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But may not the contemplation of Nature lead to the recognition of the divine idea, of which she is the manifestation ? Most assuredly, but it is not the teaching of external Nature that gives us this divine idea. We do not sit in docility before the mountain, the tree, the water-fall, to have the divine idea stamped on the tabula rasa of our minds. With much labour do we—we mental beings—penetrate the phenomena, and read or inspeet the region of laws, by which the whole is governed, and which Nature, while she gives indications of their working, actually strives to conceal. Nature does not fling her solar system into our eyes, but it is by zealous labour that men have discovered it; and though they see the indications of the system written in the heaven above them, the system itself exists more plainly in their own minds, and in their own books. An immensity of reflection must have passed through the human mind, (unless inspired—and inspiration is from within) before it could have regarded the world as the manifestation of the divine idea; and it is the greatest fallacy to ascribe the perception of the union between that idea and its externality, to the externality alone. The mind discerns the law, and afterwards surveys nature under the operation of that law, every moral that it deduces being its own moral. * onevertheless, we do not by any means assert with confidence that the peculiar reverence for external Nature to which we so strongly object, is held by the Oxford Graduate. If some expressions say “yes,” there are others that apparently indicate “no.” We find different degrees of value ascribed to different phenomena —that Nature may have happier moods at one time than another —that in one case, she “has not had time to model.” Now, be it remarked, that mere external Nature never tells us when she is happy and when not; that she more frequently obtrudes upon us the large round clouds, which the Graduate thinks of minor importance, than the small fleecy “cirrus” clouds, which he so highly estimates; that she has, according to his own view, rare secrets, which can only be observed by the man of genius. Why not at once come to the truth, that Nature offers a vast store of materials, some possessing aesthetical value—others not ; and that it is the mind that makes the work of selection, and produces that unity which is essential to the work of art 2. The Graduate is no friend to mere copying, though he has occasional leanings in that direction, or he would not consider the production of a Christian ideal as the summit of painting, but even—suppose for a moment we advocated mere copying—what a work is still left for the mind! Out of the whole mass of surrounding objects, one only is to be selected, and it is the mind alone that directs the choice. The mere observer of nature, who has no pencil in his hand, chooses his point of view, and thus participates in the creation of the landscape, though (of course) not in that of the materials that compose the landscape. But when we leave mere copying—when we make a work, either of “composition” or “imagination” (to use two words of the Graduate's)—what an influence of mind then commences, what a grasp will be shown by the man of real power:
The hints which the Graduate has given in his first volume, for the imitation of natural objects—his observations on the phenomena of skies, foliage, water, &c., are exceedingly valuable, they call the attention to objects which are too often unnoticed, and put to flight mere conventionality. Let us distinctly indicate the value we attach to such directions, or we may seem inconsistent. They give the artist new material,—the close observation of nature affords him a larger field for selection—he learns more facts, which he may aesthetically apply—but the combining (or penetrating) power is still his own. When we accuse an artist of conventionalism, we mean that he has reproduced the workings of other minds, rather than exercised his own. He has not gone into the world, and himself discovered what is fitting to his purpose, but has availed himself of the discoveries of other men. If these have committed blunders, they are thus perpetuated, and the treatment of the objects is likely to become feebler and feebler.
The chapters on “Imagination,” in the Graduate's book, are highly instructive, and, if properly studied, will tend to dissipate a foolish popular fallacy about fact and fiction. His difference between Imagination and Fancy seems in a few words to be this: The latter is the power of association by which images, opposite or resemblant of whatever kind wanted, are called up quickly and in multitudes. The former (which has its subdivisions) seizes upon a necessary connection, and penetrates to the essence of things. We will make a short extract:—
“I have just said that Nature is always imaginative, but it does not follow that her imagination is always of high subject, or that the imagination of all the parts is of a like and sympathetic kind. * * * There are few natural scenes whose harmonies are not conceivably improvable either by banishment of some discordant point, or by addition of some sympathetic one; it constantly happens that there is a periuseness too great to be comprehended, or an inequality in the
E.; meaning, and intensity of different parts. The imagination will ish all that is extraneous, it will seize out of the many threads of different feeling, which nature has suffered to become entangled, one only, and when that seems thin and likely to break, it will spin it stouter, and in doing this, it never knots, but weaves in the new thread, so that all its work looks as pure and true as nature itself, and cannot be guessed from it, but by its exceeding simplicity, (known from it, it cannot be); so that herein we find another test of the imaginative work, that it looks always as if it had been gathered straight from nature, whereas the unimaginative shows its joints and knots, and is visibly composition.”—P. 154. Admirably put The higher work of Art is organised—the lower work is not. In the former, part springs from part, and the whole is continuous. In the latter we see the cement. But our readers—we suspect—will ask, why, when the Graduate writes like this, – gives words that embody our very doctrine— have we, in somewhat a controversial spirit, argued against the “teaching of Nature ?” Simply, however, the Graduate does not always write like this. If he had, we should have entertained no doubt about him. But the impression of one page, often jars inharmoniously with that of another,-and we lack the imaginative faculty, that would penetrate to the spiritual unity of the whole. The definition of what the Graduate calls “Vital Beauty” as “the appearance of felicitous fulfilment of function in living things,” may, we think, be accepted, and conjoined with that of imagination. To obtain that perfect organisation, that every part shall be subservient to a whole, is one of the grand objects of Art. In nature, the relations between various objects cross each other, and it is not easy to detect the unity amid such great variety. The artist, on the contrary, penetrates through the confusion, and in the case of living things, passes by the defects occasioned by disease or decrepitude, and arrives at the felicitous fulfilment of function. Many a single animal does not come up to the perfect conception of its kind. The artist steps in to the aid of the spectator, and for this conception finds a visible expression. A certain sense of the word “true" has been acutely pointed out by Hegel. We not only use this word to signify that a proposition agrees with external facts, but we have such expressions as “he is a true man.” This does not refer to the existence of the party mentioned, but means that he corresponds with the ideal of a man. That which does not correspond with such ideal is, in such expressions, rejected as untrue. Of course a difference of opinion may arise as to which is the true in this sense, and which is not. The Greek would name the healthful fufilment of certain functions; the Graduate less healthiness in physical respects, but a conformity to that unworldly character, which belongs to the Christians of the early ages. We have no wish to dispute with either. Both agree with us, that the object of Art is to give a sensible form to a mental conception. But in one point, we again differ from the Graduate. In fixing his ideal he seems to be guided by moral considerations,—whereas it is our conviction, that the moral standard is a most unfair criterion of the merit of an artist. With that nobleness of mind which he exhibits throughout his book, he rejects with indignation all subservience to worldly utility; but he has not reached the acknowledgment of the highest artistical freedom, and a moral or religious utility is the goal to which he would still compel the artist. Why not let every artist write down his own conceptions 2–Why bind him down to certain moral theories, that may end in making him the tool of an enslaving faction ? Besides, in the present state of thought, painting and sculpture will, at best, prove but inefficient teachers. On this subject, however, we do not dwell, as the Graduate promises to discuss it more at length in a third volume, which is yet to come. For the same reason, we do not so much as touch upon his chapters concerning “Typical Beauty,” which seem to us a mistaken reading of a profound truth; but we here take leave of an author, from whose suggestions we have derived much instruction, for whose talents we have the highest admiration, but of whose tendencies, as we have said, we have uneasy suspicions.
For shadows, Rembrandt might have stood there: for human passions, Hogarth holds forth the pencil. . A huge blast furnace, sweltering heat, one roar like a northern wind ; giant power of toil, wondrous influence of flexibility over stubbornness; the primeval, welded bowels of the earth pouring molten forth, and liquid, as from the freshest fountain of the eternal mother; grim shadows from rereward wall and iron-girded roof; broad glare now running with its greedy tongue across the granite floor, now coiling swiftly back again, in the pauses of each blast, as a serpent to its lair! And here sit Flukes, and Jinkle, and Truckling Jim, and Bob the Brassy, and Drooping Mite, and Ben the Parson; swarthy, bare-arm Titans for the work they have to do. But it's Whitsun's Eve; they are about to be jolly, and have a night of it ! Flukes and Jinkle are laying down the coppers on a dog-match to come off on Monday—Grizzle, the under-shot-jawed mastiff, looking on from his bed in the warm ash-heap, with outstretched nose and stedfast eye, as if odds were none against him Jim and Bob are scoring a round of cribbage on a down-turned keg, whilst Mite, who is somewhat senile and tear-dropping, cares not for amusements so strong, but has an ear whilst Ben halloos the last broadside murder from the “Sheers,” not forgetting that on the reddest glow, which serves instead of a tablecloth, lie pipes and shag. It is as I say, Whitsun's Eve 1 Well Titans have been immemorially a thirsty crew, and here comes the Titan drop at last, in an especial Brown Tom, who, beside being astride on his barrel, has a wig on his head as crisp as an alderman's, though young Joe has come running with him the whole way from the “Hart,” where the company keep score | But, bless you, Brown Tom wears his wig crisply when he has three XXX's in him “Hallo!” cries Flukes, looking up as Joe sets down the gallon jug I very properly call Tom, from the brown, and comfortable, and pipe-smoking little gentleman depicted thereon; “be the mates a-coming—and what be the 'st afe—ter ?” “They be ;” and then Joe hesitates. At last, he says, “’Measter wur at the Hart, a-paying sum on 'em, and so I ak's for a holiday; and a' got it.” “Whew f" whistles Flukes; “where be'st a-going 3" “To Lichfield,” answers Joe, and as he speaks his eyes dilate, and the ragged smock heaves as from the throe of some deep imarticulate gladness. “The 'st could get smock and hallows nearer wum, I reckon,” says Jinkle, as he scores a new hieroglyphic on the keg. “It in'na a smock,” replies Joe, moving away ; “but good night 'n.” No. XIX.-WOL. IV. C