Page images

Mr. Leifchild has devoted a concluding chapter to a candid and impartial review of Mr. Hughes's character and writings.

our venerated Friend, with serene fortitude and calm submission, awaited the approach of the appointed time when his change should come. He expired on Thursday evening, (Oct. 3d,) in the 65th year of his age.

To Mr. Hughes, more than to any other individual, the British and Foreign Bible Society owes its origin. That feature of the Institution which constitutes its distinguishing excellency, the disencumbered simplicity of its object, by which the plan of combination was rendered practicable to an extent to which no previous plan had ever been carried,--he had the merit of conceiving and embodying in his first suggestion; although he did not venture to anticipate the great national combination and international union which have grown out of his modest scheme, so as to render the British and Foreign Bible Society, with all its affiliated and kindred institutions, the most magnificent enterprise of this or any other age, since apostolic times. Mr. Hughes's original plan received, we believe, some modification from the counsel of the Rev. Josiah Pratt, who acted for a short time with his esteemed friend as provisional secretary, and did not retire till he had obtained the consent of the late Rev. John Owen, to undertake the office. All parties, however, were ever ready to disclaim any merit in founding the Institution, which, in its dimensions and results, so far exceeded all their anticipations as to lead them to recognize a Divine hand, as well in its origin as in its progress, and to say, "Not unto us, but unto thy name give glory.” Yet, now that the honoured Father of the Institution is gone beyond the reach of human applause, it seems due to his memory to record, that to his pen was entrusted the drawing up of the original prospectus; and to his catholic spirit, exemplary prudence, conciliatory deportment, amiable disposition, and devout character, the Society has been incalculably indebted for having triumphed over the peculiar difficulties which beset the early years of its existence.

If the Institution did not emanate full-grown from his mind, it harmonized most completely with his character, and he entered so fully into the object as to live in it and for it. For nineteen years he laboured in its service gratuitously, in connexion with his beloved colleagues, Mr. Owen and Dr. Steinkopff. And it is well known that his own interests had no influence in overcoming his reluctance to accept of a salary, when that measure of justice was forced upon his consent. Never was a man more admirably adapted to the peculiar duties of the post he was called to occupy. Platform-speaking, when Mr. Hughes first appeared as the advocate of the infant Society, was a very different thing from what it has since become; and the correct diction, quiet elegance, and often felicitous turns of the Dissenting Secretary's addresses, were listened to with unwonted applause and respect. They contrasted not unpleasingly with Mr. Owen's more impetuous, and dazzling, and irregular sallies. As public meetings

For this, as well as the interesting materials of the appendix, we must refer our readers to the volume itself. We deem it almost needless to repeat the opinion which we have already intimated, and which we are persuaded the public voice will sanction, of the judicious and competent manner in which the much respected Biographer has discharged his office. In the name of all who knew and revered the man of God whose character he has portrayed, we tender him our best thanks for this interesting and instructive memorial.

Art. III.-1. Umrisse zu Schiller's Lied von der Glocke ....

Outlines to Schiller's Song of the Bell. By Moritz Retzsch. Forty-three Plates. Stuttgard and Tubingen, 1833.

2. Retzsch's Outlines to Shakspeare. Second Series. Macbeth. Thirteen Plates. Leipsic, 1833.

THOSE of our readers who take any interest in the Arts, may

justly charge us with a blameable omission, in not having taken an earlier opportunity of devoting a few paragraphs to a critical examination of the graphic works of Moritz Retzsch; an artist enthusiastically admired by his countrymen, and nearly as popular in foreign countries as in his father-land. If, in this admiration and popularity, there be somewhat, on the one hand, of easy and unenquiring acquiescence, and, on the other, of national prepossession, there will yet remain, after the severest criticism has been applied to these spirited and stimulating productions, an ample justification of the high praise which has been lavished on his illustrations of Goëthe and Schiller: we shall presently assign our reasons for not including in the same category, his designs from Shakspeare. With the view, then, to repairing our omission, we have placed these titles at the head of the present article, as the representatives of his entire works, so far as we have made acquaintance with them; and we shall endeavour, within brief space, to put our readers in possession of a sufficient and intelligible description of the complete series.

have multiplied, and demanded a larger theatre, the palled taste of the public has called for a more stimulating style of address than formerly. But those who can recollect the earlier anniversaries of the Bible Societies, will perhaps incline to think, that they have not been exceeded in genuine interest, and in the hallowed feeling which they excited, by the more crowded anniversaries of subsequent years. To have been identified with such an Institution for nearly thirty years, and to have grown venerable in its service, yet without surviving the physical and mental energies required for usefulness, must be regarded as an enviable distinction.'

But, before we enter on this more pleasant part of our task, we must dispose of a piece of criticism that lies awkwardly in our way, though, after all, the fault is very likely to be in our prepossessions, rather than in the thing which has annoyed us. The Editor of the Shakspeare series has suggested a singularly (as we think) ill-judged and inappropriate comparison in the following high-sounding sentence, which would be deprived of half its richness, by transfusion into a different language, and of which the import will be made sufficiently apparent to the English reader by our subsequent comments.

[ocr errors]

An Retzsch,' quoth Herr Fleischer, als Skizzist, besitzen wir denselben Meister, welchen England in seinem einzigen FLAXMAN ehrt, und beide stehen, gleich unübertroffen, auf der höchsten Stufe dieses Kunstfaches sich in ihrer individuellen Kraft einander gegenüber.'

This may be all very well from an editorial critic, speaking, by special retainer, through the trumpet of a publisher; but we do not allow in any respect the legitimacy of the comparison; it holds neither in kind nor in degree. We cannot consent for one moment to place Retzsch over-against' Flaxman, inasmuch as they are not only of schools entirely separate, but of very different grades in their respective departments. The distinction would probably be taken as between the romantic and the classic divisions of art; and while Retzsch might be considered as ranging through the various modifications of the domestic and the imaginative, Flaxman would be cited as eminent for the forcible expression of the simple and severe, though not unfrequently touching on sublimity and grace. Such a classification, however, although it may be sufficiently correct for general purposes, is founded on a sort of criticism that is, at best, of indefinite character or of doubtful accuracy, and, in the present instance especially, must be rejected as altogether vague and incomplete. The men, in fact, start from differing points, pursue paths widely diverging, and keep in view objects essentially distinct both in character and elevation. The German is a shrewd observer, and manages with great skill the materials which he has diligently and discriminately collected. How admirable his adaptations are, may be learnt from his Forgemen in the Fridolin, and his Monks at Ophelia's grave. These countenances he picked up at the beer-house and the smithy, the fair and the market; but their use and application are his own: with probably no greater alteration of feature than might give the expression of malice, ferocity, or savage glee, he has grafted on physiognomies most vacant and common-place, a character not more original and appalling, than intensely true. Flaxman, on the other hand, applies himself more to generals than to particulars; he rarely individualizes, but, treading in the steps of the great masters of older and bet

ter days, keeps steadily in sight those loftier elements which constitute, in the creed and terminology of artists, the beau ideal; -a phrase of which the affectation is not redeemed by any special felicity of definition or appropriation, though it is now scarcely worth while to disturb what has obtained a universal currency. Although Flaxman has shewn great mastery in the mechanism of expression, still, it is not his strong point in this particular, the fiends in his Dante, and the fine adaptation of the antique mask in his personification of the Eschylean Eumenides, may be taken as illustrating at once his skill and the limits of his power. Of the ability with which he could manage and carry out to an indefinite extent, materials of extreme simplicity, we have evidence in the ever varying attitudes and positions of the constantly recurring forms of Virgil and Dante, never violent, never exaggerated, but always maintaining their characteristic severity. In the grouping and distribution of his figures, we know of no modern master who has surpassed him; it was, in fact, here that his peculiar talent was displayed; and we should, if delivering a detailed judgement on his distinctive qualities as an artist, fix on this as his marking excellence. In single and detached forms, he might have successful competitors; but, in relievo, he was unrivalled by any of his own time. On this point, however, we are of course to be considered as only expressing an individual opinion; and we now quit the subject with a reiteration of our protest against all such comparisons as that with which we have just been dealing.

The first, so far as our knowledge extends, and by far the most original of Retzsch's productions, was the series of twentysix designs from Goethe's Faust. Independently of the great talent manifested in these outlines, the choice of the subject was every way a lucky hit. With all its splendid poetry and, let it be permitted us to add, with all its grossness snd impiety, the strange and wayward fancies of that powerful but overpraised drama, were frequently of so subtile and unconsecutive a character, as to elude the skill of the most practised riddle-guessers, and most thoroughly to bewilder the simplicity of common readers. Just when inquisitiveness was at the highest, and expectation at the lowest, Retzsch stept forward with his practical and luminous comment; presenting with consummate ability, in an intelligible concatenation, the principal scenes and characters of his original, without those enigmatical combinations or those yet more unaccountable incoherencies which seemed to have been flung forth in reckless and mocking mood, to vex the general curiosity. In Goethe, there is succession with imperfect connexion; in Retzsch, there are, or seem to be, both; and thus, although the designs cannot give form and visibility to the finer indications of the drama, they furnish a sort of clew on which the mass of readers

may be content to hang the hors d'œuvre of the original. It is no part of our present business to take up the office of commentators on Goëthe, or we think that we could clear away many of the difficulties which seem to beset his puzzling' Tragedy,' by a simple reference to some half dozen passages in Falk's memoir, as edited with consummate ability by Mrs. Austin, the very queen of translators; and to his primary design, plainly intimated in his own Vorspiel:-the very persons of that prelude, the manager, the poet, and the comic actor, form a sort of explanatory heading to the brilliant medley that follows.


We must not, however, forget that it is no part of our proper business to turn out the contents of Goethe's Walpurgis-sack', and we resume our reference to the Faust as interpreted and expressed by Retzsch. Nothing can exceed the spirit and skill with which he has seized the marking points of the story; nor could even Hogarth go beyond him in the dexterity with which he tells his tale through the medium of the crayon. His conception of the dæmon was a ben trovato that Retzsch himself has never since equalled. The hard, sarcastic features, the compact and sinewy frame, and the grotesque touches about the dress, are in admirable harmony; and the changes of expression which pass over the countenance of Mephistopheles, are most skilfully expressed. But we have no wish to be more minute respecting this work, since, with all its talent, it is to be mentioned more in regret than in admiration, as the artist has not avoided either the impiety or the indecency of the original. We pass on to other of Retzsch's productions of more general interest and of unexceptionable execution.

The Fridolin', from Schiller's Gang nach den Eisenhammer, is a beautiful series of eight plates, which we may venture to describe without undue encroachment on assigned limits. The first represents the interior of a castle with the lady and the 'pious page,' the latter reverently saluting his lady's hand, extended in sign of favour, while the villain Jager' eyes them askance with jealous leer malign,' and the baron, from the terreplein of an opposite rampart, looks carelessly on. In the next, a bustling and well managed scene, in the outer ward of the castle, of horses, dogs, crossbowmen, and falconers, the huntsman insinuates his leprous distilment' into the ear of the baron, a fine knightly figure, whose fierce attitude and stern glance menace fearful visitation to the guiltless page, who is seen, attending his mistress, on the esplanade of a distant tower. The third plate shows the Graf, splendidly mounted, at the door of the forge, and two demoniacal-looking wretches greedily listening to his bloody orders.


The first whom I shall send from home
To greet you and to ask

« PreviousContinue »