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Most of the anecdotes of painters are exaggerations of some truths, and coloured beyond nature. Such is the history of our countryman West, by Gait the novelist, and such the major part of the anonymous paragraphs concerning native prodigies. Truth cannot be adorned by the plumes of fiction. It is with a different spirit—a more simple love of truth— that I record an anecdote of an Americas artist.
Without meddling with the disquisitions on innate or cultivated genius, it is certain that some persons are more observant of what they see, and remember more distinctly what they have seen, than others. This was the case with a young artist of New York, Mr. Francis W. Philip. He arrived in London whilst I was there in 1834, to prosecute his studies in painting, contrary to the wishes of his father, who desired him to co-operate with him in a more money-making business as a distiller. Young Philip sought my acquaintance, and I was gratified in rendering him some assistance; he was, therefore, much with my family, who were eharmed with his amiability, zeal, and talent. Having the privilege of Lord Grosvenor's Gallery, I took him there and to the National Gallery, in both of which, during an entire morning, his artistic soul feasted on the masterpieces which they contained. That day he dined with me, spent the afternoon in city excursions with my daughters, and remained with us tftl midnight; making nn engagement for another excursion the next morning at seven o'clock. *In the morning, fearing that he might oversleep himself, I went to his lodgings in Buckingham Place—the same that I at first occupied in London—that Allston, Morse, and King had previously occupied, and Sully afterwards—as if the Genius of Painting held her inspirations there. It was broad
daylight, and he was fast asleep. I reluctantly awakened him; and, to account for his tardiness, he told me that the pictures of the Grosvenor and National Galleries had so occupied his mind as to prevent his sleeping, so relighting his lamp, he employed himself the remainder of the night in efforts to throw on canvass the impressions which had been so vividly painted in his imagination, and showed lie the proofs of it on a canvass, twenty-five by thirty inches, filled with sketches in oil colours, executed during the five hours after midnight, every one of which I recognised having seen with him the day before, the most remarkable for colour, shade, or form. They were generally about the size of one's hand, fresh from the brushes and palette, which I saw lying unclcaned on his table; and, in addition to these, an excellent reminiscence of a beggar girl, whom he had glanced at for a few moments as she sat crouched against the column of a door which we were passing the previous afternoon.
There are many authenticated instances of verbal memory, and it is known that the celebrated portrait painter Stuart possessed an extraordinary faculty of remembering and sketching faces; but this instance of young Philip is the most wonderful I have ever known. After remaining in London a few years, he returned to New York, where I saw him in his painting-room, which was furnished with every convenience for the cultivation of his art; but from the number of historical studies which he had begun, without pausing to finish any one, I feared that he was taxing his brain too severely. He died soon after, from mental excitement, a martyr to his love of art, leaving a young wife to lament his untimely death.
COINCIDENCES OR PLAGIARISMS NOTED IN PASSING.
BT WILLIAM DOWS.
"Lengthened thoughts that gleam through many a page."
Dr. Johnson once projected a work, in which he meant to show what a small quantity of invention served the purposes of literature, particularly poetic literature, at all times, and how images and incidents have been repeated, from age to age,—a sort of dissertation upon Solomon's text, that "there is nothing new under the sun." It was a pity a man of such erudition and strong critical sagacity, did not set about the task. Ancient and modern poetry— the modern poetry of England, at least—were as familiar to his mind as the furniture of his rooms—more so, perhaps; and no man could better track the metempsychosis of an idea, or an image, through the change of time and language, than himself. But he did not think it worth his while, perhaps, to spend his time, catching these eels of literature by the tail, and preferred the business of his dictionary— a legacy which may well console us for the want of the other.
What Dr. Johnson could have done so completely and well, thousands of readers who have rambled in the fields of literature, native or exotic, have doubtless been in the habit of doing for themselves: recognising the various resemblances of poetic sentiment and imagery scattered over the domains of the muses. It is interesting to discover such coincidences, either to know how the same circumstances of life or nature impress different minds, or to detect a theft, however cunningly it may be concealed. Having met or remembered a few, in moments of too much literary idlesse, and with the sagacity of Captain Cuttle, "made a note" of them, we would take the good-natured reader—desiring none other—by the button, and ask him to throw away an hour with us in a gossip of poets, showing how they sympathized with, or borrowed, or stole from, one another.
Some of the earliest dead leaves of autumn, whirled by a breeze from the west across the pathways of our famous Common—Boston Common, of course—suggest the old moral and likeness they have furnished for so many of
"Those bards sublime,
as well as of our modern "kings of metody."
At all times there have been tongues in trees, "airy tongues that syllabled men's lives," as it were. The most venerable of bards, the magni nominu umbra of Parnassus, Homer, or at least one of those successive Greek troubadours, whose minstrelsy has been rolled together into one great name, has likened the transit and renewal of the human generations to the leaves of trees. Pope thus renders the passage:—
"Like leaves on trees the race of mau Is found,— They fall successive, and successive rise."
Dante, in that Hades of the Church, which he has made so terrible by the genius and revenge of an impassioned heart, compares the falling of souls, one by one, into the boat which carries them to judgment, to the lapse of autumn leaves from the boughs:—
"Come d' autunno si leTan le foglie
L'una appresso dell' altra, infin che 1' ramo
Milton and Virgil have used the image to express a myriad of things. The former says:
"Thick ns autumnal leaves that strew the brooks
No man understood better than Milton that picturesque effect of names, whether of men or places; and he has, in the above, made the codicil of his resemblance beautiful by a dash of romantic association. Virgil, to express his idea of numerosity, has—
"Quam multa in sylvis, autumni frigore primo,
Spenser makes one of the personages of his Faery Queen drive a crowd of his enemies before him,
"As withered leaves drop from their dried storks When the wroth western wind doth reave their locks."
Shelley reverses this same image of the west wind blowing the sere leaves; and instead of making it exemplify a more dignified act, exemplifies it thus:
"Thou wild west wind! thou breath of Autumn's being'
Before whose unseen presence the leaves dead Arc driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing."
Lord Byron, making a magnificent simile, says, with reference to the defeat of Sennacherib:
"like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
The fading away of the woodland foliage has always been more attractive and touching than the green glories of summer trees. The former illustrates with pathetic effect the destinies of men, and the moral of human life; aud thus its solemn and softened picturesque and multitudinous decay has been so much employed in poetic imagery.
Campbell's noble poem, Lochiel's Warning, was doubtless suggested by the lines in Collins's Ode to Superstition, in which he speaks of the Scottish seers—
"They raved, dinning thro' their second sight, Pale, red Cuiloden, where their hopes were drowned."
Gray's splendid historical ode, The Bard, is fashioned on the same warning principle. The idea is an old one. Louis de Leon, in his poem, makes the Genius of the Tagus put his sedgy head above the water to rebuke Roderigo, last of the Goths, in the arms of Cava or Florinda, whose father, Count Julian, on account of the dishonour done her by that king,
"First called the band That dyed Spain's mountain streams with Gothic gore."
In the Lusiad, Admastor, the spirit of the
"Who was the first that over burst
by way of the southern extremity of Africa. For Necho, as Herodotus tells us, sent his ships round westerly, from the Persian Gulf, and Hanno's Periplus, on the Atlantic side, did not reach the Cape at all. All these poems and passages appear to have had their original in the Prophecy of Nereus (Fifteenth Ode of the First Book of Horace) :—
"Pastor cum traheret per freta navlbus
Nereus stopped the wind that was wafting
"The sea was calm, and on the level brino
drew them a very faithful and forbidding picture of the consequences which should yet come of their elopement—
"Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy"—
the war of heroes, and the end of all, when the last blaze should send Ilion to the skies:—
"Post certas hiemes, uret Achaicus
There is another passage in Campbell which would seem to be a plagiarism from Waller. The latter says:—
"Others may use the ocean as their road,
Campbell adopts the thoughts of these italicised words into the following, from the "Mariners of England:"—
"Britannia needs no bulwark,
Apropos of Jenny Lind, whom we have just heard, and whose tones still
"Keep time to nothing in our head,
People call her a nightingale. We should like to hear her fairly pitted against "the Attic bird," for a "triumph of music." If, as Lyly intimates, "jug, jug, tereu," be the only notes of the latter—
"' Jug, jug, jug, jug, tereu,' she cries,
we think the Scandinavian songster wi/ild prove more than a match for her. It wouu: be a rare thing to hear their strife. Such a thing has many times taken place, if we mny credit tradition. Sir William Jones records that a nightingale vied with a musician near Shiraz. It is a fact in natural history that birds will sing against each other. That they should sing against certain musical instruments seems, therefore, less extraordinary.
Strada has written some Latin verses, recording the musical contest of a man with a lute, and a nightingale. In this he has been imitated by the English poet, Crashawe—one whom it has been the fashion to underrate a good deal. The Latin of Strada is close and simple, and ends with the defeat and death of the bird, which warbles its last in a vain attempt to rival the science of the instrument:—
"Tuque etiam in modulos surgis, Philomela; sed impar
Crashawe's poem is full of quaint and sparkling sentences. He seems to have thrown his heart into the strife he describes; and his lines exhibit something of the effort which may be supposed to belong to the musical antagonists. There is a certain amount of euphuism in Crashawe—an inevitable vice of his period—but this is amply compensated by the freshness and felicity of his thoughts and expressions. The Nightingale
"Opens the floodgates, and lets loose a tide
The description of the Man has some happier touches still:—
"So said, his hands, sprightly as.fire, he flings,
A good deal of effort in the elimination of his conceits may be discovered in this poet; but it cannot be denied that he dashes out, at times, some exquisite fragments of fancy and phraseology. What a delicate couplet we have here, in the first quoted, describing the Man! "Sprightly as fire" is new and most vivid; and the next line—never was there such an instance of happy onomatopceia.' "Tastes the strings" is not euphuism. It is perfectly liter id Taster is the old French of to touch; the modern word drops the I by a very general neologic rule. The conceit of " feeling Music's pulse in all her arteries," is a line of the same bold and felicitous kind.
In reading the verse of our older poets and dramatists, you cannot but feel how much finer and fresher was their style than that of the classic rhetorio which came afterwards into vogue. And in spite of
"The long, majestic march, and energy divine,"
of Dryden, and the splendid verse of Pope, we arc disposed to think that English poetic literature would now be more racy of the soil, and still worthier of our civilization, if the discreditable Gallican influences of Charles the Second's reign had not overflowed the fields of our poetry with the exotic spirit of classic antiquity, filtered through the artificial and slavish literature of France. Had it been otherwise, we might now have our Colcridges, Shelleys, Keatses, Byrons, &c, of an earlier
day, and the famous Augustan school, as it has been termed, might not have been at all; Pope and the rest might either have been unheard, or been heard speaking in a different fashion.
Talking of Pope, he draws a good many of his ideas from the brains of others. Bolingbroke, it is well known, suggested most of the arguments of the "Essay on Man." The couplet, for instance,—
"And more true joy Marcellus, exiled, feels,
occurs, in a prosaic shape, in his lordship's writings. But Bolingbroke himself seems to have plagiarised the idea of it from Seneca; who says, "0, Marcellus, happier when Brutus approved thy exile, than when the commonwealth approved thy consulship I" In the Essay, Pope says:
"Buperior beings, when of late they saw
This nearly approaches the contemptuous opinion expressed by Raphael, in Paradise Lost, where he speaks of the presumptuous men who will attempt to scan God's astronomical creation:
"If they list to try
This piece of archangelic satire was intended for the lumbering old system of Ptolemy, which held its supremacy up to the days of Copernicus. But Milton seems to have adopted this idea of supernal scorn of man's scientific groping, from the work of the Italian, Marcello Palingenio, printed at Ferrara in 1531, and called the Zodiacus Vita. In this the author says that the man who scrutinises the planetary bodies and the laws of nature, will be the ape of the celestials, the laughing-stock of the gods, even in this world:
"Simla crplicolum risusque jocusque deorum est Tunc homo, cum tcmere ingenio confidit et audet Abdita natune scrutari, orcanaque rcrum."
If all this were true, Galileo, Herschell, Iiosse, Lcverrior, and the rest of "those earthly godfathers of heaven's lights," could or can expect very little reward of their labours at the hands of the caclicoli; who must, in particular, have laughed very heartily lately, to see Lord Rosse building and polishing at Parsonstown,