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with respect to poetry, I do not think we exactly understand each other yet.

To-morrow we go to see the fragments of ancient architectural sculpture that were brought from Greece some years ago. They are chiefly from the Parthenon; so that you will readily guess I have chosen to see them before any thing else.


London, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 1821. I have seen the sculptures from the Parthenon; and though I intended that my account of every thing connected with the arts in this country should be reserved till I had qualified myself to form a judg. ment as to their general condition, yet I cannot resist the impulse of writing you a few words about these glorious works, now that the feel. ings they have excited in me are at their height. I shall be able to give you a more detailed account of them hereafter, when I come to speak of the National Museum of which they form so distinguished a part. You may thank your stars, as I do mine, that I am not a critic—that I cannot talk about these things technically. If I could, I should never have done. But then I should only talk about, not admire them; as it is, I can only admire, not talk about them.

It is not possible for me to convey to you what I think, or rather what I feel about them, because I have nothing but words to send you; and they, unaccompanied by expression of voice and look, are comparatively powerless. In a word, these exquisite fragments, for they are mere fragments, are worthy to stand beside the Venus itself. Like that statue, they are pure imitations of select nature; and so far per: haps they rank above the Apollo, as it respects the artists who formed them. I mean that more intense study, a profounder knowledge of art, and a deeper feeling for beauty as it exists in Nature, were probably required to produce these works than the Apollo. But I think that, without reference to the skill that produced them, and viewed only as things calculated to induce certain permanent effects on the mind and heart of the spectator, that sublime statue ranks above them. One, capable of appreciating them justly, may pass a day among these sculptures from the Parthenon, and leave them with no other feelings than those of present and immediate delight and admiration : but he cannot stand for an hour before the Apollo, without becoming wiser, better, and happier, for the rest of his life; I do not mean that the Apollo has more of what is called ideal beauty; but that it has something superior to beauty at all: something loftier, more imaginative, more unearthly.

This term “ideal beauty” is perpetually in the mouths of the critics here and every where else; and yet they are all puzzled themselves, and they puzzle every body else, in determining what it means. Well they may! for in fact it means nothing at all. It is a contradiction in terms. It is intended to mark a distinction, which they fancy is to be discovered, between the beauty of art, and the beauty of nature. But there is no such distinction. There can be none. Every thing that is beautiful in art is to be found somewhere in nature, in at least an equal, I think a superior degree. I am persuaded, for example, that

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there is nothing in art equal to some human faces which I myself have seen. But then there is, perhaps, nothing in nature equal to some works of art, as combinations of beauty; and this is all that can be, or at least that ought to be meant by ideal beauty. It is select beauty, and nothing more. It must have its various prototypes somewhere in nature, or it is not beauty all.

I do not think the Greeks had any notion of ideal beauty, as distinguished from real or natural. They selected from nature, and then created from their selections. Witness the Helen of Zeuxis. But they did not attempt to engender an artificial beauty in their own minds; because they knew that the imagination itself, with all its wondrous powers, cannot create any thing permanently affecting to the human mind, the rudiments of which did not previously exist somewhere in nature. The Venus is the inost perfect statue in existence, not because it possesses a beauty superior to, or different from that of nature; but because it combines the largest portion of select natural beauty. And this beauty can be considered as ideal, only so far as it is not a portrait—not a copy from, but an imitation of, nature. A portrait can perhaps never be perfect, except as a portrait. It may be said that nothing which is a copy, or is not an imitation of nature, can be perfect. And admitting the first part of this axiom to be true, the works of nature are not therefore imperfect; for all the rudiments of perfection exist in her; and she has given to man the mechanical power to combine them, and the mental power to appreciate them when they are combined.

I have been led to make these remarks, by reading the opinions of the professional critics here, on the marbles from Athens.* 'They all seem to agree, that the fragments possess less of what they call ideal beauty, than the Apollo does. But some rank them exactly as much below that statue, as others do above it; and (what is very singular) precisely for the same reason,-namely, because they possess less ideal beauty. This incongruity arises from neither party having distinct notions of what they themselves mean by ideal beauty.. One party has right feelings on the subject; but both have wrong principles.

It is remarkable, too, that these critics seem to have forgotten that the Venus de Medici exists at all. Not one of them, in making comparisons between these sculptures and other fine things of the kind, has mentioned that divine statue to which, of all others, these bear the nearest resemblance in style and character.

By the bye, one of these persons (and one whose works as an artist have acquired him a very just celebrity, on the Continent as well as here) has made the notable discovery, that the Apollo is only a copy! The arrangement of the hair, he says, and the folds of the mantle, are more adapted to bronze than to marble! Indeed! and could this person really dare to stand in that awful presence, and instead of bowing down before the visible God, suffer his eyes to go peeping and prying about among the plaits of the hair and the folds of the mantle ? But this it is to be a professional critic—to look technically at things!

The writer seems to refer to the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons, on the subject of purchasing the Elgin marbles for the National Museum.


He reminded me of two of his countrywomen whom I once saw standing before the Transfiguration. I found that the whole of their attention had been fixed by the plaiting of the hair of one of the female figures. It was "so natural,” they said. You see the extremes of knowledge and of ignorance exactly meet.- I dare say this gentleman is one of those who occasionally employ themselves in pulling a rose to pieces scientifically, in order to see how it is made.

I have no great affection for the "triste métier de critiqueat any time; but least of all when it is employed about the highest productions of the fine arts—such as the sculptures in question. They are, in fact, not subjects for criticism at all: they are above its sphere.It is the general feeling of mankind—the light that is within us that must appreciate them. That which contains no beauty but what it requires the eye of a critic to find out, contains none at all. All the criticism in the world never made a single real lover of the fine arts. It has made hosts of amateurs and connoisseurs—worshippers of a name-stringers of phrases-chatterers about gusto, chiaro-scuro, the beau idéal, and so forth. But these have no real love for the fine arts. They can have none,-because real love, whatever may be the object of it, springs from the depths of the heart;—and these people have no hearts: they have talked theirs away; or bartered them for a vocabulary of technical phrases.

When once the few fundamental principles of truth are known, then the taste that is got by reading books of criticism, is like the morality that is acquired by reading books of casuistry—that is, something worse than none at all :—for criticism is to beauty in art, just what metaphysics is to truth in morals-it makes “no light, but rather darkness visible.”

Criticism, like every thing else, is very well in its place; but like every thing else, it does not exactly know where that is. The sublimities of M. Angelo are beyond its reach;—the divine forms of Ra. phael were not made to be medilled with by its unballowed fingers ; -the ineffable expressions of Corregio must not be sullied by its earthy breath. They were given to the world for something better; and they have done their bidding hitherto, and will do it to the end of time. They have opened a perpetual spring of Jofty thoughts and pure meditations; they have blended themselves with the very existence, and become a living principle in the heart of mankind ;-and they are now no more fit to be touched and tampered with than the stars of heaven-for like them “levan di terra al cielo vostr’intelletto.”

When I recollect that all the choicest of these treasures were lately ours, and that now they are gone from us for ever, I cannot help, for a moment, turning my thoughts to where, of all other places, they are least at ease-among cabinets and statesmen. I cannot help asking, after all that we had suffered, was this necessary? was it just? But my melancholy feelings are doubled at these questions; for I dare not answer them in the negative.

I must indulge myself, for a moment, in following these holy relics (the only things which deserve that title) to what, after all, seems to be their destined home-in fancying the pure and solemn delight of some noble spirit,-for there are still a few who dignify that deservedly unhappy country, -on hearing of their return. He would at first, perhaps-like Petrarch when he thought he discovered a gleam of hope dawning on the liberties of his country-fancy he heard the united spirit of the mighty dead

“Si faccia lieto, udendo la novella !

E dice, Roma mia sarà ancor bella.” But, if he appreciate these things justly, his joy will not be unmixed with melancholy; for he will feel that Italy is not now a worthy sanctuary for them: though he may still hope that by and through them she may become so. He will not dare to think upon the present; for if he did, it could only be to ask, with one of her own children,

“ Italia; che suoi guai non par che senta;
Vecchia, oziosa e lenta;

Dormirà sempre?
or to exclaim with another, still more indignantly,

“Or va : repudia il valor prisco, e sposa
L'ozio, e fra il sangue, i gemiti, e le strida,
Nel periglio maggior dormi, e riposa :

Dormi, adultera vil.” In short, in whatever way he may connect his thoughts with these deathless memorials of the glory of his country and of human nature, all his conscious elevation at the sight of them must spring from the past,-all his hopes and aspirations must rest upon the future.



My letter before the last exhibited Captain Augustus Thackeray, in all his embroidery, preparing to partake of Mr. Culpepper's repast, at the residence of the latter in Savage Gardens. “'Been to the Opera lately?" inquired the elegant stranger of Mrs. Culpepper, in a tone of such decided recitative, that I would lay an even wager upon its having been modelled upon part of the dialogue of Il Turco in Italia. Luckily the tremulous lady of the mansion was prevented from answering the question, by an exclamation of “Dinner, Jack, directly!” from the hungry lips of her impatient spouse, which gave the Captain time to forget that he had propounded it. The slayer of men now conducted himself according to the laws of Ton, in that case made and provided. He first planted himself with his back to the fire, with either leg sprawled out, like a pair of animated compasses : he next drew from his sabretash a snuff-box, which he deposed to having purchased in the Palais Royal. To drive away the particles of Prince's mixture, which had impertinently planted themselves upon his mustachios, producing a prolonged sneeze, he drew from the same receptacle a pocket-handkerchief of crimson silk: he then fixed his eyes upon a paper trap, which hung from the ceiling, to catch flies, and partly whistled and partly sung“Sul Aria:" he, finally, strolled toward the window, the edge of his swordsheath, like the rattle of the American reptile, giving due notice of his locomotion : and, after surveying the White Tower of Julius Cæsar and the foliage of 'Trinity square in momentary apathy, “my pretty page looked out afar” no longer; but, turning to Mr. Culpepper, said, “ Are these trees P” wondering, as well he might, that the natives of these Hyper-Borean regions should have acquired the art of aborization. “ Trees ! yes," answered the vender of slops, “what should they be ? Oh, but I suppose you don't approve of railing in and planting that part of Tower-hill.” The elegant stranger gently inclined his lead, which the interrogator mistook for acquiescence, and thus went on: “You are quite right; I never liked it: I held up my two hands against it in the vestry, but I was out-voted. Ah, sir, in my time when I was apprentice to old Frank Fit-out, the slop-seller in the Tenterground, that was all Tower-hill; smack-smooth, as the palm of your hand: then there was something like going on. I've seen Doctor Bossy, the quack, there, upon a stage with a blue and white check curtain; and "I've seen a matter of ten boys at a time playing chuck-farthing; ay, and a matter of five sailors abreast singing ballads and playing fildles. Ah! that was something like!" "Something like what?" inquired be of the sabre-tash, with eyelids dropping until their lashes almost met his mustachios. Old Culpepper found it difficult to establish a simile, that should accord with so many discordant articles, and held his peace. There was something in the above harangue, short as it was, that was rather nauseous than otherwise to every one present: Mrs. Culpepper, who boasted her second-cousinship to a Serjeant, (whether at law or in the guards I have never been able to ascertain,) disliked the mention of old Frank Fit-out and the Tenter-ground; Miss Clara thought the objection to turning the hill into an inclosed square was meant as a fiing at her rotatory flirtations with young Dixon in that hallowed sanctuary; and George, whose determination to sink the shop probably originated in an honest aversion to shop-lifting, heard the word “slop-seller” from his father's lips with that beart-sinking sensation which came across Blifil, when his uncle Alworthy asked hiin what he had done with his mother's letter. Then it was that the boy Jack opened the drawing-room door; and then it was that old Culpepper, concluding that he appeared to announce happiness, bawled out «Dinner, dinner!" and hunting every body before him, even as a Hampshire driver urges pigs, drove the whole herd down a steep staircase into the dining-rooin. If Nature had ordained man to feed upon napkins and horn-handled knives, the motion would have been biost reasonable ; for of aught else the table exhibited not the shadow. “ What the devil's this ?” cried the master of the house to the footboy with a look in which authority and dismay were mingled. “I went up stairs, Sir," answered the latter, “ to tell you that dinner would be ready presently.” “ Presently !” cried Culpepper, "psha! what signifies presently? however, since we are here, let us take our places; it will save time. Captain Thackeray, sit up by Madam; Clara, sit you on this side of the Captain; I don't ask you, Sir, whether you mind the firemit's your business, you know, to stand it: ha, ha, ha! I beg pardon, but hunger sharpens wit; George, take your seat opposite. Well, now we look not a little like fools. This reminds me of a most extraordinary circumstance which I would not miss telling for all the world. When I was apprentice to-But here comes dinner!" The “hold, break we off” of Hamlet was never delivered in so awful a tone. The aforesaid Jack, tottering under a tureen, now made his appearance, followed by the housemaid Jane, in a white cap and apron, and a spotted calico gown,

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