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RETROSPECT AND SELECTIONS
LITERATURE, ARTS AND SCIENCES,
I' that course of reading were generally adopted, which is best calculated to impart substantial instruction—if there existed as much solicitude to acquire instruction, as there evidently is to obtain amusement, this department of literature would be much more occupied than it is at present; although we cannot help congratulating our fellow-countrymen that it is every year exciting an increased attention. Owing to the direct tendency of voyages and travels to gratify the curiosity which is incident to every human mind, these continue to retain their ascendancy in public estimation: nor, indeed, are they merely amusing, they are abundantly instructive. Still the instruction communicated is scarcely to be regarded as comparable to that, which well composed biography is adapted to impart. The adventurous explorer brings to light new regions and tracts of sea or land—he leads you palpitating with fear, or triumphing in discovery, over lofty mountains, along trackless desarts, untrodden forests, hidden vallies, and by “rivers unknown to song;" and in addition to the stores of geographical knowledge, which his efforts accumulate, he furnishes you with the means of tracing the local peculiarities of new society, and assists to a certain degree in forming a correct estimate of man, in the various gradations of savage, civilized, and refined existence:—but it is the business of the biographer to assume a higher tone, to excite more elevated emotions, to communicate more expansive views, to make man more intimately acquainted with himself, the habitudes and character of his own mind, and the whole of his intellectual and moral being. In proportion as instruction is diffused, and general, it becomes less impressive and less permanently useful; it is concentration that gives its force: and hence the knowledge of our species, which is implanted by the mode of
A 2 biography,
biography, by selecting and individualizing the subject, is of the highest practical utility. On this account especially we cannot cease to desire that this kind of literature, in which, indeed, the useful is predominent, but which still eminently combines both the utile and the dulce, might be more assiduously cultivated and more extensively
Before noticing particular works in this department,
we shall present our readers with an interesting and affecting piece of biography, extracted from the Literary Gazette.
1.—Biographical sketch of C. A. Stothard, esq. F. A. S.
Charles Alfred Stothard was the eldest surviving son of Thomas Stothard, esq. R. A.: he was born on the 5th of July, 1787. At an early age he exhibited a strong propensity for study, and a genius for drawing. The latter was more particularly developed in various clever miniature scenes, which he executed for his school-boy model of a stage. On leaving school he entered, by his own wish, as student in the royal academy, where he soon attracted notice for the chaste feeling and accuracy with which he drew from the antique sculptures. In the year 1802, he accompanied his father to Burleigh, the seat of the marquis of Exeter, the stair-case of which, the latter was employed in decorating by his masterly pencil. Mr. Stothard, sen., suggested to his son that he might fill up his time by making drawings from the monuments in the neighbouring churches, as useful authorities in designing costume: this circumstance gave the first bias of Mr. C. Stothard's mind towards the subject which became afterwards his pursuit. In 1808 he received his ticket as student in the life academy, and formed the resolution to become an historical painter. A subsequent occurrence, however, changed this determina
tion. In the following year he contracted a close intimacy with the brother of his present widow, to whom also he became shortly after strongly attached; fearing, that as an historical painter, he might not acquire sufficient pecuniary independence to enable him prudently to become a married man, he resolved to turn his attention exclusively to the illustration of our national antiquities, more particularly in a path which had hitherto been but imperfectly explored—the delineation of the sculptured effigies erected in our churches as memorials for the dead. Gough, it is true, had compiled a work of considerable labour and merit on the subject, but the engravings which accompanied it, formed a secondary object, and could, by no means, be depended on for accuracy, or asford a correct knowledge of the minutiae of ancient costume. In the year 1810, Mr.Charles Stothard painted a spirited picture, representing the murder of Richard II., at Pomfret castle, in which the costume of the time was strictly adhered to: the portrait of the momarch was taken from his effigy in Westminster abbey. This picture was exhibited at Somerset-place, in 1811. In the same year he published his first number of the monumental effigies of Great Britain, the objects of which undertaking he detailed in the advertisement which accompanied the publication. These were to afford the historical painter a complete knowledge of the costume adopted in England, from an early period of history, to the reign of Henry the eighth; to illustrate, at the same time, history and biography; and lastly, to assist the stage in selecting its costume with propriety, for the plays of our great dramatic bard. In reference to his plan of prosecuting his work, Mr. C. Stothard liberally acknowledged that he owed the determination of executing the etchings with his own hand, to having seen a few unpublished etchings by the Rev. T. Kerrick, of Cambridge, from monuments in the Dominicans and other churches in Paris, “which claim,” he adds, “the highest praise that can be bestowed." For the subsequent friendship of Mr. Kerrick, and his candid criticism in the progress of the work, Mr. C. Stothard, on all occasions, expressed himself much indebted. The talents of Mr. C. Stothard, as an artist, and the depth and accuracy of his research in the objects connected with his pursuit, soon obtained for him a distinguished reputation as an antiquary ;" and the acquaintance of characters, eminent for their learning and respectability. Among these were the late sir Joseph Banks (who highly appreciated him) and Mr. Samuel Lysons, the author of the Magna Britannia, who esteemed him as a friend. Mr. Lysons employed him to make drawings, illustrative of his work; for which purpose, in the
summer of 1815, Mr. C. Stothard made a journey northward, as far as the Picts wall, adding to his portfolio many drawings for the Magna Britannia, monumental subjects for himself, and a number of little sketches, in the most delicate and peculiar manner, of the country through which he passed. During this absence from London Mr. Lysons gave him a strong proof of his esteem and regard, by obtaining for him, unsolicited, the honourable post of historical draughtsman to the society of antiquaries. In 1816 he was deputed by that body to commence his elaborate and faithful drawings from the famous tapestry deposited at Bayeux. During his absence in France he visited Chinon, and in the neighbouring abbey of Fontevraud, discovered those interesting effigies of the race of the Plantagenets, the existence of which, after the revolutionary devastation, had become doubtful: the following account of this matter is extracted from Mrs. C. Stothard's letters from Normandy and Britanny, lately published:—“When Mr. Stothard first visited France, during the summer of 1816, he came direct to Fontevraud, to ascertain if the effigies of our early kings, who were buried there, yet existed: subjects so interesting to English history, were worthy of the inquiry. He found the abbey converted into a prison, and discovered in a cellar belonging to it, the effigies of Henry the second, and his queen Eleanor of Guienne, Richard the first, and Isabella of Angouleme,
* A most conspicuous, instance of his acumen was exhibited in the discovery of the origin of the collar of S. S.; which Camden had wildly conjectured, was derived from
Sulpitius Severus, a learned lawyer.
the queen of John. The chapel where the figures were placed before the revolution had been entirely destroyed, and these valuable effigies, then removed to the cellar, were subject to continual mutilation from the prisoners, who came twice in every day to draw water from a well. It appeared they had sustained some recent injury, as Mr. S. found several broken fragments scattered around. He made drawings of the figures; and upon his return to England, represented to our government the propriety of securing such interesting memorials from farther destruction. It was deemed advisable, if such a plan could be accomplished, to gain possession of them, that they might be placed, with the rest of our royal effigies, in Westminster abbey.’ Mrs. Stothard proceeds to state, that the application failed; but, that it had, notwithstanding, the good effect of preserving these remains from total destruction. At the same period Mr. Stothard visited the abbey of L'Espan, near Mans, in search of the effigy of Berengaria, queen of Richard the first; he found the abbey church converted into a barn, and the object of his inquiry in a mutilated state, concealed under a quantity of wheat. At Mans he discovered the beautiful enamelled tablet, representing Geoffrey Plantagenet, at once, the earliest instance of what is termed a sepulchral cross, and of armorial bearings, depicted decidedly as such. In 1817 he made a second journey to Bayeux, for the purpose of continuing his
drawings from the tapestry. In February 1818 he married the young lady to whom he had so long been attached, the only daughter of John Kempe, esq., of the New Kent Road, descended from the ancient family of the Kempes, formerly of Clantigh, near Wye, in Kent, and afterwards of Cornwall. In July following this lady accompanied him in his third expedition to France, which he made with a view of completing the drawings from the tapestry at Bayeux." His task being accomplished he proceeded with Mrs. Stothard on a tour of investigation through Normandy, and more particularly Britanny. In order to render their families participators, in some degree, of the pleasures of their journey, Mrs.Stothard addressed to hermother, Mrs. Kempe, a particular detail of it, in a series of letters, which her husband illustrated by various beautiful drawings of the views, costume, architectural antiquities, &c. that they thought worthy of notice in their route. On their return to England the publication of these materials was strongly recommended by Mrs. Stothard's brother. Messrs. Longman and company undertook it in a liberal manner; and in November, 1820, they appeared under the title of “ Letters written during a tour through Normandy, Britanny, and other parts of France, in 1818.” In 1819, Mr. C. Stothard laid before the society of antiquaries the complete series of his jo from the tapestry, and a paper highly honourable to his discrimination, in which he
* Engravings, faithfully coloured after these drawings, are now publishing by the
society of antiquaries.