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“ Wink and shut our apprehensions up
let us make believe with the children that everybody is good and happy ; and, with Dr. Swift, write panegyrics upon the world.
Bu hat larger half of Hogarth's works which were painted more for entertainment than instruction, (though such was the suggestiveness of his mind, that there is always something to be learned from them,) his humorous scenes, are they such as merely to disgust and set us against our species ?
The confident assertions of such a man as I consider the late Mr. Barry to have been, have that weight of authority in them which staggers, at first hearing, even a long preconceived opinion. When I read his pathetic admonition concerning the shortness of life, and how much better the little leisure of it were laid out upon " that species of art which is employed about the amiable and the admirable ;” and Hogarth's "method” proscribed as a " dangerous or worthless pursuit," I began to think there was something in it; that I might have been indulging all
my life in a passion for the works of this artist, to the utter prejudice of my taste and moral sense ; but my first convictions gradually returned ; a world of good-natured English faces came up one by one to my recollection, and a glance at the matchless Election Entertainment, which I have the happiness to have hanging up in my parlour, subverted Mr Barry's whole theory in an instant.
In that inimitable print, (which in my judgment as far exceeds the more known and celebrated March to Finchley as the best comedy exceeds the best farce that ever was written,) let a person look till he be saturated, and when he is done wonder-. ing at the inventiveness of genius which could bring so many characters (more than thirty distinct classes of face) into a room, and set them down at table together, or otherwise dispose them about, in so natural a manner, engage them in so many easy sets and occupations, yet all partaking of the spirit of the oc casion which brought them together, so that we feel that no thing but an election time could have assembled them ; having
; ro central figure or principal group, (for the hero of the piece, the candidate, is properly set aside in the levelling indistinction of the day, one must look for him to find him,) nothing to detain the eye from passing from part to part, where every part is alike instinct with life, for here are no furniture-faces, no figures brought in to fill up the scene, like stage-choruses, but all dramatis personæ; when he shall have done wondering at all these faces so strongly charactered, yet finished with the accuracy of the finest miniature; when he shall have done
formarum, which an unrestricted passion for ideal forms and beauties is in danger of producing. In this, as in many other things, they are analogous to the best novels of Smollett or Fielding.
ON THE POETICAL WORKS OF GEORGE WITHER.
The poems of G. Wither are distinguished by a hearty homeliness of manner, and a plain moral speaking. He seems to have passed his life in one continued act of an innocent self-pleasing. That which he calls his Motto is a continued self-eulogy of two thousand lines, yet we read it to the end without any feeling of distaste, almost without a consciousness that we have been listening all the while to a man praising himself. There are none of the cold particles in it, the hardness and self-ends which render vanity and egotism hateful. He seems to be praising another person, under the mask of self: or rather we feel that it was indifferent to him where he found the virtue which he celebrates; whether another's bosom, or his own, were its chosen receptacle. His poems are full, and this in particular is one downright confession, of a generous self-seeking. But by self he sometimes means a great deal-his friends, his principles, his country, the human
Whoever expects to find in the satirical pieces of this writer any of those peculiarities which pleased him in the satires of Dryden or Pope, will be grievously disappointed. Here are no high-finished characters, no nice traits of individual nature, few or no personalities. The game run down is coarse general vice, or folly as it appears in classes. A liar, a drunkard, a coxcomb, is stripped and whipped; no Shaftesbury, no Villiers, or Wharton is curiously anatomized and
But to a well-natured mind there is a charm of moral sensibility running through them which amply compensates the want of those luxuries. Wither seems everywhere bursting with a love of goodness, and a hatred of all low and base actions. - At this day it is hard to discover what parts in the poem here particularly alluded to, Abuses Stripped and Whipped, could have occasioned the imprisonment of the author.
Was vice in high places more suspicious than now? had she more power ; or more leisure to listen after ill reports ? That a man should be convicted of a libel when he
them chiefly showing themselves poets) are perpetually darting across the otherwise appalling gloom of their subject-consolatory remembrancers, when their pictures of guilty mankind have made us even to despair for our species, that there is such a thing as virtue and moral dignity in the world, that her unquenchable spark is not utterly out-refreshing admonitions, to which we turn for shelter from the too great heat and asperity of the general satire.
And is there nothing analogous to this in Hogarth ? nothing which " attempts and reaches the heart ?” no aim beyond that “of shaking the sides ?" If the kneeling ministering female in the last scene of the Rake's Progress, the Bedlam scene, of which I have spoken before, and have dared almost to parallel it with the most absolute idea of virtue which Shak speare has left us, be not enough to disprove the assertion ; if the sad endings of the harlot and the rake, the passionate, heart-bleeding entreaties for forgiveness which the adulterous wife is pouring forth to her assassinated and dying lord in the last scene but one of the Marriage Alamode—if these be not things to touch the heart, and dispose the mind to a meditative tenderness, is there nothing sweetly conciliatory in the mild, patient face and gesture with which the wife seems to allay and ventilate the feverish, irritated feelings of her poor poverty-distracted mate (the true copy of the genus irritabile) in the print of the Distressed Poet? or if an image of maternal love be required, where shall we find a sublimer view of it than in that aged woman in Industry and Idleness (plate V.) who is clinging with the fondness of hope not quite extinguished to her brutal, vice-hardened child, whom she is accompanying to the ship which is to bear him away from his native soil, of which he has been adjudged unworthy: in whose shocking face every trace of the human countenance seems obliterated, and a brute beast's to be left instead, shocking and repulsive to all but her who watched over it in its cradle before it was so sadly altered, and feels it must belong to her while a pulse by the vindictive laws of his country shall be suffered to continue to beat in it. Compared with such things, what is Mr. Penny's "knowledge of the figure and academical skill which Hogarth wanted ?"
With respect to what follows concerning another gentleman, with the congratulations to him on his escape out of the regions of “ humour and caricatura,” in which it appears
he was in danger of travelling side by side with Hogarth, I can only congratulate my country, that Mrs. Hogarth knew her province better than by disturbing her husband at his palette to divert him from that universality of subject, which has stamped him
perhaps, next to Shakspeare, the most inventive genius which ihis island has produced, into the “amiable pursuit of beautiful nature,” i. e., copying ad infinitum the individual charms and graces
of Mrs. H “ Hogarth's method of exposing meanness, deformity, and vice, paddling in whatever is ridiculous, faulty, and vicious.”
A person unacquainted with the works thus stigmatized, would be apt to imagine that in Hogarth there was nothing else to be found but subjects of the coarsest and most repulsive nature. That his imagination was naturally unsweet, and that he delighted in raking into every species of moral filth. That he preyed upon sore places only, and took a pleasure in exposing the unsound and rotten parts of human nature ; whereas, with the exception of some of the plates of the Harlot's Progress, which are harder in their character than any of the rest of his productions, (the stages of Cruelty I omit as mere worthless caricaturas, foreign to his general habits, the offspring of his fancy in some wayward humour,) there is scarce one of his pieces where vice is most strongly satirised, in which some figure is not introduced upon which the moral eye may rest satisfied; a face that indicates goodness, or perhaps mere goodhumouredness and carelessness of mind (negation of evil) only, yet enough to give a relaxation to the frowning brow of satire, and keep the general air from tainting. Take the mild, supplicating posture of patient Poverty in the poor woman that is persuading the pawnbroker to accept her clothes in pledge, in the plate of Gin Lane, for an instance. A little does it, a little of the good of nature overpowers a world of bad. One cordial, honest laugh of a Tom Jones absolutely clears the atmosphere that was reeking with the black, putrifying breathings of a hypocrite Blifil. One homely, expostulating shrug from Strap warms the whole air which the suggestions of a gentlemanly ingratitude from his friend Random had begun to freeze. One “Lord bless us !” of Parson Adams upon the wickedness of the times exorcises and purges off the mass of iniquity which the world-knowledge of even a Fielding could call out and rake together. But of the severer class of Hogarth's performances, enough, I trust, has been said to show that they do not merely shock and repulse; that there is in them the “scorn of vice" and the "pity" too; something to touch the heart, and keep alive the sense of moral beauty ; the “lacrymæ rerum," and the sorrowing by which the heart is made better. If they be bad things, then is satire and tragedy a bad thing ; let us proclaim at once an age of gold, and sink the existence of vice and misery in our speculations : let us
Fair, or twenty other pleasant prints which come crowding in upon my recollection, in which the restless activities, the diversified bents and humours, the blameless peculiarities of men, as they deserve to be called, rather than their “ vices and follies,” are held up in a laughable point of view. All laughter is not of a dangerous or soul-hardening tendency. There is the petrifying sneer of a demon which excludes and kills love, and there is the cordial laughter of a man which implies and cherishes it. What heart was ever made the worse by joining in a hearty laugh at the simplicities of Sir Hugh Evans or Parson Adams, where a sense of the ridiculous mutually kindles and is kindled by a perception of the amiable? That tumultuous harmony of singers that are roaring out the words, “ The world shall bow to the Assyrian throne,” from the opera of Judith, in the third plate of the series, called the Four Groups of Heads; which the quick eye of Hogarth must have struck off in the very infancy of the rage for sacred oratorios in this country, while - Music yet was young;" when we have done smiling at the deafening distortions which these tearers of devotion to rags and tatters, these takers of Heaven by storm, in their boisterous mimicry of the occupation of angels, are making-what unkindly impression is left behind, or what more of harsh or contemptuous feeling, than when we quietly leave Uncle Toby and Mr. Shandy riding their hobbyhorses about the room? The conceited, long-backed sign-painter, that with all the self-applause of a Raffaelle or Correggio (the twist of body which his conceit has thrown him into has something of the Correggeisque in it) is contemplating the picture of a bottle which he is drawing from an actual bottle that hangs beside him, in the print of Beer-street-while we smile at the enormity of the self-delusion, can we help loving the good-humour and self-complacency of the fellow? would we willingly wake him from his dream ?
I say not that all the ridiculous subjects of Hogarth have necessarily something in them to make us like them: some are indifferent to us, some in their natures repulsive, and only made interesting by the wonderful skill and truth to nature in the painter; but I contend that there is in most of them that sprinkling of the better nature, which, like holy water, chases away and disperses the contagion of the bad. They have this in them besides, that they bring us acquainted with the everyday human face—they give us skill to detect those gradations of sense and virtue (which escape the careless or fastidious observer) in the countenances of the world about us; and prevent that disgust at common life, that tædium quotidianarum