« PreviousContinue »
remarkably large nose, and was much displeased if any one peared to observe it. This, perhaps, may be attributed, in a certain degree, to his fondness for a pot of porter, to which it was his custom not unfrequently to resort, and which at all times he preferred to the more expensive beverage of wine, even though it might be splaced before him. He wore a wig tied or plaited behind into a knocker or club, and a triangular cocked hat, according to the cost tume of the tine.'
After this statement, and another which we shall presently notice, it is impossible not to feel a little surprise, that Mr. Wright should step forward, in the true drawcansir style, as the defender of Wilson from the imputation of low, coarse, and degrading habits. He expresses the greatest indignation at such accusations, and laments that one who had not
any known vice or immorality laid to his charge, should be handed down to posterity as a misanthrope,' a cynic,'-a porter-drinker,' —'a coarse man, whom one would take for the landlord of a public house,'' a mine host.'
All this he affects to consider as most unpardonable and * unfair,' after having made the concessions previously cited, and given, on unexceptionable authority, the following testi mony to the same facts.
As the fortunes of Wilson declined, (I had it from one who, when living, knew him intimately,) his manners and language became gross and depraved; of which his appearance, as he grew old, partook. His nose became very large and red, so much so, that boys in the street would call after hin' Nosey, with which he was greatly annoyed.'
Mr. Wright has, in fact, been doubly indiscreet; first, int bringing forward these minute circumstances; and, next, in endeavouring to explain them away. There was no necessity for any thing beyond a general allusion to the deplorable infir mities of a great man. The vascularity of his nose adds nothing to the general fact, except it be the wholesome but wellknown moral, that the habits of a sot betray themselves in the degradation of the outward appearance, and expose the delin quent to public ridicule.
We find, in the present volume, but little of that distinct and discriminating criticism which would enable us to lay before our readers a precise and satisfactory estimate of Wilson's real powers as a painter. Of such vague terms, as classical, grand, and original,' we can make nothing. A sound artist-like analysis of two or three of his best pictures, would have gone further than all the loose generalizations in which writers on Art are too apt to abound. Unfortunately, our own acquaintance
with Wilson's paintings is not sufficiently specific to justify us in venturing on the attempt to supply this deficiency; but, from what we are able to recollect, and from the fine engravings which are in every one's hands, we should infer, that, with high excellencies, he mingled marked defects. He is praised for his close observance of nature. This may be correct in respect of colouring, but, in the composition and effect of his pictures, we must confess that there is something that strikes us as mannered and artificial. There is a certain character in' his distribution of objects, as well as in his management of light and shade, that reminds us of scene-painting: he has little of the playfulness and undulation of nature in his forms and outline. He is never otherwise than artist-like, but he too often wants ease. He appears to us as inferior to Gainsborough in his feeling for simple nature, as he was below Poussin in his conception of classical antiquity; though, in a kind of middle style, he might be superior to them both. Mr. Wright introduces a criticism from a little work published some years ago, which, though he is pleased to pick a quarrel with some part of it, appears to us so able, that we shall adopt a few paragraphs in supply of our own deficiencies.
If other great masters possessed superior advantages of educa tion, Wilson enjoyed, in the highest degree, the power of discrimination; of seizing upon the grand features of nature, and tinging them with the genuine hue of the hour and season. His objects exhibit the largest forms; his colouring and effect, the simplest modifications, and the most expansive breadth, compatible with veracity. In the materials of his composition, in his mode of thinking, and of handling his pictures, he differs essentially from Claude; but in the expression of the sun and air, he is equal to that artist, and often superior to every other master... ... As the detail of local colours was incompatible with the breadth of his masses and the grandeur of his effect, in his superior compositions, his hues are general. But there is a freshness in. the shadowy verdure of his landscape, and a living glow in his skies, which produce all the effect of detail upon the eye....... Although, in the form of his trees, in ideas of colour, and composition, Wilson varies materially from Titian and Rubens; in decision of touch, and dauntless power of execution, he is entitled to rank with those great masters. So perfect was his sense of colour and effect, so quick the impression of the whole scene upon his eye, so voluble and full of character his pencil, that his pictures appear as if they had been pro duced without effort. In this he is superior to Claude, whose toil is visible amidst all the beauty and sublimity of his effect....... In what may be called the learning of his art, architectural introductions, ancient ruins, and classic embellishments, he is surpassed by Gaspar and Nicolo Poussin, by Grimaldi Bolonese, the Caracci, Domenichino, and by Claude. But this circumstance is no proof of natural inferiority in Wilson. The majority of these artists began to acquire that
species of knowledge early, and they continued their acquisitions through the whole of their course. They lived upon classic ground, among a people who loved art, and honoured its professors; and wherever they turned, the fairest remains of Grecian and Roman art met their eyes.......Contemplating such objects continually, designing from them in different views, and under every effect of light and shatlow, they every hour acquired a higher sense of the highest order of forms, or, in the schoolboy's phrase, got them off by heart, and had them ready at all times, to pour upon the canvas in the moment of composition.'
Wilson was fully aware of his peculiar excellence in aerial effect. He was intimate with Wright of Derby, and the latter having one day proposed an exchange of paintings- With all my heart,' replied Wilson; I will give you air, and you'll give me fire.' When Wilson was painting his Ceyx and Alcyone, he is said to have studied the broken surface and rich' tints of rotten cheese for effects of colour. He was, at least, more secure in this domestic contemplation, than in some of his rambles in search of the picturesque. He was one evening, while engaged in sketching on Hampstead Heath, rather roughly accosted by two ill-looking personages, who abruptly inquired what he was about.' Wilson, who could have no doubt of their sinister intentions, replied with great simplicity, that he was making drawings for the livelihood of his wife and children. How much,' it was asked, can you get for such drawings? I sell them at a shilling apiece,' was the reply. Wilson's shabby attire came in aid of his dexterous invention, and these amateurs of the highway turned aside in quest of more profitable prey.
Wilson and Sir Joshua Reynolds were not on the most cordial terms; and it now and then came to a little sparring with the gloves. When, at an academical dinner, the latter proposed, the health of Gainsborough as our best landscape painter, The
best portrait-painter, you mean, Sir Joshua,' was the prompt retort. Sir William Beechey, who knew Wilson intimately, gives a lamentable account of his situation at one period of his life, when the fifty pounds a year attached as salary to the office of librarian to the Royal Academy, seemed to be his only resource from absolute want. At this time, when distress compelled him to sell his drawings at half a crown, Paul Sandby, the well-known artist, highly to his honour, paid Wilson libeSuch was then the state rally for a considerable number.
of public taste, that, while this great artist was struggling with penury, Barrett was in the receipt of two thousand a year from the sale of his pictures; and Smith of Chichester gained the prize at the Royal Society, and won the race of popularity, against the painter of the Niobe and the Meleager. The follow
details of Wilson's convivial habits must close the present article.
Old Mr. Taylor, who copied the portrait after Mengs, under Wilson's own eye, says, it was the custom, according to the sociable manner of the day, for himself, Wilson, Hayman, Dr. Chauncey, and other artists and gentlemen attached to literature and art, to hold a meeting or club at the Turk's Head, in Gerrard Street, at which half a pint of wine was the allowance; and it was never observed that Wilson (however irregular on other occasions) was to be tempted to exceed this quantity. It was here that Hayman, one evening, rallying Wilson, by assigning to him the palm of dissoluteness, was retorted upon by Dr. Chauncey, to whom he had appealed, by the reply, It must be confessed, Hayman, that what you say of Wilson, would be true, if we put yourself out of the question..........
At one of the meetings at the Turk's Head, Cosway, the Academician, who had been at court, attended in all the gay costume of the drawing-room, with pink heels to his shoes, &c., but the room was so full he could not find a place. What,' said Frank Hayman, can nobody make room for the little monkey?' Wilson laughed, and exclaimed, How times and circumstances are changed; sure the world is turned topsy-turvy-formerly the monkey rode the bear, but here we have the bear upon the monkey. This set the table in a roar, in which Hayman joined heartily, and rising, shook hands with Cosway, who received him with the greatest familiarity and politeness, and instantly every chair in the room was at his service.'
A well engraved portrait of Wilson is prefixed, from the original painted by Mengs.
Art. III. 1. Strictures on the Plymouth Antinomians. By Joseph Cottle. Second Edition. 8vo. pp. 214. Price 5s. London. 1824. 2. The Moral Government of God in the Dispensation of the Gospel vindicated; in Observations on the System of Theology taught by: the Rev. Dr. Hawker. By Isaiah Birt. 12mo. pp. 92. London.
3. God the Doer of all Things: a Sermon. By Edward Thomas Vaughan, M.A. Vicar of St. Martin's, Leicester, &c. 8vo. pp. 40, London. 1823.
4. Strictures on the Rev. E. T. Vaughan's Sermon, entitled, "God the Doer of all things." By John Owen, Curate of Gadsby and Keyham, Leicestershire. 8vo. London. 1824.
WE approach with reluctance the subject to which these publications relate; but we cannot allow ourselves to let them pass altogether unnoticed. If heretofore there has been room to complain, that Antinomianism was a term of indefinite meaning, or that the thing itself was intangible, a something
hovering betwixt truth and error, which it was difficult to refer to its proper class of opinions,-that difficulty exists no longer. It has crawled forth into the day-light of the press. It has answered to its name, and boldly professes itself to be all that good men hesitated to believe that it could be.
The term Antinomian has unquestionably been misapplied, ignorantly and injuriously misapplied, on the mere ground of a tendency, real or supposed, in a certain style of preaching to relax the obligations to personal holiness. It has been too often employed to give edge to a sentence of opprobrium or a railing accusation" against ministers who, while earnestly, and perhaps too exclusively contending for the doctrines of Grace, symbolize on no one point with the Antinomian. Knowing this, some good people have affected to doubt whether the thing exists; whether Antinomianism is any thing more than the doctrines of the Gospel somewhat bunglingly preached, or imperfectly understood. The Antinomian preacher has been defended either as a man that meant well, though he might express himself unguardedly, or else, as having been misunderstood or misrepresented. And we believe that preachers of avowedly Antinomian character have been listened. to with a firm conviction on the part of a certain portion of their hearers, that they did not meau-and it would be maintained, could not mean-what their words conveyed, and what the preacher intended that they should convey. We deem it, then, of importance that it should be generally known, that such a heresy as Antinomianism is not merely possible, that it lives, and walks the earth, and is exerting its deadly influence on society; that it does not, as formerly, lurk behind. Cal-. vinism as its shadow, aping its form and gesture, but has set up for itself in the world, and opened its wares, and put up its own name as the vendor. In this point of view, these publications may be highly useful. For when it is once understood what Antinomianism is, and that the evil does exist, those who have hitherto treated as chimerical the danger of infection from such a disease, may possibly be put on their guard against its insidious approaches. It does not at first attack the vitals.
Flavel, in his "Blow at the Root," sums up the creed of the Antinomians of his day, in ten articles, which we believe may be considered as a fair representation of the system. They are as follows. 1. That the justification of the elect is eternal; that is, the act of God from all eternity. 2. That justification by faith is no more than a manifestation of eternal justification. 3. That men ought not to doubt of their faith. 4. That believers are not bound to confess or mourn for their sins, because