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The general merit of the paintings produced by the cele. brated masters above-mentioned, is so well and so universally known, that it would be fuperfluous to expatiate on them. In one respect, however, we cannot entirely approve of this selection from their works; for although Mr, Hamilton may, as a painter, have been fufficiently happy in his choice, yet we must observe, that the religion of the country hath, in our opinion, led most of the Roman Catholic painters into some very improper representations. While we admire their masterly execution, we laugh at their legendary subjects, their martyrdoms, and their marriages of faints: fo that where the artist intended to exsite devotion in the mind of the spectator, the object exhibited hath often produced a contrary effect.
But it is not merely to Christian subjects that we obje&; some of those afforded by the Old Testament are, surely, unfit to appear on the canvas, or the plate. Here, for instance, is a pięce of Michael Angelo's, on the fall of man; and another by the same master, on the formation of Eve, in which last is a very fine figure of an old gentleman, who might país extremely well for a Plato, or a Confucius, and attract our reverence; but when we consider it as a reprefentation of the -fórm and figure of the SUPREME BEING, " whom no eye hatk “ feen, or can see," we are fhocked at the presumption of the painter *; and what was designed to raise our conceptions to the utmost height of sublimity, tends only to excite an idea extremely derogatory to the infinite majesty of the awful subject.
The levities of the Heathen deities, heroes, nymphs, and fatyrs, afford an ample and lefs exceptionable field for the exercise of the painter's imagination. Many of the metamorphoses in Ovid give no reasonable cause of offence either to the religion or the morality of the present times, and of thefe there are some very beautiful representations in the noble collec
• There are several other attempts to represent the Almighty in an human form, by their greatest painters ; and some of these pieces have been admired for their beauty and grandeut; but by what crite. rion are fuch performances judged
The painters have endeavoured to vindicate their practice of representing Divine Beings under human figures ; and have pleaded the authority of the Old Testament in general, and of Daniel's vifion in particular, viz. chap. viii. ver. 9. “ I bebeld till the thrones
were caft down, and the Ancient of Days did fit, whose gar. “ ment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure “ wool : his throne was like the fiery Aame, and his wheels as bura. 46 ing fire." But how idle is it to quote fuch figurative perfoniti. cations, and from these examples to paint the Invisible God like an old Patriarch, with a long beard, which, at the best, is but the refemblance of a man in the decline of life!
tion now before us: but it were rather to be wished that the vie
More *. 8vo. is. 6 d. Cadell, &c. 1774.
And favouring Phæbus owns the British Nise.
had almost forgot the severity of criticism and the infirmities of age, and were hobbling into rhyme; but, leaving to them the palm of verse, and contenting ourselves with waiting on them in their excursions, we shall attend our very ingenious and amiable Author through the well-drawn scenes of her Inflexible Captive.
This tragedy is founded on the Attilio Regola of Metastasio ; but, being extended to five acts, Miss More was frequently under a necessity of becoming original, and of depending on her own invention. Prefixed to the play is the following argument:
Amongit all the great names, which have done honour to antiquity in general, and to the Roman sepublic in particular, that of Marcus Attilius Regulus bas, by the general consent of all ages, been confidered as one of the most respectable, since he not only sacrificed his labours, his liberty, and his life, for the good of his country, but by a greatness of soul, almost peculiar to himself, contrived to make his very misfortunes contribute to chat glorious end.
• After the Romans had, met with various fuccefles in the firft Paa nic war, under the command of Regulus, victory at length declared for the opposite party, the Roman army was totally overthrown, and Regulus himself taken prisoner, by Xantippus, a Lacedæmonian general in the service of the Carthaginjags: the victorious enemy exult
Author of The Search after Happiness, recommended in our Review for September, 1773.
ing in fo important a conqueft, kept him many years in clofe imprifonment, and loaded him with the most cruel indignities. They thought it was now in their power to make their own terms with Rome, and determined to send Regulus thither, with their ambalfador, to negotiate a peace, or, at least, an exchange of captives, thinking he would gladly persuade his countrymen to discontinue a war, which necessarily prolonged his captivity. They previously exacted from him an oath to return should his embally prove unsuc.. cessful ; at the same time giving him to understand, that he must expect to fuffer a cruel death if he failed in it; this they artfully intimated as the Atrongest motive for him to leave no means anattempted to accomplish their purpose.
• At the unexpected arrival of this venerable hero, the Romans exprefled the wildest transports of joy, and would have submitted to almost any conditions to procure his enlargement; but Regulus, fo far from availing himself of his influence with the Senate to obtain any persooal advantages, employed it to induce them to reje& proposals so evidently tending to dishonour their country, declaring his fixed resolution to return to bondage and death rather than violate his oath.
• He at last extorted from them their consent; and departed amidst the tears of his family, the importunities of his friends, the applauses of the Senate, and the tumultuous opposition of the people ; and as a great poet of his own nation beautifully observes, “he embarked for Carthage as calm and unconcerned, as if, on finishing the tedious law.suits of his clients, he was retiring to Venafrian fields, or the sweet country of Tarentum *.”
In the above, and many other important particulars, the Author has paid the strictest regard to historical truth: in some less effential points, where the thought it would rather obstruct than advance her purpose, Ne has ventured to deviate from it; particularly, in fixing the return of Regulas to Rome, pofterior to the death of his wife Martia. In this, as well as in the general conduct of the ftory, fhe has followed the Italian poet Metaitasio, in his opera on this subject.'
It is not worth while here to detain our Readers by a display of erudition, in ftating the arguments that have been adduced by learned men, at different periods, for and against the punishment and patriotism, and even the existence of such a man as Regulus. If there never was such a person, there would, pero haps, be no great hardiness in pronouncing that there never will be such a one; but it is our opinion that the truth lies here, where it generally lies, in the middle, and that there was some distinguished Roman called Regulus, the events of whose life have been hyperbolically related, and whose patriotic character has been overcharged. In pity, at least, of modern patriotism, and in charity, we should think so.
The Regulus, like the rest of Metastasio's works, abounds, almost every where, with those fine moral distinctions so pecu
* Hor. book üi, ode 5.
liar to his genius and manner; and to say that these have undergone no disadvantage in the Inflexible Captive, would be thewing ourselves very penurious in the fair Author's praise. She has, indeed, in all instances, supported, in many, improved, upon the sense and spirit of the Italian poet ; and where she has found itnecessary to have recourse to herself, and enlarge the original plan, she has done it with a degree of judgment that could be expected only from every privilege of experience, with a degree of genius which leaves not even Metastasio to look down upon her.
Of that dignity of soul and sentiment which distinguish this tragedy, take the following specimen, from the conversation that passed be:ween Regulus and his son Publius, &c.
Know'rt thou th' important queftion that the Senate
They're not yet met.
And Regulus fhall glory in his boy.
What !- fupplicate the rain of my father?
That Regulus would rafbly feek his fate?
Are Regulus's good-his wifo-bis choice,
Yet sure our country:
Is a whole, my Publius,
But what affect her honour, or her name.
With reverence and astonishment I hear thee !
A poor excuse, unworthy of a Roman !
'Tis true, they were; but this heroic greatness,
Then be the first to give the great example-
Publius, no more, begone-
Too much, too much, thy rigid virtue claims
Publius ! 'am I a stranger, or thy father?
Ah! could'st thou look into my inmost soul,