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might have been discovered in his despised performances! His 'Strolling Actresses,' that wondrous picture,' as Mr Cunningham justly calls it, of which the wit, the humour, are without end;' where into the darkest nook the artist has put meaning, ' and there is instruction or sarcasm in all that he has introduced,' -this picture was sold for L.27, 6s, to the wealthy Beckford, who thought the price too much, and returned it to the painter!' In 1745, Hogarth sold this and eighteen others of his best pictures, -the paintings of the Harlot's Progress,' the eight paintings of the Rake's Progress,' and the Four Times of the Day,'for L.427, 7s., or little more than L.22 a-piece. Such was the reward of the only artist of whom, at that time, England had reason to be proud. Yet these pictures wanted not such advantages as competition could afford-for they were sold by auction, and the sale, we are told, was well attended. Discouraging as was the result, Hogarth, despairing of other means, attempted, five years afterwards, to dispose also by auction of his celebrated series, the Marriage-à-la-mode.' The result of the experiment shall be told by the purchaser, Mr Lane:- On the 6th of June, 1750, which was to decide the fate of this capital work, when I arrived at the Golden Head, expecting, as was the case at 'the sale of the Harlot's Progress, to find his study full of noble ' and great personages, I only found Hogarth and his friend Dr 'Parsons, secretary to the Royal Society. I had bid L.110; no one arrived; and, ten minutes before twelve, I told the artist I would make the pounds guineas. The clock struck,
• and Mr Hogarth wished me joy of my purchase, hoping it was an agreeable one; I said, perfectly so. Dr Parsons was very much disturbed, and Hogarth very much disappointed, and truly with great reason. The former told me the painter had 'hurt himself by naming so early an hour for the sale, and Hogarth, who overheard him, said in a marked tone and manner, "Perhaps it may be so." I concurred in the same opinion, said he was poorly rewarded for his labour, and, if he chose, he 'might have till three o'clock to find a better bidder. Hogarth warmly accepted the offer, and Dr Parsons proposed to make it public. I thought this unfair, and forbade it. At one o'clock, Hogarth said, "I shall trespass no longer on your generosity, you are the proprietor, and if you are pleased with the purchase, I am abundantly so with the purchaser." He then desired me to promise that I would not dispose of the paintings without informing him, nor permit any person to meddle with them under pretence of cleaning them, as he always desired to do that himself. The excellence of these six noble pictures was acknowledged by the whole nation, and they were in frames
'worth four guineas each; yet no one felt them to be worth 'more than ninety pounds six shillings.' These six chef-d'œu vres of Hogarth's pencil were then valued by the public at less than a fourth of what was given at an auction a few years afterwards for a single moderately good picture,- Sigismunda,' attributed to Correggio, but really by Furino, and which now owes its whole celebrity to the rivalry which it excited in Hogarth. But Hogarth was not doomed to perpetual neglect. The pictures thus contemned by the discerning public of 1750,-who professed more than at any other period to idolize the works of the old masters,—were sold in 1797 to Mr Angerstein for L.1381, and are now among the ornaments of our National Gallery. The history of the period when Hogarth lived thus affords abundant proof, that an admiration of works of established artists, and a reverence for great names, is, if not absolutely inimical to the encouragement of modern art, at any rate compatible with extreme neglect of it.
But if we are sceptical with respect to the benefits to art to be expected from the possession of a great national collection, we are not insensible to the useful stimulus afforded by frequent exhibitions of the works of living artists, and of those selections, both of old and modern art, which pass annually in review before the eyes of the public, in the rooms of the British Institution.' By these, interest in the fine arts is kept alive-the energies of the artist are advantageously stimulated by comparison and competition, and the taste of the public is improved. It is essential to the improvement of the taste of the public, that they should see good pictures; but it is still more essential that they should see them often, and in great variety. Frequent exhibitions do not the less tend to improve the public taste, because the majority of these pictures may be bad ones. A taste for the fine arts becomes matured and polished by the frequent exercise of the faculty of comparison; and the more extensive are the means of comparison, the more perfect will that taste become. Some connoisseurs. appear to think that it is desirable to exclude the sight of all but the best models, and that the sight of bad pictures is capable of neutralizing whatever benefit to taste is derivable from good ones. We cannot admit this narrow doctrine: we hold, on the contrary, that he who has seen both good and bad, will be better able to appreciate the former, than he who has seen the former only. We should have more confidence in the taste and discrimination of one who had viewed all the manifold varieties of art, from the Transfiguration of Raphael,' to the lowest daub that deserves to be dignified by the name of a picture, than of one
whose attention had been exclusively occupied by twenty of the finest paintings in the world.
Since the chief object of a National Gallery is the encouragement of national art, through the improvement of the public taste and since it is no longer a question whether we shall have one or not, it only remains to be asked, What kind of collection is to be preferred? Some will tell you it ought to be extremely select; it should contain, if possible, none but paintings of the highest class;' it should be such as might purify the public taste, as might guide the artist, and not mislead him; it should be a collection of such pictures as might be safely followed as models; and none but pictures of the highest class' can be safe models to the student in painting. Now, what is the highest ' class?' If the forty Royal Academicians were called upon to define it, we doubt not they would furnish a considerable number of definitions widely different. And as for its consisting of eligible models, far from assenting to this, we do not believe that any painting can be named in which it would not be possible to detect something that should render it unfit to be implicitly followed as a model for imitation. Be it remembered, too, that it can scarcely with truth be said that there is any thing absolutely high or low, or good or bad, in works of art, although the oracles of taste are often pleased to make a peremptory use of these sweeping distinctions. Even if we could render excellence in painting something much more positive and definable than it is, we should still find that it is merely comparative-that it has infinite degrees, -and that the best is merely an approximation to some ideal point of unattained and unattainable perfection. No work of art is so good that we may not find in it some imperfection; and few so bad that the acute and candid observer may not discover in them some particle of merit. Instead of the well-winnowed élite of a fastidious selection, from which all should be excluded except celebrated chef-d'œuvres, we would rather see a more numerous collection, less exquisite in quality, but more diversified. It should exhibit, as much as possible, an illustrative history of painting; it should contain at least one good specimen of every artist of merit and celebrity, both foreign and native; it should comprise all styles, all schools, all subjects. The humblest subjects, if ably treated, should find a place, as well as the most elevated. Such early specimens as might enable the visitor to trace the progress and improvement of the art, should also be included; in short, it should be a collection which, although containing much that failed to satisfy the fastidious critic, might tend to imbue the visitor with an extensive knowledge of painting-might display
to him the wide domain of art, its capabilities and varietiesmight correct a narrow and exclusive taste, and a slavish veneration for great names (that blinding impression which leads some persons to think that every soi-disant Raphael must be good, and that no nameless picture can be worth looking at)-might give extensive exercise to the faculty of comparison, and a liberal and quick appreciation of excellence, under however humble a form it may appear before him. Such a collection would be very extensive some will object that it would be too extensive, and that attention would be distracted by variety and number. But this is not an unavoidable evil-it is one which may be obviated by classification and dispersion. Nor would it be an evil seriously felt, except through indulgence in the foolish vanity of a very large and splendid room. The coup-d'œil of the Louvre is very magnificent; but it is not an example to be followed. If we had funds sufficient to build such a gallery, and pictures enough to fill it, we should decidedly prefer, instead of a gallery a quarter of a mile long, to have twenty rooms of moderate dimensions. We have sketched our beau-ideal of a National Collection, but without much expectations that our own in London will at any time resemble it closely. It is not probable that extensive purchases will ever be made at the public expense; and the accumulation will chiefly take place by means which will set at nought the power of selection,-namely, by gift and bequest, of which numerous examples are before us already. We have, nevertheless, stated our opinion of what such a collection ought to be, in the hope that those who may happen to agree with us, and intend to give or bequeath any paintings to the public, may promote that object by their contributions. They will remember that a picture, good of its kind, but which is not of the highest class, may, nevertheless, be an acceptable accession, if it be of a style, or school, or master, of which the National Gallery already possesses no good specimen.
ART. IV. Journal of a West India Proprietor. By the late MATTHEW G. LEWIS. 8vo. London: 1834.
HIS book possesses three recommendations-its subject, its writer, and its intrinsic agreeableness-recommendations not very powerful separately, but sufficient, when conjoined, to make us feel that it is one of those works which we would not
willingly suffer to pass unnoticed. The subject is undoubtedly interesting but then the latest date in this journal is May 2, 1818. We require more recent information, or, at least, more full and important information, than Mr Lewis's journal either gives, or teaches us to expect. As for the name of the writer, it excites a feeling, for which interest is perhaps too strong a term, and for which curiosity is more appropriate. We may naturally feel curious to see the recorded impressions of such a person, without any expectation of being enlightened by his knowledge, or swayed by his opinions. Mr Lewis owes much of whatever celebrity his name enjoys to the barrenness of the period in which he appeared. He first gained a name during that dark interregnum of our poetical literature when Hayley and Darwin were supreme-when Cowper had ceased to write and Scott, Byron, Moore, and Southey, had scarcely emerged above the literary horizon. It was exactly the moment for a man like Lewis to obtain popularity; and he did obtain it, but not in a manner which entitled his popularity to be very longlived. He startled by an eccentricity which was called original, and pampered a morbid appetite for strong excitement. Our literature had then its 'Reign of Terror.' We know not whether Monk Lewis or Mrs Radcliffe is most entitled to be considered the harmless Robespierre of this gloomy time—and the palm of preeminence is not worth settling. To whichever it might be due, we owe them little thanks for their endeavours to inspire adult readers with the half-forgotten terrors of their nursery days; and for staking their success so largely upon the excitement of no nobler passion of the mind than fear. Of the lady, however, it is but justice to say, that her writings were free from those impurities with which Lewis's 'wonder-working' system was mixed up. As for him, he too often wrote in a style which might have befitted the amorous Goule of Arabian fiction, who supped with the sorceress by the side of a grave if that Goule could have turned author. It had not even the merit of being original, for the source of these horrors was German. Lewis was familiar with the language of Germany, but he turned his knowledge to poor account. In that temporary dearth of native originality, we would gladly have received some invigorating eontributions from so fertile a source. But whilst some were culling the mawkish sentimentalities of German fiction, Lewis was transplanting nothing but its horrors. Diablerie and exaggerated sentiment became inextricably associated, in the minds of all save a discerning few, with the rich literature of that land; the lash of the Anti-Jacobin' was deservedly incurred, and the study of