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been conversing (seated on the green hills of Surrey, at whose foot this great poet resided, with his father, mother, and only sister, before his marriage with Miss Barrett) upon Napoleon, Prometheus, and other eminent sufferers. Browning grew warm on the subject, and pointed out a curious passage of the Prometheus Vinctus, which he said was not only the foundation of Napoleon's creed, but also a prophecy or foreshadow of the Christian Trinity.
This (the author of Sordello maintained) was a singular proof of the ghostly or shadowy evidence, which the “cloud of witnesses” gave in favor of these mysteries.
We have endeavored by these general remarks to give a better idea of the excellence of Mr. Sparks's biographies than by any extracts from his writings. Who could convey to the beholder the idea of a forest by presenting an elaborate isolated tree? Let this simile excuse our rather dealing in generalities when we talk of Mi. Sparks's biographies. It is very often the test of an undue and unartistic attention to parts, correspondent to a neglect of the whole, when a critic is enabled to present the reader with a convincing specimen of the genius of the artist. This really is the exact truth in the present case. All is equally well finished; there is nothing striking about a feature or limb, but the face or the form is beautiful. Who would think of cutting off a nose or plucking out an eye, and presenting these mutilations as convincing evidences of beauty? We cannot help carrying on the parallel by remarking that the very isolation deprives each organ of sight and smell, and ignores at the same time the delights of vision and perfume. What be
comes of the beauty of a landscape or a lady, or the perfume of a hay-field or a rose ?
These remarks apply the more especially to the author now under review, for there is a symmetrical proportion about all his works which evidences the artist. We could instance many writers who elaborate their sentences more thoroughly, and present far more finished and striking passages for the reader's special attention ; but we know few authors who preserve so much proportion in their figures, and so much propriety in the grouping. The attention and labor are equally distributed, and it is only when the entire picture is viewed that the full merit of the painter is recognised; then all examination of detail is forgotten in admiration of the tout ensemble. We remember a curious fact, related by a celebrated portrait painter, which confirmed this opinion strongly. He selected from the most celebrated beauties of the day the most perfect feature of each face, and exhausted his skill in forming them into one which he naturally thought would be the perfection of loveliness : he was disappointed to find the result a decided common-place, meaningless countenance, devoid of either grace or expression. This is only what he might have expected : beauty is harmony or congruity ; his model portrait was an incongruity.
Our space will not allow us to give sufficient quotations from Mr. Sparks to illustrate our assertion; indeed, as we said before, it would be unjust to do so. He has no pet passages, no short episodes, which shine out from the rest, and placed there as though purposely for samples—all is consistent and symmetrical. A poet or a traveller abounds with passages which can
be detached without any loss of vitality or beauty ; but in a sustained work, like the Biographies of Washington and Franklin, it would be as absurd to select occasional sentences to convince a doubting reader, as to present a bucket of sea-water in order to convey a notion of the Atlantic !