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that none but a cook can relish a good dinner. It is to their own bad taste they owe the apathy and indifference of their natural protectors. The nation, which of all others has the most exquisite sensibility of the picturesque, has suffered itself to be persuaded that it has no genius for painting. As it feels that it cannot praise, it supposes that it cannot judge.
These are the obligations we have to the Academy. Other nations have been content to set up such establishmeats, when art was already on the decline. They have suffered artists to strangle her when she was grown old and decrepit. It was reserved for the wisdom of Eng. land to overlay her in her cradle. To see
more clearly how much the interests of painting may have suffered from the establishment of the Academy, we have only to consider how such an institution would have affected other arts.
English poetry is in a most flourishing and palmy state. It spreads its branches over every province of the empire, and every branch is loaded with golden fruit. No period of history can boast of so many poets, nor can put forth so many claims to excellence. England may challenge the united strength of all Europe to a competition in this delightful art; she may drop poets with all her neighbours, and beat them in numbers, in fine
ness, and in weight. But can any one believe, that this : would have been the case, if the wisdom of the last
generation had established an academy for poetry? What would have been now its condition if Hailey and Hurdis had been seated in the chairs with so many others, all mighty men in their day, but of whom nothing is now recollected, except that they were once catalogued among the ten thousand living authors of Great Britain! Our bards might have ambled along with true namby-pamby
complacency, scuffling up the dust, which they would have mistaken for the smoke of incense, and occasionally breaking into the finical graces of the Della Crusca canter. Childe Harold might have sung the loves of the butterfies, and Barry Cornwall might have indicted sonnets to his mistress's eyebrow ; but we should only have had versifiers. Poetry would have sunk to as low an ebb as her sister Painting.
But we need not have recourse to supposition, to shew how hurtful is authority of every kind to the cultivation of the fine arts.' Genius is no galley slave: he will not work in shackles. The influence of the two great Reviews, though much less oppressive than that of an academy, has been little favourable to the free exertion of talent. Though it has not been able to check the spirit of the age, it has introduced much mannerism.. It has formed two schools, who only agree in persecuting all those who will not range themselves under the banners of either. It carries on a perpetual war against the independence of genius. Yet these evils, though great, would have been more severely felt, had they not been checked by the influence of their publishers. The stern guardians of public taste have occasionally relented from the severity of their code : the dictates of justice have not unfrequently yielded to the milder influence of gratitude. The welfare of the school has been sometimes forgotten for that of the shop. The author, whose works are ushered into public notice under the auspices of Mr. Longman, will hardly want a good word from the northern seers; if he prefer Mr. Murray's more courtly press, Pam knows his duty, and will be civil.
Here I must stop. The desultory nature of my subject leads me into digressions, which, though pleasing
to myself, may perhaps be wearisome to my readers. I have run my glass ; the little remaining sand reminds me to conclude. I think I have established the propositions I undertook to set forth. I have shewn, that a taste for the picturesque is not a natural taste ; that it is not generated by a contemplation of the beauties of nature; that it owes its being to the more artificial feeling of a love of contrast ; that it is most strongly felt in cities. The peculiar form it assumes among Englishmen, the love of wandering, is partly induced by the particular construction of our society, and partly by the checks that have prevented any share of its force from being dissipated in the love of painting. As its growth has been hindered on the one side, it has put forth more branches on the other. So long as my countrymen shall abound, in wealth and in leisure, so long will they cultivate this taste ; and so long as painting shall be overloaded by the weight of an academy, so long will the art be neglected, and so long will Englishmen be compelled to tread in the footsteps of Dr. Syntax, and to ramble through the world in search of the picturesque.
[We have received the following curious and interesting Paper from
a Correspondent. Differing, as we do, in toto, from the opinions of the writer, we cannot but admire the ingenuity and elegance of his composition. We had thought that, at this time of day, few could have been found seriously to advocate the existence of ghosts – we believed that, while all listened with interest to these imaginative tales in the circle round a Christmas fire, scarcely even the youngest of the audience had any real dread of an unearthly visitant. We find, however, that we were mistaken. The writer of the following paper is manifestly a person of talent and education, and quite in carnest in the tenets he advances. This, of itself, is a cir
cumstance in no slight degree curious; and the manner in which he handles his subject is still more so. We have printed his communication without any alteration of our own.]
GHOST STORIES.-No. 1.
" That the dead are seen no more,” said Imlac, “ I will not undertake to maintain against the concurrent and unvaried testimony of all ages and of all nations. There is no people rude or learned, among whom apparitions of the dead are not related and believed. This opinion, which perhaps prevails as far as human nature is diffused, could become universal only by its truth. Those that never heard of one another, would not have agreed in a tale, which nothing but experience can make credible ; that it is doubted by single cavillers, can very little weaken the general evidence; and some who deny it with their tongues, confess it by their fears*.” These are the sentiments uttered by the enlightened and the eloquent companion of the Prince of Abyssinia. The character of Imlac has always been considered as the self-drawn portrait of the author of Rasselas. His words are therefore to be received with deference, as conveying the opinions of Johnson; and they allude to a subject, which is perhaps unrivalled in the universal and the almost painful nature of the interest which it inspires.
No man has ever been present at the recital of a story connected with circumstances of a preternatural description, without witnessing the eager, the breathless, the motionless expectation, which is immediately excited in the audience. Whatever may have been the preceding gaiety of the party, the laugh is silenced; the song is
* Rasselas, chapter 31.
broken off ; the jest is interrupted on the lips of the speaker :
Such stories ever change the cheerful spirits
Whatever may have been the preceding lassitude, it is immediately dispersed by the mention of any event remotely connected with the appearance of a departed spirit. “ Carelessness instantly grows convert to attention.” The various occupations of the hour are neglected ; every individual is attracted to a common centre, and becomes alike partaker of a common interest. The book of the most persevering student is disregarded ; the needle involuntarily omits its incessant and indefatigable labours ; the pen is arrested in its progress; the voice of the politician is subdued; there is a truce to the contests of the chess-board ; while the old listen to the wondrous narrative with looks of assumed wisdom, and a smile of condescending incredulity; and the young throng together about the speaker, with their eyes rivetted upon his countenance : and as “ the icy scalp of fear” grows colder upon their heads, they gather towards each other closely and more closely, as if, by the contact of the living, they would secure themselves from the intrusion of the dead.
That the accounts, by which these powerful emotions are awakened and continued, contain nothing but the errors of the imagination, or the false visions that float before the eye of the diseased, is more than any man, who has seriously reflected on the mysterious conditions of human existence, can possibly have the temerity to advance. That such tales are true may reasonably be
* Miss Baillie's Tragedy of Orra.