Page images
PDF
EPUB

we can ourselves build places, that may be mistaken for churches, are we to deny ourselves the waifs and strays of episcopacy which these may bring us?"

Red-tape, my friend, time would fail me to answer all your questions; but in the last of them you have, I suspect, in the strangest way, blurted out the truth. And certainly, as I myself saw, of two such catches' has your imitative architecture already to boast. Perched all proudly on the iron cross at the summit of a modern Wesleyan chapel, they seemed to be making themselves quite at home, and their loud.caw.cawing' from such a “steeple' had begun, I own, somewhat to astonish me, when a friend at my elbow suggested that the silly jackdaws had surely mistaken the conventicle for a church!

• Do you not see,' says Veridicus, 'that this style of chapel-building is the effect of competition ? Cotton-tape must have a new shop front, not because his soul delights in glass, but because his rival, Linen. tape, has had one; and perhaps when he has got the same, some thrifty housewife may confound his modern trade with the business up the street, “established in the reign of Queen Anne.” Besides, if he should be driven to a mortgage, it will be greatly facilitated by the magnificent appearance of that unbroken surface of glass. One must go with the times, you know, or be content to be “nowhere” in the great race.'

Enough, then. Quocunque trahunt fata, sequamur; and I fear the Dissenters must receive with resignation the kicks administered to them in the following passage. It is from that wicked almanac again, p. 231. • Dissenters in their imitation of mediæval art seem hitherto many years behind us in the character and spirit of the decoration, which as yet seems purely exhibitory, as on shops or shows, or the churches (whether Pancras-Greek or Chelsea-Gothic) of George IV.'s time. They still, therefore, as heretofore, simply follow in the steps of the National Church architecture, at a respectful distance, varying in each sect, from the Congregational, &c., to the Society of Friends, who bring up the rear with their singular fancy for being at the top of the most genteel fashion of fifty years ago.'

Much might be added ; and of pew-rents and free sittings some. thing will yet have to be said, but not to-day. It is written, however, that. Where there is no vision the people perish.' The poor people ! My heart bleeds for them when I think of it. What with your specific adaptation to the wants of the age, they have some singular visions at present. For they demand a Christianity which shall be seen, and you point them to your new steeple; they cry out for the light, and you cause it to stream on them through windows of stained glass, emblazoned with the cardinal doctrines of the gospel;' amidst the 'shaking of the nations' they would feel some solid ground beneath their feet, and lo! there are aisles laid for them with blue and red quarries ; they implore you to grant them some tokens of a living Christianity, and you answer them with foliage and blossoms done in compo;' they ask you for the bread of life, and you have not even the grace to give them solid unostentatious STONE.

But, stone or stucco, the work of the chisel or the work of the mould, what but mockery could either be, apart from the enkindling life? And I would give the new steeple itself, to hear Tritissimus ring the changes on the forgotten text of Habakkuk, Woe unto him that saith unto the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no BREATH AT ALL in the midst of it.'

X. Y. Z.

Palisey the Futter.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

When, in an after age, the literary history of the nineteenth century shall be written, one characteristic of it will stand out in bold and honourable relief,—' It was an age,' the historian will say, 'of the resurrection of great men.' Many, indeed, since the birth of the year 1800, have been exhumed from their forgotten graves. The gathered dust of centuries which had obscured their features, and almost filled up the very writing on the grave-stones that alone told of their existence, has been wiped away. The antiquary' has been among the tombs of the departed; the sculptor, the painter, and the writer, have united to do tardy justice to their memories; and they who once walked the earth “ kings among men,' live over again in another generation those deeds of virtue and glory which rendered their names · familiar as household words' to the ears of other times. Their · Lives' stand on our book-shelves, their portraits hang upon our walls, their statues adorn our galleries. The only fear amongst those who truly love their memories now is, that it may become fashionable to praise them, for then they are sure of dying a second death. But meantime, the seeds of their forgotten wisdom, like the corn found in the sarcophagi of ancient Egyptian nobles, has found its way into new earth, and proved its never-dying virtue by springing up and bringing forth fresh fruit. So true is it that the good and virtuous never die.' The iniquities of the wicked · find them out' generally in their own life; not so is it always with the virtues of the righteous; but of this they may be sure—they shall live again in posterity, and be known, honoured, and beloved by thousands who shall rise to call them • blessed.'

Last of those great men of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, who have again risen to life, is Bernard Palissy, the Huguenot potter of Saintes. Mr. Henry Morley, in two volumes now lying before us,* has, with great fidelity and much power, written the life of this remarkable man; and although in many respects this task might have fallen

6

* The Life of Bernard Palissy, of Saintes ; his Labours and Discoveries in Art and Science, &c. And a translation of Illustrative Selections from his Works. By Henry Morley. Two vols. 8vo. London: Chapman and Hall.

into much better hands, none can read this deeply-interesting memoir, and not feel under a weighty obligation to the author for the care with which he has collected its materials, the faithfulness with which he has sketched the character of its subject, and the boldness with which he has struck at the ecclesiastical and political abuses of the times in which the potter lived. In other respects, the work is not very creditable to the literary talents of the author. It is wretchedly constructed, disjointed and fragmentary to the last degree of the reader's pleasure and patience, and occupies twice as much space as was really necessary. Stripped of all the extraneous, and much of the quoted, matter, it would be twice as readable, and, what is perhaps more to the purpose in these days, being only half as bulky, it would be twice as cheap.

Bernard Palissy, son, probably, of a glass painter in the fertile district of Agenois, was born somewhere in the first decade of the sixteenth century. The precise spot and date of his birth are equally matters of doubt, but it is generally supposed that he was born at Chapelle Biron, in this district. Mr. Morley fixes the date of his birth at 1509, acknowledging, however, that he may be in error fully six years on either side of this date. After weighing the evidence, we feel disposed to accept Mr. Morley's hypothesis, and, for convenience sake, shall continue to adopt it in the course of this sketch. Of the early life of Palissy, almost as little is known as of his birth and birthplace. We are only acquainted with the fact that for a trade he was taught the art of glass-painting, and that after he had made himself sufficiently acquainted with his business to earn at it a temporary competency, he made a tour of his native country, living, as he journeyed, by his art. In this he was undoubtedly well skilled, as he could always return to it in after life, when other resources failed him. * People,' he says, with that charming simplicity which ever marked his character, thought him a better painter than he was,' but that he was a good one we may infer from his fertile imagination, his love of nature, his delicate powers of observation, and the brilliancy and novelty of his after designs. His wanderings probably extended over the greater part of France, and through many years of his life. They served to develop and call forth his strong native powers of endurance and observation, and we may assume that it was in the course of his travels that he received his first impressions in favour of the Reformed religion. It could not have cost Palissy much pain to have abandoned, if ever he firmly held them, the orthodox notions. What he saw of the oppression, dishonesty, greed, and license of the Catholic clergy of those times, would have been sufficient to awaken and convince him, as they were afterwards to move his pen and tongue to words of warning and indignation. This unknown period of Palissy's life Mr. Morley has filled up by an imaginary sketch, extending over ninety pages, of what the future potter must have seen, heard, and said-a sketch ill-conceived, ill-executed, and out of place, and which would be altogether valueless but for the author's occasionally graphic sketches of the state of French society in the years under review. The only

6

authentic fact about Palissy's early travels is, that he concluded them at the town of Saintes, where he settled down a married man, aged about twenty-nine or thirty, and where his real history begins.

Palissy had resided apparently some time in Saintes, supporting himself by glass-painting, and drawing plans for use in courts of law, when an event occurred which brought out the strength and energy of his character, and the variety of his talents, changed the whole current of his future life, and served to lift him out of the mean obscurity of a provincial town to a place of rare eminence, amongst the philosophers and artists of his country and age. It was about 1540, then, when Palissy was thirty-one years old, that there was shown to me,' he says,

an earthern cup turned and enamelled with so much beauty, that from that time I entered into a controversy with my own thoughts, recalling to mind several suggestions that some people had made to me in fun, when I was painting portraits. Then, seeing that these were falling out of request in the country where I dwelt, and that glasspainting was also little patronized, I began to think that if I should discover how to make enamels, I could make earthern vessels and other things very prettily; because God had gifted me with some knowledge of drawing. To understand these words of Palissy, and the significancy of the determination he came to, the reader must endeavour to place himself in the position then occupied by the painter. Enamelling was a secret art utterly unknown in France. The only specimens of enamelled ware known at the time were produced in China, and at a single manufactory in Italy. These were, for the age, very beautiful, and a monopoly being enjoyed, extremely costly. None but the noble in station and wealth could purchase them—to the common people they were altogether unattainable. From the presence of household cares and responsibilities, and the distance of the only European manufactory, it was utterly impossible for Palissy to acquire this secret in any other way than by experiment. He could not journey to Italy, for what was to become of his family? And, even if he could go there, it was very improbable that Luca della Robia would give possession of his secret to an intending rival. Palissy, therefore, little conscious of the heat of that fiery furnace into which he was about to cast himself,' began to seek for the enamels as a man gropes in the dark,' his only helps being a smattering of chemistry, and some considerable knowledge of colours, and how to mix them.

He began as an empiric, for he could not do otherwise ;—the history of his labours, and their first results, we shall condense from the graphic account happily left us by himself. “Without having heard,' says Palissy, of what materials the said enamels were composed, I pounded, in those days, all the substances which I could suppose likely to make anything; and having pounded and ground them, I bought a quantity of earthen pots, and having broken them in pieces, I put some materials that I had ground upon them, and having marked them, I set apart in writing what drugs I had put upon each, as a memorandum : then, having made a furnace to my fancy, I set the fragments down to bake.' As might have been expected, and doubtless as Palissy feared, this first experiment failed. The little capital he had sunk in the quantity of earthen pots' was lost; and the time and labour which might have added thereto, were also lost, and all he had gained was, a knowledge that the materials' he had used were not the right ones. He had hoped that some one of the drugs or mixtures would produce some whitish colour,' • for I sought,' he says, only after white enamel, because I had heard it said that white enamel was the basis of all others. The mixtures were wrong, and he found afterwards that his whole process of working had been wrong. In fact, he wrought in utter ignorance of clays, fires, furnaces, and every other appliance of the undiscovered art. His trial pieces were ill-arranged ; his furnaces were ill-adapted to bake them ; his fires now too hot, and now too cold, sometimes spoilt his pieces before the trial was complete. But so he wrought for months, “ blundering' several times, at a great expense and through much labour, every day pounding and grinding new materials, and constructing new furnaces, which cost,' he says, much money, and consumed my wood and my time.' A man—a poor man- -with a grumbling wife and crying children, must be made of rich and strong material to do that, but this was but the beginning. Again, chemicals were mixed, pots broken, the fire anxiously watched, and again came loss and disappointment. So the_furnace was another time taken down and another time rebuilt. Day after day, month after month, year after year, Palissy worked-how many years we do not knowhe himself says 'several,' probably it was not less than seven or eight. At the end of them he was as far from his intention as at the beginning, and full, he says, of 'sorrow and sighs,' while his wife upbraided him for a fool, sickness and death were scarcely ever out of his house, and he was beginning to feel the gripings of poverty. After this he adopted another method, and covering three or four hundred fragments of pottery with still different mixtures, sent them to a potter's to be baked. This was done several times,' but cach time came frest loss, worse confusion, and greater sorrow.

It is good for a man, whom anxiety and misfortune have been pursuing in all his labours, to rest for a while. Palissy had been in a fever of excitement for years. Brain and sinew could not many months longer have maintained their natural strength and tension. Perhaps he felt this; perhaps, too, the last loaf was in the cupboard, the last wood on the fire, the last livre in the pocket, and that was why he suddenly brought the labour of years to a stop. But in this act lay the most manifest signs of his strength. It must have cost him more to take this relaxation for a time,' than to have wrought on for years.

The Potter could work night and day, but he could not idle. So, after many years of breaking pots and building furnaces, he betook himself again to portrait and glass-painting, and surveying, “comporting himself,' he says, “as though he were not zealous to dive any more into the secret of enamels,' In a short time he had saved a little money, and with renewed energy hc recommenced his experiments by breaking 'three dozen earthen pots—all of them new,' into

« PreviousContinue »