Изображения страниц

I turn my back upon him on the day that is to render me happy, and banish from my side the man I would have summoned there in the hour of difficulty or danger? No, Carlton ! There are ties so strong that no conventionalities can unloose them. I would despise myself, and all good men ought to despise me, if, from any such wretched considerations, I were to cast a slight upon him.”


Nay, when you place the matter in such a light," said Carlton, "I cannot gainsay you. Nevertheless, there is something in usage; and I cannot help thinking that there is incongruity in coupling Lumley with your friend, considering the very peculiar circumstances of their first acquaintance. All you have said is strictly correct and proper, and would secure the acquiescence of every one acquainted with your personal history; but it is impossible in such a case to make general explanations. May I ask if you have informed Mr Osett of your intention ?"

"Not yet. But I certainly shall do so."

"By all means, since you feel so strongly. But from the scanty opportunities I have had of observing him, it strikes me that he is a person by no means destitute of discretion, and perhaps his view may prove to be a little more practical than your own."

Carlton was right; for Davie met the proposal with a decided negative.

"Hoots-nonsense, Mr Norman!" he said. "It's very kind of you to think of me ; but it's no my place to be thrusting mysel' foward among the gentles and grandees at sic a time. A bonny figure I wad cut returning thanks for the health of the bridesmaids, and a sair skirling there wad be if I tried to kiss them, according to wont and privilege. There's a fitness to be observed in a' thingsnae man kens that better than I do -and you'll no catch me putting mysel' in the way to be gecked at, or making you ashamed by my

hamely manners. I ken my ain place. A cart-horse is no for a curricle; sae ye maun just think nae mair about it. I'll be there though, gin you'll let me, to see the wedding; but fient a bit o' me will cock mysel' up amang earls and colonels, and the like."

As Osett was inflexible in his resolution, not a little to the contentment of Carlton, it was agreed that Frank Stanhope should officiate as my supporter.

At length the eventful morn arrived; and in the little church at Wilbury good old Dr Wayles solemnised our union. Mary Beaton gave me her hand; and the fondest wish and aspiration of my heart was realised.

Since then years have gone by, and we are still in that Highland home which we regard as a paradise, and voices of children in the hall make the place more cheerful than before. Sometimes we pay a short visit to our friends in England-to Lord Lumley, who is now a peer of the realm, and a most devoted husband; and to the Carltons, who have ever held a first place in our affections-but we are always glad to return to the land of the mountain and the lake. We have been mercifully dealt with, for our sorrows have been very few; and the one calamity that threw us into mourning was so wrapped up in mystery that the shock of it was sensibly diminished. The vessel in which Mr Beaton sailed for Australia never reached its destination. No traces of it were ever seen. It might have foundered at sea; it might have been destroyed by fire; it might have been cast away on the savage coast of Africa-all possible, but all conjectural. Phantom-like did the fated ship, and every soul on board of her, melt away from mortal vision in the midst of the illimitable ocean.

Little more remains to be told. Eppie Osett joyfully accepted my invitation, and was installed in comfortable quarters in the house; but she did not remain there long.

In the first place, a desperate feud arose between her and the housekeeper touching some doctrinal point which I never could be brought to understand; and as the denominations to which they respectively belonged were as nearly as possible identical, the small variation of tenets became magnified into a hideous heresy. In the second place, Eppie conceived a violent dislike to the gamekeeper, a colossal fiery-whiskered Celt, whose principal recreations were playing on the bagpipes and dancing strathspeys in the kitchenpractices which, in Eppie's opinion, were exceedingly sinful, worthy of reprobation in this world, and certain to receive punishment in the next. In the third place, she manifested a disposition to interfere much more than was at all desirable in the management of the household, the consequence of which was a general insurrection of the servants. As the only means of restoring peace, I proposed to Eppie that she should become for the future the occupant of the lodge, where she might rule without contradiction or restraint, and develop the mental capacities of her one help and subject, a young Highland girl, shy as a ptarmigan or a mountain kid, and declared by the village schoolmistress to be impregnable to the influences of civilisation. To this proposition my old nurse readily agreed, and the peace that followed was complete.

Davie Osett rose rapidly in his profession; and having by industry and judicious investments amassed a considerable fortune, has built for himself a villa near Kelso, where he keeps a hospitable table, presided over by the ci-devant Miss Leslie, now a buxom and comely matron. Having paid us more than one visit, he has got over his prejudice against the Highlands, but still insists that a railway, with a station about a hundred yards from the house, would be a valuable adjunct to the property.

Once only was I tempted to


exchange the tranquil mode of life which I had voluntarily embraced, for a more active and stirring


On the eve of one of those political changes which are now so common that we look for them as for fluctuations of the tide, I received a letter from Lord Windermere strongly urging me to go into Parliament, and assuring me that, if I would agree to do so, my return for an English borough would be secured. I read the letter attentively, and then, without saying a word, handed it to old Mr Shearaway, who happened at that time to be my guest, for perusal. The experienced agent conned it over with the utmost deliberation.

"What think you of that proposal, Mr Shearaway?" said I.

"It matters very little what I think, Norman. In an affair of this sort a man must be directed by his own judgment."

"Doubtless; but in the first instance I would fain have the benefit of your view."

"Well, then, Norman, answer me this: If you were to go into Parliament, would it be from inclination or a sense of duty?"

"Not from inclination, certainly," I replied. "I have no ambition that way. My experience of public life leads me neither to covet its honours nor to court its responsibility."


"Then do you just remain as you are!" said Shearaway. Duty has its claims upon every man, but it is time enough to obey her call when she presents herself at your door. If you were asked to undertake the representation of your own county, it might be a different matter; but to enter Parliament as nominee for an English borough is just to fling yourself into the swirl of politics without rhyme or reason."

"Thanks for your candour, my good old friend! I think it probable that we shall both arrive at the same conclusion; but before returning a decisive answer to Lord Windermere I must take an hour for reflection."

I went to our little garden overlooking the lake. Mary was sitting in her bower watching the children, who were playing on the green. It was a delicious summer evening. Not a breath of air wrinkled the surface of the water, and against the glowing sky the purple mountains stood out in bold relief. From the neighbouring wood came the doling of the cushat, and the roedeer glided from the coppice.

I sate down beside Mary, and took her hand in mine.

"We have been very happy here, Mary."

"Ah, yes-so happy, Norman happier than we could have been elsewhere."

"Then you feel no inclination to make a change-no desire to return to the gay world of London ?"

"None whatever. But why do you ask, Norman ?”

[ocr errors]

Because if you wish for it, dearest, that change is within your power.'

"O Norman! surely you do not purpose to leave Glenvoil!"


Not unless that step should meet with your approbation, Mary. Listen to me. I have received a letter from Lord Windermere assuring me of a seat in the House of

Commons. If I accept, I must, as a matter of course, renounce the country, and permanently settle in London. What would you have me do?"

Mary paused for a few moments.

[ocr errors]

Norman, my husband!" she said, "if in your heart you feel an impulse towards a more active life, or if you are constrained by a sense of duty, accept the offer, and let no wish or inclination of mine weigh for a moment in the balance. To quit this beloved spot, where we have lived so long and so happily, would, I know, be a sore trial to both of us; but if it must be done, God forbid that I should repine."

[blocks in formation]


“The value and rank of every art is in proportion to the mental labour employed on it, or the raental pleasure produced by it."-REYNOLDS, iv. Discourse.

THESE words would seem to have been adopted for a motto by the compilers of the Academy catalogue, both as implied reproof and direct instruction: reproof towards that well-known class of artists who have so long persisted in making their pictures a mere feat of physical endurance and drudgery; and instruction and encouragement to those right-minded men who have striven to render their works a record of sober thought and intellectual progress. It cannot be concealed that our English school, both for evil and for good, has been passing through a period of revolution. A hackneyed conventionalism, handed down from generation to generation, at length worn out, naturally provoked reaction and revolt. The Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood arose, and for a time bade defiance to all established authority. The apostles of this new gospel, not wholly unlike the grand literary rebel, Thomas Carlyle, gloried in the most startling eccentricities. Their art was a Sartor Resartus, and their creed the doctrine that "pleasure" is ignoble, and that in "work" alone consists the end of life and the duty of man. The world stood aghast as, year by year, propriety of taste was subjected to some fresh outrage. Could it be, after all, that to really gifted vision nature loved to show herself in guise grotesque and repulsive? Was it come to this, that in art as in the province of law, the paradox was indeed a principle-the greater the truth the greater the libel? But it might be asked, Was this really art, and was this indeed actual nature, or was it not possibly the clumsy work of nature's journeymen imitating humanity abominably?

After the utter confusion which came upon English art-for several years growing still more confounded it is some consolation

once again to revert to fundamental principles. Practices may vacillate, but essential laws remain unchanged; and in the canons of criticism at least, it may be safely asserted that there can come nothing new under the sun. On the 10th December 1771, Sir Joshua Reynolds addressed the students of the Royal Academy in these words. Our readers will find his remarks equally fitted to the month of August 1861. "Gentlemen," he said, "the value and rank of every art is in proportion to the mental labour employed on it, or the mental pleasure produced by it. As this principle is observed or neglected, our profession becomes either a liberal art, or a mechanical trade. In the hands of one man it makes the highest pretensions, as it is addressed to the noblest faculties; in those of another, it is reduced to a mere matter of ornament, and the painter has but the humble province of furnishing our apartments with elegance.' This surely is a text upon which we might found our present analysis of London Exhibitions. We might show that elaborate canvasses, marvellous for manual industry and dexterity, are yet low in rank, wanting the elevation of "mental labour.' We could take up other works, and show that pleasure, excited by mere novel eccentricity, is one of the most superficial means of attracting public attention. We could manifest, as a contrast to certain works of studied and grotesque ugliness, the essential and immutable worth of intellectual beauty, the pure joy with which she fills the mind, the heavenly aspect she gives to earthly pleasures. We could go through the galleries of the year, and, in no tone of censure, and yet with feelings not free from regret, review with faint praise whole catalogues of painters

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The province of furnishing our apartments with elegance" could not possibly be occupied with better taste than by the two WaterColour Societies. The art of watercolour painting is perhaps most successful when least ambitious. Our English school of pretty landscapes in smiling array of pleasing brightness, of simple peasants tending their flocks or standing at cottage door, of small historic or social incidents appealing to partial sympathies, finds, it would appear, its fitting field within the compass of a sheet of paper. Large canvasses wholly transcend the dainty sentiments of the boudoir. They are too extended, alike for the thoughts at the artist's command and of the space at the patron's disposal. The drawings in the present exhibition of the elder society in Pall Mallpure liquid gems, sparkling with light and colour-subjects taken from flood and field and fond domestic story-are just within those narrow unambitious limits, and precisely of that finished refinement and beauty which best conform to the propriety of English tastes and the proportions of English patronage. Our leading water-colour painters have long comfortably settled themselves into prescribed and well-known excellences, from which even self-interest forbids them widely to depart, and each has for years been in the possession of a well-considered style which has won in its praise all the superlatives of criticism. Works from these well-tried favourites come forth year by year with the fertility and the periodic profusion

of fruits and flowers true to their season; and thus the gallery in Pall Mall, not unlike the horticultural tents at Chiswick or Regent's Park, is ever gay, crowded, and fashionable-a show and a promenade of the brightest and the fairest.

It becomes in the present year more than usually difficult to designate an Exhibition which, in the absence of conspicuous works, is chiefly noticeable for its even and unbroken average. As critics, we seem doomed, on this occasion, to the repetition of all that has been said a thousand times before. Mr Jenkins in his "Watteau," hung at the post of honour, paints a Boccaccio terraced garden, with youths and maidens given to sketching and the romance of song; a work which, like others proceeding from the same elegant hand, seems as if expressly composed for a popular engraving. Other artists, as we have said, are likewise seen in their usual manner. Mr Gilbert, in his "Roman Bagpiper," blots in vigorous Rembrandt effects; and, in "The Return of the Expedition," gives us a pen-and-ink medley with the scratchy hand of an etcher. Α small composition, “The Arrest of Hastings," in subtle relations of broken tertiary colour, for pointed character and precision of drawing, is a consummate artistic study, showing the rare power which Mr Gilbert commands when he chooses to put his genius fairly forth. Mr Alfred Fripp exhibits, in a pleasing subject," Passing the Cross at Ave Maria," his habitual refinement of sentiment and his subtle delicacy in colour. Mr George Fripp, in the "Pass of Nant Frangon," a careful drawing, is once more on his favourite sketching-ground in North Wales. Mr Carl Haag, in the "Acropolis of Athens" and other admirable works, gives a sequel to his Eastern reminiscences. Mr Joseph Nash, in a series of small compositions set in one large frame, has succeeded in illustrating the Pilgrim's Progress with a circumstantial detail which at any rate

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »