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confident in beauty; in England she has evidently looked in the glass until not a curl strays from its fillet, not a dimple is unschooled. She is mise à quatre épingles, as the French milliners say; but how lovely!"
We purposely say." artificial scenery,” for, with a few exceptions, there is scarcely a bit of uncultivated nature in all England. She has no naked scenery; it has all been dressed up, put into special attitudes, and grouped so as to form the best possible “tout ensemble.” It has no more real nature in it than a garden, to which it is so often compared : like a little woman, she is obliged to make the most of a pretty face and agreeable person, by the elaboration of her toilet, the judicious arrangement of her ornaments, and the elegance of her man
She cannot afford to have a curl awry or a ribbon misplaced, while a Patagonian Venus of six feet or so can afford to leave the impression to her stature.
The common-place feeling which some have for ruins is well illustrated by an incident related by a gentleman who was himself the happy possessor of one. Having invited some antiquarians to inspect it, he told his steward to have all arranged by the day in question. On arriving at the venerable relic of the feudal ages they were astounded by the modernization it had evidently undergone : it was elegantly whitewashed, carpets laid down, chairs and tables placed, and some curtains hung to give a snug air to the sublimity in question. The steward broke the speechless astonishment of the party by saying: “Your Lordship must allow I have much improved their appearance, and made them decent !"
To return to Mrs. Kirkland.
There is another feature in her criticism which we admire, and that is her freedom from the cant of classicality, which has had so fatal an influence art and literature over all the world. We were delighted to meet with the following passage, as it coincides with the opinion of many of the best critics in Europe.
“The monuments have a modern air, and poor Dr. Johnson looks particularly forlorn, with nothing on but a sheet, as if he had been called out of bed by the cry of fire. This matter of drapery for statues becomes a subject of incessant question as one walks through these monumental aisles. The wig and buckles of Dr. Johnson would not certainly be very classical ; but he is not Dr. Johnson without them, and we desire nobody else as we stand near his grave. The equestrian statue of George III., which the wits say is
a ridiculous thing;
is not a whit more ridiculous than the figure of Dr. Johnson in a costume, or non-costume, which would have been odious to him while living. If it was necessary to wind him in a sheet he should have been represented as dead, and so unable to put himself in more proper trim for sitting to the artist.”
What gives such an interest to the sculptured forms of the old crusaders, as they lie in dim cathedrals, carved in complete mail, but the exactness of the resemblance ? What should we say of the sculptor of that time had he put them into Roman or Turkish costume? The artist might with as much propriety change the features as the dress! One be
longs to the man, the other to the country in which he lived. The combination forms the complete idea of the individual which was to be demonstrated. Looking at the statues of celebrated men we should define the art of sculpture to be invented for the express purpose of disguising them from the knowledge of posterity, seeing their very contemporaries cannot recognise them. Barbarous as it may sound we must exclaim, Give us the pigtail of George the Third in preference to the toga of Samuel Johnson !
We doubt if they would know themselves again if they looked in a glass ; more especially as it sometimes happens that a man who is dressed in a manner unlike his usual style may mistake himself in the glass for some one else. Incredible as it may appear, we know this happened to the father of a very popular writer of the low school of literature.
The gentleman in question volunteered to distribute the playbills on the night of a grand amateur performance, which was given for the benefit of an institution which was drooping for want of funds. While he was busily engaged in his vocation, with a huge bundle of the aforesaid prospectuses in his hand, he was accosted by some person connected with the theatre ; turning suddenly round he was astonished by observing that a short, stout gentleman, in an ample white waistcoat, was standing before him with the identical bundle of papers in his hand. Thinking the person had taken them from him, he demanded in an angry tone: “What the devil do you mean, sir, by taking those papers from me?" A narrower inspection convinced him he was beginning to quarrel with his own image in a large mirror, which he had not previously observed. Some
bystanders were heartily amused at this novel method of getting up an altercation.
The stout gentleman in question explains it away by stating that he was very busy, that he had no idea of there being a looking-glass so near, and that seldom dressing in a white waistcoat, he lost for a minute his own identity; hence the mistake, which principally turned upon a difference in costume. His friends consider that a few glasses of champagne had more to do with it than the looking-glass. At all events, if it takes so little to prevent a man recognising himself, we may form a faint idea of the small chance our posterity have when they come to look upon us under the almost impenetrable disguise of a classical costume.
While we are on the subject of the Amateur Plays we may as well quote an apropos passage from her book, which seems to countenance the current belief that the author of “ Pickwick” was at an early period of his life a strolling player.
“ The amateur plays came off finely. Mark Lemon, Forster of the 'Examiner,' Mr. Dudley Costello, George Cruikshank, and Mrs. Cowden Clarke, and sundry artists, assisted; but Mr. Dickens was all in all. He toiled incessantly in the cause, and was the only good actor in the company; for although great correctness of appreciation was evident, the lack of use and of technical knowledge chilled parts of the performance very much.”
The sensitiveness of some actors to any allusion respecting their profession is very remarkable. We were told by a friend who was present, that a tragedian celebrated for his pride and aversion to being considered an actor, was grievously vexed one evening at a dinner party. Seated next to him was a very
prosy antiquarian, who, mistaking our Roscius for a clergyman, by the solemnity of his countenance, began a long argument on the “stat nominis umbra” of Junius. After some discussion he quoted the old story of the king sending secretly for Garrick, to request his vigilance in discovering who the great unknown
Singular enough” (quoth the antiquarian to the actor) “just as Garrick was about to commence his performance, a note was given to him couched in words like these, and signed Junius : -“ So the tyrant has commanded you to find out who I am! Mark me, vagabond,”—at this word the narrator, looking solemnly in the other's face, said, “ alluding to his profession as an actor, which, by the statutes of England,” &c. &c. The ghastly face of the tragedian may well be imagined.
We gladly quote another morcel of genuine, honest criticism, in her estimate of Jenny Lind. It shows that although our fair writer can be misled by her own feelings, she is determined not to be led captive by a popular cry.
“ London is like a nest of singing-birds just now. Jenny Lind, Alboni, Grisi, and half a dozen more of only less note are trilling and twittering somewhere every night. , The ecstatics are reserved for Jenny, whose very faults are exalted to the skies as peculiar, individual excellences. She is a very fascinating little syren, certainly; and we can hardly blame the young men for falling in love with her graces and prettiness, which so set off and appreciate her sweet singing. But take the singing alone, and as a whole, it is, as an artistic performance, far inferior to some others; though in certain tours de force Jenny is unrivalled as yet. When she crosses her arms on her breast, raises her pretty shoulders, fixes her eyes intensely on the audience, and gives forth a sustained note, higher in the clouds than