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A dome in the centre, deservedly praised,
Securely may meet in the very same pen. Come with me, and gaze on the beasts ; the hyenas, the leopards, and the tigers; but especially the lions. The keeper is now feeding them. Is there any thing that you have ever conceived of the monarch of the woods, that is not realized in that noble Nero? Regard his flowing mane, his giant limbs.
What a majesty in his mien! What an untameable glare in his lordly eye! His jaws are opening; what a deep, unearthly, scream-like roar! Even here it is terrible. · What must it be when resounding through the forest?
The serious spectator at such a scene as this traverses the wilds of Africa, with the missionary Campbell; or, familiar with Bible associations, goes back to the days of Daniel, when the Eternal laid his hand on the mouth of the lions, and the prophet of the Lord remained in safety among them.
Many of the different exhibitions which take place here are of an attractive character, but they are sad trespasses on the quietude and repose of the place, and prevent that neatness and order which might otherwise more universally prevail.
The Regent's Park and the Surrey Gardens afford much gratification, and should not be visited without some profitable reflection. The beasts and birds of the four quaters of the earth are here assembled, bearing witness, by their captivity, to the pre-eminence with which man has been endowed by his Creator. The swiftness of the giraffe and the ostrich; the soaring flight of the falcon and the eagle: the matchless strength of the rhinoceros and the elephant: and the rapacity of the tiger and the lion; have not been able to protect their possessors from becoming the captives of man. If, then, God has thus given to man dominion over the “ beasts of the field, and the fowls of the air," how grateful ought he to be for the gift of his pre-eminence ! and how anxious to use it to the glory of the Almighty Giver! If the Lord is “good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works,” how mindful ought man to be, to exercise forbearance, and kindness, and mercy, to every creature committed to his care!
THE NATIONAL GALLERY.
The National Gallery of Paintings that I am about to visit, is in the new building there, with the Corinthianpillared portico, erected on the site of the Riding-school of the Royal Mews, Charing Cross. The building, though a fine one, is not considered equal to its national object; and it is expected that another edifice will be erected as a more worthy representative of the taste, enterprise, and resourses of the British nation. Had Mr. Angerstein, who collected the principal paintings now placed therein, lived to see them in this national edifice, it might have made him proud ; but he is gone where pride is unknown, and where we shall shortly follow,
our days upon earth are a shadow," Job viii. 9. Mr. Angerstein was a gentleman of great property ; he was, also, an ardent admirer of talent, and with an
unsparing hand he gave of his abundance to obtain paintings of the first masters. Favourable opportunities presenting themselves, he amassed a splendid collection of pictures, principally of the Italian school. These pictures, after his death, were purchased by the British government, at the suggestion of lord Liverpool, then first lord of the treasury. The foundation of a national gallery of pictures now being laid, munificent donors came forward with their gifts, and thus, with a few other government purchases, the present collection of paintings has been formed.
This is a goodly area, and St. Martin's Church, the club-houses, Northumberland House, the equestrian statue of king Charles, and the pillar erecting to the memory of Nelson, all add to its imposing appearance. But now let me mount up the steps to the entrance of the National Gallery. Many others, I see, are shaping their course in that direction.
The National Gallery and the exhibition of the Royal Academy are both under the roof of the same building, and here, in the summer months, especially in May and June, a continual throng of visitors from town and country may seen. Nobility in their corneted carriages; gentry in their several vehicles, and tradespeople, country folk, young persons, and well-dressed domestics in their holiday clothes on foot. At this moment, the sunny sky is covered with dappled clouds, the foot-paths are crowded with well-dressed people, and a buoyant heart is bounding in my bosom.
The paintings in the National Gallery are by no means numerous, though in point of excellence they are entitled to high consideration. It is scarcely necessary to say that the difference between the National Gallery and the exhibition of the Royal Academy is this :—the latter contains the works of modern painters, and is opened only for a month or two in the year, on payment of a shilling, while the former consists, for the most part, of the works of ancient masters, and is open gratuitously for a much longer period....
There are very many who affect a knowledge of paintings; very few who really possess it. Among the countless admirers of Rubens, and Raphael, Angelo, Claude, and Titian, not one in ten, perhaps, is able to distinguish a copy from an original. That the generality of people should know but little of an art with which they seldom come into contact, is nothing wonderful, nor is it by any means a reflection upon them. Ignorance, is only discreditable to those who have neglected proper opportunities to become wise ; but when we affect to know what we know not, and to explain to others what we do not ourselves understand, we lay ourselves open to just reproach.
Well do I remember that in walking with a party through the different apartments of a certain castle, many years ago, a young man of agreeable person and manners took on himself to point out to us the most valuable paintings in the picture gallery—to explain their subjects, and to make known to the uninitiated the style and peculiarities of the several artists, whose wonder-working hands had flung on the canvass such vivid representations of breathing things. But though he boldly ventured on his enterprise, it was soon perceived by more than one of his auditory, that he had undertaken much more than he could creditably perform: presuming on the want of knowledge in those around him, he blundered on till a remark or two from a more diffident character than himself, constrained him to give up his enterprise, and to fall into the rear of the party.
It is easy to mingle with common-place remarks such terms as “ keeping," “ breadth of light," “ chiaroobscuro," " depth of colouring," and " perspective," and to talk of the “ formal power of the Florentine school,” the “ dignity, grace, and matchless majesty of the Roman," and “the blazing splendour of the Venetian," because these terms may be gained without a knowledge of the things signified. Most of us in our boyish days, have read in Enfield's Speaker, of the would be critic, who so learnedly spoke of " the colouring of Titian—the expression of Rubens—the grace of Raphael—the purity of Dominichino--the corregiosity of Correggio—the learning of the Poussins-the airs of Guido—the taste of the Caracci—and the grand contour of Angelo."
Were I to attempt to pass myself off as a painter, it would soon be discovered how little claim I had to such a distinction. The advantage, however, of having visited the National Gallery before, will enable me to make a few observations that may not be useless to the reader who is a stranger to the place. With upright intentions and kindly feeling, 'a very little knowledge may be turned to a good account.
There are those who, catalogue in hand, can go through a picture gallery in a straightforward way, beginning at number one, and proceeding without omission to the end; but my pleasure is doubled in feeling at liberty to rove where I list, to wander as freely as I would in a flower garden. I am now opposite Hogarth's pictures of Marriage à la Mode.