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LONDON-CRIM. CON.-THE OPPOSITION.
of national, as well as individual characters, are only comparative; great allowances are to be made, and the best result to be expected is a favourable balance on the side of morality. I think married women are less on a footing of equality with their husbands here, than in France. They appear more dependent. Unmarried women on the contrary, are less shackled here,—they go out often alone, and enjoy more liberty. This liberty produces few abuses before marriage, and rather tends to prevent them afterwards. Those who take adyantage of it to do wrong before marriage, would have done so after; and it is certainly safer to take a woman who has seen the world, than one who knows only the walls of a convent, and who has never been trusted out of sight from her birth.
One thing surprises me more and more every day; it is the great number of people in the opposition; that is, those who disapprove, not only the present measures of ministers, which have not been of late either very wise or very successful, but the form and constitution of the government itself. It is stigmatized as vicious, corrupt, and in its decay, without hope or remedy but in a general reform, and in fact a revolution. Our acquaintance, though not very extensive, is sufficiently various to afford a fair sample of public opinion. I have had an idea of making a list in three columns, whigs, tories, and absolute reformers and it would not be difficult; for there are a few principal topics, which, like cabalistic words, it is enough to touch upon, to know at once the whole train of opinions of those with whom you speak. It appears to me that the tories, or friends of the administration, and of all administrations, are in a small minority; of the two other parties, one does not seem disposed to approve of
any administration, and neither of them of the present; and, supposing the ministerial power to rest on public opinion, one might be tempted to exclaim with Basil in the Barbier de Seville, “Qui est ce donc que
l'on trompe,-tout le monde est du secret !" This is a most alarming state of things,-a spark might set the whole political machine in a blaze ; and yet, looking around at the appearance of all things, it seems a pity that so much good should necessarily be abandoned in pursuit of better, and by the means of a revolution. Every body disclaims a revolution à la Francoise ; but who is so presumptuous as to fancy a revolution, when once begun, can be guided and stopped at pleasure ? Notwithstanding their lamentations and complaints, and the avowed expectation of a dreadful crisis, the inhabitants of London live just as if they had nothing to fear; amuse themselves, and attend to their business in perfect security. It would seem as if all this clamour was only habit, a sort of plaintive mania,—and yet they appear so much in earnest that I do not know what to think of it.
March 5.-It is difficult to form an idea of the kind of winter days in London; the smoke of fossil coals forms an atmosphere, perceivable for many miles, like a great round cloud attached to the earth. In the town itself, when the weather is cloudy and foggy, which is frequently the case in winter, this smoke increases the general dingy hue, and terminates the length of every street with a fixed
grey mist, receding as you advance. But when some rays of sun happen to fall on this artificial atmosphere, its impure mass assumes immediately a pale orange tint, similar to the effect of Claude Lorraine glasses,ma mild golden hue, quite beautiful. The air, in the mean time, is loaded
with small flakes of smoke, in sublimation,--a sort of flower of soot, so light as to float without falling. This black snow sticks to your clothes and linen, or lights on your face. You just feel something on your nose, or your cheek,—the finger is applied mechanically, and fixes it into a black patch!
England is rich in pictures. The whole Orleans gallery, and many other collections, came here during the revolution. These treasures have been divided and scattered all over the kingdom. We have not yet seen any thing of them; there has not been really sufficient light during the short days. The British school of painting has not existed above 40 years. Sir Joshua Reynolds may be considered as the founder of it, and was the first president of the Royal Academy. He exalted an inferior branch of the art above its usual rank, portrait-painting became under his hand historical. He seems as if he had surprised nature in action, and characteristic action, and had fixed it on his canvas at one stroke, with perfect resemblance, but a resemblance which moves and thinks. It is impossible to imagine any thing more perfect than his children, with their playful, graceful awkwardness, the arch simplicity and innocence of their smile. His colouring, which does not appear to have ever had much strength, fades away, and disappears rapidly ;---many of his pictures are now only black and white. He is said to have been fond of trying experiments in colours, and thought he had found the secret of rendering them more lasting. Sir Joshua Reynolds, far from being
gueux comme un peintre,” lived like Rubens, in affluence ; receiving the best society of London, the highest, the most learned and agreeable; and left after him a fortune of L. 50,000 Sterling,
LONDON-SIR J. REYNOLDS-PICTURES.
raised on the vanity of his countrymen, rather than on their love for the arts. They might have praised his talents, but would not have rewarded them, if he had not painted their portraits. His price, in the last part of his life, was 200 guineas for a full length. His discourses at the Royal Academy, which have been published, do him as much honour as his pictures. This great example could not fail of being followed, and all the English artists are portraitpainters. It must be acknowledged they excel in that line. I have visited some of them. Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Philips have a bold, free, and vigorous manner; Mr. Owen a correct design, and good composition. There are many others of great merit. Mr. Nollekins is a sculptor, (of portraits likewise): we saw in his workshop a funeral groupe, so excellent as to make us regret that his talents were not always so employed. It commemorates a woman who died in child-bed. She is sitting on the ground, her back supported by a standing figure of a woman, who bends over her, and points above; the dead child lies on the lap of the dying mother, who holds its hand in hers. "Pain of body and anguish of mind,—the terrors of death itself;are vanishing with life, leaving only a kind of heavenly serenity, the faint expression of which seems also ready to abandon the earthly form. All is simplicity in the attitude ; truth and feeling in the expression. We saw there also a fine Venus by the same artist ;-the heads of Fox and Pitt in marble,very
like we are told; neither of them looking like great men; but the countenance of Fox is at least that of a good-natured man; the other looks harsh and proud. The ex-minister, Mr. Canning, was sitting there for his bust, to be placed, I suppose, by the side of his master's.
The English are accused of having neglected the fine arts, and acknowledge very readily the truth of the charge. One of their artists, Mr. Shee, has published a well-written pamphlet,-his view of the evil, and its remedy. He wants, if I recollect rightly, that government should appropriate a certain sum for the purpose of purchasing pictures annually, painted by artists, natives or not, residing in England, chosen by a committee of fit judges. Government has at present, I believe, other calls for its money.
But there is a society lately formed for the same object; they have provided some convenient rooms in. Pall Mall, lighted by skylights, for the reception of modern pictures; the public is admitted at two shillings a head, and a person is always on the spot to treat with those who wish to buy any of the pictures. Those purchased remain there till the end of the exhibition, which lasts about four months. The purchaser of any picture has his entrance free the remainder of the time. A very considerable revenue, raised by this means, is applied to the purchase of modern pictures for the society. This institution will certainly create a great emulation among artists; and those who have superior talents will be enabled to quit the sordid portrait, and to be historians and poets without fear of starving. I must own, however, that I have seen very few pictures there that were above mediocrity; bad design,-ignorance of the human form and anatomy,—colouring poor and purplish. The heads, however, are fine in general: and these striking countenances, thus starting out of the canvas, put me in mind of the man in “ Le Tableau Parlant,” who thrusts his living head through a hole in a picture. Landscapes of merit are much more common than