Page images
PDF
EPUB

in the light of the lucid statement in the book before us, every serious thinker, it seems, has been groping his way towards a similar conclusion, but it has remained for our author to put it in precise and definite terms.

It is the aim of all the arts, Mr. Berenson says, to be "life-enhancing; " that is to say, to stimulate that healthy functioning of the organism which is the source of most of our normal pleasures. Each one of the arts has, as we all know, its own method of attaining this effect, but painting, being specifically concerned with form and movement, if it is capable of enhancing life in a unique way, must do it by these two means. And in what way can the representation of form and movement directly enhance life? The answer, according to Mr. Berenson, is bound up with the fact that such representation "stimulates to an unwonted activity psychical processes which are in themselves the source of most of our pleasures, and which here, free from disturbing physical sensations, never tend to pass over into pain."

But is this so? Do represented form and movement rouse greater psychical activity than form and movement in actual life? Art, it is true, isolates the object represented from anything that in real life might tend to diminish our enjoyment of it; allowing us, for example, to enjoy the artistic elements in a race or a wrestling-match, which, if we took part in either, would tire us, or, even if we merely watched them, would pass too quickly to allow us to note all the energetic and graceful movements. But if this were all, instantaneous photography would give us everything, except color, that painting can offer. In what way, then, does the representation of form and movement in art differ from that registered by the photographic camera ?

To answer this question we need not go far afield. According to Mr. Berenson, the task of painting is not fulfilled

when it has rendered just so much of form and movement as shall serve to make us recognize that the object is shaped in such and such a way, or poised in such and such a position, but only when it has presented us with form and movement in such wise that we shall realize them more readily than we do in actuality. Now, in real life, most of us who are not painters or sculptors ourselves realize but vaguely the forms and movements of the objects our eyes rest upon. To us, a person is rather a cause of transitive emotion, a social factor, than a form; and thus it is with everything we see. We are content with the mere recognition of properties in so far as they practically concern us. The visual world has come to be, to most people, only a set of symbols, signifying emotion, action, cause and effect, or what-not. But painting, whose peculiar task, we remember, is to be concerned with the visible qualities of form and movement, recalls to our consciousness the ancient means by which the race and every individual learned to realize the outer universe; reminds us that things are not merely symbols of dynamic forces, but objects to be dwelt on in and for themselves. If painting represented things, as photography does, only as they are in nature, our habit of taking them as symbols would receive no corrective. Painting must, therefore, select or invent those surfaces and those articulations which shall startle our ideated sense of touch and muscular tension into unwonted activity. It must, in Mr. Berenson's words, "extract the tactile and muscular values of retinal impressions, and present to us the significant in the visible world, so that we realize the representation more quickly and more completely than we should realize the things themselves."

We have already pointed out that the pleasure consequent upon this heightened realization may be connected with the familiar evolutionary theory that

pleasure inevitably accompanies an increase of healthy functioning. Mr. Berenson expresses this view in unequivo'cal terms in a passage which we quote as a summary of the sources of our enjoyment of the specifically artistic elements in painting: "I am in the habit of realizing a given object with an intensity that we shall value as 2. If I suddenly realize this familiar object with an intensity of 4, I receive the immediate pleasure which accompanies a doubling of my mental activity. But the pleasure rarely stops there. Those who are capable of receiving direct pleasure from a work of art are generally led on to the further pleasures of selfconsciousness. The fact that the psychical process of recognition goes forward with the unusual intensity of 4 to 2 overwhelms them with the sense of having twice the capacity they had credited themselves with: their whole personality is enhanced, and, being aware that this enhancement is connected with the object in question, they for some time after not only take an increased interest in it, but continue to realize it with the new intensity. Precisely this is what form does in painting: it lends a higher coefficient of reality to the object represented, with the consequent enjoyment of accelerated psychical processes, and the exhilarating sense of increased capacity in the observer."

Thus, the final test of the work of art is that it should be "life-enhancing," should "confirm our hold on life," should "reinforce our personality;" that it should give us a hyperesthesia not bought with drugs, and not paid for with checks drawn on our vitality," and

1 Nor does the author for a moment suggest that such analysis is in any way essential to the enjoyment of art, except, of course, in

should make us feel "as if the elixir of life, not our own sluggish blood, were coursing through our veins." Few of us, unaided, would be able to analyze the ultimate why and wherefore of the lifestimulating effect of great art, even when we feel it. Many, indeed, influenced by aesthetic theories based on no practical acquaintance with art, or, more misleading still, by theories that mix up the art with the artist, and pronounce the picture or the poem insane and diseased because the painter or poet was physically degenerate, will be inclined to dispute these conclusions. Such recalcitrants we must refer to Mr. Berenson's concrete application of the theory to the whole body of Florentine art, and we must ask them if they can find another which so perfectly explains the greatness of the Florentine school, or yields so satisfactory a classification of the masters within that school. Nor can we doubt that the theory, although treated here only in connection with Florentine painting, will apply equally to every school in which the living figure is the preoccupying interest. Indeed, Mr. Berenson's references to Greek art, to Rembrandt, to Velasquez, to Degas, to the Japanese, hint to a thoroughgoing application of the theory on the author's own part.

If this theory is logical and consistent, as we have endeavored to show it to be, and if it explains the facts as no other existing hypothesis, we are justified in yielding ourselves enthusiastically to the brave doctrine that art is one of the great tonic forces of civilization, that it can never be immoral except when it is unhealthy, and that it can never be unhealthy except when it is bad.

so far as clear definition helps us precisely to define our own sensations, and so to strengthen them.

COMMENT ON NEW BOOKS.

History and Biography. Life, Letters, and Works of Louis Agassiz, by Jules Marcou. With Illustrations. In two volumes. (Macmillan.) Mr. Marcou has passed in review the career of Agassiz, and has brought to his task the advantage of nationality and scientific training. He has also stood toward the great naturalist and his associates in the attitude of a critic, though his criticism is less formal and systematic than what might be called temperamental and personal. One needs to be somewhat on one's guard in reading, if he is to form sound judgments as to the relationships which existed between Agassiz and his associates, or to reckon with accuracy the part which each played. Nevertheless, with this caution, the reader will find himself threading some intricate and interesting paths in recent scientific history. An air of minute knowledge and positive judgment pervades the work. George Morland, Painter, London, 1763-1804, by Ralph Richardson. (Elliot Stock, London.) In the three years after Morland's death no less than four lives of him appeared, all practically unattainable to-day; the best, on the whole, being that of George Dawe, R. A., which Mr. Richardson has wisely elected to follow, for the most part, in compiling this biography, a book for which there certainly is a place, considering that the works of the artist it commemorates, those matchless studies of late eighteenth-century English rural life in its most prosperous and smiling estate, are found quite as admirable at the century's end as they were at its beginning. The writer makes a brave plea for leniency in judging the errors of his hero, but an overstrict education or the convivial habits of his time can hardly be held entirely responsible for his shortcomings. Under any circumstances, it is doubtful if this reckless, wasteful "good fellow," with his taste for "sport" in its lowest forms, would have led a very reputable life. The marvel of his career is the amount of work he accomplished in his few, ill-governed years. A great deal of carefully collated information regarding Morland's pictures and the engravings therefrom is contained in an appendix. A few reproductions from these engravings 54 NO. 464.

VOL. LXXVII.

-

are given in the volume, together with a portrait of the artist, after Rowlandson. William the Silent, Prince of Orange, the Moderate Man of the Sixteenth Century; the Story of his Life as told from his own Letters, from those of his Friends and Enemies, and from Official Documents. By Ruth Putnam. (Putnams.) We suppose that this work was begun with the intention that it should form a volume of the Heroes of the Nations Series, and that it grew in the author's hands till it was thought better not to try to confine it to the rather strait limits of the original design, - a decision for which its readers have reason to be grateful. Of course, the writer, to her manifest advantage, and naturally to her disadvantage as well, must follow in the footsteps of Motley, and she at once acknowledges that "through the labyrinth of partisan opinion. . . . I have patiently followed his inspiring lead, with growing admiration for the untiring industry of his laborious researches, and for the accuracy and skill of his adaptations from the enormous mass of matter that he examined,". no idle tribute, coming from so fair-minded, painstaking, and intelligent a student. In her aim to tell her story, so far as may be, in the very words of her hero and his contemporaries, she has selected liberally and judiciously from the great mass of William's correspondence, giving many letters never before published in English. She has been particularly successful in illustrating the domestic annals of the Nassau family, and her conclusions regarding different aspects of the character and conduct of its head are so carefully considered that they will be received with respect, if not always with entire assent. Her style, if quite without distinction, is unaffected, clear, and straightforward, but it is sometimes unduly and even ungracefully colloquial, and it is to be wished that occasional allusions to supposed American historical parallels had been omitted. Though in certain chapters she shows that she has not mastered the rare art of smoothly flowing and effective condensation, her narrative is steadily interesting, and is always the result of genuine study and research. The work is abundantly and well illustrated.

Memories and Studies of War and Peace, by Archibald Forbes. With Portrait of the Author. (Imported by Scribners.) The veteran war-correspondent's reminiscences make delightful reading, and there is not a dull page in his book. Besides the narratives of his professional experiences in the Franco-Prussian, Servian, Russo - Turkish, and Zulu wars, and other papers of a more general character relating to military affairs, Mr. Forbes gives us some genuine romances in miniature, which, since we are bound to believe them true stories, go to show that truth is indeed stranger than fiction. The Rule of the Turk, a Revised and Enlarged Edition of The Armenian Crisis, by Frederick Davis Greene, M. A. (Putnams.) - Echoes of Battle, by Bushrod Washington James. (H. T. Coates & Co., Philadelphia.) — Life and Speeches of Thomas Corwin, Orator, Lawyer, and Statesman, edited by Josiah Morrow. (W. H. Anderson & Co., Cincinnati.) Lucius Q. C. Lamar, his Life, Times, and Speeches, by Edward Mayes, LL. D. (Barbee & Smith, Nashville, Tenn.)

[ocr errors]

Literature. The seventh volume of the complete edition of Pepys's Diary (Bell, London; Macmillan, New York) begins in July, 1667, that time of humiliation in which the diarist records that "everybody do now-a-days reflect upon Oliver and commend him, what brave things he did, and made all the neighbor princes fear him;" and ends in April, 1668, with public affairs in no better state, for "we are all poor, and in pieces - God help us!" Still, Mr. Pepys, in spite of much hard (and very efficient) office work and serious worries connected therewith, manages to be "mighty merry as frequently as usual, how cheerfully he and his friends take their pleasure; indeed, even that ever-to-be-deplored malady of the eyes which has come upon him gives him an excuse for a careless keeping of his vows in the matter of play-going. But it is with a pang of sympathy, as well as with selfish regrets, that the book-lover comes upon ejaculations such as this: "My eyes very bad, and I know not how in the world to abstain from reading." The volume contains five illustrations, including a portrait of Lord Brouncker, after Lely, and views without and within of St. Olave's, Hart Street, where on so many Lord's Days Mr. Mills preached sermons, dull or lazy. - The

closing volumes of the Messrs. Roberts's edition of Balzac, in Miss Wormeley's always admirable translation, follow each other in quick succession. A late issue contains two of the minor tales, both belonging to Scenes from Provincial Life: The Gallery of Antiquities, and An Old Maid. — Four more numbers of the neat little Tennyson have reached us: Maud, In Memoriam, The Brook and Other Poems, the first number of Idylls of the King. (Macmillan.) — Amiel's Journal, translated by Mrs. Humphry Ward, forms two volumes of Macmillan's (paper) Miniature Series. Notes of a Professional Exile, by E. S. Nadal. (Century Co.) The exile is an expatriated American, who talks about American women and some other, less important topics. It is a pretty little volume, bound in embossed leather. - Old-World Japan, Legends of the Land of the Gods, retold by Frank Rinder. With Illustrations by T. H. Robinson. (Macmillan.) The legends are mostly rambling and incoherent; and presented as they are, without explanatory notes or any attempt to show the relations they bear to the myths of other peoples, they contain little that will interest Occidental readers. The illustrations are rather effective as pieces of decorative work, but are too distinctly English to illustrate properly a Japanese book.

Religion, Theology, and Ethics. Responsive Readings, selected from the Bible and arranged under subjects for Common Worship, by Henry Van Dyke. (Ginn.) Dr. Van Dyke compiled this book for use in the chapel of Harvard, and we hope it may come into general collegiate use, both because it is admirably arranged, and because, by its inclusion of other passages besides the psalter, it will enrich the service and add to the value of what always is in danger of being a formal operation. — Readings from the Bible. Selected for Schools and to be read in Unison. Under Supervision of the Chicago Woman's Educational Union. (Scott, Foresman & Co., Chicago.) A small volume, with short selections judiciously chosen from narrative, poem, prophecy, epistle. There is no obvious order, but the matter is taken topically, so that under such a head as Glorious in Holiness there are excerpts from Revelation, Matthew, Chronicles, Isaiah, and Exodus. Something is lost by this arbitrary group

ing, and we wish the compilers had borne more in mind the continuity of passages; the arrangement emphasizes too much the textual scheme of the Bible. It was needless, also, to preserve the old italicization of the King James version. But the book is a step in the right direction, and Mr. Moulton's suggestions as to literary form have been of excellent service. We do not see why this little volume should not solve some of the perplexities growing out of the exclusion of Bible-reading in schools. — Dogmatic Theology, by William G. T. Shedd, D. D. Volume III. Supplement. (Scribners.) St. Paul's Conception of Christianity, by Alexander Balmain Bruce, D. D., Professor of New Testament Exegesis in the Free Church College, Glasgow. (Scribners.) Fallen Angels: A Disquisition upon Human Existence. An Attempt to elucidate Some of its Mysteries, especially those of Evil and of Suffering. By One of Them. (Gay & Bird, London.) - The Power of an Endless Life, by Thomas C. Hall. (McClurg.) — William B. Hayden, for FortyTwo Years a Minister of the New-Jerusalem Church. Selected Essays and Discourses, with Memorials of his Life and Services. (Mass. New-Church Union, Boston.) The Church and Secular Life, by Frederick William Hamilton. (Universalist Publishing House, Boston and Chicago.)

The Law of Service, a Study in Christian Altruism, by James P. Kelley. (Putnams.) — The Leisure of God, and Other Studies in the Spiritual Evolution, by John Coleman Adams. (Universalist Publishing House.) A Creedless Gospel and the Gospel Creed, by Henry Y. Satterlee, D. D., Rector of Calvary Church, New York. (Scribners.) — Light on Current Topics. Bennett Lectures for 1895. (Mass. NewChurch Union.) The Religious Training of Children, by Abby Morton Diaz. Reprinted from the Metaphysical Review by Special Request. (The Metaphysical Publishing Co., New York.) Metaphors, Similes, and other Characteristic Sayings of Henry Ward Beecher. Compiled from Discourses reported by T. J. Ellinwood, with Introduction by Homer B. Sprague, Ph. D. (Andrew J. Graham & Co., New York.) Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, by the Rev. Chauncey Giles. A Memorial Volume. (American New-Church Tract and Publication Society, Philadelphia.) —

Heredity and Christian Problems, by Amory H. Bradford. (Macmillan.)

Fiction and the Drama. A Monk of Fife, by Andrew Lang. (Longmans.) Mr. Lang's readers do not learn for the first time from this chronicle that he is one of the most earnest and sincere of the latterday devotees of Jeanne la Pucelle. With an admirable assumption of the manner and feeling of the time, he tells by the pen of Norman Leslie, a Benedictine monk of Dunfermline, who in his youth had been one of the French king's Scottish Archers, of the adventures that befell the narrator on first coming into France, and especially of his intercourse with the Maid, from the glorious beginning to the tragic ending of her career. Though her name and fame pervade the story, by a wise art she is not too often brought upon the stage; but her character is clearly conceived, and, even in its aloofness, is drawn with firmness as well as grace. For the rest, there is a genuine black-browed villain, a charming, goldenhaired Scots lass, many men-at-arms, much fighting, and thrilling hairbreadth escapes, all set forth with an abundance of clerkly skill.

The X Jewel, by the Hon. Frederick Moncreiff. (Harpers.) There is no present lack of either Scottish or historical fiction, and this romance combines both qualities, being a tale of the days when James VI. was yet a lad. The author has a good working knowledge of the turbulent politics of the time, and can reasonably well adopt its manner of speech; but if he himself thoroughly understands the convolutions of his plot, he will hardly find many readers acute enough to share the knowledge with him. For ourselves, we very early in the narrative gave up trying to really comprehend the motives for the actions of Andrew Eviot and his friends or enemies, though, as we recognized in him a hero predestined to success, we take his final triumph for granted; for even this, as well as the last disposition of the X Jewel, remains a little obscure. - In the Smoke of War, by Walter Raymond. (Macmillan.) A contrast to the author's idyllic tales of peaceful country life is this story of civil strife; but the villagers, who hardly know whether they are for king or Parliament, though they suffer sorely in person or in goods when war comes to their doors, are drawn with the same true and sympathetic

« PreviousContinue »