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FEMININE EDUCATION IN ITALY.
has been unfelt in a climate where, even during the winter, BY THE COUNTESS MONTE MERLI.
days of genial warmth and beauty are enjoyed. The That education is the element which produces the most history of ancient Rome, familiar by tradition to the most decided results among any people is incontestable. Where uncultivated, has ennobled this people, who, while in religious scruples are made a pretext for the suppression slavery, felt their hearts free, and employed familiarly the of education, the intellect of man is dwarfed down to half language of imagery and simile, and around whom all was its full development, and individuals who might have poetry, light, and harmony. Even their superstitions are become eminent barely rise above mediocrity, while the blended with grace and beauty. They treat their religion great number, who in all countries and climes can but as a poem, crown the Virgin with flowers, and wed gar. attain to mediocrity, remain in complete nullity. Such lands of roses with the tomb. being the case, it must be matter of astonishment that It is a more difficult task to portray the middle class, Italy should have produced so many lofty intellects as which is perhaps more mixed and diffused in Italy than she is able to boast. During many ages the state of in any other country. The feeling of equality reigns education in Italy has been exceedingly low. The people among all. The people are on familiar terms with the have been deprived almost entirely of culture, have been aristocracy, servants with their masters, and persons are without schools, without industry, without everything, in classed rather according to the amount of their fortune than a word, which tends to enlarge the mind and raise the to the race from which they have sprung. This is one of the character. Ignorant of the gospel, knowing nothing of most striking proofs of the predominance of genius in Italy, religion beyond a few formularies, they have been taught and how equally it is spread over all ranks. In France, to repeat the rosary, a mere dry repetition of prayers a country curate always remains awkward and emwhich may acquire a certain degree of devotional warmth barrassed. In Italy, the commonest individuals have when uttered by the lips of the religious enthusiast, but polished manners, and servants are as refined as their which, commenced coldly, degenerates into a mere masters. The intelligence of this class is extraordinarily mechanical performance. How then, encouraged by the developed, and their natural ease and grace must excite priests in every imaginable superstition, has the Italian admiration. These great national traits naturally propeople remained so great? This has been the effect duce a feeling of equality. The middle and the lower of the teaching of their immortal poets. Yes, here classes attach themselves to the upper by a thousand lies the secret of the grandeur of the Italians. Their links which are undergoing perpetual renovation. The bards and their brilliant sky alone have preserved them son of the farmer studies, becomes an eminent man, a from the fanatic brutalization into which the efforts of celebrated advocate, a renowned sculptor, or a famons popes, despotic princes, and European policy, have done physician. He goes into the world, is received with their best to plunge them. The beautiful gives the idea favour, forms an attachment to the daughter of a noble of the great and the just. Nature, who marvellously family, and marries her. Artizans in Italy are artists. produces beneath this enchanting sky all her treasures An Italian chorister wakes one morning to find himself of fruits, flowers, perfumes, breezes, and waves, has pre- first singer at La Scala or Her Majesty's Theatre. Such served in the heart of this people, who, though once the is Rubini's history. Place a pencil in the hand of a tailor's masters of the world, were but yesterday the slaves of son, he becomes Andrea del Sarto. You meet a shepherd, despotism, a spark of light sufficient to indicate their he may afterwards be a Giotto or a Sixtus XV. When you former greatness and encourage them to look for a brighter have taught an Italian to read and write, you may expect future. God willed not the extinction of this privileged anything from him. Let thirty years pass over, and you will
He left it to slumber for awhile, knowing find him professor at a university, or you will recognise that, when it should awake, its instinctive wisdom and him addressing the chamber of deputies, or taking a innate greatness would spring forth strong and vigorous, prominent place at a scientific congress : he will paint and it would joyfully shake off its unriveted chains, to pictures, write sermons, or perhaps discover comets. take its place once again, beauteous and free, among the Italian manners are most gentle. The women of the greatest of the nations. The Italian people, like the middle class are essentially the same as those of the diamond, can but gain splendour from the lapidary's upper and fashionable ranks. They perhaps make rather touch. The dust from the despot's heel may tarnish its less display in their toilette, are rather less silent, and brilliancy for a time, but the breath of liberty can in an employ rather more compliments ; but here the difference instant restore its original sparkle. During the past few ceases. They possess shining excellences both of head and months this phenomenon has been strikingly presented to heart, are in no way sordid or calculating, but are simple, our view in the fair Peninsula.
affectionate, devoted, and self-sacrificing. Hitherto, their Tuscany, having had a government far less oppressive education has been much neglected, and is very defective. than that of the Romagnas, has been enabled to provide Generally speaking, they move in a very restricted circle, the children of the lower orders with instruction by means surrounded by an atmosphere of superstition, and occnpied of infant schools. Many can read and write, and it is no chiefly with scandal and gossip. rare thing in this province, where nature is so profuse of The men have been educated by priests ignorant of all its gifts in individual cases, to see the people's ranks family ties and obligations, and knowing nothing of yield eminent jurists, artists, poets, and men learned in women but their weaknesses and their confessions. Their every branch of literature and science. The arts have views have thus been falsified from their yoath np. always flourished upon the soil of the muses, and Europe In their minds, woman is not suffered to attain the has ever been accustomed to seek inspiration there. The place she ought to occupy, and is rather the househearts of the greatest composers, the greatest writers, keeper and the nurse than the moral and intel. and the greatest artists, have been kindled to warmth lectual companion of man. In Italy, as elsewhere, men and enthusiasm by the Italian sun of art and literature. marry from love, and live happily with their wives, but in
Such a denial of education as has been inflicted upon the such a manner that the inequality of rights between hus. lower classes in Italy would have produced effects much band and wife, and the differences between the two sexes, more disastrous elsewhere; but the Italians have forgotten are strikingly apparent. The man of talent has a wife despotism and oppression while singing Metastasio and whose education is too restricted to enable her to underPetrarch. Poverty, the result of the want of industry, stand and aid him. Italian women seldom know any.
thing of public life, despotism having dried up that Italy than elsewhere, immorality is not more general, nor fruitful source of human progress. Few women, belong. are the obligations of marriage less respected, though, ing to the middle class in Italy, have read anything owing to the causes to which we have already adverted, beyond their prayer-books and some novels. Active, scandalous chronicles may have a wider circulation than industrious, and intelligent, they need nothing but the would be the case under more favourable institutions. entire freedom of their country to enable them to acquire Of twenty intrigues which are talked about, probably not
Each all in which they are deficient, and to take a foremost place more than two have any foundation in truth. among European women.
house has its habitual guests; and a family can rarely Italy is now on the verge of great material and intellec. escape criticism. The number of visitors you receive is tual development. Industry, commerce, art and science counted, their object in visiting you canvassed, the reason are about to take a fresh start. Employment will soon be why you admit them to your intimacy discussed; and found for all ; movement will succeed to prostration, and the conclusions resulting from the examination are always activity to apathy and stagnation. When once the great more or less disastrous to your reputation. These and lines of cominunication have been established between other social defects have been nurtured and encouraged, one part of the Peninsula and another, the desire of like petted children, by despotism. While the venom of locomotion will follow; men will realize the value of calumny spread over a whole population, the public mind independence, and will bestow an increased degree of was occupied by the details of domestic disquietudes, and freedom upon their conjugal partners. In a few years, had no time or thought to bestow on the acts of govern. in Italy, as in England, women will travel alone, will ment. On the same ground, the lottery found great acquire that moral force which inspires respect and support from the sovereigns of Italy. Gambling, and enables the weaker sex to maintain its independent everything tending to material and moral ruin, was position. Italy will copy British institutions, will model encouraged, while ignorance was sacredly guarded like itself, in some sort, upon this great, laborious, and free the holy ark, and rewarded and caressed as the most people, and, like it, will attain to national glory and efficacious handmaid of absolute power. industrial power. Private life, which is now too much a
The writers and romancists of Italy are not numerous,
It must, prey to the calumnious attacks of those who, having no while female authors are exceedingly raro. useful pursuits, spend their time in inventing and spread. however, be said, to the glory of the latter, that such as ing calumnious reports, will be held sacred as in free have made themselves known have displayed talents of countries peopled by men who unite vast intellectual incontestable superiority. To judge of the lofty reason. powers with strong judgment and common sense. ing and true nobleness of thought of which an Italian Domestic life is indispensable to the man who devotes his woman is capable, it is sufficient to read the beautiful existence to incessant labour. The life of the father of a work of Signora C. Ferrucci upon the intellectual educa. family cannot be the outdoor life of the café, in which tion which Italian mothers should bestow upon their woman can take no part. His own house will become children. This book is the work of a savant. It displays the home of the Italian, as it is of the Englishman. Yet ideas so profound, logical, and philosophic, and breathes a few years, and great and liberal institutions will have such a tone of religion, that it proves its author to be tostially changed the face of Italian society.
one of those privileged beings who serve to show the power In Italy, many men still think that women should de- and wisdom to which the mind of women may attain. vote themselves exclusively to the material cares of the Were it known in England, it would not fail to be highly vusel.old, and that it is waste of time for a woman to occupy themselves by their writings are as remarkable as the
appreciated. In Italy, the women who have distinguished terself with literature, science, or politics. Her leisure hours, according to many, are better employed in useless these delicate and emancipated minds, these sensitive
greatest men. Doubtless, in a few years' time, legions of Crifling, in promenades or visits, which have no object in and fruitful intellects, will be revealed in all their splenview, than in recreations which occupy, ornament, and eurich her mind. Among the upper classes, if not per. She will powerfully aid in the improvement and embellish.
dour. The Italian woman has a great future in store. mitted and approved, it is at least tolerated, for women ment of her country, and in the progress of humanity. wemoke. It is by no means unusual to see great ladies, When she has learned to look upon life seriously, her young, beautiful, elegantly attired, smoke after their meals. Nor do they employ the elegant perfumed cigarette history has bequeathed to her from her ancestors. Sibyls,
character will be marked by those grand traits which of the Spanish and Turkish ladies, but the ugly, common, vestals, poetesses, heroines, warriors, politicians, and long, black, native abomination, which can make no preten. patriots, have strewn the pathway of ages with female sion whatever to grace or poetry. Nothing can be more
How many of such glorious names have been lost utterly unfeminine, nothing more revolting, than this odious habit, which is gaining ground deplorably. Surely it have illumined the world, have been crushed by tyranny!
by despotism ! how many noble intelligences, which might would be better to employ the hour thus worse than wasted But enough; we will forget the dreadful past. The for the benefit of their country. It is greatly to be hoped Europe of to-day, with England and France at its head, that this feminine caprice will not extend itself any further, says to the Italians, Arise, and be free! In cur age, nor become consolidated into an accepted custom. Up to jealousy and rivalry between different peoples are no this time, feminine smokers are looked upon somewhat as longer possible. They possess virtues and talents in lionnes and coquettes, and, happily, those who pride them. common ; each finds advantage in the superiority of selves upon their eccentricity, form but a small proportion its neighbour, and the productions of the one circulate of the dwellers in any country. For the good of society, among the rest to the advantage of all. Europe henceit is essential to decry evil and laud good. However forth will be one large family, sharing in common its painful it may be, a conscientious writer is bound to moral, material, and intellectual resources.
Emulation speak the whole truth, and, in addressing one people con and competition will give life, power, and activity to the cerning the manners, habits, and attributes of another, springs of the grand social machine, which, released at is compelled to bring to light both their virtues and length from the bonds that fettered it during past ages, defects. It is not a romance that we are writing, but a is now free to speed its way unchecked and unembarrassed history, and history must be truthful.
to the loftiest realms of prosperity and advancement.
Vice and depravity are not more widely extended in
EMINENT LIVING ARTISTS.Mr. W. P. pretty girls (1) ; dramatic action (2); graceful humour,
(3); all generally founded on stale subjects from trite
books. Mr. WILLIAM POWEL Frith, who, like Sir Thomas
In 1843 came out a costume scene from the Merry Lawrence, is the son of an innkeeper, was born at Wives of Windsor, with more tight waists, pretty oval Harrogate, the once celebrated Yorkshire watering-place, in 1820, so that he is now in the very prime of life, and faces, dimpled chins, and Elizabethan dresses, - no rongh only forty-one years of age. There is no reason, if life is ugliness or character, and the texture now too smooth and
pretty. No Velasquez scrubbing-brush did this young spared him, that his intellectual growth may not continue for several years, if success and wealth do not painter use, but camel’s-hair brushes with a softness that
produced an effeminate and unpainterlike surface. Mr. numb his skilful hand and chill his nimble brain. It is the art life and not the personal life of living forget his youth and promise, popular as he was becoming :
Frith was in a groove evidently, and the wise began to artists that I treat of; therefore, even if I knew anything for the wise heed not the momentary. about Mr. Frith's early career, I should not disclose it to a public that has no business with the details of eminent Queen of Scots, a smooth view of a rough bit of earnest,
In 1814, a busy year, came out John Knoo and Mary. public men's family history. This, however, I know, that in 1840, when Mr. Frith, of the quick eyes and the the painter evidently not caring much for the reformer
apd The Squire describing some Passages in his Town quick pencil, was only twenty, he exhibited his first picture Life, from the Vicar of Wakefield again. at the Royal Academy, It was a scene from Shakspeare, Mavolio before the Countess Olivia, - a humourous Pastor, from Goldsmith's great poem, raised Mr. Frith's
In 1845,, a more serious kind of picture, the Village dramatic picture which“ gave earnest of skill and
reputation, and won him deservedly an associateship. power,” as I find duly recorded. It was evident that, with better finish, and fuller and more cheerful colour, Goldsmith, and a droll scene from the Bourgeois Gentil.
In 1816 appeared the Return from Labour, also from the new artist was following in the steps of Leslie, who
homme, in the Leslie manner. This last, I remember, in his time had followed Smirke and Newton.
was like a well-remembered bit of fine acting. The fat going to show us rather more beauty, but less exquisite citizen is showing the bow he has learnt from his dancing and subtle humour. He was evidently not going to be a profound thinker nor a moral teacher ; certainly not the master, and the pretty marquise is eyeing him with a
beautiful scorn. Though a poor weak painting beside painter-prophet of any new revelation. His mission was to Leslie's real art and quakerly simplicity, it was full of charm and to amuse, and there was to be no more moral to pleasant kindly humour and dramatic conception. Liko his pictures than there is a moral in a rose or a clove all Mr. Frith's best pictures, this scene has been translated pink. The lark does not preach, yon know, nor does the into black and white by a skilful engraver, and has so nightingale teach us logio.
reached a vast public to whom the picture is unknown. Steadily, step by step, patient, industrious, and
In the Exhibition of 1847, in which “the rising men" careful, Mr. Frith improved. He was dexterous-neat, stood well, Mr. Frith's English Merry-making a Hundred smart--natty, He would have dissected well, I should Years Ago stood specially conspicuous. This was a scene think, or have made a good analytical chemist,—his paint-of merriment and love-making garbed in the costume of ing is so keenly cut and so clearly reasoned out. He is a 1747, idealized. It was pretty, but unreal and untrue, man who can paint epigrams, who is witty on canvas, and had more than a tinge of the Dresden china shepherds who says keen things in paint. Mr. Frith’s intellect. is about it, yet it raised Mr. Frith to a still greater poputhe exact reverse of the slow elephantine order of larity, because it was full of pretty faces, and there was no intellect. He is ono of the peltastæ, the light armed; he attempt to be strong or severe or ascetic about it, and, moves with the dexterity and skill of a fencing-master, above all, there was no moral powder hidden under the not that I would put him too high ; he is not an original spoonful of jam, for the public, like the slave, always say thinker like Mr. Millais, he is not deeply religious like to the would-be moralist, _“If you flogee, flogee; if you Mr. Holman Hunt; but then he is so aroh and clever, and talkee, talkee ; but, massa, don't flogee and talkee same he is never vapid like our President, or intolerable like time.” The public does not want a picture to be at once A and B--. He will never move us to tears, because pretty and thoughtful. No, they say : if you have a moral, he does not feel deeply; but he makes us laugh, because paint it; if you want to amuse, amuse; but don't spoil he laughs himself, and is a keen photographic discerner the pretty picture by putting the powder moral in it. of popular drolleries and humours. He does not set his
In 1848, Mr. Frith “tried back" again to his convenheel and grind out the very eyes of a folly, like Hogarth ; tional Elizabethans, and produced his Old Woman accused bat he blows puff darts at the Harlequin creature, and goes of having bewitched a Peasant Girl in the time of James I. home to quietly laugh over his sherry and fowl.
More sweet faces and quaint dresses, yet with a certain In 1841, our artist showed that, though he painted from pathos about the work; much picturesque action, and very nature, he had the power of remembering the Protean creditable drawing and colour ; good, though not of the changes of human expression, and adding them to the first order. mechanical model. If a man has no memory, he will The Coming of Age, in 1849, was of the same pleasant never do anything but paint individual bodies as Etty olden school. There was the handsome young gallant did. Still clinging to anthors that every one knew, Mr. on the steps, haranguing his tenantry ; below were pretty Frith next produced his Parting Interview of Leicester and damsels, and the village schoolmaster (a spectacled Amy Robsart from Scott's Kenilworth, and this Elizabethan pedant) reading his speech, and all sorts of roystering - vein, not entirely unconventional, the artist has worked serving men; yet still it wanted hearty freedom, ease, and a good deal in, reading it no deeper than Scott, and using vigour,-it was too smooth and cosmeticized ; too merefor the most part Scott's dresses and furniture.
triciously and supernaturally pretty. It sadly wanted In 1842 appeared a pretty scene of girldom, from the roughing, and bringing to rade, every-day nature. Vicar of Wakefield,-another not unknown book, with the The 1850 picture, Sancho tells a Tale to the Duke and legend, “My wife and me did both stand up to see which Duchess to prove Don Quixote at the bottom of the table, was the tallest."
I have never seen, but I feel that it was of Leslie origin, In all these pictures there were these three ingredients: and to imitate a painter's subjects is almost equivalent
it seems to me, to stealing a man's thoughts, which indeed at the busiest hour of the day, when that cockney paraought to be punished as a felony.
dise is at its fullest bloom. The artist drew the scene The Hogarth at Calais, of 1851, was a clever, though from the sea, so as to avoid, I suppose, the difficulty of rather overdone picture, representing Hogarth being wave painting, but this gave a stiff and set look to the examined by a French magistrate for daring to sketch whole that went far to spoil it. Somehow or other the the old English gate at Calais.
characters looked as if drawn up before the foot-lights In 1852, Mr. Frith’s picture of Pope makes love to Lady of a theatre. Still the picture was surprisingly varied Wortley Montague was a vulgar and entirely overstrained and clever. The old tradesman in buff slippers, basking work; to me personally, entirely unpleasant.
in the idle quiet, reading his newspaper ; the children In 1853, Mr. Frith donned the crown of R.A., and dabbling with their wooden spades; the handsome young deservedly enough. Yet, to return to good pictures we couple; the Jew boy trying to sell toys to the indignant have omitted, we must mention his pleasant work of 1848, grand old lady; the flirting; the vulgar enjoyment of Sir Roger de Coverley and the Spectator, and his 1849 pro- the whole scene; were all admirable. duction of a Stage Coach Adventure of 1750, a very sound, But this picture (now engraved) was quite eclipsed by well-painted, strong scene, full of vigorous character. It the Derby Day, which was far more complete, strong, represented the interior of a stage-coach, with a highway and epical. It gave us a scene which, though, like the man, hideous in a black mask, staring in at the window, other, a mere stray page plucked from the book of life,with a full cocked pistol in his hand. The passengers ; was yet a dramatic ecene, embracing far more types the cowardly officer, the sly Quaker hiding his purse, and of character. It represented the moment before a race, the pretty, frightened, fluttering women, are well con- and it was divided into many clever episodes. There was trasted. The ominous bullet-hole, too, in the robber's a shop-boy who has been “cleaned out” at thimble rig, mask, is just one of Mr. Frith's clever inventions. and looks the very image of disreputable despair. There
In 1850, too, Mr. Frith had well won a right to academic are the thimble-riggers, with the sham countryman, the honours (whatever, apart from business reasons, they may accomplice, and the real countryman, the approaching dupe, be worth) by his fine picture from Goldsmith's comedy There are the rather over-exhilarated guardsmen frothing of the Good-Natured Man,-Honeywood introduces the about champagne on the tops of drage. There is the Bailiffs as his Friends. This is one of the painter's most acrobat and the little tinselled Belphegor, who forgets the vigorous and honest bits of humour, The face of little performance in his longings for a game pie, whose Flanigan is inimitable, and the vulgar affectation of the two varnish glistens on the grass, beside the groom, who is bailiffs is excellently caught, without undue smoothness arranging a fashionable lunch. There is the vociferous or affectation.
betting-man, and the ladies assuming the airs of the turf The sequence of Mr. Frith's later piotures I need not with bewitching coquetry. There, too, is a sad corner where trouble to follow, as the fame of them all is merged into a neglected mistress, over-dressed and painted, frowns at the fame of two,--the Derby Day (1858) and Life at the a gipsy fortune-teller, while her vicious, debauched-looking Seaside (1854).
owner bites his cigar between his black teeth, leaning As for Sherry, Sir, it is a mere portrait, of arch, vulgar against the barouch, and with his back to her. Under. wantonness, only fit for tavern bar-rooms. The Claude neath the carriage is a ragged urchin clutching at an Duvab of 1860 was pale coloured and unpleasing, empty champagne bottle. Beyond, in the background, redeemed only by the pretty anger of the lady who is there is a broad reach of sunny turf, and some jockeys in compelled to dance with the ungraceful highwayman. In tulip jackets taking their thoroughbreds a breathing. another earlier exhibition Mr. Frith produced the best Above are the stands black with heads. The grouping of extant portrait of Mr. Charles Dickens, thongh the bronze this picture is excellent, its colours are brighter and fresher ruddiness of that healthy face was a little too much toned than Mr. Frith's generally are. Its perfect truth was, I down. I do not know in what year appeared his Dolly have heard, insured by the use of photographs taken on Porden, a pretty costume study.
the spot. The models, too, were carefully selected, the The two great pictures eclipsed all. They showed that ladies and gentlemen were painted from ladies and gentle. Mr. Frith still as no prophet,-but yet as a great seer. He men, which was a great advantage. The picture is now had thrown off antique dresses, and was going to paint being engraved by Monsieur Blanchard, ---one of Messionmodern life with some moral feeling too,-at least in the nier's engravers. later picture; the Elizabethan demon, -as poor Blake A great career is certainly open to Mr. Frith, if wealth would have called it,-had left him, and he had now and success do not spoil him, and blant and paralyze his reached the daylight. Crowds thronged to see these faculties. He has England in the nineteenth centary to pictures at the Academy ; a rail had indeed to be put up paint from, and all the poetry of London, that vast mine, round the Derby Day, to prevent its injury, just as, long as yet untouched, to discover. But he must not be flippant before, one of Wilkie's had had to be defended. All day, and trifling, and he must learn to appeal more to the heart, all through the Exhibition, they were crowded. Families less to the eye. came up from the country to town chiefly to see them. After many stories of Mr. Frith offering rewards for
But though always popular from his arch humour, and a new English subject, resolving upon painting the great the piquante prettiness of his faces, Mr. Frith did not prizefight, and other “shaves" of the day, we hear at last really reach his “ high-water mark” till he left the that he has been engaged by Dr. Flatou, the picture-dealer, stage-Elizabethan and all such old conventions, which to paint Life at a Railway Station, for the enormous sum only the greatest genius can breathe Promethean life of eight thousand seven hundred and fifty guineas. The into, and ventured forth boldly into the pure fresh sunshine picture will include episodes of lovers parting, a bridal and the bright blue weather of our open air summer. It party, a convict going to the hulks, ete. The sum was Hogarth's great arena, so long left untenanted, that given includes a small replica, the copyright, and the Mr. Frith now prepared to do battle in. He resolved to profits of a private exhibition. The work is to be ten paint modern life and modern scenes ; so that his pictures feet long. should be records for future ages of our social life in this Mr. Flatou has been much laughed at for his liberality, nineteenth century.
but we feel sure he will earn £3,000 at least by the His first picture was a view of Ramsgate sands, taken picture, as Mr. Gambart's recent success with Mr. Holman Hunt's great work clearly shows. It is the middleman number of attendants are always on duty, and we never dealer who always gains the profit, not the painter, as we hear that any of them become lunatics or suicides. The all know
Museum must be a dreadfully dull place on these Tues. This immense price given for this picture will do much to days, Thursdays, and half-Saturdays. raise the social character of artists in this money-loving age. If we are wrong in all these surmises, we can soon be We have had enough of the traditions of garret artists set right : a free admission on the “off-days” would and cellar poets. The day when artists and poets will be clear up the mystery. We are not “artists,” and refuse capitalists is approaching. Grab-street is no more; the to go in under cover of this fiction. We can apply for time has come when the artist should rank in society and accept no ticket or privilege without candidly stating (not merely from his genius, but from the mere fact of his our object. Such ticket or privilege has been refused us being an artist) with the members of other professions. A under these circumstances, and we may therefore assume rich industrious artist (eten if only a portrait-painter) is that the “authorities” are opposed to investigation. surely of more social value than an idle barrister hanging There was a time when these authorities, ---these eighton to his five briefs a year, and quoting his dog Latin in and-forty mixed and irresponsible trustees, with their supreme contempt of the attorney he longs to, but dare faithful acting officers,—might havo defended the sealingnot, ftatter and allure.
up of the so-called British Museum for more than one WALTER THORNBURY. half of the working year, by referring to the necessity for
keeping the building clean, the contents in perfect order UNNOTICED WONDERS OF THE BRITISH
and preservation, and the “students” private. This MUSEUM.
time,--this fine, old, crusted, Tory, obstructive time,-has The British Museum is full of wonders, which every long since been swept away by radical institutions like Englishman believes himself familiar with. We have the South Kensington Museum. In this latter exhibition all some recollection of sneezing amongst Egyptian the public is admitted every day in the week, every week mummies; of laughing at images which were gods in in the year, of course excepting Sundays, Christmas-day, New Zealand, but which are walking-sticks in Great and Good Friday. It is not found that dirt, disorder, and Britain ; and of trying to admire a small portion of destruction prevail at South Kensington, although the human leg on a platter, represented in stone, which we hours during which it is open throughout the year are have been taught to consider a splendid relic of Grecian four times as many as the similar hours at the British sculpture.
Museum. It is true that a small admission fee of sixIf any person speaks of the great building which con- pence is demanded at South Kensington on the three tains these rarities, we call it a "wonderful place ;" if he students' days” of the week, which are Wednesdays, speaks of the rarities, we call them a “wonderful colleo- Thursdays, and Fridays; but then the South Kensington tion.” We are not generally aware, when we apply these Museum is largely self-supporting, while the British terms, that the Museum is more entitled to claim them Museum is formed and maintained out of the taxes. than we probably imagine.
Private collections may be left and have been left to The chief and comparatively unnoticed wonder of the both institutions, but these are not sufficiently numerous British Museum is the fact that it is closed for nearly half or important to alter the character of either museum. the year, excluding Sundays, and excepting the library. Deducting the paying days at South Kensington, we It is a marvel not catalogued or explained in any history shall still have twice as many free hours of opening as at of this national institution, why the "public" should only the so-called British Museum, more conveniently timed, be admitted on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and on it may be, for the general public. The practical operation Saturday afternoons, and should be turned away by a of such an exclusive system in the old Tory institution of policeman, an armed soldier, and a lodge-keeper, all day on Great Russell-street is to destroy one-half of this great Tuesday and Thursday, and on Saturday mornings. The national collection. Property is only valuable when it is British sightseer must be a very formidable character, used, and only a name when it is idly hoarded. Putting when he requires at least three forms of authority,--the it arithmetically, and assuming the contents of the civil, the military, and the official,-to keep him out of what British Museum to be valued at a hundred millions is really his property. For nearly a month every year sterling, the result is precisely the same, whether you the place is entirely closed, during which time the police. take away one-half of the time during which you exhibit man, the soldier, and the gate-keeper may snatch a the collection, or one-half of the collection you have to holiday This month, which is made up of different exhibit. Fifty millions sterling of property exhibited periods and days, may be set aside for the painter, the during the whole working year is equal to one hundred carpenter, and the char-woman, We only guess this. millions sterling of property exhibited only half the year. There is no “blue-book" on the subject, as far as we are The mingled folly and injustice of this British Museumi aware ;--and we are only part of the general “public.” mismanagement is not altogether extended to the British
With regard to what is done within the building during Museum library. There is a reason for this. The library the two days and a half every week on which the is largely used by "literary men," and literary men have "public" is turned back, we are equally at a loss for pens and organs with which to enforce their claims. The information. We have our suspicions, and they point present freedom, long hours, and six days a-week of the to a little "sky-larking." We cannot believe that this British Museum library were not voluntarily granted by splendid building is used to cover any criminal proceed- sympathizing trustees and officials to an intellectual and ings:-such as coining, forging, or private distilling. We refined class,—they had to be fought for like any othercannot believe that any of the Museum curiosities are popular right. There is no reason why books and prints like the conjuror's mechanical tricks, requiring hours of should be treated as something different from specimens preparation for minutes of exhibition. We think that and antiquities. They both convey instruction ; but that the games of "push-pin," draughts, 'ring-taw," and is not the question. They both belong to the public, and cribbage may be freely induged in,-combined, perhaps, the public ought to enjoy them. The library is tolerably with a little boxing, fencing, and leap-frog, or hide-and free to every “studious person,” as the trustees phrase seek amongst the sarcophagi. We are led to this con- it, and many novel-readers, devonrers of “improper ** clusion because we are bound to believe that certain books, and epicures in English de-composition, appear to