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define the exact consequences of adopting them ; for, in describing the manner in which an immense cargo got up under this formula was lately disposed of, he tells us that at the dissolution of partnership, one bookseller, Mr. Tegg, bought from the dead stock of recently fashionable novels, about 30001. worth, at the rate of halfa-crown each set !-and Mr. C., the veteran, at the present time is disposing of “the vast remainder,” at the reasonable price of eightpence per vol. ; with the “proviso," that they are to be shipped off to foreign lands!
When on the subjects of painting and sculpture, he boldly declares it to be his conviction that we are far from being a painting or a sculpturing people—it is not our forte to take real delight in these things, to whatever extent we may carry our affected partiality for them. The imperfection of our taste and of our knowledge of these beautiful departments of art is seen in the productions which our artists exhibit; for we find that they are in almost all instances, and the works of Sir Thomas Lawrence are by no means an exception, specimens of mechanical excellence, the notion of the sentimental, the ideal, and the impassioned, being altogether wanting in them; and in truth, the opinion of this author seems to be altogether unfavourable to any expectation of better success in future. “ The higher walks,” he tells us, “ of painting and sculpture are now so discouraged, that those who are capable of any efforts in the great style, will be wise not to waste their labour and their hopes, except they possess sufficient competence to save them from the distress and penury to which their genius will be certain to reduce them. We have no great reason, however, to accuse them of this want of reasonable conviction, as the recent exhibitions at Somerset House are a sufficient testimony. They are little better than exposures, and contemptible (and in some cases contemptuous !) reflections of the public taste. All enthusiasm for fine historical subjects is now merged in a bloated personal vanity; rendered doubly ridiculous by the individuals being chiefly those who have done nothing in the world to qualify their impertinent supposition of its interest, and also that their • fac-similes are destitute of all real beauty, energy, expression, or fine character. Look at the faces that display themselves upon the walls of Somerset House! They are the signs of the times !”
The author sees no use in the institution of the Royal Academy, and like many other of the large establishments of the country, it has begun with vast means, and competent men—and has declined by a foolish or knavish squandering of its resources. The only true way of cultivating art is by using fair play, and securing the just reward of his labours to the man of genius and industry.
The remarks of our author on men of science and original inventors, are introduced by the following inauspicious sentence : “ The most dangerous moral position that a human being can be placed in is to be wiser or better than the rest of mankind." Roger
Bacon is selected as an example to justify this allegation ; for though he was the father of more useful discoveries than any man of his time, or even before him, yet the whole gratitude of posterity, at this moment, is merged in the notion that he was an extravagant impostor. There is little hope, our author thinks, for such men, nor indeed is the situation of those who are generally considered more successful, much better : and with respect to posthumous fame, of what value can that be to a man who is unconscious of its existence, and who was suffered to go out of life neglected and unpitied. Too often the original projector of some mighty invention, of lasting value to mankind, after being ridiculed and opposed, or utterly neglected, dies in distress; since, being sure of the truth or practicability of that which he has so long and deeply digested, if he chance to possess any pecuniary means of forwarding his project, he speedily ruins himself—and is left alone with his discovery! The next person who takes it up, and improves upon it, is the one who reaps all the advantage ; and perhaps without possessing any real claim, even upon the score of labour and perseverance, not to mention the endurance of all the scoffs and jeers of folly and pretension, personal interest, or perverse ignorance.
The author, in tracing the career of one who, by dint of industry and perseverance, matures an invention, gives a melancholy picture of the difficulties which attend the occupation; and he seems to be impressed with the belief, from an extended knowledge of the lives of such men, that the greater the man, the greater his difficulties will be. The history, indeed, of almost every man who has proved himself a benefactor to his race, shows that at one time or another he suffered from obstacles arising out of the obstinacy or jealousy of others. Young Linnæus, whose instinctive partialities for natural objects were ignorantly misinterpreted into a disinclination for study, was threatened by his father with being bound to a shoemaker. But the entreaty of his friends, and the importunity of the youth himself, succeeded in bending the mind of the parent, and Linnæus was finally sent to the University; there, however, only to encounter fresh difficulties ; for it is well known that whilst there he suffered from the want of books, of clothes, and even of food, being compelled to patch up his shoes with the bark of trees. When, afterwards, Linnæus was sent by the Academy of Sciences into Lapland, to explore the vegetation of that country, he was allowed no more than a pittance which was scarcely sufficient for his subsistence. Again, on his return, after he had begun to give lectures at the University, it was discovered by a jealous rival that he was without a degree; and as the regulations of the institution required that qualification in a professor, so the want of it was urged successfully against him. In a fit of wrath, which was almost excusable under the circumstances, Linnæus drew his sword upon the individual who prosecuted the inquiry to his disadvantage. Difficulties and perils are then the lot of every great mind in this world. Was not Priestley driven from his native town by fire and sword, and, what was still more terrific, the ruthless anger of fanaticism? Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, lost his practice, and finally had his house and library burned by the mob, who believed that he must have been studying the “ black art.” Even Arkwright, who is generally spoken of as one of the most fortunate of men, had to go into the Court of King's Bench to have his right of patent tried, and was compelled to undergo the most mortifying tribulations, and to meet a considerable amount of expence in defending his interests. A still more forcible example of an innocent victim to prejudices was the late Mr. Fulton, who first introduced the steam-boat in America. After being the laughing-stock of every body while pursuing his object, and making experiments, he at length announced that he was prepared to take a boat up the Hudson River, and solicited passengers to come on board to witness his success. Many came, and, to their very great surprise, the boat moved forward upon her course. It had not proceeded far, however, before it stopped abruptly ; and the general voice immediately exclaimed at the absurdity of the project! “ We said it would never succeed!" &c. Fulton addressed them mildly ; de. claring that he did not know the cause at present, but if they would have a little patience, he would descend and see. He did so, and soon rectifying the error, the boat again moved forward, and amidst the incessant cavilling of the learned and unlearned fools, their momentary expectation of another and a final stoppage, proceeded steadily till it reached Albany, and then returned to New York ; thus performing a distance of nearly three hundred miles. When, however, they had reached home, as Fulton writes in a letter to a friend, “he was still doomed to be disappointed: imagination superseded fact; they said he could not do it again, and if he could, what was the use of it?" · But the most unsatisfactory consideration, after all, is this, that notwithstanding the illumination that has been shed in modern times on every subject-notwithstanding the progress of knowledge, and of intellectual light, in every class of society, still the melancholy fact is as true with respect to the present times as it was at any former period, that a man of the greatest genius is as liable to be starved as ever. The causes which used to bring about this sad result, are still, argues our author, in existence, and the only difference in their operation at present, is in nothing more than the manner.
Under the head “ Anatomy of False Oracles,” the author adverts to the system of publishing, and enters at large into the consideration of a certain character, called a publisher's “reader," the merits of which he carefully estimates. Indeed at the very outset, he settles the question of the clainis of this functionary, by pointing out, as amongst the small consequences of his influence, the absolute
ruin of so many great publishers. He endeavours to show from facts, that publishers must inevitably go wrong who surrender themselves to the counsel of such an adviser; some authors themselves, profoundly versed in human nature, have practised such a test as the opinion of non-literary readers, and that too with the most perfect success. Moliere, for instance, used to trim his comedies according as they affected his old house-keeper.—“Richardson, the elaborate interpreter of nature, used to read his novels to private friends, most of them females, expressly for their opinion ; and Holcroft, a very successful writer, generally tried the effect of his manuscript plays upon his daughters, and others who were not at all liable to sacrifice the spirit of literature to the profession.' Authors of ability, who have adopted a similar criterion, have seldom been deceived in the result. It is the very thing Shakspeare would have done, had he not always known what the result must be. One of our old publishers used to give every MS, of impassioned, romantic, or amusing character, to be read by his wife. In such matters, women who give fair play to nature, are scarcely ever wrong. We may argue and reason and beat through all the forms and covers; but we must come to the simple truth at last. In a sensible, unaffected woman of feeling, there is always some of the soundest philosophy in nature. This was the publisher to whom we are indebted for the eventual appearance of Tom Jones. On asking his wife's opinion' of the work, she advised him by no means to let it slip through his fingers !”
The subsequent observations of the author on the impolicy of adhering to a system that embraces such an appendage as “ a publisher's reader,” are marked by great good sense and discretion, inasmuch as they show the impropriety of any attempt to reduce the workings of genius to any settled rules or laws which a mere mechanical critic may lay down for himself.
In laying open the causes which have degraded dramatic literature into its present inferior position, the author deals with the chief instruments of this national mischief in a bold and manly strain of severity. It is not, however, to the proprietors and managers of the theatres alone that the blame should be imputed ; for the actors themselves deserve that it should be partly attributed to them, for the little consideration which they give to the propriety of maintaining their own credit with the public. This author represents the body of actors as characterized by the bitterest personal ill-will against each other; and often one of them will be found taxing his ingenuity in order to play a malicijus trick upon a member of the same company. Thus, according to this writer, when a new actor or singer, whose damnation is particularly desired, is about to make his most effective point, he is man@uvred up the back of the stage, either by the previous actions of the others, or else by the private by-play stepping back of the one he is immediately associated with in the scene : so that, at the climax, his voice is lost among the side-wings and lofty flies, and the next speaker or singer instantly taking up his part, before the applause can even have a chance of beginning, the said climax, upon which perhaps so much study had been bestowed and so many hopes built, passes off as nothing; and in this manner he is foiled and disheartened two or three times, which are generally quite sufficient. We recently saw an actor invidiously try this trick upon Kean, in order to take advantage of the physical weakness which would have rendered his intended point less than effective ; but cleverly as the gradual retreat was covered with by-play, the old stager saw through it in a moment, and with all the spirit and decision of genius, turned it into an advantage. Instead of the passion bursting forth on the spot to which he had been unavoidably drawn, he rushed upon the manquvrer, dragged him down the stage to the very lamps, and then made his point. The public were electrified the gentlemen of the press thought it a preconcerted thing. But a “ debutant” would not have been aware of the well-acted design; or, if he had, would not have dared to meet it in the same way. The ill-natured custom, also, of not looking at a “ debutant,” and thus superseding or preventing his by-play; marring him in his points, or cutting him out of them by hastily taking up their own right, or wrong, cue; for it may be done both ways; putting him out and throwing him off his guard by unconcerted crossings, wrong entrances or exits, and actions not previously used at rehearsals; and not countenancing him when acting to them, or else out-facing him in an arrogant or contemptuous manner, are also among the choice instances of histrionic charity and brotherly love."
We cannot follow the author through the remaining portion of the work, which embraces observations on the Royal Academy, on the present state of science, learning, and colleges, on publishers, and on the judgment of the public. He finally proposes a remedy for the numerous abuses which he points out. Although liable to the charge of some exaggeration in the representation of facts, yet this work is calculated to effect much benefit in the public mind, at least on that portion of it which is alive to the necessity of making an exertion for the improvement of our social condition. The topics are, in general, well chosen, and the whole is written in a vein of liveliness which renders the book a very agreeable source of occupation.
Art. XIV.-Zophiel; or the Bride of Seven. By MARIA DEL
OCCIDENTE. London: Kennett. 1833. The origin of the present poem, together with its authorship, appear to be buried in complete obscurity, and we are merely enabled, from the graceful and delicate spirit which is infused into it, to conjecture that it is the emanation of a female mind.