« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
cated as much of the nature of the disease as could be stated without exciting injurious alarm--explained, as far as the individual could comprehend it, the process which nature followed in order to reach the condition of health
and urged on him the advantage of complying with her demands. He also stated to the patient, or his attendants, the occurrences which he knew would take place in the progress of the malady before his next visit, and instructed them how to act in the emergencies as they occurred. In his communications he practised discretion, but avoided mystery; stated truth as far as it could be revealed without injury to his patient. The consequences of this mode of proceeding were equally beneficial to his patients and to himself. They became convinced that it was nature that was dealing with them, and that, although they might cheat the doctor,' they could not arrest the progress of her evolutions, or escape from aggravated evils, if they obstructed the course of her sanative action. Under these convictions they obeyed his injunctions with earnestness and attention. By being premonished of approaching symptoms, which were frequently steps in the progress of the cure, but which, if not explained, might have been regarded as aggravations of the malady, they were saved from much alarm, and he from many unnecessary calls and attendances.”
In 1825 he took the degree of M.D., and two years later was elected President of the Phrenological Society. During these and several following years, he contributed many interesting papers to the “Phrenological Journal," and published a work on mental derangement; and in the course of an extensive practice addressed those invaluable letters to his patients, which, combining so happily the earnest and benevolent friend with the able physician and philosopher, must have strengthened his influence as well as greatly added to his usefulness.
In 1831 his health again gave way, and he was obliged to pass the winter in Italy, and for some years altogether to abandon the practice of his profession. Indeed, he was never able fully to resume it; for though, by a strict application of his principles to his own state, and an unflinching adherence to the rules he laid down, he seems to have prolonged his life, and enjoyed many intervals of comparative health and of usefulness (perhaps of a higher kind than lies within the scope of mere practice)—he was unfit for hard work, and must soon have sunk under exposure, exertion, or unfavourable curcumstances of any sort. In 1836 he had the gratification of being appointed physician to the king of the Belgians, but the moist atmosphere of Belgium was probably injurious to his delicate frame, for after a short trial he was obliged to resign the resident appointment, from finding his strength inadequate to the due performance of his duties, and he only returned occasionally to examine, and inspect, and to advise the royal family in hygienic matters. Between the years 1834-39, he published the three great works for which he had been so long and so carefully collecting and arranging the materials—“ The Principles of Physiology applied to the Preservation of Health, and to Education ;” “ The Physiology of Digestion ;" and “The Moral and Physical Management of Infancy.” In 1838 he was appointed one of the physicians extraordinary to the Queen in Scotland. By making occasional seasonable journeys to Belgium, Germany, and elsewhere, his health was so far preserved, that for months at a tine he was able to act as consulting physician in Edinburgh, where his wellmerited high reputation brought abundance of patients about him. the autumn of 1844 his health at last gave way so threateningly, as to
oblige him to give up all work and to try the climate of Madeira. There he passed two winters in tolerable comfort, returning to spend the summer months among those he so much loved. After this he only left home once again, and that was to make a voyage to America (which seemed to have been injurious to him), in the summer immediately preceding his death. His winters were spent in his own house in Edinburgh, in an artificial atmosphere, with all the comforts and appliances of an admirably regulated establishment, and there, surrounded by attached friends, and tended with faithful and most loving care, his life of usefulness was peacefully closed in the autumn of 1847.
We have given a meagre and most inadequate outline of a life, every day, almost every hour of which was spent in noble efforts for the improvement and happiness of mankind; but we hope enough has been said to induce the reader to study the book for himself. As a biography it is unusually satisfactory. We feel sure that we know the individual
Dr Combe had at his brother's request (probably with a view to some future biographical work) addressed to him a series of letters, in which he had at leisure, and in mature age, faithfully recorded many of the impressions and occurrences of his earlier years; and these have been skilfully used to carry on the narrative, which has, by this means, much of the pleasing character of an autobiography. Mr Combe's own clear views on many interesting subjects, and his accurate and affectionate reminiscences of his brother, are a valuable addition, and the whole has that air of unmistakeable verisimilitude which must ever be considered as the crowning merit of every work of the kind. We regret that our limits will not admit of large extracts, but a few sentences will give some idea of Dr Combe's style of letter-writing. To his friend Sir James Clark he gives the following account of the slow and careful manner of his composition :
“I have no such facility as you suppose, especially since my infirm health. Wit. ness the fact that the review of your book took me upwards of three weeks, laying aside all other composition ; and such is the proportion of time to all other subjects, even though I am familiar with them. You have probably formed this notion from my book on digestion having appeared in about a year from its announcement; but, in reality, it and my former volume are the work of years. So long ago as 1824 I had begun to write the latter (the Physiology), and threw it aside in despair of making it intelligible. It happened, however, that from an early period I had many consulta. tions and advices to give in writing to patients who lived much in the country, and who called for me while passing a short time in Edinburgh, and also to strangers whom I never saw. For the sake of easy reference as well as to preserve a record, I at last got a copying-machine, and for six years past have taken a copy by it of all my business letters: and thus there is scarcely a remark in my whole writings that does not directly or indirectly come out of that correspondence, and consequently out of actual observation; and it is this praetical quality, I believe, which makes my writings interest so many readers. Here, too, you will observe, I have materials for writing which save me much trouble, and it was only from the frequent assurances of my correspondents that what I said was level to their comprebensions and of much interest to their minds, that at length I ventured to prepare and publish the first valume,”
SCOTTISH ART AND ENGLISH CRITICS.
BEFORE reviewing the style in which English critics have dealt with our Scottish artists, or attempting to draw any comparison between the present position of pictorial art in England and Scotland, as indicated by the last exhibitions of the Royal Academies of London and Edinburgh respectively, it may be perhaps expedient to glance at the development of Scottish art in these latter years. No branch of the fine arts has been so much neglected by our countrymen as painting, and perhaps in no country in the world has the educated portion of society shown themselves so utterly dead to the humanising and refining influence of pictorial representations as have the educated classes in Scotland. Our poets have had their admiring biographers, and our national music has had votaries, who have devoted their lives to its study and collection; but our artists have, up to this time, been left
“Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung;" and the very names of men who made their country famous in the eyes of a contemporary age, as they are yet distinguished by their works in the annals of British art, are almost unknown to very many of their countrymen, who receive what is called a liberal education. It is neither our intention to disentomb those illustrious names at present, nor to carry our readers through a maze of antiquarian lore connected with Scottish art and artists. That is justly expected from other hands; and Scotchmen who take an interest in such subjects will not acquit some of our antiquarian artists of both indolence and indifference, if they, too, leave the record of their country's progress in this department of polite study unwritten. To them, at least in the meantime, must be left the task of recapitulating in detail the interest taken by the lion-hearted Bruce in pictorial art, or the progress and success of Jamesone of Aberdeen, at the end of the sixteenth century; of describing and discussing whether he or Velasquez made the best portrait of Charles I., or whether or not Jamesone bad any Scottish contemporaries; of deciding the true position the elder Scougall occupied in his profession, or determining whether De Witt had no assistance in the production of that gallery of hideous portraits which now disgraces Holyrood, under the imposing title of our Scottish kings. We leave the future historian of our country's art to mark out the artistic boundaries of the younger Scougall, and compare these with the merits of Nicholas Hude, the Frenchman, the protege of a former Queensberry, or the Belgian, John Baptista Medina, who received the honour of a Scotch knighthood for supposed skill in, and devotion to, the fine arts. With such subjects, space and purpose alike forbid us to intermeddle at present.
Even the latter epoch of Scottish art must be passed shortly over. Scotland led the van in the establishment of academies in the last century, as it was the precursor in the art-unions of our own day; but whether either have proved an unmixed blessing to British art, it would be hazardous to affirm. But, whether or not, fifteen years before the academy was opened at Somerset House, two celebrated Glasgow printers had conceived the magnificent design of establishing a school for the teaching of the higher branches of Painting in the Western Metropolis. Unfortunately, the zeal and liberality for the promotion of Scottish art, discovered by the Messrs Foulis, appeared to die with them, but their example produced results of which we are still reaping the fruit. The most famous pupil educated at the Glasgow seminary was that father of Scottish domestic art, David Allen, who, although by no means deficient in some of those higher qualities essential to the production of high art—as his pictures in St Peter's Chapel, at Edinburgh, sufficiently demonstrate-was undoubtedly revelling in his strength when giving permanence to the joyous festivities of our pastoral peasantry, or illustrating the scenes rendered immortal by the genius of the unfortunate Ayrshire bard, who, in this good work, was his friend and fellow-worker. Nor was this all. The Edinburgh Board of Trustees for the Promotion of Manufactures had received considerable funds at the union, and, stimulated by the noble example of the Messrs Foulis, they attempted, with greatly more success, to follow out the idea of giving durability and permanence to a native school of art. About the middle of the last century, these trustees, wisely supposing that the mechanical processes of manufacturing would be greatly enhanced by good designing, procured De la Cour, a Frenchman of but slender ability, to teach ornamental and pattern drawing. That the lessons of this artist could be of much service to his pupils, it is impossible to suppose, if we may judge from the fantastic specimens of his work which have come under our observation; but De la Cour was soon succeeded by another countryman of his, named Pavillion, who, however, is more famous as having been the teacher of the elder Nasmyth and the two Runcimans, than for any works of his own which he has left behind.
At the invitation of the trustees, one of the Runcimans, who was studying in Italy, was brought home to superintend their academy after the death of Pavillion. He in turn was succeeded by David Allen in 1793, at whose death Mr John Graham, shortly after he was appointed to the responsible position, first began to give a higher aim to the instructions. Well acquainted with some of the conventionalities of his art, although a stranger to genius, Graham had spirit enough to toss aside the puerilities of his predecessors, and substitute for fruits, flowers, and small French ornaments, the magnificent collection of casts with which the Trustees' Gallery is at present furnished. The fashionable and kingly patronage of President West would no doubt smooth the way for this sweeping change; and those gentlemen who then constituted the board would offer no objections to their servant, through their permission, following the example of " the father of his people."
In spite of the inherent vice of the constitution, the trustees, from the - zeal of Mr Graham, rendered good service to our Scottish art; and many of those names who have given us artistic place among the nations, received the first rudiments of their knowledge at this period in the Trustees' Academy. Wilkie, and Allen, and Geikie, and Fraser, and Kidd, and, Carse, were among the number; and, when we add to these the younger Nasmyth, who, for beauty of touch and truthfulness of colour, rivalled Macculloch—and Gibson, who, for breadth of effect, and that poetic feeling which indicates the higher qualities of art, almost trod upon the reputation of Hill, we are compelled to admit that, however faulty its construction, and enfeebling its constitution, the Trustees' Academy was to us the school of prophets, and that, from under the instructions of a man whose best works have perished with him, there issued much of that living fire which now gives artistic light, not only to Scotland, but to England also. Thomson, too, caught the reflected light, and, by his own untaught power, towered like a giant above all his Scottish compeers, whether revelling unequalled amid the gloomy grandeur of such scenes as Loch Katrine, or depicting with golden glow the glassy surface and rippling surge of an autumnal evening at Tantallon and the Bass, or filling the mind with mystic awe as he transferred, as if by inspiration, the religious fervour and national feeling of our countrymen into the martyrs' tombs, or rendered the old and stinted willows at Duddingston Loch instinct with lovely grandeur and graceful truth.
The effects of the constitution of the Board of Trustees, however, began in due season to betoken the essential absurdity of its constitution. The artists whom they had educated speedily felt their own power, and did not long submit to be snubbed and despised by men whom accident had rendered noble, or who might be learned in everything else, but were utterly ignorant of art. The artists commenced an exhibition in 1808, in the old Lyceum which entered through a narrow entry in Nicolson Street, at the corner of Hill Place; but, whether from the meanness of the hall, or the long, dark, and, in our day, dirty entrance, by which it was approached, it matters little, but works, which were creditable alike to the artists and to Scotland, were left on the walls unvisited by “ a discerning public,” and after fighting against influential indifference for eight long years, the attempt to establish an annual exhibition was given up in despair. High rank and fashionable flippancy undertook to provide what artistic merit had not been able to accomplish; and, under the patronage of the Board, called by another name, an attempt was made to wipe out the disgrace of past failure by the establishment of the Scottish Institution. But this, too, proved abortive; it was impossible it could be otherwise, and from the very same reasons which are rendering our present schools of design a useless and extravagant throwing away of public money. In every other art or profession, it is considered essential that the managers of associations for its promotion should have some knowledge of, and interest in the subject. In geology, in chemistry, in astronomy, in poetry, and in music, the educated and initiated only are considered qualified authoritatively to judge, or more authoritatively to direct; but, with regard to painting, all men, except the blind, feel themselves qualified to pronounce a dogmatic deliverance, and a competency in acres seems the only diploma necessary for enabling gentlemen to assume the direction in the national or local propagation of the fine arts. The germs of the Olympian Jupiter, and the Minerva of Phidias, were to be found in the gods constructed by those who peopled the islands of Ægeania, and the mighty triumphs of Raphael and Michael Angelo sprung from their precursors of the previous centuries; but it was the fostering care for art, and the tender and intelligent regard displayed by contemporaneous ages for the generations of living artists, which largely assisted in producing those landmarks and guiding-stars in the track of genius. Not so, however, acted those who assumed the same high mission and responsible calling in our northern metropolis, and the consequences of their folly quickly became evident.