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or intimacy with his subject ; nor is it sufficient to collect with
EKATON FETEA in the Elean inscription, as an Englishman would pronounce EKATON WETEA.
“ But let us consider the grounds on which the opinion rests, that the Greek F was pronounced like the English W. It rests either on the representation of Dionysius, or on the representation of the Latin grammarians. They, who argue from the former, argue thus. I ne Greek F was pronounced like the Greek OT: the Greek or was pronounced like the French ou : the French ou is equivalent to the English W: ergo, the Greek F and the English W have one and the same pronunciation. This mode of-reasoning is adopted by the learned editor of Dawes's Miscellanea Critica. But as the first term of this Sorites has been already proved to be incorrect, it is unnecessary to enquire into the accuracy of those which follow.
" Dawes, who very properly rejects the arguments from or, comes however to the same conclusion by the aid of the Latin V. Assuming, on the authority of the Latin grammarians, that the Greek F corresponded to the Latin V, and taking for granted that the Latin V was pronounced like the English W, he concludes at once, that the Greek F had the same pronunciation; and even substitutes that unsightly figure W (unsightly at least in Greek) for the genuine form f.' Now, since the first step also of this argument has been already shown to be erroneous, the question whether the Greek F was pronounced like the English W, does not depend on the question whether the Latin V. was so pro. nounced.” ART. II. Memoirs of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Knt. late Presi. dent of the Royal Academy, &c. By James NORTHCOTE,
Esq. R. A. 4to. London, 1814, The requisites to enable a biographer to hand down the subject of his narrative to an immortal fame, consist in vigorous powers of perception, accurate description, and just and philosophical sentiment. With these qualities ought to be united some congeniality of mind to the individual whose history he records ; a portion of the same characteristic feeling which influenced the most remarkable actions of his life without which the history of the most distinguished personage, will dwindle into cold and tasteless narration. It is chiefly to be desired that the written life of the studious and contemplative, wanting the display of varied action, should exhibit the exact similitude of its original, and convey to the imagination, a delineation of the whole soul. That the narrator should accomplish this
, it is not merely necessary to have enjoyed habits of freedom
watchful industry abundant matter in the shape of anecdole or aphorism : that clear and comprehensive intellect must be possessed and employed, which can penetrate into motives, and develope the thoughts and feelings of the heart. That such a biographer is still wanted to do justice to Sir Joshua Reynolds, is our deliberate opinion ; nor do we think with the author of these memoirs, that an artist alone can properly execute the task. We have derived more actual knowledge of this eminent man, and seem to have been introduced to a closer acquaintance with him, from reading the short eulogium of Burke, than from the greater part of the quarto now before us. The clearness of perception, the feeling, and the graces of language in that splendid writer would eminently have fitted him for giving to the world a history of the most graceful and dignified artist of the whole modern school of painters. We shall present our readers with the following extract from that eulogium, as given by Mr. Northcote, in confirmation of our opinion.
“ Sir Joshua Reynolds was, ou very many accounts, one of the most menorable men of his time. He was the first Englishunan who added the praise of the elegant arts to the other glories of his country. In taste, in grace, io facility, in happy invention, and in the richness and harmony of his colouring he was equal to the greatest masters of the renowned ages. In portrait he went beyond them; for he communicated to that description of the art, in which English artists are the most engaged, a variety, a fancy, and a disnity, derived from the higher branches, which even those who professed them in a superior manner, did not always preserve, when they delineated individual nature. His portraits remind the spectator of the invention of history, and ibe amenity of landscape. In painting portraits, he appeared not to be raised upon that plaiform, but to descend upon it froin a higher sphere. His paintings illustrate bis lessons, and luis lessons seem to be derived from his painting.” Page 372.
The modesty with which Mr. Northcote introduces himself to the public, as the historian of Sir Joshua, although highly conimendable, cloes not deter us from a strict examination of his work, which indeed the publication of every ponderous quarto, in some measure demands; nor do we think it a sufficient excuse for prolixity, to be candidly told by the author, that he is really incompetent to select his materials.
“ I sensibly feel that some parts of these Memoirs may be judged tedious, some parts weak, and other parts not sufficiently connected with the original subject; but I was not so competent a judge of my own work as to make the proper selection : and I also apprehend that, in a variety of readers, some will be pleased with what
others will despise, and that one who presumes to give a public dioner must provide, as well as he is able, a dish for each particular palate; so that if I have given too much, it is at my own risk, and from an earnest desire to satisfy every one." Preface.
We may not perhaps, upon the whole, be disposed to quarrel with Mr. Northcote for these opinions ; but with respect to the imprudent desire of giving universal satisfaction in a work like the present, we must observe that, in proportion as he extends his subject to the gratification of the common reader, he will displease the more correct and delicate.
Mr. Northcote is of opinion that the æra of taste had just begun to dawn upon the British nation, at the period when Sir Joshua thought of displaying to the world his superior talents. The county of Devon is represented as remarkable for its production of painters, among whom, of towering eminence, stands recorded the name of Reynolds, who was born at Plympton,
December, 1723. Not adopting the usual practice of biographers who, from the days of Plutarch, have been accustomed to trace the ancestry of their heroes to some highly respectable if not to a divine origin, Mr. N. tells us that the early life of the great artist was not marked by any uncommon incident, that could lead the world to augur of his future fame. At the age of eighteen he was placed under the care and tuition of Hudson, at that time reputed to be the most noted painter in England, but whom Mr. Northcote very justly supposes to have been not at all competent to afford necessary instruction to a genius like that of his young and ardent pupil, who is said to have excited a sensation of rancorous jealousy in the breast of his master which soon occasioned their final separation.
Returning into Devonshire, we are told that he employed his pencil in portrait with tolerable success, and was introduced to the family of Mount Edgecumbe, which employed and patronized him. Under their recommendation he acquired the notice of the Honourable Augustus Keppel, at that time a captain in the navy, and who, being shortly after appointed commodore on the Mediterranean station, prevailed upon Mr. Reynolds to accompany him. .
On his arrival in Italy, Mr. Reynolds appears to have been much disappointed with respect to the delight he anticipated from the treasures of the Vatican, which led to much candid confession between himself and his fellow students. At length however, by dint of resolution and assiduity, he seemed to have worked himself into a belief, that he had actually acquired NO. V. Aug. Rev. VOL. I.
a taste for those divine originals; but from his subsequent ob.servations upon his visit to Rome, from his letter to Barry, and more especially from his own adopted style of painting, it is not difficult to discover that his taste for that order of composition was imaginary, or at best but imperfect and transient. With less invention than the works he professed to admire, his pictures possess in a far superior degree, the graces of light and shade, and the magical effect of rich and harmonious colouring.
At Rome, Mr. Reynolds is said to have painted several ca. ricature subjects with considerable effect; but he afterwards wisely relinquished a practice so deteriorating to the mind of an artist. He remained in Italy about three years, and shortly after settled in London, hired handsome apartments in St. Martin's Lane, and pursued his profession with profit and success. The institution of the Royal Academy soon opened to him a wider field for the exercise of his abilities, and in the progress of his lectures, he seems to have derived considerable benefit from those habits of thinking deeply on his art, necessarily induced by the tuition of others. To impart instruction, it became requisite to perfect his own ideas; and we can accordingly trace a visible degree of progressive improvement, during the whole course of his lectures, in his pictures as well as in his mind; although in his practice he never entirely acted up to the full conviction of his own judgment. His last lecture, and his eulogium on Michael Angelo, evince a kind of regret that he had not at an earlier period devoted his entire efforts to the sole cultivation of the higher species of painting.
The paucity of events in Sir Joshua's life is supplied, in these memoirs, by minute and various details of rather ordinary cir. cumstances." A number of anecdotes are interspersed to cheer the adventurer who undertakes to travel through the volume: but of these the generality have been told before, by Boswell and others; and by far the major part of them are irrelevant to the principal character.
“ In illustration of this, I may add the observation of an excellent author, that no set of men can have a due regard for the fine arts who are more enslaved by the pleasures arising from the grosser senses than from those springing from, or connected with, reflection. The interests of intemperance and study are so opposite, that they canuot exist together in the same mjud, or, at least, in such degree as to produce any advantages to the agent. When we indulge our grosser appetites beyond what we ought, we are dragged to contrition through the medium of anguish, and forego or violate that dig
n fied calmness of the system which is ovly compatible with an honorable ambition ;-the sorceries of Circe, or the orgies of Bacchus, cannot administer or infuse efficient inspiration to intellects debauched by ushallowed fervor; such as sink under their influence, may, indeed, be negatively contented with their ignorance of the value of superior merit, but will never exert their ability for, nor pant will the desire of being enviable, happy, or renowned." p. 2.
We shall now turn to his more familiar attempts; and even here a consciousness of inability seems to abase his style, while a kindred sense of inferiority prevents him from a steady contemplation of his subject. A conversation with Sir Joshua, as it is related by Mr. Northcote, will perhaps satisfy our readers that we have not presumed to judge with too much severity.
“ The following little circumstance, as it serves to shew the kind disposition of Sir Joshua, I may be allowed to mention, although it relates so much to my own concerns.
“ The latter end of the year 1775 was now arrived, when it only wanted a few months of five years that I had been with him, and when I also approached the twenty-vinth year of my age; and I thought it high time for me to do something for myself at so late a period in the life of a pupil, having been prevented by many causes from beginning my studies as a painter in earlier youth. 'I therefore thought it proper to give Sir Joshua notice of my intentions some mouthis before my departure; this, however, was a task very disagreeable to me, and I deferred it from day to day, but at last determined, and going to him one inorning in the month of December, when he was alone in bis painting room; I began by saying that at the end of May next it would be five years since I first came to his house. Sir Joshua, with a gentleness in his manner, said, that he thought that was tull sufficient, and that I was now well able to do for myself. I then replied, that I was very sensible of the obligatiou I owed him, and that I would stay any time longer be should thisik proper if I could be of any service to him. Sir Joshua seid by no means, as I had already done tim nzuch service; I answerell
, that I fearedi I had not been of so much assistance to him as I wished, but that it was solely from want of power, and not inclination. Sir Joshua was so obliging as 10 say, that I had been very useful to him, more so than any scholar that had ever been with him; and he added, I hope we shall assist each other as long as we live," and that if I would rensnin with him until the month of May he should be very much obliged to me, as I could be very useful to trim; I answered, that I intended it, and during that time wished to work as much as it was in my power for his service, and thus the conversation ended.” p. 233.
On the 12th of May 1776, I took my leave of Sir Joshua Reynolds, to take my chance iu the world, and we parted with great