Unknown.

The library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) online

. (page 39 of 75)
Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 39 of 75)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Irish sailor-boy, and Maclise a banker's ap-
prentice at Cork; Opieand Romney, like Inigo
Jones, were carpenters; West was the son of a
small Quaker farmer in Pennsylvania; North-
cote was a watchmaker, Jackson a tailor, and
Etty a printer; Reynolds, Wilson, and Wilkie
were the sons of clergymen; Lawrence was the
son of a publican, and Turner of a barber.
Several of our painters, it is true, originally
had some connection with art, though in a
very humble way, such as Flaxman, whose
father sold plaster casts; Bird, who ornamented
tea-trays; Martin, who was a coach -painter;
Wright and Gilpin, who were ship-painters;
Chantrey, who was a carver and gilder; and
David Cox, Stanfield, and Roberts, who were
scene-painters.

It was not by luck or accident that these
men achieved distinction, but by sheer industry
and hard work. Though some achieved wealth,
yet this was rarely, if ever, their ruling motive.
Indeed, no mere love of money could sustain
the efforts of the artist in his early career of
self-denial and application. The pleasure of
the pursuit has always been its best reward;
the wealth which followed but an accident.
Many noble-minded artists have preferred fol-
lowing the bent of their genius, to chaffering
with the public for terms. Spagnoletto veri-
fied in his life the beautiful fiction of Xeno-
phon, and after he had acquired the means of
luxury, preferred withdrawing himself from
their influence, and voluntarily returned to
poverty and labour. When Michael Angelo
was asked his opinion respecting a work which
a painter had taken great pains to exhibit for
profit, he said, "I think that he will be a poor
fellow so long as he shows such an extreme
eagerness to become rich."

Like Sir Joshua Reynolds, Michael Angelo
was a great believer in the force of labour; and
he held that there was nothing which the ima-
gination conceived that could not be embodied
in marble, if the hand were made vigorously
to obey the mind. He was himself one of the
most indefatigable of workers; and he attri-



202



WORKERS IN ART.



buted his power of studying for a greater num-
ber of hours than most of his contemporaries
to his spare habits of living. A little bread
and wine was all he required for the chief part
of the day when employed at his work; and
very frequently he rose in the middle of the
night to resume his labours. On these occa-
sions it was his practice to fix the candle, by
the light of which he chiselled, on the summit
of a pasteboard cap which he wore. Some-
times he was too wearied to undress, and he
slept in his clothes, ready to spring to his work
so soon as refreshed by sleep. He had a favour-
ite device of an old man in a go-cart, with an
hour-glass upon it bearing the inscription,
Ancora imparo! Still I am learning.

Titian, also, was an indefatigable worker.
His celebrated "Pietro Martire" was eight
years in hand, and his "Last Supper" seven.
In his letter to Charles V. he said, "I send
your Majesty the 'Last Supper' after working
at it almost daily for seven years dopo sette
anni lavorandovl quasi continuamente." Few
think of the patient labour and long training
involved in the greatest works of the artist.
They seem easy and quickly accomplished, yet
with how great difficulty has this ease been
acquired. "You charge me fifty sequins,"
said the Venetian nobleman to the sculptor,
"fora bust that cost you only ten days' labour.
"You forget," said the artist, "that I have
been thirty years learning to make that bust
in ten days." Once when Domenichino was
blamed for his slowness in finishing a picture
which was bespoken, he made answer, ' ' I am
continually painting it within myself. " It was
eminently characteristic of the industry of the
late Sir Augustus Callcott, that he made not
fewer than forty separate sketches in the com-
position of his famous picture of "Rochester."
This constant repetition is one of the main
conditions of success in art, as in life itself.

No matter how generous nature has been in
bestowing the gift of genius, the pursuit of art
is nevertheless a long and continuous labour.
Many artists have been precocious, but without
diligence their precocity would have come to
nothing. The anecdote related of West is well
known. When only seven years old, struck
with the beauty of the sleeping infant of his
eldest sister whilst watching by its cradle, he
ran to seek some paper, and forthwith drew its
portrait in red and black ink. The little inci-
dent revealed the artist in him, and it was
found impossible to draw him from his bent.
West might have been a greater painter, had
he not been injured by too early success: his
fame, though great, was not purchased by



] study, trials, and difficulties, and it has not
i been enduring.

Richard Wilson, when a mere child, indulged
himself with tracing figures of men and animals
on the walls of his father's house with a burned
stick. He first directed his attention to por-
trait-painting; but when in Italy, calling one
day at the house of Zucarelli, and growing
weary with waiting, he began painting the
scene on which his friend's chamber window
looked. When Zucarelli arrived, he was so
charmed with the picture that he asked if
Wilson had not studied landscape, to which he
replied that he had not. "Then I advise you,"
said the other, "to try; for you are sure of
great success." Wilson adopted the advice,
studied and worked hard, and became our first
great English landscape-painter.

Sir Joshua Reynolds, when a boy, forgot his
lessons, and took pleasure only in drawing, for
which his father was accustomed to rebuke
him. The boy was destined for the profession
of physic, but his strong instinct for art could
not be repressed, and he became a painter.
Gainsborough went sketching, when a .school-
boy, in the woods of Sudbury; and at twelve
he was a confirmed artist: he was a keen ob-
server and a hard worker, no picturesque
feature of any scene he had once looked upon
escaping his diligent pencil. William Blake,
a hosier's son, employed himself in drawing
designs on the backs of his father's shop-bills,
and making sketches on the counter. Edward
Bird, when a child only three or four years old.
would mount a chair and draw figures on the
walls, which he called French and English
soldiers. A box of colours was purchased for
him, and his father, desirous of turning his
love of art to account, put him apprentice to
a maker of tea-trays ! Out of this trade he
gradually raised himself, by study and labour,
to the rank of a Royal Academician.

Hogarth, though a very dull boy at his les-
sons, took pleasure in making drawings of the
letters of the alphabet, and his school exercises
were more remarkable for the ornaments with
which he embellished them, than for the matter
of the exercises themselves. In the latter
respect he was beaten by all the blockheads
of the school, but in his adornments he stood
alone. His father put him apprentice to a
silversmith, where he learned to draw, and
also to engrave spoons and forks with crests
and ciphers. From silver-chasing he went on
to teach himself engraving on copper, princi-
pally griffins and monsters of heraldry, in tne
course of which practice he became ambitious
to delineate the varieties of human character.



WORKERS IN ART.



The singular excellence which he reached in
this art was mainly the result of careful obser-
vation and study. He had the gift, which he
sedulously cultivated, of committing to memory
ihe precise features of any remarkable face,
and afterwards reproducing them on paper;
but if any singularly fantastic form or outrt
face came in his way he would make a sketch
of it on the spot, upon his thumb-nail, and
carry it home to expand at his leisure. Every-
thing fantastical and original had a powerful
attraction for him, and he wandered into many
out-of-the-way places for the purpose of meet-
ing with character. By this careful storing of
his mind he was afterwards enabled to crowd
an immense amount of thought and treasured
observation into his works. Hence it is that
Hogarth's pictures are so truthful a memorial
of the character, the manners, and even the
very thoughts of the times in which he lived.
True painting, he himself observed, can only
be learned in one school, and that is kept by
Nature. But he was not a highly cultivated
man, except in his own walk. His school edu-
cation had been of the slenderest kind, scarcely
even perfecting him in the art of spelling; his
self-culture did the rest. For a long time he
was in very straitened circumstances, but
nevertheless worked on with a cheerful heart.
Poor though he was, he contrived to live within
his small means, and he boasted, with becoming
pride, that he was "a punctual paymaster."
When he had conquered all his difficulties and
become a famous and thriving man, he loved
to dwell upon his early labours and privations,
and to fight over again the battle which ended
so honourably to him as a man and so glori-
ously as an artist. "I remember the time,"
said he on one occasion, "when I have gone
moping into the city with scarce a shilling, but
as soon as I have received ten guineas there
for a plate, I have returned home, put on my
sword, and sallied out with all the confidence
of a man who had thousands in his pockets."

"Industry and perseverance" was the motto
of the sculptor Banks, which he acted on him-
sslf, and strongly recommended to others.
His well-known kindness induced many aspir-
ing youths to call upon him and ask for his
advice and assistance; and it is related that
one day a boy called at his door to see him with
this object, but the servant, angry at the loud
knock he had given, scolded him, and was
about sending him away, when Banks over-
hearing her, himself went out. The little boy i
stood at the door with some drawings in his
hand. "What do you want with me?" asked
the sculptor. "I want, sir, if you please, to



be admitted to draw at the Academy." Banks
explained that he himself could not procure his
admission, but he asked to look at the boy's
drawings. Examining them, he said, "Time
enough for the Academy, my little man! go
home mind your schooling try to make a
better drawing of the Apollo and in a month
come again and let me see it." The boy went
home sketched and worked with redoubled
diligence and, at the end of the month, called
again on the sculptor. The drawing was better ;
but again Banks sent him back, with good
advice, to work and study. In a week the
boy was again at his door, his drawing much
improved; and Banks bid him be of good
cheer, for if spared he would distinguish him-
self. The boy was Mulready; and the sculp-
tor's augury was amply fulfilled.

The fame of Claude Lorraine is partly ex-
plained by his indefatigable industry. Born
at Champagne, in Lorraine, of poor parents,
he was first apprenticed to a pastry-cook. His
brother, who was a wood-carver, afterwards
took him into his shop to learn that trade.
Having there shown indications of artistic skill,
a travelling dealer persuaded the brother to
allow Claude to accompany him to Italy. He
assented, and the young man reached Rome,
where he was shortly after engaged by Agostino
Tassi, the landscape-painter, as his house-ser-
vant. In that capacity Claude first learned land-
scape-painting, and in course of time he began
to produce pictures. We next find him making
the tour of Italy, France, and Germany, occa-
sionally resting by the way to paint landscapes,
and thereby replenish his purse. On returning
to Rome he found an increasing demand for
his works, and his reputation at length became
European. He was unwearied in the study of
nature in her various aspects. It was his prac-
tice to spend a great part of his time in closely
copying buildings, bits of ground, trees, leaves,
and such like, which he finished in detail,
keeping the drawings by him in store for the
purpose of introducing them in his studied
landscapes. He also gave close attention to
the sky, watching it for whole days from morn-
ing till night, and noting the various changes
occasioned by the passing clouds and the in-
creasing and waning light. By this constant
practice he acquired, although it is said very
slowly, such a mastery of hand and eye as
eventually secured for him the first rank among
landscape-painters.

Turner, who has been styled "the English
Claude," pursued a career of like laborious in-
dustry. He was destined by his father for his
own trade of a barber, which he carried on in



204



SONG.



London, until one day the sketch which the
boy had made of a coat of arms on a silver
salver having attracted the notice of a customer
whom his father was shaving, the latter was
urged to allow his son to follow his bias, and
he was eventually permitted to follow art as a
profession. Like all young artists, Turner had
many difficulties to encounter, and they were
all the greater that his circumstances were so
straitened. But he was always willing to work,
and to take pains with his work, no matter
how humble it might be. He was glad to
hire himself out at half-a-crown a night to wash
in skies in Indian ink upon other people's
drawings, getting his supper into the bargain.
Thus he earned money and acquired expert-
ness. Then he took to illustrating guide-
books, almanacs, and any sort of books that
wanted cheap frontispieces. "What could I
have done better]" said he afterwards; "it
was first-rate practice." He did everything
carefully and conscientiously, never slurring
over his work because he was ill-remunerated
for it. He aimed at learning as well as living;
always doing his best, and never leaving a
drawing without having made a step in advance
upon his previous work. A man who thus
laboured was sure to do much; and his growth
in power and grasp of thought was, to use
Ruskin's words, "as steady as the increasing
light of sunrise." But Turner's genius needs
no panegyric; his best monument is the noble
gallery of pictures bequeathed by him to the
nation, which will ever be the most lasting
memorial of his fame.



THE NIGHTINGALE.

BY THE REV. JOHN KEBLE.

'They shall spring upas among the grass, as willows
by the water courses." Isaiah xliv. 4.

Lessons sweet of gpriug returning,
Welcome to the thoughtful heart !

May I call ye sense or learning,

Instinct pure, or Heaven-taught art?

Be your title what it may,

Sweet the lengthening April day,

While with you the soul is free,

Hanging wild o'er hill and lea.

Soft as Memnon's harp at morning,

To the inward ear devout,
Touch 'd by light, with heavenly warning

Your transporting chords ring out.
Every leaf in every nook,
Every wave in every brook,
Chanting with a solemn voice,
Minds us of our better choice.



Needs no show of mountain hoary,
Winding shore or deepening glen,
Where -the landscape in its glory

Teaches truth to wandering men :
Give true hearts but earth and sky,
And some flowers to bloom and die,
Homely scenes and simple views
Lowly thoughts may best infuse.

See the soft green willow springing
Where the waters gently pass,

Every way her free arms flinging
O'er the moist and reedy grass.

Long ere winter blasts are fled,

See her tipp'd with vernal red,

And her kindly flower display'd

Ere her leaf can cast a shade.

Though the rudest hand assail her,

Patiently she droops awhile,
But when showers and breezes hail her,

Wears again her willing smile.
Thus I learn Contentment's power
From the slighted willow bower,
Ready to give thanks and live
On the least that Heaven may give.

If. the quiet brooklet leaving,

Up the stony vale I wind,
Haply half in fancy grieving

For the shades I leave behind,
By the dusty wayside drear,
Nightingales with joyous cheer
Sing, my sadness to reprove,
Gladlier than in cultur'd grove.

"Where the thickest bows are twining

Of the greenest darkest tree,
There they plunge, the light declining

All may hear, but none may see.
Fearless of the passing hoof,
Hardly will they fleet aloof ;
So they live in modest ways,
Trust entire, and ceaseless praise.

T/ie Christian Year.



SONG.

The sun is careering in glory and might

Mid the deep blue sky and the cloudlets white;

The bright wave is tossing its foam on high,

And the summer breezes go lightly by;

The air and the water dance, glitter, and play

And why should not I be as merry as they ?

The linnet is singing the wild wood through;
The fawn's bounding footstep skims over the dew;
The butterfly flits round the flowering tree;
And the cowslip and blue bell are bent by the bee;
All the creatures that dwell in the forest are gay
And why should not I be as merry as they?

M. It. MITFORD.



A BACHELOR'S COMPLAINT.



205



A BACHELOR'S COMPLAINT.

BY CHARLES LAMB.

As a single man, I have spent a good deal
of my time in noting down the infirmities of
Married People, to console myself for those
superior pleasures which they tell me I have
lost by remaining as I am.

I cannot say that the quarrels of men and
their wives ever made any great impression
upon me, or had much tendency to strengthen
me in those anti-social resolutions which I took
up long ago upon more substantial considera-
tions. What oftenest offends me at the houses
of married persons where I visit, is an error of
quite a different description; it is that they
are too loving.

Not too loving neither ; that does not explain
my meaning. Besides, why should that offend
me? The very act of separating themselves
from the rest of the world, to have the fuller
enjoyment of each other's society, implies that
they prefer one another to all the world.

But what I complain of is, that they carry
this preference so undisguisedly, they perk it
up in the faces of us single people so shame-
lessly, you cannot be in their company a
moment without being made to feel, by some
indirect hint or open avowal, that you are not
the object of this preference. Now there are
some things which give no offence, while im-
plied or taken for granted merely; but ex-
pressed, there is much offence in them. If a man
were to accost the first homely-featured or
plain-dressed young woman of his acquaintance,
and tell her bluntly that she was not hand-
some or rich enough for him, and he could not
marry her, he would deserve to be kicked for
his ill manners ; yet no less is implied in the
fact, that having access and opportunitj' of
putting the question to her, he has never
yet thought fit to do it. The young woman
understands this as clearly as if it were put
into words ; but no reasonable young woman
would think of making this the ground of a
quarrel. Just as little right have a married
couple to tell me by speeches, and looks that
are scarce less plain than speeches, that I am
not the happy man, the lady's choice. It is
enough that I know I am not: I do not want
this perpetual reminding.

The display of superior knowledge or riches
may be made sufficiently mortifying; but
these admit of a palliative. The knowledge
which is brought out to insult me may acci-
dentally improve me ; and iu the rich man's



houses and pictures, his parks and gardens,
I have a temporary usufruct at least. But
the display of married happiness has none of
these palliatives: it is throughout pure, unre-
compensed, unqualified insult.

Marriage by its best title is a monopoly, and
not of the least invidious sort. It is the
cunning of most possessors of any exclusive
privilege to keep their advantage as much out
of sight as possible, that their less favoured
neighbours, seeing little of the benefit, may
the less be disposed to question the right. But
these married monopolists thrust the most ob-
noxious part of their patent into our faces.

Nothing is to me more distasteful than that
entire complacency an! satisfaction which beam
in the countenances of a new-married couple,
in that of the lady particularly ; it tells you,
that her lot is disposed of in this world ; that
you can have no hopes of her. It is true, I
have none ; nor wishes either, perhaps : but
this is one of those truths which ought, as I
said before, to be taken for granted, not ex-
pressed.

The excessive airs which those people give
themselves, founded on the ignorance of us
unmarried people, would be more offensive if
they were less irrational. We will allow them
to understand the mysteries belonging to their
own craft better than we who have not had the
happiness to be made free of the company :
but their arrogance is not content within these
limits. If a single person presume to offer his
opinion in their presence, though upon the
most indifferent subject, he is immediately
silenced as an incompetent person. Nay, a
young married lady of my acquaintance, who,
the best of the jest was, had not changed her
condition above a fortnight before, in a ques-
tion on which I had the misfortune to differ
from her, respecting the properest mode of
breeding oysters for the London market, had
the assurance to ask with a sneer, how such an
old bachelor as I could pretend to know any-
thing about such matters.

But what I have spoken of hitherto is no-
thing to the airs which these creatures give
themselves when they come, as they generally
do, to have children. When I consider how
little of a rarity children are, that every
street and blind alley swarms with them,
that the poorest people commonly have them
in most abundance, that there are few mar-
riages that are not blessed with at least one of
these bargains, how often they turn out ill,
and defeat the fond hopes of their parents,
taking to vicious courses, which end in poverty,
disgrace, the gallows, &c. 1 cannot for my



206



A BACHELOR'S COMPLAINT.



life tell what cause for pride there can possibly
be in having them. If they were young phe-
n'.xes, indeed, that were born but one in a year,
there might be a pretext. But when they are
so common

I do not advert to the insolent merit which
they assume with their husbands on these
occasions. Let them look to that. But why
we, who are not their natural-born subjects,
should be expected to bring our spices, myrrh,
and incense, our tribute and homage of ad-
miration, I do not see.

" Like as the arrows in the hand of the
giant, even so are the young children : " so
says the excellent office in our Prayer-book
appointed for the churching of women.
" Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of
them :" so say I ; but then don't let him dis-
charge his quiver upon us that are weaponless;
let them be arrows, but not to gall and stick
us. I have generally observed that these
arrows are double-headed : they have two
forks, to be sure to hit with one or the other.
As, for instance, where you come into a house
which is full of children, if you happen to take
no notice of them (you are thinking of some-
thing else, perhaps, and turn a deaf ear to
their innocent caresses), you are set down as
untractable, morose, a hater of children. On
the other hand, if you find them more than
usually engaging, if you are taken with their
pretty manners, and set about in earnest to
romp and play with them, some pretext or
other is sure to be found for sending them out
of the room : they are too noisy or boisterous,

or Mr. does not like children. With one

or other of these forks the arrow is sure to hit
you.

I could forgive their jealousy, and dispense
with toying with their brats if it gives them
any pain ; but I think it unreasonable to be
called upon to love them, where I see no occa-
sion, to love a whole family, perhaps, eight,
nine, or ten, indiscriminately, to love all
the pretty dears, because children are so engag-
ing.

I know there is a proverb, " Love me, love my
dog:" that is not always so very practicable,
particularly if the dog be set upon you to tease
you or snap at you in sport. But a dog, or a
lesser thing, any inanimate substance, as a
keepsake, a watch or a ring, a tree, or the
place where we last parted when my friend
went away upon a long absence, I can make
shift to love, because I love him, and any-
thing that reminds me of him ; provided it be
in its nature indifferent, and apt to receive
whatever hue fancy can give it. But children



have a real character and an essential being
of themselves : they are amiable or unamiable
per se ; I must love or hate them as I see cause
for either in their qualities. A child's nature
is too serious a thing to admit of its being
regarded as a mere appendage to another being,
and to be loved or hated accordingly : they
stand with me upon their own stock, as much



Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 39 of 75)