Page images

Ruel, Courances, Chilly, St. Maur, St. Mande, Issy, Meudon, Rincy, Chautilly, Verneul, and Lincour; all which, and I might add many others, I have surveyed: and, that I might not lose the impressions of them, I shall bring you almost all France in paper, which I have found by some or other ready designed to my hand, in which I have spent both ·labour and some money. Bernini's design of the Louvre I would have given my skin for; but the old reserved Italian gave me but a few minutes' view; it was five little designs on paper, for which he hath re→ ceived as many thousand pistoles. I had only time to copy it in my fancy and memory, and shall be able, by discourse and a crayon, to give you a tolerable account of it. I have purchased a great deal of taille-douce, that I might give our countrymen examples of ornaments and grotesques, in which the Italians themselves confess the French to excel."

That part of the work which relates to the history of Architecture in England, from the reign of Charles the First to the end of the 17th century, is decidedly the most interesting and successful part of his labour's. Rambling and desultory as it is, it suffices to show that if the author had bent up all his powers to this subject, he would have done something worthy of that talent which he unquestionably possesses. He promises to follow the volume which now engages our attention with a Graphic

This exquisite design, for which Wren would have given his skin, was rejected by Louis XIV. for the novelty of Perrault's coupled columns. Bernini, whose reserve in the court of Louis, Wren calls surliness, was one of the greatest artists that ever did honour to the Italian name. His knowledge, taste, and practice, in three illustrious branches of the higher arts, procured him the title of the modern Michelangiolo. When a child, and studying under his father, a skilful artist at Naples, he executed a head in marble at the age of eight years, which was considered, even in those regions of art, a perfect prodigy. To improve this natural talent his father took him to Rome, where, after astonishing all the artists, the pope expressed a desire to see him, and at the first interview asked this extraordinary child if he knew how to sketch à head. "Whose head ?” said Bernini. "You know then how to draw any'; let it be that of St. Paul," replied the pope. The boy performed the task in about half an hour, so much to his holiness's satisfaction, that he recommended him strongly to the notice of Cardinal Barbarini, bidding him to "direct his studies, and he will become the Michelangiolo of his age."

'Bernini's works in architecture, particularly his grand circular colonnade to St. Peter's at Rome, are well known. One of his first performances in sculpture was a bust in marble of the Bishop Montajo, which was so excellent a portrait, that it received the name of "Montajo petrified:" and among the principal of the others, are busts of the pope, some of the cardinals, and some large figures after nature; a St. Laurence, a group of Æneas and Anchises, and David about to sling the stone at Goliath, of which Sir Joshua Reynolds conceives that Bernini has given but a mean expression to David, in representing him as biting his under lip. An Apollo and Daphne, executed in his eighteenth year, "from which," says Reynolds, "the world justly expected he would rival the best productions of ancient Greece." It is said that when he surveyed this group near the close of his life, he admitted that he had made but little progress in his art since that time.

Bernini, like Wren, was celebrated for the precocity of his intellect, and, like Wren too, preserved his talents to the latest age. At the age of eighty, he executed a beautiful half-figure of Christ, for Christina, Queen of Sweden, and died in 1680, in the eighty-second year of his age.-Moreri Reynolds's works, Vol. I. p. 87. Vol. II. p. 27. Biog. Universelle, Chalmers, &c. &e.'

Illustration of the principal Architectural Works of Sir Christopher (Wren), illustrative not only of his Designs, but of his unrivalled and unequalled principles of Construction.' We shall be glad to see this work, which is really a desideratum; but our hope is tempered with a feeling of terror, from the announcement that it is to correspond in size with the present work.' We wish the author could be prevailed on to make it somewhat less. At all events, large or small, we hope he will adopt in it a different style from that of the subjoined extract, which describes the interior of the church of St. Stephen's, Walbrook. The beauty of the edifice is well known, and we have no objection to men writing fervidly upon subjects which are highly delightful and interesting to them; but we think the fancy of this description runs into the extravagant. If our readers laugh as heartily at it as we have done, we shall need no apology for its insertion :

The beauty of the interior of this church arises from its lightness and elegance. On entering from the street, by about a dozen or more of steps, through a vestibule of dubious obscurity, on opening the handsome folding wainscot doors, a halo of dazzling light flashes at once upon the eye; and a lovely band of Corinthian columns, of beauteous proportions, appear in magic mazes before you. The expansive cupola, and supporting arches, expand their airy shapes like gossamer; and the sweetly proportioned embellished architrave-cornice, of original lightness and application, completes the charm. On a second look, the columns slide into complete order, like a band of young and elegant dancers, at the close of a quadrille. Then the pedestals, concealed by the elaborate pewings, which are sculptured into the form of a solid stylobate, opening up the nave, under the cupola, to the great recess which contains the altar, and West's fine historical picture of the stoning of St. Stephen, lift up the entire column to the level of the eye: their brown and brawny solids supporting the delicate white forms of the entire order. The composition of the order, the arrangement of the parts, the effect of the whole, exhibit the originality of Wren's mind in a captivating point of view and its excellencies, like Aaron's rod, swallow up the trivial faults of the detail. He who doubts the excellencies of Wren, as an architect of the first order, should deeply study this jewel of the art,— find fault, if he can; but first qualify himself, by trying to surpass it.'

[ocr errors]

The voluptuous Anacreon Moore could not write in more glowing terms; the lovely band of Corinthian columns' is described like a knot of Eastern dancing maidens; and the author describes the quadrille they have danced with so much energy, that we cannot help regretting we are too late for the display of those ballet graces of which we never before thought that marble was susceptible. The brown and brawny solids' of the elaborate pewings' would make one believe that the whole passage was written under the inspiring influence of a city feast; and the simile of Aaron's rod, with the figure of swallowing up,' convinces us that this must have been the fact. It is too true that we live in an age of trifling and sophistication, but surely there never yet was such a mixture of both as in the above passage. We cannot censure it— Heaven knows we have laughed too long and too loudly to have a grave thought left. We can only hope that M. Aumer, the ballet-master, who has been so obliging as to come all the way from Paris to the Haymarket, for the purpose of enlightening our dull capacities in the way of

[ocr errors]

dancing, may fail upon Mr. Elmes' dancing pillars, and then we shall lay the Frenchman under a reciprocal obligation. In common justice he can do no less than write a ballet, to be called St. Etienne, and Aurelie, Ronzi, Vestris, Mercandotti, and Des Varennes, those pillars of the Opera House, will display their graces as the columns of the church of St. Stephen's Walbrook, while the brown and brawny solids' of C. Vestris, Coulon, Armand des Forges, and Boisgerard, shall support the delicate white forms' of their fair compagnons de danse.

[ocr errors]

And now, having had our laugh out, we take leave of Sir Christopher Wren and his biographer, hoping that the latter, who is really worthy of better things, will devote his future performances to more important purposes, and some of his leisure time to pruning those luxuriances of fancy which have led him into absurdities like those we have felt it our duty to point out, we hope in perfect good humour.


THE novel of The Spy, or a Tale of the Neutral Ground, which, about a year ago, found its way from America, (where it was written and published,) to this country, has favorably introduced its author, Mr. Cooper, to the English public. The favorable reception which that novel met with, as well here as beyond the Atlantic, has encouraged another attempt; that enterprising spirit which has so long made all the productions of the western world our own has, in this instance, penetrated to the booksellers, and Mr. Murray has published, The Pioneers, or the Sources of the Susquehanna, at nearly the same time in London as it issued from the press in New York. This dispatch could not have been effected but by the aid of magic,-nothing, however, is beyond the compass of a bookseller's power; the omnipotence of which is proved beyond cavil or question, and it hardly needed this instance to show that he can annihilate both time and space' in the accomplishment of his purposes.

Putting Geoffrey Crayon aside-who, by the way, is as little of an American in all his writings, save one, as we ourselves-the author of The Pioneers is the most original and the best author that the United States of America have produced. Besides possessing many requisites which fit him for the vocation of a novelist, he has had the discretion and the good taste to seek the materials of his tales in those scenes and characters of his native country which have been hitherto unexplored, and which add to their intrinsic attractions the rare charm of perfect novelty. The descriptions of travellers, whether natives or foreigners, are so tame and languid, that if one does not doubt their accuracy (which for ourselves we always do) one reads them without interest. They are necessarily cursory, and often fall into very inadequate hands; but in Mr. Cooper's descriptions we are at once presented with characters and habits so probable, and so like to the modes into which such society as that of America would most probably fall, that their authenticity is believed at once, and their singular originality is in the highest degree amusing. The scenery of the remote settlements is too extensive and too monotonous to give much room for pleasing description, but the inhabitants of those districts are full of variety; each man seems to be sui-generis, and the wildness of their lives, the scattered and unsettled state of society, combine to give a half-savage air VOL. 1. April, 1823. Br. Mag..


to the people. Their characters are composed of features sufficiently disagreeable upon the whole: their rudeness, their insensibility, their cruelty, and their arrogance, remove them little from the original inhabitants of the soil, while they are infinitely below them in the scale of moral virtue; but their indomitable courage, their lofty devotion to liberty, and their attachment to their native country, raise their national character to an elevated distinction, and present an abrupt and irreconcileable contrast to its more disgusting points.

The scene of The Pioneers is laid near the centre of the State of New York, in the year 1793, on a settlement lately commenced under the direction of Marmaduke Temple,ja Judge of the States, and a man of considerable wealth. At the opening of the novel we are introduced to this gentleman, who is then bringing his daughter, an only child, home to his residence at Templeton. They are travelling in a sleigh, the ordinary winter conveyance, and are within a short distance of home, when the noise of hounds arouses the attention of the Judge, and he'directs the negro driver to stop while he gets his gun for the purpose of having a shot at the deer.

'After throwing aside the thick mittens which had encased his hands, that now appeared in a pair of leather gloves tipped with fur, he examined his priming, and was about to move forward, when the light bounding noise of an animal plunging through the woods was heard, and directly a fine buck darted into the path, a short distance a-head of him. The ap-. pearance of the animal was sudden, and his flight inconceivably rapid; but the traveller appeared to be too keen a sportsman to be disconcerted by either. As it came first into view he raised the fowling-piece to his shoulder, and, with a practised eye and steady hand, drew a trigger ; but the deer dashed forward undaunted, and apparently unhurt. Without lowering his piece, the traveller turned its muzzle towards his intended victim, and fired again. Neither discharge, however, seemed to have taken effect.

'The whole scene had passed with a rapidity that confused the female, who was unconsciously rejoicing at the escape of the buck, as he rather darted like a meteor than ran across the road before her, when a flat dull sound struck her ear, quite different from the full round reports of her father's gun, but still sufficiently distinct to be known as the concussion produced by fire-arms. At the same instant that she heard this unexpected report, the buck sprang from the snow, to a great height in the air, and directly a second discharge, similar in sound to the first, followed, when the animal came to the earth, falling headlong, and rolling over on the crust once or twice with its own velocity. A loud shout was given by the unseen marksman, as triumphing in his better aim; and a couple of men instantly appeared from behind the trunks of two of the pines, where they had evidently placed themselves in expectation of the passage of the deer.'

An altercation, friendly on the part of the Judge, but surly on that of the elder hunter, ensues, as to whose shot killed the buck. Both these persons are important actors in the scenes which ensue, and we shall therefore introduce them in the author's own words. The character of Bumppo, the old hunter, is one of those perfectly original ones to which we have alluded:

'He was tall, and so meagre as to make him seem above even the six feet that he actually stood in his stockings. On his head, which was thinly covered with lank sandy hair, he wore a cap made of fox-skin, resembling in shape the one we have already described, although much in

ferior in finish and ornaments. His face was skinny, and thin almost to emaciation; but yet bore no signs of disease: on the contrary, it had every indication of the most robust and enduring health. The cold and the exposure had, together, given it a colour of uniform red; his grey eyes were glancing under a pair of shaggy brows, that overhung them in long hairs of grey mingled with their natural hue; his scraggy neck was bare, and burnt to the same tint with his face; though a small part of a shirt collar, made of the country check, was to be seen above the over-dress he wore. A kind of coat, made of dressed deer-skin, with the hair on, was belted close to his lank body, by a girdle of coloured worsted. On his feet were deer-skin moccasins, ornamented with porcupines' quills, after the manner of the Indians, and his limbs were guarded with long leggings of the same material as the moccasins, which, gartering over the knees of his tarnished buck-skin breeches, had obtained for him, among the settlers, the nick-name of Leather-stocking, notwithstanding his legs were protected beneath, in winter, by thick garments of woollen, duly made of good blue yarn. Over his left shoulder was slung a belt of deer-skin, from which depended an enormous ox-horn, so thinly scraped as to discover the dark powder that it contained. The larger end was fitted ingeniously and securely with a wooden bottom, and the other was stopped tight by a little plug. A leathern pouch hung before him, from which, as he concluded his last speech, he took a small measure, and, filling it accurately with powder, he commenced re-loading the rifle, which, as its butt rested on the snow before him, reached nearly to the top of his fox-skin cap.

'The traveller had been closely examining the wounds during these movements, and now, without heeding the ill-humour of the hunter's manner, exclaimed

"I would fain establish a right, Natty, to the honour of this capture; and surely if the hit in the neck be mine, it is enough; for the shot in the heart was unnecessary-what we call an act of supererogation, Leather-stocking."

"You may call it by what larned name you please, Judge," said the hunter, throwing his rifle across his left arm, and knocking up a brass lid in the breech, from which he took a small piece of greased leather, and wrapping a ball in it, forced them down by main strength on the powder, where he continued to pound then while speaking. "It's far easier to call names than to shoot a buck on the spring; but the cretur come by his end from a younger hand than 'ither your'n or mine, as I said before." "What say you, my friend," cried the traveller, turning pleasantly to Natty's companion; "shall we toss up this dollar for the honour, and you keep the silver if you lose-what say you, friend?"

"That I killed the deer," answered the young man, with a little haughtiness, as he leaned on another long rifle, similar to that of Natty's. "Here are two to one, indeed,” replied the Judge, with a smile; "I ain out-voted-over-ruled, as we say on the bench. There is Aggy, he can't vote, being a slave; and Bess is a minor-so I must even make the best of it. But you'll sell me the venison; and the deuce is in it, but I make a good story about its death."

"The meat is none of mine to sell," said Leather-stocking, adopting a little of his companion's hauteur; "for my part, I have known animals travel days with shots in the neck, and I'm none of them who'll rob a man of his rightful dues.'

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »