Imágenes de páginas

They have mistaken this readiness to accept any faith for a religious reaction. The misfortune of Christianity is, that they no longer fight against it ; it is embalmed, it is sanctified; it is canonized like a saint. But you know better than I, Sir, that saints are only canonized after their death. It is dangerous to allow one's self to be made a relic of. The priests have gone to sleep, trusting to this perfidious calm. Having hardly escaped from the terrible attack of Voltaire, they hailed what was only disgust and weariness at materialism as a disposition to return to religion. In their eyes, every one who was a spiritualist became a religious man; every one who repudiated the Encyclopédie, became a Christian. In their eagerness to rescue all minds from the philosophy of the last century, they accepted professions of faith, without being at all rigid in respect to rites and doctrines. They opened the gates to religious liberalism. They made a breach, and through this breach have entered pell-mell, pietism, sentimentalism, symbolism, and all sorts of Germanism. They no longer preach upon morals and doctrines, but upon Christian philosophy, and all kinds of historical and æsthetical generalities. At the present time, we want nothing better than religious belief ; but, if we must accept, as articles of faith, all that we hear from the pulpit, and as words of the Gospel, all the pitiable rhapsodies and contemptible contests about words, which are published by those who call themselves your organs, no wonder that our faith wavers and our hearts incline to doubt.”

This is a lively picture of the confusion that results, when an erratic speculative philosophy assumes the name and garb of religion, without any of its spirit, and substitutes its own vague and unmeaning generalities in place of the vital truths of Natural Theology, and the doctrines of the Gospel. It remains to be seen, whether the study of the same writers and the prevalence of the same tastes will ever produce a counterpart to this state of things on our side of the Atlantic. One security against such an evil consists in the fact, that the antecedent circumstances in the two cases are different. We are not recovering from the prolonged torpor of materialism and infidelity, in order to be thrown by a reaction into the wilds of a mystical philosophy, and a heated, vague, and unsettled faith. It is an idle task to preach against sensualism and the empirical philosophy to the descendants of the Puritans ; it is merely apeing the manners and the sentiments of a few French declaimers, whose words have no

applicability or meaning for the western world. There are no admirers of Condillac among us ; and, if there are a few imitators of the Baron d’Holbach, their errors were not caused by the prevalence of one system of philosophy, nor will they be converted by the introduction of another. Metaphysical arguments will not cure that blindness and insensibility of heart and intellect, of which ignorance and heedlessness are the primary and the sustaining causes.

Instead of calling upon such men to close their eyes and ears, and distrust the information given by their senses, for fear they should be deluded by empiricism, or some other philosophical bugbear, rather bid them open their minds and hearts to the sights and sounds of creation, and hear and see everywhere proofs of the being of a God. Preach the Gospel io them instead of metaphysical speculations, - remembering the pregnant aphorism of Bacon ; “ As to seek philosophy in divinity is to seek the dead amongst the living, so to seek divinity in philosophy is to seek the living amongst the dead.”

ART. VI. – Monaldi : a Tale. Boston : Charles C. Lit

tle and James Brown. 1841. 12mo. pp. 253.

Though this little volume bears no author's name on its title-page, it is understood to be from the pen of Washington Allston. This great artist is a poet as well as painter; and, were it not for his overshadowing fame as the foremost painter of his age, he would unquestionably have been renowned as one of our most graceful and imaginative poets. The collection of poems, published by him many years ago, and now out of print, shows the invention, and fancy, and curious felicity of expression, that mark the true son of song; and, had Mr. Allsion followed out the poetical career, he would most certainly have reached, ere this, the same eminence as a writer, to which his genius has borne him in art.

We feel, as Americans, no small pride in Mr. Allston's genius and fame. It is part and parcel, and no small part, of our national reputation. He is too much absorbed in the love of his art, and too much occupied with the lovely and immortal creations of his genius, to make himself VOL. LIV. No. 115.


the rival of other artists, or the head of any school. No morbid anxieties for his own fame intrude into the serene heaven of invention, in which his calm spirit ever moves. Quietly and surely he works on, finishing every year seme exquisite picture, which alone would be enough to carry his name to other generations, as one of the most illustrious artists of the present. He is known and reverenced by all the rising artists of his country, and envied by none. Happy the man of genius, whose rare good fortune it is, not merely to outdo all his contemporaries in the beauty and excellence of his works, but to pass through a long career without feeling a breath of envy, or a lisp of reproach, upon his fair me !

Mr. Allston's genius is understood as well, perhaps better, abroad. Many of his best pictures were painted in England. In Italy his abilities were fully appreciated by the young artists, who were his contemporaries in the Eternal City, and some of whom stand now at the head of the rising school of German art. One of the most distinguished critics of art in Germany, Karl Platner, has recently declared, that Mr. Allston approaches, in coloring, nearer the old masters of the best ages in Italian art, than any other modern painter. This opinion is expressed in the chapter on modern art in Rome, in the great work on Rome, published by the accomplished Prussian minister, Karl Bunsen, the successor of Niebuhr the historian; and, when we reflect that the opinion was formed upon the earlier works of Mr. Allston, - the splendid productions of his matured genius never having been seen by the German critic, — we cannot help regarding it as a most gratifying tribute to the surpassing excellence of Mr. Allston's style. As he himself said on a late occasion of the prophetic raven, Platner only spoke for posterity when he uttered that memorable judgment. The moment Mr. Allston's name is written in the great book of the departed, — God grant it may be many years first ! - that moment his name will be taken out of the catalogue of painters belonging to the present age; the distinctions of time will be forgotten; and he will be placed side by side with the great brotherhood who have made the name of Italy illustrious as the home of the arts through all time. His works will be sought out and purchased at enormous prices, by curious collectors, and pilgrimages will be made by lovers and students of painting, to spots hallowed by the presence of some masterpiece of his genius.

But it is not our purpose, in the present paper, to speak at any length of Mr. Allston, the painter. He comes before us now in the new character of a prose writer. No little curiosity was felt by the public, when it was announced that Allston, the poet and painter, was on the point of appearing as a novelist; and some anxiety was mingled with the curiosity, that he might not fail in this untried career. At length the book appeared, after having been laid aside more than twenty years, more than double the time prescribed by the respectable but neglected old saw of Horace. It was written, it seems, for a periodical work, edited by a friend of the artist, The Idle Man” of Mr. Dana, we presume, a work which manifested great genius and invention, but, not striking the public taste, was not well supported, and was discontinued by the editor before Mr. Allston's Tale could be published. The manuscript was then thrown aside, and slept, like Rip Van Winkle, undisturbed more than twenty years.

The story of Monaldi turns upon jealousy. This passion is the least respectable of all the methods taken by foolish men to make themselves miserable. We have never had a strong liking for tales of distress, founded upon jealousy. From that blackamoor Othello down, we never read tale, novel, or play, where this was the mainspring of the plot, without feeling that a grain of coinmon-sense would have put an end to the trouble, or, rather, would have prevented the trouble altogether. When the silly scoundrel smothers Desdemona, we have no feeling of pity for him as the victim of another's villany, but we despise him for his weakness, and hate him for his cruelty, and could see him hanged with perfect complacency. Something like this feeling, we confess, mingles with our pleasure, in reading Monaldi. It seems as if a man of his genius and exquisite moral character,

united to a woman whose every thought was purity, whose every act one of the most delicate and tender love for him, and between whom and himself existed the most intimate blending of taste and soul, — could never be brought, by any entanglement of devilish arts, to believe his wife a polluted hypocrite, and to aim the assassin's dagger at her defenceless bosom.

But such anomalies doubtless exist in nature. The warmth of the Italian temperament, and the unfortunate peculiarities

[ocr errors]

that have existed in times past in Italian society, probably render them more frequent there, than in our colder clime. To our less lively imaginations, the changes of character in such a story as Monaldi, seem, at first, too abrupt and startling. It appears an impossibility, that such a moral hurricane can spring up in a moment, and turn to a dreary desert, regions where all was but just now so smiling and serene. It shocks us to think, that the fierce bolt of human passions can, with the force and speed of lightning, blast and sear a happiness that was so deeply rooted, so blooming, and so full of delicious promise but a moment before. And yet it may be

At any rate, upon a second and third reading of Monaldi, the improbability diminishes, and nearly disappears. At first we hurry over the pages, swept away by an irresistible interest in the fortunes of the personages with whom we sympathize so deeply. Many characteristic circumstances we pass by unnoticed ; many minute but important touches fail to have their due effect, until our curiosity is satisfied by a hasty reading, and we have time to turn back and dwell longer upon the details, than we were able to do at first.

Mr. Allston has wrought into this tale materials enough for two or three common novels; and we are not sure that he would not have done better to draw out the varied passions of the story at greater length; to paint with greater minuteness, and in a fuller style, the scenes and events through which his characters are made to pass ; to soften somewhat the suddenness of the transitions, and thus to explain and justify, more completely than he has done, the overwhelming catastrophe, in which virtue, genius, beauty, and fame are swallowed up. Many hints and intimations, which the observing reader notices in a second perusal, do this for the few; but the great mass of readers, who never take up a book but once, will remain discontented with the manner in which the destinies of Monaldi and Rosalia Landi are wrought out. The great artist, studying as he does the effects of particular moments, - working up striking historical or tragic crises, and trusting to the imagination of the spectator to supply what goes before or follows; presenting, as the very conditions and materials of his art force him to do, the

passions, attitudes, groups, of a single second only to the senses,

is apt to apply the same methods, and use the same principles, when he passes from art to literature, from the canvass

« AnteriorContinuar »