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From sphere to sphere, the heralds of the blest.
Thus some sweet creatures crowned with cypress wreaths,
So beamed Monina thro' the fragrant shroud
And those who knelt beside her, could not say
Gone-gone for ever !
She will wake no more!
Beauty lies weeping,
"Tis the sleep of death!
Oh, the deep splendour
Peace, mercy, and bliss !
* The goddess Libitina of the Romans. The dead were carried into the temple of the Venus Libitina, where they were blessed by the Pontifices prior to their cremation. Her emblem was the cypress treo.
+ Mary Magdaleu,
NOTICES OF ARTS AND ARTISTS.
No. III.-WOOD ENGRAVING IN ENGLAND,
(CONTINUED FROM PAGE 238.)
About this time, the Penny Magazine was projected. The embellishments of the early numbers were not in any way superior to contemporary publications of the same nature, but at last a very remarkable superiority appeared in them-landscapes, objects of natural history, and portraits, were executed in a style as bold as it was attractive. In fact, while the literature of this periodical became a reproach, the embellishments were the subject of universal admiration. The popularity of this beautiful art continued to increase, of which publishers took advantage, and all the rising talent among the engravers of wood was diligently sought after and liberally encouraged. Books adorned with well executed cuts multiplied rapidly. In France, however, they were being used with a profusion, which in this country had not as yet been ventured upon. Editions of Robinson Crusoe, Don Quixotte, Moliere's Works, Gil Blas, the Life of Napoleon, and of a few other productions of a like popularity, were brought out in Paris with a multitude of wood engravings in each, which seemed quite marvellous on this side the Channel. They were for the most part drawn by able draughtsmen, and engraved in a corresponding style of excellence.
They were soon rivalled in England, and it was not long before they were excelled. Of several publications in this country which imitated the profusion of illustration so remarkable in the French works, we need only distinguish two"Dr. Wordsworth's Pictorial Greece,” and Mr. Lane's new translation of “ The Thousand and One Nights;" the former contains a vast number, 350, of engravings, there being scarcely a page in the book without one or more. They are from the designs of several artists and have been executed by the principal engravers, and being composed chiefly of beautiful landscapes, ruins of magnificent buildings, and the classical sculptures of that classic country, the effect is singularly delightful. The “ Arabian Nights” have been illustrated exclusively from the pencil of Harvey, to whose designs it is evident, by the selection of the engravers, there has been an anxious desire to do justice. Most beautiful are these embellishments, and being composed for the most part of small figures and the picturesque details of an oriental landscape or building, no work could have been better selected to show his talent to advantage. We do not so much admire his contributions to the “ Pictorial Shakspeare;” the composition is equally elegant it is true, but we are somewhat dissatisfied with the want of character in the features of the figures he has there designed. They are, usually, considerably larger than those introduced in the “Thousand and One Nights," and therefore this deficiency is more easily perceptible. We can appreciate classical grouping and graceful design; but even with these attractions we cannot forget that where a character is introduced into a drawing, the countenance should express the individual. Mr. Harvey has had great experience as an illustrator of books—he has exhibited his genius in an almost endless variety of subjects, and seldom allows anything to pass from his hand that is not an ornament to the work for which it may be intended ; but though a great number of these have been attempted personations, of such we do not remember having met with one that fulfilled the author's idea.
A writer on this subject has recently stated, that “ Considering the number of wood engravings that are yearly executed in this country, it is rather strange that ihere should be so few persons who are capable of making a good drawing on wood. It may, indeed, be said that there is only one artist (Mr. Harvey) in the kingdom possessing a knowledge of design who, professionally, devotes himself to making drawings on the block for wood engravers. Without the aid of his talents, modern English wood engraving, so far as regards originality of design, would present a woful blank. Whenever a good original design is wanted, there is only one person to whom the English wood engraver can apply with the certainty of obtaining it."* The whole of this is notoriously untrue, and the writer must either have been exceedingly ignorant or exceedingly prejudiced to have made such assertions. At the time they were penned, Kenny Meadows was constantly einployed in drawing on the block. The first productions by which he distinguished himself were a series of singularly characteristic heads, introduced in Bell's Life in London, and afterwards collected in the Gallery of Comicalities. He executed also several huinorous illustrations of another character for the same publication, which were engraved by John Smith with happy effect; but some of the heads are such as Cruickshank might have been proud of in his best days. These led to his illustrating various works for the publishers, many of which were engraved on wood and others on steel and copper. The remarkable beauty with which he designed some female figures in Mr. Heath's “Shakspeare Gallery,” pointed him out as an admirable illustrator of Shakspeare. An edition of our matchless Bard was announced, to be profusely embellished by his pencil. We have now before us the whole of this work which, up to this time, has issued from the press. That the designs are faultless, we have no idea of asserting. A little more attention to the laws of perspective, and a greater knowledge of costume, and other characteristics of time and place, would have been of no slight advantage to the artist. Nevertheless, several of them are infinitely the best representations of the ideas of Shakspeare we ever beheld drawn, painted or engraved.
At present Mr. Meadows has only advanced in his laborious and very responsible task through the plays of The Tempest, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Twelfth Night, Merry Wives of Windsor, Measure for Measure, Much Ado about Nothing, Macbeth, Troilus and Cressida and Timon of Athens; but these he has enriched
* A Treatise on Wood Engraving, Historical and Practical.