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LITERATURE OF THE MONTH.
THE FINE ARTS IN ENGLAND. It is extraordinary bow very few book there are in the English language attempting to convey a view of the progress of the Fine Arts in this country that deserve to be held in any estimation. If they possess extensive information, the materials are brought forward in so crude and unmethodical a shape, as to be scarcely readable; and if the work is of a more popular character, it is usually so superficial as to be of no use for reference. Criticism on art stands at a very low ebb in England. Our periodical literature occasionally puts forth some high-flown article, full of affected enthusiasm, or some smart essay remarkable for nothing so much as the flippancy with which the writer condemns what it is very evident he does not understand ; but anything like genuine criticism carried out with those comprehensive views the demands of the subject require, is so rarely to be met with, as to create a general doubt of its existence. He who applies himself to such a task, must, to accomplish it effectively, possess endowments rarely to be met with in one individual. This sufficiently accounts for the scarcity of philosophical criticisim. Any attempt to bring forward the historical features of art, without submitting them to its examination, cannot be considered anything better than a mere collection of dates and names. We require to trace the variations in the public taste, and to learn the nature and extent of the influence which the cultivation of a taste for works of art has exerted at different periods over society. We require also to know something of the development of that faculty of the human mind to which we are indebted for so many sources of intellectual en. joyment, and to obtain an estimate of the value of its productions in every view in which they may be regarded. We cannot compliment Mr. Taylor on the manner in which he has endeavoured to furnish these requisites; for like many others who have preceeded him in the same path, it is but too evident in his work, that he has undertaken a task beyond his powers. To such as have no acquaintance with the history of art in this country, the details to be met with in his pages, may be referred to with some advantage. He may be said to have commenced his labours with the sixteenth century; and collecting, rather than selecting his materials, he brings forward in succession every artist who, obtained any celebrity by the practice of his profession in England, till he comes to our own times. However hurried and ill-arranged may have appeared to the reader the earlier parts of bis subject, the concluding portions, we are afraid, will not be perused with more satisfaction of this division, the account of the galleries in England might have been omitted: for it is so meagre as to convey no adequate idea of their contents, and elsewhere the opinions he thrusts into his narrative reflecting upon individuals, are so little likely to do credit either to his taste or his judgment, that omissions here are equally desirable. His review of the state of 'art in Ireland and Scotland, may do him better service; but his deficiency in all the higher qualities of the historian and the critic is so prominent, that it cannot but prevent his work obtaining an extensive reputation.
The Origin, Progress, and Present State of the Fine Arts in England. By W, Sarsfield Taylor. 2 vols.
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Ir is in vain looking for dilineations of French character out of the sphere in which it flourishes. Foreign hands have frequently essayed the task, but the result has always been the same all those inimitable touches of French life seen (in the pictures of these volatile people, painted by themselves, are sure to be omitted. In short, their peculiarities are of such a nature, that an individual possessed of them can alone du 'them justice. Their inconsistencies, follies, and virtues, though a singular jumble, are so mingled with what is truly amiable and pleasing, that it is almost impossible for the observer not to be entertained when he obtains an opportunity of studying them carefully. The French actor must always be the best type that can be procured of what is essentially French in character, for the tastes, tendencies, absurdities, and crimes of the French people possess so theatrical an air, that it might easily be supposed they had their source in the impressions deTived from a frequent attendance at the numerous places for thep erformance of dramatic exhibitions to be found in Paris and throughout the provinces. This supposition must become the more reasonable when it is remembered how attached the French are to their theatre. What can be so natural as with an education derived almost entirely from the stage, the different phases of French society should abound in every possible variety of stage performance-from genteel comedy to the broadest farce--from the most magnificent spectacle to the most naked pantomime--from the wildest melodrama to the most trifling vaudeville, the French people are acting every day of their lives. If then we desire a faithful account of what has been performing on the great stage of France, we cannot do better than turn to these two volumes. They comprise the Memoirs of M. Fleury--for many years a distinguished ornament of the Comedie Française, whose career was full of strange vicissitudes, yet so brilliant as to make ample amends for all troubles and mischances. He informs us, “I have enjoyed the patronage of three kings and one emperor, besides many other great and illustrious men. My theatrical career has touched upon two generations: I have mingled in the most select socieiy of France, both noble and intellectual. I have been honoured by the advice of Voltaire, and Picard has honoured me by frequently consulting my opinion ; I have dined with the banker Savaletto, and have been the friend of Perrigaux.”
With such advantages, as may readily be imagined, M. Fleury's pages are replete with amusement. He was a general favourite ; his talent, his handsome person, and his social qualifications, secured friends for him wherever he appeared-even in the horrible reign of terror, of which he gives a most graphic picture. He was saved from the destruction to which he was doomed, with all who were most worthy of admiration, by the influence of his estimable qualities. He entered the theatre in the reign of Louis XV., of whose court we have some pleasing remembrances, but he becomes more minute and entertaining when detailing his recollections of the ill-fated Louis XVI., Marie Antoinette
The French Stage and the French People, as exbibited in the Memoirs of M. Fleury. Elited, with Notes, by Theodore Hook,'Esq. 2 vols.
and their splendid circle, of which he had excellent opportunities of observing, his sister being an attendant on the unfortunate Queen, and himself one of the most favoured of the royal comedians. The stormy period of the revolution threatened his fortunes ; but the brilliant horizon that for some time shone over the imperial throne of Napoleon, afforded him a fair share of its sunshine.' During this interval he became acquainted with most of the distinguished actors who appeared before the public-not only his theatrical associates, “ the stars" of the Parisians-from Lekain to Talma, and from Clermonde to Mars—or the circle of dramatic authors to whose creations they gave life, among whom we have Voltaire, Mercier, and Beaumarchais, but the great men who were their contemporaries ; and in the eventful scenes of which France was the theatre, divided with them the popularity of their countrymen. There can be no question, that they form an exceedingly interesting and amusing work - one which we anticipate will be more generally read than any other recent publication of a like nature.
LORD JOCELYN'S CAMPAIGN IN CHINA.
This brochure has come before the public in good season--in a time of general excitement and curiosity, on account of our warlike demonstrations in the Chinese seas; and since it has become known in England that his Imperial Majesty has threatened the whole of the British force within his dominions with utter extermination, and that the result of his terrible denunciations has been the instant capture of all the strong places that stood in the way of “the barbarian's" conquest of the second city of the Imperial Empire, it is not likely that Lord Jocelyn's pages will be less eagerly perused. The official situation filled by the author, gave him most important advantages in obtaining information of the results of the expedition, and of observing the features of that part of the country into which a portion of it penetrated, and the manners of the inhabitants with whom he came in contact; and in unaffected language his lordship has presented the reader with an account of everything worthy of note that came under his observation. We are entertained with an animated description of Chusan, and of the expedition to the Gulf of Pechelee, with a lively sketch of Keshen, the Chinese commissioner, then in all the vigour of his authority, but now a disgraced minister, suffering under the annihilating effects of imperial wrath, for his unsatisfactory negociations with the English barbarians. This welcome little volume has a further recommendation in the sketches of Chusan Harbour and the Gulf of Pechelee, with “ the Great Wall" and town of Shaw-hai-wei, with which it is illustrated. In our perusal of the work, we cannot but regret that Lord Jocelyn was forced by illness to resign his command, and return to India, at so early a stage of the progress of the expedition, by which the public are deprived of the many interesting details he might since have obtained.
* Six Months with theChinese Expedition ; or Leaves from a Soldier's Note-Book. By Lord Jocelyn, late Military Secretary to the China Mission.
A WINTER AT THE AZORES.* The Azores, better known as the Western Islands, are deservedly held in considerable estimation for their pleasant climate and exquisite oranges, that choice species of this favourite fruit called “St. Michaels," being produced in the principal of the group of islands bearing its name ; but they have not hitherto been thought of sufficient importance to be the subject of a book. We are now, however, indebted to the joint labours of two brothers--one a barrister and the other a physician—for as full an account of every thing remarkable relating to them as could be given in the limits of two volumes. St. Michaels, Fayal, and Pico, Flores, Corvo, and St. Georges, are made to give up all their attractions ; whilst the Valley and the Baths of the Furnas furnish many subjects for learned disquisition and picturesque description. We are not confident of the particular degree of merit each of the Messrs. Bullar claims in the joint composition of this work; but there can surely be no danger of a mistake in attributing the medical treatises on climate, disease, the hot-baths and cold springs, and the meteorological tables, to the doctor; and the accounts of the peculiarities of costume in the Islanders, their character, manners, festivals, ceremonies, and customs, probably fell to the share of the lawyer. Notwithstanding the labour observable in the composition of this production, and the many pretty woodcuts with which the volumes are embellished, we doubt whether their publication will recompense the authors, from the want of sufficient interest in the subject, and an absence of all popular characteristics in the text. Nevertheless, we must, in a spirit of fairness, add, that the tourist voyaging to the Azores, will find them useful, and to some extent, entertaining companions.
RUSSIA UNDER NICHOLAS I.+ A Series of papers published in the “ Conversations-Lexicon der Gegenwart,” remarkable for the extensive information they convey on the present state of Russia, are here very ably translated ; and to such as regard this immense empire with the interest its importance demands, or as a bugbear, as a noisy section of our politicians delight to represent it, they will, in their present shape, prove very acceptable reading. This little volume conveys at one view a picture of the royal family, the government, the national finances and resources, and the moral and spiritual condition of the empire, and gives the results of a searching inquiry into its foreign policy. There are few persons we should imagine, who will not coincide with the translator in the opinion, that “we should obtain by every means within our reach the most exact knowledge of the statistics, internal regulations, habits, maxims, and real policy, the strength and weakness, the genius and character of a state, with regard to which public opinion in this country has been so anxiously busied—so little divided; but perhaps it may hereafter be acknowledged, so very considerably led astray.” As a first step towards obtaining these means, we cannot do better than recommend this pubcati on.
* A Winter at the Azores, and a Summer at the Baths of the Furnas. By Joseph Bullar, M.D., and Henry Bullar, of Lincoln's-inn.
+ Russia under_Nicholas 1. Translated from the German. By Captain Anthony C. Sterling, 73rd Regiment.
LADY BLESSINGTON'S IDLER IN FRANCE* To the desultory reader there can scarcely be any greater gratification than that derived from the perusal of such works, in what is called "light literature," as those produced by the Countess of Blessington, of which none can be so pleasant as the sketches of her travels she has lately published under the appropriate title of “The Idler in Italy," and more recently “ The Idler in France." To those to whom the objects worthy of note in these countries are not familiar, it is hardly possible to meet with a more satisfactory guide than our accomplished authoress ; for whilst possessed of a refined taste and cultivated understanding, her ladyship has the tact-rare even in superior minds to select those points in a subject most worthy of observation,'and to place them in the exact light in which they can be seen by others to the greatest advantage; and to such as have enjoyed similar opportunities of sight-seeing with herself, they cannot have their sense of pleasure refreshed more agreeably than by the talent the writer possesses of dressing up her observations on whatever may have most frequently been before the eye, in such a manner as to confer on them an air of novelty, and points worthy of remark they had passed unnoticed.
This desirable talent was sufficiently conspicuous in Lady Blessington's “ Idler in Italy," and the popularity that work speedily obtained shows how well it was appreciated. When we first saw the announcement of the volumes before us, we anticipated even a greater pleasure than we had as yet enjoyed at her ladyship’s hands, from knowing how much more extensive was the scope the subject afforded for the display of graceful composition, good taste, and fine feeling. We knew that should the fair Idler take upon herself the oft-quoted journey from Dan to Beersheba, so far from depicting it barren, it was more likely to be described as a garden of roses; where, therefore, there was so much that was of the most undoubted couleur de rose, it was but natural to expect from her whatever could be rendered most attractive, with such very attractive advantages. Lady Blessington gossipping most charmingly upon the antiquities of the old quaint French towns of Nismes, Arles, and St. Remy, we were prepared to meet-Lady Blessington expressing excellent criticisin on the works of art in the Louvre, and the most characteristic productions of French literature, would not have surprised us—Lady Blessington becoming one of the most brilliant ornaments of the most brilliant society of Paris we looked forward to as a thing of course; but Lady Blessington distinguishing herself as a heroine during the so-called " three glorious days," when the French metropolis was the scene of the most sanguinary warfare, certainly never for a moment came within the limits of our expectations. Nevertheless, that portion of “The Idler in France" which will be read with most interest by the majority of her readers, contains the most graphic account we have met with of the later French Revolution, in which the writer in a manner highly creditable to her, succeeded in passing with safety through scenes of great danger. As a relief to these perilous passages, we find her ladyship distinguishing herself in other scenes as various as possible. Now gravely discussing a disputed point of architectural antiquity of Roman origin - then entering upon a lively
The Idler in France. By the Countess of Blessing con. 2 rols.