Page images

bers followed their armies ; and either by forced treaties, or open violence, obtained possession of whatever they deemed excellent and valuable.

The ability which conducted these enterprises was equal to their atrocity : all the Continent yielded to the genius and the fortune of the aspiring ruler of France: and the system of learned and scientific plundering, basely commenced and me blushingly pursued, kept pace with his victories, and was not abandoned until there were assembled in the Libraries and Museums of Paris, all the most interesting monuments of literature and the arts.

Nearly twenty years of undisturbed possession appeared to have secured these treasures to France: but the power by, which they were obtained has ceased to exist; a better order of things has succeeded ; and the ill-acquired pictures, sta

tues, and manuscripts, are at length restored to their owners.

In the following pages the author has endeavoured to give a more complete account of the magnificent and astonishing collection of the Louvre, than has yet been offered to the public. The interest which such an account must excite is, he conceives, greater now that the collection is destroyed, than when it remained entire, and accessible,

The chief part of these Letters are devoted to remarks on the principal statues and pictures. In submitting them to the Public, some explanation of the writer's intention should perhaps be given.

Works of art may be viewed either with reference to the means by which they are produced, or to the effect resulting from those means. It is the exclusive privilege of the artist to speak on the former subject; but on the latter, those who do not possess practical skill may be

competent to judge. The labours of the sculptor, the painter, and the architect, would fail of success if they were only addressed to the artist. They are given to the world'; and hence all will assume to themselves a right to judge and discuss their merits : nor can any production be considered as successful, which gains only the applause of those who view it with reference to the difficulty of its execution, and the accuracy of its parts.

The argument has indeed been carried still further; and it has been employed to shew, that practical skill is detrimental to general criticism ; that the artist loses sight of the end in the means; and that his own peculiar style, the turn of his own study, influences his opinion, or at least occupies too great a portion of his attention. But

splendid instances might be adduced, in the literature of our own country, disproving these assertions. In the criticisms contained in this volume, the author has endeavoured not to encroach on the province of the artist,

To the remarks on painting, sculpture, and architecture, are subjoined some observations on the dramatic exhibitions of the French.

LONDON, MAY, 1816.

Printed by W. Clowes, Northumberland-court, Strand.

« PreviousContinue »