaelites, in their characteristic representations of the meaner and more familiar detail of life and nature, is aided by the inducement which Art-Unions, perhaps necessarily, supply to paint down to the level of the popular taste, which is pleased with such mimicry of what is familiar, just as children are delighted to have their own images reflected in a mirror. Hence, on a general survey of the pictures in this Exhibition, there are few that invite the eye to contemplation-few that touch the soul with enthusiasm, or win the mind to brooding repose.
We shall look almost in vain for harmonious fulness, or simple grace in design. The eye is often disturbed by inelegance of lines and confusion of masses, by hardness and crudity in colour, and a monotonous and unimpressive flatness procluced by the evident terror of forcible lights and shadows. There is no attempt to render “the gloom of gloom, the sunshine of sunshine." But having said this as to the general character of the Exhibition, it must be fairly allowed that there are some works in it which deserve a better character, and would bear to be tried by a far higher standard.
Few things, for example, could be finer than some of M'Culloch's pictures of this year. No. 207, * Highland Deer Forest, Isle of Skye,” is a splendid picture. The lonely expanse of the rugged scene—the atmosphere hazy with the golden glow of sunset, are treated with great breadth and splendid effect. We congratulate the Glasgow Art-Union on its acquisition. Equally fine and poetical is No. 367, "The Dean Castle near Kilmarnock." This small moonlight is painted with wonderful truth and feeling. The
air is deliciously soft and still, and induces in the mind a vague and delicious sense of languor and repose. No. 59, “ Storm on a Highland Coast," is full of spirit and power. The shower driven by the wind in the back of the picture—the hurry of the multitudinous breakers, are very effectively rendered ; while the rocks and shore in the foreground are painted with surprising vigour and truthfulness. This is rather the best picture this artist exhibits. There is some fine colouring in a small picture, “Autumn Sunset.” We confess that although there is a great amount of truth in No. 112,
“ Lochard Sunset," we nevertheless feel the general tone of this picture to be very disagreeable, and the design of the landscape very feeble.
Waller H. Paton exhibits several pictures. No. 113, “ Summer Night, Boncen, Arran," is, we think, this artist's best-it is very fine. The perfect stillness of the clear cold evening, as it purples into night, is finely and poetically given, and there is great beauty in the quiet Highland landscape itself. His picture of a “llighland Stream," No. 29, is a miracle of imitative skill, as regards the painting of the stones in the foreground. As to the rest of this picture, perhaps the less that is said the better.
Two small but beautiful pictures of tlre late Robert Tonge, renewed, as often as we recurred to them, the sorrow with which we learned of his untimely death. They differ in character of scene from any of his former works, being both Eastern landscapes. No. 463, “ Up the Nile, Shoobra Road," is full of atmosphere and distance. It displays a sense of colour singularly fine. The other, “ Scene in the Desert near Cairo," is distinguished by the same qualities. The silvery grey tones of both, and the delicate but forcible use of the small points of pure colour, are very exquisite.
126, “The Tired Messenger," P. F. Poole, A.R.A., is a perfect little gem. The whole air of it is indescribably touching and poetical. Nothing can be more tender, and yet rich and quiet, than the colour. Those beautiful eyes, too, look out from the shadow over the face with an enchanting sweetness.
No. 44, “David Slaying the Lion," and 353, “ Boar Hunt,” both by John Linnell, are conceived in a style of freedom and grandeur, which tells with surprising effect amid the general feebleness and poverty with which they are surrounded. The former of the two is very simple, yet rich in colour; the matted forest in the background-the luxuriant growth between that and the spectator—the blue mountain torrent rushing down its abrupt and rocky channel—the tender sky above, compose a scene admirably suited to the action represented; and the energy with which the action is rendered, harmonises well with the bold and magnificent scene. More gorgeous in colour, the other picture is not less magnificent in design, and it is especially wonderful in handling. The breadth of the landscape covered to the opposite hill tops with luxuriant underwood-worked, too, with such admirable vigour and freedom—the rich, sombre, yet glowing hues—the life and spirit of the figures—the kind of classic grace over the whole, excite the liveliest play of fancy, and transport the mind to the olden and heroic days of the Spartan boar hunts in the glens of Taygetus, Both of these pictures have about them a certain heroic freedom and grandeur, and expand the soul like a page of the Iliad. We like in these days to see a painter with the courage to imitate the strength and poetical boldness of those splendid masters of the Art-against whose great remains every sickly-brained graduate, for sooth, must discharge his windy flux of words which many of our foolish artists credulously believe to contain something of the divine afflatus.