« AnteriorContinuar »
imitation of the blind man's fiddle, and with a stick, in mockery of the bow, is ridiculously aping the fiddler. Near him is a girl, somewhat older than himself, who rebukes him for the unmannerliness of his jest, and is endeavouring to shame him out of it. There are altogether twelve figures. The front of the chimney forms the centre of the back ground, on which are shelves, containing a variety of domestic utensils, and upon the uppermost shelf are books, in the midst of which is a plaster bust, in appropriate colours, of a dissenting clergy man; and in order to shew that the family are not without a taste for the fine arts, besides that of music, the walls are ornamented with drawings on pieces of paper, representing soldiers, ships, and horses, evidently the manufacture of the boy above noticed. Near the boy, who is inocking the fiddler, is his dog, in deep Judgeon at this disturbance and intrusion upon his domestic repose. The light and shade of this picture are equally fortunate with the expression of the characters. The principal light, as well as the brilliancy of colour, falls upon the mistress of the house and her child ; this is balanced by a second light at the other end of the picture, behind the fiddler, which is admitted by the door, and thus, by means of these two principal lights, the fiddler is placed in a kind of half tint, · which gives a surprising breadth and repose to the composition ; whilst the shadow occasioned by the group of the busband, the grandfather and the children, gives to the whole a general and accumulated force, and renders the half tint over the fiddler clear and transparent. The general tone over the back ground is a cool aërial tint, which gives great relief and strength to the colours of the draperies.
When we contemplate the different characters of the figures, we find in the fiddler, the man who has no other pursuit than the occupation of his present trade; in his wife, the care of her child, asleep upon her lap, and the charge committed to her of the little pedlary articles, impresses her countenance with perfect impassiveness as to any enjoyment for the music, and does away all concern but of that which might be the compensation of her husband's talents, and their treatment upon the conclusion of the tune. The master and mistress of the house seem to have no other pleasure than that which the music is supposed to give to their child.
These are the leading points in one of the most extra-. ordinary pictures, in this line of art, which has ever made its appearance in England by a native. Whether we consider the ingenious manner of bringing the materials of this picture together, the diversity and justness of the characters and expressions of the figures, with the correctness of drawing, even to the most minute parts ; the light and shade, as well as the truth of colour, and the neatness of execution, whatever parts we singly consider, it would be matter of difficulty upon which we should most fix our admiration. The picture in the late exhibition, the Card Player, possesses perhaps a still superior degree of excellence.
It is generally supposed that Mr. Wilkie has imitated the style of the celebrated Teniers, but we believe he had never seen a picture by that master when he produced his representation of the Fair; though there is a similarity in the manner, which may, however, be easily accounted for. Teniers drew from nature, and it is nature that our youthful artist has made the object of his study. Of the former it has been justly said, that " he studied nature in every shape, with a most curious and critical observation, and as he generally composed his subjects from persons in low stations, he accustomed himself to frequent their meetings, at sports and pastimes; and by that means had an opportunity of remarking the simplicity of their manners, and the various actions, attitudes, characters, and passions of every age and sex. From such observations, he had nature always present to his imaginatr w in whatever he coin posed; and was enabled to give his figures such truth and such expression as must for ever ensure his works the approbation of the best judges." These observations may with equal propriety be applied to Mr. Wilkie. He has been no less cúrious in his observation of the peasantry in the neighbourhood of the place of his nativity; and, even in the streets of the metropolis, he has been seen to stop and to pay great attention to groups of low characters. He has constant recourse to nature for every individual
part, and even the minutest objects, in his composi. . tions; and this method must necessarily give his work
a great degree of truth and precision. He engages such characters as he accidently meets, or thinks adapted to his purpose ; and we have been informed that the old man in spectacles in the “ Village Politicians,” was painted from a person who cries brooms in the streets of London.
MR. CHARLES GRIGNION.
THE LONG CELEBRATED ENGRAVER. TgERE are few men who have contributed more to public amusement than this celebrated Artist. The number of books he has embellished with prints are beyond calculation ; but his merits have not ended here, for he was the first that introduced legitimate art into literary publications: he was the first that led the way to that excellence to which the English engravers have since arrived in small book plates; and, if it be considered how much the sale of books has been increased by the insertion of prints, Mr. Grignion will be found to have greatly increased the public revenue, enriched the book seller, improved the taste of the public, and added greatly to its fund of rational, elegant, cheap, and innocent pleasures.
Seldom have the people of England been appealed to in vain for protection against the miseries attendant on old age and penury; and never was preferred a claim on its justice and generosity more fairly founded than that of Mr. Grignion. Whilst nature left him powers, he exerted them for the public, but the great number of his years has now destroyed his energies, and he is left with a wife and a daughter (the latter nearly blind) dependant on him for support, after having out of ninety years, devoted upwards of seventy to the rational pleasures of the nation. Surely, that nation will not suffer his tottering steps to the grave to be imbittered with want and wretchedness. Long, and much too long, has he suffered the deprivation of those comforts of life which age demands as necessaries, before bis modesty, and that natural inde, pendence of spirit which accompanies great abilities, wouid make them kuown; absolute necessity has now compelled him to lay them before a generous public, to whom age, intirurity, and wretchedness have never implored in vain, where they have had to recommend them purity of moral character, and virtuous industry.
Several Bankers, Booksellers, and Artists of respectability, have kindly offered to receive benefactions for this respectable and unfortunate man, .
REMARKS ON OUR CATHEDRAL AND PAROCHIAL
OUR Sacred poetry, sung in the cathedrals, is trans scribed strictly from the holy scriptures, and most commonly from the book of Psalms: except only the Te Deum, which is one of the most ancient and approved hymns of the church. This restriction, by which no hymns of no new invention are admitted as a part of divine service, we owe to the grand reformation. This opened to us the fountain of the sacred writings, which had before been locked up, as in Italy. From the same cause, our anthems are likewise given in our own tongue; which, though not so various as the Latin, is yet generally round and sonorous, clearly accented and capable of being adapted to a variety of musical expressions. But while we justly admire the sacred poetry of our cathedral service, must we not lament the state of it in our parochial churches, where the cold, the meagre, the disgusting dulness of Sternhold and his companions, hath quenched all the poetic fire, and devout majesty of the royal psalmist?
The character of our cathedral music is of a middle · kind : not of the first rank, in the great quality of expression ; nor yet so improper or absurd, as to deserve a general reprobation. Too studious a regard to Fugues, and an artificial counterpoint appears in the old, and too airy and light a turn, to the neglect of a grand siinplicity, in the new : two extremes, which tend equally, though from opposite causes, to destroy musical expression. Yet, there are passages in Purcell's anthems, which may fairly stand in competition with those of any composer, of whatever country. There are others, who may justly claim a considerable share of praise. Handel stands eminent in his greatness and sublimity of stile. Our parochial music in general, is solemn and devout, much better calculated for the performance of a whole congregation, than if it were more broken and elaborate. In country 'churches, wherever a more artificial kind had been imprudently attempted, confusion and dissonance are the general consequence,
The performance of our cathedral music is defective : we have no grand established choirs of priests, as in France, whose dignity of character might, in a proper degree, maintain that of the divine service. This duty . is chiefly left to a band of lay singers, whose rank and education are not of weight to preserve their profession from contempt. The performance of our parochial psalms, though in the villages it be often as mean and meagre as the words that are sung, yet in grcat towns, where a good organ is skilfully and devoutly employed, by a sensible organist, the union of this instrument with the voices of a well-instructed congregation, forms one of the grandest scenes of unaffected piety that human nature can afford. The reverse of this appears, when a company of illiterate people form themselves into a choir, distinct from the congregation. Here devotion is lost bem tween the impotent vanity of those who sing, and the ignorant wonder of those who listen. .
The anthem, with respect to its subject, neither needs nor admits of improvement; being drawn from the sacred scriptures. A proper selection of words for music is, indeed, a work of irnportance here : and though in many instances this will be well made, yet it were to be wished, that some superior judgment would oversee, and sometimes (negatively at least) direct the composer, for the prevention of improprieties. A parallel remark will extend itself almost to the whole hook of Psalms, as they are versified by Sternhold, for the service of parochial churches. There are few stanzas which do not present expressions to excite the ridicule of some part of every congregation. This version might well be abolished, as it exposeth some of the noblest parts of divine service to contempt; especially as there is another version already privileged, which though not excellent, is however, uot intolerable. The parochial music seems to need no rem form : its simplicity and solemnity suit well its general destination; and it is of power, when properly performed, to raise affections of the noblest nature,
It were to be wished, that the cathedral music were always composed with a proportioned sobriety and reserve, Here, as we have observed, the whole is apt to degenerate too much into an affair of art. A great and pathetic simplicity of stile, kept ever in subserviency to the sacred poetry, ought to be aimed at as the truest and the only praise. The same devout simplicity of manners may be attained in the performance, and ought to be studied by the organist and choir: their ambition should lie in a natural and dignified execution, not in a curious display of art. The maxiin of Augustine was excellent, and