« PreviousContinue »
bling, was ardent in the extreme. In working rapidly and patiently, at different places in the north for a few years, he contrived to raise a sum amounting almost to an hundred pounds. "Taking 30 for his own trayelling expences, and leaving the residue to support an unoffending partner and two children, he set out alone, without even a letter of recommendasion, to try the chances of life in the metropolis.'
His excellent wife, who repaid his unmanly and unfeeling neglect with uniforin sweetness and submission, he never suze again, till broken down by infirmity, and perhaps agitated by remorse, he returned to her, to linger out in pain, in depression, and, towards its close, in second childisbness, the brief remnant of his life. Early and increasing success, and affluence, and fame, seem to have made no other impression on this selfish and insensible man, than to confirm his resolution of neglect and separation, until his increasing infirmities suggested the necessity of a tender and sympathetic nurse, and re. vived the recollection of the tenderness and sympathy of his exiled wife. ** The life of Romney in the interval between his departure from his wife, and his return to her affectionate car , including a period of about 40 years, possesses very little interest for
general readers; we shall therefore refrain from any farther abstract, and coufine ourselves to a few observations on the powers of Romney as an artist.
Mr. Hayley, with the usual, but in this instance most preposterous, partiality of friends and biographers, gives his opinion in favour of Romney, in comparison with Sir Joshua Reynolds.
• We may consider,' observes Mr. H. an ardent and powerful imagination, acute and delicate sensibility, and a passion for study, as the three qualities peculiarly essential towards forming a great artist. Of these three important endowments, I believe nature to have bestowed a larger portion on Romney than on Reynolds ; but in her bounty to the latter she added some inestimable qnalities, which more than turned the scale in his favour. She gave her favourite, what his friend and biographer, Mr Malone, has described as the mitis sapientia Læli, that mild and serene wisdom, which enables a man to exert whatever talents he possesses, with the fullest and happiest effect. She gave him the secureșt panoply against the arrows of worldly contention, highly-polished good humour, which conciliates universal esteem; and disarms, if it does not annihilate, that envious malevolence, which genius and prosperity are so apt to excite. Dr. Johnson very truly said of Reynolds, that he was the most invulnerable of men; but of Romney it might be said, with equal truth, that a man
could hardly exist, whom it was more easy to wound. Had it been possible for Romney to have united a dauntless and invariable serenity of mind to such feelings and powers, as he possessed when his nerves were happily free from all vexatious irritation, I am persuaded he would have tisen to a degree of excellence in art superior to what has hitherto been displayed.'
Now what is the meaning of all this, but that if Romney had possessed certain qualities which he did not possess, he would have been superior to Sir Joshua Reynolds? And what, after all, is that quality which was to turn the scale? Good-humour! Certainly it must be very disadvantageous to an artist, as it is to every man, to have a bad temper: but to say that Romney, if his fibre had been less irritable, would have been the greatest painter that ever lived, or even that he would have surpassed the grace, feeling, and dignity of Reynolds, who most certainly had not ' risen to a degree of excellence 'in art superior to what had hitherto been displayed,' is, in our opinion, not less idle than to assert that Nat Lee, if he had not been mad, would have equalled Shakespeare, or that Sir Joshua, if he had not been deaf, would have been superior to Michael Angelo. We do not mean to say that Romney was without grace, feeling, or dignity; he had, on the contrary, a very considerable portion of these essential qualities : but Mr. Hayley would have proved himself a much more judicious biographer, if he had refrained from comparative criticism, and rested the fame of his friend on the firm basis of his po. sitive excellences.
Romney was, unquestionably, one of the best colourists of the modern school; there is, in his best painted pictures, a subdued glow, a chastened richness, and a solidity of colour, beyond which we can scarcely conceive it possible for the
powers of art to go. His treatment of a certain descrip- tion of subjects, such as the Infant Shakespeare, Milton and
his daughters, Newton and the prism, is admirable. The latter picture, indeed, we have never seen : but a respectable engraving from it decorates the present volume ; and we can easily conceive that the rich and deep shadows and reflections, the play and mixture of the solar and prismatic lights, must produce an effect at once original and enchanting. Mr. Flaxman is quoted in the present volume, as delivering a high eu. togium on Romney's talents for the sublime and terrible;' and as referring to the cartoons of Atossa's dream, and the appearance of the
Ghost of Darius, in support of it. How far the praise in these particular instances is merited, as we have never seen the pictures, we are not qualified to pronounce; but, judging from what we have seen, we should feel some hesitation in regarding Mr. F.'s opinion as decisive. The Cassandra, one of the sublimest subjects that a painter could choose, Romney has most completely misconceived. In the attitude and motion of the figure, there is nothing of supernatural agitation; the expression of the countenance is that of simple astonishment; and possesses not a trace of inspiration, or any of the deep workings and ghastly visions of the prophetic spirit. Romney's talent for composition was limited :' he seldom succeeded in grouping more than three figures; but of his skill in the management of this number, his Infant Shakespeare, neatly, but feebly engraved in the work before us, is an admirable instance. Mr. Hayley has estimated this truly Correggiesque production , very justly, notwithstanding he has ushered in his criticism with a little needless magnificence.
• Were I required to declare what particular picture among the finished works of Romney, I regard as the most excellent, I should say, without hesitation, his Infant Shakespeare nursed by Tragedy and Comedy. Rom. ney in this performance has rivalled the tenderness of pencil, and the graceful sweetness of expression, that he greatly admired in his favourite Çorreggio.'
Romney was a more than ordinary master of expression, though the single heads, given as embellishments to the present work, are not well selected, if meant as illustrations of his skill in this branch of his art. We have already censured the head of Cassandra ; the character of the Saviour's countenance is, no doubt, designed for calm and dignified self-possession, but to us it expresses nothing but vacuity and nonchalance. In the head of Miranda, there is great want of terseness in the markings of the features; it might represent extremely well a stage songstress enacting Crazy Jane ; but certainly is not the lovely, sympathetic, and interesting daughter of Prospero. Art. IV. The Modern Preceptor ; or, a general Course of Education:
containing introductory Treatises on Language, Arithmetic, Bookkeeping, Algebra, Geometry, Geography, Astronomy, Chronology, Navigation, Drawing, Painting, &c. 'Agriculture, Geology, Moral Philosophy. For the Use of Schools, illustrated with Plates and Maps. By John Dougall. 2 vols. 8vo. pp. viii. 1094. plates and maps 26.
Price 1l. 48. Vernor, Hood, and Co. 1810, AMONG the numerous books which obtain an extensive
circulation in virtue of their title, whether they deserve.it or not, we are frequently called to notice those which are intended to gratify the desires of a multitudinous class in this country, who wish to possess a library in a single work.
These comprehensive performances are as diversified as the tastes and capabilities of their admirers. The humblest sort of literary readers, perhaps, are the shepherds in some of our grazing counties, who are accustomed to beguile the time sometimes by piping to their flocks, and sometimes, quietly seated under a hawthorn-bush, by digesting fragments of intelligence out of “ The Young Man's best Companion.” The master of a village charity school gives all the encouragemenţ in his power to a similar passion for literature, when he presents to a favourite éléve, on the completion of his scholastic studies, “ Fenning's Book of Knowledge," or "Jui. son's School of Arts." "Then comes the rural carpenter or bricklayer, risen, towards the close of a life of Honest indostry, into a kind of architect, who wishes to set off his eldest son well in the saine pursuit; and who, recoHecting the las' bour and difficulty with which he cut through rocks, to ob tain his own scanty pittance of knowledge, resolves to point out to his hopeful offspring an easier path to more abundant treasures, and therefore, after a suitable display of hortatory eloquence, gives him one of those encyclopædal or pantological storehouses of inforinations with which the present age is beyond all former precedent so liberaliy favoured. Other tastes are gratified by corresponding modifications in title or price; but still, in a very great proportion of those who neither estimate reading as a part
part of their professional vocation, nor read for mere amusement, the grand inducement to purchase, is the desire of possessing, in what the purchaser may deem a moderate .compass, a fund of information on every topic which is conceived to be worth knowing.
With a reference to this prevalent disposition, and with a desire of directing it into the most useful channel, Robert Dodsley published, in 1748, bis “ Preceptor, or General Course of Education,”-comprising the subjects of reading, speaking, and writing letters; arithmetic, geometry, mechanics, architecture; geography and astronomy; chronology and history; rhetoric and poetry ; drawing; logic; natural hustory; ethics, trade and commerce; laws and goveroment'; buman life and manners. Sixty years ago this course included, with the exception of classical learning, almost every thing essential in a system of polite education. The various parts were executed with great accuracy, judgement, and taste, some of them, indeed, being drawn up by Johnson and Burke; so that Dodsley's Preceptor soon beeame a kind of text-book : its treatises were introduced as the best that could be found for such a purpose--under their respective heads into several Encyclopædias ; and long before puffing and thrusting works into circulation had grown into a system, eight large editions of this respectable performance were sold.
With such a prototype before him, and against such a competitor for utility and fame, Mr. Dougall presents himself to : public notice. In general, however, when the subjects are the same, we decidedly give the preference to the method pursued in the original work ;-for Mr. Dougall, it should be observed, professes to have coinpiled his treatises anew for the present purpose', with the exception of the excellent system of Moral Philosophy, which is acknowledged to be ex
tracted from the earlier Preceptor. We prefer, too, Dod. sley's selection of subjects; though, in our opinion, even his work is open to some objections. Both the editors seeni, to have quite inistaken the purpose for which such performances are fiited. Instead of being designed for the higher classes in schools', they are unfit not only for the higher classes, but for any class in such seininaries. The method of treating the subjects is commonly verbose, minute, and circumstantial, and while the rules, theorems, or facts, are much too few, the illustrations are by far too redundant and prolix to be advantageously employed where the pupil has the benefit of a liviog preceptor.. When every difficulty can be explained, every adequate illustration supplied, every thing that perfects the theory or facilitates the practice suggested, viva voce, as the varying capacities of pupils. may render necessary-such interruptions to the regular progress, will always be found intolerably irksoine and impertinent. What master of a school would put into the hands of his scholars a treatise of arithmetic, in wbich two-pages are employed to develope the operation of adding up a bill-of-parcels of seven articles ? Such, notwithstanding, is the space allotted to an example of this sort in Mr. Dougall's Preceptor: and many other subjects equally interesting, are despatched with similar conciseness. Without regarding, however, the wordiness of these preceptors, we are quite satisfied that such multifarious collections are much less suited to school-boys, than to young men after they have quitted the seminaries at which they have been instructed. It would then, obviously, be desirable for them to possess a work of portable size, and uniformly perspicuous and accurate in its style and statements; in which they should find correct outlines of systems, hypotheses, and theories, and copious suinmaries ox precepts, maxims, propositions, and facts, which should in short comprehend the substance of a liberal education, remind them of what they had derived from a living preceptor, and refresh their memories by a cursory perasal, when otherwise the essential parts of the truths they had been taught might be imperfectly recol. lected or entirely forgotten. According to this notion of a “ Modern Preceptor” intended for general use, although we could willingly dispense with a treatise on navigation, yet we should not be perfectly satisfied if it did not comprize, be.. sides the topics introduced by Mr. Dougall, at least those of chemistry, electricity, magnetism, mechanics, hydrostatics, optics, philosophy, notation and general principles of music, zoology, laws and government. These are subjects, of which it is now expected that almost all persons, above the lowest class of artisans, should bave some knowledge: they form