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THE REYNOLDS GALLERY.
HE Reynolds Gallery has, upon the
whole, disappointed me. Some of the S R portraits are interesting. They are faces
R of characters whom we (middle-aged gentlemen) were born a little too late to remember, but about whom we have heard our fathers tell stories till we almost fancy to have seen them. There is a charm in the portrait of a Rodney or a Keppel, which even a picture of Nelson must want for me. I should turn away after a slight inspection from the best likeness that could be made of Mrs. Anne Clarke ; but Kitty Fisher is a considerable personage. Then the dresses of some of the women so exactly remind us of modes which we can just recall ; of the forms under which the venerable relationship of aunt or mother first presented themselves to our young eyes; the aprons, the coils, the lappets, the hoods. Mercy on us ! what a load of head-ornaments seem to have conspired to bury a pretty face in the picture of Mrs. Long, yet could not! Beauty must have some “charmed life” to have been able to surmount the conspiracy of fashion in those days to destroy it.
The portraits which least pleased me were those of boys, as infant Bacchuses, Jupiters, &c. But the artist is not to be blamed for the disguise. No doubt, the parents wished to see their children deified in their lifetime. It was but putting a thunderbolt (instead of a squib) into young master's hands; and a whey-faced chit was transformed into the infant ruler of Olympus,-him who was afterwards to shake heaven and earth with his black brow. Another good boy pleased his grandmamma with saying his prayers so well, and the blameless dotage of the good old woman imagined in him an adequate representative of the infancy of the awful Prophet Samuel. But the great historical compositions, where the artist was at liberty to paint from his own idea, -the Beaufort and the Ugolino: why, then, I must confess, pleading the liberty of table-talk for my presumption, that they have not left any very elevating impressions on my mind. Pardon a ludicrous comparison. I know, madam, you admire them both ; but placed opposite to each other as they are at the Gallery, as if to set the one work in competition with the other, they did remind me of the famous contention for the prize of deformity, mentioned in the 173rd number of the “ Spectator.” The one stares, and the other grins ; but is there common dignity in their countenances ? Does anything of the history of their life gone by peep through the ruins of the mind in the face, like the unconquerable grandeur that surmounts the distortions of the Laocoon? The figures which stand by the bed of Beaufort are indeed happy representations of the plain unmannered old nobility of the English historical plays of Shakespeare ; but, for anything else, give me leave to recommend those macaroons.
feeling that I had quite had my fill of paintings, I stumbled upon a picture in Piccadilly (No. 22, I think), which purports to be a portrait of Francis the First by Leonardo da Vinci. Heavens, what a difference! It is but a portrait, as most of those I had been seeing ; but, placed by them, it would kill them, swallow them up as Moses' rod the other rods. Where did these old painters get their models? I see no such figures, not in my dreams, as this Francis, in the character, or rather with the attributes of John the Baptist. A more than martial majesty in the brow and upon the eyelid ; an arm muscular, beautifully formed; the long, graceful, massy fingers compressing, yet so as not to hurt, a lamb more lovely, more sweetly shrinking, than we can conceive that milk-white one which followed Una; the picture altogether looking as if it were eternal,-combining the truth of flesh with a promise of permanence like marble.
Leonardo, from the one or two specimens we have of him in England, must have been a stupendous genius. I scarce can think he has had his full fame, -he who could paint that wonderful personification of the Logos, or third person of the Trinity, grasping a globe, late in the possession of Mr. Troward of Pall Mall, where the hand was, by the boldest license, twice as big as the truth of drawing warranted; yet the effect, to every one that saw it, by some magic of genius was confessed to be not monstrous, but miraculous and silencing. It could not be gainsaid.
a VERY ingenious and subtle writer,
A whom there is good reason for sus1999 pecting to be an ex-Jesuit, not unknown
a t Douay some five-and-twenty years since (he will not obtrude himself at M— th again in a hurry), about a twelvemonth back set himself to prove the character of the Powder Plot conspirators to have been that of heroic self-devotedness and true Christian martyrdom. Under the mask of Protestant candour, he actually gainerl admission for his treatise into a London weekly paper not particularly distinguished for its zeal towards either religion. But, admitting Catholic principles, his arguments are shrewd and incontrovertible. He says :
''Guy Faux was a fanatic; but he was no hypocrite. He ranks among good haters. He was cruel, bloody-minded, reckless of all considerations but those of an infuriated and bigoted faith ; but he was a true son of the Catholic Church, a martyr, and a confessor, for all that. He who can prevail upon himself to devote his life for a cause, however we may condemn his opinions or abhor his actions, vouches at least for the honesty of his principles and the disinterestedness of his motives. He may be
guilty of the worst practices; but he is capable of the greatest. He is no longer a slave, but free. The contempt of death is the beginning of virtue. The hero of the Gunpowder Plot was, if you will, a fool, a madman, an assassin; call him what names you please : still he was neither knave nor coward. He did not propose to blow up the parliament, and come off scotfree himself: he showed that he valued his own life no more than theirs in such a cause, where the integrity of the Catholic faith and the salvation of perhaps millions of souls was at stake. He did not call it a murder, but a sacrifice, which he was about to achieve : he was armed with the Holy Spirit and with fire : he was the Church's chosen servant and her blessed martyr. He com: forted himself as the best of cut-throats.' How many wretches are there that would have undertaken to do what he intended, for a sum of money, if they could have got off with impunity! How few are there who would have put themselves in Guy Faux's situation to save the universe! Yet, in the latter case, we affect to be thrown into greater consternation than at the most unredeemed acts of villany; as if the absolute disinterestedness of the motive doubled the horror of the deed! The cowardice and selfishness of mankind are in fact shocked at the consequences to themselves (if such examples are held up for imitation); and they make a fearful outcry against the violation of every prin. ciple of morality, lest they, too, should be called on for any such tremendous sacrifices ; lest they, in their turn, should have to go on the forlorn hope of extra-official duty. Charity begins at home is a 'maxim that prevails as well in the courts of conscience as in those of prudence. We would be thought to shudder at the consequences of crime to