Atlantic Monthly, Volume 3, No. 19, May, 1859
Part 5 out of 5
appears in a paragraph as the _deus ex machina_ of the drama, pats the
victorious sensible boy on the head, and treats the foolish boy with
silent contempt. It does not take much to win Mr. Dexter's approval. He
goes into rhapsodies over a rich man who insists on carrying home his
own bundle; while another purchaser, who is villain enough to desire his
parcel to be sent to his house, meets with all the scorn that he merits.
Our author takes cheerful views of life. He goes into State Street,
and, struck with the great crowds of people, asks the solemn question,
"Whither are they going?"--"To the open grave!" is his jocund reply. He,
in fact, sees nothing but a job for the undertaker in all the health and
life by which he is surrounded; and a file of schoolboys out for a
walk would doubtless to him be nothing more than the beginning of a
procession to Mount Auburn. The shop-keepers should beware of Mr.
Dexter. He is the avowed enemy of nice coats, kid gloves, silk dresses,
fine houses, and his proof-reader knows what other _et ceteras_ which
ignorant people have been in the habit of looking on as commodities
useful in helping trade, and consequently forwarding civilization.
We really thought that this shallow philosophy had completely died out,
and that every educated person had been brought to comprehend the uses
of Beauty and Luxury. Mr. Dexter's "Street Thoughts" is a silly proof
that there are men yet living whose theory of social ethics may
apparently be summed up thus: Live meanly, be afraid of God, and listen
_The Mathematical Monthly_. Edited by J.D. RUNKLE, A.M., A.A.S. Nos.
I.-VII. October, 1858, to April, 1859. Cambridge: John Bartlett. 4to.
The title of Mr. Runkle's Monthly is much drier than its table of
contents. He has aimed at interesting all classes of mathematicians, has
introduced problems and discussions intelligible to scholars in our High
Schools, and has also published contributions to the highest departments
of the science. Educational questions have great prominence on the pages
of his journal; he gives frequent notes upon the best modes of teaching
the elementary branches, and proposes to publish in a serial form
treatises adapted to use in the school-room. Every number of the
"Monthly" contains five prize problems for students. Nor are its pages
confined to topics strictly mathematical. The number for February
introduces a problem by a quotation from Longfellow's "Hiawatha";
another gives a list of fifty-five of the Asteroid group, with their
orbits, and the circumstances of their discovery. The March number
explains an ingenious holocryptic cipher, written with the English
alphabet, with no more letters than would be required for ordinary
writing, yet so curiously complicated, that, while with the key easy to
understand, it is without the key absolutely undecipherible, even to the
inventor of the plan; and the key is capable of so many variations, that
every pair of correspondents in Christendom may have their own cipher
practically different from all others. In the November and December
numbers, a popular account of Donati's Comet was given by Geo. P. Bond,
then assistant, now chief director of the Observatory at Cambridge. This
paper has been issued separately, very finely illustrated by twenty-one
cuts, and by two beautiful engravings. No papers, readily accessible to
the public, contain, in a form so entirely devoid of technicalities, and
so clearly illustrated to the eye, so much information relative to the
nature of cornels in general, and in particular to the phenomena of this
most beautiful comet of the present century.
The purely mathematical articles are all original, many are of great
value, and some are, to those who understand their secret meaning,
peculiarly interesting. A note of Peirce's, for example, in the number
for February, proposes two now symbols, one for the mystic ratio of
the circumference to the diameter, a second for the base of Napier's
logarithms,--and then, by joining them in an equation with the imaginary
symbol, expresses in a single sentence the mutual relation of the three
great talismans in the magic of modern science. Another article, in the
April number, by Chauncey Wright, contains a new view of the law of
Phyllotaxis, approaching it from an _a priori_ stand-point, and showing
that the natural arrangement of leaves about the stems of plants is
precisely that which will keep the leaves most perfectly distributed for
the reception of light and air.
We are glad to learn that a constantly increasing subscription-list,
both at home and abroad, shows, not only that Mr. Runkle judged wisely
in thinking such a journal needed, but also that the editorial office
has fallen upon the right man.
_Memoir and Letters of the late Thomas Seddon, Artist_, By his BROTHER.
Associations are fast gathering round the English Pre-Raphaelites. Those
that come with honors and with death already belong to them. A permanent
influence is assured to the new school by a continuance of vigor, and by
the space which it already occupies in the history of Art. This little
volume is of interest as being the first of its biographies. Mr. Seddon
attained no wide reputation during his life, but he left a few pictures
of enduring value; and his early death was felt, by those who best knew
his powers and purposes, to be a great loss to Art.
He was the son of a cabinet-manufacturer, and was born in London in
1821. After receiving a good school-education, at the age of sixteen he
entered his father's work-rooms. He had already shown a decided love of
drawing. He had a quick perception of beauty, and excellent power of
observation. His disposition was serious, and his conscience sensitive;
but he had a pleasant vein of humor, and a generous nature. After some
years of irksome work, he was sent to Paris to perfect himself in the
arts of ornamentation, and his residence there seems to have confirmed
his taste for painting, to the practice of which he desired to devote
his life. But for the next ten years he was engaged in business, giving,
however, his evenings and his few vacations to the study and practice of
Art, and becoming more and more eager to leave an employment which was
wholly uncongenial to him. At length, in his thirtieth year, he was able
to begin his career as a professional artist. His experiences at first
differed but little from those of the common run of young painters; but
his fidelity in work, his conscientious rendering of the details of
Nature, and his sincerity of purpose, gave real worth even to his
earlier pictures, and brought him into relations of cordial
friendship with Holman Hunt, Madox Brown, and others of the heads of
Pre-Raphaelitism. After making a long visit, in company with Hunt,
for the purposes of study, to Egypt and Palestine, and painting a few
remarkable pictures, he returned home, and was married. Some months
afterward he set out again for the East, but had hardly reached Cairo
before he was seized with fatal illness. He died on the 23d of November,
1856,--just as he was grasping the fruit of years of labor and waiting.
The best part of the volume of memoirs is made up of Seddon's letters
from the East. They exhibit his character in a most agreeable light,
while, apart from any personal interest, they have a charm, as natural,
vivid delineations of Eastern scenery and modes of life. He saw with
a painter's eye, and he described what he saw clearly and vigorously,
showing in his letters the same traits which he displayed in his
pictures. Writing from his camping-ground on the edge of the Desert,
he says,--"The Pyramids and Sphinxes, in ordinary daylight, are merely
ugly, and do not look half as large as they ought to look from their
real size; but in particular effects of light and shade, with a fine
sunset behind them, for example, or when the sky lights up again, a
quarter or half an hour afterwards,--when long beams of rose-colored
light shoot up like a glory from behind the middle one into a sky of
the most lovely violet,--they then look imposing, with their huge black
masses against the flood of brilliant light behind."
Here is the first sight of Jerusalem:--"At length, about five o'clock,
after expecting, for the last half-hour, that every hill-side we climbed
would be the last, we came suddenly in full view of Jerusalem.--Few, I
think, however careless, have looked for the first time on this scene,
without some feelings of solemn awe. We read the accounts of all that
passed within or around these walls with something of the vagueness that
always veils the history of times that have gone by two thousand years
ago; but however soon the feeling may wear off or be cast away, it is
impossible, with the very spot before you where your Saviour lived and
died, not to feel vividly impressed with the actual reality of what we
have read of, and its intimate connection with ourselves.--But soon I
was struck with the very erroneous idea I had had of Jerusalem. From the
west it does not look at all like a city built on a hill; for, rather
below you, at the farther end of a barren plain, you see nothing but the
embattled walls of a feudal town, with one or two large buildings and a
minaret alone visible above them. To the right the ground dips into the
Valley of Hinnom,--but to the left it is level with the city-walls, and
its surface is covered with bare ribs of rock running along it; and it
is from this side that the Romans and Crusaders attacked. Behind the
city, rather to the north, lay the Mount of Olives, and the long,
straight lines of the Moab Mountains beyond the Dead Sea, stretching
from horizon to horizon, half-shadowy and veiled in mist, through which
they shone rosy in the evening's sunlight."
We have no space for further descriptions, excellent as they are. But
we make one or two extracts relating more immediately to Art and to
Seddon's views of the duties of an artist.
"I am sure that there is a great work to do, which wants every
laborer,--to show that Art's highest vocation is, to be the handmaid to
religion and purity, instead of to mere animal enjoyment and sensuality.
This is what the Pre-Raphaelites are really doing in various degrees,
but especially Hunt, who takes higher ground than mere morality, and
most manfully advocates its power and duty as an exponent of the higher
duties of religion."
"I hope I may be able to return to this place; for, to assist in
directing attention to Jerusalem, and thus to render the Bible more
easily understood, seems to me to be a humble way in which, perhaps, I
may aid in doing some good."
Here is a portion of a letter written in England:--"The railway from
Farnborough went through a most beautiful country,--by Guildford,
Dorking, and Boxhill. While I was at Farnborough, on the bridge,
sketching, a respectably-dressed man came up and touched his hat. After
standing a minute or two, he said, 'So you are doing something in my
line, Sir?'--'What!' said I, 'are you an artist?'--'Well, Sir, I cannot
venture to call myself an artist, but I gets my living by making
drawings. I makes 'em in pencil.'--I asked him if he took portraits.--'I
does every line, portraits and all; but I don't get many portraits since
the daguerreotype came in. No, Sir, my drawings are principally in the
sporting line. I does portraits of gentlemen going over a fence or a
five-barred gate. I does 'em all in pencil, and puts a little color on
their faces, but all the rest in pencil,--d'ye see?'--'Yes; but do you
make a good living?'--'Well, not much of that; I used to earn a good
deal more money when I did portraits at sixpence each than I do now.'--I
said, 'I suppose you begin to see that you can do better, and it takes
you longer.'--'That's just it; you've hit it, Sir. I used to knock them
off in a quarter or half an hour, and now it takes me seven or eight
days to do a sporting piece.'--So I told the poor man that I would
willingly give him advice, but I was afraid it would ruin him
completely, for that afterwards he would have to take two or three
months.--'Yes, Sir, I sees that; but I am too old now to learn a new
line. But I find trees very hard; I can't manage them.'--So I sat down,
and drew a branch of a tree, which he said was very much in his style;
and I gave him some advice which I thought might help him, and the good
man went away so much obliged."
When the news of Mr. Seddon's death reached England, it was at once felt
by his friends that it was due to his memory that the public should be
made better acquainted with the excellence of his works. An exhibition
of them was accordingly made, and a subscription raised for the benefit
of his widow, by purchasing his large picture of Jerusalem, to be
presented to the National Gallery. The subscription was successful, and
Seddon's fame is secure.
"Mr. Seddon's works," says Mr. Buskin, "are the first which represent
a truly historic landscape Art; that is to say, they are the first
landscapes uniting perfect artistical skill with topographical
accuracy,--being directed with stern self-restraint to no other purpose
than that of giving to persons who cannot travel trustworthy knowledge
of the scenes which ought to be most interesting to them. Whatever
degrees of truth may have been attempted or attained by previous artists
have been more or less subordinate to pictorial or dramatic effect. In
Mr. Seddon's works, the primal object is to place the spectator, as far
as Art can do, in the scene represented, and to give him the perfect
sensation of its reality, wholly unmodified by the artist's execution."
Mr. Ruskin's judgment will not be questioned by those who have seen
Seddon's pictures. But it might also be added, that such accuracy as he
attained is by no means the result of mere laborious and conscientious
copying, but implies and requires the possession of strong and
We trust that the extracts we have given may lead lovers of Art to read
the whole of the little volume from which they are taken.
_Passages from my Autobiography_. By SYDNEY, LADY MORGAN. New York: D.
Appleton & Co. 1859.
Aged sportiveness is not seductive, and we do not become slaves at the
tap of a fan, when the hand that holds it is palsied and withered. We
have in the volume before us the melancholy spectacle of an aged female
of quality setting her cap at everybody.
When an old woman makes up her mind to be young, she invariably overdoes
it. The gypsy horse-dealers, when they have a particularly ancient horse
to dispose of administer a nostrum to the animal, which has the effect
of keeping him continually in motion, and bestowing on him a temporary
vivacity which a colt would hardly exhibit. Lady Morgan is unnecessarily
frisky. The gypsy's horse, when the effect of the medicine has passed
off, becomes more aged and infirm than ever. What a terrible reaction
must have been the lot of this old lady, after all the capers she had
cut in these passages from her autobiography!
A great, great, great, long time ago, as the story-tellers say, when
novels were few and far between, and an Irish novel was a thing almost
unheard of, a smart, self-educated Irish girl, of, we believe, rather
humble origin, discovered that she had a knack at writing, and, having
published a cleverish novel, called "The Wild Irish Girl," was taken
up by great people, exploited, made the fashion, and had Sir Charles
Morgan, a physician of some standing, given her for a husband. She
continued to write. Her work on France made some noise, on account of
its having been prohibited by the French government; and her subsequent
book on Italy, if not profound, was at least sprightly. Her Irish novels
were, however, her best productions. There is considerable observation,
and some feeling, displayed in them. Her knowledge of Irish society
is very exact, and her pictures of it very slightly exaggerated. "The
O'Briens and O'Flahertys" and "Florence MacCarthy" are, perhaps, the
best of her works of fiction. At this period, Lady Morgan possessed a
rather interesting appearance, great audacity, and a certain reckless
style of conversation, which was found to be piquant by the jaded
gossips of the metropolis. She was taken up by London society,--which
must always be taking up something, whether it be a chimney-sweep that
composes music, or an elephant that dances the _valse a deux temps_;
and she fluttered from party to party, a sort of Tom Moore in
petticoats,--with this difference, that Moore left his meek little wife
at home, while Lady Morgan trotted her husband out after her on all
occasions. It is amusing to observe what pains the poor woman takes to
persuade us that Sir Charles is a monstrous clever man. Betsy Trotwood
never labored harder to convince the world of the merits of Mr. Dick,
than Lady Morgan does to obtain a place for her husband as a learned
philosopher who was in advance of his age, or, as she prettily expresses
it in French; (she likes to parade her French, this excellent wife,)
"_il devancait son siecle_." This mania for inlaying her writing with
French scraps rises with her Ladyship to a species of insanity. "_Est
il possible_ that I am going to Italy?" she exclaims. How much more
forcible is this than the vulgar "Is it possible?" When the Duke of
Sussex comes into a party, he does not excite anything so common-place
as a great sensation; no,--it is a "_grand mouvement_!" Praise bestowed
on her is an "_eloge_." She would not condescend to speak of such things
as folding-doors,--they are better as "_grands battants_." A change of
scene is a "_changement de decoration_." Mrs. Opie, whom she sees at a
party, is not in full dress, but "_en grand costume_." The three Messrs.
Lygon look very "_hautain_." And while driving with Lady Charleville,
instead of having a charming conversation on the road, her Ladyship
has it "_chemin faisant_." _Allons_, mi lady! you prefer that style of
writing. _Chacun a son gout!_ _Mais_ we, _nous autres_, love _mieux_ the
plain old Saxon _langue_.
If Lady Morgan had called this volume "Passages from my Card-Basket,"
there would have been some harmony between the title and the contents.
The three hundred and eighty-two pages are for the most part taken up
with frivolous notes from great people, either inviting her Ladyship to
parties or apologizing for not having called. These are interspersed
with a number of philoprogenitive letters to Lady Clarke,--her
Ladyship's sister,--in which, being childless herself, she expends all
her bottled-up maternity on her nephews and nieces. The little pieces of
autobiography scattered here and there are painfully vivacious. The poor
old lady smirks and capers and ogles, until one becomes sick of this
sexagenarian agility. Paris beheld no more melancholy spectacle than
that of poor old Madame Saqui dancing on the tight-rope for a living at
the age of eighty-five, and displaying her withered limbs and long
white hair to a curious public. We do not feel any particular degree
of veneration for that Countess of Desmond "who lived to the age of a
hundred and ten, and died of a fall from a cherry-tree then," as Mr.
Thomas Moore sings. Well, Lady Morgan dances on any amount of literary
tight-ropes, and climbs any number of intellectual cherry-trees. It is
a sight more surprising than pleasant; and her Ladyship must not be
astonished that the critics should not treat her with the respect due to
her age, when she herself labors so hard to make them forget it.
_Bitter-Sweet. A Poem_. By J.G. HOLLAND, Author of "The Bay Path,"
"Titcomb's Letters," etc. New York: Charles Scribner, 124 Grand Street.
pp. 220. 1859.
Unexpectedness is an essential element of wit,--perhaps, also, of
pleasure; and it is the ill-fortune of professional reviewers, not only
that surprise is necessarily something as rare with them as a June
frost, but that loyalty to their extemporized omniscience should forbid
them to acknowledge, even if they felt, so fallible an emotion.
Unexpectedness is also one of the prime components of that singular
product called Poetry; and, accordingly, the much-enduring man whose
finger-ends have skimmed many volumes and many manners of verse may be
pardoned the involuntary bull of not greatly expecting to stumble
upon it in any such quarter. Shall we, then, be so untrue to our
craft,--shall we, in short, be so unguardedly natural, as to confess
that "Bitter-Sweet" has surprised us? It is truly an original poem,--as
genuine a product of our soil as a golden-rod or an aster. It is as
purely American,--nay, more than that,--as purely New-English,--as the
poems of Burns are Scotch. We read ourselves gradually back to our
boyhood in it, and were aware of a flavor in it deliciously local and
familiar,--a kind of sour-sweet, as in a _frozen-thaw_ apple. From
the title to the last line, it is delightfully characteristic. The
family-party met for Thanksgiving can hit on no better way to be jolly
than in a discussion of the Origin of Evil,--and the Yankee husband (a
shooting-star in the quiet heaven of village morals) about to run away
from his wife can be content with no less comet-like vehicle than
a balloon. The poem is Yankee, even to the questionable extent of
substituting "locality" for "scene" in the stage-directions; and we feel
sure that none of the characters ever went to bed in their lives, but
always sidled through the more decorous subterfuge of "retiring."
We could easily show that "Bitter-Sweet" was not this and that and
t'other, but, after all said and done, it would remain an obstinately
charming little book. It is not free from faults of taste, nor from a
certain commonplaceness of metre; but Mr. Holland always saves himself
in some expression so simply poetical, some image so fresh and natural,
the harvest of his own heart and eye, that we are ready to forgive
him all faults, in our thankfulness at finding the soul of Theocritus
transmigrated into the body of a Yankee.
It would seem the simplest thing in the world to be able to help
yourself to what lies all around you ready to your hand; but writers
of verse commonly find it a difficult, if not impossible, thing to do.
Conscious that a certain remoteness from ordinary life is essential in
poetry, they aim at it by laying their scenes far away in time, and
taking their images from far away in space,--thus contriving to be
foreign at once to their century and their country. Such self-made
exiles and aliens are never repatriated by posterity. It is only here
and there that a man is found, like Hawthorne, Judd, and Mr. Holland,
who discovers or instinctively feels that this remoteness is attained,
and attainable only, by lifting up and transfiguring the ordinary and
familiar with the _mirage_ of the ideal. We mean it as very high praise,
when we say that "Bitter-Sweet" is one of the few books that have found
the secret of drawing up and assimilating the juices of this New World
_The Mustee; or, Love and Liberty_. By B.F. PRESBURY. Boston: Shepard,
Clark, & Brown. 12mo.
The plot of this novel is open to criticism, and we might take exception
to some of the opinions expressed in it; but it is evidently the work of
a thoughtful and scholarly mind and benevolent heart,--is exceedingly
well written, shows a great deal of power in the delineation both of
ideal and humorous character, and includes some scenes of the most
absorbing dramatic interest. The character of Featherstone is admirably
drawn, and Bill Frink is a positive addition to the literature of
American low life. We commend him to our Southern friends, as an example
of one of the most peculiar products of their peculiar institution. The
author of the novel has lived at the South, and his descriptions of
slavery display accurate observation, candid judgment, and a vivid power
of pictorial representation. The scenes in New Orleans are all good; and
in few novels of the present day is there a finer instance of animated
narration than the account of Flora's escape from slavery. The incidents
are so managed that the reader is kept in breathless suspense to the
end, with sympathies excited almost to pain, as one circumstance after
another seems to threaten the capture of the beautiful fugitive. Though
the book belongs to the class of anti-slavery novels, it is not confined
to the subject of slavery, but includes a consideration of almost all
the "exciting topics" of the day, and treats of them all with singular
conscientiousness of spirit and vigor of thought.
_Rowse's Portrait of Emerson_. Published in Photograph. Boston: Williams
_Durand's Portrait of Bryant_. Engraved by Schoff & Jones. New York:
Published by the Century Club.
_Barry's Portrait of Whittier_. Published in Photograph. Boston:
Almost one of the lost arts is that of portraiture. Raised by Titian and
his contemporaries to the position of one of the noblest walks of Art,
and in the generations following depressed to the position of minister
to vanity and foolish pride, it has remained, during the most of the
years since, one of the lowest and least reputable of the fields
of artistic labor. The lost vein was broken into by Reynolds and
Gainsborough, who left a golden glory in all they did for us; but no
one came to inherit, and in England no one has since appeared worthy of
comparison with them. In all Europe there is no school of portraiture
worth notice; the so-called portrait-painters are only likeness-makers,
comparing with the true portraitist as a topographical draughtsman does
with a landscape artist. The intellectual elements of the artistic
character, which successful portraiture insists on, are some of its very
greatest,--if we admit, as it seems to us that we must, that imagination
is not strictly intellectual, but an inspiration, an exaltation of the
whole nature. To paint a great man, one must not merely comprehend
that he is great, but must in some sense rise up by the side of, and
sympathize with, his greatness,--must enter into and identify himself
with some essential quality of his character, which quality will be the
theme of his portrait. So it inevitably follows that the greatness of
the artist is the limitation of his art,--that be expresses in his work
himself as much as his subject, but no more of the latter than he can
comprehend and appreciate.
The distinction between the true and the false portraitist is that
between expression of something felt and representation of something
seen; and as the subtilest and noblest part of the human soul can only
be felt, as the signs of it in the face can be recognized and translated
only by sympathy, so no mere painter can ever succeed in expressing in
its fulness the character of any great man. The lines in which holiest
passion, subtilest thought, divinest activity have recorded in the face
their existence and presence, are hieroglyphs unintelligible to one who
has not kindled with that passion, been rapt in that thought, or swept
away in sympathy with that activity; he may follow the lines, but must
certainly miss their meaning. A successful portrait implies an equality,
in some sense, between the artist and his original. The greatest of
artists fail most completely in painting people with whom they have no
sympathy, and only the mechanical painter succeeds alike with all,--the
fair average of his works being a general levelling of his subjects; the
great successes of the genuine artist being as surely offset (if one
success _can_ find offset in a thousand failures) by as absolute and
As regards portraiture in general, the public may, without injury to Art
or history, employ the painters who make the prettiest pictures of them;
it doesn't matter to the future, if Mr. Jenkins, or even the Hon. Mr.
Twaddle, has employed the promising Mr. Mahlstock to perpetuate him
with a hundred transitory and borrowed graces,--if the talented young
_litteateur_, Mr. Simeah, has been found by his limner to resemble
Lord Byron amazingly, and has in consequence consented to sit for a
half-length, to be done _a la Corsair_, etc., etc.; but for our men of
thought, for those whose works will stand to all time as the signals
pointing out the road a nation followed, whose presence and acts shall
be our intellectual history,--it is of some little moment that these
should be given to us in such visible form, that men shall not
conjecture, a thousand years hence, if Emerson were really a man, or
a name under which some metaphysical club chose to publish their
philosophies. In psychological history, portraits are as necessary
as dates; and one of the most valuable gifts to an age is a great
portrait-painter,--a Titian, a Gainsborough, a Reynolds, or a
Page,--which last has more of the Titianesque character than any one who
has painted since the great Venetians lived, and few, indeed, are the
generations so endowed.
Beside this full insight and representation of character, which makes
the ideal portraiture, we have the less complete, but only in degree
less valuable, apprehension which results from a point of sympathy,
a likeness of liking in one or more fields of thought, a common
sensitiveness, a common interest; and the rarer sympathy between artist
and subject, of that intimacy and complete understanding of personal
character, which, even where no great talent exists in the artist, gives
a unique value to his work, but which, where the intimacy is that of
great minds, gives us works on which no dilettanteism, even, makes a
criticism,--as in that portrait of Dante by Giotto, to our mind the
portrait _par excellence_ of past time.
In the three admirable portraits whose titles stand at the head of our
notice, we have in one way and another all of the conditions we have
spoken of fulfilled. Rowse's portrait of Emerson is one of the most
masterly and subtile records of the character of a signal man, nay,
the most masterly, we have ever seen. Those who know Emerson best
will recognize him most fully in it. It represents him in his most
characteristic mood, the subtile intelligence mingling with the kindly
humor in his face, thoughtful, cordial, philosophic. The portrait is not
more happy in the comprehension of character than in the rendering of
it, and is as masterly technically as it is grandly characteristic. An
eminent English poet, who knows Emerson well, says of it, justly,--"It
is the best portrait I have ever seen of any man"; and we say of it,
without any hesitation, that no living man, except, _perhaps_, William
Page, is capable, at his best moment, of such a success.
In Barry's portrait of Whittier it is easy to see the points of contact
between the characters of the artist and the poet-subject, in the
sensitiveness shown in the lines of the mouth in the drawing, in the
delicacy of organization which has wasted the cheek and left the eye
burning with undimmed brilliancy in the sunken socket, the fervent,
earnest face, defying age to affect its expressiveness, as the heart it
manifests defies the chill of time. It is an exceedingly interesting
drawing, and one by which those who love the poet are willing to have
him seen by the future. It must remain as the only and sufficient record
of Whittier's _personnel_.
In the portrait of Bryant we have the results of an intimacy of the most
cordial kind, of years' duration,--an almost absolute unity of sentiment
and similarity of habits of regarding the things most interesting to
each. Of nearly the same age, Bryant and Durand have grown old together,
loving the same Nature, and regarding it with the same eyes,--the
painter catching inspiration from the poet's themes, and the poet in
turn getting new insight into the mystery of the outer world through the
painter's eyes. Bryant's face has been a Sphinx's riddle to our best
painters; none have succeeded in rendering its severe simplicity, and
clear, self-disciplined expression, until Durand tried it with a
success which renders the picture interesting evermore as a tribute of
friendship as well as a solution of a difficult problem. The artist's
hand was directed by a more than ordinary understanding of the lines it
drew; it has not varied in a line from reverence for the verisimilitude
the world had a right to insist on; it has not flattered or softened,
but is simply, completely, absolutely, true. Bryant's face has an
immovable tranquillity, a reserve and impassiveness, which yet are not
coldness; the clear gray eye calmly looks through and through you, but
permits no intelligence of what is passing behind it to come out to you.
It is such a face as one of the old Greek kings might have had, as he
sat administering justice. All this, it seems to us, Durand's picture
gives. It looks out at you impassive, penetrating, as though it would
hear all and tell nothing,--a strong, self-continent, completely
balanced character,--unshrinking, unyielding, yet without being
unsensitive,--concentrated, justly poised, and intense, without being
passionate. The head is admirably engraved, though we do not at all
fancy the way in which the background is done; it is heavy, formal, and
unartistic,--but this may be matter of choice.
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[Transcriber's note: Final page missing in original.]
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