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sion, have done incalculable good; but the manly avowal just quoted, proves their conviction, that they cannot, of themselves, with their own limited resources, effect their noble object; and that they have, all along, looked to the GOVERNMENT of the country for its accomplishment,
The right honourable the Select Committee of the House of Commons, on the Elgio Marbles, concluded their report with the following observations : Your Committee cannot dismiss this interesting subject, without submitting to the attentive reflection of the House, HOW HIGHLY the cultivation of the fine arts has contributed to the REPUTATION, CHARACTER, and DIGNITY of EVERY GOVERNMENT by which they have been encouraged, and how intimately they are connected with the advancement of EVERY THING VALUABLE IN SCIENCE, LITERATURE, and PHILOSOPHY. In contemplating the importance and splendour to which SO SMALL A REPUBLIC AS ATHENS rose, by the GENIUS and ENERGY of HER CITIZENS, exerted in the path of such studies, it is impossible to overlook how transient the memory and fame of extended empires, and of mighty conquerors are, in comparison with those who have rendered inconsiderable states eminent, and immortalized their own names by these pursuits. But if it be true, as we learn from history and, experience, that free governments afford a soil most suitable to the production of native talent, to the maturing of the powers of the human mind, and to the growth of every species of excellence, by OPENING to MERIT THE PROSPECT of REWARD and DISTINCTION, no country can be better adapted than our own to afford an honourable asylum to these monuments of the school of Phidias and of the administration of Pericles; where, secure from
further injury and degradation, they may receive that admiration and homage to which they are entitled, and serve in return as MODELS and EXAMPLES to those, who, by knowing how to revere and appreciate them, may learn first to imitate, and, ultimately, TO RIVAL THEM." ;
Nothing can be more just or convincing than the above, coming from so high an authority as a Select Committee, and addressed to a British House of Commons, the first legislative body in the universe. The Elgin marbles were purchased as a means for an end. But how can the British artists rival those of Greece and Italy, so long as the sources of public patronage, which “ raised and rewarded the Grecian and Italian masters,” are walled up in this country by the church exclusion of pictures, and that the Government bebolds the evil without a remedy?
The right honourable Frederick Robinson, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, made the following wise observations in the House of Commons, on the 23d of Feb. 1824, when introducing the wish of Government to purchase the ANGERSTEIN collection of paintings :-“ Looking at the connection of the arts with the glory of the nation, and with every thing that dignifies and ennobles man in his individual capacity, he deemed it consistent with the principles which a great nation ought to adopt, to stand forward as THE PATRON OF THE ARTS, and to GIVE LARGELY to THEIR SUPPORT.” (Cheers.) “ Ministers felt that where a LARGE COLLECTION of VALUABLE PICTURES was offered for sale, there were many motives of liberal policy, inviting the FORMATION OF A NATIONAL GALLERY.” .. · These are, indeed, the liberal sentiments of an enlightened and able statesman. It is impossible to read them without feeling a sentiment of esteem and regard for the speaker
But all these provident and invaluable purchases, the highminded principle and public spirit of which cannot be too warmly applauded, are avowedly only a means “ to raise and reward” British art and British artists, and to excite them to equal the artists of Greece and Italy. They are but the weapons to enable the British empire to win the most splendid of all her victories--the bridge over which she is to pass to the field of her proudest glory-Yet, at the very time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was acquiring such well merited-honours for himself and the ministers, in fulfilling his Majesty's gracious and paternal desire in favour of the British school, the BRITISH PUBLIC STYLE was on the point of extinction! The most promising students of history painting bad made their escape from the historical field! HAYDON, who, with unshaken firmness had clung to that forlorn bope, was fast sinking, in the prime of his life and powers, into the gripe of bailiffs, and on the verge of a prison ! NORTHCOTE, the painter of the death of Wat Tyler, a picture which would have obtained distinction in any age or nation, was painting for publishers, or without a commission, on the precarious prospect of chance purchasers! The Great Master, who had been for nearly half a century historical painter to the late King, the venerable founder and father of British historical painting, who had been for a long series of years looked up to as the acknowledged head of the fine arts in this country; the honoured President of the Royal Academy of painting, sculpture and architecture in England, the grand series of whose historical pictures, and the prints engraved' from them, bad far spread the fame of England in the arts through the world—this distinguished artist had not been dead full three years, and he too was apparently forgotten! The splendid gallery, containing an accumulated treasure of his historical piotures, the profound labours of fifty years, was, at that very hour, when the right bonourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer was so eloquently and justly urging the advantages of a NATIONAL GALLERY, wbolly DESERTED BY THE PUBLIC; and seemingly unthought of by the government, in the hurry and effervescence of its comprehensive plans for the national improvement and glory.
Englapd is in a fortunate situation for adopting a great national measure, with respect to historical painting, in the noble plan of A NATIONAL GALLERY. The most august personage in the state bas graciously manifested his attachment to the fine arts, and his paternal desire for their cultivation by British artists, as elevated moral instruments of national improvement and glory. The Administration, the Legislature, and the British Institution, have zealously concurred in this truly royal desire, and have promulgated, in different forms, the same high-minded sentiment. They have auspiciously followed up the purchase of the Townley, Phygalian, and Elgin marbles, by the purchase of the Angerstein collection of paintings, as the commencement of a NATIONAL GALLERY. In all these invaluable acquisitions for the public service, they have richly merited, and received, the thanks of their country, in spirit, though not in form. In this warm sense of gratitude we have cordially joined our very humble feelings. But a strange notion is current in certain circles, that England can acquire the glory of a genius for the bighest excellence in the arts, by further purchases of fine pictures and statues from Greece, Italy, and France, with-. out applying any of her immense means in public patronage to cultivate the grand style, and raise and reward her native artists in that department. It may be quite right to
extend our purchases and importations of fine pictures and statues in due season; but we cannot help thinking, that the British artists in the highest class, are objects of present consideration, as the primary means by which the British empire can acquire true national glory in the noblest subjects of painting and sculpture, and can accomplish her great and praiseworthy object of vieing with the artists of Greece and Italy.
The praise of superior intellect, the glory of genius, is a possession beyond all price; a distinction from heaven, which cannot be purchased by individuals or by nations, however powerful. England possesses more fame from the circumstance of Othello, Lear, and the other dramatic works of our great poet, having been written by an Englishman, than she would acquire by the purchase of the imperial library at Vienna, and of the royal library in the Louvre at Paris. The possession of such a vast accession of literary treasures on every subject, would be an immense advantage, yet what Englishman would exchange the honour of being the countryman of Shakspeare for his share of the real or supposed honour of two such purchased importations? Greece derived more honour from the Iliad, as the production of a Greek poet, than the Ptolemies acquired by the purchase of the many hundred thousand volumes in the Alexandrian library. Did the bookseller who paid ten pounds for the manuscript of Milton's Paradise Lost, acquire the glory of that sublime poem by his purchase ? Surely not. Can England sell or alienate the national glory which she derives from the compositions of Shakspeare and Milton? No; certainly. Can France barter away or transfer the national glory which she derives from the dramatic works of Racine or Corneille? Again we reply in the negative. The purchase