Page images

magical powers of execution seduce the British artist to the adoption of the topics which they in general have selected. Accustomed to mean and unworthy subjects, the mind becomes cramped and enfeebled. When it has been long habituated to trace the representation of minute and still life, devoid of mind or action, it can never hope to emulate the immortal productions of the great masters, and to become the Shakspeare or Milton of the graphic art in Britain.

The paintings of Hogarth, WILSON, and GAINSBOROUGH, do now bear prices, which, bestowed on the living artist, would have produced reward for talent, and incitement to exertion: but, I observe with pain and unwillingness, there is a feeling, which withholds applause from living and cotemporary merit, and deals out a cautious patronage, awaiting the death of the artist, before it dares to put a fair and liberal value on his productions. That our painters, indeed, will never equal

the performances of the antient schools, has been often repeated, and is sometimes admitted without a question; just as, at the period before Milton,SHAKSPEARE, Locke, and Newton existed, our ancestors might have readily conceded, that Englishmen could never hope to rival the productions of the antient poets, dramatists, metaphysicians, and philosophers. They, however, who are willing to suppose, that the works of the great Italian masters were the casual product of spontaneous and unexcited genius, do grossly deceive themselves. Those specious miracles were the natural and necessary effect of talent, stimulated by such honourable and munificent encouragement, as the world has never since beheld. The greatest monarchs, and the most opulent princes, vied with each other in fostering the arts, by the genuine and only mode,—that of promoting and rewarding LIVING AND NATIVE EXCELLENCE The public revenue was not then applied in burying antiquities, foreign and domestic, in a costly mausoleum; nor was


the attention of the connoisseur confined to the importation and acquisition of antient and extraneous compositions: but the efforts of all were employed in producing, for the delight and admiration of future ages, those wonders of art, which enlightened and splendid patronage will never fail to produce.

Royal Society.

On Dec. 1, the election of the officers took place. when the president and secretaries were re-elected, and a new council chosen. The Copleian medal was given to Andrew Knight, Esq. for his various papers on vegetation; when the President delivered an appropriate speech, bestowing on Mr. Knight the tribute of praise so justly due to him, for labours highly successful, and intimately connected with an important branch of philosophy, and with the theory and practice of agriculture.

The sittings commenced on the 6th of November, the Right Honourable Charles Greville in the chair. The Croonian lecture, on muscular motion, by John Pearson, Esq. F. R. S. was read. Mr. Pearson described the difference of the muscular power of the arterial system as connected with a difference of climate. In the same species of animal, the pulse is one third more slow under the arctic circle than at the tropics. Excess of cold or heat he supposed to be equally injurious to muscular power ; and he considered the blood as active, principally by stimulating the muscles.

On November 20, the Bakerian lecture on electricity as a chemical agent, commenced by H. Davy, Esq. F.R.S. He detailed in the first place some preliminary experiments, which shew, that the acid and alkali obtained in water in galvanic experiments, owing to impurities in the water; and that water, chemically pure, is decomposed into gaseous matter alone. Mr. Davy then described a number of




cesses, which shew, that all solid or fluid bodies, containing acids and alkalis, may be decomposed in consequence of the chemical repellent and attractive powers of electrified metallic surfaces. All alkaline matters are repelled by positive electricity, and all acid matters by negative electricity. Mr. Davy pointed out a property, not before noticed in bodies, which may be called their electrical energy; and he seemed inclined to believe, that all chemical affinity depends upon the equilibrium between the electrical energies of the combining bodies. He also pointed out various applications of this principle to the phenomena of art and nature.

Society of Antiquaries.

This learned body met, according to custom, early in the month of November. The chair was taken by the Rev. Dr. Hamilton, V. P. who, before the usual business commenced, pronounced a short but animated eulogium

« PreviousContinue »