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only of resentful mortification. The dignity of the legislature, and the stability of the constitution, would be well consulted indeed, if upon every defeat of an exasperated faction, some seductive, and, to them, more propitious novelty were to be introduced,— if the sufficient reason for changes arduous and eventful were to be recognised in the splenetic effusions of every factious baron, who, with the arrogance inherent to his creed, believes that nothing can be honest which resists him, or with the still baser hypocrisy which has sometimes been exemplified by the whigs, insults the institutions which he cannot but secretly approve, and rings unceasing changes upon reform, which had he the most potent talisman at his command for effecting it, he would not dare to put it in operation. The House of Commons, as it is now constituted, is not only defensible upon the deepest principles of theory—but has strongly recommended itself to every practical statesman—and challenged thegratitude of the country alike for the firmness and wisdom which it has displayed. It has undergone no change since the beginning of the severest trial to which the magnanimity of this nation was ever put—it is the same corrupt House of Commons that conducted the country through the perils of the late war, and infused that fine moral energy, in the strength of which the brightest miracles of modern achievement were performed. It is the same House of Commons which, convened in dignity and freedom, saw with calmness the wreck which fo
reign ambition was making around; and, instead of shrinking from the hideous spectacle, assumed a new vigour, and a more majestic portin its presence. It was this insulted and grossly libelled House of Commons, that sustained, by its constitutional sanction, the firm and high-minded policy which, in the issue, wrought the national deliverance,—and this, too, in absolute defiance of a deluded band, then, as now misnamed the people, who poured their sordid and treacherous execrations upon its magnanimity,+and intimated but too distinctly, what sort of legislature we might expect from the breath of popular and jacobin frenzy. The House of Commons, in its actual constitution, the whigs may indeed consistently revile, because of its etermal frown on their petty machinations, from the first exhibition of their antinational vigour at a period, which now belongs to history, down to the last pang of their mental and moral impotence in the present Session of Parliament; but while a vestige of the lofty and high-tempered feeling of the country remains, it will never partake of these revilings, nor feel any thing but contempt for their authors, unless scorn itself should be extinguished in compassion. That this last event has already arrived, we see much reason to believe, as we do not remember any one occasion on which the anxious bustling, and imane pretension of the whigs, have been so o understood, and so sharply chastised, both with reason and #e. as in the case of their late abortive effort to reach the unwilling pinnacle of power.
EveRY information tending to elucidate the life, character, and splendid talents of such a man as Sir Joshua Reynolds, cannot fail of exciting considerable interest among the professors of his art, as well as in the community at large; and we therefore feel indebted to Mr Farrington for the small and unassuming volume which forms the object of our present consideration. If it possess no particular claim to our at
of SIR. Joshua REYNolds.”
tention, from the novelty and importance of the information it affords, it is nevertheless written with strict impartiality, and contains some facts before unknown, or greatly misrepresented, which, we believe, will be found not devoid of interest to the generality of readers. Our author was an eye witness of many of the circumstances he records, and being, as we have been informed, a good deal concerned in the
* Memoirs of the Life of Sir Joshua Reynolds; with some Observations on his Ta
lents and Character. shua Reynolds, by Edmond Malone, Esq.
By Joseph Farrington, R. A.
In addition to the Life of Sir Jo8vo. Cadell and Davies, Londen, 1819.
ispute between the Academy and Sir Joshua, it is but justice to bear our testimony to the remarkable fairness with which he has stated all the particulars connected with that unfortunate difference. Whatever may be the * current morality and philosophy of the present day,” we really see no reason why a public body of men, any more than an individual, should bow in silent submission to unmerited obloquy. If we feel disposed to attach blame to the author, it does not so much arise from his having at last brought the defence forward, as from his having so long delayed its publication; when many of #. engaged in the dispute have been passed to their final account, and have become equally indifferent to the shafts of calumny, and to Mr Farrington's tardy vindication; but, however he may regret this qelay, as far as it respects the dead, one great good is likely to result from the present publication, as it concerns the present and succeeding generationsIt may prove a salutary lesson to those destined to fill the office of President of the Royal Academy, by reminding them, that neither general respect, nor the highest professional talents, no, nor even the favour of the sovereign himself, can ultimately shield an individual, so circumstanced, from the severe and inevitable censure which awaits his conduct; when, forgetting, in some evil hour, what is just between man and man, and haughtily dispensing with all law and right, he should endeavour to impose his own will and caprice on an independent body of gentlemen, to whose friendship and partiality he ought to feel conscious he owes a considerable portion of his consequence. Much more might be said upon this topic; but as a generation has passed away, since the question was agitated, we shall forbear dwelling upon it at any greater length, and content ourselves with observing simply, that we think the Royal Academy must
, feelitself indebted to our author, for the
clear, dispassionate, and unanswerable manner in which he has treated a subject, which, from the active part he is said to have taken in opposition to the President, he must have found it very difficult to regard with an unprejudiced eye. . . We sincerely believe that, with the above exception, no man ever enter
tained a sincerer admiration of Sir Joshua Reynolds, both as a painter and
a man, than Mr Farrington himself; and, indeed, if we feel disposed to censure, it arises from a persuasion that on several occasions he has fallen into a somewhat opposite extreme by the indiscriminate nature of his praise. A remarkable instance of this occurs in the 8th page of the volume.—“The
life of this distinguished artist exhibits a useful lesson to all those who may devote themselves to the same pursuit; he was not of the class of such as have been held up, or who have esteemed themselves to be heaven-born geniuses. . He appeared to think little of such claims. It will be seem in the account of his progress to the high situation he attained in his profession, that at no period was there in him any such fancied inspiration; on the contrary, every youthful reader of the Memoirs of Sir Joshua Reynolds may feel assured, that his ultimate success will be in proportion to the resolution with which he follows his example.” Upon this passage we shall abstain from making any lengthened remarks, as we have been elsewhere anticipated by some able writers, the force of whose excellent arguments, in this instance, we will not run the risk of weakening by hazarding many observations of our own. Sir Joshua Reynolds appears to have been a man of great general talents, refined taste, and uncommon and unwearied application. Hisquick perception of character was almost unrivalled, and in everything that regarded the mechanic of his art, with perhaps the single exception of drawing, one of the most distinguished artists that the world has produced ; but in
that which is strictly termed invention, or novel combination as it relates to design (that great and distinguishing characteristic of real genius) even his warmest admirers must admit he was
at least deficient. In colouring, light
and shade, and in the general manage
ment of a picture, he stands nearly withoutanequal—his immensepowers,
and deep and profound acquirements,
in these respects, chastened as they always were, by the exquiste refinement of his taste, enabled him to conceal
and throw a veil over his most promi
nent defects, and to shroud from observation a degree of imbecility and plagiarism, in his compositions, which, in the hands of a less accomplished artist, could scarcely be endured. Most of the qualities which Reynolds possessed, above his contemporaries, were precisely those attainable by mere unwearied application and profound reflection; and as they carried him, unassisted by originality of invention, to a very eminent station in the art, we are less surprised, than we should otherwise have been, at the doctrine he was fond of inculcating, that “nothin in painting was denied to well directe labour;" or, in other words asserting, that all men are born with like capacities, and that originality of mind depends solely on education and adventitious circumstances; which is pretty much the same as maintaining, that the superstructure can stand when the foundation is wanting. It appears to us, that this power of invention may exist, in the mind of a man, without his possessing the smallest talent for imitation, through the medium of which he can belone enabled to communicate his ideasin painting; and we have little doubt, that the experience ofour readerswill havefurnished them with many instances confirmatory of the truth of this notion. In the rude sketches of school boys, we have frequently observed strong and original conceptions that would have done credit to a first-rate master, though each figure has been so imperfectly represented as to be scarcely intelligible to any but a practised eye. It is remark... that more than one of the individuals alluded to, appeared incapable of producing any resemblance upon paper of an object placed before them for imitation; and it is, at least, equally certain, that many persons possess the power of copying most accurately, even the human figure, who are absolutely incapable of telling a story on canvas, or of conceiving a subject at all. It is vain, therefore, to contend that where original force of mind is wanting, mere labour, however well directed, can supply the deficiency. To form a great painter, both powers must be combined in the same individual in no common degree; for if an artist should be eminently deficientin the one, his works will never rise to mediocrity even, and if defective in the other, all his mental force will, in a great measure, become abortive, from the want of a just medium, through
hich h - be rend. which his onceptions on rendered
intelligible. In the foregoin to: trust, we shall ...'. ed of any wish to o: e the d and unquesle excellence of Sir Joshua, be:
tiona cause we have ventured to differ with him in a o upon which he does not appear to have ever possessed an ...”. jo. o ; po # this might arise from his hio in designing his historical and poeti. cal compositions, the defective nature of his own inventive faculty, and, being too proud to acknowledge the deficiency; affected, with a weakness often incident to human mature, to undervalue or to deny the existence of a quality to which he must have been conscious he possessed only slender claims. Fortunately, his principalpursuits required less of o of conception than almost any other department of the art. What he wanted, however, in this respect, histaste, quickperception of character, and sound.judgment, in a greatmeasure ied, an o No. owith: thorough knowledge he possessed of the mechanic of o ession, to rise to a degree of eminence in portrait, which has left him few rivals, and perhaps no superiors. ... He was fortunate also in the period in which he made his appearance, and no less so in the natural suavity of his temper and general deportment. Few men studied the world more deeply, or acquired a profounder insight into men and manners; and still fewer ever turned the advantage to better account. But, in spite of the uncommon qualities thus concentrated in an individual, he appears to have been a man more worthy of our study than of our admiration; and we are not quite sure we agree with Mr Farrington, in thinking that Dr Johnson paid his friend any - - in stating, that st invulnerable
We shall pass rapidly over the earlier days of Reynolds, and the history of his pupilage, to the interest and novelty of which our author has added little, till we find him fairly arrived in Rome. Here Sir Joshua seems to have shewn singular judgment, in selecti for his study those works of art whic were best qualified to supply the deficiencies o his limited education, and in adapting them to those walks of the profession to which early inclination, and the peculiar structure of his mind, appear to have directed his attention. “By judiciously considering,” says our author, “these magnificent works, he gradually became sensible of their high quality; and to expand his mind, and acquire a larger practice of the hand, he copied such portions of them as might be afterwards useful to him. He did all that was possible upon the limited foundations he had laid; nor was his labour in vain. He never was competent to adopt the grand style of art; but by great diligence and attention, he enlarged his conceptions, and refined his taste, so as to shew in his portraits a new mode of thinking on this branch of the art, perfectly distinct and original.”— P. 27,28. We perfectly accord with Mr Farrington in almost every word contained in the above statement; but why was Reynolds incompetent to thegreat style? Precisely because he was defective in strength of invention and originality of mind. That, however, which he was incapableof producinghimself, histaste and discernment allowed him fully to appreciate in the works of the great masters, and enabled him to infuse into an inferior department of art, a portion of that elevation and grandeur which É. his portraits deservedly on the ighest eminence of fame. Forbeyond this the circumscribed nature of his genius forbade him to proceed. To use his own language, “he followedacourse more congenial to his own feelings, and to the taste of the times in which he lived," thereby almost expressly admitting, that he #. unequal to the effort of producing any thing great and new in the higher walks of art; and therefore judiciously contented himself by investing the inferior ones with a por. tion of dignity, which had hitherto been supposed to belong, almost exclusively, to the historic and poetic styles. It should be remembe also, that Vol. VIII.
Sir Joshua, at the time of making this choice, was somewhat younger, we believe, than Raphael, when the latter first saw the works of Michael Angelo, in the Sistine Chapel, and was thence induced, almost instantaneously, to depart from the meagre and imbecile exo: of his master, Petro Perugino, and to select for his models the mighty #. and dignified compositions of his illustrious rival; yet when Reynolds visited the works of Michael Angelo, he was in many respects a better artist than Raphael himself at the period in question; and the admiration for the labours of that great man, being the same in both painters, to what other cause can we attribute the distinctly different paths pursued by these eminent artists, but to the consciousness felt by the Roman of his possessing powers, to which the English artist was aware he had few pretensions? In what mannerourauthorreconciles his observations in the passage above quoted, with his o of the maxim which Sir Joshua, he tells us, “always maintained,” “ that by study and exertion alone every excellence, of whatever kind, might be acquired,” we are almost at a loss to conjecture; but it seems, that our great artist imbibed his maxim from his friend Dr Johnson, and possibly Mr F., awed by their great names may, in this instance, have surrendered his better judgment to what he considered paramount authority. How far he may be authorised in this it is not our purpose to inquire; but to us it has always appeared, that— whatever may have been the merits of Johnson, and unquestionably they were numerous and splendid—his claims to first rate genius rest on a slender basis, and that whenever he touched upon this rare quality, he appears, like his friend Reynolds, to have grown bewildered, and to have possessed no very adequate comprehension of its powers; but to proceed. The account given of Sir J.i. progress and rapid rise to eminence after his return from Rome, though perhaps better suited to Pilkington's Dictionary of Painters, than to the memoirs of an eminent man, is nevertheless not devoid of interest; but we wish Mr Farrington had let Hudson sleep in peace. The personal jarrings between artists, or any other set of men, are too disagreeable, during their lives, to * recording; but, 4.
in the instance before us, the contest is of so disproportionate a nature, that it is difficult to avoid sympathising with the weaker party, when we see the cause of his mighty opponent advocated with a warmth and pertinacity, which, if the circumstances in question had not occurred long ago, we should have been almost tempted to attribute to some personal motive—Much greater artists than Hudson, or even Sir Joshua, have been unhappily tinctured with the meanness of jealousy and envy, without the excuses that might be of. fered in defence of the former ; and is our author quite sure that the illustrious President himself was entirely free from the influence of these unworthy and degrading passions? Hudson was, without doubt, a man of mediocre talent,and the majority of hispicturesfully justify the censure passed upon them; yet we have seen a portrait by him, in the collection of Lord Portsmouth, that not only possessed intrinsic excellence, but very strongly reminded us of some of the earlier pictures of Reynolds himself. To speak, however, of the two men as rivals, we should have imagined too improbable a notion to have entered the mind of any one gifted with Mr Farrington's real knowledge of the art, and we regret that he has not shewn rather less asperity towards the memory of a man, long forgotten, whose reverses in life must have rendered him peculiarly sensible to the feelings of mortified pride and conscious inferiority.
Here, with a few remarks on the establishment of the Royal Academy, which formed so remarkable an event in the life of Sir Joshua, together with some concluding observations, we should probably have dismissed our author, if we had not noticed, in a quarter before alluded to, some strictures on his work, which appear to be as illiberal as they are devoid of foundation. In the year 1760, when the industry and rare talents of Reymolds had raised his reputation to a degree of eminence which no other British artist has attained, “a plan was formed,” says our author, “by the artists of the metropolis, to draw the attention of their fellow-citizens to their ingenious labours, with a view both to an increase of patronage, and the cultivation of taste. Hitherto works of that kind, produced in the country, were seen only by a few, the people in
eral knew nothing of what was pass; in the arts. Private collections were then inaccessible, and there were no public ones, nor any casual display of the productions of genius, except what the ordinary sales by auction occasionally offered. Nothing, therefore, could exceed the ignorance of the people, who were in themselves learned, ingenious, and highly cultivated, in all things excepting the arts of design. “In consequence of this privation, it was conceived that a public erhibition of the works of the most eminent arttists would not fail to make a powerful impression,and,ifoccasionally repeated, might ultimately produce the most satisfactory effects. “The scheme was no soonerproposed than adopted, and being carried into immediate execution, the result exceeded the most sanguine expectations of the projectors; all ranks of people crowded to see the delightful novelty; it was the universal topic of conversation; and a passion for the arts was excited by that first manifestation of native talent, which, cherished by the continued operation of the same cause, has ever since been increasing in strength, and extending its effects through every part of the empire. “The history of our exhibitions af. fords itself the strongest evidence of their impressive effects upon 3. taste. At theircommencement, though men of enlightened minds, could distinguish and appreciate what was excellent, the admiration of the many was confined to subjects either gross or puerile, and commonly to the meanest efforts of intellect; whereas at this time the whole train of subjects most popular in'the earlier exhibitions have disappeared. Theloaf and cheese, that could provoke hunger, the cat and canary bird, and the dead mackarel on a deal board, have long ceased to produce astonishment and delight; while truth of imitation now finds innumerableadmirers, though combined with the high qualities of beauty, grandeur, and taste. “To our public exhibitions, and to arrangements that followed in conseuence of their introduction, this §: must bechiefly attributed. The present generation appears to be composed of a new, and, at least with respect to the arts, a superior order of beings. Generally speaking, their thoughts, their feelings, and language on these subjects, differ entirely from