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THE importance and utility of arts and science are too obvious to admit of doubt or argument ; but perhaps no truth, so well established, has been so little regarded by the people of this country. The many avenues to riches, which the circumstances of the times have opened, are thronged with an eagerness, that engages every faculty ; and the great end, for which alone wealth is desirable, is absorbed in the pursuit and augmentation of the means. It is true, that to make near approaches to perfection in the arts, especially the imitative ones, is one of the last results of opulence and power ; but whether America has made those advances, which her ability and opportunities have afforded, is a question well worth serious consideration, if she has any ambition to rank with the nations of Europe in any other respect than that of commercial speculation. Her vessels spread their sails over the ocean, visit every port, and bring home treasures from every quarter of the globe ; her cities flourish and increase with unprecedented rapidity, many of their inhabitants have acquired the fortunes of princes, and riches are diffused among the people. The luxuries, first desired by men suddenly possessed of wealth are generally coarse and gaudy 5 and will continually become more coarse, sensual, and depraved, unless a taste is excited for refined and elegant pleasures; unless those arts are more generally honoured and encouraged, whose natural tendency is to raise us above the gratifications of sense, to produce a love of beauty and order, a delicacy of feeling, an enlightened liberality of sentiment, and that high polish
of exteriour manners, which, while it charms with its brilliance and soothes with its softness, yet retains the integrity of virtue and the pur rity of honour. That many must be employed in mere bodily labour, is requisite to the existence of social beings, and it is as wisely ordered, as it is beneficial and necessary ; yet if those, whom fortune has exempted from toil, neglect to acquire knowledge and cultivate taste, the consequence must be a dull and noxious stagnation of every nobler faculty ; a general prevalence of selfish and barbarous customs : but if the many who now possess not only competence, but afluence, could be induced to believe, that the incessant pursuit of gain was not the sole business of life ; and that some portion of time and money might be usefully employed in acquiring taste and fostering of genius, they might elevate themselves unto a rank of just superiority ; the respect they might claim would be paid with cheerful. ness, and they would be looked up to with that veneration, which is due to accomplished minds, superiour talents, and legitimate grandeur : the genial rays of polished life would be reflected and diffused through every subordinate class of society ; the mechanick, the labourer, the hind that clears the forest and first opens the bosom of the earth, would catch the softening gleam of humanity, and when
... the hours of toil were over, would
learn to be satisfied with innocent recreations, rather than seek the inebriety of taverns, or the tumula tuous discord of popular meetings.
To advise the cultivation of taste, and the attainment of that discriminating knowledge, which enables
its possessor to estimate justly the merits of an artist and the productions of art, particularly the art of painting, may sound strange to some, who have indulged themselves in fancying, that the people of this country have a natural genius for this art; to prove which belief, they will say, that we can go into few houses without seeing pictures, and that some of the first modern painters are natives of America, ...a land famous for the production of self-taught geniuses. It is true, that prints and pictures, being considered as part of the furniture of a house, few that can furnish houses, neglect to embellish them in this manner ; but the common and motley collections, we generally find, shew plainly, that fashionable decoration is the only object ; and that taste is neither consulted in the selection, nor gratified by the exhibition. Of self-taught genius, and the wonders, it has performed ; the encouragement it has met with, and the recommendation it carries with it, we have heard enough, from those who have never thought on the subject, to sicken every one, who has extended his ideas far enough to conceive the extent of art, who knows how little can be done by one mind towards that degree of excellence, which requires the combined efforts of many, and the progressive experience of ages. “Ars longa, vita brevis,” is a sentence we seem to have forgotten, or never to have known ; hence that praise has been lavished on those, who have made shift to learn their letters without going to school, which could only have been deserved by the student, far advanced in academical knowledge ; hence emulation, instead of being excited to great attempts, and deep researches, has been arrested in the beginning of the
course, sat down contented with indiscriminate applause it received for trifles, made no farther advances, and the art itself is even to be begun. This country has indeed given birth to West and Stewart, Copely and Trumbull ; names that stand in the first rank of European artists ; but these were not self-taught, the shoots of skill and dexterity were engrafted on them in another country, where their natural talents were nourished and carefully raised to maturity : had they continued here, they never would have got beyond the rudiments of their profession, and must have been content with that portion of short-lived praise, which usually falls to the lot of a self. These observations are not made to discourage young men of talents who are inclined to exert them in the pursuit of art; but to warn them of the evil consequences, which result from mistaking the voice of com. mon praise, for the commendation of the judicious ; to induce them to give some other direction to their abilities ; or go where the arts flourish in maturity, where the works of the great masters may be studied, where schools are form. ed, and genius safely guided in the road to excellence. The attempts that have been
made, and are now making at Philadelphia and New-York, to establish schools of painting, are, in the present state of the country, exceedingly premature ; and must inevitably prove futile and nugatory. The ground must be cleared, and opened to the vivifying ray, must be weeded and dressed, the soil made rich by patient industry, before the seeds of delicate flowers can be sown ; and then, incessant care, attention, and skill is necessary to perfect the gay parterre, which is to gratify the
smell with fragrance, and the sight with varied beauty isso, before we can form schools of art, it is necessary,by previous cultivation,to prepare the minds of people to receive and nourish the seeds of taste ;
solid foundations, possessed of the means of instruction, and conducted by able professors. If these few ideas, hastily thrown together, are favourably received by your readers, the subject shall
then schools may be established on be continued. E. E. - June 20. o SILVA, JWo. 16.
illie purpurels teeta rosariis
omnis fragrat humus, calthaque pinguia * Et molles violas et tenuts crocos - * * Fundit fonticulis uda fugacibus.-PRUDENTIUS. * TRANSLA torts.
TRANslators are almost always either too close or too loose. The metaphrast “ hunts with his author in couples;” the paraphrast spreads his wings, so boldly, that he leaves his author. Perhaps I am worse than paradoxical, when I assert that, as a translator, Burke would have been close, and Johnson loose. The one would have dilated and attenuated ; the other would have compressed and condensed. Johnson was more like Dryden ; Burke more like Pope. The English Æneid is a monarch, decked in loose, wanton robes ; his air high and majestick ; his sceptre sparkles with gems ; the mild, melting rays of soft indulgent mercy flow from his crown. The English Iliad is a warriour, girded in close and succinct armour ; whose step is firm and manly; whose sword glitters to the sun ; from whose helmet leap the fierce and scorching beams of stern, relentless justice,
and respect as a patriot and a .
statesman, whom I love and venerate as a patron and friend, once told me, that no man was ever in the habit of keeping a regular journal of his life, who did not attain to some considerable eminence
in society. Gibbon, by keeping a journal, has at least, tacitly confessed, that without it, his learning would have been little better than useless; a dead, inert, unproductive mass of thoughts, lying in heaps, “corrupting in their fertility;” and now where is the man who will dare to condemn, as a childish, idle amusement, what the example of this grand monarque of literature authorizes us to consider as a manly, necessary duty : pin DAR AND secundus.
PINDAR, born at Thebes, and Secundus, a native of the Hague, are two illustrious instances to shew that genius is above the influence of climate. The thick, deadening fogs of Boeotia, the cold, blasting dews of Holland produced no other effect, than to heighten the great conceptions of the former, and to . sweeten the tender, soft sentiments of the latter. The kisses of Secundus charm into coldness the angry, and subdue the vindictive to indifference; they soften to kindness the most indifferent, and melt the coldest into love. The odes of Pindar, who can read without feeling his imagination kindle into enthusiasm :
BURNs is one of the few authors,"
whom I am never too weary or too
idle to read. Why does the Ayrshire bard always charm 2 "To what is it owing, that the oftener I read the Cotter’s Saturday.Wight, the more my kindly, gentle affections ripen, and refine. Learning he most certainly wanted ; but as Dryden said of “nature's darling child,” the immortal bard of Avon, Burns needed not the spectacle of books to read nature. He looked inwards, and he found her there. God had also given him a soul, which the heavy, reluctant clouds of low birth and narrow fortune could not darken. cauld blew the bitter-biting north Upon thy early humble birth,
Yet cheerfully thou glented forth Amid the storm.
Burns is so different from any of his cotemporaries, that if I were required to point out a poet, who in any two respects resembles him, I should hesitate long, I fear to no purpose. Bruce may perhaps be more tender and delicate; but he moves no laughter ; he thrills no horrour ; his wit is filtered through too much learning ; it trickles meagre and rapid. His sublimity is always debased by some circumstance of meanness. I do not say that Bruce wants genius: far from it ; he does not want it. He is full of genius. His poetry glows with the warmest words, and sparkles with the brightest thoughts of a warm, glowing imagination, of a bright, sparkiing fancy.
Compared with Burns, Cowper dwindles....I am almost afraid to speak my opinion ; the ink hardly moves through my pen; it turns pale and seems to sicken when I say, that compared with Burns, Cowper shrinks into nothing. The Nine may have cloved Cowper as well as Burns, Indeed, their affection for the former was at first ten
* * * * * * * * derer, perhaps warmer, than for the latter ; but fondness is poorly repaid. Love is sorrily rewarded with esteem or respect. Love, unless it kindles love, flashes, and is gone forever. Fondness, unless it excite fondness, soon deadens into indifference. What were the awkward, ceremonious bows of Cowper, compared to the “feltering, ardent kisses” of Burns f What were a modest, timorous Englishman's professions of regard, compared to the feelings of an open, honest Scotchman, who, in protestations of gratitude,sighed his very soul ? BEN JONSON AND cow PER. In his second Masque of Beauty, the counterpart of his first of Blackness, Ben Jonson introduces and presents Boreas,...“ In a robe of russet and white mixt...fuled and bagged, his hair, and beard rough and horride...his wings gray and full of snow and ycicles...and in his hand a leaf-lesse branch, laden with yeicles.” From this representation of Boreas, Cowper without doubt caught the leading distinguishing images and circumstances of his beautiful personification of Winter.
“ Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro * This touching question of Job came with all its force into my mind, as I was yesterday sauntering through the mall, and what can be more pathetick : A very old man was leaning upon his staff, as if weary. I asked him why, instead of standing in the sun, he did not sit beneath one of the elms. He raised his countenance to answer me : it was pensive, but not gloomy; a faint, melancholy smile gleamed from his eye, and gave his features the expression of tranquil resignation. He told me that the shade recalled his sorrows ; I am, said he, alone...But why do I complain 2 I deserved nothing ; I have lost all.—Feeling an interest in the man, I asked him what calamities had stripped him to poverty.—He began to collect his thoughts, and without a single
word of complaint, related the events of his life. He had lived
seventy years, and not a day ever
passed without bringing some new misfortune. His voice, while he was speaking, was, for the most part, calm and even ; but when he told me of the death of his wife . and only daughter, his utterance was choaked. His limbs are now palsied, his eyes are dim, his ears are thick. But though his senses are leaving him, he is not querulous ; his God, he knows, is love. Surely there is another state. Who does not acknowledge, that unrepining patience deserves a reward higher,than earth can give 3 There is indeed a world, where sorrow and sighing shall flee away, where tears shall be turned into joy. Levities. In the province of Gascoigne in France the natives substitute the letters B and V for each other ; which occasioned Joseph Scaliger to say of them...Felices populi quibus bibere est vivere. We have often heard the anecdote of the boy, who being sent by his master to heat his breakfast, construed the direction into an order to eat it, on the authority of the old pedagogues, that “ H was not a letter.” The lad was not without law on his side. In the case of Shelbury, vs. Bupard. (Cro. Eliz. 172.) in error, it was moved, that the writ of error should abate for a variance between the writ and record, “ for that the record was “ of lands in Colchester and the “writ supposeth the lands to be “ in Colcester ;” but it was held to be no variance, because “H non “est litera, sed ashiratio.” Cro. Eliz. 198. Case 18.