The correctness of the principles enunciated in the preceding sections, will be most satisfactorily proved by a reference to some examples of the most striking and successful efforts in each of the arts, which will afford an illustration of the combined operation of each of these principles together in the same composition, and of the results arising from their observance.
One of the greatest masters in painting, as regards the power of representing human character and feelings in all their varieties, was Rembrandt. His celebrated etching of ‘The Triumph of Mordecai,’ is a very admirable example of his skill in this respect. The great diversity of characters introduced, the individuality with which each is endowed, the different feelings so powerfully depicted which animate each breast, are exhibited in the most striking, though natural manner. Thus, the humbled pride of the haughty Haman, the modest gratification of the virtuous Mordecai, the rude boisterous exultation of the crowd who are spectators of the procession, are each very forcibly expressed, and to each countenance the character appropriate to it is annexed ; to which, moreover, the attitude and demeanour of every figure, as well as the composition as a whole, extensively contribute.
The renowned etching by Rembrandt, which represents Christ healing the sick, commonly called ‘The Hundred Guilder Piece,’ is another composition of the same kind, exhibiting in the varied expression of the different figures and countenances, an extraordinary display both of character and emotion. Indeed, each figure and each feature will be observed to be endowed with its distinct and appropriate and very forcible expression. A few strokes serve to mark out the leading traits of what the artist intended, and suggest far more than they actually portray.
In this celebrated composition, our Saviour stands in the centre of the piece, a tall and dignified figure, but without any very marked features in his countenance. His face is, however, mild, and his attitude is compassionate, stretching forth his right hand towards a poor woman who is approaching him with a sick child in her arms. By his side an aged female is kneeling in the attitude of intense supplication, her bare arms extended eagerly towards him. Behind her is a man imploring pity on a sick person who has been brought on a bed placed upon a barrow. Adjoining the latter is a striking form of an old blind man, a stick in his left hand by which he steers his way, and his right hand guided by an old woman at his side with an anxious countenance, apparently his wife. Another female form is kneeling in front of the Saviour with clasped hands ; and beside her a poor woman is falling backwards, apparently fainting, at the Saviour’s feet. To the extreme right is a group of persons with a camel, friends of the sick, or spectators of the scene. And to the extreme left is a group of elderly men, apparently persons of rank, who are eagerly discussing with varied sentiments the power and authority of Christ. Others are silently and eagerly looking on, intent upon the scene. An old man at the Saviour’sright-hand, and close to him, seems incredulous as to the reality of the miracle which the generality present appear to be anticipating.
The most perfect example, however, of supreme excellence in this high branch of art, is the great painter Raphael, in those most splendid of his vast productions, his cartoons, which are emanations from a mind of the highest genius, and possessing an intimate knowledge of all the most important and noble principles of art, and which consequently afford the richest and most profitable field for contemplation and study, as regards the department of the arts now under consideration.
Raphael’s great merit appears to me mainly to consist in his uniting so much force and truth in the representation of character, with such chasteness, dignity, and simplicity, as regards the general design of his subject. He is always powerful, but never extravagant ; his countenances are endowed with a dignity superior to that of ordinary man, but they are nevertheless never at variance with what we experience in nature. Every passion and character he exhibits to the full, but he never degenerates into deformity or caricature. He is at once the most intellectual of painters as regards the endowments of mind which he confers on his characters, and the most natural as regards the truth with which he delineates the visible expression of their feelings and countenances. He often much moves, but he never displeases us, by the vehemence of the passions which he represents. We are frequently astonished, but never disgusted by the harrowing scenes that he describes. And in the narration of the story, there is a clearness and simplicity which add immensely to its force. His characters are real, because all collected from the stores of nature; but they are also at the same time ideal, because never in nature are so many excellences combined in one object. From the halo thrown around his works by the radiance of his genius, his children are elevated into cherubs, his women into angels, and his men into divinities.
The first of the productions of Raphael to which I shall here advert, is his cartoon of ‘ Paul Preaching at Athens,’ to the composition of which I alluded in a former chapter. The character of St. Paul, as he is here described, is of the utmost dignity and sublimity. He is at once perceived to be the principal figure in the group, his prominence in which is aided by his position on an eminence above the others; and the various personages in it, by their posture, and from their attention being evidently turned towards him, each contribute to mark him out as an individual of the highest importance in the transaction.
His attitude denotes that he is addressing with great earnestness, suitable to the feelings which we are told were then ex-cited in his breast, those assembled around him, who must be supposed to consist of persons of a superior grade and order in life, and to comprise individuals of several different sects and parties, who would be variously affected by the discourse. The subject on which he is haranguing them is of the utmost possible importance, and of the most exalted nature.
In the countenance of St. Paul, energy, goodness, dignity, and intellectual power, are very finely depicted and blended together. He appears by the force of his eloquence to have entirely absorbed the attention of his audience. And although the account which we have received of him describes him as a man of small stature, and mean in his appearance ; yet with respect to the general character which by the sacred historian is attributed to him of uncompromising boldness in the cause he had espoused, and as regards also his powerful and eloquent address, we find him correspondingly and correctly here portrayed. The great artist, in his delineation of him, seems to aim at conveying to us ideas rather of his intellectual character and endowments, than of his personal appearance; his object has been to afford to us through the latter a motive more of his mental than his material frame; and he has thus rendered him one of the most sublime and noble characters which has adorned any representation of this kind.
It might be laid down as a general rule, or the principle may be deduced from these great works of Raphael, as well as from certain other eminent performances in different branches of the arts, that in the delineation of the principal person in the transaction, whose character and intellectual qualities are so important with regard to the whole, these latter endowments should be described so as to afford us a just and ample notion of them ; while, in the representation of the subordinate persons, their passions and feelings, more especially as these have been excited by the conduct of the principal individual in the transaction, are what mainly require to be exhibited.
Although there may perhaps be several exceptions to this rule pointed out, and that even in the works of Raphael, yet it is undoubtedly peculiarly applicable to the composition before us, as also to the characters described by some of our greatest poets.
The leading emotions denoted both by the attitude and countenance of the man whose hands are raised, and of the woman by his side, both of them being placed to the right of St. Paul, are those of astonishment admiration and awe, excited by what they have heard. The mind of each of them appears riveted to the subject, and their feelings are evidently strongly roused. These persons are intended to represent Dionysius and Damaris, who, we are told, were among those upon that occasion converted to Christianity.
The expression of thoughtfulness mixed with incredulity and malignity displayed in the countenance of the old man leaning on a staff is very fine ; he is evidently much moved by what he has heard, although apparently unwilling to be persuaded. He appears rather, indeed, to be meditating for arguments in refutation of the doctrines which have been delivered, than desirous of examining them with candour, and seems perplexed by the subject. The emotion which is exhibited in the face of the man who is sitting on the steps behind St. Paul, with his hand clenched and placed before his mouth, marks strongly the anger and contempt which he feels both for the Apostle’s discourse, and on account of the effect which it has produced among his hearers. His features are quite distorted by the intenseness of his agitation, and passion and excitement are strongly displayed in them. Various sentiments appear to pervade the different spectators in the group, according to the manner in which the precepts of the Apostle were received by them. In this, as in other compositions by the same great master, it may be observed that the several characters and feelings represented both serve to set-off each other, and to aid the effect of the whole.
The cartoon intended to represent ‘Christ’s Charge to Peter,’ or the delivery of the keys, is one of the most perfect, and in all respects admirable among them.* The qualities of benignity, affection, and mildness, are strongly marked in the countenance of our Saviour, while, pointing to the flock of sheep near them, he is about to address St. Peter, who is kneeling before him. There is great majesty, unmixed with pride, in the expression of Christ, and much kindness and gentleness without any mark of effeminacy. The face of St. Peter is full of enthusiasm and devotion, and denotes the strongest feelings of awe and affection. The whole head is very finely drawn, and displays much of the character of St. Peter, as he is de-scribed to us. Although there is a considerable dignity in his countenance, yet it is at the same time expressive of deep humility, and his whole appearance coincides with what we have learnt of his conduct and disposition.
The ether persons in the group, who represent the Apostles, and the head of the old man in the back part of it, who is noting with the most marked attention what is passing, are exquisitely portrayed ; and the variety of characters among them which we may observe to be depicted with the greatest perspicuity and effect, affords another excellent example of the mode of representing a scene of this importance and dignity, by the great artist who produced the work.
In the cartoon of ‘ The Lame Man Healed,’ at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, there are some very fine examples of the manner of exhibiting the character and feelings of the persons represented in a transaction of moment. The countenance of the man who has just been restored to a sound state, and who forms the principal figure in the composition, is expressive of the greatest degree of joy and wonder at his deliverance, and of gratitude towards his benefactor. He appears to feel conscious of his cure, and as though he perceived that the disease had been extirpated from his frame by the agency of the Apostle. The face of this man is suitable to the rank he is supposed to hold, and possesses none of the intellectual dignity or superiority which is displayed in the countenance of some of those to whom I have already referred. The expression of the other beggar, who is seen behind the Apostle, is strongly characterized by malignity and superstitious degradation; his eye is fixed upon the Apostle, and he appears enraged at the preference shown to the man whose limbs have been re-stored. His general character, which is forcibly exhibited both in his features and in the attitude and figure he displays, is brutal and ferocious.
The cartoon from which I have selected these two figures for examination, is one of the most striking among the number; both as regards the development of the character and feelings: of the persons represented, and the mode in which the artist has contrived to narrate with the utmost effect and propriety the transaction intended to be described.
The next of these splendid masterpieces of art, from which we may select examples in illustration of the principles which I have been adducing, is that which represents ‘ The Death O Ananias, who appears the principal figure in the composition, and who is falling down lifeless at the words of St. Peter. In his countenance meanness and hypocrisy are forcibly delineated; and feelings of mental anguish and despair, as well as of corporeal suffering, seem to be struggling together. We may perceive from the condition of his features that he has already ceased to breathe ; his eyes have become dim, and his countenance is inanimate, though still retaining the cast which his previous state of mind had given to it. His whole figure and attitude contribute much to the effect of the scene. The countenance of the Apostle, who has just been reproving Ananias with great vehemence, is exceedingly fine. Great dignity, justice, and sternness are exhibited in his character, which is not, however, so expressively delineated by his features as is that of the principal figure, Ananias ; and his indignation appears to be much roused. The expression of horror, mixed with astonishment, which thus shows that the event was wholly unlooked for, if not supernatural, in the countenance of the man who with uplifted hands is placed behind, is extremely striking. His agitated brow and startling eyes and mouth half closed, while he seems to shrink back aghast from the dreadful scene, describe the intensity of his feelings in a very forcible manner. Youth and middle age appear to be thus alike affected. And the auxiliary portions and scene in the back-ground, serve much to aid and add effect to the more prominent parts of the picture. This composition, as a whole, is one strongly calculated to excite the most lively emotions.
The representation of ‘Elymas the Sorcerer struck Blind,’ contains two figures that are peculiarly worthy of examination in the consideration of the subject of the present chapter. The principal person in the group is Elymas, who has just been struck with blindness by the Apostle St. Paul, and is holding out his hands to feel his way, and seeking for aid. In his countenance much cunning and imposture are depicted; his utter helplessness, and confusion, and shame, in his present state, are very finely expressed. His pride appears to render him only ridiculous in his degraded condition, when his pre-tended power proved utterly unavailable. The character of the person near him, who is steadfastly looking him in the face, is admirably represented. Wonder, doubt, and curiosity, are strongly expressed in his features, as he endeavours to as-certain the reality, or the cause of the sudden affection of the magician.
The head of St. Peter, in the cartoon representing ‘The Miraculous Draught of Fishes,’ is one of the most admirable of Raphael’s works. His countenance is full of dignity, with humility, veneration, and affection united in it. He is represented as looking up to Christ, with the highest feelings of respect and adoration, having just pronounced the words, ” De-part from me, for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord !” His whole posture and demeanour, as well as the general appearance of his features, and the deportment and contour of his figure, are finely expressive of the character of St. Peter.
The countenance of the Apostle St. James, who is represented in profile in the same boat, and who appears to be deeply interested in the conversation that is going forward, is extremely fine. His character seems to be that of enthusiastic affection and reverence for his Divine Master, while, with the greatest humility, he listens attentively to the discourse which is taking place between St. Peter and our Lord.
The last of the cartoons is the representation of ‘ Paul and Barnabas at Lystra,’ when the people prepared to offer sacrifices to them. The countenance of St. Paul is highly expressive of piety and humanity, and he seems to be much affected both with pity and remorse at the superstitions displayed on his account. He appears to wish to withdraw himself from the scene, and turns away in disgust from viewing the idolatrous ceremonies which are about to be performed. The expression of the man round whose head a wreath is bound, and who is aiding in the sacrifice, is characterized by the wildest enthusiasm and superstition. He appears still to view the Apostles as superhuman beings, and with mixed feelings of awe, terror, and admiration.
The expression also of the person whose face is seen in profile, and who has been lately healed by the Apostle, is highly characteristic of superstitious enthusiasm ; while that depicted in the countenance of the old man who is anxiously viewing the recently restored limb of the former, to discover whether the cure had actually been effected, delineates with great force the wonder by which he is excited.
Raphael’s exquisite picture of ‘ The Entombment of Christ, which is contained in the Borghese Palace at Rome, is a splendid, and even perfect example as regards composition and expression combined, as, indeed, they ever ought to be, and harmoniously to blend, and to aid one another in every artistical performance of this description. We are particularly struck by the demonstration of grief and of awe in the countenances of the different persons, which their attitudes also serve to show. The Virgin Mary, as becomes her, is most of all affected; and ghastly pale, is fainting, overwhelmed with agony at the mournful spectacle.
In sculpture, hard and inflexible as is the material here employed, a wonderful degree of character and emotion has in some instances been nevertheless displayed. Expression and feeling may, by this art, occasionally be represented with nearly the same force as in painting. The aid of colour, which is often of great service in depicting the hues which the countenance assumes under various tortures, or the agonies of disease, and also during the raging of tempestuous passions, is, nevertheless, wanting here. But it is amply, if not more than adequately supplied by the shape being given, which in visual objects is perhaps the point most important. And in the case of marble busts and statues which are of pure white, the perfect mode in which the light and shade are exhibited, serves most strongly to mark the features, and to give effect to the expression, so as almost to atone for the loss of colour.
In the head of ‘Alexander the Great’ while dying, generally mown as the mask of Alexander, the hero and conqueror are very nobly depicted. Greatness and majesty of soul are evinced n every feature ; while the pain which tortures him, and the leathlike haggardness of his features, are sublimely expressed. The wrinkled brow, the fixed eyes, the parched lips, the burnng cheeks, the matted hair,although in a material so hard and so different from that of nature; are each here represented with truth and vigour.
In the group of ‘The Laocoon,’ the writhing contortions both of the forms and of the limbs, as also the expression of the countenances of each individual, serve to mark the agony with which they are tortured. The features are, indeed, too much distorted by pain to enable us to trace any particular marks of character. This justly renowned piece of sculpture serves, more-over, to afford a very striking, and indeed perfect proof of the extent to which emotion and passion may be exhibited both by the face and the figure, which in this splendid work not only aid, but vie with each other in producing the effect at which both aim, and which by their united efforts is so forcibly achieved.
In the delineation of passion, we see in the case of some of the most famous statues of antiquity, where this branch of art has been very successfully attained, in ‘ The Laocoon’ for in-stance,* that the contortions of the figure have contributed even more to exhibit the emotions of the soul, than has the expression of the countenance.
In the vigorous and animated representation of human characters and feelings as evinced by different persons, both by description of their persons, and the expression of the sentiments which they utter, many of the greatest poets have eminently excelled. The characters in Homer are very effectively portrayed as regards their outward appearance ; and such language is put into their mouths as is calculated to afford us the most vivid notions of their intellectual qualities. The passions which variously on different occasions agitate them, are in like manner very forcibly exhibited. Indeed, in the delineation of character, Homer has no superior, save only Shakespeare.
I have in a preceding chapter considered the description which Milton gives of the exalted individuals whom he introduce into his sublime poem. He also makes them utter the most lofty and noble sentiments, thus affording to us the sublimes notions of their intellectual qualities and endowments.
Dante occasionally displays considerable power in representing character and passion, which he attains both by description and expression ; and he is especially remarkable for the fervour with which in some of his scenes the feelings appear to work. Thus the intensity of the emotion which agitates the spirits in the Stygian lake is effectively depicted by him in the following passage,* where not only their limbs are represented to be in motion, but each part of the body is excited by the fury which propels them : —
” A miry tribe, all naked, and with looks Betokening rage. They with their hands alone Struck not, but with the head, the breast, the feet, Cutting each other piecemeal with their fangs.”
So also the action from pain of the tormented spirits in the fiery flood, t is very striking and touching : — “Unceasing was the play of wretched hands, Now this, now that way glancing, to shake off The heat, still falling fresh.”
The description of the cries, as also of the motions of the tormented spirits, is very _fine, and is extremely affecting from the intensity of the agony which it represents :—
” They, when we stopp’d, resumed their ancient wail, And, soon as they had reach’d us, all the three Whirl’d round together in one restless wheel.”
But the poet who has most excelled in this highest branch of art, as he was in every respect most perfect in the delineation both of human character and emotion, is Shakespeare. From reading his descriptions you may sometimes almost imagine that you have formed an acquaintance with the persons he introduces, have even dived into the secret recesses of their minds, and that their characters have been developed and laid open before you, so strikingly does he present to you the ideal description and mental delineation of the individuals whose endowments and actions he represents. As the transaction proceeds, the same character is preserved with extraordinary consistency to each particular person throughout the narration. Various are the individuals who move upon the stage, and very different dispositions and qualities are in several ways exhibited to our notice. Feelings of opposite kinds become excited, passions break forth and rage around us with all the heat and fury of real action, yet without ever ” overstepping the modesty of nature.” We appear to be actually present in the scene ; the ideas of it seem to shoot into our minds as vividly as though they were excited by the contemplation of the event itself.
I have here selected some very fine examples, descriptive both of character and feeling, as exhibited in the appearance of the persons alluded to ; and also some expressions which this great poet has put into the mouths of certain of the individuals represented by him, which in like manner afford us ideas of their mental endowments and dispositions. The first is a descriptive piece, in which the appearance of a man agitated by strong feelings and passions is very forcibly delineated. The individual alluded to is Cardinal Wolsey, who is vehemently excited with regard to certain transactions which were then taking place in the court of Henry, and the issue of which he foresaw might terminate, as it eventually did, in his fall.
He is thus described by the Duke of Norfolk, in his conversation with King Henry, in answer to an inquiry from the latter as to whether he had seen the Cardinal : —
” My lord, we have Stood here observing him. Some strange commotion Is in his brain : he bites his lips, and starts ; Stops on a sudden, looks upon the ground, Then lays his finger on his temple ; straight, Springs out into fast gait ; then stops again, Strikes his breast hard ; and anon, he casts His eye against the moon : in most strange postures We have seen him set himself.”
In the account here afforded of the uneasy expression, the convulsed start, the sudden motion, the wild look, and the strange attitudes and demeanour of the Cardinal, there are conveyed to us vivid ideas of a man enduring great torture of mind, and harassed by the apprehension of some foreseen catastrophe.
The appearance which the countenance presents when any person is agitated by excessive horror, is very forcibly de-scribed by the ghost in ` Hamlet’ in the following passage :—
” But that I am forbid To tell the secrets of my prison house, I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word Would harrow up thy soul ; freeze thy young blood ; Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres ; Thy knotted and combined locks to part, And each particular hair to stand on end, Like quills upon the fretful porcupine ; But this eternal blazon may not be To ears of flesh and blood.”*
The examples which follow are of sentiments put into the mouths of the personages introduced, by which we are led to form ideas of their characters and state of mind at the time. The first of these serves very vividly to convey to us an impression of the wild enthusiastic character, and of the agitated feelings of the person who is speaking. Both the sentiments which he utters, and the incoherent extravagant style in which they are expressed, reflect his condition. It is the soliloquy of Hamlet, who is affected with the utmost grief and indignation while reflecting on his father’s sudden and mysterious death, and the marriage of his mother very shortly after that event ; and on the extraordinary appearance to him of his father’s ghost :
” O, that this too too solid flesh would melt, Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew ! Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter ! O God ! O God! How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable Seem to me all the uses of this world !”
In the following quotation from the same splendid tragedy, emotions which are very strongly excited, are expressed in the most vivid and striking manner. The person who gives utterance to them is Hamlet, immediately after the conversation with his father’s ghost, and the disclosure of his murder by his brother. After vehemently exhorting Hamlet to ” remember ” him, and to avenge the deed, the ghost suddenly vanishes, leaving Hamlet by himself, who, with the most poignant feelings, thus breaks forth :
” O all you host of heav’n ! O earth ! What else P And shall I couple hell ? Oh, fie !Hold, my heart ; And you, my sinews, grow not instant old, But bear me stiffly up !Remember thee P Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat In this distracted globe.Remember thee ! Yea, from the table of my memory I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past, That youth and observation copied there ; And thy commandment all alone shall live Within the book and volume of my brain, Unmix’d with baser matter : yes by heaven !”
In these two quotations, the passions expressed are so vehement, that little can be discerned of particular points of character; the torrent foams so impetuously along, that every object beneath its surface is lost in the spray.
The feelings of terror, and the tortures of a wounded con-science, which agitated the mind of Macbeth as he grasped the sword with which he was about to murder Duncan, who had placed himself in his power as his visitor, and was then asleep, unsuspicious of treachery, in Macbeth’s castle, are expressed with, extraordinary energy and vividness. The view of the weapon, and the contemplation of the horrid deed, seem quite to unman the assassin. All the horrors of guilt at once assail him, and he appears to tremble at the very thought of what he is about to perpetrate; although he was a man of great personal courage, and, as he himself declares, he “dare do all that may become a man.” His fears arise rather from his reflections on the enormity of the deed, than from the belief that any immediate, or even ultimate danger is to be apprehended in consequence. Every sound seems to thrill through his soul, and every object becomes one of dread :
” Is this a dagger, which I see before me, The handle toward my hand ? Come, let me clutch thee :– I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible To feeling as to sight? or art thou but A dagger of the mind, a false creation, Proceeding from the heat oppressed brain? I see thee yet, in form as palpable As this which now I draw. Thou marshal’st me the way that I was going ; And such an instrument I was to use. Mine eyes are made the fools o’ the other senses, Or else worth all the rest : I see thee still ; And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, Which was not so before.There’s no such thing. It is the bloody business, which informs Thus to mine eyes.”
The character of Lady Macbeth is very admirably exhibited in the sentiments which she is made to express, and is preserved with extraordinary consistency throughout the tragedy. She appears to be endowed with fierce ambition, and with very great courage and bloody dauntless resolution ; and urges on her husband to the commission of enormities at the contemplation of which even he was made to shudder. Her ferocity and relentlessness are displayed with peculiar effect by her boasting that those qualities most natural to her sex have been extirpated, through the predominance of the fierce passions and desires by which she was governed, and her natural affections subdued or effaced; as she exclaims, while, with a savage eagerness, she hurries on her husband to the treacherous murder of their guest, and taunts him with cowardice at his apparent reluctance to imbue his hand in so foul a deed :
“I have given suck, and know How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me : I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn As you have done to this.”
In another part of this tragedy the poet contrives, with admirable skill and knowledge of the workings of human nature, to inform us, that, amidst all the cruelty, and ferocity, and lawless ambition which raged in the mind of Lady Macbeth, some feelings of affection, and some natural compunctions still remained unsubdued, which are occasionally observed struggling with the more violent passions of her mind; as she says to herself, when she believes that Duncan had awaken, just as Macbeth entered his chamber to murder him, and that the horrid deed had consequently not been consummated :
” Had he not resembled My father as he slept, I had done’t.”
The conversation in act iv. scenes 2, 3, between Lady Macduff, her son Rosse, and the murderers, is very perfect and affecting. A great deal of character is exhibited in the boy, by the few touches of the poet, especially as regards the intelligence and spirit evinced in his replies. In act v. scene 5, the repining of Macbeth at his cheerless life, and the questions to the physician, are full of character and feeling. The soliloquy on life in scene 5, is also most powerful in this respect.
In the sentiments which are uttered by the Duke of Buckingham, after his conviction, while he is being removed to the Tower, we have afforded to us an admirable view of the magnanimity and true greatness of his character. We cannot but be struck with the resignation and fortitude that he displays, when the certain prospect of an ignominious death is before him. He seems to have subdued every revengeful feeling towards his oppressors; and his loyalty and even affection towards his sovereign remain unshaken amidst all the trials of persecution. Sir Thomas Lovell having asked him for forgiveness, if he had ever borne any malice against him, the Duke replies :
“Sir Thomas Lovell, I as free forgive you, As I would be forgiven : I forgive all : There cannot be those numberless offences ‘ Gainst me, I can’t take peace with : No black envy shall make my grave. Commend me to his grace ; And if he speak of Buckingham, pray, tell him, You met him half in heaven : my vows and prayers Yet are the king’s ; and, ’till my soul forsake, Shall cry for blessings on him. May he live Longer than I have time to tell his years ! Ever belov’d and loving may his rule be! And when old Time shall lead him to his end, Goodness and he fill up one monument ! ”
In the different personages which Shakespeare has introduced into his tragedies, he has, as already remarked, preserved with wonderful accuracy the same consistent character throughout. His Hamlet, and Macbeth, and Lady Macbeth,and Buckingham, appear the same alike as regards intelligence, disposition, and feeling, in each of the several scenes in which they take part. It is indeed very wonderful, and the highest genius, and most perfect knowledge of the principles and the workings of human nature, in all its varieties, and under all circumstances, could alone enable the great poetic artist to achieve such an undertaking. The actions and sentiments and manner of expressing their ideas, in his most elevated characters, are moreover natural and suitable, on all occasions. The feelings which are excited are also consistent with the persons in whom they are called forth, and with the events which produced them. He has, indeed, well merited the dignified appellation of “the poet of nature,” who so wondrously saw and felt and expressed, with force and accuracy, the several operations in all their varied phases which she displays.
In order, however, further to illustrate the principles enunciated in the present chapter, I will now proceed to point out their application in the examples afforded from a scene portrayed by the pen of the same great master from whose works I have been quoting, and which is one of the most perfect and most striking which he has produced. I allude to that in the second part of the tragedy of King Henry the Sixth,* which represents the death of Cardinal Beaufort.
The wretched old man is lying on his bed in the agonies of death, and King Henry and the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick enter into his chamber to’ take their last leave of him. The feeling of extreme horror in the Cardinal at the approach of death, heightened by the pangs of conscience which he endured, as he was supposed to have aided in the murder of the good Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, and to have been guilty of other heinous crimes, is forcibly represented; and his delirious exclamations when his thoughts appear to wander to the subject most weighty on his conscience, the murder of the Duke, add much to the terror of the scene. We must also observe how perfectly the different feelings, according to their respective characters and dispositions, are described as operating in the minds of the King and those accompanying him, in the conversation that ensues. King Henry first addresses the Cardinal : —
” How fares my lord ? speak, Beaufort, to thy sovereign.”
To whom the Cardinal replies, half unconscious of what he is saying, and in the greatest agonies, as the poet informs us by the answer given : —
” If thou be’st death, I’ll give thee England’s treasure, Enough to purchase such another island, So thou wilt let me live, and feel no pain.”
The King then observes, which by the contrivance of the poet serves still further to point out the cause of the agony in the mind of the Cardinal : ” Ah, what a sign it is of evil life, Where death’s approach is seen so terrible !”
Warwick next addresses him, in order to elicit an answer to the King’s inquiry on first speaking to him :
” Beaufort, it is thy sovereign speaks to thee.”
From the expressions which are uttered by Beaufort, we learn that his delirium has now overpowered him, and that the dreadful subject of the murder of the Duke occupies his wandering mind. The fear of being brought to trial, the horrible object of his murdered victim,the thought of destroying himself by poison,all at once force themselves upon his imagination. His exclamation.
” Oh ! torture me no more, I will confess,”
seems to infer that in his agonies he had wildly supposed he was undergoing the tortures of the rack, that was had recourse to in those times to compel a discovery of crime. He thus talks to himself in his delirium :
” Bring me unto my trial when you will. Died he not in his bed? where should he die ? Can I make men live, whe’r they will or no? Oh ! torture me no more, I will confess, Alive again? then show me where he is ; I’ll give a thousand pound to look upon him. He hath no eyes, the dust hath blinded them, Comb down his hair ; look ! look ! it stands upright, Like lime twigs set to catch my winged soul ! Give me some drink, and bid the apothecary Bring the strong poison that I bought of him.”
King Henry’s feeling of horror and pity, is very finely ex-pressed. His allusion to the evil spirit, watching the soul of the dying person, adds much to the effect of the scene :
” O thou eternal mover of the heavens, Look with a gentle eye upon this wretch ! O, beat away the busy, meddling fiend, That lays strong siege unto this wretch’s soul, And from his bosom purge this black despair !”
The observation of Warwick serves to afford a description of the horrible appearance of the wretched man : —
” See how the pangs of death do make him grin.”
Salisbury’s remark also denotes that his end is now approaching:-
” Disturb him not, let him pass peaceably.”
King Henry’s command to Beaufort to make signal of his hope, if he has any; and his observation that he dies without doing so, complete the horror of the scene :–
” Peace to his soul, if God’s good pleasure be ! Lord Cardinal, if thou think’st on heaven’s bliss, Hold up thy hand, make signal of thy hope. He dies, and makes no sign : O God, forgive him !”
The observation of Warwick serves to inform us of the signs of terror in his conscience which the Cardinal had exhibited, and to show the origin to which those around him knew they were to be attributed : —
” So bad a death argues a monstrous life.”
The reply of King Henry is full of pity and charity and piety, by which indeed he is characterized throughout the dreadful scene; while Warwick, in both the latter observations which he makes, displays little of either. Salisbury is more feeling, and exhorts them not to disturb the wretched man. Henry’s remark closes the scene, and serves to inform us that, as regards the Cardinal, all is now over; the offices due to the dead alone remain to be fulfilled : —
” Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all Close up his eyes, and draw the curtain close; And let us all to meditation.”
We cannot but be struck with the extraordinary power and effect with which this harrowing scene is described through-out. We imbibe the ideas of it almost as vividly from what is here expressed by the different characters, as though we were present; inasmuch as the principal ideas which we should obtain by this means are very forcibly transmitted to our minds by the poet. Both the description afforded of the various objects in the transaction, and the sentiments and feelings with which we become acquainted through the language uttered by the persons introduced, alike contribute with the strongest effect to perfect the representation.
Poetry and eloquence, as I have already stated, are so nearly 11i ed in their nature, that what I have here remarked with regard to the one, will apply almost equally well to the other. Indeed, according to the principles which I before laid down, many of the addresses contained in the foregoing quotations, might be contended strictly to belong rather to eloquence than to poetry.
Eloquence admits of description as well as expression, as fully, and more freely than poetry does. For the representation of the feelings and passions of the mind, this art is more directly adapted than is even poetry; and its chief purpose and object are to describe in the most powerful and effective manner sensations of this kind. In this respect, indeed, poetry only follows eloquence. As regards expression of character by sentiment, eloquence is therefore very powerful and efficient. The quotations already made from Demosthenes in a preceding section, may again be referred to as illustrations. So also as regards Cicero, the following sentiments which he delivers at the commencement of his fourth oration against Catiline, serve to afford us as complete an insight into his character as though he were present before us.
“Ego sum ìlle consul, Patres conscripti, cui non forum, in quo omnis aequitas continetur; non campus, consulariis auspiciis consecratus; non curia, summum auxilium omnium gentium ; non domus, commune perfugium ; non lectus, ad quietem (lotus; non denique haec sedes honoris, sella curulis, unquam vacuo mortis periculo, atque insidiis fuit.”
We seem almost able to infer from the sentiment here poured forth, the figure and countenance and demeanour of the great orator, patriot, and statesman, and also of the admiring and enraptured audience; in a mode analogous to that in which from the representation by Raphael of ‘Paul Preaching at Athens, we infer the sentiments that he is delivering, owing to the manner in which the scene is described.
Although compositions in music partake of a certain individual character equally with the other arts, and are probably capable of exciting more feeling and passion than any of them, and of each kind ; yet, in music, character and emotion can only be expressed either by the suggestions which it may serve to call forth, or by using it to accompany poetry, when its tones may be modulated according to the nature of the description, and may be grave and solemn, or lively and exhilarating, corresponding with the quality of the ideas to be produced. Association of ideas is the great principle by which, in music, either character or feeling can be represented.
There is no art, indeed, which so fully and so extensively admits of the exhibition of passion and feeling in all their various phases, from the simplest and mildest emotion to the most furious gusts of terror and anger, and hate and love, sa does music. And these throes it serves to describe with animation and with vigour; and it is also able efficiently to bring out, as it were, all the dark shadows by which their features are marked.
Architecture also admits very fully of a character being given to its compositions, and of much expression and feeling, if not of passion, being exhibited in its designs. There is, moreover, a very great, and indeed almost infinite variety of character in the different styles of architecture, and in the several edifices which are erected according to its principles. Castles, cathedrals, and palaces have each a peculiar and marked individual character of their own, which should be expressed in the style of their construction, and which corresponds with the purposes they are designed to serve. Solemn temples and courts of justice should, moreover, partake of the solidity and gravity of character which distinguishes the objects for which they were raised ; while, on the other hand, villas and places of entertainment may in their style be more lively and light.
Regard should also be had in determining the character of an architectural edifice, not only to the actual object which the building is intended to serve,* but also to the local position it is meant to occupy, both as regards the nature of the country about it, and also the buildings which stand round it. And as temples to the Creator should vary much in their character and expression from Halls of Commerce ; so buildings which stand on plains or near rivers, should differ greatly from those erected on or near mountains, or in great cities.
Dramatic acting is not only capable of portraying character and passion of each kind; but character and passion constitute in reality the very soul of acting, and it is in the representation of them that acting essentially and principally consists. This art, indeed, even apart from the poetry and music and eloquence which contribute to its aid, is calculated, in the most powerful way to exhibit character of every variety, and also to move the passions, whose several developments and commotions it so perfectly depicts. The countenance should speak as well as the tongue, and the entire action of the frame second and enforce what the lips have urged. The tone and modulation of the voice are, moreover, often of nearly as much con-sequence as are the very words to which the voice gives utterance. The gestures of the body, including both the changes of the countenance and the motion of the limbs and figure, belong indeed exclusively to the province of acting, although of essential importance to aid the delivery of an effort in the art of eloquence. To be entirely effective, the action should be perfectly natural. It may thus aid to exhibit the thoughts, and to give force to the expressions of the soul.
In acting, the figure is perhaps of comparatively more consequence for the exhibition of character, beyond what it is in painting, because, in the first place, the distance from the audience will occasionally prevent the features of the actor from being closely observed; and, in the next place, as real motion is allowed to an actor, this may be of more importance to the figure than the face. Here, however, the voice, and the almost infinite variety of modulation and intonation of which the human voice is capable, amply atone for the features not being clearly visible to the entire audience, and in fact shadow forth efficiently the nature of the representation.
Of all the arts, therefore, acting is that which is best adapted for the representation of human character and emotion. This is indeed its peculiar province. It constitutes at once its originating cause, and its final end. The character of the performance must, moreover, greatly depend on that of the actor, just as that of a composition in painting is more or less dependent on the character and cast of mind of the artist.
It appears to me, however, that in deducing the principles for the practical direction of this art, not only the actions of men, but those of animals also, when they are in a state of nature, and proceed freely and without restraint, and from their own innate impulses, afford very efficient guides for the regulation of action by the dramatic performer, and indeed in all those arts in which motion, or ,the representation of it, may be regarded as a main point. Homer especially, as we have seen, constantly compares the actions of heroes to those of animals.
Costume admits to a large extent of the display of character, and even of emotion. And, probably, in no art more than in costume does the exhibition of character and emotion require regulation. This may have reference alike to the rank, the occupation, the figure, the complexion, the disposition, and the age of the wearer; and it is applicable alike, and perhaps equally, to the dresses of persons of both sexes. With the climate, seasons, and nature of the country, the character of the costume will also necessarily vary.
Dress, indeed, is to a certain extent to the body what the body is to the soul, serving not only as a covering and a case to it, but also as an indication of what lies beneath the surface. As the body is in many respects indicative of the character of the soul, so is the clothing which we wear indicative of the character of the body; and so far as the body influences the soul, of the soul also. Perhaps, indeed, considering all the various modifications and variations of which costume is susceptible, it is as sure a reflection in certain very important respects of the character of the soul, as is even the conformation of the body itself. It evinces, moreover, not only the character of the individual, but the character of the times in which he lives, especially as regards its tastes and inclinations. Hence the connection between costume and human character, and nature generally ;that link which binds each art together, and which serves to unite them all in one common family.
In the national costume of each country, character is very fully displayed, although perhaps, rather that of the nation or of the age, than of the individual, is here exhibited, as whether it be martial or refined, barbarous or civilized. But probably, hardly any person is destitute of peculiar character in his style of dress.
Character is moreover displayed to a large extent in gardening, in a manner corresponding with what we see effected not only in epic, but in landscape painting, where scenery of a wild or a bold character, and which is calculated to excite corresponding emotions in the mind, is represented. The character here exhibited is not, however, that of human nature, but of landscape nature.
To a certain extent, indeed, the representation of passion and character through architecture, costume, and gardening, is accomplished as forcibly and as directly as it is by painting and sculpture; while painting and sculpture, on the other hand, are in reality but merely ideal, after all, in their mode of representing character. Thus, a picture, or a statue, does not, like a poem or an oration, describe a passion or an endowment, but only exhibits certain forms which are suggestive or typical of it, or may be supposed to conduce to its production. And architecture, costume, and gardening can each do as much as this in representing character emblematically.
In many respects, moreover, passion, as well as character, may be efficiently exhibited in landscape composition and scenery, and almost as fully as in the description of living beings ; and it is to be borne in mind that in the portrayal of both, the representation is equally inanimate. Thus, through the effect of sunshine and clouds, especially where mountains or water are the objects affected by them, and, particularly of storm and tempest, all the variety of passion, and its animation too, may be produced. The truth of this is beautifully and poetically confirmed and illustrated by Scriptural description, so perfect in this respect in all its allusions and sentiments, where the valleys are represented as smiling and full of joy,* the fields bursting out into songs of praise, t and inanimate creation generally exhibiting tokens of feeling.
” Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in Thy name.”
According as the glories of the sun, or the deep shadows of the clouds, gladden or obscure the face of nature, is its expression in the above respect characterized. Clouds especially, both as regards their forms and their tints, which may be diversified in an almost infinite variety of modes, admit of a corresponding diversity, and of a forcible display, of character of each kind. The skies of Turner may especially be appealed to as examples of the delineation of character, and almost of passion, in this branch of art. The clouds in his celebrated painting of ‘The Old Temeraire,’ may be particularly referred to here.
Hence it follows that in many respects, there is in reality, and essentially, as much character and feeling in scenery as there is in countenances, and among mountains as among mankind. There is, moreover, probably, as much both of sentiment and expression contained in rock, corresponding with its material structure, as there is in foliage, and in flowers. Thus granite, and marble, and slate have each their characteristic lines of form, which is also displayed in the winding of the veins, and the various tints of colour.
It might, perhaps, also be asserted, that there is nearly as much character and expression in the form of a mountain as in the features of a man. And although the posture of the mountain is always fixed and unalterable, yet there is an ever varying change as regards light and shade, and the different tints in the verdure which covers it; besides which there are the mutations occasioned by season and weather, which are constantly occurring. Moreover, as regards mountains, the peculiarities of their shape, size, structure, colour, and height, are all alike available for affording the expression both of character and emotion in landscape scenery. Indeed, in the general re-presentation of views of this description, and as a consequence also in landscape gardening, an extensive and varied expression, both of quality and feeling, and even of passion, may be conveyed. This, however, is mainly effected here by the excitement of emotions of a class which the artistic composition is calculated to call forth, such as those that are gay and grave, lively and sedate, exciting and soothing. The wild and savage, I might almost term them passionate rock scenes of Salvator Rosa, and the mild and smiling landscapes of Claude, afford a marked contrast to each other in this respect, which serves to exhibit very forcibly the peculiarity and variety of character and feeling inherent in or suggested by each.
There is, probably, no element in the composition of natural scenery which admits of so much character in its exhibition as does water. At one time mild and tranquil, and reflecting on its glassy surface all the objects around it; at another time foaming and raging furiously, whether in the torrent or in the tempest. At one period it is spread forth and lies in repose in an expansive lake ; at another, it moves rapidly forward in a warbling rivulet ; while occasionally it proceeds stately along in a majestic soft flowing river. In each of these phases, it exhibits a peculiar and specific character, and calls forth feelings corresponding with its condition.
There is also an infinite variety, and a remarkable individuality as regards the expression both of character and emotion conveyed by plants, which constitute another important element in landscape scenery. Not only flowers, but the ever varying foliage, and even the branches and trunks of trees, and the forms of the leaves afford proof of this fact ; and each of these objects may serve to excite sensations corresponding with their character and their kind. Thus, some vegetable forms produce delight, others melancholy; some call forth exciting and others soothing emotions. Hence character and passion are as intimately associated with gardening and its constituent elements, as with any of the other arts.
That branch of the study of art, which has formed the subject of the present chapter, is the most important and interesting in its kind, and is also the most improving, and the best adapted for general pursuit. It is here that we may obtain the most varied and noble view of human nature in all its different workings, and under the greatest diversity of circnmstances. While contemplating it by this means, we appear, as it were, to have ascended to a point of moral. elevation, whence we may survey as through a telescope or as reflected in a camera, yet in the clearest and most comprehensive manner, the vast territory of man, and the display in full operation of the various characters, and principles, and passions by which he has been distinguished or animated. The foaming surge of intemperance and violence we may behold at a distance raging beneath our feet; while our attention to its operations will be undisturbed by any apprehensions we may entertain of injury to ourselves. New objects rise into view, and we obtain a prospect of scenes, and of enterprises, of which before we had no correct knowledge or conception, or which were concealed from our sight by the mazes which obscured them, and for want of some proper medium for observing them.
From the contemplation of this sublime prospect, from the consideration of this noble and glorious study, we may learn the most important and valuable moral lessons. It is hence that we are enabled to perceive the rocks and shoals on which so many have been cast away, and which, when on a level with them, they were unable to mark out and avoid. From hence also we are taught to observe the dangers and the miseries which unrestrained and lawless passions have produced in the world ; and, on the other hand, the true dignity and real excellence of virtue, and the glorious rewards with which ultimately its actions have ever been crowned.
Independent, therefore, of the interest, the intellectuality, and the vast dignity which this branch of the study possesses, and which embraces in its wide sphere the grand theatre of human nature ; from it alone we obtain an amount of practical experience and of sound knowledge of the highest order; a species of wisdom, moreover, which no philosophy can so well inculcate,no system of ethics so amply teach,no principles of science, however skilfully or correctly framed, so perfectly or so efficiently supply.