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acts, somewhat too loftily, we think, an acquiescence in his awards. We are not, however, quite prepared to defer to this newly assumed authority; aud must take the liberty of remarking, that, while the present work is equally rich in poetical beauty, it is, in several respects, inferior to his earlier production.
In the preface, the author, after stating that this volume contains, ' in six cantos, the three remaining books of a poem, which was printed some time since, under the title of Rhymes on Art, &c;' and accounting with his readers for the late appearance of that, the non-appearance of which, at all,' he says, 'would probably be as little remarked as regretted'; proceeds to inform us, that he had originally intended, 'in one poem of four parts, to treat at large, of the rise, progress, present state, and principles of painting.' On prosecuting this plan, however, he soon found that bis ambition surpassed his ability: he therefore 'contracted bis views; and contented himself with attempting to erect a small didactic lodge, on the site of the poetical palace which he had projected.'- Besides these articles of intelligence, the preface contains some loose discussion on the state of the arts: but as it does not excite much interest, we shall venture to pass it over; only remarking, in general, that compositions of this kind, which are intended to pre-dispose the reader in favour of the main work, would lose none of their effect, by being drawn up with a little care; and that they should, in an especial manner, eschew that obtrusiveness of modesty, which never fails to excite the suspicion of concealed vanity. In these respects, we confess, we are not entirely satisfied with Mr. Shee. His preface, and many of his notes, seem to have been dashed off in a violent hurry, which, though the author may have mistaken it for enthusiasm, is very far, we apprehind, from adding to the weight and energy of composition.
As it would be no easy matter to trace the order of Mr. Shee's design through the wilderness of digressions, episodes, and illustrations, in which it is involved, we shall altogether decline the attempt. It will be more pleasant to ourselves, and we think equally profitable to our readers, if we select a few passages wbich appear to us more particularly to in. vite, or to provoke criticism.
Exaggeration of the inportance of his profession, is one of our author's most obvious and offensive peculiarities. Painting is with hiin the most exalted object of human effort and research; and the production of a file picture, the proudest achievement of inteilectual vigour, and manual dexterity. Historic, poetic, and scientific eminence, may be very pretty things; but their possessors are only fit for torch and train bearers in the grand procession of Art. All this may, no doubt, appear very equitable to Mr. Shee; but to us, we confess it appears rather enthusiastic ; and if artists in general, are accustomed to indulge in similar reveries, and to claim an equal homage,--we really do not care how long they are lodged in garrets, and fattened on watergruel.
Vur author is pleased to observe, that,
Although the pride of erudition may possibly start at the idea, it may be questioned, whether an acquaintance with the taste of the Greeks, would not be as useful as with their literature : whether a student would not be as. beneficially employed in learning the principles of their design, as the ru. diments of their grammar: in short, whether that which was considered so essential a part of their polite education, might not be ad. vantageously introduced into ours ; and an English gentleman derive as much credit from an intercourse with their arts as their language.'
This is really too romantic for systematic refutation. There is no sort of inducement to contest the point with the man who can seriously believe, that the study of Grecian literature, including, of course, the knowledge of Grecian poetry, history, philosophy, and theology, with all the light which they pour upon the character of man, and the systems of social, political, and religious existence, are, at best, only of equal importance with the study of Grecian art!„We cannot but admit, however, that Mr. Shee has infused into his panegyric some very fine poetry. The conclusion of the second canto, containing an apostrophe to the spirit of ancient Greece,' is uncommonly meritorious.
• Hail, awful Shade! that o'er the mould'ring urn
Thy sun, long set, still lends a twilight ray,
And wonder at the palace we have raised !' 134-146. In the following extract Mr. S. bas, upon the whole, verv justly balanced the merits of the French and English schools of painting. He has at least done ample justice to his own countrymen, though we apprehend that, in the preceding part of the pote, he has attributed too much to the dry and sterile academics of France. ..
• In the French school, he observes, the portcrayon supersedes the pencil ; they become designers rather than painters. In the Eng. Jish school the pencil triumphs, and the process is reyersed. They are more theoretical —we are more practical; they shew more science in the foundation-we more skill in the superstructure; the vigour of their design is impaired by the feebleness of their execution-the vigour of our execution suffers in the feebleness of our design : they have more art—we have more nature; they look to the Roman school-we follow the Venetian; and it must be confessed, that their aim is the higher, though it may be admitted that our’s is the more successful.'
Mr. Shee has exhibited a considerable number of poetical portraits-some real and some fictitious; and they are, we think, among the best executed and most amusing passages of the poem. Our limits will not allow of large quotations; but we cannot refuse ourselves the pleasure of transcribing part of his very animated tribute to the memory of Reynolds.
• Pride of his tine! in painting's low decay,
O! proudly gifted ’mongst the graphic train,
With all the traits of truth and taste to charm,
And cast in shades of night his closing scene. pp. 258,260. · The following estimate, also, of the professional character of Michael Angelo, is poetical and just.
• Next Buonaroti, rich in rival fame,
The story's 'strength, the enervate action marr'd,
• * Alluding to the loss of sight which Sir Joshua Reynolds experienced
a short time before his death, and which was supposed to have hastened that event, by excluding him from the gratification which he always appeared to derive from the practice of his profession.
On painting's proudest pinion soars sublime,
While heaven's just sentence shakes the shudd'ring world.' The vote, however, which accompanies this passage, requires some animadversion. Mr. Shee is disposed to exalc the genius of Raffaelle' above that of Michael Angelo, to whom, as a painter,' he can only bring hiinself to assign 'a second place, though he acknowledges him to have been the 'greatest artist.' Referring with sufficient deference to the counter authorities of Reynolds and Fuseli, he apologises with profound humility for daring to entertain an opinion of his own ;-and then, very consistently, proceeds to treat with the most supercilious contempt those miserable mortals who have the bad taste to differ from him. By wbat authority, derived from superior refinement of taste, or power of intellect, does this writer presume to stigmatise the crowd that follow in the track of the late illustrious president, as yelpers,'--as haviog 'less judgement than affectation,'&c. Mr. Shee is an elegant versifier, and an excellent portrait-painter ; but he would not, we conceive, in either of these pursuits be less success. ful, were he to cultivate an unaffected modesty of language and feeling, and not thus arrogate a superiority which he has not the ability to maintain. There is, indeed, we nust say, a good deal of Aimsy writing in the whole of this note,-and not a little silly sneering at what a good man would cherish, and a wise man respect Mr. Snee's hostility to certain views of religion may, and no doubt will, recommend him to the heretic and the infidel; but can he really consent to acquire the good will of such creatures, at the certainty of forfeiting the far more enviable esteem of oien of sense and piety? For our own part, until Mr. S. condescends to support his sentiments by solid argument, instead of clamorous declamation and irreverent allusions, we shall perversely continue to give tongue' in the track' of Sir Joshua Reynolds; and to consider the painter who has dared so nobly and accomplished so much, as iótitled to rank above him by whom he has been exkelled in a limited and inferior department of Art.
We are, on the whole, pretty much of our author's opinion respecting the genius of Rubens; though we see no necessity for elevating him to the level of Raffaelle and Michael Angelo Vok. VII.