Billeder på siden

miss the subject, if not with their former panegyrics, with a flippant indulgericè half-ashamed of itself. But this style is utterly unworthy of a subject so important to the manners and liv terary character of a nation, and serves no purpose but to expose the critic and make the very dramatists despise him. The Editor of the REFLECTOR, occupied in another work with exposing the grinning monsters that are every day given to the world as representations of nature, does not intend to particularize so much in the Magazine :-he will do his best to review the quarterly the. atricals in their general character, with less of minute, but more of comparative and didactic criticism. The theatres, in their proper statė, afford a most instructive as well as amusing course of lessons to a cultivated nation, not, as their enemies insinuate, because they pretend to teach morals better than religion itself, but because they exhibit our virtues in social action and instruct us in that kind of wisdom, which, without being worldly-mind. ed, is so adapted to keep us in proper harmony with the world. But occupied as they have been for years past with mere carica.. ture, they obtain neither the social nor the sentimental end of the drama,, they show us neither what we are nor what we ought to be. A person, wishing to be profited by modern comedy, might amuse and edify himself just as well by making all sorts of faces in a looking-glass. When SIAKSPEARE appears now and then in the list of performances, he looks like a sage in a procession of merry-andrews, and is suffered to pass by with little more than a cold respect. He carries too great an air of truth, and does not make people laugh enough. This is the more to be lamented, since a taste for the drama is never so easily and entirely vitiated, as when self_love is left undisturbed to its frivolous enjoyments, when advice thinks only how it shall appear ridiculous, and satire grows powerless from neglecting it's real objects. The better part of the town have acquired sense enough to despise these things, critically speaking, but if they still con- . tinue to be amused by them, they will only be despised in their turn, as one of the dramatists plainly hinted the other day in a preface. You may hold a fool in a contemptible light, but when you condescend to laugh and be on a level with him, he is more than even with your contempt.

The Fine Arts are in a very different state from the Drama, and demand a different mode of treatment. The latter is in it's second infancy with all the vices of a frivolous dotage, and must, if possible, be ground young again :-the former are in their first infancy and must be handled more tenderly, though at the same time with no vicious indulgence. The Proprietors need not descant on the want of all ardour upon this head in our periodical works. It is said that the country at present has no


notion of a taste for art; and WINCKELMANN, who from con. tinually contemplating the southern sumshine, seems to have looked upon us with spots before his eyes, said that it always did and always would want a taste, from the nature of it's climate. He forgot that our poets have never been surpassed; that Paris, which was the focus of literary taste, is in the same latitude with Tartary; and that Athens is situate beneath a fickle sky. There are, no doubt, several obstructions in the way of modern art, and among them, however trivial it may appear at first sight, the constrained and concealing style of mo. dern dress is a formidable hindrance to the attainment of a no.. ble and familiar mastery of form. But these disadvantages have become common to all Europe. A fine climate, an enlivening sunshine, an atmosphere, free and lucid, through which objects become pictures, may certainly dispose the mind to it's own enjoyment and the fancy to an undisturbed leisure of creation; and from this circumstance it is likely, that taste and a love of genius will be more diffused among warm countries than others. But there are minds that are above all circumstances of this kind, in regard to genius, and there will be always a sufficient number of such minds in an intellectual nation, if they exert themselves as they ought, and call forth the public attention. It is go. vernmentnot easy or happy government in particular, but government of a disposition to patronize, or of a nature to rouse emulation, that has the greatest influence in these matters. In fact, how came WINCKELMAYN himself, a Prussian by birth and education, to be the most enthusiastic, some say the best, con. noisseur of his time? Or how is it that Flanders has produced better painters than all the south of Europe, Italy excepted ? Or how is it again, that the Arabs, the Persians, and all the most refined Eastern nations, have never produced a single painter? Man may be the slave of error, of political circumstance, or of himself; but none but a few hypochondriacs are the slaves of clouds and weather-glasses. The British, it must be confessed, have at present no very great love for the arts ; but, nevertheless, they have a much greater than formerly. There was a time when Italy herself wanted taste: it was cre. ated by a few great artists, and so it must be in other coun. tries, just as poets and not critics create rules and a taste for poetry. Patronage is generally languid in it's birth, and if it does not easily spring up, it must be forced by genius itself. This is the idea a young artist should always have of patronage and of the means of obtaining it. Since WINCKELMANN's tine', his assertion has been disproved, in the best way, by the repu. tations of REYNOLDS, BARRY, Wilson, and West, the Fathers


of the English school of painting. These celebrated men have laid a noble foundation, and every thing calls upon their suc. céssors to finish the structure-the example already set them, the promise afforded by themselves, the encouraging dawn of public patronage, and the rivalry of the French nation, whom we must endeavour to conquer with mind, now that we see it cannot be done with money.

The Editor has enlarged on these three subjects, because the first is of most immediate importance, and the two others require most immediate care. They will by no means, however, occupy the largest part of the work, the principal feature of which will be Miscellaneous Literature, consisting of Essays on Men and Manners, Enquiries into past and present Litera. ture, and all subjects relative to Wit, Morals, and a true Refinement. There will be no direct Review of Books, but new works, as far as they regard the character of the times, will meet with passing notice; and occasional articles will be written to shew the peculiar faults or beauties, injuriousness or utility, of such as have strongly attracted the public attention. In order to obtain proper room for this variety, the REFLECTOR will consist entirely of Original Articles, written purposely for the work, to the exclusion of unnecessary matter, of plagiarisms rom Newspapers and Reviews, and of long extracts from books of the day. The Editor will never be tempted to supply the deficiencies of matter, or to serve the purposes of literary quacks, by such letters as, “Sir, permit me to recommend to the notice of your impartial and enlightened readers,” or,66 Mr. Editor,--Sir, allow me through the medium of your invaluable Miscellany,” &c. &c. These are the first tricks to be reformed, both on the side of Editor and Correspondent, as tending to degrade the true spirit of literature. will be wasted on market prices, or stock-prices, or accounts of the weather, or histories of fashion, or obituaries that give a few weeks renown for so many shillings. Hides and velvet. cellars have, it is true, their rise and fall as well as kingdoms, but then they have distinct interests of their own and should be left to their respective professors : the REFLECTOR is deter. mined not to shew it's ignorance on the subject, and will de. viate neither iuto patterns, nor whip-clubs, nor portraits of “ public characters," nor, in short, into any embellishments”. whatever, but such as may be supplied by the wit and knowledge of it's Correspondents. The trifles of an age have undoubtedly their connection, sometimes too great a one, with it's general character, and they may be handed down as a part of the portrait, just as our ancestors come down to us in their


[ocr errors]

Not a page

[ocr errors]

rufiles and periwigs; but the best artists are not those who at.
tend most to these decorations; the true spirit of the likeness
is in the man himself-in his air and attitude--und in the mind
that looks out of his general aspect. In a word, it is this mind,

which the REFLECTOR will endeavour to pourtray; and the Pro.

prietors will spare no industry, the only talent for which they

can vouch, to delineate and to call forth the proper expression in

those features of the age, which regard its present interests with

mankind and it's future character with posterity.

[ocr errors]

[It is proper to mention, that it is not intended in general to
give more than 15 sheets, or 240 pages, in each Number; the
present one has gone to a greater extent, on account of the uner.
pected length of some of the Articles.]

[ocr errors][merged small]
« ForrigeFortsæt »