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Art. XIV. Rome at the Close of the Eighteenth Century !!!
Poem, with Notes. By Henry Tresham, Esq. R. A. 410. pp.
ciples, and who has seen the Alma Città di Roma in the state in which time and accident had left it, after having been sacked, plundered, and burned by antient Gauls, Huns, Goths, Vandals, and Austrians*, must feel indignant at the misery and devastation occasioned by the irruption of the mo. dern Gauls into Italy; and at the pillage and plunder of a city which had received them as friends.
The antient republican Romans, it is true, made conquests, and enriched themselves and their capital by the plunder of Greece and Egypt ; whither, as well as to other places, they went professedly with that intent: but the modern French republicans pretended to have no other view in entering foreign peaceable states, than that of giving liberty and equality to the inhabitants, and not only securing but augmenting the property of individuals. Alas! the Tree of Liberty in Rome, Naples, Venice, Holland, and Switzerland, has produced a fruit too sour and bitter for the palates of even the most hungry and beggarly common people.
The ingenious author of the poem before us, however, shall delineate his own feelings :
• Before the French had over-run Italy, the barely thinking of Roms filled the mind with an endless variety of delightful recollections. To realize the visions of imagination by a personal inspection of the riches of that Repository of Art, not the produce of one age, nor of one Nation, but the collective excellence of both the antient and the Modern World-to feast the eye on the vast accumulated specimens of the sublime and beautiful in Architecture, Sculpture, and Painting, were ideas that kindled curiosity, excited emulation, and enflamed the soul of sensibility with a desire to visit a City so renowned. What then must be the indignation of the Scholar, the Philosopher, and the Man of Taste, against the avaricious and crafty invaders of a Country, set as it were apart, a sacred depository for the trophies of intellectual energy? To attempt to palliate by recrimination is by no means just ; the rapacity of MUMMIUS at Corinth-the ostentatious triumph of Fulvius, conqueror of Etolia--the splendid robberies committed by Paulus Emilius on subduing the last King of Macedon-nor yet the conduct of Scipio at Carthage, are at all applicable to the question of French criminality. These antient Leaders fought against the well-armed, disciplined, and avowed enemies of their country: tke Achean league had drawn the combined forces of the Greeks to the neighbourhood of Corinth : and as to Carthage and Rome, their jealous acrimony
* Under the command of a General of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, the constable Duke of Bourbon.
was mutual; a General of the former had sworn eternal enmity to the Roman Republic, and each party on drawing the sword of exterme nation, had flung away the scabbard.
· Observe the devoted Citizens of modern Rome--Prayers to the Almighty are the only arms they make use of while the spoilers are at their gates !
• As justice is the permanent interest, so magnanimity of conduct constitutes the true glory of a State; and in vain shall conquerors endeavour to dazzle mankind by stripping the Cities which they subdue“ The calamities of other Nations can never become the ornaments of their own countries."
In the poetical description of an intercourse with antiquity by the medium of sculpture, (pp. 9 and 10,) the author seems animated with the true enthusiasm of a feeling artist :
· But not alone persuasive PAINTING sways
Kindle in icy hearts a transient blaze:
· Consuming sorrows heap'd on silver'd hairs,
« * The Museum Pio-CLEMENTINUM has been justly considered as the noblest repository of the remains of antient Sculpture that exists, It was commenced under the Pontificate of Clement the fourteenth: the present Pope, then Monsignor Braschi, treasurer and counsellor to GANGANELLI, zealously concurred in the splendid and useful projects of the Camera's purchasing the monuments of Art from those proprietors whom necessity, or caprice induced to sell, and who, by a judicious law, were prohibited from removing the treasures of Antiquity from the metropolis. A gallery was first formed near the cortile where the Apollo of Belvidere and the Laocoon had long excited admiration, a circular portico was added, the contiguous gal. kry continued, and the collection of statucs considerably augmented.'
The sighs of Saints, the Vestal's piercing moan,
That win Philosophy to Treason's arms.
• Rouse, sceptred chiefs, while chiefs ye yet remain,
Heal LATIUM's wounds, and give the World repose.'
• Historic truths, in colouring's pleasing vest,
• Themes Faith approves, and scenes the soul admires,
Seducing VANNI, anxious to diffuse
Guido all graceful, great VOLTERRA's might.' On the whole, this poem contains excellent principles, and many good lines, but is not polished throughout with equal care and felicity.
It is a melancholy reflection that Italy, the mother of arts, and the grand repository of their offspring, 'antient and modern, will be more materially and irrecoverably injured by the French revolution, than any other nation in Europe, or on the globe. Other countries, which have been plundered and impoverished by excessive contributions, the maintenance of armies, slaughter of inhabitants, &c. may recover as far as vegetation, populaticn, and industry are concerned: but how can Italy be indemnified for her losses, and for the diminution of her importance in the eyes of the most elegant and enlightened part of mankind ? It is in vain to expect that the matchless specimens of art, of which Italy has been robbed, will be of equal use to artists and to good taste elsewhere. The taste of Italy in the arts of architecture, sculpture, and painting, has been formed on antient models; that of France, on the conceptions of its own inhabitants in barbarous times. Will the French taste be corrected by the models of perfection which they have stolen, and mixed with productions of theirown country; to which latter their eyes have been so long accustomed, and which national vanity will always prefer? Though the French have given up Lulli and Rameau, for Gluck, Piccini, Haydn, and Paesiello, in musical composition, has this circumstance produced any effect on their taste and expression in singing ? And can a native of any other part of Europe hear an air tendre sung by a Frenchman without laughing?
The natives and foreign students resident at Rome had only to open their eyes, and they were sure of beholding excellence in antient sculpture and modern painting; in architectural remains of antiquity, and in edifices of modern times which were equally instructive. Now, will the French rebuild their churches, and fill them with the spoils of Italy, or imitations of them, in order to embellish that religion which they are trying to extirpate?
The depraved taste of France in architecture, sculpture, and painting, with all its agrémens, will never perhaps be sufficiently purified for general adoption by students from other countries, who may travel thither for improvement, as they formerly did to
Public Characters of 1798, 1799. Rome. Nor will it be easy for them to escape contamination from the colifichets, and the tawdry and affected ornaments of past times, which will be constantly in sight throughout the capital.
A beautiful view of the back of the Vatican is given as a frontispiece to Mr. Tresham's poem.-.As we think that there is sufficient merit in this production to deserve a second edition, we hope that the author will excuse us if we recommend the revision of a few harsh lines and incorrect accentuations of words : such as reservoir, p. 11. alcove, p. 12. and arcades, p. 13. Pope accents the last word differently :
“ Or call the winds through high ărcādes to roar.” (Epist.)
The wounding aspect of confirm’d despair!'
" Who for a father's grace his hopes may ground,
And for his pardon with their heads compound.” (Dryden.) These are slight errors, and easily corrected.
D!B....y Art. XV. Public Characters of 1998, 1799.-To be continued
annually. A New Edition, corrected and enlarged, to the 25th
March, 1799. 8vo. pp. 600. 8s. 6d. Boards. Phillips, &c.
curiosity, must evidently be in some respects imperfect and fallacious, when extended to a large circle. It is very liable to errors, because it will seldom be undertaken by those who are best qualified to give information; friends and enemies will be equally cautious of exposing themselves to the charges of violated confidence or wanton hostility; and the compiler of a work like the present must be contented to follow popular rumour, when he cannot be furnished with better materials. There is, in effect, little information in the volume before us that possesses the merit of novelty, the greater part of it having been retailed in newspapers or periodical pamphlets; and we do not perceive any excellence of composition, or happiness of expression, which can give grace or dignity to narratives, the subjects of which are familiar to the public. These remarks apply to the delineations of men truly eminent, whose actions and opinions excite an interest in every individual : but must owned that some personages are introduced, concerning whom the information is entirely new; and no part of it is more novel and surprizing than the intelligence of their 7