« ПредишнаНапред »
world, did he stand before us, arrayed in a surplice, with his face whitened.
Paintings, it is true, have colour ; but the most glowing picture that was ever flung by a Rubens, or a Raphael, on his canvass, is on a flat surface. Think of the difficulty of representing the rotundity of the human figure, trees, and pillars, and the projection of capitals, cornices, and pediments, by a perfectly flat surface! Such considerations as these are calculated to prevent unreasonable expectations, and to qualify us for the more correct estimation of works of art. I have noticed visitors, who have evidently expected, when looking at this panorama, the water of the Thames to flow, the boats to move, the smoke from the chimneys to rise in the air, and the carriages, of different kinds, to rumble along the streets : that such persons should not find the panoramic painting of London realise their expectations, can be no matter of wonder.
The printed account of the picture sums up almost all its points in the following words :“From a balustraded gallery, and with a projecting frame beneath it, in exact imitation of the outer dome of St. Paul's cathedral, the visitor is presented with a picture that cannot fail to create, at once, astonishment and delight; a scene which will inevitably perplex and confuse the eye and mind for some moments, but which, on further examination, will be easily understood. It presents such a pictorial history of London ; such a faithful display of its myriads of public and private buildings ; such an impression of the vastness, wealth, business, pleasure, commerce, and luxury of the English metropolis, as nothing else can effect. Histories, descriptions, maps, and prints, are all imperfect and defective, when compared to this immense panorama. They are scraps and mere touches of the pen and pencil : while this imparts, at a glance, at one view, a cyclopædia of information ; a concentrated history; a focal topography of the largest and most influential city in the world. The immense area of surface which this picture occupies measures forty-six thousand square feet, or more than an acre in extent.”
This is unquestionably a coloured account; but it may, I think, with truth be said, that almost all who visit the exhibition are greatly surprised, and abundantly gratified. There are now some twenty or thirty persons in the gallery : children are climbing up to peep over the rails. Ladies are looking through the perspective glasses, and gentlemen are pointing out such objects as engage their attention. One discovers Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens. Another finds out Primrose Hill, Chalk Farm, Highgate Archway, and Epping Forest : while a third turns towards the downward course of the river, the Docks, and Greenwich Hospital. Now and then
a visitor traces his way to his own dwelling, and regards it with a look of surprise and pleasure, almost expecting to see some one step up and rap at the door.
The two turrets at the western-end of St. Paul's Cathedral attract the eyes of all; the boldness and freedom with which they are painted, produce an admirable effect ; and scarcely is the stranger convinced that he is not gazing on a real and tangible pile of beautifully carved stone. The river and shipping are great attractions to the young; while the thoughtful eye of the more sedate and serious roams over the goodly towers and spires of the different churches, and other temples erected to the service of the Most High.
London is a highly-favoured city; for though ignorance and crime are far too prevalent among its numerous population, yet here is the gospel of peace faithfully proclaimed ; and here thousands and tens of thousands find the sabbath to be, indeed, a day of rest. Wealth, and power, and reputation among the nations of the earth, are costly things; but they are mutable and perishable. The proudest and the costliest things of time are as dust compared with those of eternity. Thebes, and Nineveh, and Babylon had power, and wealth, and reputation ; but their transgressions multiplied, and they were swept away from among the kingdoms of the world. The Almighty Ruler of the earth and skies spared them not.
Take heed, highly-favoured city, lest he, also, spare not thee!
There is a youthful group about to ascend the galleries above, and as I am pleased to hear their childish questionings, and to witness their wonderment and delight, I will ascend with them. In this second gallery, and still more so in the one above, the spectator experiences a disappointment. Expecting to see more as he ascends higher, he is scarcely prepared to find his prospect bounded within apparently narrower limits than before. The lower gallery is unquestionably the best and the most agreeable of the three from which to witness the exhibition. One more glance at this shadowy resemblance of the first city, in the first country under heaven, and I take my leave. Ages have heaped together this pile of dwelling-places, temples, and marts of traffic. Again and again have their possessors been swept into eternity. The feeble have sunk into the tomb; and the great—where are they? Yet still undisturbed the game of life goes on, in thoughtless merriment :
“Oh, what is human glory, human pride?
What are man's triumphs, when they brightest seem ?
I have walked round the ball and cross—which originally stood on the top of the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral—and am now on the roof of the building, with the park spread out before me. How grateful is the fresh air! how pleasant the sight of the green trees, and the clear blue heaven above me! The eye took in so many objects at once, in the painting below, that it now seems, by comparison, to have but little to gaze on. A peep at nature, however, is always refreshing.
Every time I visit this place, the park appears more lovely; the trees and shrubs, which have hitherto been of diminutive growth, begin now to put forth their strength and verdure. Were there but one tree in the world, we should be struck dumb with admiring wonder at its loveliness and beauty; but now, we pass by a wood without a thought-a forest, without a word in its praise !
If it appears a long way up these winding staircases when the visitor is impatient to behold the picture, no wonder that it should seem a long way down them when his desire has been gratified. The music of prattling tongues, and the footfall of childish feet, have preceded me from the very roof to the door of the ascending-room, on the ground-floor. Now for another scene !
On entering the saloon, I find public singers, of both sexes, accompanying with their voices the harmonious tones of a well-played pianoforte. The company are gathered around them; the ladies seated, and the gentlemen uncovered ;