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This celebrated authoress, whose sudden and recent death we have all to deplore, was of Irish extraction, being the eldest daughter of Mr. Murphy, painter in ordinary to the Princess Charlotte, an artist well known during the earlier years of the present century. His eldest daughter, Anna, was very naturally taught by him the principles of his own art, but she had instincts for all—a taste for music, a feeling for poetry (some short pieces of hers are still preserved), and a delicate appreciation of the drama. As a young woman, she occupied the post of governess in two or three families of distinction, and to the last used to speak occasionally of the young girls who had been her pupils, particularly of one who had died early.
At thirty years of age, however, she had entered on her literary career, by the publication of notes on foreign travel, under the title of the “ Diary of an Ennuyée." It appeared anonymously, and had only a partial success, never reaching a second edition. About the same time she married Mr. Robert Jameson, late Vice-Chancellor of Canada, a man of some talent and artistic taste; but the marriage was notoriously an unhappy one, and a separation eventually took place. Mrs. Jameson only survived her husband six years.
The Diary of an Ennuyée” was followed by “ Visits and Sketches at Home and Abroad,” which consisted, in a measure, of a reprint of the “ Diary of an Ennuyée," and of reprints of some smaller pieces. Three years later her “Loves of the Poets" appeared ; after that, "Female Biography,” “Romance of Biography," "Beauties of the Court of Charles II.," " Female Sovereigns," “ Characteristics of Women" (chiefly Studies from Shakspeare), one of her most popular and deservedly popular works; and in 1838, “ Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada,” the latter work containing recollections of a visit undertaken to that country in a hopeless attempt to arrange her family affairs. In this book there is the account of her solitary canoe-voyage, and her residence among a tribe of Indians.
To this list of Mrs. Jameson's literary works may be added her“ Reminiscences of Munich,” and a translation of the “Dramas of the Princess Amelia of Saxony."
Mrs. Jameson's literary life may, to use the words of a contemporary journal, be divided into three epochs. The first includes various books of foreign travel, containing social and artistic criticism-in short, all the works that we have already named belong to this period; to the second epoch belong her elaborate works on Art proper, beginning, in 1842, with a “ Handbook to the Public Galleries of Art in and near London ;" and the third is represented by her two celebrated lectures on the " Communion of Labour” and “Sisters of Charity," and her “Letter to Lord John Russell.”
Mrs. Jameson only busied herself with “Art” as it was understood in the last generation, when it meant almost exclusively painting and sculpture. To appreciate her labours aright, it is essential to remember the state of literature and art before she commenced adding to it. The Germans had, indeed, begun their laborious reconstruction of the history of art; but in France there was not much, and in England still less; for there were only Richardson's old world talk and Walpole's gossip, Reynolds's discourses, and a few fossil lectures of the Academicians ; Ruskin, Lord Lindsay, Fergusson, and others, were all subsequent to Mrs. Jameson's first appearance in the field.
Her contributions to the literature of art, or, rather, of painting—the direction in which she created for herself her soundest and most enduring reputationstretch over nearly twenty years. After the “ Handbook to the Public Galleries" (1812), came her popular memoirs of "Early Italian Painters,” first published by Charles Knight in the " Penny Magazine," then as two one-shilling volumes, and finally they were reprinted, in a revised and more expensive form, by Murray, in 1858. As a condensation of Vasari, and a resume of all that need be said about the early painters and their works, these volumes are invaluable.
Other books of a similar scope are the “Companion to the Private Galleries in London," " Memoirs and Essays Mlustrative of Art and Literature," collected from various periodicals. Then came the large and copiously-illustrated volumes of sacred and legendary art, “ Legends of the Monastic Orders," " Legends of the Madonna ;” and death found her busy in the completion of a “ IIistory of the Life of Our Lord, and of His Precursor, St. John the Baptist; with the Personages and Typical Subjects of the Old Testament, as Represented in Christian Art." For two long years had Mrs. Jameson been engaged upon this work; she had taken many and exhausting journeys, made diligent examination of farscattered examples of art, and, in completion of this labour, had revisited Italy, and passed several months in Rome and other Continental cities. Mrs. Jameson was putting the last finish to the work (which we are happy to hear is nearly ready for the press) when she was, after a very brief illness, bidden to cease for ever.
Of her “Communion of Labour” and “Sisters of Charity” we cannot speak too highly. Prisons, reformatories, schools, hospitals, workhouses, all engaged her attention; and she most eloquently pleads that women may take their share in every good work with men. When the "Letter to Lord John Russell” was written and published, she said
“Now I have said all I can say upon these subjects, and I must return to art." But at the meeting of the Association for the Promotion of Social Science, at Bradford, in October last, she attended, and sat, during the whole of one day, in section B., where papers on the employment of women were being read, and occasionally joined in the discussions which ensued, while her brief observations and suggestions were received with marked respect.
In the course of her indefatigable literary career, she drew around her a large circle of steady friends, and “many foreign households will grieve for the English friend who knew how to sympathize with every nation's best ; how many learned and literary circles in Rome, in Florence, in Vienna, in Dresden, in Paris, will regret the bright mind, the accomplished talker, the affectionate heart, which recognized merit, and cheered the student, and made the studio and the salon gay and pleasant with her cordial smile."
Mrs. Jameson came up from Brighton, where she resided, to work at the “Life of Our Lord.” At the British Museum, where she went to inspect some prints, she caught a severe cold, which increased to inflammation of the lungs; and on Saturday evening, the 17th of March, within eight days of her seizure, she expired, at her lodgings in Conduit-street, in the sixty-fifth year of her age.
A contemporary pays this tribute of respect to the deceased lady:
“The death of Mrs. Jameson is a great loss to the literature of the arts, but a greater still to the many friends of this most exemplary, intelligent, and genial lady. Few of the public knew under what circumstances Mrs. Jameson's works were produced, at what cost of ill-remunerated [i. e., for the amount of labour bestowed upon them] but most conscientious labour ; and on what holy and selfsacrificing purposes the proceeds of that labour were employed. For many years Mrs. Jameson was the almost sole support of her mother and sisters, and a sister's child besides. No one ever bore a heavier load of self-imposed obligations, or carried that load more uncomplainingly. She moved as if she never felt it. But it was very heavy for all that ; and it broke her down at last. Her almost incessant labour, during the latter years of her life, was lightened by an annuity of 1001. (in addition to a Government pension of the same amount), which annuity she owed to the determined kindness of her friend, Mrs. Procter (wife of that sweetest of singers and kindliest of men, better known to the world by his nom de plume of Barry Cornwall), who raised the sum required for the purchase of this annuity, by her own unaided efforts, from among Mrs. Jameson's friends, and presented it to the unsuspecting and astonished dame as a birthday gift. It is well that such acts should be known, especially when done so unostentatiously and bravely."
At the outset, let us boldly confess that, for the present, at any rate, we don't intend to display anything else than a little subtlety in avoiding the main issues of the great Marriage Question. We shall not say one word now of the objects, rewards, forfeitures, of marriage; of hasty marriages, or of marriage as the result - of a long engagement;" of marriages for love, money, or any other consideration, No; we are inflexible-we won't look at matrimony other than from one point of view at present. We refuse to speak our thoughts, on this occasion, with as much firmness as we should refuse, being no way skilled in dental surgery, to extract one of our reader's teeth.
But when we have to tell how Master Richard Gibson, dwarf, painter in oils and water-colour, Page of the Back Stairs to Charles I.—and, we might have been tempted to add, tiny plaything generally with the full-blown beauties who graced the King's court, and sat for their portraits to Sir Peter Lely, like his contemporary, puny, irascible, ugly, homicidal little Jeffery Hudson-only truth compels 113 to say that he was not at all this manner of little man, but, on the contrary, a miniature version of a graceful, accomplished, well-bred English painter ;—when we have to narrate how this compendious artist was wedded to his no less compendious bride, we cannot help admitting just so much of the philosophy of matrimony as relates to choice in marriage into this sketch.
Fate, destiny, chance, it would appear, then, direct our choice in marriage; but sometimes, as in the case of the maiden who “ was married one morning as she went into the garden for parsley to stuff a rabbit,” the bride must be selected because of some peculiar fitness which induces the husband to make his choice in marriage" after the most expeditious fashion. When we make known our discovery as to the reason why Master Richard Gibson decided to wed Mistress Anne Shepherd, our insight into the harmony and fitness of things matrimonial
will be admitted instantly. Master Richard Gibson was three feet ten inches high ; Mistress Anne Shepherd was just two inches short of four feet! We expect our readers to accord us the full measure of applause due to such penetration of intellect!
History-apparently considering she has done enough, for so small a subject, in informing us that, on the day when Master Richard Gibson led Mistress Anne Shepherd to the altar, the King of England and his Queen Henrietta honoured the wedding with their presence, and that Charles I. himself gave away the bride
—refuses to gratify our curiosity as to the antecedents of the bridegroom, except to a very limited extent. She has very little to say about him indeed. As for the bride, she only takes notice of the little lady while under the shadow of royalty, at the altar; and, so far as we have been able to learn, never directly speaks of her afterwards. A poet was, however, ready to immortalize the pair. Waller sang on their marriage-day
“ Design, or chance, makes others wive;
But Nature did this match contrive;
Thirice happy is that humble pair,
As if the world held none but them.
To him the fairest nymphs do show,
Ah! Chloris! that kind Nature thus
Thrica sure out, this on seemed to frame
In his youth, Gibson was page to " a lady living at Mortlake." A clever, discriminating, worthy lady she was, however; for she discovered traits in the tiny youth's character which made him worth a better fate than that which awaited him as a toy and butt for fashionable ladies' and gallants' wit. This nameless, excellent woman placed Gibson under Francis de Cleyn to learn drawing. II. rapidly displayed great talent, and in a few years he copied many of Sir P. Lely's portraits with so much success as to gain him a place near the Sovereign. Charles I. fostered painting and the arts if he erred in other respects ; and when he gave the post of Page of the Back Stairs to Gibson, we may be sure that the little man's talent attached a dignity to him which effectually protected him from the courtiers' ridicule. The King himself so highly appreciated his excellence as a painter, that he desired Vanderdoort, the keeper of the pictures, to lay up carefully a small water-colour subject, “ The Parable of the Lost Sheep," by him. So completely did Vanderdoort carry out his Sovereign's commands, that when the King asked for the picture, the keeper could not find it, and hanged himself in despair, After his death, however, his executors found and restored it.
Sir P. Lely, Vandyke, and Dobson painted Gibson and his wife. Of Gibson's own artistic efforts, it may be said that he worked best in water-colour, and through his long life painted people of a very different stamp. He copied Queen Henrietta's portrait by Vandyke ; Cromwell he painted several times. The Gibsons had a large family-nine in all, five of whom lived to maturity, every one of them being, unlike their parents, of the ordinary height of mankind. Gibson died in his seventy-fifth year, but his wife reached the age of eighty-nine.