« ZurückWeiter »
8th.—Spent the morning at the Louvre, in the sculpture galleries. What treasures of art ! The Diana is exquisite, the very personification of dignity and fierté ; beautiful in the details, and charming in the ensemble ; yet how totally different from the beauty of the Venus! One hardly knows to which to yield the palm. The latter, all softness and roundness, the forms melting into one another, and imbued, as it were, with a conscious bashfulness: the other, cold, haughty, fearless, yet not masculine ; with all of woman's beauty, and none of its effeminacy. How inimitable are the works of the ancients! What dignity, and grace! There is an individuality conspicuous, even in the statues which are most elevated above the limits of mortal beauty, which yet proves that they were copied from nature; a nature far superior to that which we behold, because unspoilt by tight-lacing or compression.
The Gladiator, whose real station the cognoscent have not yet decided, some asserting it to be a warrior, and others maintaining it to be a gladiator, is a fine statue. There is something in the face indicative of a more elevated character than we attribute to a mercenary fighter ; an expression of moral as well as physi cal courage, and the action is vigorous and full of life. Byron has done as much as Agaseas, the sculptor who executed this chef-d'auvre, to give immortality to the gladiator ; for who can behold the statue without thinking of his beautiful allusion to the subject, suggested by the view of the Coliseum and the celebrated statue at Rome.-
“ I see before me the Gladiator lie:
conquers agony ;
The arena swims around him-he is gone,
“ He heard it, but he heeded not-his eyes
All this rushed with his blood. Shall be expire ?
The gladiator was found at Actium, near to the place where the Apollo of Belvidere was discovered ; which leads to the conclusion that some connoisseur of the arts, wealthy enough to indulge an exquisite taste, must have had a residence there. Happy man ! who enjoyed, even for the brief span of his life, works that have delighted posterity; and which, after the lapse of so many centuries, remain as models to direct taste, and prove
the excellence which we cannot reach. It has frequently occurred to me that the sculptors of antiquity had an advantage in practising their art, denied to, or, at least, rarely possessed by, those of our own time. I refer to the physiognomies of that epoch ; the expressions o which were more simple and concentrated than at present. Enough civilization
then existed to admit of all the graceful adjuncts of decoration in the costumes, and in the care of the
persons of their subjects, which is required to form a fine work; yet originality of expression, or peculiarity of tournure, was not impaired by the mannerism of fashion, or the insipidity of imitation, which in our days render so many people alike. The passions, too, were then more powerful, and consequently more strikingly developed in the countenances, than now; when affectation, engendered by extreme civilization, and nurtured by a false refinement, has much deteriorated natural expression. Women dared to frown or smile then, without remembering the effect of either movement of the muscles on their beauty. Now they seldom exceed a simper, and even this only when they have good teeth.
Pictures, when compared with statues, appear evanescent as the beings they are made to represent. A few centuries passed, and they are faded or destroyed; while the enduring marble resists time, and triumphs over decay.
9th.-Lord dined with us. I wonder whether I shall ever arrive at the sang froid and nonchalance that distinguish him! The nil admirari seems indeed to be his motto. He has seen as much of the world as most men, has read more, and is by no means deficient in good sense and ability. How, therefore, he can lead the indolent life he does, astonishes me! Play has, I am told, produced this effect. This vice, like the touch of the torpedo, benumbs the faculties, and destroys the pure sense of enjoyment natural to a healthy state of mind. It has not, however, soured his temper, which is all mildness; nor injured his manners, which are peculiarly agreeable. Gaming, like intoxication, gives birth to a progeny of other vices, generally rendering those who yield to it as baneful to self, as careless of others : he, therefore, who has so long practised it, without losing either his reputation or temper, must have originally possessed a superior nature.
There is something very agreeable in the manners of a perfectly well-bred Englishman. His civilities never appear insincere or exaggerated; they are marked by a deference for the person to whom they are addressed, as well as by a self-respect that precludes flattery. His opinions are pronounced with a moderation and modesty, that prevents their irritating the vanity of those who may differ from him ; and his knowledge, however various and extensive, is left to be discovered by, but is never obtruded on, his associates. A well-bred Englishman appears to think only of the persons to whom he speaks; while foreigners seem to think more of themselves.
10th.—Leave-taking is a triste ceremony: I have been half the day busily occupied, for to-morrow we depart. Half the persons to whom I have bidden adieu, have told me that I am sure to be disappointed in my expectations of the south of France and Italy ; and the other half have predicted that I shall be delighted. I hope the latter may be the true prediction, though I go forth with no Smelfungus* predisposition to be dissatisfied, nor yet with any very enthusiastic anticipations of being charmed. In short, I am prepared not to dislike things because they are not English, or to like them solely because they are foreign ; a mistake into which too many of my compatriots are
prone to fall.
The travelling carriages and fourgon, piled with imperials, and “all appliances to boot,” make a very formidable array in the court-yard; and the courier, who has donned his habit de voyage, begins to reassume his air of importance, as he bustles from one carriage to another, examining the springs, &c. &c. He had sunk into insignificance ever since our arrival at Paris, “his occupation gone;" but now- he looks as though he considered himself an illustrious personage. The ladies' maids are packing, and “Oh! la-ing” at the wondrous capabilities of the imperials, chaise-seats, &c. to contain the luggage added to the stock by the purchases made at Paris ; and the valets and footmen are grumbling, in a most English-like fashion, at the weight of the trunks they have to stow away.
“ How strange those English are !” observed a Frenchman to his companion, beneath my window, as they paused to examine our preparations. They had
*“The learned Smelfungus travelled from Boulogne to Paris -fronı Paris to Rome-and so on; but he set out with the spleen and jaundice, and every object he passed was discoloured or distorted. He wrote an account of them, but 'twas nothing but the account of his miserable feelings.” -Sterne's Sentimental Journey.