Obrázky na stránke

are not likely to be appreciated by men, unless they make some show of a possession for which we commonly do not give them credit; they imagine that men look for Latin to flow from their pens, while, bless them ! all the while the charm of their style is its utter freedom from the display of the sources of their art. It is a thing most worthy to be noted of the female mind, that with so little knowledge of the roots of language, their choice of words should be almost unerring ; their tact supplies them with all the nicety of expression which is only vouchsafed to us duller mortals after laborious investigation.

It has been observed by some one, that the best models of pure English are to be found in the letters of well-educated women.

“This indeed,"—we quote from the Guesses at Truth,' " is the peculiar beauty of a feminine style-munda verba, sed e medio, consuetaque-choice and elegant words, but such as are familiar in well-bred conversation : words not used scientifically, or technically, or etymologically, but according to their customary meaning. It is from being guided wholly by usage, undisturbed by extraneous considerations, and from their characteristic fineness of discernment with regard to what is fit and appropriate, as well as from their being much less blown about by the vanity of writing cleverly or sententiously, that sensible educated women have a simple grace of style very rarely attainable by men.”

The passages we have quoted from the Old Tale’are most assuredly not open to Mr. Hare's criticism; but cousin Dorothy is not everywhere clear of the charge of redundant learning. The book too is encumbered by a number of notes in editorial form, which are very unmeaning.

We wish some one of the characters had been more fully developed-had played longer for us. Some of those fifteen years of dullness might, in such hands, have been very instructively detailed; many lessons of domestic trial might have been suggested by the behaviour of the Sidneys in their progress from their enjoyment of wealth to their submission to poverty and disgrace; much heroic struggling with her fate must Viola have exhibited to her confidante.

Now it is possible that, after all, this volume may disappoint some whom we may induce to look into it; many will, we are persuaded, thank us. Professed novel readers will certainly throw the book aside ; others, favourably disposed to the kind

of novel, will compare it, to its certain disparagement, with Miss Austen's more finished and more comprehensive productions. Indeed it is but a fragment, a tract, as it were, on one branch of the theory of delusions,-the saddest of all. Nothing we can say will give the book a vitality which it has not; still we are persuaded it will be read and appreciated highly by those whose praise the author would wish to win.

With a heart open to all the best influences of nature and society, and a well-cultivated intellect, what immeasurable good may a woman do by writing ! more certainly than most professed philosophers. Her strong natural insight into character, her purity of feeling, her infallible tact, her power of exact observation in all that relates to conduct, so eminently qualify woman for an office which, in its way, is a kind of priesthood; the pity is that readers are so few. Even Miss Austen's novels are not generally read, though they have been before the world these thirty or forty years. People who are craving for “fiction” are not content merely to see the mirror held up to their own daily lives; they find too much of the truth. But though readers of these feminine novels are few, they are of the worthier sort; and this consideration should induce such women as our author to write.

We could name some authors from whom we could be well content to see the task of novel-writing for ever wrested away: no man has a right, for fame or for money, to give to the sons and daughters of his land the questionable fruits of his own unhallowed imagination. No man ought to be so selfish as to propound his theories of life; he has no title to give utterance to them, with no better authority than the certainty that he will be listened to. Enough for him to poison his own existence by erroneous doctrines; let him not infect those whom he pretends to teach; let him not set the unthinking youth of his country upon the vain task of realizing dreams which he knows to be impalpable, warranted by no principle, and having their source in nothing more divine than his own busy and restless brain.

[ocr errors]


Catalogue des Pierres Gravées Antiques de S. A. LE

Prince Poniatowski. 4to. pp. 580. In the middle of the nineteenth century, to have an announcement of upwards of two thousand engraved gems, all antiques, is sufficient to excite the curiosity of antiquarians, artists, connoisseurs, diletanti, and all the dealers in such ware, from the peer to the itinerant Jew. The history of art requires that an examination of this extraordinary declaration should be calmly entered into, lest, if untrue and uncontradicted, it should become to be considered as a fact; while, if true, it is curious to learn how so important a collection should have remained unknown until this advanced period, Before entering into the examination of this declaration, we shall offer some observations on this recondite branch of art, but little understood even by the educated classes, studied by a few antiquarians, and nearly unknown to the greater portion of mankind.

The history of the commencement of every art is lost in the gulf of time, and the inquirer can only refer to the earliest records in the hope of discovering some faint traces of the object of his researches. As the earliest known record is the extraordinary drama, entitled the Book of Job, we naturally examine it the first, and find in the thirty-eighth chapter and the fourteenth verse this remarkable simile, “darkness by the morning light is turned as clay by the seal.”

In Genesis, c. xxxviii. v. 18, it is related that Judah gave his signet-ring to Tamar. Pharaoh, on investing Joseph with the vice-regal authority, entrusted him with his ring, probably a signet to affix to his orders. Darius and his nobles sealed the den in which Daniel was cast. In Exodus gemengraving is spoken of as a well-known art. In chapter xxviii, v. 9, orders are given to “take two onyx stones and grave on “ them the names of the children of Israel; six of their names “ on one stone, and the other six names of the rest on the 66 other stone, according to their birth. With the work of an “ engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, shalt thou

“ engrave the two stones with the names of the children of “ Israel.” Although the Israelites had no gem-engravers among them, the simile proves the art to have been known. Aholiah and Bezaleel were called by name, and inspired with the knowledge requisite to perform the work alluded to, Homer makes no mention of engraved stones, used either as rings or amulets, yet he gives elaborate descriptions of chasing, and of alti and bassi rilievi on metal, which could hardly have existed without a proportional advance of the sister arts, Pliny thinks that they were not used, Plutarch is of an opposite opinion. Polygnotus the sculptor has placed an engraved ring on the finger of his statue of Ulysses.

To engrave a hard stone such as onyx, cornelian, jade, emerald, or amethyst, l'equires knowledge of several kinds ; whether the engraving be rilievo, that is, the substance of the stone cut from the design, or intaglio, the reverse, the design cut into the stone. There must be the conversion of iron into steel of the hardest and toughest quality; the formation of tools, some of them very minute; the use of diamond powder, and a lens to magnify the work, and such dexterity in the use of the hand-tool as to give grace and freedom to the drawing. The lathe, as a tool to facilitate the engraving on gems, is of a much later period than the age when the art reached its greatest excellence; and the work performed with it wants the ease, flexibility and spirit of the master's hand, becoming one mark by which to form an opinion of the age of an engraving

In what age or country gem-engraving commenced must be left to conjecture. We have cursorily quoted the earliest Eastern work ; referred to a period, in the instance of Judah, prior to the Egyptian dynasties; to circumstances long prior to the Exodus, and to references during the wandering of the Israelites in the desert, to show its great antiquity. Very little to be depended on is to be found in the Grecian historians. From the lost work of Apelles on the history of art much information might probably have been gleaned. Pliny passes over the subject with such cursory observations as lead the reader to suspect his information. Diodorus Siculus (lib. i. cap. 1.) affirms that the Ethiopians preceded the Egyptians in the art of gem-engraying, but gives neither reasons nor facts in support of so strange an assertion. Tacitus copies Diodorus, who, living only fifty years before the Christian era, possessed no greater means of information than ourselves. Monsieur Mariette, in his work on the subject, adopts their opinion, but gives no reasons for his decision, and mentions no authenticated Ethiopian engraving in support of it.

Whatever adrance some Eastern nations may have made in sciences and arts, we have very few data on which to form any opinion of its extent. It is not probable that one country alone should have made progress, or that discoveries useful to the human race should be confined to one realm, not separated either by extensive oceans or mountains impassable by man. Notwithstanding the want of records of people contemporary with the early Egyptians; and though due weight may be given to the improbability of one of the earliest families of the earth so immeasurably outstripping all the others, we are compelled to admit that Egypt supplies us with the first connected evidence; that from the inhabitants of the valley of the Sīle flowed those institutions, sciences and arts which were subsequently adopted, used and abused by the Greeks, the Etrurians, and later by the Romans. While the whole of Southern Europe was in a primæral state, covered with forests and swamps, and giving shelter to wild beasts and a few wandering barbarians, Egypt was occupied by a people who had constructed rast edifices in honour of their gods, had raised commemorative columns to their kings, possessed institutions of a religious and mysterious character, and were also politically great, indicating a continued existence of many centuries. The composite character of their hieroglyphics led, most probably, to sculpturing the symbols of their deities on shells and stones, subsequent to the impression of similar symbols on their temples, and these in later times were worn either as amulets or ornaments, and by soldiers as marks of distinction. The earliest Egyptian sculptures are purely symbolic, and on the oldest monuments consist of a mere • outline of the form made by a wedge-like incision ; the same peculiarity belongs to the earliest engravings. The rilievo on shell or agate, no adrantage being yet taken of the different shades in either of those substances by the

« PredošláPokračovať »