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PUT UP A PICTURE IN YOUR ROOM.
BY LEIGH HUNT.
May we exhort such of our readers as have no pictures hanging in their rooms, to put one up immediately? we mean in their principal sitting room; in all their rooms, if possible, but, at all events, in that one. No matter how costly, or the reverse, provided they see something in it, and it gives them a profitable or pleasant thought. Some may allege that they have " no taste for pictures, but they have a taste for objects to be found in pictures,—for trees, for landscapes, for human beauty, for scenes of life; or, if not for all these, yet surely for some one of them; and it is highly useful for the human mind to give itself helps towards taking an interest in things apart from its immediate cares or desires. They serve to refresh us for their better conquest or endurance; to render sorrow unselfish; to remind us that we ourselves, or our own personal wishes, are not the only objects in the world; to instruct and elevate us, and put us in a fairer way of realizing the good opinions which we would all fain entertain of ourselves, and in some measure do; to make us compare notes with other individuals, and with nature at large, and correct our infirmities at their mirror by modesty and reflection; in short, even the admiration of a picture is a kind of religion, or additional tie on our consciences, and rebinding of us (for such is the meaning of the word religion) to th»greatness and goodness of nature.
Mr. Hazlitt has said somewhere, of the portrait of a beautiful female with a noble countenance, that it seems as if an unhandsome action would be impossible in its presence. It is not so much for restraint sake, as for the sake of diffusiveness of heart, or the going out of ourselves, that we would recommend pictures; but, among other advantages, this also, of reminding us of our duties, would doubtless be one; and if reminded with charity, the effect, though perhaps small in most instances, would still be something. We have read of a Catholic money-lender, who, when he was going to cheat a customer, always drew a veil over the portrait of his favorite Saint. Hero was a favorite vice far more influential than the favorite Saint; and yet we are of opinion that the money-lender was better for the Saint than he would have been without him. It left him faith in something; he was better for it in the intervals; he would have treated hisdaughter the better for it, or his servant, or his dog. There was a bit of heaven in his room,—a sunbeam to shine into a corner of his heart,— however he may have shut the window against it, when heaven was not to look on.
The companionship of anything greater or better than ourselves must do us good, unless we are destitute of all modesty or patience. And a picture is a companion, and the next thing to the presence of what it represents. We may live in the thick of a city, for instance, and can seldom go out, and "feed" ourselves
With pleasure of the breathing fields;
but we can put up a picture of the fields before us, and, as we get used to it, we shall find it the next thing to seeing the fields at a distance. For every picture is a kind of window, which supplies us with a fine sight; and many a thick, unpierced wall thus lets us into the studies of the greatest men, and the most beautiful scenes of nature. Sy living with pictures we learn to "read" them, —to see into every nook and corner of a landscape, and every feature of the mind; and it is impossible to be in the habit of these perusals, or even of being vaguely conscious of the presence of the good and beautiful, and considering them as belonging to us, or forming a part of our common-places, without being, at the very least, less subject to the disadvantages arising from having no such thoughts at all.
And it is so easy to square the picture to one's aspirations, or professions, or the powers of one's pocket. For, as to resolving to have no picture at all in one's room, unless we could have it costly, and finely painted, and finely framed, that would be a mistake so vulgar, that we trust no reader of any decent publication now-a-days could fall into it. The greatest knave or simpleton in England, provided he is rich, can procure one of the finest paintings in the world to-morrow, and know nothing about it when he has got it; but to feel the beauties of a work of art, or to be capable of being led to feel them, is a gift which often falls to the lot of the poorest; and this is what Raphael or Titian desired in those who looked at their pictures. All the rest is taking the clothes for the man. Now it so happens, that the cheapest engravings, though they cannot come up to the merits of the originals, often contain no mean portion or shadow of them; and when we speak of putting pictures up in a room, we use the word " picture" in the child's sense, meaning any kind of graphic representation, oil, watercolor, copper-plate, drawing, or wood cut. And any one of these is worth putting up in your room, provided you have mind enough to get a pleasure from it . Even a frame is not necessary, if you cannot afford it. Better put up a rough, varnished engraving, than none at all,—or pin, or stick up, any engraving whatsoever, at the hazard of its growing never so dirty. You will keep it as clean as you can, and for as long a time; and as for the rest, it is better to have a good memorandum before you, and get a fresh one when you are able, than to have none at all, or even to keep it clean in a portfolio. How should you like to keep your own heart in a portfolio, or lock your friend up in another room? We are no friends to portfolios, except where they contain more prints than can be hung up. The more, in that case, the better.
Our readers have seen in all parts of the country, over the doors of public houses, "Perkins and Co.'s Entire." This Perkins, who died wealthy a few years ago, was not a mere brewer or rich man. He had been head clerk to Thrale, the friend of Dr. Johnson; and, during his clerkship, the Doctor happening to go into his counting-house, saw a portrait of himself (Johnson) hanging up in it. "How is this, Sir"!" inquired Johnson. "Sir," said Perkins, "I was resolved that my room should have had one great man in it." "A very pretty compliment," returned the gratified moralist, "and I believe you mean it sincerely."
Mr. Perkins did not thrive the worse for having the portrait of Johnson in his counting-house. People are in general quite enough inclined to look after the interests of "number one;" but they make a poor business of it, rich as they may become, unless they include a power of forgetting it in behalf of number two; that is to say, of some one person, or thing, besides themselves, able to divert them from mere self-seeking. It is not uncommon to see one solitary portrait in a lawyer's office, and that portrait a lawyer's, generally some judge. It is better than none. Anything is better than the poor, small unit of a man's selfish self, even if it be but the next thing to it. And there is the costof the engraving and frame. Sometimes there is more; for these professional prints, especially when alone, are meant to imply, that the possessor is a shrewd, industrious, proper lawyer, who sticks to his calling, and wastes his time in "no nonsense;" and this ostentation of business is in some instances a cover for idleness or disgust, or a blind for a father or rich uncle. Now it would be better, we think, to have two pictures instead of one, the judge's by all means, for the professional part of the gentleman's soul,—and some one other picture, to show that his client is a man as well as a lawyer, and has an eye to the world outside of him, as well as to his own; for as men come from that world to consult him, and generally think their cases just in the eyes of common sense as well as law, they like to see that he has some sym pathies as well as cunning.
Upon these grounds it would be well for men of other calling, if they acted in a similar
way. The young merchant should reasonably have a portrait of some eminent merchant before his eyes, with some other, not far off, to hinder him from acknowledging no merit but in riches. Or he might select a merchant of such a character as could serve both uses,—Sir Thomas Gresham, for instance, who encouraged knowledge as well as money-getting,—or Lorenzo de Medici, the princely merchant of Italy. So with regard to clergymen, to professions of all sorts, and to trade. The hosier, in honor of his calling, might set up Defoe, who was one of that trade, as well as author of Robinson Crusoe; the bookseller may the footman, Dodsley, who was at one time a footman as well as a bookseller and author, and behaved excellently under all characters; and the tailor might baulk petty animadversions on his trade, by having a portrait, or one of the many admirable works, of the great Annibal Caracci, who was a tailor's son. It would be advisable, in general, to add a landscape, if possible, for reasons already intimated ; but a picture of some sort we hold to be almost indispensably necessary towards doing justice to the habitation of every one who is capable of reflection and improvement. The printshops, the book-stalls, the portfolios containing etchings and engravings at a penny or twopence a-piece, (often superior to plates charged twenty times as much,) and lastly, the engravings that make their way into the shop-windows, out of the Annuals and Periodicals of the past season, and that are to be had for almost as little, will furnish the ingenuous reader of<this article with an infinite store to choose from; and if he is as goodnatured as he is sensible, we will venture to whisper into his ear, that we should take it as a personal kindness of him, and hope he would consider us a friend assisting him in
putting it up. _
If sure to meet to-morrow,
But who can paint the briny tears
We shed when thus we sever,
But if our thoughts are fixed aright,
A cheering hope is given;
Yes, if our souls are raised above,
For the Ladies' Garland.
The idea that " death-bed repentance," so called, is a delusion, is not new. However startling it may seem, at first, reflection will soon convince any one acquainted with the human system and its sympathies, that very little reliance is to be placed upon a confession of reformation under such circumstances. The mdividual himself is deceived; and it is right and proper that others should not deceive themselves on this important point Our appetites, tastes, and affections, all contribute to wed us to life, and endear us to existence. And, although these tests of our temporal attachments are selfish in the ahstract; they are both necessary and useful, as well to our own happiness, as to the happiness of those around us. We may even feel grateful for the enjoyment of these natural and rational propensities; but is the heart divorced from her temporal connection? are we prepared at any moment for death? Try the question!
We have been grateful, but not penitent!
'' Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror Of falling into naught? Why shrinks the soul Back on herself, and startles at destruction?"
Sickness attacks our MMtem, and fierce disease commences its ravages, in the midst of our most blissful enjoyments, in the height of our gratification of appetite; and how soon do we turn with disgust from the very objects which, in a state of health, gave ua pleasure! But, is this repentance?
The merciless arrow of death wings its way into our dwelling, and strikes down a gentle lamb of our love, and where then is tie sunshine of life 1 Where the green field: and fragrant flowers of earth? Their ver dure has faded! The sweet-scented flower has lost its perfume! All its gay and beauti ful tints become unsightly and sickening! Is this repentance?
The beloved object which sweetened every enjoyment is. buried under the cold clods ofl the valley, and cheerfulness, which was the companion of the cherished one in life, is changed to sorrow and sadness, now he is dead; and all the charms of existence have vanished with him! Is This repentance?
Is this change in our physical condition, this temporary disrelish for accustomed gratifications, this want of appetite for car nal indulgences, repentance? Are our hearts nearer to God? our souls benefitted? our virtues improved? What are the evi
dences? The healthy functions of our organs have been suspended by disease; and we have no present desire for the things of earth! It this repentance 7 It is a delusion! a fatal, dangerous delusion!
The sick and dying lose their vigor, and are in a state of physical and mental inertia, —neither positively good, nor positively evil, but very far from that contrition of spirit which constitutes true repentance. Wc feel subdued and penitent, and in our helplessness, throw our poor prostrate bodies, our yielding? intellect, on the mercies of Heaven. This is not repentance, but a delusion, of fearful magnitude. Are we to bury our talents in a napkin, and rely on a merciful God and a sick bed for safety, without an effort of our own? Certainly not! Man, with all his powers, and energies, and healthfulness, can scarcely hope to be justified with his offended Creator.
Remember, that debility of mind and body, the prostration of vital energy, the absence of the desire for evil, are only involuntary ef1fecls, growing out of involuntary causes; and have nothing to do with the subject of repentance. If we' neglect daily to make our reconciliation with God, to apply our moral and intellectual Strenoth to his honor and glory, depend upon it, we cannot, ought not, look for acceptance merely because, in the hour of sickness, we feel a disinclination for those indulgences which religion and virtue condemn. Death-bed repentance, let me repeat it, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, is a terrible delusion.
We are not sure that the Dr. is exactly correct in his conclusions. We should be extremely loth to say that there were Not many, very mwy, genuine death-bed repentances, and such as would gain for the individuals favor with God. Else the cherished hopes of many a bereaved one of meeting loved ones in heaven will be adly mocked; still it is a dangerous experiment to delay making peace with an offended yet merciful Creator, until, having spent all our lives in vain, we are about to appear in bis presence.—Ed. GiR.
F R A GMENT.
A beauteous flower of early spring
Breathed sweetly on its parent stem: I saw it in its blossoming: I passed again; that fairy gem, Ere one short day, Had died away! Earth's joys resemble that sweet flower, For, phantom-like, in one br^f hour Is gone for aye the witching power!
End Of Vol. 6.