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Michael Angelo, unequalled by any ancient composition, of a mother and children, and one of the finest groups in existence.'—pp. 188—190.
The facts on record, indeed, which will always outweigh unproved assertion, are amply sufficient to refute these blind admirers of antiquity. Let us look, then, to the history of genius and of taste, and ask,-have there been no Christian poets, no Christian painters, no Christian statuaries and architects to disprove the above allegations and throw them back on their accusers? That our artists fail in excelling the ancients in representations of the Olympic Gods and Goddesses, is not the fault of Christianity, when they make choice of such subjects. A well-known illustration will, we think, set this mistake in its true light.
According to the ancient mythology, every country, every kingdom, and every province, had a goddess to direct their affairs, nay, every river and every forest had some divinity which either presided there, or made it an occasional residence. Now, this fable, the ancients received as firmly as we believe that there is no proof of it whatever, though we cannot positively affirm that it was not so. But, though nobody now believes this in the enlightened nations of Europe, yet there are still allusions made to it by our poets and orators, and representations made of it by our painters and statuaries. Nobody credits the existence of such a Goddess as Britannia, whose business it is to watch over the interests and the prosperity of Britain; nor that of another divinity, called Hibernia, whose peculiar attention is directed to Ireland, and who amuses herself when not oppressed with employment, in playing on a golden harp. All this is a pretty enough fancy; an elegant, a beautiful fable ; but it is all most obviously a fancy, and a fable which Christianity disclaims, and reason revolts from. Yet, in defiance of both, painters will paint their Britannias and their Hibernias; poets and orators will talk of them as real and embodied divinities; and statuaries will introduce them into their allegorical groups,
Is it at all wonderful then, we may ask, if artists will persist in all this foolery and nonsense, elegant though it be, and classical though it be, that they should be unable to touch the feelings? that they should fail to awaken interest? If there have been a falling off in the works of our artists, it is here we are to look for the cause, and not in Christianity; it is to their hackneyed mimicry of what pleased in the antique, because it was in unison with public feeling and popular belief, and which can never please now, both for the reason just assigned, that all mimicry of this kind is so foreign from genius, that it is more likely to produce disgust; but more particularly for the reason, that the artist himself, not being in earnest in his belief, can never by any hypocrisy persuade others that he is in earnest; for earnestness, and zeal, and enthusiasm, cannot be put on so as to deceive.
The ancient poets, painters, and statuaries, on the other hand,
all believed in the existence of their Gods and Goddesses, and muses and nymphs of the fields, rivers, and seas; and being in earnest in the belief, they could easily operate on the credulity of others, from a common and well known principle of human nature. Not so the modern imitator; he neither believes himself in what he pretends to fancy, nor does he seem to care whether any body believes it or not. If this then be so, how can he ever expect to interest the feelings of those to whom he addresses himself, either by the canvas or in verse. And is it proper-is it just, to charge home all these failures on Christianity? Is it right to say, because, as Christians, we believe not in the existence nor the goddess-ship of Britannia and Hibernia, and look unfeelingly and coldly on the finest representations of them, that therefore Christianity has been the cause of this? And because we do not give credit to the existence of a divinity, or of a modern poet's muse, since he himself does not give credit to it, nor ever demands it of us, but puts on an awkward and a sheepish air in his warmest addresses to this imaginary and uninteresting thing called a muse, that therefore Christianity is to blame for dissolving the charm, which in the classical ages the poet's invocation to his muse possessed, when he was really in earnest about this invocation?
All deficiencies of this kind then, so far from being chargeable on Christianity, are clearly assignable to the indolence and the blundering system of imitation followed by the moderns on their first emerging from the darkness of the middle ages. We would even go farther, and say that had the system of heathen mythology continued to be the popular belief, the arts would have inevitably declined, if the artists persevered in following the plan of imitation, which we have seen to be so baneful. Whenever, indeed, one man of genius, if he be at all very superior, has distinguished himself in any particular line, and established what is called a school, from that moment the school must decline ; must sink into mediocrity and into contempt ; and all succeeding men of genius must either be content to rank in this school, under the master, or must holdly set his principle and his manner at defiance, and establish for themselves a new and unheard-of school, on other principles. If we take a review of all the departments of art and genius, this will be found to hold true. Apelles and Zeuxis had each his particular style, and after them we hear of no eminent painter in their styles : a more striking example is that of Demosthenes, who had his own peculiar style of oratory, unadopted, unborrowed from any former orator, and he was the first and the last of the school who was ever celebrated. No poet, after the lapse of several thousand years, has been able to cope with Homer in his own field. Virgil's attempt is no more than respectable, and Milton's, in so far as he keeps by Homer, is a compleie failure ; it is only great where it is original-where the poet forgets the Iliad and the Odyssey, and trusts to his own powers.
There is never a
lack of subjects, when genius arises to take advantage of them, and Christianity is even more rich in these, than our cavillers in their narrow views will willingly admit. Our author has made some very apposite remarks upon this subject, of which we quote a small portion
* But the arts of design may exert their utmost efforts, could they even call the genius of Phidias and the grace of Praxiteles to employ their most exalted conceptions in the most lively execution, without the reasonable expectation of being perfectly satisfied with their own productions, if employed on the personages and events of divine revelation.
The gradation of celestial power and beauty in the orders of angels and archangels, the grandeur and inspiration of prophets, according to the difference of mission, and the sanctity of apostles, have produced examples of grace, beauty, and grandeur of character, original in themselves, and not to be found in such variety among the remains of antiquity, as in the works by the restorers of art in the fifteenth century.
• If we compare the moral systems of Paganism and Christianity, we cannot fail to wonder that society was not exterminated in an empire which sacrificed 20,000 gladiators every year, on the amphitheatres for public diversion. This is but one instance of the public character of the Romans. Even the Athenians, so justly admired for arts and letters, in their moral habits tolerated the most frightful offences. Besides that contradiction to the love of liberty in which they defended their country against foreign invaders, that at the time Athens contained 12,000 free citizens, it contained also 120,000 slaves, or ten slaves to each free citizen.
• But enough of this. We will console ourselves with the cheering reflection, that some sense of piety and mutual duty was kept alive by the spirit of philosophy, under Pagan systems, and felicitate ourselves upon the enjoyment of that Perfect Dispensation which enjoins a moral practice to secure the happiness of all-allowing an extent of political freedom beneficial to all, at the same time that it guards the just rights of every one-which protects knowledge and science, and bestows on the arts a moral purity and a perfection of sentiment, arising from the various duties and charities of Christianity, not to be found under any other code. These advantages were well understood by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michael Angelo. The Holy Families only, by these great masters, would form a gallery of the greatest beauty—the most tender and interesting sentiment, totally unlike any ancient work, and entirely novel in subject, composition and character. The same may be said of those noble compositions by Raphael, the Cartoons, which for expression of divine and exalted character, grand and extraordinary grouping, may be compared with the noblest remains of ancient art.'—pp. 332–334.
The volume is beautifully got up, and is highly creditable to the taste of the publisher. The lithographed prints, fifty-two in number, are executed in the best style, and the subjects are well adapted to illustrate the text.
ART. VI. Four Years in Southern Africa. By Cowper Rose, Royal
Engineers. 8vo. pp. 308. London: Colburn and Bentley. 1829. The name of Africa is fraught with many topics of powerful interest. Its rivers have their birth in impenetrable solitudes, the principal part of its inhabited regions lies beyond deserts which daunt the spirit of adventure, or enterprise ; and its vast forests, that are populous with the wildest creations of nature; its mountains, that are clothed with the gloom and mystery of ancient fable; and the whole mighty extent of the continent, embracing the remains of empires, glorious in the history of the earth,—render the name of Africa a sort of spell-word for conjuring up strange images, and those grand, but obscure shadows, which hang about the objects or countries that repel us by their magnitude or distance. Africa is neither so ancient as Asia, nor so venerable for its history, but it is wrapped far closer in obscurity ; there are darker spots in its vast surface for the imagination to dwell on, and the legends and traditions accordingly which belong to this quarter of the world, are of a wilder and gloomier character than those of Asia or either of the modern continents.
From causes like these, no part of the world is more attractive to enterprising travellers, and the few who have ventured to explore its deserts have given details to their countrymen which are valuable, not merely for their scientific importance, but for the light they throw on a portion of the globe where man presents himself under a new and strange aspect, or where savage life is to be studied amid the ruins, and on the site of a once rich and far extending civilization. The work, however, before us, is not intended to lead the reader far into these dark regions of adventure. Mr. Rose comes before us neither as a Mungo Park nor a Clapperton; and he has contented himself with describing the scenes which he had an opportunity of witnessing, in short excursions into Kaffer land, taking a rapid glance at the wide stretching plains and mountains, holding a momentary intercourse with their rude inhabitants, and then returning to Cape town, and its mixed and busy population. But the information which the writer has given respecting the portion of the continent which he visited is highly interesting. Southern Africa has many claims to our regard; it has been pointed out as an advantageous situation for large colonies of our countrymen ; several missionary stations have been established there; and an intercourse has been thus commenced systematically with the natives, which may be expected to produce important consequences. The character also of the people gives them a right to attention; though savages, they exhibit in their conduct and disposition towards strangers, many parts of a hospitable nature, and a capacity capable of considerable improvement. We have heard anecdotes also of their kindliness of temper, and of
their affection and fidelity, which afford the strongest evidence of their openness to all those humanising impressions, among which the germ of civilisation is most easily and securely cultivated. These circumstances, and many others of a similar kind with which most of our readers are probably acquainted, make an eloquent appeal to our feelings in favour of South Africa and its native inhabitants, which Mr. Rose's book,-lively, picturesque, and sensible,-is very well calculated to strengthen.
Before, however, passing to the scenes which he has drawn from the interior of the country, it may be as well to pause a moment on the character he has given of Cape Town. According to this account, the old Africanders, or Cape-born Dutch, still retain their dislike of the new possessors of their ancient domain, while their descendants studiously endeavour to copy the manners and appearance of the English. Mr. Rose, however, disclaims the task of making any estimate as to the vice or virtue of the inhabitants of Cape Town. This he leaves, he says, to graver writers, who, he appears to think, must necessarily make "bold assertions, as well as strange discoveries;' but we would hint to this smart and amusing writer, that such a resolution savours a little of the spirit in which the journal of a six weeks' residence in France or Italy is written, and that a traveller who is not willing to be at the pains of enquiring into the real moral condition of a people, must be a very superficial and capricious delineator of even their common habits and customs. But to give Mr. Rose more credit for penetration and veracity than we should a less ingenious writer, setting out with such an assertion, we shall name the few particulars which compose his description of the South African capital. On a Sunday, then, both English and Dutch, the Indians, the graceful, half-caste female slave, the lounging European officer, and the Malay, with his high conical hat, a turbaned handkerchief of blue or crimson, and red sash, his bare sinewy arms, straight handsome outline of countenance, and tiger eye--this motley multitude on a Sunday is gathered together in the government gardens, when they stroll along the walks, shaded by the long branches of the African oak, through which gleams of sunny light find their way, and touch with a momentary brightness the gaily coloured dresses of the passers by.
Then there are the ladies, who form so conspicuous a portion of Cape society, and who having stopped for a few weeks on their way to India, attack with all their pretty arts and devices, the invalids who come from the East to pass their year of absence ; while the arrival of vessels from England, the horse races in which the steeds are ridden by Hottentot jockeys, and which collect all the rank and fashion of the colony together, and balls, and an occasional masquerade, compose the list of Cape Town amusements. But following the turn of Mr. Rose's horse from Cape Town to the Cape Flats, we enter upon scenes which, sparkling as are his sketches of society and manners, are more calculated to