« ForrigeFortsett »
I have nothing more to add, but, having swelled this work to five hundred and fifty-five papers, they will be disposed into seven volumes, four of which are already published, and the three others in the press. It will not be demanded of me why I now leave off, though I must own myself obliged to give an account to the town of my time hereafter; since I retire when their partiality to me is so great, that an edition of the former volumes of Spectators, of above nine thousand each book, is already sold off, and the tax of each half-sheet has brought into the stamp-office, one week with another, above 201. a week arising from the single paper, notwithstanding it at first reduced it to less than half the number that was usually printed before the tax was laid.
I humbly beseech the continuance of this inclination to favour what I may hereafter produce, and hope I have in my occurrences of life tasted so deeply of pain and sorrow, that I am proof against much more prosperous circumstances than any ad, vantages to which my own industry can possibly exalt me.
My good-natured reader,
RICHARD STEELE, Vos valete et plaudite. Ter,
The following letter regards an ingenious set of gentlemen, who have done me the honour to make me one of their society, MR. SPECTATOR,
(Dec. 4, 1712, • The academy of painting, lately established in London, having done you and themselves the honour to choose you one of their directors;
that noble and lively art, which before was entitled to your regard as a Spectator, has an additional claim to you, and you seem to be under a double obligation to take some care of her interests.
• The honour of our country is also concerned in the matter I am going to lay before you. We (and perhaps other nations as well as we) have a national false humility as well as a national vain glory; and, though we boast ourselves to excel all the • world in things wherein we are outdone abroad, in other things we attribute to others a superiority which we ourselves possess. This is what is done, particularly in the art of portrait or face-painting.
Painting is an art of a vast extent, too great by much for any mortal man to be in full possesion of in all its parts; it is enough if any one succeed in painting faces, history, battles, landscapes, seapieces, fruit, flowers, or drolls, &c. Nay, no man ever was excellent in all the branches (though many in number) of these several arts, for a distinct art I take upon me to call every one of those several kinds of painting.
• And as one man may be a good landscape painter, but unable to paint a face or a history tolerably well, and so of the rest; one nation may excel in some kinds of painting, and other kinds may thrive better in other climates.
* Italy may have the preference of all other nations for history painting; Holland for drolls, and a neat finished manner of working; France for gay, janty, fluttering pictures; and England for portraits; but to give the honour of every one of these kinds of painting to any one of those nations on account of their excellence in any of these parts of it, is like adjudging the prize of heroic, dramatic, lyric, or burlesque poetry, to him who has done well in any one of them.
Where there are the greatest geniuses, and most helps and encouragements, it is reasonable to suppose an art will arrive to the greatest perfection: by this rule let us consider our own country with respect to face-painting. No nation in the world delights so much in having their own, or friends' or relations' pictures; whether from their national goodnature, or having a love to painting, and not being encouraged in the great article of religious pictures, which the purity of our worship refuses the free use of, or from whatever other cause. Our helps are not inferior to those of any other people, but rather they are greater; for what the antique statues and bas-reliefs which Italy enjoys are to the historypainters, the beautiful and noble faces with which England is confessed to abound are to face-painters; and, besides, we have the greatest number of the works of the best masters in that kind of any people, not without a competent number of those of the most excellent in every other part of painting. And for encouragement, the wealth and generosity of the English nation affords that in such a degree as artists have no reason to complain.
And accordingly, in fact, face-painting is no where so well performed as in England: I know not whether it has lain in your way to observe it, but I have, and pretend to be a tolerable judge. I have seen what is done abroad; and can assure you that the honour of that branch of painting is justly due to us.
I appeal to the judicious observers for the truth of what I assert. If foreigners have oftentimes, or even for the most part, excelled our natives, it ought to be imputed to the advantages they have met with here, joined to their own ingenuity and industry; nor has any one nation distinguished themselves so as to raise an argument in favour of their country: but it is to be observed that neither French nor Italians, nor any one of either nation, notwithstanding all our prejudices in their favour, have, or ever had, for any considerable time, any character among us as face-painters.
This honour is due to our own country, and has been so for near an age: so that, instead of going to Italy, or elsewhere, one that designs for portraitpainting ought to study in England. Hither such should come from Holland, France, Italy, Germany, &c. as he that intends to practise any other kinds of painting should go to those parts where it is in the greatest perfection. It is said the blessed virgin descended from heaven to sit to St. Luke. I dare venture to affirm that, if she should desire another Madonna to be painted by the life, she would come to England; and am of opinion that your present president, Sir Godfrey Kneller, from his improvement since he arrived in this kingdom, would perform the office better than any foreigner living. I am, with all possible respect,
most obedient servant, &c.'
The ingenious letter signed The Weather Glass, with several others, were received, but came too late.
POSTCRIPT. It had not come to my knowledge, when I left off the Spectator, that I owe several excellent sen, timents and agreeable pieces in this work to Mr. Ince, of Gray's Inn.*
* This was the conclusion of the seventh volume of the Spectator, as originally publislied. The intermediate time was filled up by our authors with the Guardian. See Preface to this edition.
N° 556. FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 1714.
Qualis ubi in lucem coluber mala gramina pastus
VIRG. Æn, ji. 471.
DRYDEN, UPON laying down the office of Spectator, I acquainted the world with my design of electing a new club, and of opening my mouth in it after a most solemn manner.
Both the election and the ceremony are now past; but not finding it so easy, as I at first imagined, to break through a fifty ycars' silence, I would not venture into the world under the character of a man who pretends to talk like other people, until I had arrived at a full freedom of speech.
I shall reserve for another time the history of such club or clubs of which I am now a talkative but unworthy member; and shall here give an account of this surprisiug change which has been produced in me, and which I look upon to be as remarkable an accident as any recorded in history, since that which happened to the son of Cræsus, after having been many years as much tongue-tied as niyself.
Upon the first opening of my mouth I made a