« PreviousContinue »
SALE OF THE LATE MR. WEST'S PICTURES.
7T is a villanous thing to those who have known
a man for years, and been intimate with the quiet inside of his house, privileged from intrusion, to see a sale of his goods going on
upon the premises. It is often not to be helped, and what he himself wishes and enjoins; but still it is a villanous necessity, - a hard cut to some of one's oldest and tenderest recollections. There is a sale of this kind now going on in the house we spoke of last week.* We spoke of it then under an impulse not easy to be restrained, and not difficult to be allowed us; and we speak of it now under another. We were returning the day before yesterday from a house, where we had been entertained with lively accounts of foreign countries, and the present features of the time, when we saw the door in Newman Street standing wide open, and disclosing to every passenger a part of the gallery at the end of the hall. All our boyhood came over us, with the recollection of those who had accompanied us into that house. We hesitated whether we should go in, and see an auction taking place of the old quiet and abstraction ; but we do not easily suffer an unpleasant and vulgar association to overcome a greater one ; and, besides, how could we pass? Having passed the threshold, without the ceremony of the smiling old porter, we found a worthy person sitting at the door of the gallery, who, on hearing our name, seemed to have
* In an article entitled “A Nearer View of Some of the Shops,” in “The Indicator." - ED.
332 SALE OF THE LATE MR. WEST'S PICTURES.
old times come upon him as much as ourselves, and was very warm in his services. We entered the gallery, which we had entered hundreds of times in childhood, by the side of a mother, who used to speak of the great persons and transactions in the pictures on each side of her with a hushing reverence as if they were really present. But the pictures were not there, — neither Cupid with his doves, nor Agrippina with the ashes of Germanicus, nor the Angel slaying the army of Sennacherib, nor Death on the Pale Horse, nor Jesus Healing the Sick, nor the Deluge, nor Moses on the Mount, nor King Richard pardoning his brother John, nor the Installation of the old Knights of the Garter, nor Greek and Italian stories, nor the landscapes of Windsor Forest, nor Sir Philip Sidney, mortally wounded, giving up the water to the dying soldier. They used to cover the wall ; but now there were only a few engravings. The busts and statues also were gone. But there was the graceful little piece of garden as usual, with its grass plat and its clumps of lilac. They could not move the grass plat, even to sell it. Turning to the left, there was the privileged study, which we used to enter between the Venus de Medicis and the Apollo of the Vatican. They were gone, like their mythology. Beauty and intellect were no longer waiting on each side of the door. Turning again, we found the longer part of the gallery like the other; and in the vista through another room, the auction was going on. We saw a throng of faces of business with their hats on, and heard the hard-hearted knocks of the hammer, in a room which used to hold the mild and solitary Artist at his work, and which had never been entered but with quiet steps and a face of consideration. We did not stop a minute. In the room between this and the gallery, huddled up in a corner, were the busts and statues which had given us a hundred thoughts. Since the days when we first saw them, we have seen numbers like them, and many of more valuable materials; for though good of their kind, and of old standing, they are but common plaster. But the thoughts and the recollections belonged to no others; and it appeared sacrilege to see them in that state.
" Apollo from his shrine
Can no more divine:
And each peculiar power foregoes his wonted seat." Into the parlor, which opens out of the hall and into the garden, we did not look. We scarcely know why; but we did not. In that parlor we used to hear of our maternal ancestors, stout yet kind-hearted Englishmen, who set up their tents with Penn in the wilderness. And there we learned to unite the love of freedom with that of the graces of life ; for our host, though born a Quaker, and appointed a royal painter, and not so warm in his feelings as those about him, had all the natural amenity belonging to those graces, and never truly lost sight of that love of freedom. There we grew up acquainted with the divine humanities of Raphael. There we remember a large colored print of the old lion-hunt of Rubens, in which the boldness of the action and the glow of the coloring overcome the horror of the stuggle. And there, long before we knew any thing of Ariosto, we were as familiar as young playmates with the beautiful Angelica and Medoro, who helped to fill our life with love.
May a blessing be upon that house, and upon all who know how to value the genius of it !
E are going to do a thing very common with
critics ; — we are about to speak of a work we do not understand. What is not so common, however, we are not going to condemn
it. On the contrary, the evident spirit under which it is written, gives it a very advantageous character in our opinion; and we shall proceed to show those eminent and dissatisfied persons, how possible it is by the help of a little good humor and modesty to be pleased instead of provoked, and to enjoy one's imagination instead of resenting one's ignorance.
The reader is aware perhaps, that there is a kind of Poetical Order existing among our Welsh brethren, the object of which is to keep up the genius as well as remembrance of their ancient Bards. The members look upon themselves, in love at least, as their successors; take the same title of Bards; distribute harps as prizes ; and endeavor to catch the reflection of their old fire on the same mountains. Nor is this second-hand inspiration, we dare say, without the occasional production of something fine. In a populous modern city, with its sophistications, such an establishment might be regarded as a mere game at antiques. But in persons of simplicity of life and earnestness of intention, especially in solitudes peopled with grand human recollections, it is difficult to love anything fervently, and never speak of it in a worthy manner. We have seen poems in the English language written by Welshmen of this character, which were as good as some of the English productions of Burns; and the inference is, that in their own language, and on the subject of their own affections, they have not always produced poetry unworthy of ranking with his Scotch. Even upon subjects of mere antiquity, the inspiration above mentioned may act upon them as that of the great poets of Greece and Italy has acted upon their own. Great times and men may literally be said never to die in point of effect. Their touch reaches us from afar. Their eye is upon us out of the clouds of time. We feel their memory in our ears, like the tremble of an eternal song. If their own works help to divert us from the more natural soil out of which they drew the flowers and fountains of their immortality, they serve to create a new stratum of fertility, not so fine indeed as the other, but still fine and abundant, and full of a second vitality. Death itself helps to beautify them. We walk among their memories, as we do among the leaves of autumn, or the ruins of great places ; and supply the want of present perfection with the love of that which is past.
In our youth, we met with one of the Modern Welsh Bards, who had all the character we speak of. He was a man of primeval simplicity of manners; that is to say, one who without any of the conventional substitutes for the humanities of intercourse, possessed that natural politeness of benignity, which is so instantly felt to be their vital spirit. He had the true Welsh face improved by information, hair and eyes black as a raven, and an expression of great candor and good nature. If we remember rightly, we gathered from his conversation, that he had risen, by dint of his love of letters, and much to the credit of those who noticed him, from an humble origin ; which origin he neither affected to hide nor to boast of. He