Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

the book, and we still more regret the almost total absence of any expression of opinion or original observations, on the part of the author, upon the strange and frequently marvellous narrations which he gives us.

The title of the book, and the introduction to it, warranted our expectations, which Dr. Madden's literary character fully justified, of philosophical, acute, and enlarged views of human nature and human actions; a great field was open for the discussion and examination of the causes that produced, sustained, and propagated these strange fanaticisms, and a pschycological and physiological enquiry into the various forms of mania and monomania noticed by the author, would have been both interesting and instructive. Whether restrained by timidity or deterred by the necessity for labor, Dr. Madden has done little more than furnish us with a number of curious extracts from various sources, extracts which, however curious and recondite, resemble, whilst unillustrated by the original views of the collector, the bones of a human body, unclad with flesh and nerves, and unanimated by a soul.

Thus, while most readily acknowledging the pleasure, in a literary sense, which we have derived from a perusal of these volumes, and desiring to express the satisfaction with which we shall again, if it pleases him that we should do so, meet Dr. Madden in the republic of letters, we cannot help thinking that in the particular instance of the "Phantasmata," the words of Montaigne would be most appropriate in his mouth,

"I have culled a bouquet of varied flowers from many gardens, and nothing is mine own save the string that ties them."

ART. IX. THE MANCHESTER EXHIBITION. 1. Catalogue of the Art Treasures of the United Kingdom, Collected at Manchester in 1857. (Provisional) Second Edition. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1857.

2. A Handbook to the Gallery of British Paintings, in the Art Treasures Exhibition. Being a reprint of Critical Notices originally published in the "Manchester Guardian." London Bradbury and Evans, 1857.


The present age may very truly be characterised as the age of Exhibitions. The love of publicity, the craving for notoriety are the ruling passions of the time, and their manifestations in life and action are new and manifold. Few things are now-a-days done in a corner in solitude and silence. Before an idea has fairly become a thought, the public are notified that some strange thing is about to be said or done, and before an action has been well accomplished it comes to be criticised, explained, described-and the whole universe is summoned to sit in council, squabble, and do the duty of posterity on the latest incident. Appeals to the judgment of posterity are quite gone out of fashion. No one waits for posterity. The present half hour is the beginning and the end-futurity no one cares a straw about-fame, if sought, must come sounding her trump in the accent of the living generation-cash, if we want that, must be paid down in the shape of the newest Victoria sovereigns. The prevailing theory of happiness seems to be, to have our pockets well filled for the needs of the day, and to have morning papers to give the latest intelligence of our thoughts, words, and actions. And if, perchance, we ever cast a look into the past, it is confessedly to ransack the store house of by-gone centuries for materials for our work. We grind the dry bones of a passed time for bread, and eat our portion hastily and irreverently.

Long gone by is the age when men of mind sat in the twilight of their hushed life, working out great thoughts, in patience their own fervid imaginings, or the laborious pursuit of truth, the fulness of life to them-content; if now and then they craved the genial sympathy of human hearts, they were content to wait till time should bring the tide of progress to their higher level, feeling only the anticipated pleasure of future appreciation, and

leaving to posterity the fame which they were satisfied never to enjoy in the flesh. Little recked Master Shakspeare, we fancy, that there were no daily papers to give note of his sayings and doings. It did not seem to him worth while that the whole world should know what he got for breakfast, or how he lived with his mother, wife, and cousins-germain. He did not mind telling how, and why, and where he wrote act second, scene first, of Hamlet; or whether King John was really meant to be only King John, or also some gentleman of his acquaintance. Fra Angelico in those days prayed and painted. While his heart glowed with the fervent love of God, his hand traced out scenes of ideal beauty, delineated faces of surpassing loveliness, for which only the dreams of saints and the mental vision of the pure of heart could find a prototype; and when the pious brethren of San Marco, and the gentle and simple of fair Florence, stood entranced before his pictured visions of holy life on earth, and beatified life in heaven; he was more than satisfied, that in giving glory to God, they did not likewise worship Il Frate. Hans Memling, good, honest burger, was satisfied that people should barely be acquainted with his name, guess at his birth-place, and forget the day of his death. He painted his gratitude to the sisterhood of St. John, not in the history of his own poor human life, but in the beautiful legendary story of their canonised patroness; leaving to them and to old Bruges a legacy of love which a score of emperors might sigh for.

We may be tempted to regret the fate of those neglected geniuses whose daily doings remain unchronicled; while we think it much to be deplored that we, nineteenth century folks, should be left without the means of gratifying our inquisitiveness with respect to them. Let us rather envy their unaccustomed independence. We, for our own part, are not prepared to depart life until we have sufficiently arranged memoirs pour servir of our follies, fancies, and flashy existence. Or, if by unhappy accident we die a sudden and unprovided death, at least, we hope the next a-kin or some sincere friend will take up the mantle of our self-sufficiency, and prate about us to our heart's content.

Nearly allied to this vicious passion for notoriety is the love of the present time for exhibitions. Everything must be learned, understood, and made our own of; and that in double quick time. There is no possibility of waiting. We must

take in all things in a grasp. We must see everything, hear everything, feel everything that is tangible. Chemical analysis must not puzzle us, nor the mystery of power looms be unrevealed. We must dissect the mystery, and lay bare the bone and marrow. If we cannot see it, we must read it in a penny pamphlet. Till at last, in answer to the call, machinery of fabulous horse power, mechanism to shame the nicety of a lady's finger, show forth their power, and tell their secret, and make the human heart leap with exultation in the consciousness of what the intellect of man has done to make the material world his slave and passive instrument.

The London Exhibition, the world wonder of '51, was the actual outburst of this frenzy, the answer to the passionate cry of uneasy multitudes. The Crystal Palace stands in our memory, the history and morale of it, with as sharply defined an outline as its iron-rimmed structure stood out against the summer sky. The very outward form was typical of the whole. Its origin was the result of a flashing thought, which caught fire from smouldering desires; its progress was the expression of the power, rapidity, resource of nineteenth-century intellect. Wealth and labour which in earlier times would have fortified a kingdom, art and contrivance and thoughtful minutiæ, which would have sufficed to decorate a minster, were here knowingly applied to fashion a palace of glass which should not outlive the transitoriness of an English summer. And stranger than all, within its fragile boundaries, the knowledge so thirsted for could be satiated to the full. The material held its sway as ruler in possession. The clank of machinery silenced the splashing of the fountain, the whirr of wheels disturbed the rustle of green leaves. The whole history of potteries and foundries became patent to the passer by. The products and fabrics of the oriental world, the costly laces of Venice and Brabant, precious Sevres, gorgeous Gobelins, giant doors of malachite, the work of toilsome hands, and complicated machinery, were here spread out before him. What clay and metal, and the vegetable growth of the earth could yield to the plastic faculty of man, he actually saw worked out before his eyes. It was a sight to intoxicate if not to satisfy.

[ocr errors]

Just a year later the little world of Cork started into unwonted vitality, and, in "the van of all the congregated world,' proudly displayed what Ireland, without the pressure and penalty of the factory system, can produce of graceful design and

costly workmanship. Dublin followed somewhat more slowly, and in '53 announced its exhibition. Cottons and tabinets were woven, and sugar plums took form, and cups and saucers were moulded upon the spot. But, eternal honour to the genial, sprightly, soulful Celt! he was not satisfied with this show of craft and mechanism; he craved something more spiritual, and he had bands of music, and the pealing sound of organs, and a noble gallery of pictures to grace and accompany his exhibition par excellence. Paddy has starved upon potatoes, but he has not sold his soul yet. It was a proud thing to observe, and we did not fail to lay it to heart, that as the Koh-i-noor diamond was the overwhelming attraction in the London exhibition, and the Wirtemburg monkeys and other stuffed eccentricities, the gathering place of sight seers, so the picture gallery was the central point of interest to the Dublin visitors. Many a season ticket was purchased, in order that the owner might have the privilege of turning in to spend a stray half hour of a busy day, in the special study of some favourite pic


It may have been from the good example here given, for it is not slowly that the experience of one day is applied to the experiment of the next, that when Paris opened its Exhibition in 1855, not only a corner was allocated to the Fine Arts properly so called, but a spacious and a fitting building was arranged for their reception and display, and its walls munificently decorated with the choicest works of living artists. The mercantile spirit was still the prime mover, an infinite extent of shop windows the ideal, but here again the Salon des Beaux Arts was found to be a most attractive addition.

Having faithfully made pilgrimage to all these Exhibitions, it was scarcely to be expected that the announcement of another should seem to promise much profit or pleasure. Nevertheless, when some few months since there began to be rumour of an intended Exhibition in Manchester, that pandemonium of sooty toil, we" could not choose but hear" and start responsive to the invitation. But with how new an interest was that summons accompanied ! We ourselves would willingly journey to any corner of the three kingdoms to see a gallery of pictures; but we saw far more in this undertaking than the gratification of mere private fancy. Here was something about to be offered for a people's enjoyment of a nature to counteract,

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »