Jean-Francois de Bastide – La Petite Maison, 1758

———————————————————————————————–Art in Fiction

J Bastide-reader- 1.jpg

Mélite, struck by this coup d’oeil, began to praise attentively and lost the desire to tease Trémicour. As she had lived without coquetry and without lovers, she had applied herself to self-instruction, whereas other women learned to love and to deceive, and she really had taste and acquaintances; she appreciated at a glance the talent of the most famous artists, who themselves owed to her esteem for masterpieces that immortality which so many women often prevent them from deserving by their love for trifles.

She praised the lightness of the chisel of the ingenious Pineau [3], who had presided over the sculpture; she admired the talents of Dandrillon [4], who had employed all his industry to preserve the most imperceptible delicacy of carpentry and sculpture; but above all, losing sight of the importunities to which she exposed herself to Trémicour by raising his vanity, she lavished upon him the praises which he deserved by his taste and choice.

“That pleases me”, she said; that is how I like to employ the advantages of fortune. It is no longer a small house: it is the temple of genius and taste …

– That is how the asylum of love must be”, he said tenderly. Without knowing that this god, who would have created other miracles for you, you feel that, to inspire, we must at least appear inspired by him …

– I think as you do, ‘she said; but why then, as I have heard, do so many petites maisons display bad taste?

– It is because those who possess them have desire without love”, he replied; “It is because love had not stopped that you would one day come to them.”

Mélite listened, and still would have listened further, but a kiss pressed to her hand told her that Trémicour had come there to pay homage to all the agreeable things he would find occasion to tell her about. She rose to see other rooms. The Marquis, who had observed her so touched by the beauty of the salon, and who had better things to show, hoped that more tender objects would touch her more, and was careful to keep her from running to her destiny. He gave her his hand, and they went right into a bedroom.

This room is square and panelled; a bed of daffodil coloured Péquin cloth trimmed with the most beautiful colours is enclosed in a niche placed in front of one of the windows that overlook the garden. It has not forgotten to place mirrors in the four corners. This room, moreover, ended in vault that contains in a circular frame a painting where Peter [5] has painted with all his art Hercules in the arms of Morpheus, awakened by Love. All the panels are finished in a soft sulphur colour; the marquetry in the parquet floor is of amaranth and cedar woods, the marbles are turquoise blue. Delightful bronzes and porcelain are placed, with choice and without confusion, on marble console tables distributed under the four mirrors; And, lastly, beautiful furniture of various shapes and forms that relate to the ideas everywhere expressed in this house, obliging the most frigid minds to feel a little of the voluptuousness which they suggest.

Mélite dare not praise anything; she even began to fear her feelings. She said only a few words, and Trémicour might have complained of it; but he understood, and he had good eyes; he would even have thanked her for his silence if he had not perceived that marks of gratitude are a mockery as long as a woman can disavow the ideas which we thank her. She entered the next room, and found another unexpected. This room is a boudoir, a place that it is unnecessary to name to the one who enters there, for the mind and the heart divine the situation at the same time. All the walls are covered with mirrors, with their borders masked by artificial tree trunks and carved foliage arranged with admirable skill. These trees are disposed in such a way that they appear to form an ordered arrangement; they are strewn with flowers and laden with candelabra whose wax candles provide a soft light in the mirrors, by the care we took in the end of the room, to spread light fabrics more or less over these transparent bodies, magic that accords so well with the optical effect that one can believe that you are in a natural grove illuminated with the aassisatnce of art. The niche in which the Ottoman is placed, a style of bed sitting on a rosewood parquet floor, is enriched with gold fringes mixed with green, and furnished with cushions of different textures. The entire perimeter and ceiling of this niche are also covered with mirors; Finally, carpentry and sculpture are painted in a colour matching the different objects they represent, and this colour has been applied by Dandrillon [6] so that it radiates violet, jasmine and rose. All this decoration is placed on a partition wall that is not very thick, and around which there is a fairly spacious corridor in which the Marquis had placed musicians.

Melita was in an ecstasy of delight. For more than a quarter of an hour when passing this boudoir, her tongue was muted, but her heart is not silent: He murmured secretly against men that engage all the talents to express a feeling of which they are so little capable. She made the wisest reflections on this; but they were, so to speak, secrets that the mind deposited in the depths of the heart, and who were soon to lose themselves there. Trémicour would seek them there with his piercing gaze, and the dstroy them by his breaths. He was no longer the man to whom she believed she could reproach for this monstrous contrast; she had changed it, and she had done more than Love. He did not speak, but his eyes were oaths. Mélite doubted his sincerity, but she saw that he could at least pretend well, and she was sensible that this dangerous art exhibits everything in a charming location. To distract herself from this idea, she moved away from him a little, and approached one of the mirrors, pretending to put a pin in her coiffure. Trémicour stood before the mirror vis-à-vis, and by this artifice, being able to regard her fondly without her being obliged to look away, he found that it was a snare that she had made around herself. She also had this thought, and wishing to destroy the cause, ontemplating her power, she thought she succeeded in making jokes at Trémicour.

“Well ! said she, will you stop staring at me? In the end, it irritates me. “

He flew toward her.

“So you have much hatred for me? He replied. Ah! Marquise, a little less injustice for a man who does not need to displease you to be convinced of his misfortune …

– See how modest he is! she cried.

– Yes, modest and unhappy, he continued; What I feel tells me to fear, what I fear tells me to fear yet. I adore you and am no more reassured. “

Mélite joked again; but with what evil skill she disguised the motive that wore it! Trémicour had taken her hand, and she did not think to remove it. He thought he could squeeze a little; she complained and asked if he would maim her.

“Ah! Madame ! he said, feigning despair, I beg of you a thousand pardons; I did not believe one could be so easily crippled. “

The air he had just taken disarmed her; he saw that the moment was decisive: he gave a signal, and at that instant the musicians placed in the corridor made a charming concert. This concert disconcerted her; she listened only for a moment, and, wanting to get away from a place that had become become difficult, she walked and entered a new room more delicious than anything she had seen before. Trémicour could have taken advantage of her ecstasy and close the door without her perceiving it to force her to listen; but he wished to owe the progress of victory to the progress of pleasure.

This new room is a bathroom suite. Marble, porcelain, muslins, nothing was spared; the panelling is heavy with arabesques executed by Perot [7] on the designs of Gilot [8], and contained in compartments distributed with great taste. Maritime plants mounted in bronze by Cafieri [9], pagodas, crystals and shells, interspersed with intelligence, decorate this room, in which are placed two niches, one of which is occupied by a bathtub, the other by a muslin embroidered Indian bed, adorned with chains of tassels. Beside it is a dressing room with panelling painted by Huet [10], depicting fruit, flowers and foreign birds, interwoven with garlands and medallions in which Boucher [11] painted medallions of small galant subjects as well above the doors. One has not forgotten a silver toilette by Germain [12]; Natural flowers fill the big blue porcelain bowls embellished with gold. Furniture lined with fabrics of the same colour fabric, the wood has Aventurine quartz design by Martin [13], to make this apartment worthy of enchanting the fairies. The upper part of the room has an elegantly profiled cornice, topped by a golden bell-shaped campane sculpture that serves as border with the underside containing a mosaic of gold interspersed with flowers painted by Bachelier. [14]

Mélite was overwhelmed by so many wonders; she felt as it were suffocated, and was obliged to sit down.

“I cannot stand any more, she said; this is too beautiful. There is nothing comparable on earth … “

The sound of her voice revealed a secret disorder. Trémicour felt that she was deeply moved; but as an adroit man, he had resolved not to appear to speak seriously. He contented himselfwith playing with a heart that could still renege.

“You do not believe it, he said, and this is how we feel that one must not swear by anything. I knew very well that alll this would charm you, but women still want to doubt.

– Oh ! I doubt not, ‘she said; I confess that this is divine and enchants me. “

Jean-Francois de Bastide, 1724-1798. La Petite Maison, 1758, revised 1763

Publisher: 1758 in the second volume of Le nouveau spectateur, Amsterdam and Paris, pp. 2: 361-412;

An allegory of the sensuous fascination of art to overcome the heart. A libertine, the Marquis de Trémicour, determinedly sets out to seduce an art student, Mélite, in his Petite Maison – a maison de plaisance, or house of pleasure in the suburbs of Paris designed for assignations. In a miniature Musée des Arts Décoratifs the rooms provide pictorial foreplay as Mélite admires the erotic paintings and etchings, with the artists identified for the reader in footnotes in the text. She loses her wager that she will not give in to him and is seduced in a reverie of aesthetic ecstasy as she is she overcome with sensation on the final page.

Compare to: Robert Bage 1730-1801 Hermsprong: or, Man As He Is Not, 1796 https://artinfiction.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/robert-bage-1730-1801-hermsprong-or-man-as-he-is-not-1796/

Notes on the artists.

3. Pineau. A sculptor famous for the ornaments, and the greater part of the sculptures of the apartments of our hotels are the work.

4. Dandrillon. Painter who found the secret of painting the wainscot without odour, and apply the gold on the sculpture without white primer.

5. Pierre. One of our famous painters, who by the force of his colour deserved a distinguished rank in the French school.

6. Dandrillon. It is still to this artist that we owe the discovery not only of having destroyed the bad odour of the impression which was previously given to the panelling, but of having found the secret of mixing in its ingredients An odour that is considered appropriate, an odour that persists for several years in succession, as many have already experienced.

7. Perot. Artist skilled in the genre of which we speak, and who painted at Choisi the prettiest things in this taste.

8. Gilot. The greatest draftsman of his time for arabesques, flowers, fruits, and animals, and who surpassed in this genre Perin, Audran, & c.

9. Cafieri. Founder and chiseler esteemed for the bronzes of which all the apartments of our beautiful houses of Paris and the surroundings are adorned.

10. Huet. Other famous painter of arabesques, and especially for animals.

11. Boucher. The painter of the Graces and the most ingenious artist of our century.

12. Germain. Famous goldsmith and son of the greatest artist that Europe possessed in this genre.

13. Martin. Famous varnisher known to everyone.

14. Bachelier. One of the most excellent painters of the present day, of whom he has lately left to become the rival of Desportes and Oudry, and perhaps surpass them.


		
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Xavier de Maistre – Voyage autour de ma chambre, 1794 Voyage Around My Room

x de maistre madame elisabeth vigee lebrun

Chapter 7

Doesn’t that seem clear enough to you? Here’s another example:

One day last summer, I was making my way on foot to court. I had spent the whole morning painting, and my soul, enjoying its meditations on painting, left it to the beast to transport me to the Kings’s Palace.

“What a sublime art is painting!” my soul was thinking. “Happy is the man who has been touched by the spectacle of nature, who is not obliged to paint pictures for a living, and who does not paint merely as a pastime, but is struck by the majesty of a beautiful physiognomy and the admirable play of the light that suffuses the human face with a thousand subtle hues! He attempts to approach in his works the sublime effects of nature. Happy too is the painter whom the love of landscape leads out on solitary excursions, who is able to express on canvas the feeling of melancholy inspired in him by a gloomy wood or a deserted countryside! His productions imitate and reproduce nature; he creates new dark seas and dark caves on which the sun has never shone: at his order, green copses emerge from nothingness, and the blue of the sky is reflected in his pictures; he knows the art of fanning the breezes and making the tempests roar. At other times, he offers to the eye of the bewitched spectator the delightful landscapes of ancient Sicily: you can see panic-stricken nymphs taking flight through the reeds from some satyr in hot pursuit; temples of majestic build raise their proud heads above the sacred forest that encloses them: the imagination loses itself along the silent roads of this ideal country; the blue horizons merge gently into the sky, and the whole landscape, mirrored in the waters of a tranquil river, forms a spectacle that no lagoon can describe.”

As my soul was reflecting thus, the other kept right on going – God knows where! Instead of making its way to court, as it had been ordered to, it drifted away so far leftwards that, by the time my soul had caught up with it, it was already at the door of Mme de Hautcastel, half a mile away from the royal palace.

I will leave it to the reader to imagine what would have happened if the other had entered all by itself the home of such a beautiful lady.

——-

Chapter 10

Don’t get the idea that, instead of keeping my word and giving a description of my journey around my room, I am merely beating about the bush and evading the issue; you’d be quite wrong. No, my journey is really and truly continuing; and while my soul, withdrawing into itself, was in the last chapter exploring the tangled and twisted paths of metaphysics, I was in my armchair, in which I had leant back so that its two front legs were raised two inches above the ground; and by leaning forward, I had imperceptibly come right up to the wall – this is the way I travel when I’m not in any hurry. Here my hand had mechanically taken down the portrait of Mme de Hautcastel, and the other was diverting itself by breathing off the dust with which the portrait was covered. This occupation gave it a tranquil pleasure, and this pleasure communicated itself to my soul, even though the latter was lost in the best plains of the sky. It is worth noting observing in this respect that, when the spirit travels thus through space, it is still attached to the senses by some secret link; as a result, without being distracted from its occupations, it can participate in the joys and pleasures of the other, but if this pleasure increases to a certain degree, or if it is struck by some unexpected sight, the soul immediately reassumes her place as quick as a flash of lightening.

This is just what happened to me as I was cleaning the portrait.

As the cloth wiped the dust away and revealed curls of blond hair, and the garland of roses that crown them, my soul, although far away in the sun to which she had transported herself, felt a slight quiver in her heart, and emphatically shared the pleasure of my heart. This pleasure became less indistinct and more intense when the cloth, in one single sweep, laid bare the gleaning forehead of that enchanting physiognomy; my soul was on the point of leaving the heavens to come and enjoy the spectacle. But if she had been at the Champs- Élysées, or attending a concert of cherubs, she wouldn’t have stayed there for even half a second, when her companion, taking an increasing interest in her work, decided to seize a wet sponge that was handed to her and immediately proceeded to draw it over the eyebrows and the eyes – over the nose – over the cheeks – over the mouth – ah, God! How my heart beats! – over the chin, over the breast: it took no more than a minute; the whole face seemed to be reborn and to emerge from nothingness. My soul came sweeping down from heaven like a falling star; she found the other in a state of enraptured ecstasy, and succeeded in increasing its bliss by sharing it. This strange and unforeseen situation made time and space disappear for me. I existed for a moment in the past, and I grew again, against the order of nature. Yes, here she is, that adored woman, it really is her, I can see her smiling; she’s going to speak, she’s going to tell me she loves me. What a gaze! Come, let me press you to my heart, soul of my life, my second existence! Come and share my exaltation and my happiness! – This moment was brief, but it was ravishing: frigid Reason soon regained control, and in the space of the twinkling of an eye, I grew a whole year older: my heart became cold and frozen, and I found myself on the same level as that host of indifferent people who weigh down the globe.

Xavier de Maistre, 1763-1852            Voyage autour de ma chambre, 1794 Voyage Around My Room. Translation by Andrew Brown. Published by Hesperus Press Ltd, 2004.

The French writer and critic Charles Saint-Beuve, 1805-1869, admired de Maistre’s technique of storytelling by digression, or “manière de confession d’ailleurs”. In the first chapter de Maistre explains the subject of his story “I have undertaken and completed a forty-two day journey around my room. The interesting observations I have made, and the continual pleasure I experienced en route, filled me with the desire to publish it;…” His journey starts at the armchair, observes the pictures on the wall, walks to his desk and concludes by the fire. That is the physical plot of the novella, but the narrative concerns a love affair with a Madame de Hautcastel. The story resulted from an incident in Turin where he was imprisoned for forty-two days in the citadel in Turin following a duel with a Piedmontese officer. De Maistre admired Lawrence Sterne and the absurdity of the inversion of space and time in the Voyage autour de ma chambre is a parody of the traditional travelogue. De Maistre was an army officer and an aristocrat, and also a painter of miniatures and landscapes with a sophisticated understanding of artistic ideas. Inspired by the ideas of Rousseau, his separation of his physical self, the other, and his emotional self, the soul, illustrates how pictures were perceived as sensitive mirrors of emotional states.

Image: Madame Élisabeth, (Élisabeth of France) (Elisabeth-Philippe-Marie-Hélène) 1764-1794, sister of Louis XVI, was guillotined during the French Revolution. Engraving after a painting of Madame Élisabeth, 1782 by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, 1755–1842, Musée National du Château de Versailles

Tiphaigne de la Roche – Giphantie,1760

Roche - for giphantie

Chapter 18. La Tempeste.

The esprits élémentaire, continued my guide, are not dressed as skilled painters, but as clever physicists. You must judge the manner in which they operate. You know that rays of light, reflected from different bodies, form pictures, and paint the image reflected on all polished surfaces, for example, on the retina of the eye, on water, and on glass.

The esprits élémentaire  have sought to fix these fleeting images; they have made a subtle material, very viscous, and very quick to dry and harden, by means of which a picture is formed in the twinkling of an eye. They coat a piece of canvas with this material, and place it in front of the object to capture. The first effect of this cloth is similar to that of a mirror, but by means of its viscous nature the prepared canvas, as is not the case with the mirror, retains a facsimile of the image. The mirror represents images faithfully, but retains none; our canvas reflects them no less faithfully, but retains them all. This impression of the image is instantaneous. The canvas is then removed and deposited in a dark place. An hour later the impression is dry, and you have a picture the more precious in that no art can imitate its truthfulness.

We take in the most pure source, in the body of the light, the colours that painters take from different materials, that the passage of time never fails to alter. The accuracy of the drawing, the truth of the expression, the touches more or less strong, the gradation of shades, the rules of perspective; we abandon all this to nature, which with undeniable certainty, traces on our canvases those images that impose on the eyes, and cast doubt on our sense of reality, and that they are not a species of phantoms who take control of our sight, hearing, touch, and all the senses at once.

The esprit élémentaire  then described some physical details; firstly, on the nature of the resinous surface which intercepts and captures the rays; secondly, the difficulties to prepare and use; thirdly, on the play of light and the dry surface; three problems that I pass on to physicists in our time, that I refer to their wisdom.

However, I could not look away from the picture above. A sensitive viewer, who, from the shore, contemplating a sea that a storm turns upside down, could not feel impressions more vivid: than these images equal to the object in reality.

Tiphaigne de la Roche,1722-1774.    Giphantie, 1760. Published by Durand, Paris

Giphantia, or A View of What Has Passed, What is Now Passing, and, During the Present Century, What Will Pass, in the World. Published 1760-1761 by Robert Horsfield, London

Giphantie is an early ‘science-fiction’ novel that explores the secret land of Giphantie in the heart of Africa, and a civilisation of isolated superior beings ‘ elemental spirits’. They communicate through a medium that resembles television, and describe a process of making images that predicts the first héliographie photograph by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 and the photo-chemical experiments and discovery of modern-day photography by Louis-Jacques Daguerre in 1839.

And the original French text…

Tiphaigne de la Roche,1722-1774.    Giphantie, 1760. Published by Durand, Paris

Chapitre 18. La Tempeste

Les esprits élémentaires, poursuivit le préfet, ne sont pas si habiles peintres qu’adroits physiciens ; tu vas en juger par leur manière d’opérer. Tu sais que les rayons de lumière, réfléchis des différents corps, font tableau, et peignent ces corps sur toutes leurs surfaces polies, sur la rétine de l’œil, par exemple, sur l’eau, sur les glaces. Les esprits élémentaires ont cherché à fixer ces images passagères ; ils ont composé une matière très subtile, très visqueuse et très prompte à se dessécher et à se durcir, au moyen de laquelle un tableau est fait en un clin d’œil. Ils enduisent de cette matière une pièce de la toile, et la présentent aux objets qu’ils veulent peindre. Le premier effet de la toile, est celui du miroir ; on y voit tous les corps voisins et éloignés, dont la lumière peut apporter l’image. Mais, ce qu’une glace ne saurait faire, la toile, au moyen de son enduit visqueux, retient les simulacres. Le miroir vous rend fidèlement les objets, mais n’en garde aucun ; nos toiles ne les rendent pas moins fidèlement, et les gardent tous. Cette impression des images est l’affaire du premier instant où la toile les reçoit : on l’ôte sur le champ, on la place dans un endroit obscur ; une heure après, l’enduit est desséché, et vous avez un tableau d’autant plus précieux, qu’aucun art ne peut en imiter la vérité, et que le temps ne peut en aucune manière l’endommager. Nous prenons dans la source la plus pure, dans le corps de la lumière, les couleurs que les peintres tirent de différents matériaux, que le laps des temps ne manque jamais d’altérer. La précision du dessin, la vérité de l’expression, les touches plus ou moins fortes, la gradation des nuances, les règles de la perspectives ; nous abandonnons tout cela à la nature, qui, avec cette marche sûre qui jamais ne se démentit, trace sur nos toiles des images qui en imposent aux yeux, et font douter à la raison si ce qu’on appelle réalités ne sont pas d’autres espèces de fantômes qui en imposent aux yeux, à l’ouïe, au toucher, à tous les sens à la fois.

L’esprit élémentaire entra ensuite dans quelques détails physiques ; premièrement, sur la nature du corps gluant, qui intercepte et garde les rayons ; secondement, sur les difficultés de le préparer et de l’employer ; troisièmement, sur le jeu de la lumière et de ce corps desséché : trois problèmes que je propose aux physiciens de nos jours, et que j’abandonne à leur sagacité.

Cependant, je ne pouvais détourner les yeux de dessus le tableau. Un spectateur sensible, qui, du rivage, contemple une mer que l’orage bouleverse, ne sent point des impressions plus vives : de telles images valent les choses.

Tobias Smollett – The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, 1751

Peregrine_Pickle_1st_edition

Chapter XLVII.

Peregrine makes himself Merry at the Expense of the Painter, who curses his Landlady, and breaks with the Doctor.

As he could easily conceive the situation of his companion in adversity, he was unwilling to leave the place until he had reaped some diversion from his distress, and with that view repaired to the dungeon of the afflicted painter, to which he had by this time free access. When he entered, the first object that presented itself to his eye was so uncommonly ridiculous, that he could scarce preserve that gravity of countenance which he had affected in order to execute the joke he had planned. The forlorn Pallet sat upright in his bed in a deshabille that was altogether extraordinary. He had laid aside his monstrous hoop, together with his stays, gown, and petticoat, wrapped his lappets about his head by way of nightcap, and wore his domino as a loose morning-dress; his grizzled locks hung down about his lack-lustre eyes and tawny neck, in all the disorder of negligence; his gray beard bristled about half-an-inch through the remains of the paint with which his visage had been bedaubed, and every feature of his face was lengthened to the most ridiculous expression of grief and dismay.

Seeing Peregrine come in, he started up in a sort of frantic ecstasy, and, running towards him with open arms, no sooner perceived the woeful appearance into which our hero had modelled his physiognomy, than he stopped short all of a sudden, and the joy which had begun to take possession of his heart was in a moment dispelled by the most rueful presages; so that he stood in a most ludicrous posture of dejection, like a malefactor at the Old Bailey, when sentence is about to be pronounced. Pickle, taking him by the hand, heaved a profound sigh; and after having protested that he was extremely mortified at being pitched upon as the messenger of bad news, told him, with an air of sympathy and infinite concern, that the French court, having discovered his sex, had resolved, in consideration of the outrageous indignity he offered in public to a prince of the blood, to detain him in the Bastille a prisoner for life; and that this sentence was a mitigation obtained by the importunities of the British ambassador, the punishment ordained by law being no other than breaking alive upon the wheel.

These tidings aggravated the horrors of the painter to such a degree that he roared aloud, and skipped about the room in all the extravagance of distraction, taking God and man to witness, that he would rather suffer immediate death than endure one year’s imprisonment in such a hideous place; and cursing the hour of his birth, and the moment on which he departed from his own country. “For my own part,” said his tormentor, in a hypocritical tone, “I was obliged to swallow the bitter pill of making submission to the prince, who, as I had not presumed to strike him, received acknowledgments, in consequence of which I shall be this day set at liberty; and there is even one expedient left for the recovery of your freedom—it is, I own, a disagreeable remedy, but one had better undergo a little mortification than be for ever wretched. Besides, upon second thoughts, I begin to imagine that you will not for such a trifle sacrifice yourself to the unceasing horrors of a dungeon; especially as your condescension will in all probability be attended with advantages which you could not otherwise enjoy.” Pallet, interrupting him with great eagerness, begged for the love of God that he would no longer keep him in the torture of suspense, but mention that same remedy, which he was resolved to follow, let it be ever so unpalatable.

Peregrine, having thus played upon his passions of fear and hope, answered, “that as the offence was committed in the habit of a woman, which was a disguise unworthy of the other sex, the French court was of opinion that the delinquent should be reduced to the neuter gender; so that there was no alternative at his own option, by which he had it in his power to regain immediate freedom.”—“What!” cried the painter, in despair, “become a singer? Gadzooks! and the devil and all that! I’ll rather be still where I am, and let myself be devoured by vermin.” Then thrusting out his throat—“Here is my windpipe,” said he; “be so good, my dear friend, as to give it a slice or two: if you don’t, I shall one of these days be found dangling in my garters. What an unfortunate rascal I am! What a blockhead, and a beast, and a fool, was I to trust myself among such a barbarous ruffian race! Lord forgive you, Mr. Pickle, for having been the immediate cause of my disaster. If you had stood by me from the beginning, according to your promise, I should not have been teased by that coxcomb who has brought me to this pass. And why did I put on this d—d unlucky dress? Lord curse that chattering Jezebel of a landlady, who advised such a preposterous disguise!—a disguise which has not only brought me to this pass, but also rendered me abominable to myself, and frightful to others; for when I this morning signified to the turnkey that I wanted to be shaved, he looked at my beard with astonishment, and, crossing himself, muttered his Pater Noster, believing me, I suppose, to be a witch, or something worse. And Heaven confound that loathsome banquet of the ancients, which provoked me to drink too freely, that I might wash away the taste of that accursed sillikicaby.”

Our young gentleman, having heard this lamentation to an end, excused himself for his conduct by representing that he could not possibly foresee the disagreeable consequences that attended it; and in the mean time strenuously counselled him to submit to the terms of his enlargement. He observed that he was now arrived at that time of life when the lusts of the flesh should be entirely mortified within him, and his greatest concern ought to be the of his soul, to which nothing could more effectually contribute than the amputation which was proposed; that his body, as well as his mind, would profit by the change; because he would have no dangerous appetite to gratify, and no carnal thoughts to divert him from the duties of his profession; and his voice, which was naturally sweet, would improve to such a degree, that he would captivate the ears of all the people of fashion and taste, and in a little time be celebrated under the appellation of the English Senesino.

These arguments did not fail to make impression upon the painter, who nevertheless started two objections to his compliance; namely, the disgrace of the punishment, and the dread of his wife. Pickle undertook to obviate these difficulties, by assuring him that the sentence would be executed so privately as never to transpire: and that his wife could not be so unconscionable, after so many years of cohabitation, as to take exceptions to an expedient by which she would not only enjoy the conversation of her husband, but even the fruits of those talents which the knife would so remarkably refine.

Pallet shook his hand at this last remonstrance, as if he thought it would not be altogether convincing to his spouse, but yielded to the proposal, provided her consent could be obtained. Just as he signified this condescension, the jailer entered, and addressing himself to the supposed lady, expressed his satisfaction in having the honour to tell her that she was no longer a prisoner. As the painter did not understand one word of what he said, Peregrine undertook the office of interpreter, and made his friend believe the jailer’s speech was no other than an intimation that the ministry had sent a surgeon to execute what was proposed, and that the instruments and dressings were prepared in the next room. Alarmed and terrified at this sudden appointment, he flew to the other end of the room, and, snatching up an earthen chamber-pot, which was the only offensive weapon in the place, put himself in a posture of defence, and with many oaths threatened to try the temper of the barber’s skull, if he should presume to set his nose within the apartment.

The jailer, who little expected such a reception, concluded that the poor gentlewoman had actually lost her wits, and retreated with precipitation, leaving the door open as he went out; upon which Pickle, gathering up the particulars of his dress with great despatch, crammed them into Pallet’s arms, and taking notice that now the coast was clear, exhorted him to follow his footsteps to the gate, where a hackney-coach stood for his reception. There being no time for hesitation, the painter took his advice; and, without quitting the utensil, which in his hurry he forgot to lay down, sallied out in the rear of our hero, with all the wildness of terror and impatience which may be reasonably supposed to take possession of a man who flies from perpetual imprisonment. Such was the tumult of his agitation, that his faculty of thinking was for the present utterly overwhelmed, and he saw no object but his conductor, whom he followed by a sort of instinctive impulse, without regarding the keepers and sentinels, who, as he passed with his clothes under one arm, and his chamber-pot brandished above his head, were confounded, and even dismayed, at the strange apparition.

During the whole course of this irruption, he ceased nor to cry, with great vociferation, “Drive, coachman, drive, in the name of God!” and the carriage had proceeded the length of a whole street before he manifested the least sign of reflection, but stared like the Gorgon’s head, with his mouth wide open, and each particular hair crawling and twining like an animated serpent. At length, however, he began to recover the use of his senses, and asked if Peregrine thought him now out of all danger of being retaken. This unrelenting wag, not yet satisfied with the affliction he imposed upon the sufferer, answered, with an air of doubt and concern, that he hoped they would not be overtaken, and prayed to God they might not be retarded by a stop of carriages. Pallet fervently joined in this supplication; and they advanced a few yards farther, when the noise of a coach at full speed behind them invaded their ears; and Pickle, having looked out of the window, withdrew his head in seeming confusion, and exclaimed, “Lord have mercy upon us! I wish that may not be a guard sent after us. Methinks I saw the muzzle of a fusil sticking out of the coach.” The painter, hearing these tidings, that instant thrust himself half out at the window, with his helmet still in his hand, bellowing to the coachman, as loud as he could roar, “Drive, d— ye, dive to the gates of Jericho and the ends of the earth! Drive, you ragamuffin, you rascallion, you hell-hound! Drive us to the pit Of hell, rather than we should be taken!”

Such a phantom could not pass without attracting the curiosity of the people, who ran to their doors and windows, in order to behold this object of admiration. With the same view, that coach, which was supposed to be in pursuit of him, stopped just as the windows of each happened to be opposite; and Pallet, looking behind, and seeing three men standing upon the footboard armed with canes, which his fear converted into fusils, never doubted that his friend’s suspicion was just, but, shaking his Jordan at the imaginary guard, swore he would sooner die than part with his precious ware. The owner of the coach, who was a nobleman of the first quality, mistook him for some unhappy woman deprived of her senses: and, ordering his coachman to proceed, convinced the fugitive, to his infinite joy, that this was no more than a false alarm. He was not, for all that, freed from anxiety and trepidation; but our young gentleman, fearing his brain would not bear a repetition of the same joke, permitted him to gain his own lodgings without further molestation.

His landlady, meeting him on the stair, was so affected at his appearance, that she screamed aloud, and betook herself to flight; while he, cursing her with greet bitterness, rushed into the apartment to the doctor, who, instead of receiving him with cordial embraces, and congratulating him upon his deliverance, gave evident signs of umbrage and discontent; and even plainly told him, he hoped to have heard that he and Mr. Pickle had acted the glorious part of Cato; an event which would have laid the foundation of such noble struggles, as could not fail to end in happiness and freedom; and that he had already made some progress in an ode that would have immortalised their names, and inspired the flame of liberty in every honest breast. “There,” said he, “I would have proved, that great talents, and high sentiments of liberty, do reciprocally produce and assist each other; and illustrated my assertions with such notes and quotations from the Greek writers, as would have opened the eyes of the most blind and unthinking, and touched the most callous and obdurate heart. ‘O fool! to think the man, whose ample mind must grasp whatever yonder stars survey’—Pray, Mr. Pellet, what is your opinion of that image of the mind’s grasping the whole universe? For my own part, I can’t help thinking it the most happy conception that ever entered my imagination.”

The painter, who was not such a flaming enthusiast in the cause of liberty, could not brook the doctor’s reflections, which he thought savoured a little too much of indifference and deficiency in point of private friendship; and therefore seized the present opportunity of mortifying his pride, by observing, that the image was, without all doubt, very grand and magnificent; but that he had been obliged for the idea to Mr. Bayes in “The Rehearsal,” who values himself upon the same figure, conveyed in these words, “But all these clouds, when by the eye of reason grasp’d, etc.” Upon any other occasion, the painter would have triumphed greatly upon this detection; but such was the flutter and confusion of his spirits, under the apprehension of being retaken, that, without further communication, he retreated to his own room, in order to resume his own dress, which he hoped would alter his appearance in such a manner as to baffle all search and examination; while the physician remained ashamed and abashed, to find himself convinced of bombast by a person of such contemptible talents. He was offended at this proof of his memory, and so much enraged at his presumption in exhibiting it, that he could never forgive his want of reverence, and took every opportunity of exposing his ignorance and folly in the sequel. Indeed, the ties of private affection were too weak to engage the heart of this republican, whose zeal for the community had entirely swallowed up his concern for individuals. He looked upon particular friendship as a passion unworthy of his ample soul, and was a professed admirer of L. Manlius, Junius Brutus, and those later patriots of the same name, who shut their ears against the cries of nature, and resisted all the dictates of gratitude and humanity.

Tobias Smollett, 1721-1771.  The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, 1751

Pallet: The painter in Smollett’s Peregrine Pickle. A man without one jot of reverence for ancient customs or modern etiquette. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. E. Cobham Brewer, 1894

J W von Goethe – The Sorrows of Young Werther,1774

goethe

July 24,1771

Since you so concerned that I should not neglect my drawing, I would prefer to say nothing at all about the question than to admit how little I have done of late.

I have never felt happier, and my feelings for Nature, down to tiny pebbles and blades of grass, have never been so full and acute, and yet – I do not know how to express myself; my imaginative powers are so weak, and everything slides and shifts before my soul, so that I cannot grasp the outlines; but I fancy I might make a go of it if I had some clay or wax to model. If things are like this much longer I really shall get some clay and model it, even if all I produce is dumplings!

I have started on a portrait of Lotte three times, and three times I have failed disgracefully; which depresses me all the more since I could take a very good likeness not so long ago. So then I cut a silhouette profile of her, and that will have to do.

goethe 1 J W von Goethe. 1749-1832. Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, 1774  The Sorrows of Young Werther

© Translation by Michael Hulse,1989. Penguin Classics, 1989

Images:

Silhouette of Charlotte Sophie Henriette Buff, 1753-1828, the model for Lotte in The Sorrows of Young Werther. © Bildatlas zur Geschichte der Deutschen Nationalliteratur by Gustav Koennecke.

Georg Melchior Kraus, 1737-1806. Goethe mit der silhouette. ©Goethe Haus, Frankfurt

Phillis Wheatley – To S.M.,* A Young African Painter, on Seeing His Works, 1793

Phillis_Wheatley_frontispiece

TO show the lab’ring bosom’s deep intent,
And thought in living characters to paint,
When first thy pencil did those beauties give,
And breathing figures learnt from thee to live,
How did those prospects give my soul delight,
A new creation rushing on my sight!
Still, wondrous youth! each noble path pursue;
On deathless glories fix thine ardent view:
Still may the painter’s and the poet’s fire,
To aid thy pencil and thy verse conspire!
And may the charms of each seraphic theme
Conduct thy footsteps to immortal fame!
High to the blissful wonders of the skies
Elate thy soul, and raise thy wishful eyes.
Thrice happy, when exalted to survey
That splendid city, crowned with endless day,
Whose twice six gates on radiant hinges ring:
Celestial Salem blooms in endless spring.
Calm and serene thy moments glide along,
And may the muse inspire each future song!
Still, with the sweets of contemplation blessed,
May peace with balmy wings your soul invest!
But when these shades of time are chased away,
And darkness ends in everlasting day,
On what seraphic pinions shall we move,
And view the landsapes in the realms above!
There shall thy tongue in heavenly murmurs flow,
And there my muse with heavenly transport glow;
No more to tell of Damon’s tender sighs,
Or rising radiance of Aurora’s eyes;
For nobler themes demand a nobler strain,
And purer language on the ethereal plain.
Cease, gentle Muse! the solemn gloom of night
Now seals the fair creation from my sight.

Phillis Wheatley, c.1753 – 1784

To S.M.,* A Young African Painter, on Seeing His Works.   Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1793

*Scipio Moorhead

Phyllis Wheatley was born in Senegal and taken into slavery in America. She was the first African American to publish a volume of literature. Scipio Moorhead was an African American artist, active c. 1773, who lived in slavery in Boston. His only known work is the engraving of the portrait of Phillis Wheatley.

Image: Scipio Moorhead. Frontespiece to: Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1793

Bernard Mandeville – The Fable of the Bees, 1714

fableofthebeesCleomenes.

…But since my Eyes have been open’d I have found out that Truth and Probability are the silliest Things in the World; they are of no manner of use, especially among the People de bon gout.

Horatio.

I thought what a Convert you was: but what new Madness has seiz’d you now?

Cleomenes.

No Madness at all: I say and will maintain it to the World, that Truth, in the Sublime, is very impertinent; and that in the Arts and Sciences, fit for Men of Taste to look into, a Master cannot commit a more unpardonable Fault, than sticking to, or being influenc’d by Truth, where it interferes with what is agreeable.

Horatio.

Homely Truths indeed—-

Cleomenes.

Look upon that Dutch Piece of the Nativity: what charming Colouring there is! what a fine Pencil, and how just are the Out-Lines for a Piece so curiously finish’d! But what a Fool the Fellow was to draw Hay and Straw and Cattle, and a Rack as well as a Manger: it is a Wonder he did not put the Bambino into the Manger.

Fulvia.

The Bambino? That is the Child, I suppose; why it should be in the Manger; should it not? Does not the History tell us, that the Child was laid in the Manger? I have no Skill in Painting, but I can see whether things are drawn to the Life or not; sure nothing can be more like the Head of an Ox than that there. A Picture then pleases me best when the Art in such a Manner deceives my Eye, that without making any Allowances, I can imagine I see the Things in reality which the Painter has endeavour’d to represent. I have always thought it an admirable Piece; sure nothing in the World can be more like Nature.

Cleomenes.

Like Nature! So much the worse: Indeed, Cousin, it is easily seen that you have no Skill in Painting. It is not Nature, but agreeable Nature, la belle Nature, that is to be represented; all Things that are abject, low, pitiful and mean, are carefully to be avoided, and kept out of Sight; because to Men of the true Taste they are as offensive as Things that are shocking, and really nasty.

Fulvia.

At that rate, the Virgin Mary’s Condition, and our Saviour’s Birth, are never to be painted.

Cleomenes.

That’s your Mistake; the Subject it self is noble: Let us go but in the next Room and I’ll shew you the Difference.—Look upon that Picture, which is the same History. There’s fine Architecture, there’s a Colonnade; Can any thing be thought of more Magnificent? How skilfully is that Ass removed, and how little you see of the Ox; pray mind the Obscurity they are both placed in: It hangs in a strong Light, or else one might look ten times upon the Picture without observing them: Behold these Pillars of the Corinthian Order, how lofty they are, and what an Effect they have, what a noble Space, what an Area here is! How nobly every thing concurs to express the majestick Grandeur of the Subject, and strikes the Soul with Awe and Admiration at the same time!

Fulvia.

Pray Cousin, has good Sense ever any Share in the Judgment which your Men of true Taste form about Pictures?

Horatio.

Madam!

Fulvia.

I beg pardon, Sir, if I have offended: but to me it seems strange to hear such Commendation given to a Painter, for turning the Stable of a Country Inn into a Palace of extraordinary Magnificence: This is a great deal worse than Swift’s Metamorphosis of Philemon and Baucis; for there some Shew of Resemblance is kept in the Changes.

Horatio.

In a Country Stable, Madam, there is nothing but Filth and Nastiness, or vile abject Things not fit to be seen, at least not capable of entertaining Persons of Quality.

Fulvia.

The Dutch Picture in the next Room has nothing that is offensive: but an Augean Stable, even before Hercules had clean’d it, would be less shocking to me than those fluted Pillars; for no body can please my Eye that affronts my Understanding: When I desire a Man to paint a considerable History, which every body knows to have been transacted at a Country Inn, does he not strangely impose upon me, because he understands Architecture, to draw me a Room that might have serv’d for a great Hall or Banquetting-house to any Roman Emperor? Besides that the poor and abject State in which our Saviour chose to appear at his coming into the World, is the most material Circumstance of the History: it contains an excellent Moral against vain Pomp, and is the strongest Persuasive to Humility, which in the Italian are more than lost.

Horatio.

Indeed, Madam, Experience is against you; and it is certain, that even among the Vulgar the Representations of mean and abject Things, and such as they are familiar with, have not that Effect, and either breed Contempt, or are Insignificant: whereas vast Piles, stately Buildings, Roofs of uncommon Height, surprizing Ornaments, and all the Architecture of the grand Taste, are the fittest to raise Devotion and inspire Men with Veneration and a Religious Awe for the Places that have these Excellencies to boast of. Is there ever a Meeting-house or Barn to be compared to a fine Cathedral, for this purpose?

Fulvia.

I believe there is a Mechanical Way of raising Devotion in silly superstitious Creatures; but an attentive Contemplation on the Works of God, I am sure——

Cleomenes.

Pray, Cousin, say no more in Defence of your low Taste: The Painter has nothing to do with the Truth of the History; his Business is to express the Dignity of the Subject, and in Compliment to his Judges, never to forget the Excellency of our Species: All his Art and good Sense must be employ’d in raising that to the highest pitch: Great Masters don’t paint for the common People, but for Persons of refin’d Understanding: What you complain of is the Effect of the good Manners and Complaisance of the Painter. When he had drawn the Infant and the Madona, he thought the least glimpse of the Ox and the Ass would be sufficient to acquaint you with the History: They who want more fescuing and a broader Explanation he don’t desire his Picture should ever be shewn to; for the rest, he entertains you with nothing but what is Noble and worthy your Attention: You see he is an Architect, and compleatly skill’d in Perspective, and he shews you how finely he can round a Pillar, and that both the Depth and the Height of Space a may be drawn on a Flat, with all the other Wonders he performs by his Skill in that inconceivable Mystery of Light and Shadows.

Fulvia.

Why then is it pretended that Painting is an Imitation of Nature?

Cleomenes.

At first setting out a Scholar is to copy things exactly as he sees them; but from a great Master, when he is left to his own Invention, it is expected he should take the Perfections of Nature, and not paint it as it is, but as we would wish it to be. Zeuxis, to draw a Goddess, took five beautiful Women, from which he cull’d what was most graceful in each.

Fulvia.

Still every Grace he painted was taken from Nature.

Cleomenes.

That’s true; but he left Nature her Rubbish, and imitated nothing but what was excellent, which made the Assemblage superior to any thing in Nature. Demetrius was tax’d for being too Natural; Dionysius was also blamed for drawing Men like us. Nearer our times, Michael Angelo was esteem’d too Natural, and Lysippus of old upbraided the common sort of Sculptors for making Men such as they were found in Nature.

Fulvia.

Are these things real?

Cleomenes.

You may read it your self in Graham’s Preface to The Art of Painting: the Book is above in the Library.

Horatio.

These Things may seem strange to you, Madam, but they are of immense Use to the Publick: The higher we can carry the Excellency of our Species, the more those beautiful Images will fill noble Minds with worthy and suitable Ideas of their own Dignity, that will seldom fail of spurring them on to Virtue and Heroick Actions. There is a Grandeur to be express’d in Things that far surpasses the Beauties of simple Nature. You take Delight in Opera’s, Madam, I don’t question; you must have minded the noble Manner and Stateliness beyond Nature, which every thing there is executed with. What gentle Touches, what slight and yet majestick Motions are made use of to express the most boisterous Passions! As the Subject is always lofty, so no Posture is to be chosen but what is Serious and Significant as well as Comely and Agreeable; should the Actions there be represented as they are in common Life, they would ruin the Sublime, and at once rob you of all your Pleasure.

Bernard Mandeville, 1670-1733          Fable of the Bees: private vices, publick benefits, 1714. Volume II

The First Dialogue between  Horatio, Cleomenes, and Fulvia