VISITS AND SKETCHES AT HOME AND ABROAD.
VISITS AND SKETCHES AT HOME AND ABROAD
WITH TALES AND MISCELLANIES NOW FIRST COLLECTED.
BY MRS. JAMESON,
AUTHOR OF "THE CHARACTERISTICS OF WOMEN," "LIVES OF CELEBRATED FEMALE SOVEREIGNS," &c.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
LONDON SAUNDERS AND OTLEY, CONDUIT STREET. 1835.
LONDON: IBOTSON AND PALMER, PRINTERS, SAVOY STREET, STRAND.
CONTENTS OF VOL. II.
SKETCHES OF ART, LITERATURE, AND CHARACTER, PART II.
I. MUNICH--The New Palace--The Beauty of its Decorations--Particular Account of the Modern Paintings on the Walls 1-18 The Frescos of Julius Schnorr from the Nibelungen-Lied 20 The Frescos in the Royal Chapel 37 The Opera--Madame Schechner 42 The Kunstverein 46 Karl von Holtëi 49 Fête of the Obelisk 50 The Gallery--Pictures and Painters 60 Madame de Freyberg--A visit to Thalkirchen 64 Tomb of Eugène Beauharnais 68 The Sculpture in the Glyptothek 75 Plan of the Pinnakothek or National Gallery 79 The Revival of Fresco Painting 92 Bavarian Sculptors 94 The Valhalla 96 Stieler, the Portrait Painter 101 Gallery of the Duc de Leuchtenberg 103 Society at Munich 106 The Liederkranz 110
II. NUREMBERG 118 The Old Fortress 123 Albert Durer 125 Hans Sachs and Peter Vischer 127 The Cemetery 132 Travelling in Germany 134
III. DRESDEN 138 The Opera--Madame Schröder Devrient in the "Capaletti" 145 Ludwig Tieck 148 The Dresden Gallery and the Italian School 155 Rosalba--Violante Siries--Henrietta Walters--Maria von Osterwyck--Elizabeth Sirani--the Sofonisba 171 Thoughts on Female Artists--Louisa and Eliza Sharpe--The Countess Julie von Egloffstein 179 Moritz Retzsch 183 English and German Art 197 Catalogue of German Artists 201
* * * * *
A Visit to Hardwicke 213 A Visit to Althorpe 275
SKETCHES OF ART, LITERATURE, AND CHARACTER.
Page 7, line 13, _for_ to _read_ too. 18, -- 2, _for_ Neurather _read_ Neureuther. 68, -- 5, _for_ Scheckner _read_ Schechner. 72, -- 16, ditto. ditto. 94, -- 23, _for_ interior _read_ exterior. 133, -- 1, note, _for_ Frederic Augustus _read_ Anthony. 203, -- 16, _for_ Steiler _read_ Stieler. 204, -- 21, _for_ Neurather _read_ Neureuther. 209, -- 2, _for_ Reitchel _read_ Rietschel.
SKETCHES OF ART, LITERATURE, AND CHARACTER.
_Tuesday._--M. de Klenze called this morning and conducted me over the whole of the new palace. The design, when completed, will form a vast quadrangle. It was begun about seven years ago; and as only a certain sum is set apart every year for the works, it will probably be seven years more before the portion now in progress, which is the south side of the quadrangle, can be completed.
The exterior of the building is plain, but has an air of grandeur even from its simplicity and uniformity. It reminds me of Sir Philip Sydney's beautiful description--"A house built of fair and strong stone; not affecting so much any extraordinary kind of fineness, as an honourable representing of a firm stateliness; all more lasting than beautiful, but that the consideration of the exceeding lastingness made the eye believe it was exceeding beautiful."
When a selfish despot designs a palace, it is for himself he builds. He thinks first of his own personal tastes and peculiar habits, and the arrangements are contrived to suit his exclusive propensities. Thus, for Nero's overwhelming pride, no space, no height, could suffice; so he built his "golden house" upon a scale which obliged its next possessor to pull it to pieces, as only fit to lodge a colossus. George the Fourth had a predilection for low ceilings, so all the future inhabitants of the Pimlico palace must endure suffocation; and as his majesty did not live on good terms with his wife, no accommodation was prepared for a future queen of England.
The commands which the king of Bavaria gave De Klenze were in a different spirit. "Build me a palace, in which nothing within or without shall be of transient fashion or interest; a palace for my posterity, and my people, as well as myself; of which the decorations shall be durable as well as splendid, and shall appear one or two centuries hence as pleasing to the eye and taste as they do now." "Upon this principle," said De Klenze, looking round, "I designed what you now see."
On the first floor are the apartments of the king and queen, all facing the south: a parallel range of apartments behind contains accommodation for the attendants, ladies of honour, chamberlains, &c.; a grand staircase on the east leads to the apartments of the king, another on the west to those of the queen; the two suites of apartments uniting in the centre, where the private and sleeping rooms communicate with each other. All the chambers allotted to the king's use are painted with subjects from the Greek poets, and those of the queen from the German poets.
We began with the king's apartments. The approach to the staircase I did not quite understand, for it appears small and narrow; but this part of the building is evidently incomplete.
The staircase is beautiful, but simple, consisting of a flight of wide broad steps of the native marble; there is no gilding; the ornaments on the ceiling represent the different arts and manufactures carried on in Bavaria. Over the door which opens into the apartments is the king's motto in gold letters, GERECHT und BEHARRLICH--Just and Firm. Two Caryatides support the entrance: on one side the statue of Astrea, and on the other the Greek Victory without wings--the first expressing justice, the last firmness or constancy. These figures are colossal, and modelled by Schwanthaler in a grand and severe style of art.
I. The first antechamber is decorated with great simplicity. On the cornice round the top is represented the history of Orpheus and the expedition of the Argonauts, from Linus, the earliest Greek poet. The figures are in outline, shaded in brown, but without relief or colour, exactly like those on the Etruscan vases. The walls are stuccoed in imitation of marble.
II. The second antechamber is less simple in its decoration. The frieze round the top is broader, (about three feet,) and represents the Theogony, the wars of the Titans, &c. from Hesiod. The figures are in outline, and tinted, but without relief, in the manner of some of the ancient Greek paintings on vases, tombs, &c. The effect is very classical, and very singular. Schwanthaler, by whom these decorations were designed, has displayed all the learning of a profound and accomplished scholar, as well as the skill of an artist. In general feeling and style they reminded me of Flaxman's outlines to Æschylus.
The walls of this room are also stuccoed in imitation of marble, with compartments, in which are represented, in the same style, other subjects from the "Weeks and Days," and the "Birth of Pandora." The ornaments are in the oldest Greek style.
III. A saloon, or reception room, for those who are to be presented to the king. On this room, which is in a manner public, the utmost luxury of decoration is to be expended; but it is yet unfinished. The subjects are from Homer. In compartments on the ceiling are represented the gods of Greece; the gorgeous ornaments with which they are intermixed being all in the Greek style. Round the frieze, at the top of the room, the subjects are taken from the four Homeric hymns. The walls will be painted from the Iliad and Odyssey, in compartments, mingled with the richest arabesques. The effect of that part of the room which is finished is indescribably splendid; but I cannot pause to dwell upon minutiæ.
IV. The throne-room. The decorations of this room combine, in an extraordinary degree, the utmost splendour and the utmost elegance. The whole is adorned with bas-reliefs in white stucco, raised upon a ground of dead gold. The compositions are from Pindar. Round the frieze are the games of Greece, the chariot and foot-race, the horse-race, the wrestlers, the cestus, &c. Immediately over the throne, Pindar, singing to his lyre, before the judges of the Olympic games. On each side a comic and a tragic poet receiving a prize. The exceeding lightness and grace, the various fancy, the purity of style, the vigour of life and movement displayed here, all prove that Schwanthaler has drank deep of classical inspiration, and that he has not looked upon the frieze of the Parthenon in vain. The subjects on the walls are various groups from the same poet; over the throne is the king's motto, and on each side, Alcides and Achilles; the history of Jason and Medea, Castor and Pollux, Deucalion and Pyrrha, &c. occupy compartments, differing in form and size. The decoration of this magnificent room appeared to me a _little_ too much broken up into parts--and yet, on the whole, it is most beautiful; the Graces as well as the Muses presided over the whole of these "fancies, chaste and noble;" and there is excellent taste in the choice of the poet, and the subjects selected, as harmonizing with the destination of the room: all are expressive of power, of triumph, of moral or physical greatness. The walls are of dead gold, from the floor to the ceiling, and the gilding of this room alone cost 72,000 florins.
V. A saloon, or antechamber. The ceiling and walls admirably painted, from the tragedies of Æschylus.
VI. The king's study, or cabinet de travail. The subjects from Sophocles, equally classical in taste, and rich in colour and effect. In the arch at one end of this room are seven compartments, in which are inscribed in gold letters, the sayings of the seven Greek sages.
Schwanthaler furnished the outlines of the compositions from Æschylus and Sophocles, which are executed in colours by Wilhelm Röckel of Schleissheim.
VII. The king's dressing-room. The subjects from Aristophanes, painted by Hiltensberger of Suabia, certainly one of the best painters here. There is exquisite fantastic grace and spirit in these designs.
"It was fit," said de Klenze, "that the first objects which his majesty looked upon on rising from his bed should be gay and mirth-inspiring."
VIII. The king's bedroom. The subjects from Theocritus, by different painters, but principally Professor Heinrich Hess and Bruchmann. This room pleased me least.
No description could give an adequate idea of the endless variety, and graceful and luxuriant ornament harmonizing with the various subjects, and the purpose of each room, and lavished on the walls and ceilings, even to infinitude. The general style is very properly borrowed from the Greek decorations at Herculaneum and Pompeii; not servilely copied, but varied with an exhaustless prodigality of fancy and invention, and applied with exquisite taste. The combination of the gayest, brightest colours has been studied with care, their proportion and approximation calculated on scientific principles; so that the result, instead of being gaudy and perplexing to the eye, is an effect the most captivating, brilliant, and harmonious that can be conceived.
The material used is the _encaustic_ painting, which has been revived by M. de Klenze. He spent four months at Naples analysing the colours used in the encaustic paintings at Herculaneum and Pompeii, and by innumerable experiments reducing the process to safe practice. Professor Zimmermann explained to me the other day, as I stood beside him while he worked, the general principle, and the advantages of this style. It is much more rapid than oil painting; it is also much less expensive, requiring both cheaper materials and in smaller quantity. It dries more quickly: the surface is not so glazy and unequal, requiring no particular light to be seen to advantage. The colours are wonderfully bright: it is capable of as high a finish, and it is quite as durable as oils. Both mineral and vegetable colours can be used.
Now to return. The king's bedchamber opens into the queen's apartments, but to take these in order we must begin at the beginning. The staircase, which is still unfinished, will be in a much richer style of architecture than that on the king's side: it is sustained with beautiful columns of native marble.
I. Antechamber; painted from the history and poems of Walther von der Vogelweide, by Gassen of Coblentz, a young painter of distinguished merit.
Walther "of the bird-meadow," for that is the literal signification of his name, was one of the most celebrated of the early Suabian Minnesingers, and appears to have lived from 1190 to 1240. He led a wandering life, and was at different times in the service of several princes of Germany. He figured at the famous "strife of poets," at the castle of Wartsburg, which took place in 1207, in presence of Hermann, landgrave of Thuringia and the landgravine Sophia: this is one of the most celebrated incidents in the history of German poetry. He also accompanied Leopold VII. to the Holy Land. His songs are warlike, patriotic, moral, and religious. "Of love he has always the highest conception, as of a principle of action, a virtue, a religious affection; and in his estimation of female excellence, he is below none of his contemporaries."
In the centre of the ceiling is represented the poetical contest at Wartsburg, and Walther is reciting his verses in presence of his rivals and the assembled judges. At the upper end of the room Walther is exhibited exactly as he describes himself in one of his principal poems, seated on a high rock in a melancholy attitude, leaning on his elbow, and contemplating the troubles of his desolate country; in the opposite arch, the old poet is represented as feeding the little birds which are fluttering round him--in allusion to his will, which directed that the birds should be fed yearly upon his tomb. Another compartment represents Walther showing to his Geliebte (his mistress) the reflection of her own lovely face in his polished shield. There are other subjects which I cannot recall. The figures in all these groups are the size of life.
II. The next room is painted from the poems of Wolfram of Eschenbach, another, and one of the most fertile of the old Minnesingers; he also was present at the contest at Wartsburg, "and wandered from castle to castle like a true courteous knight, dividing his time between feats of arms and minstrelsy." He versified, in the German tongue, the romance of the "Saint-Greal," making it an original production, and the central point, if the expression may be allowed, of an innumerable variety of adventures, which he has combined, like Ariosto, in artful perplexity, in the poems of Percival and Titurel. These adventures furnish the subjects of the paintings on the ceiling and walls, which are executed by Hermann of Dresden, one of the most distinguished of the pupils of Cornelius.
The ornaments in these two rooms, which are exceedingly rich and appropriate, are in the old gothic style, and reminded me of the illuminations in the ancient MSS.
III. A saloon (salon de service) appropriated to the ladies in waiting: painted from the ballads of Bürger, by Foltz of Bingen. The ceiling of this room is perfectly exquisite--it is formed entirely of small rosettes, (about a foot in diameter,) varying in form, and combining every hue of the rainbow--the delicacy and harmony of the entire effect is quite indescribable. The rest of the decorations are not finished, but the choice of the poet and the subjects, considering the destination of the room, delighted me. The fate of "Lenora," and that of the "Curate's Daughter," will be edifying subjects of contemplation for the maids of honour.
IV. The throne-room. Magnificent in the general effect; elegant and appropriate in the design.
On the ceiling, which is richly ornamented, are four medallions, exhibiting, under the effigies of four admirable women, the four _feminine_ cardinal virtues. Constancy is represented by Maria Theresa; maternal love, by Cornelia; charity, by St. Elizabeth, (the Margravine of Thuringia;) and filial tenderness, by Julia Pia Alpinula.
And there--O sweet and sacred be the name! Julia, the daughter, the devoted, gave Her youth to Heaven; her heart beneath a claim Nearest to Heaven's, broke o'er a father's grave. LORD BYRON.
"I always avoid emblematical and allegorical figures, wherever it is possible, for they are cold and arbitrary, and do not speak to the heart!" said M. de Klenze, perceiving how much I was charmed with the idea of thus personifying the womanly virtues.
The paintings round the room are from the poems of Klopstock, and executed by Wilhelm Kaulbach, an excellent artist. Only the frieze is finished. It consists of a series of twelve compartments: three on each side of the room, and divided from each other by two boys of colossal size, grouped as Caryatides, and in very high relief. These compartments represent the various scenes of the Herman-Schlacht; the sacrifices of the Druids; the adieus of the women; the departure of the warriors; the fight with Varus; the victory; the return of Herman to his wife Thusnelda, &c.
Herman, or, as the Roman historians call him, Arminius, was a chieftain of the Cheruscans, a tribe of northern Germany. After serving in Illyria, and there learning the Roman arts of warfare, he came back to his native country, and fought successfully for its independence. He defeated, beside a defile near Detmold, in Westphalia, the Roman legions under the command of Varus, with a slaughter so mortifying, that the proconsul is said to have killed himself, and Augustus to have received the news of the catastrophe with indecorous expressions of grief. It is this defeat of Varus which forms the theme of one of Klopstock's chorus-dramas, entitled, "The Battle of Herman." The dialogue is concise and picturesque; the characters various, consistent, and energetic; a lofty colossal frame of being belongs to them all, as in the paintings of Caravaggio. To Herman, the disinterested zealot of patriotism and independence, a preference of importance is wisely given; yet, perhaps, his wife Thusnelda acts more strongly on the sympathy by the enthusiastic veneration and affection she displays for her hero-consort.
V. Saloon, or drawing-room. The paintings from Wieland, by Eugene Neureuther, (already known in England by his beautiful arabesque illustrations of Goethe's ballads.) The frieze only of this room, which is from the Oberon, is in progress.
VI. The queen's bedroom. The paintings from Goethe, and chiefly by Kaulbach. The ceiling is exquisite, representing in compartments various scenes from Goethe's principal lyrics; the Herman and Dorothea; Pausias and Glycera, &c., intermixed with the most rich and elegant ornaments in relief.
VII. The queen's study, or private sitting-room. A small but very beautiful room, with paintings from Schiller, principally by Lindenschmidt of Mayence. On the ceiling are groups from the Wallenstein; the Maid of Orleans; the Bride of Corinth; Wilhelm Tell; and on the walls, in compartments, mingled with the most elegant ornaments, scenes from the Fridolin, the Toggenburg, the Dragon of Rhodes, and other of his lyrics.
VIII. The queen's library. As the walls will be covered with book-cases, all the splendour of decoration is lavished on the ceiling, which is inexpressibly rich and elegant. The paintings are from the works of Ludwig Tieck--from the Octavianus, the Genoneva, Fortunatus, the Puss in Boots, &c., and executed by Von Schwind.
The dining-room is magnificently painted with subjects from Anacreon, intermixed with ornaments and bacchanalian symbols, all in the richest colouring. In the compartments on the ceiling, the figures are the size of life--in those round the walls, half-life size. Nothing can exceed the luxuriant fancy, the gaiety, the classical elegance, and amenity of some of these groups. They are all by Professor Zimmermann.
One of these paintings, a group representing, I think, Anacreon with the Graces, (it is at the east end of the room,) is usually pointed out as an example of the perfection to which the encaustic painting has been carried: in fact, it would be difficult to exceed it in the mingled harmony, purity, and brilliance of the colouring.
M. Zimmermann told me, that when he submitted the cartoons for these paintings to the king's approbation, his majesty desired a slight alteration to be made in a group representing a nymph embraced by a bacchanal; not as being in itself faulty, but "à cause de ses enfans," his eldest daughters being accustomed to dine with himself and the queen.
Now it must be remembered that these seventeen rooms form the domestic apartments of the royal family; and magnificent as they are, a certain elegance, cheerfulness, and propriety have been more consulted than parade and grandeur: but on the ground-floor there is a suite of state apartments, prepared for the reception of strangers, &c., on great and festive occasions; and these excited my admiration more than all the rest together.
The paintings are entirely executed in fresco, on a grand scale, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, certainly one of the greatest living artists of Europe: and these four rooms will form, when completed, the very triumph of the romantic school of painting. It is not alone the invention displayed in the composition, nor the largeness, boldness, and freedom of the drawing, nor the vigour and splendour of the colouring; it is the enthusiastic sympathy of the painter with his subject; the genuine spirit of the old heroic, or rather Teutonic ages of Germany, breathed through and over his singular creations, which so peculiarly distinguish them. They are the very antipodes of all our notions of the classical--they take us back to the days of Gothic romance, and legendary lore--to the "fiery Franks and furious Huns"--to the heroes, in short, of the Nibelungen Lied, from which all the subjects are taken.
To enable the merely English reader to feel, or at least understand, the interest attached to this grand series of paintings, without which it is impossible to do justice to the artist, it is necessary to give a slight sketch of the poem which he has thus magnificently illustrated.
"This national epic, as it is justly termed by M. Von der Hagen, has lately attracted a most unprecedented degree of attention in Germany. It now actually forms a part of the philological courses in many of their universities, and it has been hailed with almost as much veneration as the Homeric songs. Some allowance must be made for German enthusiasm, but it cannot be denied that the Nibelungen Lied, though a little too bloody and dolorous, possesses extraordinary merits." The hero and heroine of this poem are Siegfried, (son of Siegmund, king of Netherland, and of Sighelind his queen,) and Chrimhilde, princess of Burgundy. Siegfried, or Sifrit, the Sigurd of the Scandinavian Sagas, is the favourite hero of the northern parts of Germany. His spear, "a mighty pine beam," was preserved with veneration at Worms; and there, in the church of St. Cecilia, he is supposed to have been buried. The German romances do not represent him as being of gigantic proportions, but they all agree that he became invulnerable by bathing in the blood of a dragon, which guarded the treasures of the Nibelungen, and which he overcame and killed; but it happened that as he bathed, a leaf fell and rested between his shoulders, and consequently, that one little spot, about a hand's breadth, still remained susceptible of injury. Siegfried also possesses the wondrous tarn-cap, which had the power of rendering the wearer invisible.
This formidable champion, after winning the love and the hand of the fair princess Chrimhilde, and performing a thousand valiant deeds, is treacherously murdered by the three brothers of Chrimhilde, Gunther, king of Burgundy, Ghiseler, Gernot, and their uncle Hagen, instigated by queen Brunhilde, the wife of Gunther. Chrimhilde meditates for years the project of a deep and deadly revenge on the murderers of her husband. This vengeance is in fact the subject of the Nibelungen Lied, as the wrath of Achilles is the subject of the Iliad.
The poem opens thus beautifully with a kind of argument of the whole eventful story.
"In ancient song and story marvels high are told Of knights of bold emprize and adventures mani-fold; Of joy and merry feasting, of lamenting, woe, and fear; Of champions' bloody battles many marvels shall ye hear.
A noble maid and fair, grew up in Burgundy, In all the land about fairer none might be; She became a queen full high, Chrimhild was she hight, But for her matchless beauty fell many a blade of might.
For love and for delight was framed that lady gay, Many a champion bold sighed for that gentle May; Beauteous was her form! beauteous without compare! The virgin's virtues might adorn many a lady fair.
Three kings of might had the maiden in their care, King Gunther and king Gernot, champions bold they were, And Ghiselar the young, a chosen peerless blade: The lady was their sister, and much they loved the maid."
Then follows an enumeration of the heroes in attendance on king Gunther: Haghen, the fierce; Dankwart, the swift; Volker, the minstrel knight; and others; "all champions bold and free;"--and then the poet proceeds to open the argument.
"One night the queen Chrimhild dreamt her as she lay, How she had trained and nourished a falcon, wild and gay; When suddenly two eagles fierce the gentle hawk have slain-- Never, in this world felt she such cruel pain!
To her mother, Uta, she told her dream with fear. Full mournfully she answered to what the maid did spier, 'The falcon, whom you cherished, a gentle knight is he: God take him to his ward! thou must lose him suddenly.'
'What speak you of the knight? dearest mother, say! Without the love of Champion, to my dying day, Ever thus fair will I remain, nor take a wedded fere To gain such pain and sorrow--though the knight were without peer!'
'Speak not thou too rashly!' her mother spake again. 'If ever in this world, thou heart-felt joy wilt gain, Maiden must thou be no more; Leman must thou have. God will grant thee for thy mate, some gentle knight and brave.'
'O leave thy words, lady mother; speak not of wedded mate, Full many a gentle maiden hath found the truth too late: Still has their fondest love ended with woe and pain; Virgin will I ever be, nor the love of Leman gain.'
In virtues high and noble that gentle maiden dwelt, Full many a night and day, nor love for Leman felt. To never a knight or champion would she plight her virgin truth, Till she was gained for wedded fere by a right noble youth.
That youth, he was the falcon, she in her dream beheld, Who by the two fierce eagles, dead to the ground was fell'd: But since right dreadful vengeance she took upon his foen; For the death of that bold hero, died full many a mother's son."
After this exordium the story commences, the first half ending with the assassination of Siegfried.
Some years after the murder of Siegfried, Chrimhilde gives her hand to Etzel, (or Attila,) king of the Huns, in order that through his power and influence she may be enabled to execute her long-cherished schemes of vengeance. The assassins accordingly, and all their kindred and followers, are induced to visit King Etzel at Vienna, where, by the instigation of Chrimhilde, a deadly feud arises; in the course of which almost the whole army on both sides are cruelly slaughtered. By the powerful, but reluctant aid of Dietrich of Bern, Hagen, the murderer of Siegfried, is at last vanquished, and brought bound to the feet of the queen, who at once raises the sword of her departed hero, and with her own hand strikes off the head of his enemy. Hildebrand instantly avenges the atrocious and unhospitable act, by stabbing the queen, who falls exulting on the body of her hated victim.
When Gunther's arms, and those of his brothers and champions, are brought to Worms, Brunhilde repents too late of her treachery to Siegfried, and the old queen Uta dies of grief. As to King Etzel, the poet professes himself ignorant, "whether he died in battle, or was taken up to heaven, or fell out of his skin, or was swallowed up by the devil;" leaving to his reader the choice of these singular catastrophes;--and thus the story ends.
The rivalry between Chrimhilde and her amazonian sister-in-law, Brunhilde, forms the most interesting and amusing episode in the poem; and the characters of the two queens--the fierce haughty Brunhilde, and the impassioned, devoted, confiding Chrimhilde--(whom the very excess of conjugal love converts into a relentless fury,) are admirably discriminated. "The work is divided into thirty-eight books, or _adventures_; and besides a liberal allowance of sorcery and wonders, contains a great deal of clear and animated narrative, and innumerable curious and picturesque traits of the manners of the age. The characters of the different warriors, as well as those of the two queens, and their heroic consorts, are very naturally and powerfully drawn--especially that of Hagen, the murderer of Siegfried, in whom the virtues of an heroic and chivalrous leader are strangely united with the atrocity and impenitent hardihood of an assassin.
"The author of the Lay of the Nibelungen has not been ascertained. In its present form it must have existed between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries;--this is proved by the language; but the manners, tone, thoughts, and actions, which are all in perfect keeping, bear testimony to an antiquity far beyond that of the present dress of the poem."
Here then was a boundless, an inexhaustible fund of inspiration for such a painter as Julius Schnorr; and his poetical fancy appears to have absolutely revelled in the grand, the gay, the tragic subjects afforded to his creative pencil.
In the first room, immediately over the entrance, he has represented the poet, or presumed author of the Nibelungen--an inspired figure, attended by two listening genii. On each side, but a little lower down, are two figures looking towards him; on one side a beautiful female, striking a harp, and attended by a genius crowned with roses--represents song or poesy. On the other side, a sybil listening to the voice of Time, represents tradition. The figures are all colossal.
Below, on each side of this door, are two beautiful groups. That to the right of the spectator represents Siegfried and Chrimhilde. She is leaning on the shoulder of her warlike husband with an air of the most inimitable and graceful abandonment in her whole figure: a falcon sits upon her hand, on which her eyes are turned with the most profound expression of tenderness and melancholy; she is thinking upon her dream, in which was foreshadowed the early and terrible doom of her husband.
It is said at Munich, that the wife of Schnorr, an exquisitely beautiful woman, whom he married under romantic circumstances, was the model of his Chrimhilde, and that one of her spontaneous attitudes furnished the idea of this exquisite group, on which I never look without emotion. The depth and splendour of the colouring adds to the effect. The figures are rather above the size of life.
On the opposite side of the door, as a _pendant_, we have Gunther, and his queen, Brunhilde. He holds one of her hands, with a deprecating expression. She turns from him with an averted countenance, exhibiting in her whole look and attitude, grief, rage, and shame. It is evident that she has just made the fatal discovery of her husband's obligations to Siegfried, which urges her to the destruction of the latter. I have heard travellers ignorantly criticise the grand, and somewhat exaggerated forms of Brunhilde, as being "really quite coarse and unfeminine." In the poem she is represented as possessing the strength of twelve men; and when Hagen sees her throw a spear, which it required four warriors to lift, he exclaims to her alarmed suitor, King Gunther,
"Aye! how is it, King Gunther? here must you tine your life! The lady you would gain, well might be the devil's wife!"
It is by the secret assistance of Siegfried, and his tarn-cap, that Gunther at length vanquishes and humbles this terrible heroine, and she avenges her humiliation by the murder of Siegfried.
Around the room are sixteen full-length portraits of the other principal personages who figure in the Nibelungen Lied--_portraits_ they may well be called, for their extraordinary spirit, and truth of character. In one group we have the fierce Hagen, the courteous Dankwart, and between them, Volker tuning his viol; of him it is said--
Bolder and more knight-like fiddler, never shone the sun upon,
and he plays a conspicuous part in the catastrophe of the poem.
Opposite to this group, we have queen Uta, the mother of Chrimhilde, between her sons, Gernot and Ghiselar: in another compartment, Siegmund and Sighelind, the father and mother of Siegfried.
Over the window opposite to the entrance, Hagen is consulting the mermaids of the Danube, who foretell the destruction which awaits him at the court of Etzel: and lower down on each side of the window, King Etzel with his friend Rudiger, and those faithful companions in arms, old Hildebrand and Dietrich of Bern. The power of invention, the profound feeling of character, and extraordinary antiquarian knowledge displayed in these figures, should be seen to be understood. Those which most struck me (next to Chrimhilde and her husband) were the figures of the daring Hagen and the venerable queen Uta.
On the ceiling, which is vaulted, and enriched with most gorgeous ornaments, intermixed with heraldic emblazonments, are four small compartments in fresco: in which are represented, the marriage of Siegfried and Chrimhilde, the murder of Siegfried, the vengeance of Chrimhilde, and the death of Chrimhilde. These are painted in vivid colours on a black ground.
On the whole, on looking round this most splendid and interesting room, I could find but one fault: I could have wished that the ornaments on the walls and ceiling (so rich and beautiful to the eye) had been more completely and consistently gothic in style; they would then have harmonized better with the subjects of the paintings.
In the next room, the two sides are occupied by two grand frescos, each about five-and-twenty feet in length, and covering the whole wall. In the first, Siegfried brings the kings of Saxony and Denmark prisoners to the court of king Gunther. The second represents the reception of the victorious Siegfried by the two queens, Uta and Chrimhilde. This is the first interview of the lovers, and furnishes one of the most admired passages in the poem.
"And now the beauteous lady, like the rosy morn, Dispersed the misty clouds; and he who long had borne In his heart the maiden, banish'd pain and care, As now before his eyes stood the glorious maiden fair.
From her embroidered garment, glittered many a gem, And on her lovely cheek, the rosy red did gleam; Whoever in his glowing soul had imaged lady bright, Confessed that fairer maiden never stood before his sight.
And as the moon at night, stands high the stars among, And moves the mirky clouds above, with lustre bright and strong; So stood before her maidens, that maid without compare: Higher swelled the courage of many a champion there."
Between the two doors there is the marriage of Siegfried and Chrimhilde. The second of these frescos is nearly finished; of the others I only saw the cartoons, which are magnificent. The third room will contain, arranged in the same manner, three grand frescos, representing 1st. the scene in which the rash curiosity of Chrimhilde prevails over the discretion of her husband, and he gives her the ring and the girdle which he had snatched as trophies from the vanquished Brunhilde. 2ndly. The death of Siegfried, assassinated by Hagen, who stabs the hero in the back, as he stoops to drink from the forest-well. And 3rdly. The body of Siegfried exposed in the cathedral at Worms, and watched by Chrimhilde, "who wept three days and three nights by the corse of her murdered lord, without food and without sleep."
The fourth room will contain the second marriage of Chrimhilde; her complete and sanguinary vengeance; and her death. None of these are yet in progress. But the three cartoons of the death of Siegfried; the marriage of Siegfried and Chrimhilde; and the fatal curiosity of Chrimhilde, I had the pleasure of seeing in Professor Schnorr's studio at the academy; I saw at the same time his picture of the death of the emperor Frederic Barbarossa, which has excited great admiration here, but I confess I do not like it; nor do I think that Schnorr paints as well in oils as in fresco--the latter is certainly his forte.
Often have I walked up and down these superb rooms, looking up at Schnorr and his assistants, and watching intently the preparation and the process of the fresco painting--and often I thought, "What would some of our English painters--Etty, or Hilton, or Briggs, or Martin--O what would they give to have two or three hundred feet of space before them, to cover at will with grand and glorious creations,--scenes from Chaucer, or Spenser, or Shakspeare, or Milton, proudly conscious that they were painting for their country and posterity, spurred on by the spirit of their art and national enthusiasm, and generously emulating each other!" Alas! how different!--with us such men as Hilton and Etty illustrate annuals, and the genius of Turner shrinks into a vignette!
I should add, before I throw down my weary pen, that every part of the new palace, from the _ensemble_ down to the minutest details of the ornaments (the paintings excepted) has been designed by De Klenze, who executed seven hundred drawings with his own hand for this palace alone, without reckoning his designs for the Glyptothek and the Pinakothek.
This has been a busy and exciting day. Then in the evening a _soirée_--music--
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O quite tired in spirits, in voice, in mind, in heart, in frame!
_Oct. 14th._--Accompanied by my kind friend, Madame de K----, and conducted by Roekel, the painter, I visited the unfinished chapel adjoining the new palace. It is painted (or rather _painting_) in fresco, on a gold ground, with extraordinary richness and beauty, uniting the old Greek, or rather Byzantine manner, with the old Italian style of decoration. It reminded me, in the general effect, of the interior of St. Mark's at Venice,--but, of course, the details are executed in a grander feeling, and in a much higher style of art. The pillars are of the native marble, and the walls will be covered with a kind of Mosaic of various marbles, intermixed with ornaments in relief, in gilding, in colours--all combined, and harmonizing together. The ceiling is formed of two large domes or cupolas. In the first is represented the Old Testament: in the very centre, the Creator; in a circle round him, the six days' creation. Around this again, in a larger circle, the building of the ark; the Deluge; the sacrifice of Noah; and the first covenant. In the four corners, the colossal figures of the patriarchs, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These are designed in a very grand and severe style. The second cupola is dedicated to the New Testament. In the centre, the Redeemer: around him four groups of cherubs, three in each group. We were on the scaffold erected for the painters--near enough to remark the extreme beauty and various expression in these heads, which must, I am afraid, be lost when viewed from below. Around, in a circle, the twelve apostles; and in the four corners, the four evangelists, corresponding with the four patriarchs in the other dome. In the arch between the two domes, as connecting the Old and New Testaments, we have the Nativity and other scenes from the life of the Virgin. In the arch at the farthest end will be placed the Crucifixion, as the consummation of all.
The painter to whom the direction of the whole work has been entrusted, is professor Heinrich Häss, (or Hess,) one of the most celebrated of the German historical painters. He was then employed in painting the Nativity, stretched upon his back on a sort of inclined chair. Notwithstanding the inconvenience and even peril of leaving his work while the plaster was wet, he came down from his giddy height to speak to us, and explained the general design of the whole. I expressed my honest admiration of the genius, and the grand feeling displayed in many of the figures; and, in particular, of the group he was then painting, of which the extreme simplicity charmed me; but as honestly, I expressed my surprise that nothing _new_ in the general style of the decoration had been attempted; a representation of the Omnipotent Being was merely excusable in more simple and unenlightened times, when the understandings of men could only be addressed through their senses--and merely tolerable, when Michael Angelo gave us that grand personification of Almighty Power moving "on the wings of the wind" to the creation of the first man. But now, in these thinking, reasoning times, it is not so well to venture into those paths, upon which daring Genius, supported by blind Faith, rushed without fear, because without a doubt. The theory of religion belongs to poetry, and its practice to painting. I was struck by the wonderful stateliness of the ornaments and borders used in decorating these sacred subjects: they are neither Greek, nor gothic, nor arabesque--but composed merely of simple forms and straight lines, combined in every possible manner, and in every variety of pure colour. One might call them _Byzantine_; at least, they reminded me of what I had seen in the old churches at Venice and Pisa.
I was pleased by the amiable and open manners of professor Hess. Much of his life has been spent in Italy, and he speaks Italian well, but no French. In general, the German artists absolutely detest and avoid the language and literature of France, but almost all speak Italian, and many can read, if they do not speak, English. He told me that he had spent two years on the designs and cartoons for this chapel; he had been painting here daily for the last two years, and expected to be able to finish the whole in about two years and a half more: thus giving six years and a half, or more probably seven years, to this grand task. He has four pupils, or assistants, besides those employed in the decorations only.
_Oct. 15th._--After dinner we drove through the beautiful English garden--a public promenade--which is larger and more diversified than Kensington Gardens; but the trees are not so fine, being of younger growth. A branch of the Isar rolls through this garden, sometimes an absolute torrent, deep and rapid, foaming and leaping along, between its precipitous banks,--sometimes a strong but gentle stream, flowing "at its own sweet will" among smooth lawns. Several pretty bridges cross it with "airy span;" there are seats for repose, and cafés and houses where refreshment may be had, and where, in the summer-time, the artisans and citizens of Munich assemble to dance on the Sunday evenings;--altogether it was a beautiful day, and a delightful drive.
In the evening at the opera with the ambassadress and a large party. It was the queen's fête, and the whole court was present. The theatre was brilliantly illuminated--crowded in every part: in short, it was all very gay and very magnificent; as to hearing a single note of the opera, (the Figaro,) that was impossible; so I resigned myself to the conversation around me. "Are you fond of music?" said I, innocently, to a lady whose volubility had ceased not from the moment we entered the box. "Moi! si je l'aime!--mais avec passion!" And then without pause or mercy continued the same incessant flow of _spirituel_ small-talk while Scheckner-Wagen and Meric, now brought for the first time into competition, and emulous of each other,--one pouring forth her full _sostenuto_ warble, like a wood-lark,--the other trilling and running divisions, like a nightingale--were uniting their powers in the "Sull' Aria;" but though I could not hear I could see. I was struck to-night more than ever by the singular dignity of the demeanour of Madame Scheckner-Wagen. She is not remarkable for beauty, nor is there any thing of the common made-up theatrical grace in her deportment--still less does she remind us of queen Medea--queen Pasta, I should say--the imperial syren who drowned her own identity and ours together in her "cup of enchanted sounds;"--no--but Scheckner-Wagen treads the stage with the air of a high-bred lady, to whom applause or censure are things indifferent--and yet with an exceeding modesty. In short, I never saw an actress who inspired such an immediate and irresistible feeling of respect and interest for the individual _woman_. I do not say that this is the _ne plus ultra_ of good acting--on the contrary; though it is a mistake to imagine that the moral character of an actress or a singer goes for nothing with an audience--but of this more at some future time. Madame Scheckner's style of singing has the same characteristic simplicity and dignity: her voice is of a fine full quality, well cultivated, well managed. I have known her a little indolent and careless at times, but never forced or affected; and I am told that in some of the grand classical German operas, Gluck's Iphigenia, for instance, her acting as well as her singing is admirable.
I wish, if ever we have that charming Devrient-Schröeder, and her vocal suite, again in England, they would give us the Iphigenia, or the Armida, or the Idomeneo. She is another who must be heard in her native music to be justly appreciated. Madame Milder _was_ a third, but her reign is past. This extraordinary creature absolutely could not, or would not, sing the modern Italian music; no one, I believe, ever heard her sing a note of Rossini in her life. Madame Vespermann is here, but she sings no more in public. She was formed by Winter, and was a fine classical singer, though no original genius like the Milder; and her voice, if I may judge by what remains of it, could never have been of first-rate quality.
Well--after the opera--while scandal, and tea, and refreshments were served up together--I had a long conversation with Count ---- on the politics and statistics of Bavaria, the tone of feeling in the court, the characters and revenues of some of the leading nobles--particularly Count d'Armansberg, the former minister, (now in Greece taking care of the young King Otho,) and Prince Wallerstein, the present minister of the interior. He described the king's extremely versatile character, and his _vivacités_, and lamented his present unpopularity with the liberal party in Germany, the disputes between him and the Chambers, and the opinions entertained of the recent conferences between the king and his brother-in-law, the Emperor of Austria, at Lintz, &c. I learnt much that was new, much that was interesting to me, but do not understand these matters sufficiently to say any thing more about them.
The two richest families in Bavaria are the Tour-and-Taxis, and the Arco family. The annual revenue of the Prince of Tour-and-Taxis amounts to upwards of five millions of florins, and he lays out about a million and a half yearly in land. He seldom or never comes to Munich, but resides chiefly on his enormous estates, or at Ratisbon, which is _his_ metropolis,--in fact, this rich and powerful noble is little less than a sovereign prince.
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_16th._--I went with Madame von A---- and her daughters to the =Kunstverein=, or "Society of Arts." A similar institution of amateurs and artists, maintained by subscription, exists, I believe, in all the principal cities of Germany. The young artists exhibit their works here, whether pictures, models, or engravings. Some of these are removed and replaced by others almost every day, so that there is a constant variety. As yet, however, I have seen no _very_ striking, though many pleasing pictures; but I have added several names to my list of German artists. To-day at the Kunstverein, there was a series of small pictures framed together, the subjects from Victor Hugo's romance of Notre Dame. These attracted general attention, partly as the work of a stranger, partly from their own merit, and the popularity of Victor Hugo. The painter, M. Couder, is a young Frenchman, now on his return from Italy to Paris. I understand that he has obtained leave to paint one of the frescos in the Pinakothek, as a trial of skill. Of the designs from Notre Dame, the central and largest picture is the scene in the garret between Phoebus and Esmeralda, when the former is stabbed by the priest Frollo: one can hardly imagine a more admirable subject for painting, if properly treated; but this is a failure in effect and in character. It fails in effect because the light is too generally diffused:--it is day-light, not lamp-light. The monk ought to have been thrown completely into shadow, only _just_ visible, terribly, mysteriously visible, to the spectator. It fails in character because the figure of Esmeralda, instead of the elegant, fragile, almost etherial creature she is described, rather reminds us of a coarse Italian contadina; and, for the expression--a truly poetical painter would have averted the face, and thrown the whole expression into the attitude. It will hardly be believed that of such a subject, the painter has made a _cold_ picture, merely by not feeling the bounds within which he ought to have kept. The small pictures are much better, particularly the Sachet embracing her child, and the tumult in front of Notre Dame. There were some other striking pictures by the same artist, particularly Chilperic and Fredegonde strangling the young queen Galsuinde, painted with shocking skill and truth. That taste for horrors, which is now the reigning fashion in French art and French literature, speaks ill for French _sensibilité_--a word they are so fond of--for that sensibility cannot be great which requires such extravagant _stimuli_. Painters and authors, all alike! They remind me of the sentimental negresses of queen Carathis, in the Tale of Vathek--"qui avaient un gout particulier pour les pestilences." Couder, however, has undoubted talent. His portrait of De Klenze, painted since he came here, is all but _alive_.
In the evening at the theatre with M. and Mad. S----. We had Karl von Holtëi's melo-drama of Lenore, founded on Bürger's well-known ballad;--but with the omission of the spectre, which was something like acting Hamlet "with the part of Hamlet left out, by particular desire." Lenore is, however, one of the prettiest and most effective of the _petites pièces_ I have seen here--very tragical and dolorous of course. Madlle. Schöller acted Lenore with more feeling and power than I thought was in her. There is a mad scene, in which she fancies her lover at her window, calling to her, as the spectre calls in the ballad--
"Sleep'st thou, or wak'st thou, Leonore?"
And which was so fine as a picture, and so well acted, that it quite thrilled me--no easy matter. Holtëi is one of the first dramatists in Germany for comedies, melo-dramas, farces, and musical pieces. In this particular department he has no rival. He played to-night himself, being for his own benefit, and sung his popular Mantel Lied, or _cloak-song_, which, like his other songs, may be heard from one end of Germany to the other.
_18th._--A grand military fête. The consecration of the great bronze obelisk, which the king has erected in the Karoline-Platz, to the _glory_ and the memory of the thirty-seven thousand Bavarian conscripts who followed, or rather were dragged by, Napoleon to the fatal Russian campaign in 1812. Of these, about six thousand returned alive: most of them mutilated, or with diseases which shortened their existence. Of many thousands no account ever reached home. They perished, God knows how or where. There was, in particular, a detachment, or a battery of six thousand Bavarians, so completely destroyed that it was as if the earth had swallowed them, or the snows had buried them, for not one remained to tell the tale of how or where they died. Of those who did return, about one thousand one hundred survive, of whom four hundred continue in the army; the rest had returned to their civil pursuits, and had become peasants or tradesmen in different parts of the kingdom. Now, it appears, that several hundreds of these men have arrived in Munich within the last few days in order to be present at the ceremony: and some, from the mere sentiment of honour, have travelled from afar--even from Upper Bavaria and the Flemish Provinces, a distance of more than eighty leagues, (two hundred and fifty miles.) On this occasion, according to the arrangements previously made, the veteran soldiers who remained in the army, were alone to be admitted within the enclosure round the monument. The others, I believe about five hundred in number, who had quitted the service, but who had equally fought, suffered, bled, in the same disastrous expedition, demanded, very naturally, the same privilege. It was refused; because forsooth they had no uniforms, and the unseemly intrusion of drab coats and blue worsted stockings among epaulettes and feathers and embroidered facings, would certainly spoil the symmetry--the effect of the _coup d'oeil_! They complained, murmured aloud, resisted; and all night there was fighting in the streets and taverns between them and the police. This morning they went up in a body to Marshal Wrede, (who is said to have betrayed the army,) and were _renvoyés_. They then went up to the palace; and at last, at a late hour this morning, the king gave orders that they should be admitted within the circle; but it was too late--the affront had sunk deep. The permission, which in the first instance ought indeed to have been rather an invitation, now seemed forced, ungraceful, and ungracious. There was a palpable cloud of discontent over all; for the popular feeling was with them. For myself, a mere stranger, such was my indignation, the whole proceeding appeared to me so heartless, so unkingly, so unkind, and my sympathy with these brave men was so profound, that I could scarce persuade myself to go;--however, I went. I had been invited to view the ceremony from the balcony of the French ambassador's house, which is exactly opposite to the obelisk.
I had indulged my ill-humour till it was late; already all the avenues leading to the Karoline-Platz were occupied by the military, and my carriage was stopped. As I was within fifty yards of the ambassador's house, it did not much signify, and I dismissed the carriage; but they would not allow the lacquais to pass. Wondering at all these precautions I dismissed _him_ too. A little further on I was myself stopped, and civilly _commanded_ to turn back. I pleaded that I only wished to enter the house to which I pointed. "It was impossible." Now, what I had not cared for a moment before became at once an object to be attained, and which I was resolved to attain. I was really curious and anxious to see how all this would end, for the indifferent or lowering looks of the crowd had struck me. I observed to a well-dressed man, who politely tried to make way for me, that it was strange to see so much severity of discipline at a public fête. "Public fête!" he repeated with scornful bitterness; "Je vous demande pardon, madame! c'est une fête pour quelques uns, mais ce n'est pas une fête pour nous, ce n'est pas pour le peuple!"
At length I fortunately met an officer, with whom I was slightly acquainted, who immediately conducted me to the door. The spectacle, merely as a _spectacle_, was not striking; but to me it had a peculiar interest. There was a raised platform on one side for the queen and her children, who, attended by a numerous court, were spectators. An outer circle was formed by several regiments of guards, and within this circle the soldiers who had served in Russia were drawn up near the obelisk, which was covered for the present with a tarpauling. But all my attention was fixed on the disbanded soldiers without uniforms, who stood together in a dark dense column, contrasting with the glittering and gorgeous array of those around them. The king rode into the circle, accompanied by his brother, Prince Charles, the arch-duke Francis of Austria, Marshal Wrede, and followed by a troop of generals, equerries, &c. There was a dead silence, and not a shout was raised to greet him. A few of the disbanded soldiers, who were nearest to him, took off their hats, others kept them on. The trumpets sounded a salute: the bands struck up our "God save the King," which is nationalized as _the_ loyal anthem all over Germany. The canvass covering fell at once, and displayed the obelisk, which is entirely of bronze, raised upon four granite steps. It bears a simple inscription. I think it is "Ludwig I., king, to the soldiers of Bavaria who fell in the Russian campaign;" or nearly to that purpose. Marshal Wrede then alighted from his horse and addressed the soldiers. This was a striking moment; for while the outer circle of military remained immovable as statues, the soldiers within, both those with, and those without uniforms, finding themselves out of ear-shot, advanced a few steps, and then breaking their ranks, pressed forward in a confused mass, surrounding the king and his officers, in the most eager but respectful manner. I could not distinguish one sentence of the harangue, which, as I afterwards heard, was any thing rather than satisfactory.
I heard it remarked round me that the Duke de Leuchtenberg, (the son of Eugène Beauharnais,) was not present, neither as one of the royal cortège nor as a spectator.
The whole lasted about twenty minutes. The day was cold; and, in truth, the ceremony was _cold_, in every sense of the word. The Karoline-Platz is so large that not a third part of the open space was occupied. Had the people, who lingered sullen and discontented outside the military barrier, been admitted under proper restrictions, it had been a grand and imposing sight; but, perhaps the king is following the Austrian tactics, and seeking to crush systematically every thing like feeling or enthusiasm in his people. I know not how he will manage it; for he is himself the very antipodes of Austrian carelessness and sluggishness: a restless enthusiast--fond of intellectual excitement--fond of novelty--with no natural taste, one would think, for Metternich's _vieilleries_. If he adopt Austrian principles, his theory and his practice, his precept and example, will always be at variance. At the conclusion of the ceremony the king and his suite rode up to the platform and saluted the queen: and when she--who is so universally and truly beloved here that I believe the people would die for her at anytime--rose to depart, I heard a cheer, the first and last this day! The disbanded soldiers approached the platform, at first timidly by twos and threes, and then in great numbers, taking off their hats. She stood up, leaning on the princess Matilda, and bowed. The royal cortège then disappeared. The military bands struck up, and one battalion after another filed off. I expected that the crowd would have rushed in, but the people seemed completely chilled and disgusted. Only a few appeared. In about half an hour the obelisk was left alone in its solitude.
I spent the rest of the day with Madame de V----, and returned home quite tired and depressed.
I understand this morning (Saturday) that the king has ordered a gratuity and dinner to be given to the disbanded soldiers. I hope it is true, King Louis! You ought at least to understand your _metier de Roi_ better than to degrade the "pomp and circumstance of _glorious_ war" in the eyes of your people, and make them feel for what a poor recompence they may fight, bleed, die--be made at once victims and executioners in the contests of royal and ambitious gamblers!
I saw to-day, at the house of the court banker, Eichthal, a most charming picture by the Baroness de Freyberg, the sister of my good friend, M. Stuntz. It is a Madonna and child--loveliest of subjects for a woman and a mother!--she is sure to put her heart into it, at least; but, in this particular picture, the surpassing delicacy of touch, the softness and purity of the colouring, the masterly drawing in the hands of the Virgin, and the limbs of the child, equalled the feeling and the expression--and, in truth, _surprised_ me. Madame de Freyberg gave this picture to her father, who is not rich, and, unhappily, blind. Of him, the present possessor purchased it for fifteen hundred florins, (about 140_l._) and now values it at twice the sum. In the possession of her brother, I have seen others of her productions, and particularly a head of one of his children, of exceeding beauty, and very much in the old Italian style.
In the evening, a very lively and amusing _soirée_ at the house of Dr. Martius. We had some very good music. Young Vieux-temps, a pupil of De Beriot, was well accompanied by an orchestra of amateurs. I met here also a young lady of whom I had heard much--Josephine Lang, looking so gentle, so unpretending, so imperturbable, that no one would have accused or suspected her of being one of the Muses in disguise, until she sat down to the piano, and sang her own beautiful and original compositions in a style peculiar to herself. She is a musician by nature, by choice, and by profession, exercising her rare talent with as much modesty as good-nature. The painter Zimmermann, who has a magnificent bass voice, sung for me Mignon's song--"Kennst du das Land!" And, lastly, which was the most interesting amusement of the evening, Karl von Holtei read aloud the second act of Goethe's Tasso. He read most admirably, and with a voice which kept attention enchained, enchanted; still it was genuine reading. He kept equally clear of acting and of declamation.
_Oct. 20th. Sunday._--I went with M. Stuntz to hear a grand mass at the royal chapel.
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_21st._--It rained this morning:--went to the gallery, and amused myself for two hours walking up and down the rooms, sometimes pausing upon my favourite pictures, sometimes abandoned to the reveries suggested by these glorious creations of the human intellect.
'Twas like the bright procession Of skiey visions in a solemn dream, From which men wake as from a paradise, And draw fresh strength to tread the thorns of life!
While looking at the Castor and Pollux of Rubens, I remembered what the biographers asserted of this most wonderful man--that he spoke fluently seven languages, besides being profoundly skilled in many sciences, and one of the most accomplished diplomatists of his time. Before he took up his palette in the morning, he was accustomed to read, or hear read, some fine passages out of the ancient poets; and thus releasing his soul from the trammels of low-thoughted care, he let her loose into the airy regions of imagination.
What Goethe says of poets, must needs be applicable to painters. He says, "If we look only at the principal productions of a poet, and neglect to study himself, his character, and the circumstances with which he had to contend, we fall into a sort of atheism, which forgets the Creator in his creation."
I think most people admire pictures in this sort of atheistical fashion; yet next to loving pictures, and all the pleasure they give, and revelling in all the feelings they awaken, all the new ideas with which they enrich our mental hoard--next to this, or equal with it, is the inexhaustible interest of studying the painter in his works. It is a lesson in human nature. Almost every picture (which is the production of mind) has an individual character, reflecting the predominant temperament--nay, sometimes, the occasional mood of the artist, its creator. Even portrait painters, renowned for their exact adherence to nature, will be found to have stamped upon their portraits a general and distinguishing character. There is, besides the physiognomy of the individual represented, the physiognomy, if I may so express myself, of the picture; detected at once by the mere connoisseur as a distinction of manner, style, execution: but of which the reflecting and philosophical observer might discover the key in the mind or life of the individual painter.
In the heads of Titian, what subtlety of intellect mixed with sentiment and passion! In those of Velasquez, what chivalrous grandeur, what high-hearted contemplation! When Ribera painted a head--what power of sufferance! In those of Giorgione, what profound feeling! In those of Guido, what elysian grace! In those of Rubens what energy of intellect--what vigorous life! In those of Vandyke, what high-bred elegance! In those of Rembrandt, what intense individuality! Could Sir Joshua Reynolds have painted a vixen without giving her a touch of sentiment? Would not Sir Thomas Lawrence have given refinement to a cook-maid? I do believe that Opie would have made even a calf's head look sensible, as Gainsborough made our queen Charlotte look picturesque.
If I should whisper that since I came to Germany I have not seen one really fine modern portrait, the Germans would never forgive me; they would fall upon me with a score of great names--Wach, Stieler, Vogel, Schadow--and beat me, like Chrimhilde, "black and blue." But before they are angry, and absolutely condemn me, I wish they would place one of their own most admired portraits beside those of Titian or Vandyke, or come to England, and look upon our school of portraiture here! I think they would allow, that with all their merits, they are in the wrong road. Admirable, finished drawing; wonderful dexterity of hand; exquisite and most conscientious truth of imitation, they have; but they abuse these powers. They do not seem to feel the application of the highest, grandest principles of art to portrait painting--they think too much of the accessories. Are not these clever and accomplished men aware that imitation may be carried so far as to cease to be nature--to be error, not truth? For instance, by the common laws of vision I can behold perfectly only one thing at a time. If I look into the face of a person I love or venerate, do I see _first_ the embroidery of the canezou or the pattern on the waistcoat? if not--why should it be so in a picture? The vulgar eye alone is caught by such misplaced skill--the vulgar artist only ought to seek to captivate by such means.
These would sound in England as the most trite and impertinent remarks--the most self-evident propositions: nevertheless they are truths which the generality of the German portrait painters and their admirers have not yet felt.
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I drove with my kind-hearted friends, M. and Madame Stuntz, to Thalkirchen, the country-house of the Baron de Freyberg. The road pursued the banks of the rapid, impetuous Isar, and the range of the Tyrolian alps bounded the prospect before us. An hour's drive brought us to Thalkirchen, where we were obviously quite unexpected, but that was nothing:--I was at once received as a friend, and introduced without ceremony to Madame de Freyberg's painting-room. Though now the fond mother of a large _little_ family, she still finds some moments to devote to her art. On her easel was the portrait of the Countess M---- (the sister of De Freyberg) with her child, beautifully painted--particularly the latter. In the same room was an unfinished portrait of M. de Freyberg, evidently painted _con amore_, and full of spirit and character; a head of Cupid, and a piping boy, quite in the Italian manner and feeling; and a picture of the birth of St. John, exquisitely finished. I was most struck by the heads of two Greeks--members, I believe, of the deputation to King Otho--painted with her peculiar delicacy and transparency of colour, and, at the same time, with a breadth of style and a freedom in the handling, which I have not yet seen among the German portrait painters. A glance over a portfolio of loose sketches and unfinished designs added to my estimation of her talents. She excels in children--her own serving her as models. I do not hesitate to say of this gifted woman, that while she equals Angelica Kauffman in grace and delicacy, she far exceeds her in _power_, both of drawing and colouring. She reminded me more of the Sofonisba, but it is a different, and, I think, a more delicate style of colour, than I have observed in the pictures of the latter.
We had coffee, and then strolled through the grounds--the children playing around us. If I was struck by the genius and accomplishments of Madame de Freyberg, I was not less charmed by the frank and noble manners of her husband, and his honest love and admiration of his wife, whom he married in despite of all prejudices of birth and rank.
In this truly German dwelling there was an extreme simplicity, a sort of negligent elegance, a picturesque and refined homeliness, the presiding influence of a most poetical mind and eye every where visible, and a total indifference to what we English denominate _comfort_; yet with the obvious presence of that crowning comfort of all comforts--cordial domestic love and union--which impressed me altogether with pleasant ideas, long after borne in my mind, and not yet, nor ever to be, effaced. How little is needed for happiness, when we have not been spoiled in the world, nor our tastes vitiated by artificial wants and habits! When the hour of departure came, and De Freyberg was handing me to the carriage, he made me advance a few steps, and pause to look round; he pointed to the western sky, still flushed with a bright geranium tint, between the amber and the rose; while against it lay the dark purple outline of the Tyrolian mountains. A branch of the Isar, which just above the house overflowed and spread itself into a wide still pool, mirrored in its clear bosom not only the glowing sky and the huge dark mountains, and the banks and trees blended into black formless masses, but the very stars above our heads;--it was a heavenly scene!--"You will not forget this," said De Freyberg, seeing I was touched to the heart; "you will think of it when you are in England, and in recalling it, you will perhaps remember us--who will not forget _you_! Adieu, madame!"
Afterwards to the opera: it was Herold's "Zampa:" noisy, riotous music, which I hate. I thought Madame Schechner's powers misplaced in this opera--yet she sang magnificently.
Spent the morning with Dr. Martius, looking over the beautiful plates and illustrations of his travels and scientific works. It appears from what he told me, that the institution of the botanic garden is recent, and is owing to the late king Max-Joseph, who was a generous patron of scientific and benevolent institutions--as munificent as his son is magnificent.
One of the most interesting monuments in Munich, is the tomb of Eugene Beauharnais, in the church of St. Michael. It is by Thorwaldson, and one of his most celebrated works. It is finely placed, and all the parts are admirable: but I think it wants completeness and entireness of effect, and does not tell its story well. Upon a lofty pedestal, there is first, in the centre, the colossal figure of the duke stepping forward; one hand is pressed upon his heart, and the other presents the civic crown--(but to whom?)--his military accoutrements lie at his feet. The drapery is admirably managed, and the attitude simple and full of dignity. On his left is the beautiful and well-known group of the two genii, Love and Life, looking disconsolate. On the right, the seated muse of History is inscribing the virtues and exploits of the hero; and as, of all the satellites of Napoleon, Eugene has left behind the fairest name, I looked at her, and her occupation, with complacency. The statue is, moreover, exceedingly beautiful and expressive--so are the genii; and the figure of Eugene is magnificent; and yet the combination of the whole is not effective. Another fault is, the colour of the marble, which has a grey tinge, and ought at least to have been relieved by constructing the pedestal and accompaniments of black marble; whereas they are of a reddish hue.
The widow of Eugene, the eldest sister of the king of Bavaria, raised this monument to her husband, at an expense of eighty thousand florins. As the whole design is classical, and otherwise in the purest taste and grandest style of art, I exclaimed with horror at the sight of a vile heraldic crown, which is lying at the feet of the muse of History. I was sure that Thorwaldson would never voluntarily have committed such a solecism. I was informed that the princess-widow insisted on the introduction of this piece of barbarity as emblematical of the vice-royalty of Italy; any royalty being apparently better than none.
I remember that when travelling in the Netherlands, at a time when the people were celebrating the _Fête-Dieu_, I saw a village carpenter busily employed in erecting a _réposoir_ for the Madonna, of painted boards and draperies and wreaths of flowers. In the mean time, as if to deprecate criticism, he had chalked in large letters over his work, "_La critique est aisée, mais l'art est difficile_." I could not help smiling at this application of one of those undeniable truisms which no one thinks it necessary to remember. When I recall the pleasure I derived from this noble work of Thorwaldson, all the genius, all the skill, all the patience, all the time, expended on its production, I think the foregoing trifling criticisms appear very ungrateful and impertinent; and yet, as a friend of mine insisted, when I was once upon a time pleading for mercy on certain defects and deficiencies in some other walk of art, "Toleration is the nurse of mediocrity." Artists themselves, as I often observe,--even the vainest of them--prefer discriminating admiration to wholesale praise. In the Frauen Kirche, there is another most admirable monument, a _chef d'oeuvre_, in the Gothic style. It is the tomb of the Emperor Louis of Bavaria, who died excommunicated in 1347; a stupendous work, cast in bronze. At the four corners are four colossal knights kneeling, in complete armour, each bearing a lance and ensign, and guarding the recumbent effigy of the emperor, which lies beneath a magnificent Gothic canopy. At the two sides are standing colossal figures, and I suppose about eight or ten other figures on a smaller scale, all of admirable design and workmanship. It should seem, that in the sixteenth century the art of casting in bronze was not only brought to the highest perfection in Germany, but found employment on a very grand scale.
In the evening there was a concert at the Salle de l'Odeon--the third I have attended since I came here. This concert room is larger than any public room in London, and admirably constructed for music. Over the orchestra, in a semi-circle, are the busts of the twelve great German composers who have flourished during the last hundred years, beginning with Handel and Bach, and ending with Weber and Beethoven. On this occasion the hall was crowded. We had all the best performers of Munich, led by the Kapelmeister Stuntz, and Schechner and Meric, who sang _à l'envie l'une de l'autre_. The concert began at seven, and ended a little after nine; and much as I love music, I felt I had had enough. They certainly manage these social pleasures much better here than in London, where a grand concert almost invariably proves a most awful bore, from which we return wearied, yawning, jarred, satiated.
Count ---- amused me this evening with his laconic summing up of the rise, progress, and catastrophe of a Polish amour;--se passioner, se battre, se ruiner, enlever, épouser, et divorcer; and so ends this six-act tragico-comico-heroico pastoral.
_23rd._--To-day went over the Pinakothek (the new grand national picture gallery) with M. de Klenze, the architect, and Comtesse de V----. This is the second time; but I have not yet a clear and connected idea of the general design, the building being still in progress. As far as I can understand the arrangements, they will be admirable. The destination of the edifice seems to have been the first thing kept in view. The situation of particular pictures has been calculated, and accurate experiments have been made for the arrangement of the light, &c. Professor Zimmermann has kindly promised to take me over the whole once more. He has the direction of the fresco paintings here.
* * * * *
Society is becoming so pleasant, and engagements of every kind so multifarious, that I have little time for scribbling memoranda. New characters unfold before me, new scenes of interest occupy my thoughts. I find myself surrounded with friends, where only a few weeks ago I had scarcely one acquaintance. Time ought not to linger--and yet it does sometimes.
Our circumstances alter; our opinions change; our passions die; our hopes sicken, and perish utterly:--our spirits are broken; our health is broken, and even our hearts are broken; but WILL survives--the unconquerable strength of will, which is in later life what passion is when young. In this world, there is always something to be done or suffered, even when there is no longer any thing to be desired or attained.
The Glyptothek is, at certain hours, open to strangers _only_, and strangers do not at present abound: hence it has twice happened that I have found myself in the gallery alone--to-day for the second time. I felt that, under some circumstances, an hour of solitude in a gallery of sculpture may be an epoch in one's life. There was not a sound, no living thing near, to break the stillness; and lightly, and with a feeling of awe, I trod the marble pavements, looking upon the calm, pale, motionless forms around me, almost expecting they would open their marble lips and speak to me--or, at least, nod--like the statue in Don Giovanni: and still, as the evening shadows fell deeper and deeper, they waxed, methought, sadder, paler, and more life-like. A dim, unearthly glory effused those graceful limbs and perfect forms, of which the exact outline was lost, vanishing into shade, while the sentiment--the _ideal_--of their immortal loveliness, remained distinct, and became every moment more impressive: and thus they stood; and their melancholy beauty seemed to melt into the heart.
As the Graces round the throne of Venus, so music, painting, sculpture, wait as handmaids round the throne of Poetry. "They from her golden urn draw light," as planets drink the sunbeams; and in return they array the divinity which created and inspired them, in those sounds, and hues, and forms, through which she is revealed to our mortal senses. The pleasure, the illusion, produced by music, when it is the _voice_ of poetry, is, for the moment, by far the most complete and intoxicating, but also the most transient. Painting, with its lovely colours blending into life, and all its "silent poesy of form," is a source of pleasure more lasting, more intellectual. Beyond both, is sculpture, the noblest, the least illusive, the most enduring of the imitative arts, because it charms us not by what it seems to be, but by what it is; because if the pleasure it imparts be less exciting, the impression it leaves is more profound and permanent; because it is, or ought to be, the abstract idea of power, beauty, sentiment, made visible in the cold, pure, impassive, and almost eternal marble.
It seems to me that the grand secret of that grace of repose which we see developed in the antique statues, may be defined as _the presence_ _of thought, and the absence of volition_. The moment we have, in sculpture, the expression of will, or effort, we have the idea of something fixed in its place by an external cause, and a consequent diminution of the effect of internal power. This is not well expressed, I fear. Perhaps I might illustrate the thought thus: the Venus de Medici looks as if she were content to stand on her pedestal and be worshipped; Canova's Hebe looks as if she would fain step off the pedestal--if she could: the Apollo Belvedere, as if he could step from his pedestal--if he would.
Among the Greeks, in the best ages of sculpture, and in all their very finest statues, this seems to be the presiding principle--viz. that in sculpture the repose of suspended motion, or of subsided motion, is graceful; but arrested motion, and all effort, to be avoided. When the ancients did express motion, they made it flowing or continuous, as in the frieze of the Parthenon.
IN THE GALLERY OF SCULPTURE AT MUNICH.
Ye pale and glorious forms, to whom was given All that we mortals covet under heaven-- Beauty, renown, and immortality, And worship!--in your passive grandeur, ye.
There's nothing new in life, and nothing old; The tale that we might tell hath oft been told. Many have look'd to the bright sun with sadness, Many have look'd to the dark grave with gladness; Many have griev'd to death--have lov'd to madness!
What has been, is;--what is, will be;--I know, Even while the heart drops blood, it must be so. I live and smile--for O the griefs that kill, Kill slowly--and I bear within me still My conscious self, and my unconquer'd will!
And knowing what I have been--what has made My misery, I will be no more betray'd By hollow mockeries of the world around, Or hopes and impulses, which I have found Like ill-aim'd shafts, that kill by their rebound.
Complaint is for the feeble, and despair For evil hearts. Mine still can hope--still bear-- Still hope for others what it never knew Of truth and peace; and silently pursue A path beset with briers, "and wet with tears like dew!"
* * * * *
To-day I devoted to the Pinakothek--for the last time!
Just before I left England our projected national gallery had excited much attention. Those who were usually indifferent to such matters were roused to interest; and I heard the merits of different designs, so warmly, even so violently discussed in public and in private, that for a long time the subject kept possession of my mind. On my arrival here, the Pinakothek (for that is the designation given to the new national gallery of Munich) became to me a principal object of interest. I have been most anxious to comprehend both the general design and the nature of the arrangements in detail; but I might almost doubt my own competency to convey an exact idea of what I understand and admire, to the comprehension of another. I must try, however, while the impressions remain fresh and strong, and the memory not yet encumbered and distracted, as it must be, even a few hours hence, by the variety, and novelty, and interest, of all I see and hear around me.
The Pinakothek was founded in 1826; the king himself laying the first stone with much pomp and ceremony on the 7th of April, the birthday of Rafaelle.
It is a long, narrow edifice, facing the south, measuring about five hundred feet from east to west, and about eighty or eighty-five feet in depth. At the extremities are two wings, or rather projections. The body of the building is of brick, but not of common brickwork: for the bricks, which are of a particular kind of clay, have a singular tint, a kind of greenish yellow; while the friezes, balustrades, architraves of the windows, in short, all the ornamental parts, are of stone, the colour of which is a fine warm grey; and as the stone workmanship is extremely rich, and the brickwork of unrivalled elegance and neatness, and the colours harmonize well, the combination produces a very handsome effect, rendering the exterior as pleasing to the eye, as the scientific adaptation of the building to its peculiar purpose is to the understanding.
Along the roof runs a balustrade of stone, adorned with twenty-four colossal statues of celebrated painters. A public garden, which is already in preparation, will be planted around, beautifully laid out with shady walks, flower-beds, fountains, urns, and statues. I believe the enclosure of this garden will be about a thousand feet each way, and that it will ultimately be bounded (at least on three sides) with rows of houses forming a vast square, of which the Pinakothek will occupy the centre. It consists of a ground-floor and an upper-story. The ground-floor will comprise, 1st, the collection of the Etruscan vases; 2ndly, the Mosaics, ancient and modern, of which there are here some rare and admirable specimens; 3rdly, the cabinet of drawings by the old masters; 4thly, the cabinet of engravings, which is said to be one of the richest in Europe; 5thly, a library of all works pertaining to the fine arts; lastly, a noble entrance-hall: a private entrance; with accommodations for students, and other offices.
The upper-story is appropriated to the pictures, and is calculated to contain not less than fifteen hundred specimens, selected from various galleries, and arranged according to the schools of art.
We ascend from the entrance-hall by a wide and handsome staircase of stone, very elegantly carved, which leads first to a kind of vestibule, where the attendants and keepers of the gallery are in waiting. Thence, to a splendid reception-room, about fifty feet in length: this will contain the full-length portraits of the founders of the gallery of Munich--the Palatine John William; the Elector, Maximilian Emanuel of Bavaria; the Duke Charles of Deuxponts; the Palatine Charles Theodore; Maximilian Joseph I., king of Bavaria; and his son, (the present monarch,) Louis I. The ceiling and the frieze of this room are splendidly decorated with groups of figures and ornaments in white relief, on a gold ground, and the walls will be hung with crimson damask.
Along the south front of the building from east to west runs a gallery or corridor about four hundred feet in length, and eighteen in width, lighted on one side by twenty-five lofty arched windows, having on the other side ten doors, opening into the suite of picture galleries, or rather halls. These occupy the centre of the building, and are lighted from above by vast lanthorns. They are eight in number, varying in length from fifty to eighty feet, but all forty feet in width and fifty feet in height from the floor to the summit of the lanthorn. The walls will be hung with silk damask, either of a dark crimson or a dark green--according to the style of art for which the room is destined. The ceilings are vaulted, and the decorations are inexpressibly rich, composed of magnificent arabesques, intermixed with the effigies of celebrated painters, and groups illustrative of the history of art, &c., all moulded in white relief upon a ground of dead gold. Mayer, one of the best sculptors in Munich, has the direction of these works.
Behind these vast galleries, or saloons, there is a range of cabinets, twenty-three in number, appropriated to the smaller pictures of the different schools: these are each about nineteen feet by fifteen in size, and lighted from the north, each having one high lateral window. The ceilings and upper part of the walls are painted in fresco, (or distemper, I am not sure which,) with very graceful arabesques of a quiet colour;--the hangings will also be of silk damask.
Of the principal saloons, the first is appropriated to the productions of modern and living artists, and has three cabinets attached to it. The second will contain the old German pictures, including the famous Boisserée gallery, and has four cabinets attached to it. The third, fourth, and fifth saloons (of which the central one, the hall of Rubens, is eighty feet in length) are devoted, with the nine adjoining cabinets, to the Flemish and Dutch schools. The sixth, with four cabinets, will contain the French and Spanish pictures; and the seventh and eighth, with three cabinets, will contain the Italian school of painting. All these apartments communicate with each other by ample doors; but from the corridor already mentioned, which opens into the whole suite, the visitor has access to any particular gallery, or school of painting, without passing through the others: an obvious advantage, which will be duly estimated by those who, in visiting a gallery of painting, have felt their eyes dazzled, their heads bewildered, their attention distracted, by too much variety of temptation and attraction, before they have reached the particular object or school of art to which their attention was especially directed.
To this beautiful and most convenient corridor, or, as it is called here, _loggia_, we must now return. I have said that it is four hundred feet in length, and lighted by five-and-twenty arched windows,--which, by the way, command a splendid prospect, bounded by the far-off mountains of the Tyrol. The wall opposite to these windows is divided into twenty-five corresponding compartments, arched, and each surmounted by a dome; these compartments are painted in fresco with arabesques, something in the style of Rafaelle's Loggie in the Vatican; while every arch and cupola contains (also painted in fresco) scenes from the life of some great painter, arranged chronologically: thus, in fact, exhibiting a graphic history of the rise and progress of modern painting--from Cimabue down to Rubens.
Of this series of frescos, which are now in progress, a few only are finished, from which, however, a very satisfactory idea may be formed, of the whole design. The first cupola is painted from a poem of A. W. Schlegel "Der Bund der Kirche mit den Künsten," which celebrates the alliance between religion (or rather the church) and the fine arts. The second cupola represents the Crusades, because from these wild expeditions (for so Providence ordained that good should spring from evil) arose the regeneration of art in Europe. With the third cupola commences the series of painters. In the arch, or lunette, is represented the Madonna of Cimabue carried in triumphal procession through the streets of Florence to the church of Santa Maria Novella; and in the dome above, various scenes from the painter's life. In the next cupola is the history of Giotto; then follows Angelico da Fesole, who, partly from humility and partly from love for his art, refused to be made Archbishop of Florence; then, fourthly, Masaccio; fifthly, Bellini: in one compartment he is represented painting the favourite sultana of Mahomet II. Several of the succeeding cupolas still remain blank, so we pass them over and arrive at Leonardo da Vinci, painting the queen Joanna of Arragon; then Michael Angelo, meditating the design of St. Peter's; then the history of Rafaelle: in the dome are various scenes from his life. The lunette represents his death: he is extended on a couch, beside which sits his virago love, the Fornarina "in disperato dolor;" Pope Leo X. and Cardinal Bembo are looking on overwhelmed with grief;--in the background is the Transfiguration.
I wonder, if Rafaelle had survived this fatal illness, which of the two alternatives he would have chosen--the cardinal's hat or the niece of Cardinal Bibbiena? M. de Klenze gave us, the other night, a most picturesque and animated description of the opening of Rafaelle's tomb,--at which he had himself assisted--the discovery of his remains, and those of his betrothed bride, the niece of Cardinal Bibbiena, deposited near him. She survived him several years, but in her last moments requested to be buried in the same tomb with him. This was at least quite in the _genre romantique_.
"Charming!" exclaimed one of the ladies present.
"_Et genereux!_" exclaimed another.
The series of the Italian painters will end with the Carracci. Those of the German painters will begin with Van Eyck, and end with Rubens. Of many of the frescos which are not yet executed, I saw the cartoons in professor Zimmermann's studio.
Though the general decoration of this gallery was planned by Cornelius, the designs for particular parts, and the direction of the whole, have been confided to Zimmermann, who is assisted in the execution by five other painters. One particular picture, which represents Giotto exhibiting his Madonna to the pope, was pointed out to my especial admiration as the most finished specimen of fresco painting which has yet been executed here; and in truth, for tenderness and freshness of colour, softness in the shadows, and delicacy in the handling, it might bear comparison with any painting in oils. We were standing near it on a high scaffold, and it endured the closest and most minute consideration; but when seen from below, it may possibly be less effective. It shows, however, the extreme finish of which the fresco painting is susceptible. This was executed by Hiltensperger, of Swabia, from the cartoon of Zimmermann. At one end of this gallery there is to be a large fresco, representing his majesty King Louis, introduced by the muse of Poetry to the assembled poets and painters of Germany. Now, this species of allegorical adulation appears to me flat and out of date. I well remember that long ago the famous picture of Voltaire, introduced into the Elysian fields by Henri Quatre, and making his best bow to Racine and Molière, threw me into a convulsion of laughter: and the cartoon of this royal apotheosis provoked the same irrepressible feeling of the ridiculous. I wish somebody would hint to King Louis that this is not in good taste, and that there are many, many ways in which the compliment (which he truly merits) might be better managed.
On the whole, however, it may truly be said that the luxuriant and appropriate decorations of this gallery, the variety of colour and ornament lavished on it, agreeably prepare the eye and the imagination for that glorious feast of beauty within, to which we are immediately introduced: and thus the overture to the Zauberflöte, (which we heard last night,) with its rich involved harmonies, its brilliant and exciting movements, attuned the ear and the fancy to enjoy the grand, thrilling, bewitching, love-breathing melodies of the opera which followed.
I omitted to mention that there are also on the upper floor of the Pinakothek two rooms, each about forty feet square; one called the _Reserve-Saal_, is intended for the reception of those pictures which are temporarily removed from their places, new acquisitions, &c. The other room is fitted up with every convenience for students and copyists.
The whole of this immense edifice is warmed throughout by heated air; the stoves being detached from the body of the building, and so managed as to preclude the possibility of danger from fire.
It does not appear to be yet decided whether the floors will be of the Venetian stucco, or of parquet.
Such, then, is the general plan of the Pinakothek, the national gallery of Bavaria. I make no comment, except that I felt and recognised in every part the presence of a directing mind, and the absence of all narrow views, all truckling to the interests, or tastes, or prejudices, or convenience, of any particular class of persons. It is very possible that when finished it will be found by scientific critics not absolutely _perfect_, which, as we know, all human works are at least intended and expected to be; but it is equally clear that an honest anxiety for the glory of art, and the benefit of the public--not the caprices of the king, nor the individual vanity of the architect--has been the moving principle throughout.
* * * * *
Fresco painting, or, as the Italians call it, _buon fresco_, had been entirely discontinued since the time of Raphael Mengs. It was revived at Rome in 1809-10, when the late M. Bartholdy, the Prussian consul-general, caused a saloon in his house to be painted in fresco by Peter Cornelius, Overbeck, and Philip Veith, all German artists, then resident at Rome. The subjects are taken from the Scriptures, and one of the admirable cartoons of Overbeck, (Joseph sold by his brethren,) I saw at Frankfort. These first essays are yet to be seen in Bartholdy's house, in the Via Sistina at Rome. They are rather hard, but in a grand style of composition. The success which attended this spirited undertaking, excited much attention and enthusiasm, and induced the Marchese Massimi to have his villa near the Lateran adorned in the same style. Accordingly, he had three grand halls or saloons, painted with subjects from Dante, Ariosto, and Tasso. The first was given to Philip Veith, the second to Julius Schnorr, and the third to Overbeck. Veith did not finish his work, which was afterwards terminated by Koch; the two other painters completed their task, much to the satisfaction of the Marchese, and to the admiration of all Rome.
But these were mere experiments--mere attempts, compared to what has since been executed in the same style at Munich. It is true that the art of fresco-painting had never been entirely lost. The theory of the process was well known, and also the colours formerly used; only practice, and the opportunity of practice, were wanting. This has been afforded; and there is now at Munich a school of fresco painting, under the direction of Cornelius, Julius Schnorr, and Zimmermann, in which the mechanical process has been brought to such perfection, that the neatness of the execution may vie with oils, and they can even cut out a feature, and replace it if necessary. The palette has also been augmented by the recent improvements in chemistry, which have enabled the fresco painter to apply some most precious colours, unknown to the ancient masters: only earths and metallic colours are used. I believe it is universally known that the colours are applied while the plaster is wet, and that the preparation of this plaster is a matter of much care and nicety. A good deal of experience and manual dexterity is necessary to enable the painter to execute with rapidity, and calculate the exact degree of humidity in the plaster, requisite for the effect he wishes to produce.
It has been said that fresco painting is unfitted for our climate, damp and sea-coal fires being equally injurious; but the new method of warming all large buildings, either by steam or heated air, obviates, at least, _this_ objection.
_26th._--The morning was spent in the ateliers of two Bavarian sculptors, Mayer and Bandel. To Mayer, the king has confided the decoration of the exterior of the Pinakothek, of which he showed me the drawings and designs. He has also executed the colossal statue of Albert Durer, in stone, for the interior of that building.
It appears that the pediment of the Glyptothek, now vacant, will be adorned by a group of fourteen or fifteen figures, representing all the different processes in the art of sculpture; the modeller in clay, the hewer of the marble, the caster in bronze, the carver in wood or ivory, &c. all in appropriate attitudes, all colossal, and grouped into a whole. The general design was modelled, I believe, by Eberhardt, professor of sculpture in the academy here; and the execution of the different figures has been given to several young sculptors, among them Mayer and Bandel. This has produced a strong feeling of emulation. I observed that notwithstanding the height and the situation to which they are destined, nearly one-half of each figure being necessarily turned from the spectator below, each statue is wrought with exceeding care, and perfectly finished on every side. I admired the purity of the marble, which is from the Tyrol. Mayer informs me, that about three years ago enormous quarries of white marble were discovered in the Tyrol, to the great satisfaction of the king, as it diminishes, by one-half, the expense of the material. This native marble is of a dazzling whiteness, and to be had in immense masses without flaw or speck; but the grain is rather coarse.
More than twenty years ago, when the king of Bavaria was Prince Royal, and could only anticipate at some distant period the execution of his design, he projected a building, of which, at least, the name and purpose must be known to all who have ever stepped on German ground. This is the VALHALLA, a temple raised to the national glory, and intended to contain the busts or statues of all the illustrious characters of Germany, whether distinguished in literature, arts, or arms, from their ancient hero and patriot Herman, or Arminius, down to Goethe, and those who will succeed him. The idea was assuredly noble, and worthy of a sovereign. The execution--never lost sight of--has been but lately commenced. The Valhalla has been founded on a lofty cliff, which rises above the Danube, not far from Ratisbon. It will form a conspicuous object to all who pass up and down the Danube, and the situation, nearly in the centre of Germany, is at least well chosen. But I could hardly express (or repress) my surprise, when I was shown the design for this building. The first glance recalled the Theseum at Athens; and then follows the very natural question, why should a Greek model have been chosen for an edifice, the object, and purpose, and name of which are so completely, essentially, exclusively gothic? What, in Heaven's name, has the Theseum to do on the banks of the Danube? It is true that the purity of forms in the Greek architecture, the effect of the continuous lines and the massy Doric columns, must be grand and beautiful to the eye, place the object where you will; and in the situation designed for it, particularly imposing; but surely it is not appropriate;--the name, and the form, and the purpose, are all at variance--throwing our most cherished associations into strange confusion. Nor could the explanations and eloquent reasoning with which my objections were met, succeed in convincing me of the propriety of the design, while I acknowledged its magnificence. The sculptor Mayer showed me a group of figures for one of the pediments of this Greek Valhalla, admirably appropriate to the purpose of the building--but not to the building itself. It represents Herman introduced by Hermoda (or Mercury) into the Valhalla, and received by Odin and Freya. Iduna advances to meet the hero, presenting the apples of immortality, and one of the Vahlküre pours out the mead, to refresh the soul of the Einheriar. To the right of this group are several figures representing the chief epochs in the history of Germany.
This design wants unity; and it is a manifest incongruity to allude to the introduction of Christianity, where the mythological Valhalla forms the chief point of interest; notwithstanding, it gave me exceeding pleasure, as furnishing an unanswerable proof of the possible application of sculpture on a grand scale, to the forms of romantic or gothic poetry: all the figures, the accompaniments, attributes, are strictly Teutonic; the effect of the whole is grand and interesting; but what would it be on a Greek temple? would it not appear misplaced and discordant?
I am informed, that of the two pediments of the Valhalla, one will be given to Rauch of Berlin, and the other to Schwanthaler.
The sculptor Bandel, with his quick eye, his ample brow, his animated, benevolent face, and his rapid movements, looks like what he is--a genius.
In his atelier I saw some things, just like what I see in all the ateliers of young sculptors--cold imitations, feeble versions of mythological subjects--but I saw some other things so fresh and beautiful in feeling, as to impress me with a high idea of his poetical and creative power. I longed to bring to England one or two casts of his charming Cupid Penseroso, of which the original marble is at Hanover. There is also a very exquisite bas-relief of Adam and Eve sleeping: the good angel watching on one side, and the evil angel on the other. This lovely group is the commencement of a series of bas-reliefs, designed, I believe, for a frieze, and not yet completed, representing the four ages of the world: the age of innocence; the heroic age, or age of physical power; the age of poetry, and the age of philosophy. This new version of the old idea interested me, and it is developed and treated with much grace and originality. Bandel told us that he is just going, with his beautiful wife and two or three little children, to settle at Carrara for a few years. The marble quarries there are now colonised by young sculptors of every nation.
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The king of Bavaria has a gallery of beauties, (the portraits of some of the most beautiful women of Germany and Italy,) which he shuts up from the public eye, like any grand Turk--and neither bribery nor interest can procure admission. A lovely woman, to whom I was speaking of it yesterday, and who has been admitted in effigy into this harem, seemed to consider the compliment rather equivocal. "Depend upon it, my dear," said she, "that fifty years hence we shall be all confounded together, as the king's _very_ intimate friends; and, to tell you the truth, I am not ambitious of the honour, more particularly as there are some of my illustrious _companions in charms_ who are enough to throw discredit on the whole set!"
I saw in Stieler's atelier two portraits for this collection: one, a woman of rank--a dark beauty; the other, a servant girl here, with a head like one of Raffaelle's angels, almost divine; she is painted in the little filagree silver cap, the embroidered boddice, and silk handkerchief crossed over the bosom, the costume of the women of Munich, to which the king is extremely partial. I am assured that this young girl, who is not more than seventeen, is as remarkable for her piety, simplicity, and spotless reputation, as for her singular beauty. I have seen her, and the picture merely does her justice. Several other women of the _bourgeoisie_ have been pointed out to me as included in the king's collection. One of these, the daughter, I believe, of an herb-woman, is certainly one of the most exquisite creatures I ever beheld. On the whole, I should say, that the lower orders of the people of Munich are the handsomest race I have seen in Germany.
Stieler is the court and fashionable portrait painter here--the Sir Thomas Lawrence of Munich--that is, in the estimation of the Germans. He is an accomplished man, with amiable manners, and a talent for rising in the world; or, as I heard some one call it, the organ of _getting-oniveness_. For the elaborate finish of his portraits, for expertness and delicacy of hand, for resemblance and exquisite drawing, I suppose he has few equals; but he has also, in perfection, what I consider the faulty peculiarities of the German school. Stieler's artificial roses are _too_ natural: his caps, and embroidered scarfs, and jewelled bracelets, are more real than the things themselves--or seem so; for certainly I never gave to the real objects the attention and the admiration they challenge in his pictures. The famous bunch of grapes, which tempted the birds to peck, could be nothing compared to the felt of Prince Charles's hat in Stieler's portrait: it actually invites the hat-brush. Strange perversion of power in the artist! stranger perversion of taste in those who admire it!--_Ma pazienza!_
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The Duc de Leuchtenberg opens his small but beautiful gallery twice a week: Mondays and Thursdays. The doors are thrown open and every respectable person may walk in, without distinction or ceremony. It is a delightful morning lounge; there are not more than one hundred and fifty pictures--enough to excite and gratify, not satiate, admiration. The first room contains a collection of paintings by modern and living artists of France, Germany, and Italy. There is a lovely little picture by Madame de Freyberg of the Maries at the sepulchre of Christ; and by Heinrich Hess, a group of the three Christian graces--Faith, Hope, and Charity, seated under the German oak, and painted with great simplicity and sentiment; of his celebrated brother, Peter Hess, and Wagenbauer, and Jacob Dorner, and Quaglio, there are beautiful specimens. The French pictures did not please me: Girodet's picture of Ossian and the French heroes is a monstrous combination of all manner of affectations.
I should not forget a fine portrait of Napoleon, by Appiani, crowned with laurel; and another picture, which represents him throned, with all the insignia of state and power, and supported on either side by Victory and Peace. For a moment we pause before that proud form, to think of all he was, all he might have been--to draw a moral from the fate of selfishness.
He rose by blood, he built on man's distress, And th'inheritance of desolation left To great expecting hopes.
Among the pictures of the old masters there are many fine ones, and three or four of peculiar interest. There is the famous head by Bronzino, generally entitled, Petrarch's Laura, but assuredly without the slightest pretensions to authenticity. The face is that of a prim, starched _précieuse_, to which the peculiar style of this old portrait painter, with his literal nature, his hardness, and leaden colouring, imparts additional coldness and rigidity.
But the finest picture in the gallery--perhaps one of the finest in the world--is the Madonna and Child of Murillo: one of those rare productions of mind which baffle the copyist, and defy the engraver,--which it is worth making a pilgrimage but to gaze on. How true it is that "a thing of beauty is a joy for ever!"
When I look at Murillo's roguish, ragged beggar-boys in the royal gallery, and then at the Leuchtenberg gallery turn to contemplate his Madonna and his ascending angel, both of such unearthly and inspired beauty, a feeling of the wondrous grasp and versatility of the man's mind almost makes me giddy.
The lithographic press of Munich is celebrated all over Europe. Aloys Senefelder, the inventor of the art, has the direction of the works, with a well-merited pension, and the title of Inspector of Lithography.
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The people of Munich are not only a well-dressed and well-looking, but a social, kind-hearted race. The number of unions, or societies, instituted for benevolent or festive purposes, is, for the size of the place, almost incredible. I had a catalogue of more than forty given to me this morning; they are for all ranks and professions, and there is scarcely a person in the city who is not enlisted into one or more of these communities. Some have reading-rooms, and well-furnished libraries, to which strangers are at once introduced, gratis; they give balls and concerts during the winter, which not only include their own members and their friends, but one society will sometimes invite and entertain another.
The young artists of Munich, who constitute a numerous body, formed themselves into an association, and gave very elegant balls and concerts, at first among themselves and their immediate friends and connexions; but the circle increased--these balls became more and more splendid--even the king and the royal family frequently honoured them with their presence. It became a point of honour to exceed in elegance and profusion all the entertainments given by the other societies of Munich. Every body danced, praised, and enjoyed themselves. At length it occurred to some of the most considerate and kind-hearted of the people, that these young men were going beyond their means to entertain their friends and fellow-citizens. It had evidently become a matter of great expense, and perhaps ostentation, and they resolved to put down this competition at once. An association was formed of persons of all classes, and they gave a fête to the painters of Munich, which eclipsed in magnificence every thing of the kind before or since. It was a ball and supper, on the most ample and splendid scale, and took place at the Odeon. Each lady's ticket contained the name of the cavalier, to whose especial protection and gallantry she was consigned for the evening; and so much _tacte_ was shown in this arrangement, that I am told very few were discontented with their lot. Nearly three thousand persons were present, and it was the month of February; yet every lady on entering the room was presented by her cavalier with a bouquet of hot-house flowers; and the Salle de l'Odeon was adorned with a profusion of plants and flowering shrubs, collected from all the conservatories, private and public, within twenty miles of the capital. The king, the queen, their family and suite, and many of the principal nobles were invited, with, of course, a large portion of the gentry and trades-people of Munich; but, notwithstanding the miscellaneous nature of the assemblage, and the immense number of persons present, all was harmony, and good-breeding, and gaiety. This fête produced the desired result; the young painters took the hint, and though they still give balls, which are exceedingly pleasant, they are on a more modest scale than heretofore.
The Liederkranz (literally, the circle, or garland of song) is a society of musicians--amateurs and professors--who give concerts here, at which the compositions of the members are occasionally performed. One of these concerts (Fest-Production) took place this evening at the Odeon; and having duly received, as a stranger, my ticket of invitation, I went early with a very pleasant party.
The immense room was crowded in every part, and presented a most brilliant spectacle, from the number of military costumes, and the glittering head-dresses of the Munich girls. Our hosts formed the orchestra. The king and queen had been invited, and had signified their gracious intention of being present. The first row of seats was assigned to them; but no other distinction was made between the royal family and the rest of the company.
The king is generally punctual on these occasions, but from some accident he was this evening delayed, and we had to wait his arrival about ten minutes; the company were all assembled--servants were already parading up and down the room with trays, heaped with ices and refreshments--the orchestra stood up, with fiddle-sticks suspended; the chorus, with mouths half open--and the conductor, Stuntz, brandished his roll of music. At length a side door was thrown open: a voice announced "the king;" the trumpets sounded a salute; and all the people rose and remained standing until the royal guests were seated. The king entered first, the queen hanging on his arm. The duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar, and his duchess, followed; then the princess Matilda, leading her younger brother and sister, prince Luitpold and the princess Adelgonde;--the former a fine boy of about twelve years old, the latter a pretty little girl of about seven or eight: a single lady of honour; the baron de Freyberg, as principal equerry; the minister von Schencke, and one or two other officers of the household were in attendance. The king bowed to the gentlemen in the orchestra, then to the company, and in a few moments all were seated.
The music was entirely vocal, consisting of concerted pieces only, for three or more voices, and all were executed in perfection. I observed several little boys and young girls, of twelve or fourteen, singing in the chorusses, apparently much to their own satisfaction--certainly to ours. Their voices were delicious, and perfectly well managed, and their merry laughing faces were equally pleasant to look upon.
We had first a grand loyal anthem, composed for the occasion by Lenz, in which the king and queen, and their children, were separately apostrophized. Prince Maximilian, now upon his travels, and young king Otto, "far off upon the throne of Hellas," were not forgotten; and as the princess Matilda has lately been _verlobt_ (betrothed) to the hereditary prince of Hesse-Darmstadt, they put the _Futur_ into a couplet, with great effect. It seems that this marriage has been for some time in negociation; its course did not "run quite smooth," and the heart of the young princess is supposed to be more deeply interested in the affair than is usual in royal alliances. She is also very generally beloved, so that when the chorus sang,
"Hoch lebe Ludwig und Mathilde! Ein Herz stets Brautigam und Braut!"
all eyes were turned towards her with a smiling expression of sympathy and kindness, which really touched me. As I sat, I could only see her side-face, which was declined. There was also an allusion to the late king Max-Joseph, "das beste Herz," who died about five years ago, and who appears to have been absolutely adored by his people. All this passed off very well, and was greatly applauded. At the conclusion the king rose from his seat, and said something courteous and good-natured to the orchestra, and then sat down. The other pieces were by old Schack, (the intimate friend of Mozart,) Stuntz, Chelard, and Marschner; a drinking song by Hayden, and one of the chorusses in the _Cosi fan Tutte_ were also introduced. The whole concluded with the "song of the heroes in the Valhalla," composed by Stuntz.
Between the acts there was an interval of at least half an hour, during which the queen and the princess Matilda walked up and down in front of the orchestra, entered into conversation with the ladies who were seated near, and those whom the rules of etiquette allowed to approach unsummoned and pay their respects. The king, meanwhile, walked round the room unattended, speaking to different people, and addressing the young bourgeoises, whose looks or whose toilette pleased him, with a bow and a smile; while they simpered and blushed, and drew themselves up when he had passed.
As I see the king frequently, his face is familiar to me, but to-night he looked particularly well, and had on a better coat than he usually condescends to wear,--quite plain, however, and without any order or decoration. He is now in his forty-seventh year, not handsome, with a small well-formed head, an intelligent brow, and a quick penetrating eye. His figure is slight and well-made, his movements quick, and his manner lively--at times even abrupt and impatient. His utterance is often so rapid as to be scarcely intelligible to those who are most accustomed to him. I often meet him walking arm-in-arm with M. de Schenke, M. de Klenze, and others of his friends--for apparently this eccentric, accomplished sovereign has _friends_, though I believe he is not so popular as his father was before him.
The queen (Theresa, princess of Saxe-Hilburghausen) has a sweet open countenance, and a pleasing, elegant figure. The princess Matilda, who is now nineteen, is the express image of her mother, whom she resembles in her amiable disposition, as well as her person; her figure is very pretty, and her deportment graceful. She looked pensive this evening, which was attributed by the good people around me to the recent departure of the prince of Hesse-Darmstadt, who has been here for some time paying his court.
About ten, the concert was over. The king and queen remained a few minutes in conversation with those around them, without displaying any ungracious hurry to depart; and the whole scene left a pleasant impression upon my fancy. To an English traveller in Germany nothing is more striking than the easy familiar terms on which the sovereign and his family mingle with the people on these and the like occasions; it certainly would not answer in England: but as they say in this expressive language--_Ländlich, sittlich_.
_Munich, Oct. 28th, 1833._
Nuremberg--with its long, narrow, winding, involved streets, its precipitous ascents and descents, its completely gothic physiognomy--is by far the strangest old city I ever beheld; it has retained in every part the aspect of the middle ages. No two houses resemble each other; yet, differing in form, in colour, in height, in ornament, all have a family likeness; and with their peaked and carved gabels, and projecting central balconies, and painted fronts, stand up in a row, like so many tall, gaunt, stately old maids, with the toques and stomachers of the last century. In the upper part of the town, we find here and there a new house, built, or rebuilt, in a more modern fashion; and even a gay modern theatre, and an unfinished modern church; but these, instead of being embellishments, look ill-favoured and mean, like patches of new cloth on a rich old brocade. Age is here, but it does not suggest the idea of dilapidation or decay, rather of something which has been put under a glass-case, and preserved with care from all extraneous influences. The buildings are so ancient, the fashions of society so antiquated, the people so penetrated with veneration for themselves and their city, that in the few days I spent there, I began to feel quite old too--my mind was _wrinkled up_, as it were, with a reverence for the past. I wondered that people condescended to talk of any event more recent than the thirty years' war, and the defence of Gustavus Adolphus; and all names of modern date, even of greatest mark, were forgotten in the fame of Albert Durer, Hans Sachs, and Peter Vischer: the trio of worthies, which, in the estimation or imagination of the Nurembergers, still live with the freshness of a yesterday's remembrance, and leave no room for the heroes of to-day. My enthusiasm for Albert Durer was all ready prepared, and warm as even the Nurembergers could desire; but I confess, that of that renowned cobbler and meister-singer, Hans Sachs, I knew little but what I had learnt from the pretty comedy bearing his name, which I had seen at Manheim; and of the illustrious Peter Vischer I could only remember that I had seen, in the academy at Munich, certain casts from his figures, which had particularly struck me. Yet to visit Nuremberg without some previous knowledge of these luminaries of the middle ages, is to lose much of that pleasure of association, without which the eye wearies of the singular, and the mind becomes satiated with change.
Nuremberg was the gothic Athens: it was never the seat of government, but as a free imperial city it was independent and self-governed, and took the lead in arts and in literature. Here it was that clocks and watches, maps and musical instruments, were manufactured for all Germany; here, in that truly German spirit of pedantry and simplicity, were music, painting, and poetry, at once honoured as sciences, and cultivated as handicrafts, each having its guild, or corporation, duly chartered, like the other trades of this flourishing city, and requiring, by the institution of the magistracy, a regular apprenticeship. It was here that, on the first discovery of printing, a literary barber and meister-singer (Hans Foltz) set up a printing-press in his own house; and it was but the natural consequence of all this industry, mental activity, and social cultivation, that Nuremberg should have been one of the first cities which declared for the Reformation.
But what is most curious and striking in this old city, is to see it stationary, while time and change are working such miracles and transformations every where else. The house where Martin Behaim, four centuries ago, invented the sphere, and drew the first geographical chart, is still the house of a map-seller. In the house where cards were first manufactured, cards are now sold. In the very shops where clocks and watches were first seen, you may still buy clocks and watches. The same families have inhabited the same mansions from one generation to another for four or five centuries. The great manufactories of those toys, commonly called Dutch toys, are at Nuremberg. I visited the wholesale depot of Pestelmayer, and it is true that it would cut a poor figure compared to some of our great Birmingham show-rooms; but the enormous scale on which this commerce is conducted, the hundreds of waggon-loads and ship-loads of these trifles and gimcracks, which find their way to every part of the known world, even to America and China, must interest a thinking mind. Nothing gave me a more comprehensive idea of the value of the whole, than a complaint which I heard from a Nuremberger, (and which, though seriously made, sounded not a little ludicrous,) of the falling off in the trade of _pill-boxes_! he said that since the fashionable people of London and Paris had taken to paper pill-boxes, the millions of wooden or chip boxes which used to be annually sent from Nuremberg to all parts of Europe were no longer required; and he computed the consequent falling off of the profits at many thousand florins.
Nuremberg was rendered so agreeable to me by the kindness and hospitality I met with, that instead of merely passing through it, I spent some days wandering about its precincts; and as it is not very frequently visited by the English, I shall note a few of the objects which have dwelt on my memory, premising, that for the artist and the antiquary it affords inexhaustible materials.
The whole city, which is very large, lies crowded and compact within its walls; but the fortifications, once the wonder of all Germany, and their three hundred and sixty-five towers, once the glory and safeguard of the inhabitants, exist no longer. Four huge circular towers stand at the principal gates,--four huge towers of almost dateless antiquity, and blackened with age, but of such admirable construction, that the masonry appears, from its entireness and smoothness, as if raised yesterday. The old castle or fortress, which stands on a height commanding the town and a glorious view, is a strange, dismantled, incongruous heap of buildings. It happened, that in the summer of 1833, the king of Bavaria, accompanied by the queen and the princess Matilda, had paid his good city of Nuremberg a visit, and had been most royally entertained by the inhabitants. The apartments in the old castle, long abandoned to the rats and spiders, had been prepared for the royal guests, and, when I saw it, three or four months afterwards, nothing could be more uncouth and fantastical than the effect of these irregular rooms, with all manner of angles, with their carved worm-eaten ceilings, their curious latticed and painted windows, and most preposterous stoves, now all tricked out with fresh paint here and there, and hung with gay glazed papers of the most modern fashion, and the most gaudy patterns. Even the chapel, with its four old pillars, which, according to the legend, had been brought by Old Nick himself from Rome, and the effigy of the monk who had cheated his infernal adversary, by saying the Litanies faster than had ever been known before or since, had, in honour of the king's visit, received a new coat of paint. There are some very curious old pictures in the castle, (which luckily were not repainted for the same grand occasion,) among them an original portrait of Albert Durer. In the courtyard of the fortress stands an extraordinary relic--the old lime-tree planted by the Empress Cunegunde, wife of the Emperor Henry III.; every thing is done to preserve it from decay, and it still bears its leafy honours, after beholding the revolution of seven centuries.
From the fortress we look down upon the house of Albert Durer, which is preserved with religious care; it has been hired by a society of artists, who use it as a club-room: his effigy in stone is over the door. In every house there is a picture or print of him; or copies, or engravings from his works, and his head hangs in every print shop. The street in which he lived is called by his name; and the inhabitants have moreover built a fountain to his honour, and planted trees around it;--in short, Albert Durer is wherever we look--wherever we move. What can Fuseli mean by saying that Albert Durer "was a man of extreme ingenuity without being a genius?" Does the man of mere ingenuity step before his age as Albert Durer did, not as an artist only, but as a man of science? Is not genius the creative power? and did not Albert Durer possess this power in an extraordinary degree? Could Fuseli have seen his four apostles, now in the gallery of Munich, when he said that Albert Durer never had more than an occasional _glimpse_ of the sublime?
Fuseli, as an _artist_, is an example of what I have seen in other minds, otherwise directed. The stronger the faculties, the more of original power in the mind, the less diffused is the sympathy, and the more is the judgment swayed by the individual character. Thus Fuseli, in his remarks on painters--excellent and eloquent as they are--scarcely ever does justice to those who excel in colour. He perceives and admits the excellence, but he shows in his criticisms, as in his pictures, that the faculty was wanting to feel and appreciate it: his remarks on Correggio and Rubens are a proof of this. In listening to the criticisms of an author on literature--of a painter on pictures--and, generally, to the opinion which one individual expresses of the character and actions of another, it is wise to take into consideration the modification of mind in the person who speaks, and how far it may, or _must_, influence, even where it does not absolutely distort, the judgment; so many minds are what the Germans call _one-sided_! The education, habits, mental existence of the individual, are the refracting medium through which the rays of truth pass to the mind, more or less bent or absorbed in their passage. We should make philosophical allowance for different degrees of density.
Hans Sachs, the old poet of Nuremberg, did as much for the Reformation by his songs and satires, as Luther and the doctors by their preaching; besides being one of the worshipful company of meister-singers, he found time to make shoes, and even enrich himself by his trade: he informs us himself that he had composed and written with his own hand "four thousand two hundred mastership songs; two hundred and eight comedies, tragedies, and farces; one thousand seven hundred fables, tales, and miscellaneous poems; and seventy-three devotional, military, and love songs." It is said he excelled in humour, but it was such as might have been expected from the times--it was vigorous and coarse. "Hans," says the critic, "tells his tale like a convivial burgher, fond of his can, and still fonder of his drollery." If this be the case, his house has received a very appropriate designation: it is now an ale-house, from which, as I looked up, the mixed odours of beer and tobacco, and the sound of voices singing in chorus, streamed through the old latticed windows. "Drollery" and "the can" were as rife in the dwelling of the immortal shoemaker as they would have been in his own days, and in his own jovial presence.
In the church of St. Sibbald, now the chief Protestant church, I was surprised to find that most of the Roman Catholic symbols and relics remained undisturbed: the large crucifix, the old pictures of the saints and Madonnas had been reverentially preserved. The perpetual light which had been vowed four centuries ago by one of the Tucher family, was still burning over his tomb; no puritanic zeal had quenched that tiny flame in its chased silver lamp; and through successive generations, and all revolutions of politics and religion, maintained and fed by the pious honesty of the descendants, it still shone on,
Like the bright lamp that lay in Kildare's holy fane, And burned through long ages of darkness and storm!
In this Protestant church, even the shrine of St. Sibbald has kept its place, if not to the honour and glory of the saint, at least to the honour and glory of the city of Nuremberg; it is considered as the _chef-d'oeuvre_ of Peter Vischer, a famous sculptor and caster in bronze, cotemporary with Albert Durer. It was begun in 1506, and finished in 1519, and is adorned with ninety-six figures, among which the twelve apostles, all varying in character and attitude, are really miracles of grace, power, and expression; the base of the shrine rests upon six gigantic snails, and the whole is cast in bronze, and finished with exquisite skill and fancy. At one end of this extraordinary composition the artificer has placed his own figure, not obtrusively, but retired, in a sort of niche; he is represented in his working dress, with his cap, leather apron, and tools in his hand. According to tradition, he was paid for his work by the pound weight, twenty gulden (or florins) for every hundred weight of metal; and the whole weighs one hundred and twenty centners, or hundred weight.
The man who showed us this shrine was descended from Peter Vischer, lived in the same house which he and his sons had formerly inhabited, and carried on the same trade, that of a smith and brass-founder.
The Moritz-Kapel, near the church, is an old gothic chapel once dedicated to St. Maurice, now converted into a public gallery of pictures of the old German school. The collection is exceedingly curious; there are about one hundred and forty pictures, and besides specimens of Mabuse, Albert Durer, Van Eyck, Martin Schoen, Lucas Kranach, and the two Holbeins, I remember some portraits by a certain Hans Grimmer, which impressed me by their truth and fine painting. It appears from this collection that for some time after Albert Durer, the German painters continued to paint on a gold ground. Kulmbach, whose heads are quite marvellous for finish and expression, generally did so. This gallery owes its existence to the present king, and has been well arranged by the architect Heideldoff and professor von Dillis of Munich.
In the market-place of Nuremberg stands the Schönebrunnen, that is, the beautiful fountain; it bears the date 1355, and in style resembles the crosses which Edward I. erected to Queen Eleanor, but is of more elaborate beauty; it is covered with gothic figures, carved by one of the most ancient of the German sculptors, Schonholfer, who modestly styles himself a stone-cutter. Here we see, placed amicably close, Julius Cæsar, Godfrey of Boulogne, Judas Maccabæus, Alexander the Great, Hector of Troy, Charlemagne, and king David: all old acquaintances, certainly, but whom we might have supposed that nothing but the day of judgment could ever have assembled together in company.
Talking of the day of judgment reminds me of the extraordinary cemetery of Nuremberg, certainly as unlike every other cemetery, as Nuremberg is unlike every other city. Imagine upon a rising ground, an open space of about four acres, completely covered with enormous slabs, or rather blocks of solid stone, about a foot and a half in thickness, seven feet in length, and four in breadth, laid horizontally, and just allowing space for a single person to move between them. The name, and the armorial bearings of the dead, cast in bronze, and sometimes rich sculpture, decorate these tombs: I remember one, to the memory of a beautiful girl, who was killed as she lay asleep in her father's garden by a lizard creeping into her mouth. The story is represented in bronze bas-relief, and the lizard is so constructed as to move when touched. From this I shrunk with disgust, and turned to the sepulchre of a famous worthy, who measured the distance from Nuremberg to the holy sepulchre with his garter: the implement of his pious enterprise, twisted into a sort of true-love knot, is carved on his tomb. Two days afterwards I entered the dominions of a reigning monarch, who is at this present moment performing a journey to Jerusalem round the walls of his room. How long-lived are the follies of mankind! Have, then, five centuries made so little difference?
The tombs of Albert Durer, Hans Sachs, and Sandraart, were pointed out to me, resembling the rest in size and form. I was assured that these huge sepulchral stones exceed three thousand in number, and the whole aspect of this singular burial-place is, in truth, beyond measure striking--I could almost add, appalling.
I was not a little surprised and interested to find that the principal Gazette of Nuremberg, which has a wide circulation through all this part of Germany, extending even to Frankfort, Munich, Dresden, and Leipsig, is entirely in female hands. Madame de Schaden is the proprietor, and the responsible editor of the paper; she has the printing apparatus and offices under her own roof, and though advanced in years, conducts the whole concern with a degree of activity, spirit, and talent, which delighted me. The circulation of this paper amounts to about four thousand: a trifling number compared to our papers, but a large number in this economical country, where the same paper is generally read by fifty or sixty persons at least.
* * * * *
All travellers agree that benevolence and integrity are the national characteristics of the Germans. Of their honesty I had daily proofs: I do not consider that I was ever imposed upon or overcharged during my journey, except once, and then it was by a Frenchman. Their benevolence is displayed in the treatment of animals, particularly of their horses. It was somewhere between Nuremberg and Hof, that, for the first and only time, I saw a postilion flog his horse unmercifully, or at least unreasonably. The Germans very seldom beat their horses: they talk to them, remonstrate, encourage, or upbraid them. I have frequently known a voiturier, or a postilion, go a whole stage--which is seldom less than fifteen English miles--at a very fair pace, without once even raising the whip; and have often witnessed, not without amusement, long conversations between a driver and his steed--the man, with his arm thrown over the animal's neck, discoursing in a strange jargon, and the intelligent brute turning his eye on his master with such a responsive expression! In this part of Germany there is a popular verse repeated by the postilions, which may be called the German _rule of the road_. It is the horse who speaks--
Berg auf, ubertrieb mich nicht; Berg ab, ubereil mich nicht; Auf ebenen Weg, vershöne mich nicht; Im Stahl, vergiss mich nicht.
which is, literally,
Up hill, overdrive me not; Down hill, hurry me not; On level ground, spare me not; In the stable, forget me not.
The German postilions form a very numerous and distinct class; they wear a half-military costume--a laced or embroidered jacket, across which is invariably slung the bugle-horn, with its parti-coloured cord and tassels: huge jack-boots, and a smart glazed hat, not unfrequently surmounted with a feather (as in Hesse Cassel and Saxe Weimer) complete their appearance. They are in the direct service and pay of the government; they must have an excellent character for fidelity and good conduct before they are engaged, and the slightest failing in duty or punctuality, subjects them to severe punishment; thus they enjoy some degree of respectability as a body, and Marschner thought it not unworthy of his talents to compose a fine piece of music, which he called The Postilion's "Morgen-lied," or morning song. I found them generally a good-humoured, honest set of men; obliging, but not servile or cringing; they are not allowed to smoke without the express leave of the traveller, nor to stop or delay on the road on any pretence whatever. In short, though the burley German postilions do not present the neat compact turn-out of an English post-boy, nor the horses any thing like the speed of "Newman's greys," or the Brighton Age, and though the traveller must now and then submit to arbitrary laws and individual inconvenience; still the travelling regulations all over Germany, more especially in Prussia, are so precise, so admirable, and so strictly enforced, that no where could an unprotected female journey with more complete comfort and security. This I have proved by experience, after having tried every different mode of conveyance in Prussia, Bavaria, Baden, Saxony, and Hesse. My road expenses, for myself and an attendant, seldom exceeded a Napoleon a-day.
MEMORANDA AT DRESDEN.
Beautiful, stately Dresden! if not the queen, the fine lady of the German cities! Surrounded with what is most enchanting in nature, and adorned with what is most enchanting in art, she sits by the Elbe like a fair one in romance, wreathing her towery diadem--so often scathed by war--with the vine and the myrtle, and looking on her own beauty imaged in the river flood, which, after rolling an impetuous torrent through the mountain gorges, here seems to pause and spread itself into a lucid mirror to catch the reflection of her airy magnificence. No doubt misery and evil dwell in Dresden, as in all the congregated societies of men, but no where are they less obtrusive. The city has all the advantages, and none of the disadvantages, of a capital; the treasures of art accumulated here, the mild government, the delightful climate, the beauty of the environs, and the cheerfulness and simplicity of social intercourse, have rendered it a favourite residence for artists and literary characters, and to foreigners one of the most captivating places in the world. How often have I stood in the open space in front of the gorgeous Italian church, or on the summit of the flight of steps leading to the public walk, gazing upon the noble bridge which bestrides the majestic Elbe, and connects the new and the old town; or, pursuing with enchanted eye the winding course of the river to the foot of those undulating purple hills, covered with villas and vineyards, till a feeling of quiet grateful enjoyment has stolen over me, like that which Wordsworth describes:--
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart, And passing even into my purer mind With tranquil restoration.
But it is not only the natural beauties of the scene which strike a stranger; the city itself has this peculiarity in common with Florence, to which it has been so often compared, that instead of being an accident in the landscape--a dim, smoky, care-haunted spot upon the all-lovely face of nature--a discord in the soothing harmony of that quiet enchanting scene which steals like music over the fancy;--it is rather a charm the more--an ornament--a crowning splendour--a fulfilling and completing chord. Its unrivalled elegance and neatness, a general air of cheerfulness combined with a certain dignity and tranquillity, the purity and elasticity of the atmosphere, the brilliant shops, the well-dressed women, and the lively looks and good-humoured alertness of the people, who, like the Florentines, are more remarkable for their tact and acuteness than for their personal attractions;--all these advantages render Dresden, though certainly one of the smallest, and by no means one of the richest capitals in Europe, one of the most delightful residences on the continent. I am struck, too, by the silver-toned voices of the women, and the courtesy and vivacity of the men; for in Bavaria the intonation is broad and harsh, and the people, though frank, and honest, and good-natured, are rather slow, and not particularly polished in their demeanour.
It is the general aspect of Dresden which charms us: it is not distinguished by any vast or striking architectural decorations, if we except the Italian church, which, with all its thousand faults of style, pleases from its beautiful situation and its exceeding richness. This is the only Roman Catholic church in Dresden: for it is curious enough, that while the national religion, or, if I may so use the word, the state religion, is Protestant--the court religion is Catholic; the royal family having been for several generations of that persuasion; but this has caused neither intolerance on the one hand, nor jealousy on the other. The Saxons, the first who hailed and embraced the doctrines of Luther, seem quite content to allow their anointed king to go to heaven his own way; and though the priests who surround him are, of course, mindful to keep up their own influence, there is no spirit of proselytism; and I believe the most perfect equality with regard to religious matters prevails here. The Catholic church is almost always half full of Protestants, attracted by the delicious music, for all the corps d'opera sing in the choir. High mass begins about the time that the sermon is over in the other churches, and you see the Protestants hurrying from their own service, crowding in at the portals of the Catholic church, and taking their places, the men on one side and the women on the other, with looks of infinite gravity and devotion: the king being always present, it would here be a breach of etiquette to behave as I have often seen the English behave in the Catholic churches--precisely as if in a theatre. But if the good old monarch imagines that his heretic subjects are to be converted by Cesi's divine voice, he is wonderfully mistaken.
The people of Dresden have always been distinguished by their love of music; I was therefore rather surprised to find here a little paltry theatre, ugly without, and mean within; a new edifice has been for some time in contemplation, therefore to decorate or repair the old one may seem superfluous. That it is not nearly large enough for the place is its worst fault. I have never been in it that it was not crowded to suffocation. At this time Bellini's opera, _I Capelletti_, is the rage at Dresden, or rather Madame Devrient's impersonation of the Romeo, has completely turned all heads and melted all hearts--that are fusible. The Capelletti is only the last of the thousand-and-one versions of Romeo and Juliet, and though the last, not the best of Bellini's operas; and Devrient is not generally heard to the greatest advantage in the modern Italian music; but her _conception_ of the part of Romeo is new and belongs to herself; like a woman of feeling and genius she has put her stamp upon it: it is quite distinct from the same character as represented by Pasta and Malibran--_character_ perhaps I should not say, for in the lyrical drama there is properly no room for any such gradual development of individual sentiments and motives; a powerful and graceful sketch, of which the outline is filled up by music, is all that the artist is required to give; and within this boundary a more beautiful delineation of youthful fervid passion I never beheld: if Devrient must yield to Pasta in grandeur, and to Malibran in versatility of power and liquid flexibility of voice, she yields to neither in pathos, to neither in delicious modulation, to neither in passion, power, and originality, though in her, in a still greater degree, the talent of the artist is modified by individual temperament. Like other gifted women, who are blessed or cursed with a most excitable nervous system, Devrient is a good deal under the influence of moods of feeling and temper, and in the performance of her favourite parts, (as this of Romeo, the Armida, Emmeline in the Sweitzer Familie,) is subject to inequalities, which are not caprices, but arise from an exuberance of soul and power, and only render her performance more interesting. Every night that I have seen her since my arrival here, even in parts which are unworthy of her, as in the "Eagle's Nest," has increased my estimate of her talents; and last night, when I saw her for the third time in the Romeo, she certainly surpassed herself. The duet with Juliet, (Madlle. Schneider,) at the end of the first act, threw the whole audience into a tumult of admiration; they invariably encore this touching and impassioned scene, which is really a positive cruelty, besides being a piece of stupidity; for though it _may_ be as well sung the second time, it _must_ suffer in effect from the repetition. The music, though very pretty, is in itself nothing, without the situation and sentiment; and after the senses and imagination have been wound up to the most thrilling excitement by tones of melting affection and despair, and Romeo and Juliet have been finally torn asunder by a flinty-hearted stick of a father, with a black cloak and a bass voice--_selon les regles_--it is ridiculous to see them come back from opposite sides of the stage, bow to the audience, and then, throwing themselves into each other's arms, pour out the same passionate strains of love and sorrow. As to Devrient's acting in the last scene, I think even Pasta's Romeo would have seemed colourless beside hers; and this arises perhaps from the character of the music, from the very different style in which Zingarelli and Bellini have treated their last scene. The former has made Romeo tender and plaintive, and Pasta accordingly subdued her conception to this tone; but Bellini has thrown into the same scene more animation, and more various effect. Devrient, thus enabled to colour more highly, has gone beyond the composer. There was a flush of poetry and passion, a heartbreaking struggle of love and life against an overwhelming destiny, which thrilled me. Never did I hear any one sing so completely from her own soul as this astonishing creature. In certain tones and passages her voice issued from the depths of her bosom as if steeped in tears; and her countenance, when she hears Juliet sigh from the tomb, was such a sudden and divine gleam of expression as I have never seen on any face but Fanny Kemble's. I was not surprised to learn that Madame Devrient is generally ill after her performance, and unable to sing in this part more than once or twice a week.
* * * * *
Tieck is the literary Colossus of Dresden; perhaps I should say of Germany. There are those who dispute his infallibility as a critic; there are those who will not walk under the banners of his philosophy; but since the death of Goethe, I believe Ludwig Tieck holds undisputed the first rank as an original poet, and powerful writer, and has succeeded, by right divine, to the vacant throne of genius. His house in the Altmarkt, (the tall red house at the south-east corner,) henceforth consecrated by that power which can "hallow in the core of human hearts even the ruin of a wall," is the resort of all the enlightened strangers who flock to Dresden: even those who know nothing of Tieck but his name, deem an introduction to him as indispensable as a visit to the Madonna del Sisto. To the English, he is particularly interesting: his knowledge of our language and literature, and especially of our older writers, is profound. Endued with an imagination which luxuriates in the world of marvels, which "dwells delightedly midst fays and talismans," and embraces in its range of power what is highest, deepest, most subtle, most practical--gifted with a creative spirit, for ever moving and working within the illimitable universe of fancy, Tieck is yet one of the most poignant satirists and profound critics of the age. He has for the last twenty years devoted his time and talents, in conjunction with Schlegel, to the study, translation, and illustration of Shakspeare. The combination of these two minds has done perhaps what no single mind could have effected in developing, elucidating, and clothing in a new language the creations of that mighty and inspired being.
It is to be hoped that some translator will rise up among us to do justice in return to Tieck. No one tells a fairy tale like him: the earnest simplicity of style and manner is so exquisite that he always gives the idea of one whose hair was on end at his own wonders, who was entangled by the spell of his own enchantments. A few of these lighter productions (his Volksmärchen, or popular Tales) have been rendered into our language; but those of his works which have given him the highest estimation among his own countrymen still remain a sealed fountain to English readers.
It was with some trepidation I found myself in the presence of this extraordinary man. Notwithstanding his profound knowledge of our language, he rarely speaks English, and, like Alfieri, he _will not_ speak French. I addressed him in English, and he spoke to me in German. The conversation in my first visit fell very naturally upon Shakspeare, for I had been looking over his admirable new translation of Macbeth, which he had just completed. Macbeth led us to the English theatre and English acting--to Mrs. Siddons and the Kembles, and the actual character and state of our stage.
While he spoke I could not help looking at his head, which is wonderfully fine; the noble breadth and amplitude of his brow, and his quiet, but penetrating eye, with an expression of latent humour hovering round his lips, formed altogether a striking physiognomy. The numerous prints and portraits of Tieck which are scattered over Germany are very defective as resemblances. They have a heavy look; they give the weight and power of his head, but nothing of the _finesse_ which lurks in the lower part of his face. His manner is courteous, and his voice particularly sweet and winning. He is apparently fond of the society of women; or the women are fond of his society, for in the evening his room is generally crowded with fair worshippers. Yet Tieck, like Goethe, is accused of entertaining some unworthy sentiments with regard to the sex; and is also said, like Goethe, not to have upheld us in his writings, as the true philosopher, to say nothing of the true poet, ought to have done. It is a fact upon which I shall take an opportunity of enlarging, that almost all the greatest men who have lived in the world, whether poets, philosophers, artists, or statesmen, have derived their mental and physical organization, more from the mother's than the father's side; and the same is true, unhappily, of those who have been in an extraordinary degree perverted. And does not this lead us to some awful considerations on the importance of the moral and physical well-being of women, and their present condition in society, as a branch of legislation and politics, which must ere long be modified? Let our lords and masters reflect, that if an extensive influence for good or for evil be not denied to us, an influence commencing not only with, but before the birth of their children, it is time that the manifold mischiefs and miseries lurking in the bosom of society, and of which woman is at once the wretched instrument and more wretched victim, be looked to. Sometimes I am induced to think that Tieck is misinterpreted or libelled by those who pretend to take the tone from his writings and opinions: it is evident that he delights in being surrounded by a crowd of admiring women, therefore he must in his heart honour and reverence us as being morally equal with man,--for who could suspect the great Tieck of that paltry coxcombry which can be gratified by the adulation of inferior beings?
Tieck's extraordinary talent for reading aloud is much and deservedly celebrated: he gives dramatic readings two or three times a week when his health and his avocations allow this exertion; the company assemble at six, and it is advisable to be punctual to the moment; soon afterwards tea is served: he begins to read at seven precisely, when the doors are closed against all intrusion whatever, and he reads through a whole play without pause, rest, omission, or interruption. Thus I heard him read Julius Cæsar and the Midsummer Night's Dream, (in the German translation by himself and Schlegel,) and except Mrs. Siddons, I never heard any thing comparable as dramatic reading. His voice is rich, and capable of great variety of modulation. I observed that the humorous and declamatory passages were rather better than the pathetic and tender passages: he was quite at home among the elves and clowns in the Midsummer Night's Dream, of which he gave the fantastic and comic parts with indescribable humour and effect. As to the translation, I could only judge of its marvellous fidelity, which enabled me to follow him, word for word,--but the Germans themselves are equally enchanted by its vigour, and elegance, and poetical colouring.
* * * * *
The far-famed gallery of Dresden is, of course, the first and grand attraction to a stranger.
The regulation of this gallery, and the difficulty of obtaining admission, struck me at first as rather inhospitable and ill-natured. In the summer months it is open to the public two days in the week; but during the winter months, from September to March, it is closed. In order to obtain admittance, during this _recess_, you must pay three dollars to one of the principal keepers on duty, and a gratuity to the porter,--in all about half-a-guinea. Having once paid this sum, you are free to enter whenever the gallery has been opened for another party. The ceremony is, to send the laquais-de-place at nine in the morning to inquire whether the gallery will be open in the course of the day; if the answer be in the affirmative, it is advisable to make your appearance as early as possible, and I believe you may stay as long as you please; (at least _I_ did;) nothing more is afterwards demanded, though something may perhaps be expected--if you are a _very_ frequent visitor. All this is rather ungracious. It is true that the gallery is not a national, but a royal gallery,--that it was founded and enriched by princes for their private recreation; that Augustus III. purchased the Modena gallery for his kingly pleasure; that from the original construction of the building it is impossible to heat it with stoves, without incurring some risk, and that to oblige the poor professors and attendants to linger benumbed and shivering in the gallery from morning to night is cruel. In fact, it would be difficult to give an idea of the deadly cold which prevails in the inner gallery, where the beams of the sun scarcely ever penetrate. And it may happen that only a chance visitor, or one or two strangers, may ask admittance in the course of the day. But poor as Saxony now is,--drained, and exhausted, and maimed by successive wars, and trampled by successive conquerors, this glorious gallery, which Frederic spared, and Napoleon left inviolate, remains the chief attraction to strangers; and it may be doubted whether there is good policy in making admittance to its treasures a matter of difficulty, vexation, and expense. There would be little fear, if all strangers were as obstinate and enthusiastic as myself,--for, to confess the truth, I know not what obstacle, or difficulty, or inconvenience, could have kept me out; if all legal avenues had been hermetically sealed, I would have prayed, bribed, persevered, till I had attained my purpose, and after travelling three hundred miles to achieve an object, what are a few dollars? But still it _is_ ungracious, and methinks, in this courteous and liberal capital these regulations ought to be reformed or modified.
On entering the gallery for the first time, I walked straight forward, without pausing, or turning to the right or the left, into the Raffaelle-room, and looked round for the Madonna del Sisto,--literally with a kind of misgiving. Familiar as the form might be to the eye and the fancy, from numerous copies and prints, still the unknown original held a sanctuary in my imagination, like the mystic Isis behind her veil: and it seemed that whatever I beheld of lovely, or perfect, or soul-speaking in art, had an unrevealed rival in my imagination: something was beyond--there was a criterion of possible excellence as yet only conjectured--for I had not seen the Madonna del Sisto. Now, when I was about to lift my eyes to it, I literally hesitated--I drew a long sigh, as if resigning myself to disappointment, and looked----Yes! there she was indeed! that divinest image that ever shaped itself in palpable hues and forms to the living eye! What a revelation of ineffable grace, and purity, and truth, and goodness! There is no use attempting to say any thing about it; too much has already been said and written--and what are words? After gazing on it again and again, day after day, I feel that to attempt to describe the impression is like measuring the infinite, and sounding the unfathomable. When I looked up at it today it gave me the idea, or rather the feeling, of a vision descending and floating down upon me. The head of the virgin is quite superhuman: to say that it is beautiful, gives no idea of it. Some of Correggio's and Guido's virgins--the virgin of Murillo at the Leuchtenberg palace--have more beauty, in the common meaning of the word; but every other female face, however lovely, however majestic, would, I am convinced, appear either trite or exaggerated, if brought into immediate comparison with this divine countenance. There is such a blessed calm in every feature! and the eyes, beaming with a kind of internal light, look straight out of the picture--not at you or me--not at any thing belonging to this world,--but through and through the universe. The unearthly Child is a sublime vision of power and grandeur, and seems not so much supported as enthroned in her arms, and what fitter throne for the Divinity than a woman's bosom full of innocence and love? The expression in the face of St. Barbara, who looks down, has been differently interpreted: to me she seems to be giving a last look at the earth, above which the group is raised as on a hovering cloud. St. Sixtus is evidently pleading in all the combined fervour of faith, hope, and charity, for the congregation of sinners, who are supposed to be kneeling before the picture--that is, for _us_--to whom he points. Finally, the cherubs below, with their upward look of rapture and wonder, blending the most childish innocence with a sublime inspiration, complete the harmonious whole, uniting heaven with earth.
While I stood in contemplation of this all-perfect work, I felt the impression of its loveliness in my deepest heart, not only without the power, but without the thought or wish to give it voice or words, till some lines of Shelley's--lines which were not, but, methinks, ought to have been, inspired by the Madonna--came, uncalled, floating through my memory--
Seraph of Heaven! too gentle to be human, Veiling beneath that radiant form of woman All that is insupportable in thee, Of light, and love, and immortality! Sweet Benediction in the eternal curse! Veil'd Glory of this lampless universe! Thou Harmony of Nature's art! I measure The world of fancies, seeking one like thee, And find--alas! mine own infirmity!
On the first morning I spent in the gallery, a most benevolent-looking old gentleman came up to me, and half lifting his velvet cap from his grey hairs, courteously saluted me by name. I replied, without knowing at the moment to whom I spoke. It was Böttigar, the most formidable--no, not _formidable_--but the most erudite scholar, critic, antiquarian, in Germany. Böttigar, I do believe, has read every book that ever was written; knows every thing that ever was known; and is acquainted with every body, who is _any body_, in the four quarters of the world. He is not the author of any large work, but his writings, in a variety of form, on art, ancient and modern,--on literature, on the classics, on the stage, are known over all Germany; and in his best days few have exercised so wide an influence over opinion and literature. It is _said_, that in his latter years his criticism has been too vague, his praise too indiscriminate, to be trusted; but I know not why this should excite indignation, though it may produce mistrust; in Böttigar's conformation, benevolence must always have been prominent, and in the decline of his life--for he is now seventy-eight--this natural courtesy combining with a good deal of vanity and imagination, would necessarily produce the result of extreme mildness,--a disposition to see, or try to see, all _en beau_. The happier for him, and the pleasanter for others. We were standing together in the room with the Madonna, but I did not allude to it, nor attempt to express by a word the impression it had made on me; but he seemed to understand my silence; he afterwards told me that it is ascertained that Raffaelle employed only three months in executing this picture: it was thrown upon his canvas in a glow of inspiration, and is painted very lightly and thinly. When Palmeroli, the Italian restorer, was brought here at an expense of more than three thousand ducats, he ventured to clean and retouch the background and accessories, but dared not touch the figures of the Virgin and the Child, which retain their sombre tint. This has perhaps destroyed the harmony of the general effect, but if the man mistrusted himself he was right: in such a case, however, he had better have let the background alone. In taking down the picture for the purpose of cleaning, it was discovered that a part of the original canvas, about a quarter of a yard, was turned back in order to make it fit the frame. Every one must have observed, that in Müller's engraving, and all the known copies of this Madonna, the head is too near the top of the picture, so as to mar the just proportion. This is now amended: the veil, or curtain, which appears to have been just drawn aside to disclose the celestial vision, does not now reach the boundary of the picture, as heretofore; the original effect is restored, and it is infinitely better.
As if to produce a surfeit of excellence, the five Correggios hang together in the same room with the Raffaelle. They are the Madonna di San Georgio; the Madonna di San Francisco; the Madonna di Santo Sebastiano; the famous Nativity, called La Notte; and the small Magdalene reading, of which there exist an incalculable number of copies and prints. I know not that any thing can be added to what has been said a hundred times over of these wondrous pieces of poetry. Their excellence and value, as unequalled productions of art, may not perhaps be understood by all,--the poetical charm, the something more than meets the eye, is not perhaps equally felt by all,--but the sentiment is intelligible to every mind, and goes at once to every heart; the most uneducated eye, the merest tyro in art, gazes with delight on the Notte; and the Magdalene reading has given perhaps more pleasure than any known picture,--it is so quiet, so simple, so touching, in its heavenly beauty! Those who may not perfectly understand what artists mean when they dwell with rapture on Correggio's wonderful chiaro-scuro, should look close into this little picture, which hangs at a convenient height: they will perceive that they can look through the shadows into the substance,--as it might be, into the flesh and blood;--the shadows seem accidental--as if between the eye and the colours, and not incorporated with them; in this lies the inimitable excellence of this master.
The Magdalene was once surrounded by a rich frame of silver gilt, chased, and adorned with gems, turquoises, and pearls: but some years ago a thief found means to enter at the window, and carried off the picture for the sake of the frame. A reward of two hundred ducats and a pardon were offered for the picture only, and in a fortnight afterwards it was happily restored to the gallery uninjured; but I did not hear that the frame and jewels were ever recovered.
Of Correggio's larger pictures, I think the Madonna di San Georgio pleased me most. The Virgin is seated on a throne, holding the sacred Infant, who extends his arms and smiles out upon the world he has come to save. On the right stands St. George, his foot on the dragon's head; behind him St. Peter Martyr; on the left, St. Geminiano and St. John the Baptist. In the front of the picture two heavenly boys are playing with the sword and helmet of St. George, which he has apparently cast down at the foot of the throne. All in this picture is grand and sublime, in the feeling, the forms, the colouring, the expression. But what, says a wiseacre of a critic, rubbing up his school chronology, what have St. Francis, and St. George, and St. John the Baptist, to do in the same picture with the Virgin Mary? Did not St. George live nine hundred years after St. John? and St. Francis five hundred years after St. George? and so on. Yet this is properly no anachronism--no violation of the proprieties of action, place, or time. These and similar pictures, as the St. Jerome at Parma, and Raffaelle's Madonna, are not to be considered as historical paintings, but as grand pieces of lyrical and sacred poetry. In this particular picture, which was an altarpiece in the church of Our Lady at Parma, we have in St. George the representation of religious magnanimity; in St. John, religious enthusiasm; in St. Geminiani, religious munificence; in St. Peter Martyr, religious fortitude; and these are grouped round the most lovely impersonation of innocence, chastity, and heavenly love. Such, as it appears to me, is the true intention and signification of this and similar pictures.
But in the "Notte" (the Nativity) the case is different. It is properly an historical picture; and if Correggio had placed St. George, or St. Francis, or the Magdalene, as spectators, we might then exclaim at the absurdity of the anachronism; but here Correggio has converted the literal representation of a circumstance in sacred history into a divine piece of poetry, when he gave us that emanation of supernatural light, streaming from the form of the celestial Child, and illuminating the extatic face of the virgin mother, who bends over her infant undazzled; while another female draws back, veiling her eyes with her hand, as if unable to endure the radiance. Far off, through the gloom of night, we see the morning just breaking along the eastern horizon--emblem of the "day-spring from on high."
This is precisely one of those pictures of which no copy or engraving could convey any adequate idea; the sentiment of maternity (in which Correggio excelled) is so exquisitely tender, and the colouring so inconceivably transparent and delicate.
I suppose it is a sort of treason to say that in the Madonna di San Francisco, the face of the virgin is tinctured with affectation; but such was and _is_ my impression.
If I were to plan a new Dresden gallery, the Madonna del Sisto and the "Notte" should each have a sanctuary apart, and be lighted from above; at present they are ill-placed for effect.
When I could move from the Raffaelle room, I took advantage of the presence and attendance of Professor Matthaï, (who is himself a painter of eminence here,) and went through a regular course of the Italian schools of painting, beginning with Giotto. The collection is extremely rich in the early Ferarese and Venetian painters, and it was most interesting thus to trace the gradual improvement and development of the school of colourists through Squarcione, Mantegna, the Bellini, Giorgione, Paris Bordone, Palma, and Titian; until richness became exuberance, and power verged upon excess in Paul Veronese and Tintoretto.
Certainly, I feel no inclination to turn my notebook into a catalogue; but I must mention Titian's Christo della Moneta:--such a head!--so pure from any trace of passion!--so refined, so intellectual, so benevolent! The only head of Christ I ever entirely approved.
Here they have Giorgione's master-piece--the meeting of Rachel and Jacob; and the three daughters of Palma, half-lengths, in the same picture. The centre one, Violante, is a most lovely head.
There is here an extraordinary picture by Titian, representing Lucrezia Borgia, presented by her husband to the Madonna. The portraits are the size of life, half-lengths. I looked in vain in the countenance of Lucrezia for some trace, some testimony of the crimes imputed to her; but she is a fair, golden-haired, gentle-looking creature, with a feeble and vapid expression. The head of her husband, Alphonso, is fine and full of power. There are, I suppose, not less than fourteen or fifteen pictures by Titian.
The Concina family, by Paul Veronese, esteemed his finest production, is in the Dresden gallery, with ten others of the same master. Of Guido, there are ten pictures, particularly that extraordinary one, _called_ Ninus and Semiramis, life size. Of the Carracci, at least eight or nine, particularly the genius of Fame, which should be compared with that of Guido. There are numerous pictures of Albano and Ribera; but very few specimens of Salvator Rosa and Domenichino.
On the whole, I suppose that no gallery, except that of Florence, can compete with the Dresden gallery in the treasures of Italian art. In all, there are five hundred and thirty-four Italian pictures.
I pass over the Flemish, Dutch, and French pictures, which fill the outer gallery: these exceed the Italian school in number, and many of them are of surpassing merit and value, but, having just come from Munich, where the eye and fancy are both satiated with this class of pictures, I gave my attention principally to the Italian masters.
There is one room here entirely filled with the crayon paintings of Rosalba, including a few by Liotard. Among them is a very interesting head of Metastasio, painted when he was young. He has fair hair and blue eyes, with small features, and an expression of mingled sensibility and acuteness: no power.
Rosalba Carriera, perhaps the finest crayon painter who ever existed, was a Venetian, born at Chiozza in 1675. She was an admirable creature in every respect, possessing many accomplishments, besides the beautiful art in which she excelled. Several anecdotes are preserved which prove the sweetness of her disposition, and the clear simplicity of her mind. Spence, who knew her personally, calls her "the most modest of painters;" yet she used to say playfully, "I am charmed with every thing I do, for eight hours after it is done!" This was natural while the excitement of conception was fresh upon the mind. No one, however, could be more fastidious and difficult about their own works than Rosalba. She was not only an observer of countenance by profession, but a most acute observer of character, as revealed in all its external indications. She said of Sir Godfrey Kneller, after he had paid her a visit, "I concluded he could not be religious, for he has no modesty." The general philosophical truth comprised in these few words is not less admirable than the acuteness of the remark, as applied to Kneller--a professed sceptic, and the most self-sufficient coxcomb of his time.
Rosalba was invited at different times to almost all the courts of Europe, and painted most of the distinguished persons of her time at Vienna, Dresden, Berlin, and Paris; the lady-like refinements of her mind and manners, which also marked her style of painting, recommended her not less than her talents. She used, after her return to Italy, to say her prayers in German, "because the language was so expressive."
Rosalba became blind before her death, which occurred in 1757. Her works in the Dresden gallery amount to at least one hundred and fifty--principally portraits--but there are also some exquisite fancy heads.
Thinking of Rosalba, reminds me that there are some pretty stories told of women, who have excelled as professed artists. In general the conscious power of maintaining themselves, habits of attention and manual industry, the application of our feminine superfluity of sensibility and imagination to a tangible result--have produced fine characters. The daughter of Tintoretto, when invited to the courts of Maximilian and Philip II. refused to leave her father. Violante Siries of Florence gave a similar proof of filial affection; and when the grand duke commanded her to paint her own portrait for the Florentine gallery, where it now hangs, she introduced the portrait of her father, because he had been her first instructor in art. When Henrietta Walters, the famous Dutch miniature painter, was invited by Peter the Great and Frederic, to their respective courts, with magnificent promises of favour and patronage, she steadily refused; and when Peter, who had no idea of giving way to obstacles, particularly in the female form, pressed upon her in person the most splendid offers, and demanded the reason of her refusal, she replied, that she was contented with her lot, and could not bear the idea of living out of a free country.
Maria von Osterwyck, one of the most admirable flower painters, had a lover, to whom she was a little partial, but his idleness and dissipation distressed her. At length she promised to give him her hand on condition that during one year he would work regularly ten hours a day, observing that it was only what she had done herself from a very early age. He agreed; and took a house opposite to her that she might witness his industry; but habit was too strong, his love or his resolution failed, and he broke the compact. She refused to be his wife; and no entreaties could afterwards alter her determination never to accept the man who had shown so little strength of character, and so little real love. She was a wise woman, and as the event showed, not a heartless one. She died unmarried, though surrounded by suitors.
It was the fate of Elizabeth Sirani, one of the most beautiful women, as well as one of the most exquisite painters of her time, to live in the midst of those deadly feuds between the pupils of Guido and those of Domenichino, and she was poisoned at the age of twenty-six. She left behind her one hundred and fifty pictures, an astonishing number if we consider the age at which the world was deprived of this wonderful creature, for they are finished with the utmost care in every part. Madonnas and Magdalenes were her favourite subjects. She died in 1526. Her best pictures are at Florence.
Sofonisba Angusciola had two sisters, Lucia and Europa, almost as gifted, though not quite so celebrated as herself: these three "virtuous gentlewomen," as Vasari calls them, lived together in the most delightful sisterly union. One of Sofonisba's most beautiful pictures represents her two sisters playing at chess, attended by the old duenna, who accompanied them every where. When Sofonisba was invited to the court of Spain, in 1560, she took her sisters with her--in short, they were inseparable. They were all accomplished women. "We hear," said the pope, in a complimentary letter to Sofonisba, on one of her pictures, "that this your great talent is among the least you possess:" which letter is said by Vasari to be a _sufficient_ proof of the genius of Sofonisba--as if the holy Father's infallibility extended to painting! Luckily we have proofs more undeniable in her own most lovely works--glowing with life like those of Titian; and in the testimony of Vandyke, who said of her in her later years, that "he had learned more from one old blind woman in Italy than from all the masters of his art."
It is worth remarking, that almost all the women who have attained celebrity in painting, have excelled in portraiture. The characteristic of Rosalba is an exceeding elegance; of Angelica Kauffman exceeding grace; but she wants nerve. Lavinia Fontana threw a look of sensibility into her most masculine heads--she died broken-hearted for the loss of an only son, whose portrait is her masterpiece. The Sofonisba had most dignity, and in her own portrait a certain dignified simplicity in the air and attitude strikes us immediately. Gentileschi has most power: she was a gifted, but a profligate woman. All those whom I have mentioned were women of undoubted genius; for they have each a style apart, peculiar, and tinted by their individual character: but all, except Gentileschi, were _feminine_ painters. They succeeded best in feminine portraits, and when they painted history they were only admirable in that class of subjects which came within the province of their sex; beyond that boundary they became _fade_, insipid, or exaggerated: thus Elizabeth Sirani's Annunciation is exquisite, and her Crucifixion feeble; Angelica Kauffman's Nymphs and Madonnas are lovely; but her picture of the warrior Herman, returning home after the defeat of the Roman legions, is cold and ineffective. The result of these reflections is, that there is a walk of art in which women may attain perfection, and excel the other sex; as there is another department from which they are excluded. You must change the physical organization of the race of women before we produce a Rubens or a Michael Angelo. Then, on the other hand, I fancy, no _man_ could paint like Louisa Sharpe, any more than write like Mrs. Hemans. Louisa Sharpe, and her sister, are, in painting, just what Mrs. Hemans is in poetry; we see in their works the same characteristics--no feebleness, no littleness of design or manner, nothing vapid, trivial, or affected,--and nothing masculine; all is super-eminently, essentially feminine, in subject, style, and sentiment. I wish to combat in every way that oft-repeated, but most false compliment unthinkingly paid to women, that genius is of no sex; there may be equality of power, but in its quality and application there will and must be difference and distinction. If men would but remember this truth, they would cease to treat with ridicule and jealousy the attainments and aspirations of women, knowing that there never could be real competition or rivalry. If women would admit this truth, they would not presume out of their sphere:--but then we come to the necessity for some key to the knowledge of ourselves and others--some scale for the just estimation of our own qualities and powers, compared with those of others--the great secret of self-regulation and happiness--the beginning, middle, and end of all education.
But to return from this tirade. I wish my vagrant pen were less discursive.
In the works of art, the presence of a power, felt rather than perceived, and kept subordinate to the sentiment of grace, should mark the female mind and hand. This is what I love in Rosalba, in our own Mrs. Carpenter, in Madame de Freyberg, and in Eliza and Louisa Sharpe: in the latter there is a high tone of moral as well as poetical feeling. Thus her picture of the young girl coming out of church after disturbing the equanimity of a whole congregation by her fine lady airs and her silk attire, is a charming and most graceful satire on the foibles of her sex. The idea, however, is taken from the Spectator. But Louisa Sharpe can also create. Of another lovely picture,--that of the young, forsaken, disconsolate, repentant mother, who sits drooping over her child, "with looks bowed down in penetrative shame," while one or two of the rigidly-righteous of her own sex turn from her with a scornful and upbraiding air--I believe the subject is original; but it is obviously one which never could have occurred, except to the most consciously pure as well as the gentlest and kindest heart in the world. Never was a more beautiful and Christian lesson conveyed by woman to woman; at once a warning to our weakness, and a rebuke to our pride.
_Apropos_ of female artists: I met here with a lady of noble birth and high rank, the Countess Julie von Egloffstein, who in spite of the prejudices still prevailing in Germany, has devoted herself to painting as a profession. Her vocation for the art was early displayed; but combated and discouraged as derogatory to her rank and station; she was for many years _demoiselle d'honneur_ to the grand Duchess Luise of Weimar. Under all these circumstances, it required real strength of mind to take the step she has taken; but a less decided course could not well have emancipated her from trammels, the force of which can hardly be estimated out of Germany. A recent journey to Italy, undertaken on account of her health, fixed her determination, and her destiny for life.
In looking over her drawings and pictures, I was particularly struck by one singularity, which yet, on reflection, appears perfectly comprehensible. This high-born and court-bred woman shows a decided predilection for the picturesque in humble life, and seems to have turned to simple nature in perfect simplicity of heart. Being self-taught and self-formed, there is nothing mannered or conventional in her style; and I do hope she will assert the privilege of genius, and, looking only into nature out of her own heart and soul, form and keep a style to herself. I remember one little picture, painted either for the queen of England or the queen of Bavaria, representing a young Neapolitan peasant, seated at her cottage door, contemplating her child, cradled at her feet, while the fishing bark of her husband is sailing away in the distance. In this little bit of natural poetry there was no seeking after effect, no prettiness, no pretension; but a quiet genuine simplicity of feeling, which surprised while it pleased me. When I have looked at the Countess Julie in her painting-room, surrounded by her drawings, models, casts--all the powers of her exuberant enthusiastic mind flowing free in their natural direction, I have felt at once pleasure, and admiration, and respect. It should seem that the energy of spirit and real magnanimity of mind which could trample over social prejudices, not the less strong because manifestly absurd, united to genius and perseverance, may, if life be granted, safely draw upon futurity both for success and for fame.
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I consider my introduction to Moritz Retzsch as one of the most memorable and agreeable incidents of my short sojourn at Dresden.
This extraordinary genius, who is almost as popular and interesting in England as in his own country, seems to have received from Nature a double portion of the inventive faculty--that rarest of all her good gifts, even to those who are her especial favourites. As his published works by which he is principally known in England (the Outlines to the Faust, to Shakspeare, to Schiller's Song of the Bell, &c.) are illustrations of the ideas of others, few but those who may possess some of his original drawings are aware, that Retzsch is himself a poet of the first order, using his glorious power of graphic delineation to throw into form the conceptions, thoughts, aspirations, of his own glowing imagination and fertile fancy. Retzsch was born at Dresden in 1779, and has never, I believe, been far from his native place. From childhood he was a singular being, giving early indications of his imitative power by drawing or carving in wood, resemblances of the objects which struck his attention, without the slightest idea in himself or others of becoming eventually an artist; and I have even heard that, when he was quite a youth, his enthusiastic mind, labouring with a power which he felt rather than knew, his love of the wilder aspects of nature, and impatience of the restraints of artificial life, had nearly induced him to become a huntsman or forester (Jäger) in the royal service. However, at the age of twenty, his love of art became a decided vocation. The little property he had inherited or accumulated was dissipated during that war, which swept like a whirlwind over all Germany, overwhelming prince and peasant, artist, mechanic, in one wide-spreading desolation. Since that time Retzsch has depended on his talents alone--content to live poor in a poor country. He has, by the exertion of his talents, achieved for himself a small independence, and contributed to the support of a large family of relations, also ruined by the casualties of war. His usual residence is at his own pretty little farm or vineyard a few miles from Dresden. When in the town, where his duties as professor of the Academy frequently call him, he lodges in a small house in the Neustadt, close upon the banks of the Elbe, in a retired and beautiful situation. Thither I was conducted by our mutual friend, N----, whose appreciation of Retzsch's talents, and knowledge of his peculiarities, rendered him the best possible intermediator on this occasion.
The professor received us in a room which appeared to answer many purposes, being obviously a sleeping as well as a sitting-room, but perfectly neat. I saw at once that there was every where a woman's superintending eye and thoughtful care; but did not know at the moment that he was married. He received us with open-hearted frankness, at the same time throwing on the stranger one of those quick glances which seemed to look through me: in return, I contemplated him with inexpressible interest. His figure is rather larger, and more portly than I had expected; but I admired his fine Titanic head, so large, and so sublime in its expression; his light blue eye, wild and wide, which seemed to drink in meaning and flash out light; his hair profuse, grizzled, and flowing in masses round his head: and his expanded brow full of poetry and power. In his deportment he is a mere child of nature, simple, careless, saying just what he feels and thinks at the moment, without regard to forms; yet pleasing from the benevolent earnestness of his manner, and intuitively polite without being polished.
After some conversation, he took us into his painting room. As a colourist, I believe his style is criticised, and open to criticism; it is at least singular; but I must confess that while I was looking over his things I was engrossed by the one conviction;--that while his peculiar merits, and the preference of one manner to another may be a matter of argument or taste, it is certain, and indisputable, that no one paints _like_ Retzsch, and that, in the original power and fertility of _conception_, in the quantity of _mind_ which he brings to bear upon his subject, he is in his own style unequalled and inimitable. I was rather surprised to see in some of his designs and pencil drawings, the most elaborate delicacy of touch, and most finished execution of parts, combined with a fancy which seems to run wild over his paper or his canvas; but only _seems_--for it must be remarked, that with all this luxuriance of imagination, there is no exaggeration, either of form or feeling; he is peculiar, fantastic, even extravagant--but never false in sentiment or expression. The reason is, that in Retzsch's character the moral sentiments are strongly developed; where _they_ are deficient, let the artist who aims at the highest poetical department of excellence, despair; for no possession of creative talent, nor professional skill, nor conventional taste, will supply that main deficiency.
I saw in Retzsch's atelier many things novel, beautiful, and interesting; but will note only a few, which have dwelt upon my memory, as being characteristic of the man as well as the artist.
There was, on a small pannel, the head of an angel smiling. He said he was often pursued by dark fancies, haunted by melancholy forebodings, desponding over himself and his art, "and he resolved to create an angel for himself, which should smile upon him out of heaven." So he painted his most lovely head, in which the radiant spirit of joy seems to beam from every feature at once; and I thought while I looked upon it, that it were enough to exorcise a whole legion of blue devils. It is rarely that we can associate the mirthful with the beautiful and the sublime--even I could have deemed it next to impossible; but the effulgent cheerfulness of this divine face corrected that idea, which, after all, is not in bright lovely Nature, but in the shadow which the mighty spirit of Humanity casts from his wings, as he hangs brooding over her between heaven and earth.
Afterwards he placed upon his easel a wondrous face, which made me shrink back--not with terror, for it was perfectly beautiful--but with awe, for it was unspeakably fearful: the hair streamed back from the pale brow--the orbs of sight appeared at first two dark, hollow, unfathomable spaces, like those in a skull; but when I drew nearer, and looked attentively, two lovely living eyes looked at me again out of the depth of shadow, as of from the bottom of an abyss. The mouth was divinely sweet, but sad, and the softest repose rested on every feature. This, he told me, was the ANGEL OF DEATH: it was the original conception of a head for the large picture now at Vienna, representing the Angel of Death bearing aloft two children into the regions of the blessed: the heavens opening above, and the earth and stars sinking beneath his feet.
The next thing which struck me was a small picture--two satyrs butting at each other, while a shepherd carries off the nymph for whom they are contending. This was most admirable for its grotesque power and spirit, and, moreover, extremely well coloured. Another in the same style represented a satyr sitting on a wine-skin, out of which he drinks; two arch-looking nymphs are stealing on him from behind, and one of them pierces the wine-skin with her hunting-spear.
There was a portrait of himself, but I would not laud it--in fact, he has not done himself justice. Only a colossal bust, in the same style, and wrought with the same feeling as Dannecker's bust of Schiller, could convey to posterity an adequate idea of the head and countenance of Retzsch. I complimented him on the effect which his Hamlet had produced in England; he told me, that it had been his wish to illustrate the Midsummer Night's Dream, or the Tempest, rather than Macbeth: the former he will still undertake, and, in truth, if any one succeeds in embodying a just idea of a Miranda, a Caliban, a Titania, and the poetical burlesque of the Athenian clowns, it will be Retzsch, whose genius embraces at once the grotesque, the comic, the wild, the wonderful, the fanciful, the elegant!
A few days afterwards we accepted Retzsch's invitation to visit him at his _campagna_--for whether it were farm-house, villa, or vineyard, or all together, I could not well decide. The drive was delicious. The road wound along the banks of the magnificent Elbe, the gently-swelling hills, all laid out in vineyards, rising on our right; and though it was in November, the air was soft as summer. Retzsch, who had perceived our approach from his window, came out to meet us--took me under his arm as if we had been friends of twenty years standing, and leading me into his picturesque _domicile_, introduced me to his wife--as pretty a piece of domestic poetry as one shall see in a summer's day. She was the daughter of a vine-dresser, whom Retzsch fell in love with while she was yet almost a child, and educated for his wife--at least so runs the tale. At the first glance I detected the original of that countenance which, more or less idealized, runs through all his representations of female youth and beauty: here was the model, both in feature and expression; she smiled upon us a most cordial welcome, regaled us with delicious coffee and cakes prepared by herself, then taking up her knitting sat down beside us; and while I turned over admiringly the beautiful designs with which her husband had decorated her album, the looks of veneration and love with which she regarded him, and the expression of kindly, delighted sympathy with which she smiled upon me, I shall not easily forget. As for the album itself, queens might have envied her such homage: and what would not a dilettante collector have given for such a possession!
I remember two or three of these designs which must serve to give an idea of the rest:--1st. The good Genius descending to bless his wife.--2nd. The birthday of his wife--a lovely female infant is asleep under a vine, which is wreathed round the tree of life; the spirits of the four elements are bringing votive gifts with which they endow her.--3rd. The Enigma of Human Life.--The Genius of Humanity is reclining on the back of a gigantic sphinx, of which the features are averted, and partly veiled by a cloud; he holds a rose half-withered in his hand, and looks up with a divine expression towards two butterflies which have escaped from the chrysalis state, and are sporting above his head; at his feet are a dead bird and reptile--emblematical of sin and death.--4th. The genius of art, represented as a young Apollo, turns, with a melancholy, abstracted air, the handle of a barrel-organ, while Vulgarity, Ignorance, and Folly, listen with approbation; meantime his lyre and his palette lie neglected at his feet, together with an empty purse and wallet: the mixture of pathos, poetry, and satire, in this little drawing, can hardly be described in words.--5th. Hope, represented by a lovely group of playful children, who are peeping under a hat for a butterfly, which they fancy they have caught, but which has escaped, and is hovering above their reach.--6th. Temptation presented to youth and innocence by an evil spirit, while a good genius warns them to beware.--In this drawing, the figures of the boy and girl, but more particularly of the latter, appeared to me of the most consummate and touching beauty.--7th. His wife walking on a windy day: a number of little sylphs are agitating her drapery, lifting the tresses of her hair, playing with her sash; while another party have flown off with her hat, and are bearing it away in triumph.
After spending three or four hours delightfully, we drove home in silence by the gleaming, murmuring river, and beneath the light of the silent stars. On a subsequent visit, Retzsch showed me many more of these delicious _phantasie_, or fancies, as he termed them,--or more truly, little pieces of moral and lyrical poetry, thrown into palpable form, speaking in the universal language of the eye to the universal heart of man. I remember, in particular, one of striking and even of appalling interest. The Genius of Humanity and the Spirit of Evil are playing at chess for the souls of men: the Genius of Humanity has lost to his infernal adversary some of his principal pieces,--love, humility, innocence, and lastly, peace of mind;--but he still retains faith, truth, and fortitude; and is sitting in a contemplative attitude, considering his next move; his adversary, who opposes him with pride, avarice, irreligion, luxury, and a host of evil passions, looks at him with a _Mephistophiles'_ expression, anticipating his devilish triumph. The pawns on the one side are prayers--on the other, doubts. A little behind stands the Angel of conscience as arbitrator. In this most exquisite allegory, so beautifully, so clearly conveyed to the heart, there lurked a deeper moral than in many a sermon.
There was another beautiful little allegory of Love in the character of a Picklock, opening, or trying to open, a variety of albums, lettered, the "Human Heart, No. 1; Human Heart, No. 2;" while Philosophy lights him with her lanthorn. There were besides many other designs of equal poetry, beauty, and moral interest--I think, a whole portfolio full of them.
I endeavoured to persuade Retzsch that he could not do better than publish some of these exquisite _Fancies_, and when I left him he entertained the idea of doing so at some future period. To adopt his own language, the Genius of Art could not present to the Genius of Humanity a more delightful and a more profitable gift.
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The following list of German painters comprehends those _only_ whose works I had an opportunity of considering, and who appeared to me to possess decided merit. I might easily have extended this catalogue to thrice its length, had I included all those whose names were given to me as being distinguished and celebrated among their own countrymen. From Munich alone I brought a list of two hundred artists, and from other parts of Germany nearly as many more. But in confining myself to those whose productions I _saw_, I adhere to a principle which, after all, seems to be the best--viz. never to speak but of what we _know_; and then only of the individual impression: it is necessary to know so many things before we can give, with confidence, an opinion about any one thing!
While the literary intercourse between England and Germany increases every day, and a mutual esteem and understanding is the natural consequence of this approximation of mind, there is a singular and mutual ignorance in all matters appertaining to art, and consequently, a good deal of injustice and prejudice on both sides. The Germans were amazed and incredulous, when I informed them that in England there are many admirers of art, to whom the very names of Schnorr, Overbeck, Rauch, Peter Hess, Wach, Wagenbauer, and even their great Cornelius, are unknown; and I met with very clever, well-informed Germans, who had, by some chance, _heard_ of Sir Thomas Lawrence, and knew _something_ of Wilkie, Turner, and Martin, from the engravings after their works; who thought Sir Joshua Reynolds and his engraver Reynolds one and the same person; and of Callcott, Landseer, Etty, and Hilton, and others of our shining lights, they knew nothing at all. I must say, however, that they have generally a more just idea of English art than we have of German art, and their veneration for Flaxman, like their veneration for Shakspeare, is a sort of enthusiasm all over Germany. Those who have contemplated the actual state of art, and compared the prevalent tastes and feelings in both countries, will allow that much advantage would result from a better mutual understanding. We English accuse the German artists of mannerism, of a formal, hard, and elaborate execution,--a pedantic style of composition and sundry other sins. The Germans accuse us, in return, of excessive coarseness and carelessness, a loose sketchy style of execution, and a general inattention to truth of character. "You English have no school of art," was often said to me; I could have replied--if it had not been a solecism in grammar--"You Germans have _too much_ school." The "esprit de secte," which in Germany has broken up their poetry, literature, and philosophy into schisms and schools, descends unhappily to art, and every professor, to use the Highland expression, has _his tail_.
At the same time, we cannot deny to the Germans the merit of great earnestness of feeling, and that characteristic integrity of purpose which they throw into every thing they undertake or perform. Art with them, is oftener held in honour, and pursued truly for its own sake, than among us: too many of our English artists consider their lofty and noble vocation, simply as the means to an end, be that end fame or gain. Generally speaking, too, the German artists are men of superior cultivation, so that when the creative inspiration falls upon them, the material on which to work is already stored up: "nothing can come of nothing," and the sun-beams descend in vain on the richest soil, where the seed has not been sown.
It is certain that we have not in England any historical painters who have given evidence of their genius on so grand a scale as some of the historical painters of Germany have recently done. _We_ know that it is not the genius, but the opportunity which has been wanting, but we cannot ask foreigners to admit this,--they can only judge from results, and they must either suppose us to be without eminent men in the higher walks of art,--or they must wonder, with their magnificent ideas of the incalculable wealth of our nobles, the prodigal expenditure of our rulers, and the grandeur of our public institutions, that painting has not oftener been summoned in aid of her eldest sister architecture. On the other hand, their school of portraiture and landscape is decidedly inferior to ours. Not only have they no landscape painters who can compare with Callcott and Turner, but they do not appear to have _imagined_ the kind of excellence achieved by these wonderful artists. I should say, generally, that their most beautiful landscapes want atmosphere. I used to feel while looking at them as if I were in the exhausted receiver of an air-pump. Of their portraits I have already spoken; the eye which has rested in delight upon one of Wilkie's or Phillips's fine manly portraits, (not to mention Reynolds, Gainsborough, Romney, and Lawrence,) cannot easily be reconciled to the hard, frittered manner of some of the most admired of the German painters; it is a difference of taste, which I will not call natural but national;--the remains of the old gothic school which, as the study of Italian art becomes more diffused, will be modified or pass away.
* * * * *
Peter Cornelius, born at Dusseldorf in 1778, was for a considerable time the director (president) of the academy there, and is now the director of the academy of art at Munich: much of his time, however, is spent in Italy. The Germans esteem him their best historical painter. He has invention, expression, and power, but appears to me rather deficient in the feeling of beauty and tenderness. His grand works are the fresco painting in the Glyptothek at Munich, already described.
Friedrich Overbeck, born at Lubeck in 1789: he excels in scriptural subjects, which he treats with infinite grandeur and simplicity of feeling.
Wilhelm Wach, born at Berlin in 1787: first painter to the king of Prussia and professor in the academy of Berlin: esteemed one of the best painters and most accomplished men in Germany. Not having visited Berlin, where his finest works exist, I have as yet seen but one picture by this painter--the head of an angel, at the palace of Peterstein, sublimely conceived, and most admirably painted. In the style of colour, in the singular combination of grand feeling and delicate execution, this picture reminded me of Leonardo da Vinci.
Professor Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, born at Leipsig in 1794. His frescos from the Nibelungen Lied in the new palace at Munich have been already mentioned at length.
Professor Heinrich Hesse: the frescos in the Royal Chapel at Munich, already described.
Wilhelm Tischbein, born at Heyna in 1751. He is director of the academy at Naples, and highly celebrated. He must not be confounded with his uncle, a mediocre artist, who was the court painter of Hesse Cassel, and whose pictures swarm in all the palaces there.
Philip Veit, of Frankfort--fresco painter.
Joseph Schlotthauer, professor of historical and fresco painting at Munich. (I believe this artist is dead. He held a high rank.)
Clement Zimmermann, now employed in the Pinakothek, and in the new palace at Munich, where he takes a high rank as painter, and is not less distinguished by his general information, and his frank and amiable character.
Moritz Retzsch of Dresden.
Professor Vogel, of Dresden, principal painter to the king of Saxony. He paints in fresco and history, but excels in portraits.
Stieler, of Munich, court painter to the king of Bavaria, esteemed one of the best portrait painters in Germany.
Goetzenberger, fresco painter. He is employed in painting the University Hall at Bonn.
Eduard Bendeman, of Berlin. I saw at the exhibition of the Kunstverein at Dusseldorf, a fine picture by this painter--"The Hebrews in Exile."
"By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept."
The colouring I thought rather hard, but the conception and drawing were in a grand style.
Wilhelm Schadow, director of the academy at Dusseldorf.
Hetzsch of Stuttgardt.
The brothers Riepenhausen, of Göttingen, resident at Rome. They are celebrated for their designs of the pictures of Polygnotus, as described by Pausanius.
Koehler. He exhibited at the Kunstverein at Dusseldorf a picture of "Rebecca at the well," very well executed.
Ernst Förster, of Altenburg, employed in the palace at Munich. This clever young painter married the daughter of Jean Paul Richter.
Gassen, of Goblentz; Hiltensberger, of Suabia; Hermann, of Dresden; Foltz, of Bingen; Kaulbach, of Munich; Eugene Neureuther, of Munich; Wilhelm Röckel, of Schleissheim; Von Schwind, of Vienna; Wilhelm Lindenschmidt, of Mayence. All these painters are at present in the service of the king of Bavaria.
Julius Hübner; Hildebrand; Lessing; Sohn; history and portraits;--these four painters are the most distinguished scholars of the Dusseldorf school.
SMALL SUBJECTS AND CONVERSATION PIECES.
Peter Hess, of Munich, one of the most eminent painters in Germany. In his choice of subjects he reminded me sometimes of Eastlake, and sometimes of Wilkie, and his style is rather in Wilkie's first manner. His pictures are full of spirit, truth, and character.
Dominique Quaglio, of Munich. Interiors, &c. He also ranks very high: he reminds me of Fraser.
Major-General von Heydeck, of Munich, an amateur painter of merited celebrity. In the collection of M. de Klenze, and in the Leuchtenberg Gallery, there are some small battle pieces, scenes in Greece and Spain, and other subjects by Von Heydeck, very admirably painted.
F. Müller, of Cassel. At the exhibition at Dusseldorf I saw a picture by this artist, "A rustic bridal procession in the Campagna," painted with a freedom and lightness of pencil not common among the German artists.
Plüddeman, of Colberg.
T. B. Sonderland, of Dusseldorf. Fairs and merrymakings.
H. Rustige. The same subjects. Both are good artists.
H. Kretzschmar, of Pomerania. His picture of "Little Red Ridinghood," (Rothkäppchen,) at the Kunstverein, at Dusseldorf, had great merit.
Adolf Scrötte. Rustic scenes in the Dutch manner.
Dahl, a Norwegian settled at Dresden, esteemed one of the best landscape painters in Germany. There is a very fine sea-piece by this artist in the possession of the Countess von Seebach at Dresden, with, however, all the characteristic _peculiarities_ of the German school.
T. D. Passavant, of Frankfort.
Friedrich, of Dresden, one of the most _poetical_ of the German landscape painters. He is rather a mannerist in colour, like Turner, but in the opposite excess: his genius revels in gloom, as that of Turner revels in light.
Professor von Dillis, of Munich.
Max Wagenbauer, of Munich. He is called most deservedly, the German Paul Potter.
Jacob Dorner, of Munich. A charming painter; perhaps a little too minute in his finishing.
Catel, of Dusseldorf. Scenes on the Mediterranean. This painter resides chiefly in Italy; but in the collection of M. de Klenze I saw some admirable specimens of his works.
Biermann, of Berlin, is a fine landscape painter.
Prëyer, certainly the most exquisite of modern flower painters. I believe he is from Dusseldorf.
Rothman, of Heidelberg. I saw some pictures and sketches by this young painter, full of genius and feeling.
Fries, of Munich, a young painter of great promise. He put an end to his own life, while I was at Munich, in a fit of delirium, caused by fever, and was very generally lamented.
Wilhelm Schirmer, of Juliers, an exceedingly fine landscape painter.
Audeas Achenbach, of Dusseldorf: he has also great merit.
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There are several female artists in Germany, of more or less celebrity. The Baroness von Freyberg (born Electrina Stuntz) holds the first rank in original talent. She resides near Munich, but no longer paints professionally.
The Countess Julie von Egloffstein has also the rare gift of original and creative genius.
Luise Seidler, of Weimar; Madlle. de Winkel and Madame de Loqueyssie, of Dresden, are distinguished in their art. The two latter are exquisite copyists.
In architecture, Leo von Klenze and Professor Girtner, of Munich; and Heideloff of Nuremberg, are deservedly celebrated in Germany.
The most distinguished sculptors in Germany are Christian Rauch, and Christian Friedrich Tieck, of Berlin; Johan Heinrich von Dannecker, of Stuttgardt; Schwanthaler, Eberhardt, Bandel, Kirchmayer, Mayer, all of Munich; Reitschel of Dresden; and Imhoff, of Cologne. Those of their works which I had an opportunity of seeing have been mentioned in the course of these sketches.
Who that has exulted over the heroic reign of our gorgeous Elizabeth, or wept over the fate of Mary Stuart, but will remember the name of the only woman whose high and haughty spirit out-faced the lion port of one queen, and whose audacity trampled over the sorrows of the other--
"Brow-beating her fair form, and troubling her sweet pride!"
But this is anticipation. If it be so laudable, according to the excellent, oft quoted advice of the giant Moulineau, to _begin at the beginning_, what must it be to improve upon the precept? for so, in relating the fallen and fading glories of Hardwicke, do I intend to exceed even "mon ami le Belier," in historic accuracy, and take up our tale at a period ere Hardwicke itself--the Hardwicke that now stands--had a beginning.
There lived, then, in the days of queen Bess, a woman well worthy to be her majesty's namesake,--Elizabeth Hardwicke, more commonly called, in her own country, Bess of Hardwicke, and distinguished in the page of history as the _old_ Countess of Shrewsbury. She resembled Queen Elizabeth in all her best and worst qualities, and, putting royalty out of the scale, would certainly have been more than a match for that sharp-witted virago, in subtlety of intellect, and intrepidity of temper and manner.
She was the only daughter of John Hardwicke, of Hardwicke, and being early left an orphan and an heiress, was married ere she was fourteen to a certain Master Robert Barley, who was about her own age. Death dissolved this premature union within a few months, but her husband's large estates had been settled on her and her heirs; and at the age of fifteen, dame Elizabeth was a blooming widow, amply dowered with fair and fertile lands, and free to bestow her hand again where she listed.
Suitors abounded, of course: but Elizabeth, it should seem, was hard to please. She was beautiful, if the annals of her family say true,--she had wit, and spirit, and, above all, an infinite love of independence. After taking the management of her property into her own hands, she for some time reigned and revelled (with all decorum be it understood) in what might be truly termed, a state of single blessedness; but at length, tired of being lord and lady too--"master o'er her vassals," if not exactly "queen o'er herself"--she thought fit, having reached the discreet age of four-and-twenty, to bestow her hand on Sir William Cavendish. He was a man of substance and power, already enriched by vast grants of abbey lands in the time of Henry VIII., all which, by the marriage contract, were settled on the lady. After this marriage, they passed some years in retirement, having the wisdom to keep clear of the political storms and factions which intervened between the death of Henry VIII. and the accession of Mary, and yet the sense to profit by them. While Cavendish, taking advantage of those troublous times, went on adding manor after manor to his vast possessions, dame Elizabeth was busy providing heirs to inherit them; she became the mother of six hopeful children, who were destined eventually to found two illustrious dukedoms, and mingle blood with the oldest nobility of England--nay, with royalty itself. "Moreover," says the family chronicle, "the said dame Elizabeth persuaded her husband, out of the great love he had for her, to sell his estates in the south and purchase lands in her native county of Derby, wherewith to endow her and her children, and at her farther persuasion he began to build the noble seat of Chatsworth, but left it to her to complete, he dying about the year 1559."
Apparently this second experiment in matrimony pleased the lady of Hardwicke better than the first, for she was not long a widow. We are not in this case informed how long--her biographer having discreetly left it to our imagination; and the Peerages, though not in general famed for discretion on such points, have in this case affected the same delicate uncertainty. However this may be, she gave her hand, after no long courtship, to Sir William St. Loo, captain of Elizabeth's guard, and then chief butler of England--a man equally distinguished for his fine person and large possessions, but otherwise not superfluously gifted by nature. So well did the lady manage _him_, that with equal hardihood and rapacity, she contrived to have all his "fair lordships in Gloucestershire and elsewhere" settled on herself and her children, to the manifest injury of St. Loo's own brothers, and his daughters by a former union: and he dying not long after without any issue by her, she made good her title to his vast estates, added them to her own, and they became the inheritance of the Cavendishes.
But three husbands, six children, almost boundless opulence, did not yet satisfy this extraordinary woman--for extraordinary she certainly was, not more in the wit, subtlety, and unflinching steadiness of purpose with which she amassed wealth and achieved power, but in the manner in which she used both. She ruled her husband, her family, her vassals, despotically, needing little aid, suffering no interference, asking no counsel. She managed her immense estates, and the local power and political weight which her enormous possessions naturally threw into her hands, with singular capacity and decision. She farmed the lands; she collected her rents; she built; she planted; she bought and sold; she lent out money on usury; she traded in timber, coals, lead: in short, the object she had apparently proposed to herself, the aggrandisement of her children by all and any means, she pursued with a wonderful perseverance and good sense. Power so consistently wielded, purposes so indefatigably followed up, and means so successfully adapted to an end, are, in a female, very striking. A slight sprinkling of the softer qualities of her sex, a little more elevation of principle, would have rendered her as respectable and admirable as she was extraordinary; but there was in this woman's mind the same "fond de vulgarité" which we see in the character of Queen Elizabeth, and which no height of rank, or power, or estate, could do away with. In this respect the lady of Hardwicke was much inferior to that splendid creature, Anne Clifford, Countess of Dorset, Pembroke, and Cumberland, another masculine spirit in the female form, who had the same propensity for building castles and mansions, the same passion for power and independence, but with more true generosity and magnanimity, and a touch of poetry and genuine nobility about her which the other wanted: in short, it was all the difference between the amazon and the heroine. It is curious enough that the Duke of Devonshire should be the present representative of both these remarkable women.
But to return: Bess of Hardwicke was now approaching her fortieth year; she had achieved all but nobility--the one thing yet wanting to crown her swelling fortunes. About the year 1565 (I cannot find the exact date) she was sought in marriage by George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. There is no reason to doubt what is asserted, that she had captivated the earl by her wit and her matronly beauty. He could hardly have married her from motives of interest: he was himself the richest and greatest subject in England; a fine chivalrous character, with a reputation as unstained as his rank was splendid, and his descent illustrious. He had a family by a former wife, (Gertrude Manners,) to inherit his titles, and _her_ estates were settled on her children by Cavendish. It should seem, therefore, that mutual inclination alone could have made the match advantageous to either party; but Bess of Hardwicke was still Bess of Hardwicke. She took advantage of her power over her husband in the first days of their union. "She induced Shrewsbury by entreaties or threats to sacrifice, in a measure, the fortune, interest, and happiness of himself and family to the aggrandisement of her and her family." She contrived in the first place to have a large jointure settled on herself; and she arranged a double union, by which the wealth and interests of the two great families should be amalgamated. She stipulated that her eldest daughter, Mary Cavendish, should marry the earl's son, Lord Talbot; and that his youngest daughter, Grace Talbot, should marry her eldest son, Henry Cavendish.
The French have a proverb worthy of their gallantry--"_Ce que femme veut, Dieu veut_:" but even in the feminine gender we are sometimes reminded of another proverb equally significant--"_L'homme propose et Dieu dispose_." Now was Bess of Hardwicke queen of the Peak; she had built her erie so high, it seemed to dally with the winds of heaven; her young eaglets were worthy of their dam, ready plumed to fly at fortune; she had placed the coronet of the oldest peerage in England on her own brow, she had secured the reversion of it to her daughter, and she had married a man whose character was indeed opposed to her own, but who, from his chivalrous and confiding nature was calculated to make her happy, by leaving her mistress of herself.
In 1568 Mary Stuart, flying into England, was placed in the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury, and remained under his care for sixteen years, a long period of restless misery to the unhappy earl not less than to his wretched captive. In this dangerous and odious charge was involved the sacrifice of his domestic happiness, his peace of mind, his health, and great part of his fortune, His castle was converted into a prison, his servants into guards, his porter into a turnkey, his wife into a spy, and himself into a jailor, to gratify the ever-waking jealousy of Queen Elizabeth. But the earl's greatest misfortune was the estrangement, and at length enmity, of his violent, high-spirited wife. She beheld the unhappy Mary with a hatred for which there was little excuse, but many intelligible reasons: she saw her, not as a captive committed to her womanly mercy, but as an intruder on her rights. Her haughty spirit was continually irritated by the presence of one in whom she was forced to acknowledge a superior, even in that very house and domain where she herself had been used to reign as absolute queen and mistress. The enormous expenses which this charge entailed on her household were distracting to her avarice; and, worse than all, jealousy of the youthful charms and winning manners of the Queen of Scots, and of the constant intercourse between her and her husband, seem at length to have driven her half frantic, and degraded her, with all her wit, and sense, and spirit, into the despicable treacherous tool of the more artful and despotic Elizabeth, who knew how to turn the angry and jealous passions of the countess to her own purposes.
It was not, however, all at once that matters rose to such a height: the fire smouldered for some time ere it burst forth. There is a letter preserved among the Shrewsbury Correspondence which the countess addressed to her husband from Chatsworth, at a time when the earl was keeping guard over Mary at Sheffield castle. It is a most curious specimen of character. It treats chiefly of household matters, of the price and goodness of malt and hops, iron and timber, and reproaches him for not sending her money which was due to her, adding, "I see out of sight out of mind with you;" she sarcastically inquires "how his charge and _love_ doth;" she sends him "some _letyss_ (lettuces) for that he loves them," (this common sallad herb was then a rare delicacy;) and she concludes affectionately, "God send my juill helthe." The incipient jealousy betrayed in this letter soon after broke forth openly with a degree of violence towards her husband, and malignity towards his prisoner, which can hardly be believed. There is distinct evidence that Shrewsbury was not only a trustworthy, but a rigorous jailor; that he detested the office forced upon him; that he often begged in the most abject terms to be released from it; and that harassed on every side by the tormenting jealousy of his wife, the unrelenting severity and mistrust of Elizabeth, and the complaints of Mary, he was seized with several fits of illness, and once by a mental attack, or "phrenesie," as Cecil terms it, brought on by the agitation of his mind; yet the idea of resigning his office, except at the pleasure of Queen Elizabeth, never seems to have entered his imagination.
On one occasion Lady Shrewsbury went so far as to accuse her husband openly of intriguing with his prisoner, in every sense of the word; and she at the same time abused Mary in terms which John Knox himself could not have exceeded. Mary, deeply incensed, complained of this outrage: the earl also appealed to Queen Elizabeth, and the countess and her daughter, Lady Talbot, were obliged to declare upon oath, that this accusation was false, scandalous, and malicious, and that they were not the authors of it. This curious affidavit of the mother and daughter is preserved in the Record Office.
In a letter to Lord Leicester, Shrewsbury calls his wife "his wicked and malicious wife," and accuses her and "her imps," as he irreverently styles the whole brood of Cavendishes, of conspiring to sow dissensions between him and his eldest son. These disputes being carried to Elizabeth, she set herself with heartless policy to foment them in every possible way. She deemed that her safety consisted in employing one part of the earl's family as spies on the other. In some signal quarrel about the property round Chatsworth, she commanded the earl to submit to his wife's pleasure: and though no "tame snake" towards his imperious lady, as St. Loo and Cavendish had been before him, he bowed at once to the mandate of his unfeeling sovereign--such was the despotism and such the loyalty of those days. His reply, however, speaks the bitterness of his heart. "Sith that her majesty hath set down this hard sentence against me to my perpetual infamy and dishonour, that I should be ruled and overrunne by my wife, so bad and wicked a woman; yet her majesty shall see that I will obey her majesty's commandment, though no curse or plague on the earth could be more grievous to me." * * "It is too much," he adds, "to be made my wife's pensioner." Poor Lord Shrewsbury! Can one help pitying him?
Not the least curious part of this family history is the double dealing of the imperious countess. While employed as a spy on Mary, whom she detested, she, from the natural fearlessness and frankness of her temper, not unfrequently betrayed Elizabeth, whom she also detested. While in attendance on Mary, she often gratified her own satirical humour, and amused her prisoner by giving her a coarse and bitter portraiture of Elizabeth, her court, her favourites, her miserable temper, her vanity, and her personal defects. Some report of these conversations soon reached the queen, (who is very significantly drawn in one of her portraits in a dress embroidered over with eyes and ears,) and she required from Mary an account of whatever Lady Shrewsbury had said to her prejudice. Mary, hating equally the rival who oppressed her and the domestic harpy who daily persecuted her, was nothing loath to indulge her feminine spite against the two, and sent Elizabeth such a circumstantial list of the most gross and hateful imputations, (all the time politely assuring her good sister that she did not believe a word of them,) that the rage and mortification of the queen must have exceeded all bounds. She kept the letter secret; but Lady Shrewsbury never was suffered to appear at court after the death of Mary had rendered her services superfluous.
Through all these scenes, the Lady of Hardwicke still pursued her settled purpose. Her husband complained that he was "never quiet to satisfy her greedie appetite for money for purchases to set up her children." Her ambition was equally insatiate, and generally successful: but in one memorable instance she overshot her mark. She contrived (unknown to her lord) to marry her favourite daughter, Elizabeth Cavendish, to Lord Lennox, the younger brother of the murdered Darnley, and consequently standing in the same degree of relationship to the crown. Queen Elizabeth, in the extremity of her rage and consternation, ordered both the dowager Lady Lennox and Lady Shrewsbury to the Tower, where the latter remained for some months; we may suppose, to the great relief of her husband. He used, however, all his interest to excuse her delinquency, and at length procured her liberation. But this was not all. Elizabeth Cavendish, the young Lady Lennox, while yet in all her bridal bloom, died in the arms of her mother, who appears to have suffered that searing, lasting grief which stern hearts sometimes feel. The only issue of this marriage was an infant daughter, that unhappy Arabella Stuart, who was one of the most memorable victims of jealous tyranny which our history has recorded. Her very existence, from her near relationship to the throne, was a crime in the eyes of Elizabeth and James I. There is no evidence that Lady Shrewsbury indulged in any ambitious schemes for this favourite granddaughter, "her dear jewel, Arbell," as she terms her; but she did not hesitate to enforce her claims to royal blood by requiring 600_l._ a year from the treasury for her board and education as became the queen's kinswoman. Elizabeth allowed her 200_l._ a year, and this pittance Lady Shrewsbury accepted. Her rent-roll was at this time 60,000_l._ a year, equal to at least 200,000_l._ at the present day.
The Earl of Shrewsbury died in 1590, at enmity to the last moment with his wife and son; and the Lady of Hardwicke having survived four husbands, and seeing all her children settled and prosperous, still absolute mistress over her family, resided during the last seventeen years of her life in great state and plenty at Hardwicke, her birth place. Here she superintended the education of Arabella Stuart, who, as she grew up to womanhood, was kept by her grandmother in a state of seclusion, amounting almost to imprisonment, lest the jealousy of Elizabeth should rob her of her treasure.
Next to the love of money and power, the chief passion of this magnificent old beldam, was building. It is a family tradition, that some prophet had foretold that she should never die as long as she was building, and she died at last, in 1607, during a hard frost, when her labourers were obliged to suspend their work. She built Chatsworth, Oldcotes, and Hardwicke; and Fuller adds in his quaint style that she left "two sacred (besides civil) monuments of her memory; one that I hope will not be taken away, (her splendid tomb, erected by herself,) and one that I am sure cannot be taken away, being registered in the court of heaven, viz. her stately almshouses for twelve poor people at Derby."
Of Chatsworth, the hereditary palace of the Dukes of Devonshire, all its luxurious grandeur, all its treasures of art, it is not here "my hint to speak." It has been entirely rebuilt since the days of its founder. Oldcotes was once a magnificent place. There is a tradition at Hardwicke that old Bess, being provoked by a splendid mansion which the Suttons had lately erected within view of her windows, declared she would build a finer dwelling for the owlets, (hence Owlcots or Oldcotes.) She kept her word, more truly perhaps than she intended, for Oldcotes has since become literally a dwelling for the owls; the chief part of it is in ruins, and the rest converted into a farmhouse. Her younger daughter, Frances Cavendish, married Sir Henry Pierrepoint, of Holme-Pierpoint, and one of the granddaughters married another Pierrepoint--through one of these marriages, but I know not which, Oldcotes has descended to the present Earl Manvers.
The mansion of Hardwicke was commenced about the year 1592, and finished in 1597. It stands about a stone's throw from the old house in which the old countess was born, and which she left standing, as if, says her biographer, she intended to construct her bed of state close by her cradle. This fine old ruin remains, grey, shattered, and open to all the winds of heaven, almost overgrown with ivy, and threatening to tumble about the ears of the bats and owls which are its sole inhabitants. One majestic room remains entire. It is called the "Giant's Chamber" from two colossal figures in Roman armour which stand over the huge chimney-piece. This room has long been considered by architects as a perfect specimen of grand and beautiful proportion, and has been copied at Chatsworth and at Blenheim.
It must have been in this old hall, and not in the present edifice, that Mary Stuart resided during her short stay at Hardwicke. I am sorry to disturb the fanciful or sentimental tourists and sight-seers; but so it is, or rather, so it must have been. Yet it is not surprising that the memory of Mary Stuart should now form the principal charm and interest of Hardwicke, and that she should be in a manner the tutelary genius of the place. Chatsworth has been burned and rebuilt. Tutbury, Sheffield castle, Wingfield, Fotheringay, and the old house of Hardwicke, in short, every place which Mary inhabited during her captivity, all lie in ruins, as if struck with a doleful curse. But Hardwicke Hall exists just as it stood in the reign of Elizabeth. The present Duke of Devonshire, with excellent taste and feeling, keeps up the old costume within and without. The bed and furniture which had been used by Mary, the cushions of her oratory, the tapestry wrought by her own hands, have been removed hither, and are carefully preserved. There can be no doubt of the authenticity of these relics, and there is enough surely to consecrate the whole to our imagination. Moreover, we have but to go to the window and see the very spot, the very walls which once enclosed her, the very casements from which she probably gazed with a sigh over the far hills; and indulge, without one intrusive doubt, in all the romantic and fascinating, and mysterious, and sorrowful associations, which hang round the memory of Mary Stuart.
With what different eyes may people view the same things! "We receive but what we give," says the poet; and all the light, and glory, and beauty, with which certain objects are in a manner _suffused_ to the eye of fancy, must issue from our own souls, and be reflected back to us, else 'tis all in vain.
"We may not hope from outward forms to win, The passion and the life, whose fountains are within!"
When Gray, the poet, visited Hardwicke, he fell at once into a very poet-like rapture, and did not stop to criticise pictures, and question authorities. He says in one of his letters to Dr. Wharton, "of all the places I have seen in my return from you, Hardwicke pleased me most. One would think that Mary queen of Scotts was but just walked down into the park with her guard for half an hour: her gallery, her room of audience, her ante-chamber, with the very canopies, chair of state, footstool, _lit de repos_, oratory, carpets, hangings, just as she left them, a little tattered indeed, but the more venerable," &c. &c.
Now let us hear Horace Walpole, antiquarian, virtuoso, dilettante, filosofastro--but, in truth, no poet. He is, however, in general so good-natured, so amusing, and so tasteful, that I cannot conceive what put him into such a Smelfungus humour when he visited Hardwicke, with a Cavendish too at his elbow as his cicerone!
He says, "the duke sent Lord John with me to Hardwicke, where I was again disappointed; but I will not take relations from others; they either don't see for themselves, or can't see for me. How I had been promised that I should be charmed with Hardwicke, and told that the Devonshires ought to have established themselves there! Never was I less charmed in my life. The house is not gothic, but of that _betweenity_ that intervened when Gothic declined, and Palladian was creeping in; rather, this is totally naked of either. It has vast chambers--aye, vast, such as the nobility of that time delighted in, and did not know how to furnish. The great apartment is exactly what it was when the Queen of Scots was kept there. Her council-chamber (the council-chamber of a poor woman who had only two secretaries, a gentleman usher, an apothecary, a confessor, and three maids) is so outrageously spacious that you would take it for King David's, who thought, contrary to all modern experience, that in the multitude of counsellors there is wisdom. At the upper end is the State, with a long table, covered with a sumptuous cloth, embroidered and embossed with gold--at least what was gold; so are all the tables. Round the top of the chamber runs a monstrous frieze, ten or twelve feet deep, representing a stag-hunt in miserable plastered relief.
"The next is her dressing-room, hung with patchwork on black velvet; then her state bed-chamber. The bed has been rich beyond description, and now hangs in costly golden tatters; the hangings, part of which they say her majesty worked, are composed of figures as large as life, sewed and embroidered on black velvet, white satin, &c., and represent the virtues that were necessary to her, or that she was found to have--as patience, temperance, &c. The fire-screens are particular;--pieces of yellow velvet, fringed with gold, hung on a cross-bar of wood, which is fixed on the top of a single stick that rises from the foot. The only furniture which has any appearance of taste are the table and cabinets, which are of oak, richly carved."
(I must observe _en passant_, that I wonder Horace did not go mad about the chairs, which are exactly in the Strawberry Hill taste, only infinitely finer, crimson velvet, with backs six feet high, and sumptuously carved.)
"There is a private chamber within, where she lay: her arms and style over the door. The arras hangs over all the doors. The gallery is sixty yards in length, covered with bad tapestry and wretched pictures of Mary herself, Elizabeth in a gown of sea-monsters, Lord Darnley, James the Fifth and his queen, (curious,) and a whole history of kings of England not worth sixpence a-piece."
"There is a fine bank of old oaks in the park over a lake: nothing else pleased me there."
Nothing else! Monsieur Traveller?--certes, this is one way of seeing things! Yet, perhaps, if I had only visited Hardwicke as a casual object of curiosity--had merely walked over the place--I had left it, like Gray, with some vague impression of pleasure, or like Walpole, with some flippant criticisms, according to the mood of the moment; or, at the most, I had quitted it as we generally leave show-places, with some confused recollections of state-rooms, and blue-rooms, and yellow-rooms, and storied tapestries, and nameless, or mis-named pictures, floating through the muddled brain; but it was far otherwise: I was ten days at Hardwicke--ten delightful days--time enough to get it by heart; aye, and what is more, ten _nights_; and I am convinced that to feel all the interest of such a place one should sleep in it. There is much, too, in first impressions, and the circumstances under which we approached Hardwicke were sufficiently striking. It was on a gusty, dark autumnal evening; and as our carriage wound slowly up the hill, we could but just discern an isolated building, standing above us on the edge of the eminence, a black mass against the darkening sky. No light was to be seen, and when we drove clattering under the old gateway, and up the paved court, the hollow echoes broke a silence which was almost awful. Then we were ushered into a hall so spacious and lofty that I could not at the moment discern its bounds; but I had glimpses of huge escutcheons, and antlers of deer, and great carved human arms projecting from the walls, intended to sustain lamps or torches, but looking as if they were stretched out to clutch one. Thence up a stone staircase, vast, and grand, and gloomy--leading we knew not where, and hung with pictures of we knew not what--and conducted into a chamber fitted up as a dining-room, in which the remnants of antique grandeur, the rich carved oak wainscoting, the tapestry above it, the embroidered chairs, the collossal armorial bearings above the chimney and the huge recessed windows, formed a curious contrast with the comfortable modern sofas and easy chairs, the blazing fire, and table hospitably spread in expectation of our arrival. Then I was sent to repose in a room hung with rich faded tapestry. On one side of my bed I had king David dancing before the ark, and on the other, the judgment of Solomon. The executioner in the latter piece, a grisly giant, seven or eight feet high, seemed to me, as the arras stirred with the wind, to wave his sword, and looked as if he were going to eat up the poor child, which he flourished by one leg; and for some time I lay awake, unable to take my eyes from the figure. At length fatigue overcame this unpleasant fascination, and I fell asleep.
The next morning I began to ramble about, and so day after day, till every stately chamber, every haunted nook, every secret door, curtained with heavy arras, and every winding stair, became familiar to me. What a passion our ancestors must have had for space and light! and what an ignorance of comfort! Here are no ottomans of eider down, no spring cushions, no "boudoirs etroits, où l'on ne boude point," no "demijour de rendezvous;" but what vast chambers! what interminable galleries! what huge windows pouring in floods of sunshine! what great carved oak-chests, such as Iachimo hid himself in! now stuffed full of rich tattered hangings, tarnished gold fringes, and remnants of embroidered quilts! what acres--not yards--of tapestries, once of "sky-tinctured woof," now faded and moth-eaten! what massy chairs and immovable tables! what heaps of portraits, the men looking so grim and magnificent, and the women so formal and faded! Before I left the place I had them all by heart; there was not one among them who would not have bowed or curtsied to me out of their frames.
But there were three rooms in which I especially delighted, and passed most of my time. The first was the council-chamber described by Walpole: it is sixty-five feet in length, by thirty-three in width, and twenty-six feet high. Rich tapestry, representing the story of Ulysses, runs round the room to the height of fifteen or sixteen feet, and above it the stag-hunt in ugly relief. On one side of this room there is a spacious recess, at least eighteen or twenty feet square; and across this, from side to side, to divide it from the body of the room, was suspended a magnificent piece of tapestry, (real Gobelin's,) of the time of Louis Quatorze, still fresh and even vivid in tint, which from its weight hung in immense wavy folds; above it we could just discern the canopy of a lofty state-bed, with nodding ostrich plumes, which had been placed there out of the way. The effect of the whole, as I have seen it, when the red western light streamed through the enormous windows, was, in its shadowy beauty and depth of colour, that of a "realized Rembrandt"--if, indeed, even Rembrandt ever painted any thing at once so elegant, so fanciful, so gorgeous, and so gloomy.
From this chamber, by a folding-door, beautifully inlaid with ebony, but opening with a common latch, we pass into the library, as it is called. Here the Duke of Devonshire generally sits when he visits Hardwicke, perhaps on account of the glorious prospect from the windows. It contains a grand piano, a sofa, and a range of book-shelves, on which I found some curious old books. Here I used to sit and read the voluminous works of that dear, half-mad, absurd, but clever and good-natured Duchess of Newcastle, and yawn and laugh alternately; or pore over Guillim on Heraldry;--fit studies for the place!
In this room are some good pictures, particularly the portrait of Lady Anne Boyle, daughter of the first Earl of Burlington, the Lady Sandwich of Charles the Second's time. This is, without exception, the finest specimen of Sir Peter Lely I ever saw--so unlike the usual style of his half-dressed, leering women--so full of pensive grace and simplicity--the hands and arms so exquisitely drawn, and the colouring so rich and so tender, that I was at once surprised and enchanted. There is also a remarkably fine picture of a youth with a monkey on his shoulder, said to be Jeffrey Hudson, (Queen Henrietta's celebrated dwarf,) and painted by Vandyke. I doubt both.
Over the chimney of this room there is a piece of sculptured bas-relief, in Derbyshire marble, representing Mount Parnassus, with Apollo and the Muses; in one corner the arms of Queen Elizabeth, and in the other her cypher, E. R., and the royal crown. I could neither learn the meaning of this nor the name of the artist. Could it have been a gift from Queen Elizabeth? There is (I think in the next room) another piece of sculpture representing the Marriage of Tobias; and I remember a third, representing a group of Charity. The workmanship of all these is surprisingly good for the time, and some of the figures very graceful. I am surprised that they escaped the notice of Horace Walpole, in his remarks on the decorations of Hardwicke. Richard Stephens, a Flemish sculptor and painter, and Valerio Vicentino, an Italian carver in precious stones, were both employed by the munificent Cavendishes of that time; and these pieces of sculpture were probably the work of one of these artists.
When tired of turning over the old books, a door concealed behind the arras admitted me at once into the great gallery--my favourite haunt and daily promenade. It is near one hundred and eighty feet in length, lighted along one side by a range of stupendous windows, which project outwards from so many angular recesses. In the centre pier is a throne, or couch of state, on a raised platform, under a canopy of crimson and gold, surmounted by plumes of ostrich feathers. The walls are partly tapestried, and covered with some hundreds of family pictures; none indeed of any superlative merit--none that emulate within a thousand degrees the matchless Vandykes and glorious Titians of Devonshire House; but among many that are positively bad, and more that are lamentably mediocre as works of art, there are several of great interest. At each end of this gallery is a door, and, according to the tradition of the place, every night, at the witching hour of twelve, Queen Elizabeth enters at one door, and Mary of Scotland at the other; they advance to the centre, curtsey profoundly, then sit down together under the canopy and converse amicably,--till the crowing of the cock breaks up the conference, and sends the two majesties back to their respective hiding-places.
Somebody who was asked if he had ever seen a ghost? replied, gravely, "No; but I was once _very near_ seeing one!" In the same manner I was once _very near_ being a witness to one of these ghostly confabs.
Late one evening, having left my sketch-book in the gallery, I went to seek it. I made my way up the great stone staircase with considerable intrepidity, passed through one end of the council-chamber without casting a glance through the palpable obscure, the feeble ray of my wax-light just spreading about a yard around me, and lifting aside the tapestry door, stepped into the gallery. Just as the heavy arras fell behind me, with a dull echoing sound, a sudden gust of wind came rushing by, and extinguished my taper. Angels and ministers of grace defend us!--not that I felt afraid--O no! but just a little what the Scotch call "eerie." A thrill, not altogether unpleasant, came over me: the visionary turn of mind which once united me in fancy "with the world unseen," had long been sobered and reasoned away. I heard no "viewless paces of the dead," nor "airy skirts unseen that rustled by;" but what I did see and hear was enough. The wind whispering and moaning along the tapestried walls, and every now and then rattling twenty or thirty windows at once, with such a crash!--and the pictures around just sufficiently perceptible in the faint light to make me fancy them staring at me. Then immediately behind me was the very recess, or rather abyss, where Queen Elizabeth was at that moment settling her farthingale, to sally out upon me; and before me, but lost in blackest gloom, the spectral door, where Mary--not that I should have minded encountering poor Mary, provided always that she had worn her own beautiful head where heaven placed it, and not carried it, as Bertrand de Born carried _his_ "a guisa di lanterna." As to what followed, it is a secret. Suffice it that I found myself safe by the fireside in my bedroom, without any very distinct recollection of how I got there.
Of all the scenes in which to moralize and meditate, a picture gallery is to me the most impressive. With the most intense feeling of the beauty of painting, I cannot help thinking with Dr. Johnson, that as far as regards portraits, their chief excellence and value consist in the likeness and the authenticity, and not in the merit of the execution. When we can associate a story or a sentiment with every face and form, they almost live to us--they do in a manner speak to us. There is speculation in those fixed eyes--there is eloquence in those mute lips--and, O! what tales they tell! One of the first pictures which caught my attention as I entered the gallery was a small head of Arabella Stuart, when an infant. The painting is poor enough: it is a little round rosy face in a child's cap, and she holds an embroidered doll in her hand. Who could look on this picture, and not glance forward through succeeding years, and see the pretty playful infant transformed into the impassioned woman, writing to her husband--"In sickness, and in despair, wheresoever thou art, or howsoever I be, it sufficeth me always that thou art mine!" Arabella Stewart was not clever; but not Heloise, nor Corinne, nor Madlle. De l'Espinasse ever penned such a dear little morsel of touching eloquence--so full of all a woman's tenderness! Her stern grandmother, the lady and foundress of Hardwicke, hangs near. There are three pictures of her: all the faces have an expression of sense and acuteness, but none of them the beauty which is attributed to her. There are also two of her husbands, Cavendish and Shrewsbury. The former a grave, intelligent head; the latter very striking from the lofty furrowed brow, the ample beard, and regular but care-worn features. A little farther on we find his son Gilbert, seventh earl of Shrewsbury, and Mary Cavendish, wife of the latter and daughter of Bess of Hardwicke. She resembled her mother in features as in character. The expression is determined, intelligent, and rather cunning. Of her haughty and almost fierce temper, a curious instance is recorded. She had quarrelled with her neighbours, the Stanhopes, and not being able to defy them with sword and buckler, she sent one of her gentlemen, properly attended, with a message to Sir Thomas Stanhope, to be delivered in presence of witnesses, in these words--"My lady hath commanded me to say thus much to you: that though you be more wretched, vile, and miserable than any creature living, and for your wickedness become more ugly in shape than the vilest toad in the world; and one to whom none of any reputation would vouchsafe to send any message; yet she hath thought good to send thus much to you, that she be contented you should live, (and doth noways wish your death,) but to this end: that all the plagues and miseries that may befall any man, may light on such a caitiff as you are," &c.; (and then a few anathemas, yet more energetic, not fit to be transcribed by "pen polite," but ending with _hell-fire_.) "With many other opprobrious and hateful words which could not be remembered, because the bearer would deliver it but once, as he said he was commanded; but said, if he had failed in any thing, it was in speaking it more mildly, and not in terms of such disdain as he was commanded." We are not told whether the gallantry of Stanhope suffered him to throw the herald out of the window, who brought him this gentle missive. As for the termagant countess, his adversary, she was afterwards imprisoned in the Tower for upwards of two years, on account of Lady Arabella Stuart's stolen match with Lord Seymour. She ought assuredly to have "brought forth men-children only;" but she left no son. Her three daughters married the earls of Pembroke, of Arundel, and of Kent.
The portraits of James V. of Scotland and his Queen, Mary of Guise, are extremely curious. There is something ideal and elegant about the head of James V.--the look we might expect to find in a man who died from wounded feeling. His more unhappy daughter, poor Mary, hangs near--a full length in a mourning habit, with a white cap, (of her own peculiar fashion,) and a veil of white gauze. This, I believe, is the celebrated picture so often copied and engraved. It is dated 1578, the thirty-sixth of her age, and the tenth of her captivity. The figure is elegant, and the face pensive and sweet. Beside her, in strong contrast, hangs Elizabeth, in a most preposterous farthingale, and a superabundance of all her usual absurdities and enormities of dress. The petticoat is embroidered over with snakes, crocodiles, and all manner of creeping things. We feel almost inclined to ask whether the artist could possibly have intended them as emblems, like the eyes and ears in her picture at Hatfield; but it may have been one of the three thousand gowns, in which Spenser's Gloriana, Raleigh's Venus, loved to array her old wrinkled, crooked carcase. Katherine of Arragon is here--a small head in a hood: the face not only harsh, as in all her pictures, but vulgar, a characteristic I never saw in any other. There is that peculiar expression round the mouth, which might be called either decision or obstinacy. And here too is the famous Lucy Harrington, Countess of Bedford, the friend and patroness of Ben Jonson, looking sentimental in a widow's dress, with a white pocket handkerchief. There is character enough in the countenance to make us turn with pleasure to Ben Jonson's exquisite eulogium on her.
"I meant she should be courteous, facile, sweet, Hating that solemn vice of greatness, _pride_: I meant each softest virtue there should meet, Fit in that softer bosom to reside. Only a learned and a manly soul I purposed her; that should with even powers The rock, the spindle, and the sheers controul Of destiny, and spin her own free hours!"
Farther on is another more celebrated woman, Christian Bruce, the second Countess of Devonshire, so distinguished in the reigns of Charles I. and Charles II. She had all the good qualities of Bess of Hardwicke: her sense, her firmness, her talents for business, her magnificent and independent spirit, and none of her faults. She was as feminine as she was generous and high-minded; fond of literature, and a patroness of poets and learned men:--altogether a noble creature. She was the mother of that lovely Lady Rich, "the wise, the fair, the virtuous, and the young," whose picture by Vandyke is at Devonshire-house, and there are two pictures at Hardwicke of her handsome, gallant, and accomplished son, Charles Cavendish, who was killed at the battle of Gainsborough. Many fair eyes almost wept themselves blind for his loss, and his mother never recovered the "sore heart-break of his death."
There are several pictures of her grandson, the first Duke of Devonshire--the patriot, the statesman, the munificent patron of letters, the poet, the man of gallantry, and, to crown all, the handsomest man of his day. He was one of the leaders in the revolution of 1688--for be it remembered that the Cavendishes, from generation to generation, have ennobled their nobility by their love of liberty, as well as their love of literature and the arts. One picture of this duke on horseback, _en grand costume à la Louis Quatorze_, is so embroidered and bewigged, so plumed, and booted, and spurred, that he is scarcely to be discerned through his accoutrements. A cavalier of those days in full dress must have been a ponderous concern; but then the ladies were as formidably vast and aspiring. The petticoats at this time were so discursive, and the head-dresses so ambitious, that I think it must have been to save in canvass what they expended in satin or brocade, that so many of the pretty women of that day were painted _en bergère_.
Apropos to the first Duke of Devonshire: I cannot help remarking the resemblance of the present duke to his illustrious ancestor, as well as to several other portraits, and particularly to a very distant relative--the first Countess of Burlington, who was, I believe, the great-grandmother of his grace's grandmother;--in both these instances the likeness is so striking as to be recognized at once, and not without a smiling exclamation of surprise.
Another interesting picture is that of Rachael Russell, the second Duchess of Devonshire, daughter of that heroine and saint, Lady Russell: the face is very beautiful, and the air elegant and high-bred--with rather a pouting expression in the full red lips.
Here is also the third duchess, Miss Hoskins, a great city heiress. The painter, I suspect, has flattered her, for she had not in her day the reputation of beauty. When I looked at this picture, so full of delicate, and youthful, and smiling loveliness, I could not help recurring to a passage in Horace Walpole's letters, in which he alludes to this sylph-like being, as the "ancient grace," and congratulates himself on finding her in good-humour.
But of all the female portraits, the one which struck me most was that of Lady Charlotte Boyle, the young Marchioness of Hartington, in a masquerade habit of purple satin, embroidered with silver; a fanciful little cap and feathers, thrown on one side, and the dark hair escaping in luxuriant tresses; she holds a mask in her hand, which she has just taken off, and looks round upon us in all the consciousness of happy and high-born loveliness. She was the daughter and heiress of Richard Boyle, the last Earl of Burlington and Cork, and Baroness Clifford in her own right. The merits of the Cavendishes were their own, but their riches and power, in several instances, were brought into the family by a softer influence. Through her, I believe, the vast estates of the Boyles and Cliffords in Ireland and the north of England, including Chiswick and Bolton Abbey, have descended to her grandson, the present duke. There are several pictures of her here--one playing on the harpsichord, and another, small and very elegant, in which she is mounted on a spirited horse. There are two heads of her in crayons, by her mother, Lady Burlington, ill-executed, but said to be like her. And another picture, representing her and her beautiful but ill-fated sister, Lady Dorothy, who was married very young to Lord Euston, and died six months afterwards, in consequence of the brutal treatment of her husband. All the pictures of Lady Hartington have the same marked character of pride, intellect, vivacity, and loveliness. But short was her gay and splendid career! She died of a decline in the sixth year of her marriage, at the age of four-and-twenty.
Here is also her father, Lord Burlington, celebrated by Pope, (who has dedicated to him the second of his epistles "on the use of riches,") and styled by Walpole, "the Apollo of the Arts," which he not only patronised, but studied and cultivated; his enthusiasm for architecture was such, that he not only designed and executed buildings for himself, (the villa at Chiswick, for example,) but contributed great sums to public works; and at his own expense published an edition of the designs of Palladio and of Inigo Jones. In one picture of Lord Burlington there is a head of his idol, Inigo Jones, in the background. There is also a good picture of Robert Boyle, the philosopher, a spare, acute, contemplative, interesting face, in which there is as much sensibility as thought. He is said to have died of grief for the loss of his favourite sister, Lady Ranelagh; and when we recollect who and what _she_ was--the sole friend of his solitary heart--the partner of his studies, and with qualities which rendered her the object of Milton's enthusiastic admiration, and almost tender regard, we scarce think less of her brother's philosophy, that it afforded him no consolation for the loss of _such_ a sister.
On the other side hangs another philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, of Malmsbury, whose bold speculations in politics and metaphysics, and the odium they drew on him, rendered his whole life one continued warfare with established prejudices and opinions. He was tutor in the family of the first Earl of Devonshire, in 1607--remained constantly attached to the house of Cavendish--and never lost their countenance and patronage in the midst of all the calumnies heaped upon him. He died at Hardwicke under the protection of the first Duke of Devonshire, in 1678. This curious portrait represents him at the age of ninety-two. The picture is not good as a picture, but striking from the evident truth of the expression--uniting the last lingering gleam of thought with the withered, wrinkled, and almost ghastly decrepitude of extreme age. It has, I believe, been engraved by Hollar.
I looked round for Henry Cavendish, the great chemist and natural philosopher--another bright ornament of a family every way ennobled--but there is no portrait of him at Hardwicke. I was also disappointed not to find the "limned effigy," as she would call it, of my dear Margaret of Newcastle.
There are plenty of kings and queens, truly not worth "sixpence a-piece," as Walpole observes; but there is one picture I must not forget--that of the brave and accomplished Earl of Derby, who was beheaded at Bolton-le-Moor, the husband of the heroic "Lady of Lathom," who figures in Peveril of the Peak. The head has a grand melancholy expression, and I should suppose it to be a copy from Vandyke.
Besides these, were many others calculated to awaken in the thoughtful mind both sweet and bitter fancies. How often have I walked up and down this noble gallery lost in "commiserating reveries" on the vicissitudes of departed grandeur!--on the nothingness of all that life could give!--on the fate of youthful beauties who lived to be broken-hearted, grow old, and die!--on heroes that once walked the earth in the blaze of their fame, now gone down to dust, and an endless darkness!--on bright faces, "petries de lis et de roses," since time-wrinkled!--on noble forms since mangled in the battle-field!--on high-born heads that fell beneath the axe of the executioner!--O ye starred and ribboned! ye jewelled and embroidered! ye wise, rich, great, noble, brave, and beautiful, of all your loves and smiles, your graces and excellencies, your deeds and honours--does then a "painted board circumscribe all?"
It was on such a day as I have seen in Italy in the month of December, but which, in our chill climate, seemed so unseasonably, so ominously beautiful, that it was like the hectic loveliness brightening the eyes and flushing the cheek of consumption,--that I found myself in the domains of Althorpe. Autumn, dying in the lap of Winter, looked out with one bright parting smile;--the soft air breathed of Summer; the withered leaves, heaped on the path, told a different tale. The slant, pale sun shone out with all heaven to himself; not a cloud was there, not a breeze to stir the leafless woods--those venerable woods, which Evelyn loved and commemorated: the fine majestic old oaks, scattered over the park, tossed their huge bare arms against the blue sky; a thin hoar frost, dissolving as the sun rose higher, left the lawns and hills sparkling and glancing in its ray; now and then a hare raced across the open glade--
"And with her feet she from the plashy earth Raises a mist, which glittering in the sun, Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run."
Nothing disturbed the serene stillness except a pheasant whirring from a neighbouring thicket, or at intervals the belling of the deer--a sound so peculiar, and so fitted to the scene, that I sympathized in the taste of one of the noble progenitors of the Spencers, who had built a hunting-lodge in a sequestered spot, that he might hear "the harte bell."
This was a day, an hour, a scene, with all its associations, its quietness and beauty, "felt in the blood, and felt along the heart." All worldly cares and pains were laid asleep; while memory, fancy, and feeling waked. Althorpe does not frown upon us in the gloom of remote antiquity; it has not the warlike glories of some of the baronial residences of our old nobility; it is not built like a watch-tower on a hill, to lord it over feudal vassals; it is not bristled with battlements and turrets. It stands in a valley, with the gradual hills undulating round it, clothed with rich woods. It has altogether a look of compactness and comfort, without pretension, which, with the pastoral beauty of the landscape, and low situation, recall the ancient vocation of the family, whose grandeur was first founded, like that of the patriarchs of old, on the multitude of their flocks and herds. It was in the reign of Henry the Eighth that Althorpe became the principal seat of the Spencers, and no place of the same date can boast so many delightful, romantic, and historical associations. There is Spenser the poet, "high-priest of all the Muses' mysteries," who modestly claimed, as an honour, his relationship to those Spencers who now, with a just pride, boast of _him_, and deem his Faery Queen "the brightest jewel in their coronet;" and the beautiful Alice Spencer, countess of Derby, who was celebrated in early youth by her poet-cousin, and for whom Milton, in her old age, wrote his "Arcades." At Althorpe, in 1603, the queen and son of James the First were, on their arrival in England, nobly entertained with a masque, written for the occasion by Ben Jonson, in which the young ladies and nobles of the country enacted nymphs and fairies, satyrs and hunters, and danced to the sound of "excellent soft music," their scenery the natural woods, their stage the green lawn, their canopy the summer sky. What poetical picturesque hospitality! In these days it would have been a dinner, with French cooks and confectioners express from London to dress it. Here lived Waller's famous Sacharissa, the first Lady Sunderland--so beautiful and good, so interesting in herself, she needed not his wit nor his poetry to enshrine her. Here she parted from her young husband, when he left her to join the king in the field; and here, a few months after, she received the news of his death in the battle of Newbury, and saw her happiness wrecked at the age of three-and-twenty. Here plotted her distinguished son, that Proteus of politics, the second Lord Sunderland. Charles the First was playing at bowls on the green at Althorpe, when Colonel Joyce's detachment surprised him, and carried him off to imprisonment and to death. Here the excellent and accomplished Evelyn used to meditate in the "noble gallerie," and in the "ample gardens," of which he has left us an admiring and admirable description, which would be as suitable today as it was a hundred and fifty years ago, with the single exception of the great proprietor, deservedly far more honoured in this generation than was his apostate time-serving ancestor, the Lord Sunderland of Evelyn's day. When the Spencers were divided, the eldest branch of the family becoming Dukes of Marlborough and the youngest Earls Spencer--if the former inherited glory, Blenheim, and poverty--to the latter have belonged more true and more substantial distinctions: for the last three generations the Spencers have been remarked for talents, for benevolence, for constancy, for love of literature, and patronage of the fine arts.
The house retains the form described by Evelyn--that of a half H: a slight irregularity is caused by the new gothic room, built by the present earl, to contain part of his magnificent library, which, like the statue in the Castle of Otranto, had grown "too big for what contained it." We entered by a central door the large and lofty hall, or vestibule, hung round with pictures of fox-chases and those who figured in them, famous hunters, quadruped and biped, all as large as life, spread over as much canvass as would make a mainsail for a man-of-war. These huge perpetrations are of the time of Jack Spencer, a noted Nimrod in his day; and are very fine, as we were told, but they did not interest me. I had caught a glimpse of the superb staircase, hung round with pictures above and below, and not the less interesting as having been erected by Sacharissa herself during the few years she was mistress of Althorpe. A face looked at us from over an opposite door, which there was no resisting. Does the reader remember Horace Walpole's pleasant description of a party of _seers_ posting through the apartments of a show-place? "They come; ask what such a room is called?--write it down; admire a lobster or cabbage in a Dutch market piece; dispute whether the last room was green or purple; and then hurry to the inn, for fear the fish should be over-dressed." We were not such a party; but with imaginations ready primed to take fire, and memories enriched with all the associations the place could suggest, to us every portrait was a history. The orthodox style of seeing the house is to turn to the left, and view the ground-floor apartments first; but the face I have mentioned seemed to beckon me straight-forward, and I could not choose but obey the invitation: it was that of Lady Bridgewater, the loveliest of the four lovely daughters of the Duke of Marlborough: she had the misfortune to be painted by Jervas, and the good fortune to be celebrated by Pope as the "tender sister, daughter, friend, and wife;" and again--
"Thence Beauty, waking, all her forms supplies-- An angel's sweetness--or Bridgewater's eyes."
Jervas was supposed to have been presumptuously and desperately in love with this beautiful woman, who died at the age of five-and-twenty: hence Pope has taken the liberty--by a poetical licence, no doubt--to call her, in his Epistle to Jervas, "_thy_ Bridgewater." Two of her fair sisters, the Duchess of Montagu and Lady Godolphin, hung near her; and above, her fairer sister, Lady Sunderland. Ascending the magnificent staircase, a hundred faces look down upon us, in a hundred different varieties of expression, in a hundred different costumes. Here are Queen Anne and Sarah Duchess of Marlborough placed amicably side by side, as in the days of their romantic friendship, when they conversed and corresponded as Mrs. Morley and Mrs. Freeman: the beauty, the intellect, the spirit, are all on the side of the imperious duchess; the poor queen looks like what she was, a good-natured fool. On the left is the cunning abigail, who supplanted the duchess in the favour of Queen Anne--Mrs. Masham. Proceeding along the gallery, we are met by the portrait of that angel-devil, Lady Shrewsbury, whose exquisite beauty fascinates at once and shocks the eye like the gorgeous colours of an adder. I believe the story of her holding the Duke of Buckingham's horse while he shot her husband in a duel, has been disputed; but her attempt to assassinate Killegrew, while she sat by in her carriage, is too true. So far had her depravities unsexed her!
----"Lorsque la vertu, avec peine abjurée, Nous fait voir une femme à ses fureurs livrée, S'irritant par l'effort que ce pas a couté, Son âme avec plus d'art a plus de cruauté."
She was even less famous for the number of her lovers, than the catastrophes of which she was the cause.
"Had ever nymph such reason to be glad? Two in a duel fell, and one ran mad."
Not two, but half a dozen fell in duels; and if her lovers "ran mad," it was in despite, not in despair. Lady Shrewsbury is past jesting or satire; and after a first involuntary pause of admiration before her matchless beauty, we turn away with horror. For the rest of the portraits on this vast staircase, it would take a volume to give a _catalogue raisonnée_ of them. We pass, then, into a corridor hung with two large and very mediocre landscapes, representing Tivoli and Terni. Any attempt, even the best, to paint a cataract _must_ be abortive. How render to the fancy the two grandest of its features--sound and motion? the thunder and the tumult of the headlong waters? We will pass on to the gallery, and lose ourselves in its enchantments.
Where shall we begin?--Any where. Throw away the catalogue: all are old acquaintances. We are tempted to speak to them, and they look as if they could curtsey to us. The very walls breathe around us. What Vandykes--what Lelys--what Sir Joshuas! what a congregation of all that is beauteous and noble!--what Spencers, Sydneys, Digbys, Russells, Cavendishes, and Churchills!--O what a scene to moralize, to philosophize, to sentimentalize in!--what histories in those eyes, that look, yet see not!--what sermons on those lips, that all but speak; I would rather reflect in a picture-gallery, than elegize in a churchyard. The "poca polvere che nulla sente," can only tell us we must die; these, with a more useful and deep-felt morality, tell us how to live.
Yet I cannot say I felt thus pensive and serious the first time I looked round the gallery at Althorpe. Curiosity, excitement, interest, admiration--a crowd of quick successive images and recollections fleeting across the memory--left me no time to think. I remember being startled, the moment I entered, by a most extraordinary picture,--the second Prince of Orange, and his preceptor Katts, by Flinck. The eyes of the latter are really shockingly alive; they stare out of the canvass, and glitter and fascinate like those of a serpent. If I had been a Roman Catholic, I should have crossed myself, as I looked at them, to shield me from their evil and supernatural expression. The picture of the two Sforzas, Maximilian and his brother Francis, by Albert Durer, is quite a curiosity; and so is another, by Holbein, near it, containing the portraits of Henry the Eighth, his daughter Mary, and his jester, Will Somers,--all full of individuality and truth. The expression in Mary's face, at once saturnine, discontented and vulgar, is especially full of character. These last three pictures are curious and valuable as specimens of art; but they are not pleasing. We turn to the matchless Vandykes, at once admirable as paintings, and yet more interesting as portraits. A full-length of his master and friend, Rubens, dressed in black, is magnificent; the attitude particularly graceful. Near the centre of the gallery is the charming full-length of Queen Henrietta Maria, a well-known and celebrated picture. She is dressed in white satin, and stands near a table on which is a vase of white roses, and, more in the shade, her regal crown. Nothing can be in finer taste than the contrast between the rich, various, but subdued colours of the carpet and background, and the delicate, and harmonious, and brilliant tints which throw out the figure. None of the pictures I had hitherto seen of Henrietta, either in the king's private collection, or at Windsor, do justice to the sparkling grace of her figure, or the vivacity and beauty of her eyes, so celebrated by all the contemporary poets. Waller, for instance:--
"Could Nature then no private woman grace, Whom we might dare to love, with such a face, Such a complexion, and so radiant eyes, Such lovely motion, and such sharp replies?"
Davenant styles her, very beautifully, "The rich-eyed darling of a monarch's breast." Lord Holland, in the description he sent from Paris, dwells on the charm of her eyes, her smile, and her graceful figure, though he admits her to be rather _petite_; and if the poet and the courtier be distrusted, we have the authority of the puritanic Sir Symond d'Ewes, who allows the influence of her "excellent and sparkling black eyes." Henrietta could be very seductive, and had all the French grace of manner; but, as is well known, she could play the virago, "and cast such a scowl, as frightened all the lords and ladies in waiting." Too much importance is attached to her character and her influence over her husband, in the histories of that time. She was a fascinating, but a superficial and volatile Frenchwoman. With all her feminine love of sway, she had not sufficient energy to govern; and with all her disposition to intrigue, she never had discretion enough to keep her own or the king's secrets. When she rushed through a storm of bullets to save a favourite lap-dog; or when, amid the shrieks and entreaties of her terrified attendants, she commanded the captain of her vessel to "blow up the ship rather than strike to the Parliamentarian,"--it was more the spirit and wilfulness of a woman, who, with all her faults, had the blood of Henri Quatre in her veins, than the mental energy and resolute fortitude of a heroine. Near her hangs her daughter, who inherited her grace, her beauty, her petulance,--the unhappy Henriette d'Orleans, fair, radiant, and lively, with a profusion of beautiful hair; it is impossible to look from the mother to the daughter, without remembering the scene in Retz's memoirs, when the queen said to him, in excuse for her daughter's absence, "My poor Henrietta is obliged to lie in bed, for I have no wood to make a fire for her--et la pauvre enfant était transie de froid."
Another picture by Vandyke hangs at the top of the room, one of the grandest and most spirited of his productions. It represents William, the first Duke of Bedford, the father of Lord William Russell, when young, and his brother-in-law, the famous (and infamous) Digby, Earl of Bristol. How admirably Vandyke has caught the characters of the two men!--the fine commanding form of the duke, as he steps forward, the frank, open countenance, expressive of all that is good and noble, speak him what he was--not less than that of Digby, which, though eminently handsome, has not one elevated or amiable trait in the countenance; the drapery, background, and more especially the hands, are magnificently painted. On one side of this superb picture, hangs the present Earl Spencer when a youth; and on the other, his sister, Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, at the age of eighteen, looking all life and high-born loveliness, and reminding one of Coleridge's beautiful lines to her:--
"Light as a dream your days their circlets ran From all that teaches brotherhood to man, Far, far removed! from want, from grief, from fear! Obedient music lull'd your infant ear; Obedient praises soothed your infant heart; Emblazonments and old ancestral crests, With many a bright obtrusive form of art, Detain'd your eye from nature. Stately vests, That veiling strove to deck your charms divine, Rich viands and the pleasurable wine, Were yours unearn'd by toil."----
And he thus beautifully alludes to her maternal character; for this accomplished woman set the example to the highest ranks, of nursing her own children:--
"You were a mother! at your bosom fed The babes that loved you. You, with laughing eye, Each twilight thought, each nascent feeling read, Which you yourself created."
Alas, that such a beginning should have such an end!
Both these are whole-lengths, by Sir Joshua Reynolds: the middle tints are a little flown, else they were perfect; they suffer by being hung near the glowing yet mellowed tints of Vandyke.
We have here a whole bevy of the heroines of De Grammont, delightful to those who have what Walpole used to call the "De Grammont madness" upon them. Here is that beautiful, audacious termagant, Castlemaine, very like her picture at Windsor, and with the same characteristic bit of storm gleaming in the background.--Lady Denham, the wife of the poet, Sir John Denham, and niece of that Lord Bristol who figures in Vandyke's picture above mentioned--a lovely creature, and a sweet picture.--Louise de Querouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth, who so long ruled the heart and councils of Charles the Second, in Lely's finest style; the face has a look of blooming innocence, soon exchanged for coarseness and arrogance.--The indolent, alluring Middleton, looking from under her sleepy eyelids, "trop coquette pour rebuter personne."--"La Belle Hamilton," the lovely prize of the volatile De Grammont; very like her portrait at Windsor, with the same finely formed bust and compressed ruby lips, but with an expression more vivacious and saucy, and less elevated.--Two portraits of Nell Gwyn, with the fair brown air and small bright eyes they ought to have; _au reste_, with such prim, sanctified mouths, and dressed with such elaborate decency, that instead of reminding us of the "parole sciolte d'ogni freno, risi, vezzi, giuochi"--they are more like Beck Marshall, the puritan's daughter, on her good behaviour.
Here is that extraordinary woman Hortense Mancini, Duchess of Mazarin, the fame of whose beauty and gallantries filled all Europe, and once the intended wife of Charles the Second, though she afterwards intrigued in vain for the less (or more) eligible post of _maitresse en titre_. What an extraordinary, wild, perverted, good-for-nothing, yet interesting set of women, were those four Mancini sisters! all victims, more or less, to the pride, policy, or avarice, of their cardinal uncle; all gifted by nature with the fervid Italian blood and the plotting Italian brain; all really _aventuriéres_, while they figured as duchesses and princesses. They wore their coronets and ermine as strolling players wear their robes of state--with a sort of picturesque awkwardness--and they proved rather too scanty to cover a multitude of sins.
This head of Hortense Mancini, as Cleopatra dissolving the pearl, is the most spirited, but the least beautiful portrait I have seen of her. An appropriate pendant on the opposite side is her lover, philosopher, and eulogist, the witty St. Evremond--Grammont's "Caton de Normandie;" but instead of looking like a good-natured epicurean, a man "who thought as he liked, and liked what he thought," his nose is here wrinkled up into an expression of the most supercilious scorn, adding to his native ugliness. Both these are by Kneller. Farther on, is another of Charles's beauties, whose _sagesse_ has never been disputed--Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Northumberland, the sister of that half saint, half heroine, and _all_ woman--Lady Russell.
There is also a lovely picture of that magnificent brunette, Miss Bagot. "Elle avait," says Hamilton, "ce teint rembruni qui plait tant quand il plait." She married Berkeley Lord Falmouth, a man who, though unprincipled, seems to have loved her; at least, was not long enough her husband to forget to be her lover: he was killed, shortly after his marriage, in the battle of Southwold-bay. This is assuredly one of the most splendid pictures Lely ever painted; and it is, besides, full of character and interest. She holds a cannon-ball in her lap, (only an airy emblematical cannon-ball, for she poises it like a feather,) and the countenance is touched with a sweet expression of melancholy: hence it is plain that she sat for it soon after the death of her first husband, and before her marriage with the witty Earl of Dorset.--Near her hangs another fair piece of witchcraft, "La Belle Jennings," who in her day played with hearts as if they had been billiard balls; and no wonder, considering what _things_ she had to deal with: there was a great difference between her vivacity and that of her vivacious sister, the Duchess of Marlborough.--Old Sarah hangs near her. One would think that Kneller, in spite, had watched the moment to take a characteristic likeness, and catch, not the Cynthia, but the Fury of the minute; as for instance, when she cut off her luxuriant tresses, so worshipped by her husband, and flung them in his face; for so she tosses back her disdainful head, and curls her lip like an insolent, pouting, spoiled, grown-up baby. The life of this woman is as fine a lesson on the emptiness of all worldly advantages, boundless wealth, power, fame, beauty, wit, as ever was set forth by moralist or divine.
"By spirit robb'd of power--by warmth, of friends-- By wealth, of followers! without one distress, Sick of herself through very selfishness."
And yet I suspect that the Duchess of Marlborough has never met with justice. History knows her only as Marlborough's wife, an intriguing dame d'honneur, and a cast-off favourite. Vituperated by Swift, satirized by Pope, ridiculed by Walpole--what angel could have stood such bedaubing, and from such pens?
"O she has fallen into a pit of ink!"
But glorious talents she had, strength of mind, generosity, the power to feel and inspire the strongest attachment,--and all these qualities were degraded, or rendered useless, by _temper_! Her avarice was not the love of money for its own sake, but the love of power; and her bitter contempt for "knaves and fools" may be excused, if not justified. Imagine such a woman as the Duchess of Marlborough out-faced, out-plotted by that crowned cypher, that sceptred commonplace, queen Anne! It should seem that the constant habit of being forced to serve, outwardly, where she really ruled,--the consciousness of her own brilliant and powerful faculties brought into immediate hourly comparison with the confined trifling understanding of her mistress, a disdain of her own forced hypocrisy, and a perception of the heartless baseness of the courtiers around her, disgusting to a mind naturally high-toned, produced at length that extreme of bitterness and insolence which made her so often "an embodied storm." She was always a termagant--but of a very different description from the vulgar Castlemaine.
Though the picture of Colonel Russell, by Dobson, is really fine as a portrait, the recollection of the scene between him and Miss Hamilton--his love of dancing, to prove he was not old and asthmatical,--and his attachment to his "_chapeau pointu_," make it impossible to look at him without a smile--but a good-humoured smile, such as his lovely mistress gave him when she rejected him with so much politeness.--Arabella Churchill, the sister of the great Duke of Marlborough, and mistress of the Duke of York, has been better treated by the painter than by Hamilton; instead of "La grande créature, pale et decharnée," she appears here a very lovely woman. But enough of these equivocal ladies. No--before we leave them, there are yet two to be noticed, more equivocal, more interesting, and more extraordinary than all the rest put together--Bianca di Capello, who, from a washerwoman, became Grand Duchess of Florence, with less beauty than I should have expected, but as much _countenance_; and the beautiful, but appalling picture of Venitia Digby, painted after she was dead, by Vandyke: she was found one morning sitting up in her bed, leaning her head on her hand, and lifeless; and thus she is painted. Notwithstanding the ease and grace of the attitude, and the delicacy of the features, there is no mistaking this for slumber: a heavier hand has pressed upon those eyelids, which will never more open to the light: there is a leaden lifelessness about them, too shockingly true and real--
"It thrills us with mortality, And curdles to the gazer's heart."
Her picture at Windsor is the most perfectly beautiful and impressive female portrait I ever saw. How have I longed, when gazing at it, to conjure her out of her frame, and bid her reveal the secret of her mysterious life and death!--Nearly opposite to the dead Venitia, in strange contrast, hangs her husband, who loved her to madness, or was mad before he married her, in the very prime of life and youth. This picture, by Cornelius Jansen, is as fine as any thing of Vandyke's: the character expresses more of intellectual power and physical strength, than of that elegance of face and form we should have looked for in such a fanciful being as Sir Kenelm Digby: he looks more like one of the Athletæ than a poet, a metaphysician, and a "squire of dames."
There are three pictures of Waller's famed Sacharissa, the first Lady Sunderland: one in a hat, at the age of fifteen or sixteen, gay and blooming; the second, far more interesting, was painted about the time of her marriage with the young Earl of Sunderland, or shortly after--very sweet and lady-like. I should say that the high-breeding of the face and air was more conspicuous than the beauty; the neck and hands exquisite. Both these are Vandyke's. A third picture represents her about the time of her second marriage: the expression wholly changed--cold, sad, faded, but pretty still: one might fancy her contemplating, with a sick heart, the portrait of Lord Sunderland, the lover and husband of her early youth, who hangs on the opposite side of the gallery, in complete armour: he fell in the same battle with Lord Falkland, at the age of three-and-twenty. The brother of Sacharissa, the famous Algernon Sidney, is suspended near her; a fine head, full of contemplation and power.
Among the most interesting pictures in the gallery is an undoubted original of Lady Jane Grey. After seeing so many hideous, hard, prim-looking pictures and prints of this gentle-spirited heroine, it is consoling to trust in the genuineness of a face which has all the sweetness and dignity we look for, and ought to find. Then, by way of contrast, we have that most curious picture of Diana of Poitiers, once in the Crawfurd collection: it is a small half-length; the features fair and regular; the hair is elaborately dressed with a profusion of jewels; but there is no drapery whatever--"force pierreries et trés peu de linge," as Madame de Sevigné described the two Mancini. Round the head is the legend from the 42d Psalm--"Comme le cerf braie après le décours des eaues, ainsi brait mon ame après toi, O Dieu," which is certainly an extraordinary application. In the days of Diana of Poitiers, the beautiful mistress of Henry the Second of France, it was the court fashion to sing the Psalms of David to dance and song tunes; and the courtiers and beauties had each their favourite psalm, which served as a kind of _devise_: this may explain the very singular inscription on this very singular picture. Here are also the portraits of Otway and Cowley, and of Montaigne; the last from the Crawfurd collection.
I had nearly omitted to mention a magnificent whole-length of the Duc de Guise--who was stabbed in the closet of Henry the Third--whose life contains materials for ten romances and a dozen epics, and whose death has furnished subjects for as many tragedies. And not far from him that not less daring, and more successful chief, Oliver Cromwell: a page is tying on his sash. There is a vulgar power and boldness about this head, in fine contrast with the high-born, fearless, chivalrous-looking Guise.
In the library is the splendid picture of Sofonisba Angusciola, by herself: she is touching the harpsichord, for like many others of her craft, she excelled in music. Angelica Kauffman had nearly been an opera-singer. The instances of great painters being also excellent musicians are numerous; Salvator Rosa could have led an orchestra, and Vernet could not exist without Pergolesi's piano. But I cannot recollect an instance of a great musician by profession, who has also been a painter: the range of faculties is generally more confined.
Rembrandt's large picture of his mother, which is, I think, the most magnificent specimen of this master now in England, hangs over the chimney in the same room with the Sofonisba.
The last picture I can distinctly remember is a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, with all his perfections combined in their perfection. It is that of a beautiful Frenchwoman, an intimate friend of the last Lady Spencer--with as much intellect, sentiment, and depth of feeling as would have furnished out twenty ordinary heads; all harmony in the colouring, all grace in the drawing.
Here then was food for the eye and for the memory--for sweet and bitter fancy--for the amateur, and for the connoisseur--for antiquary, historian, painter, and poet. Well might Horace Walpole say that the gallery at Althorpe was "endeared to the pensive spectator." He tells us in his letters, that when here, (about seventy years since,) he surprised the housekeeper by "his intimate acquaintance with all the faces in the gallery." I was amused at the thought that we caused a similar surprise in our day. I hope his female cicerone was as civil and intelligent as ours; as worthy to be the keeper of the pictorial treasures of Althorpe. When we lingered and lingered, spell-bound, and apologized for making such unconscionable demands on her patience, she replied, "that she was flattered; that she felt affronted when any visitor hurried through the apartments." Old Horace would have been delighted with her; and not less with the biblical enthusiasm of a village glazier, whom we found dusting the books in the library, and who had such a sublime reverence for old editions, unique copies, illuminated MSS., and rare bindings, that it was quite edifying.
* * * * *
END OF VOL. II.
LONDON: IBOTSON AND PALMER, PRINTERS, SAVOY STREET, STRAND.
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[Footnote 1: In the throne-room at the Buckingham Palace the idea of grandeur is suggested by a vile heraldic crown, stuck on the capitals of the columns. Conceive the flagrant, the vulgar barbarity of taste!! It cannot surely be attributed to the architect?]
[Footnote 2: There is a very pretty little edition of his lyrical poems, rendered into the modern German by Karl Simrock, and published at Berlin in 1833.]
[Footnote 3: See a very interesting account of Walther von der Vogelweide, with translations of some of his poems in "The Lays of the Minnesingers," published in 1825.]
[Footnote 4: See a very learned and well-written article on the ancient German and northern poetry in the Edinburgh Review, vol. 26.]
[Footnote 5: The legend of this charming saint, one of the most popular in Germany, is but little known among us. She was the wife of a margrave of Thuringia, who was a fierce, avaricious man, while she herself was all made up of tenderness and melting pity. She lived with her husband in his castle on the Wartsburg, and was accustomed to go out every morning to distribute alms among the poor of the valley: her husband, jealous and covetous, forbade her thus to exercise her bounty; but as she regarded her duty to God and the poor, even as paramount to conjugal obedience, she secretly continued her charitable offices. Her husband encountered her one morning at sunrise, as she was leaving the castle with a covered basket containing meat, bread, and wine, for a starving family. He demanded, angrily, what she had in her basket! Elizabeth, trembling, not for herself, but for her wretched protegés, replied, with a faltering voice, that she had been gathering roses in the garden. The fierce chieftain, not believing her, snatched off the napkin, and Elizabeth fell on her knees.--But, behold, a miracle had been operated in her favour!--The basket was full of roses, fresh gathered, and wet with dew.]
[Footnote 6: See Taylor's "Historic Survey of German Poetry." Herman was afterwards murdered by a band of conspirators, and Thusnelda, on learning the fate of her husband, died brokenhearted.]
[Footnote 7: The notices which follow are abridged from the essay "on Ancient German and Northern Poetry," before mentioned--from the preface to the edition of the Nibelungen Lied, by M. Von der Hagen--and the analysis of the poem in the Illustrations of Northern Antiquities. My own first acquaintance with the Nibelungen Lied, I owed to an accomplished friend, who gave me a detailed and lively analysis of the story and characters; and certainly no child ever hung upon a tale of ogres and fairies with more intense interest than I did upon her recital of the adventures of the Nibelungen.]
[Footnote 8: Dietrich of Bern (i. e. Theodoric of Verona,) is the great hero of South Germany--the King Arthur of Teutonic romance, who figures in all the warlike lays and legends of the middle ages.]
[Footnote 9: See the Illustrations of Northern Antiquities, p. 213.]
[Footnote 10: In the altercation between the two queens, Chrimhilde boasts of possessing these trophies, and displays them in triumph to her mortified rival; for which indiscretion, as she afterwards complains, "her husband was in high anger, and _beat her black and blue_." This treatment, however, which seems to have been quite a matter of course, does not diminish the fond idolatry of the wife,--rather increases it.]
[Footnote 11: This list will be subjoined at the end of these Sketches.]
[Footnote 12: Sofonisba Augusciola, one of the most charming of portrait painters. She died in 1626, at the age of ninety-three.]
[Footnote 13: I regret that I omitted to note the _name_ of the artist of this magnificent work. There is a still more admirable monument of the same period in the church at Inspruck, the tomb of the archduke, Ferdinand of Tyrol, consisting, I believe, of twelve colossal statues in bronze.]
[Footnote 14: The first stone of the Valhalla was laid by the King of Bavaria, on the 18th of October 1830.]
[Footnote 15: The Einheriar are the souls of heroes admitted into the Valhalla.]
[Footnote 16: Daniel.]
[Footnote 17: Lithography was invented at Munich between 1795 and 1798, for so long were repeated experiments tried before the art became useful or general. Senefelder, the inventor, was an actor, and the son of an actor. The first occasion of the invention was his wish to print a little drama of his own, in some manner less expensive than the usual method of type. The first successful experiment was the printing of some music, published (1796) by Gleissner, one of the king of Bavaria's band: the first drawing attempted was a vignette to a sheet of music. In the course of his attempts to pursue and perfect his discovery, Senefelder was reduced to such poverty, that he offered himself to enlist for a common soldier, and, luckily, was refused. He again took heart, and, supported through every difficulty and discouragement by his own strong and enthusiastic mind, he at length overcame all obstacles, and has lived to see his invention established and spread over the whole civilized world. Hitherto, I believe, the stone used by lithographers is found only in Bavaria, whence it is sent to every part of Europe and America, and forms a most profitable article of commerce. The principal quarries are at Solenholfen, on the Danube, about fifty miles from Munich.
Senefelder has published a little memoir of the origin and progress of the invention, in which he relates with great simplicity the hardship, and misery, and contumely, he encountered before he could bring it into use. He concludes with an earnest prayer, "that it may contribute to the benefit and improvement of mankind, and that it may never be abused to any dishonourable or immoral purpose."
If I remember rightly, a detailed history of the art was given in one of the early numbers of the Foreign Review.]
[Footnote 18: The population of Munich is estimated at about 60,000. It does not enter into my plan, at present, to give any detailed account of the public institutions, whether academies, schools, hospitals, or prisons; yet I cannot but mention the prison at Munich, which more than pays its own expenses, instead of being a burthen to the state; the admirable hospital for the poor, in which all who cannot find work elsewhere, are provided with occupation; two large hospitals for the sick poor, in which rooms and attendance are also provided for those who do not choose to be a burthen to their friends, nor yet dependent on charity; the orphan school; the female school, endowed by the king; the foundling and lying-in hospitals, establishments unhappily most _necessary_ in Munich, and certainly most admirably conducted. These, and innumerable private societies for the assistance, the education, and the improvement of the lower classes, ought to receive the attention of every intelligent traveller.
There are no poor laws in operation at Munich, no mendicity societies, no tract, and soup and blanket charities; yet pauperism, mendicity, and starvation, are nearly unknown. For the system of regulations by which these evils have been repressed or altogether remedied, I believe Bavaria is indebted to the celebrated American, Count Rumford, who was in the service of the late king, Max-Joseph, from 1790 to 1799.
Several new manufactories have lately been established, particularly of glass and porcelain, and the latter is carried to a high degree of perfection.]
[Footnote 19: Ida of Saxe-Meiningen, sister of the queen of England.]
[Footnote 20: It is difficult to translate this laconic proverb, because we have not the corresponding words in English: the meaning may be rendered--"_according to the country, so are the manners_."]
[Footnote 21: When the city was besieged by Wallenstein in 1632.]
[Footnote 22: Born at Nuremberg in 1494.]
[Footnote 23: See the admirable "Essay on the Early German and Northern Poetry," already alluded to.]
[Footnote 24: Anthony, the present king of Saxony. He is, however, in his dotage, being now in his eighty-fifth year.]
[Footnote 25: The description of Dresden and its environs, in Russel's Tour in Germany, is one of the best written passages in that amusing book--so admirably graphic and faithful, that nothing can be added to it _as a description_, therefore I have effaced those notes which it has rendered superfluous. It must, however, be remembered by those who refer to Mr. Russel's work, that a revolution has taken place, by which the king, now fallen into absolute dotage, has been removed from the direct administration of the government, and a much more popular and liberal tone prevails in the Estates: the two princes, nephews of the king, whom Mr. Russel mentions as "persons of whom scarcely any body thinks of speaking at all," have since made themselves extremely conspicuous;--Prince Frederic has been declared regent, and is apparently much respected and beloved; and Prince John has distinguished himself as a speaker in the Assembly of the States, and takes the liberal side on most occasions. A spirit of amelioration is at work in Dresden, as elsewhere, and the ten or twelve years which have elapsed since Mr. Russel's visit have not passed away without some salutary changes, while more are evidently at hand.
Mr. Russel speaks of the secrecy with which the sittings of the Chambers were then conducted: they are now public, and the debates are printed in the Gazette at considerable length.]
[Footnote 26: Augustus II. abjured the Protestant religion in 1700, in order to obtain the crown of Poland.]
[Footnote 27: The first tenor at Dresden in 1833.]
[Footnote 28: An opera by Franz Glazer of Berlin. The subject, which is the well-known story of the mother who delivers her infant when carried away by the eagle, or rather vulture of the Alps, might make a good melodrama, but is not fit for an opera--and the music is _trainante_ and monotonous.]
[Footnote 29: Zingarelli composed his _Romeo e Giulietta_ in 1797: Bellini produced the Capelletti at Venice in 1832, for our silver-voiced Caradori and the contr'alto Giudita Grisi, sister of that accomplished singer, Giulietta Grisi. Thirty-five years are an age in the history of music. Of the two operas, Bellini's is the most effective, from the number of the conceited pieces, without containing a single air which can be placed in comparison with five or six in Zingarelli's opera.]
[Footnote 30: Lord Byron.]
[Footnote 31: "Tieck," says Carlyle, "is a poet _born_ as well as made.--He is no mere observist and compiler, rendering back to us, with additions or subtractions, the beauty which existing things have of themselves presented to him; but a true Maker, to whom the actual and external is but the _excitement_ for ideal creations, representing and ennobling its effects. His feeling or knowledge, his love or scorn, his gay humour or solemn earnestness; all the riches of his inward world are pervaded and mastered by the living energy of the soul which possesses them, and their finer essence is wafted to us in his poetry, like Arabian odours, on the wings of the wind. But this may be said of all true poets; and each is distinguished from all, by his individual characteristics. Among Tieck's, one of the most remarkable is his combination of so many gifts, in such full and simple harmony. His ridicule does not obstruct his adoration; his gay southern fancy lives in union with a northern heart; with the moods of a longing and impassioned spirit, he seems deeply conversant; and a still imagination, in the highest sense of that word, reigns over all his poetic world."]
[Footnote 32: Vide Shelley's Epipsychidion.]
[Footnote 33: Mr. Russel is quite right in his observation that the Correggios are hung too near together: the fact is, that in the Dresden gallery, the pictures are not well hung, nor well arranged; there is too little light in the inner gallery, and too much in the outer gallery. Lastly, the numbers are so confused that I found the catalogue of little use. A new arrangement and a new catalogue, by Professor Matthaï, are in contemplation.]
[Footnote 34: Spence.]
[Footnote 35: Lanzi says, that many of the works of Lavinia Fontana might easily pass for those of Guido;--her best works are at Bologna. She died in 1614.]
[Footnote 36: At Althorpe.]
[Footnote 37: The Miss Sharpes were at Dresden while I was there, and their names and some of their works were fresh in my mind and eye when I wrote the above; but I think it fair to add, that I had not the opportunity I could have wished of cultivating their acquaintance. These three sisters, all so talented, and so inseparable,--all artists, and bound together in affectionate communion of hearts and interests, reminded me of the Sofonisba and her sisters.]
[Footnote 38: She is the "Julie" celebrated in some of Goethe's minor poems.]
[Footnote 39: Since this was written, in November 1833, Retzsch has sent over to England a series of these _Fancies_ for publication.]
[Footnote 40: We have among us a young German painter, (Theodor von Holst,) who, uniting the exuberant enthusiasm and rich imagination of his country, with a just appreciation of the style of English art, is likely to achieve great things.]
[Footnote 41: "Belier! mon ami! commence par le commencement!"--_Contes de Hamilton._]
[Footnote 42: A manor situated on the borders of Derbyshire, between Chesterfield and Mansfield.]
[Footnote 43: The Cavendishes were originally of Suffolk. Whether this William Cavendish was the same who was gentleman usher and secretary to Cardinal Wolsey, is, I believe, a disputed point.]
[Footnote 44: Bishop Kennel's memoirs of the family of Cavendish.]
[Footnote 45: Lodge's Illustrations of British History.]
[Footnote 46: Scott's Memoir of Sir Ralph Sadler.]
[Footnote 47: Lodge's "Illustrations."]
[Footnote 48: This celebrated letter is yet preserved, and well known to historians and antiquarians. It is sufficient to say that scarce any part of it would bear transcribing.]
[Footnote 49: See two of her letters in Sir Henry Ellis's Collection.]
[Footnote 50: See some letters in Ellis's Collection, vol. ii. series 1, which show with what constant jealousy Lady Shrewsbury and her charge were watched by the court.]
[Footnote 51: In All Hallows, in Derby. After leaving Hardwicke, I went, of course, to pay my respects to it. It is a vast and gorgeous shrine of many coloured marbles, covered with painting, gilding, emblazonments, and inscriptions, within which the lady lies at full length in a golden ruff, and a most sumptuous farthingale.]
[Footnote 52: As the measurements are interesting from this fact, I took care to note them exactly; as follows:--length 55 ft. 6 inches; breadth 30 ft. 6 inches; height 24 ft. 6 inches.]
[Footnote 53: Horace Walpole, as an antiquarian, should have known that Mary was never kept _there_.]
[Footnote 54: It had formerly been richly painted, and must then have had an effect superior to tapestry; the colours are still visible here and there.]
[Footnote 55: Mary's own account of her occupations displays the natural elegance of her mind. "I asked her grace, since the weather did cut off all exercises abroad, how she passed her time within? She sayd that all day she wrought with her needle, and that the diversitie of the colours made the work appear less tedious, and that she continued at it till pain made her to give o'er: and with that laid her hand on her left side, and complayned of an old grief newly increased there. Upon this occasion she, the Scottish queen, with the agreeable and lively wit natural to her, entered into a pretty disputable comparison between carving, painting, and working with the needle, affirming painting, in her opinion, for the most commendable quality."--_Letter of Nicholas White to Cecil._]
[Footnote 56: I was as much delighted by these singular fire-screens as Horace himself could have been; they are about seven feet high. The yellow velvet suspended from the bar is embossed with black velvet, and intermingled with embroidery of various colours and gold--something like a Persian carpet--but most dazzling and gorgeous in the effect. I believe there is nothing like them any where.]
[Footnote 57: Now replaced by the family portraits brought from Chatsworth.]
[Footnote 58: Margaret Cavendish, wife of the first Duke of Newcastle.]
[Footnote 59: Anecdotes of Painting. Reigns of Elizabeth and James I.]
[Footnote 60: Dante. Inferno, Canto 28.]
[Footnote 61: Life of Johnson, vol. ii. p. 144. Boswell asked, "Are you of that opinion as to the portraits of ancestors one has never seen?" JOHNSON. "It then becomes of still _more_ consequence that they should be like."]
[Footnote 62: This picture and the next are said to be by Richard Stevens, of whom there is some account in Walpole, (Anecdotes of Painting.) Mary also sat to Hilliard and to Zucchero. The lovely picture by Zucchero is at Chiswick. There is another small head of her at Hardwicke, said to have been painted in France, in a cap and feather. The turn of the head is airy and graceful. As to the features, they have been so marred by some _soi-disant_ restorer, it is difficult to say what they may have been originally.]
[Footnote 63: Waller's lines on Lady Rich.]
[Footnote 64: William, sixth Duke of Devonshire.]
[Footnote 65: "Lady Dorothy Savile, daughter of the Marquis of Halifax: she had no less attachment to the arts than her husband; she drew in crayons, and succeeded admirably in likenesses, but working with too much rapidity, did not do justice to her genius; she had an uncommon talent too for caricature."--_Anecdotes of Painting._]
[Footnote 66: He was a monster; and no wife of the coarsest plebeian profligate could have suffered more than did this lovely, amiable being, of the highest blood and greatest fortune in England. "She was," says the affecting inscription on her picture at Chiswick, "the comfort and joy of her parents, the delight of all who knew her angelic temper, and the admiration of all who saw her beauty. She was married October 10th, 1741, and delivered by death from misery, May 2nd, 1742.
But how did it happen that from a condition like this, there was no release but by _death_?--See Horace Walpole's Correspondence to Sir Horace Mann, vol. i. p. 328.]
[Footnote 67: I was much struck with the inscription on a stone tablet, in a fine old wood near the house: "This wood was planted by Sir William Spencer, Knighte of the Bathe, in the year of our Lord 1624:"--on the other side, "Up and bee doing, and God will prosper." It is mentioned in Evelyn's "Sylva."]
[Footnote 68: See the accounts of Sir John Spencer, in Collins's Peerage, and prefixed to Dibdin's "Ædes Althorpianæ."]
[Footnote 69: Henry, first Earl of Sunderland.]
[Footnote 70: This Lord Sunderland not only changed his party and his opinions, but his religion, with every breath that blew from the court.]
[Footnote 71: Horace Walpole's Correspondence, vol. ii. p. 227.]
[Footnote 72: Anne Brudenel.]
[Footnote 73: See Pepys's Diary.]
[Footnote 74: I was told that a female servant of the family was so terrified by this picture that she could never be prevailed on to pass through the door near which it hangs, but made a circuit of several rooms to avoid it.]
[Footnote 75: She is supposed to have been poisoned by her husband, at the instigation of the Chevalier de Lorraine.]
[Footnote 76: Elizabeth Brooke, poisoned at the age of twenty.]
[Footnote 77: See the scene between Beck Marshall and Nell Gwyn, in "Pepys."]
[Footnote 78: Walpole.]
[Footnote 79: The gay, gallant St. Evremond, besides being naturally ugly, had a wen between his eye-brows. There is a fine picture of him and Hortense as Vertumnus and Pomona, in the Stafford gallery.]
[Footnote 80: The pictures of Miss Jennings are very rare. This one at Althorpe was copied for H. Walpole, and I have heard of another in Ireland. Miss Jennings was afterwards Duchess of Tyrconnel.]
[Footnote 81: Pope. One hates him for taking a thousand pounds to suppress this character of Atossa, and publishing it after all; yet who for a thousand pounds would have lost it?]
[Footnote 82: See his declaration of love--"Je suis frère du Comte de Bedford; je commande le regiment des gardes," &c.]
[Footnote 83: The Princess Colonna and the Duchesse de Mazarin.]
[Footnote 84: Clement Marot had composed a version of the Psalms, then very popular. See _Bayle_, and the Curiosities of Literature.]
* * * * *
[Transcriber's Note: Errata as given in the original have been applied to the text. Other than the most exceedingly obvious typographical errors, all inconsistent spelling, hyphenation, diacriticals, archaic usage, etc. have been preserved as printed in the original. The equals signs used to bracket the name "Kunstverein" in the entry for the 16th in the first section indicate characters in a Fraktur typeface.]