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one of the finest tempered of Editors. Perry, of
the Morning Chronicle, was equally pleasant, with a
dash, no slight one either, of the courtier. S. was
frank, plain, and English all over. We have worked
for both these gentlemen.



138 NEWSPAPERS THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO.

It is soothing to contemplate the head of the
Ganges ; to trace the first little bubblings of a
mighty river;

With holy reverence to approach the rocks,
Whence glide the streams renowned in ancient song.

Fired with a perusal of the Abyssinian Pilgrim's
exploratory ramblings after the cradle of the infant
Nilus, we well remember on one fine summer holy-
day (a " whole day's leave " we called it at Christ's
Hospital) sallying forth at rise of sun, not very well
provisioned either for such an undertaking, to trace
the current of the New River Middletonian stream !
to its scaturient source, as we had read, in mead-
ows by fair Amwell. Gallantly did we commence
our solitary quest for it was essential to the dig-
nity of a DISCOVERY, that no eye of schoolboy, save
our own, should beam on the detection. By flowery
spots, and verdant lanes, skirting Hornsey, Hope
trained us on in many a baffling turn ; endless, hope-
less meanders, as it seemed; or as if the jealous
waters had dodged us, reluctant to have the humble
spot of their nativity revealed; till spent, and nigh
famished, before set of the same sun, we sate down
somewhere by Bowes Farm, near Tottenham, with
a tithe of our proposed labours only yet accom-
plished ; sorely convinced in spirit, that that Brucian
enterprise was as yet too arduous for our young
shoulders.



NEWSPAPERS THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO. 139

Not more refreshing to the thirsty curiosity of the
traveller is the tracing of some mighty waters up to
their shallow fontlet, than it is to a pleased and
candid reader to go back to the inexperienced es-
says, the first callow flights in authorship, of some
established name in literature ; from the Gnat which
preluded to the yneid, to the Duck which Samuel
Johnson trod on.

In those days every Morning Paper, as an essential
retainer to its establishment, kept an author, who
was bound to furnish daily a quantum of witty para-
graphs. Sixpence a joke and it was thought pretty
high too was Dan Stuart's settled remuneration in
these cases. The chat of the day, scandal, but, above
all, dress, furnished the material. The length of no
paragraph was to exceed seven lines. Shorter they
might be, but they must be poignant.

A fashion of flesh, or rather pink- coloured hose for
the ladies, luckily coming up at the juncture, when
we were on our probation for the place of Chief
Jester to S.'s Paper, established our reputation in
that line. We were pronounced a " capital hand."
O the conceits which we varied upon red in all its
prismatic differences ! from the trite and obvious
flower of Cytherea, to the flaming costume of the
lady that has her sitting upon " many waters." Then
there was the collateral topic of ancles. What an
occasion to a truly chaste writer, like ourself, of



I4O NEWSPAPERS THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO,

touching that nice brink, and yet never tumbling
over it, of a seemingly ever approximating something
" not quite proper ; " while, like a skilful posture-
master, balancing betwixt decorums and their op-
posites, he keeps the line, from which a hair's-
breadth deviation is destruction; hovering in the
confines of light and darkness, or where " both seem
either ; " a hazy uncertain delicacy ; Autolycus-like
in the Play, still putting off his expectant auditory
with " Whoop, do me no harm, good man ! " But,
above all, that conceit arrided us most at that time,
and still tickles our midriff to remember, where, al-
lusively to the flight of Astrsea ultima Ccelestum
terras reliquit we pronounced in reference to
the stockings still that MODESTY TAKING HER FINAL

LEAVE OF MORTALS, HER LAST BLUSH WAS VISIBLE IN
HER ASCENT TO THE HEAVENS BY THE TRACT OF THE

GLOWING INSTEP. This might be called the crown-
ing conceit; and was esteemed tolerable writing in
those days.

But the fashion of jokes, with all other things,
passes away; as did the transient mode which had
so favoured us. The ancles of our fair friends in
a few weeks began to reassume their whiteness, and
left us scarce a leg to stand upon. Other female
whims followed, but none, methought, so pregnant,
so invitatory of shrewd conceits, and more than
single meanings.



NEWSPAPERS THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO. 141

Somebody has said, that to swallow six cross-buns
daily consecutively for a fortnight would surfeit the
stoutest digestion. But to have to furnish as many
jokes daily, and that not for a fortnight, but for a
long twelvemonth, as we were constrained to do,
was a little harder execution. " Man goeth forth to
his work until the evening " from a reasonable
hour in the morning, we presume it was meant.
Now as our main occupation took us up from eight
till five every day in the City ; and as our evening
hours, at that time of life, had generally to do with
any thing rather than business, it follows, that the
only time we could spare for this manufactory of
jokes our supplementary livelihood, that supplied
us in every want beyond mere bread and cheese
was exactly that part of the day which (as we have
heard of No Man's Land) may be fitly denominated
No Man's Time ; that is, no time in which a man
ought to be up, and awake, in. To speak more
plainly, it is that time, of an hour, or an hour and
a half s duration, in which a man, whose occasions
call him up so preposterously, has to wait for his
breakfast.

O those headaches at dawn of day, when at five,
or half-past-five in summer, and not much later in
the dark seasons, we were compelled to rise, having
been perhaps not above four hours in bed (for
we were no go-to-beds with the lamb, though we



142 NEWSPAPERS THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO.

anticipated the lark oftimes in her rising we liked
a parting cup at midnight, as all young men did be-
fore these effeminate times, and to have our friends
about us we were not constellated under Aqua-
rius, that watery sign, and therefore incapable of
Bacchus, cold, washy, bloodless we were none of
your Basilian water-sponges, nor had taken our
degrees at Mount Ague we were right toping
Capulets, jolly companions, we and they) but to
have to get up, as we said before, curtailed of half
our fair sleep, fasting, with only a dim vista of re-
freshing Bohea in the distance to be necessitated
to rouse ourselves at the detestable rap of an old
hag of a domestic, who seemed to take a diabolical
pleasure in her announcement that it was "time to
rise ; " and whose chappy knuckles we have often
yearned to amputate, and string them up at our
chamber door, to be a terror to all such unseason-
able rest-breakers in future

" Facil " and sweet, as Virgil sings, had been the
" descending " of the over-night, balmy the first sink-
ing of the heavy head upon the pillow; but to get
up, as he goes on to say,

revocare gradus, superasque evadere ad auras

and to get up moreover to make jokes with malice
prepended there was the "labour," there the
" work."



NEWSPAPERS THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO. 143

No Egyptian taskmaster ever devised a slavery
like to that, our slavery. No fractious operants ever
turned out for half the tyranny, which this necessity
exercised upon us. Half a dozen jests in a day
(bating Sundays too), why, it seems nothing! We
make twice the number every day in our lives as a
matter of course, and claim no Sabbatical exemp-
tions. But then they come into our head. But
when the head has to go out to them when the
mountain must go to Mahomet

Reader, try it for once, only for one short
twelvemonth.

It was not every week that a fashion of pink
stockings came up ; but mostly, instead of it, some
rugged, untractable subject; some topic impossible
to be contorted into the risible ; some feature, upon
which no smile could play ; some flint, from which
no process of ingenuity could procure a distillation.
There they lay ; there your appointed tale of brick-
making was set before you, which you must finish,
with or without straw, as it happened. The craving
Dragon the Public like him in Bel's temple
must be fed ; it expected its daily rations ; and
Daniel, and ourselves, to do us justice, did the best
we could on this side bursting him.

While we were wringing out coy sprightlinesses for
the Post, and writhing under the toil of what is called
"easy writing," Bob Allen, our quondam school-



144 NEWSPAPERS THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO.

fellow, was tapping his impracticable brains in a like
service for the " Oracle." Not that Robert troubled
himself much about wit. If his paragraphs had a
sprightly air about them, it was sufficient. He car-
ried this nonchalance so far at last, that a matter of
intelligence, and that no very important one, was not
seldom palmed upon his employers for a good jest;
for example sake " Walking yesterday morning casu-
alty down Snow Hill, who should we meet but Mr.
Deputy Humphreys ! we rejoice to add that the worthy
Deputy appeared to enjoy a good state of health. We
do not remember ever to have seen him look better"
This gentleman, so surprisingly met upon Snow Hill,
from some peculiarities in gait or gesture, was a
constant butt for mirth to the small paragraph-
mongers of the day ; and our friend thought that he
might have his fling at him with the rest. We met
A. in Holborn shortly after this extraordinary ren-
counter, which he told with tears of satisfaction in
his eyes, and chuckling at the anticipated effects of
its announcement next day hi the paper. We did
not quite comprehend where the wit of it lay at the
time ; nor was it easy to be detected, when the thing
came out, advantaged by type and letter-press. He
had better have met any thing that morning than a
Common Council Man. His services were shortly
after dispensed with, on the plea that his paragraphs
of late had been deficient in point. The one in



NEWSPAPERS THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO. 145

question, it must be owned, had an air, in the open-
ing especially, proper to awaken curiosity ; and the
sentiment, or moral, wears the aspect of humanity,
and good neighbourly feeling. But somehow the
conclusion was not judged altogether to answer to
the magnificent promise of the premises. We traced
our friend's pen afterwards in the "True Briton,"
the "Star," the " Traveller," from all which he was
successively dismissed, the Proprietors having "no
further occasion for his services." Nothing was
easier than to detect him. When wit failed, or
topics ran low, there constantly appeared the follow-
ing " It is not generally known that the three Blue
Balls at the Pawnbrokers 1 shops are the ancient arms
of Lombardy. The Lombards were the first money -
brokers in Europe" Bob has done more to set the
public right on this important point of blazonry,
than the whole College of Heralds.

The appointment of a regular wit has long ceased
to be a part of the economy of a Morning Paper.
Editors find their own jokes, or do as well without
them. Parson Este, and Topham, brought up the
set custom of "witty paragraphs" first in the
"World." Boaden was a reigning paragraphist in
his day, and succeeded poor Allen in the Oracle.
But, as we said, the fashion of jokes passes away ;
and it would be difficult to discover in the Biog-
rapher of Mrs. Siddons, any traces of that vivacity



146 NEWSPAPERS THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO.

and fancy which charmed the whole town at the
commencement of the present century. Even the
prelusive delicacies of the present writer the curt
"Astraean allusion" would be thought pedantic,
and out of date, in these days.

From the office of the Morning Post (for we may
as well exhaust our Newspaper Reminiscences at
once) by change of property in the paper, we were
transferred, mortifying exchange ! to the office of
the Albion Newspaper, late Rackstrow's Museum, in
Fleet-street. What a transition from a handsome
apartment, from rose- wood desks, and silver- ink-
stands, to an office no office, but a den rather,
but just redeemed from the occupation of dead
monsters, of which it seemed redolent from the
centre of loyalty and fashion, to a focus of vulgarity
and sedition ! Here in murky closet, inadequate
from its square contents to the receipt of the two
bodies of Editor, and humble paragraph- maker,
together at one time, sat in the discharge of his
new Editorial functions (the " Bigod " of Elia) the
redoubted John Fenwick.

F., without a guinea in his pocket, and having left
not many in the pockets of his friends whom he
might command, had purchased (on tick doubtless)
the whole and sole Editorship, Proprietorship, with
all the rights and titles (such as they were worth) of
the Albion, from one Lovell ; of whom we know



NEWSPAPERS THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO. 147

nothing, save that he had stood in the pillory for a
libel on the Prince of Wales. With this hopeless
concern for it had been sinking ever since its
commencement, and could now reckon upon not
more than a hundred subscribers F. resolutely de-
termined upon pulling down the Government in the
first instance, and making both our fortunes by way
of corollary. For seven weeks and more did this
infatuated Democrat go about borrowing seven shil-
ling pieces, and lesser coin, to meet the daily de-
mands of the Stamp Office, which allowed no credit
to publications of that side in politics. An outcast
from politer bread, we attached our small talents to
the forlorn fortunes of our friend. Our occupation
now was to write treason.

Recollections of feelings which were all that
now remained from our first boyish heats kindled by
the French Revolution, when if we were misled,
we erred in the company of some, who are ac-
counted very good men now rather than any ten-
dency at this time to Republican doctrines assisted
us in assuming a style of writing, while the paper
lasted, consonant in no very under tone to the right
earnest fanaticism of F. Our cue was now to in-
sinuate, rather than recommend, possible abdica-
tions. Blocks, axes, Whitehall tribunals, were cov-
ered with flowers of so cunning a periphrasis as
Mr. Bayes says, never naming the thing directly



148 NEWSPAPERS THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO.

that the keen eye of an Attorney General was in-
sufficient to detect the lurking snake among them.
There were times, indeed, when we sighed for our
more gentleman-like occupation under Stuart. But
with change of masters it is ever change of service.
Already one paragraph, and another, as we learned
afterwards from a gentleman at the Treasury, had
begun to be marked at that office, with a view of
its being submitted at least to the attention of the
proper Law Officers when an unlucky, or rather

lucky epigram from our pen, aimed a Sir J s

M h, who was on the eve of departing for India

to reap the fruits of his apostacy, as F. pronounced
it, (it is hardly worth particularising), happening to
offend the nice sense of Lord, or, as he then de-
lighted to be called, Citizen Stanhope, deprived F.
at once of the last hopes of a guinea from the last
patron that had stuck by us ; and breaking up our
establishment, left us to the safe, but somewhat mor-
tifying, neglect of the Crown Lawyers. It was
about this time, or a little earlier, that Dan Stuart
made that curious confession to us, that he had
" never deliberately walked into an Exhibition at
Somerset House in his life."



BARRENNESS OF THE IMAGINATIVE
FACULTY IN THE PRODUCTIONS
OF MODERN ART.



HOGARTH excepted, can we produce any one painter
within the last fifty years, or since the humour of
exhibiting began, that has treated a story imagina-
tively ? By this we mean, upon whom his subject
has so acted, that it has seemed to direct him not
to be arranged by him ? Any upon whom its leading
or collateral points have impressed themselves so
tyrannically, that he dared not treat it otherwise,
lest he should falsify a revelation? Any that has
imparted to his compositions, not merely so much
truth as is enough to convey a story with clearness,
but that individualising property, which should keep
the subject so treated distinct in feature from every
other subject, however similar, and to common ap-
prehensions almost identical; so as that we might
say, this and this part could have found an appro-
priate place in no other picture in the world but
this ? Is there anything in modern art we will



150 ON THE PRODUCTIONS OF MODERN ART.

not demand that it should be equal but in any
way analogous to what Titian has effected, in that
wonderful bringing together of two times in the
"Ariadne," in the National Gallery? Precipitous,
with his reeling Satyr rout about him, re-peopling
and re-illuming suddenly the waste places, drunk
with a new fury beyond the grape, Bacchus, born in
fire, fire-like flings himself at the Cretan. This is
the time present. With this telling of the story an
artist, and no ordinary one, might remain richly
proud. Guido, in his harmonious version of it, saw
no further. But from the depths of the imaginative
spirit Titian has recalled past time, and laid it con-
tributory with the present to one simultaneous effect.
With the desert all ringing with the mad cymbals of
his followers, made lucid with the presence and new
offers of a god, as if unconscious of Bacchus, or
but idly casting her eyes as upon some unconcern-
ing pageant her soul undistracted from Theseus
Ariadne is still pacing the solitary shore, in as much
heart-silence, and in almost the same local solitude,
with which she awoke at day- break to catch the
forlorn last glances of the sail that bore away the
Athenian.

Here are two points miraculously co-uniting ; fierce
society, with the feeling of solitude still absolute ;
noon-day revelations, with the accidents of the dull
grey dawn unquenched and lingering; the present



ON THE PRODUCTIONS OF MODERN ART. 151

Bacchus, with the past Ariadne; two stories, with
double Time ; separate, and harmonising. Had the
artist made the woman one shade less indifferent to
the God; still more, had she expressed a rapture at
his advent, where would have been the story of the
mighty desolation of the heart previous? merged in
the insipid accident of a flattering offer met with a
welcome acceptance. The broken heart for Theseus
was not lightly to be pieced up by a God.

We have before us a fine rough print, from a pic-
ture by Raphael in the Vatican. It is the Presenta-
tion of the new-born Eve to Adam by the Almighty.
A fairer mother of mankind we might imagine, and a
goodlier sire perhaps of men since born. But these
are matters subordinate to the conception of the
situation, displayed in this extraordinary production.
A tolerably modern artist would have been satisfied
with tempering certain raptures of connubial anticipa-
tion, with a suitable acknowledgement to the Giver
of the blessing, in the countenance of the first bride-
groom ; something like the divided attention of the
child (Adam was here a child man) between the
given toy, and the mother who had just blest it
with the bauble. This is the obvious, the first-sight
view, the superficial. An artist of a higher grade,
considering the awful presence they were in, would
have taken care to subtract something from the ex-
pression of the more human passion, and to heighten



152 ON THE PRODUCTIONS OF MODERN ART.

the more spiritual one. This would be as much as
an exhibition-goer, from the opening of Somerset
House to last year's show, has been encouraged to
look for. It is obvious to hint at a lower expression,
yet in a picture, that for respects of drawing and
colouring, might be deemed not wholly inadmissible
within these art- fostering walls, in which the raptures
should be as ninety-nine, the gratitude as one, or
perhaps Zero ! By neither the one passion nor the
other has Raphael expounded the situation of Adam.
Singly upon his brow sits the absorbing sense of
wonder at the created miracle. The moment is
seized by the intuitive artist, perhaps not self-con-
scious of his art, in which neither of the conflicting
emotions a moment how abstracted have had
time to spring up, or to battle for indecorous mas-
tery. We have seen a landscape of a justly ad-
mired neoteric, in which he aimed at delineating a
fiction, one of the most severely beautiful in an-
tiquity the gardens of the Hesperides. To do

Mr. justice, he had painted a laudable orchard,

with fitting seclusion, and a veritable dragon (of
which a Polypheme by Poussin is somehow a fac-
simile for the situation), looking over into the world
shut out backwards, so that none but a " still-climb-
ing Hercules " could hope to catch a peep at the
admired Ternary of Recluses. No conventual porter
could keep his keys better than this custos with the



ON THE PRODUCTIONS OF MODERN ART. 15$

" lidless eyes." He not only sees that none do in-
trude into that privacy, but, as clear as daylight,
that none but Hercules aut Diabolus by any manner
of means can. So far all is well. We have absolute
solitude here or nowhere. Ab extra the damsels are
snug enough. But here the artist's courage seems
to have failed him. He began to pity his pretty
charge, and, to comfort the irksomeness, has peopled
their solitude with a bevy of fair attendants, maids
of honour, or ladies of the bed-chamber, according
to the approved etiquette at a court of the nine-
teenth century ; giving to the whole scene the air
of K.fcte champetre, if we will but excuse the absence
of the gentlemen. This is well, and Watteauish.
But what is become of the solitary mystery the

Daughters three,
That sing around the golden tree ?

This is not the way in which Poussin would have
treated this subject.

The paintings, or rather the stupendous architec-
tural designs, of a modern artist, have been urged as
objections to the theory of our motto. They are of
a character, we confess, to stagger it. His towered
structures are of the highest order of the material
sublime. Whether they were dreams, or transcripts
of some elder workmanship Assyrian ruins old
restored by this mighty artist, they satisfy our most



154 ON TH E PRODUCTIONS OF MODERN ART.

stretched and craving conceptions of the glories of
the antique world. It is a pity that they were ever
peopled. On that side, the imagination of the artist
halts, and appears defective. Let us examine the
point of the story in the " Belshazzar's Feast." We
will introduce it by an apposite anecdote.

The court historians of the day record, that at
the first dinner given by the late King (then Prince
Regent) at the Pavilion, the following characteristic
frolic was played off. The guests were select and
admiring ; the banquet profuse and admirable ; the
lights lustrous and oriental ; the eye was perfectly
dazzled with the display of plate, among which the
great gold salt-cellar, brought from the regalia in the
Tower for this especial purpose, itself a tower ! stood
conspicuous for its magnitude. And now the Rev.
* * * * the then admired court Chaplain, was pro-
ceeding with the grace, when, at a signal given, the
lights were suddenly overcast, and a huge transparency
was discovered, in which glittered in golden letters

" BRIGHTON EARTHQUAKE SWALLOW-UP-
ALIVE ! "

Imagine the confusion of the guests ; the Georges
and garters, jewels, bracelets, moulted upon the occa-
sion ! The fans dropt, and picked up the next morn-
ing by the sly court pages ! Mrs. Fitz-what 's-her-
name fainting, and the Countess of * * * * holding



ON THE PRODUCTIONS OF MODERN ART. 155

the smelling bottle, till the good humoured Prince
caused harmony to be restored by calling in fresh
candles, and declaring that the whole was nothing
but a pantomime hoax, got up by the ingenious Mr.
Farley, of Covent Garden, from hints which his Royal
Highness himself had furnished ! Then imagine
the infinite applause that followed, the mutual rally-
ings, the declarations that " they were not much
frightened," of the assembled galaxy.

The point of time in the picture exactly answers
to the appearance of the transparency in the anec-
dote. The huddle, the flutter, the bustle, the es-
cape, the alarm, and the mock alarm ; the prettinesses
heightened by consternation; the courtier's fear
which was flattery, and the lady's which was affecta-
tion ; all that we may conceive to have taken place
in a mob of Brighton courtiers, sympathising with the
well-acted surprise of their sovereign ; all this, and
no more, is exhibited by the well-dressed lords and
ladies in the Hall of Belus. Just this sort of con-



Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays → online text (page 26 of 32)