« PreviousContinue »
having become partially insane, in consequence of his continual brooding over the melancholy tragedy.
A lofty monument of granite rises to the memory of Nathan Hale in the burial-place of his native town. There, among the graves of a simplehearted rural people, overlooking a beautiful lake, stands this memorial of a young man, whose short life of twenty-one years ended in so much of sorSOW; and who, dying the ignominious death of a spy, was rudely thrust into an unknown and an unhonored grave!
The death of André and that of Hale have often been compared. Each was young, in the morning of life, full of hope, ardent, accomplished, and possessed of those qualities that won all hearts. Each died bravely, and each was executed as a spy; but there terminates all similitude between them. The first was treated by his enemies with the greatest consideration and sympathy compatible with his offense: the latter, with the greatest barbarity, denied even the consolation of the Bible, and then hung “ as a butcher would hang a calf.” André entered on his mission without the expectation, if arrested, of being treated as a spy : Hale entered on his mission under a full sense of his awful peril. At his place of execution, the thoughts of the Englishman were upon himself, for he wished them “ to bear witness that he died like a brave man:" at his place of execution, the thoughts of the American were upon his country, for which he "regretted he had only one life to lose!" The one showed the heroism of the chivalrous soldier, who shrank only at the disgraceful mode of his death : the other showed the heroism of the Christian patriot, willing to die even an ignominious death for the good of his country. The name of André is known wherever the English language is spoken : but that of Hale, the greater hero, is scarcely known even to his own countrymen!
This sketch is prefaced with lines written by one who knew Hale well, and loved him with ardent affection--the celebrated Dr. Dwight, President of Yale College. On the first page of our collection of poetry, at the latter part of this work, are “Lines on the Death of Hale," from the pen of Francis Miles Finch, a graduate of Yale. They from part of a poem delivered by him before the Linonian Society of Yale, at its centennial anniversary, A. D. 1853. Nathan Hale, when a student, was a menber of this society ; and among the eminent names found on its rolls, there is none, in all coming time, that will probably be more revered than that of the young "Hero Martyr of the American Revolution.”
OF SOME OF THE
EARLY AMERICAN ARTISTS
WE outline three incidents as an introduction to this article. The first occurred in a Western State, on an autumnal evening. A gentleman, having finished his office labors for the day, strolled into the garden with his young wife, when her attention was attracted by a huge mass of clouds, lit up by the last rays of the sun, in hues of crimson and gold ; save in one spot, where an opening in the parted rifts caught the eye, and led the vision to such an apparently immense distance beyond, that it seemed like a glance into eternity.
"Look ! pray do look at that sky!” exclaimed the admiring lady to her companion, who happened that moment to be in a bent attitude, his tall form arrayed in gown and slippers, and his fingers busy poking in the ground. “ Pooh! pooh! never mind the sky," he replied, “ here, just look at my roota-bagás; I shall get at least twenty bushels out of this patch !"
The scene changes; and to the heart of New England, in the first days of June. “Nature uncorks her champaign only twice a day,” says à popular writer, “morning and evening.” It was early morning and the cork had “pop’t.”
A young man was sitting in the door of a quaint old farmhouse, looking upon the valley of the smooth gliding Connecticut. The shadows were long upon the landscape, then in the freshness of the newborn spring. The foreground was occupied by a massive group of ancient trees, laughing in their green old age, in robes of luxuriant foliage; while beyond, the grass-covered fields sloped away in picturesque curves down to the margin of the river, which lay bright and sparkling in its winding
On the opposite side of the valley, arose the fine hills of old Hampshire, here in light and there in shadow, at the caprice of a bank of white, woolly clouds, that, floating grandly in the heavens, seemed soft and inviting to the nap of a summer's afternoon.
As the eye of the young man took in the glories of the panorama, valley, river, mountain, and sky, a sensation of pleasure stole over him ; the first of the kind--for so he told us he had ever experienced ; it was the emotion created by the beautiful in Nature.
The opening incident was in the history of a lawyer, and a graduate of Harvard ; this, in that of a clergyman, and a graduate of Yale; both impress us as to the esthetical culture of those renowned American uni. versities.
'I care nothing for pictures," said a farrner to a young man who was endeavoring to entice him into the purchase of a book, “illustrated by many pictures," "pointing morals and adorning tales.” He spake the truth, for as he said so, his nostrils sniveled in a sneer, and his head jerked in a disdainful toss. He despised them as puerile ; yet, as he had never wandered far beyond the sight of his chimney smoke, his brain held many good ideas solely derived from pictures; including the idea of the great wall in China, that in his boyhood he had from his school geography, to the idea of a newly invented plow he had seen in his newspaper, and that was then dning good service for him in his manly occupation as a tiller of the soil.
These incidents are true; and yet, among persons of equal intelligence, unlikely to occur in any country save our own. Americans have less fondness for the beautiful in Nature, and less appreciation of the excellent in Art, than any other civilized people. In the summer, when Young America takes his holiday, he will be found in the finest apparel, his feet pinched in patent leather, lounging under some piazza at a crowded watering-place ; or if he does ruralize, it is in the utter forgetfulness of legs; for he is whirling, in a slender cariole, over a straight hard road, amid clouds of dust, and behind a 2:40 nag, out of whom he is straining to get his mile within 2:39.
At the same time, in England, multitudes will be seen, all over the country, from the nobleman'to the shop-keeper's clerk on his vacation, dressed in coarse checked suits and stout shoes, with their knapsacks, traveling on foot, and carrying opera-glasses ; seeking out fine points of view, from whence to enjoy the ever-varying, never-repeating combinations of scenery, created expressly for our gratification, by a common Father. On the continent, poverty may deny to the humble peasant the many comforts we possess, but it cannot deprive him of the visible glories of Nature, or of the great in Art, that he sees in the cathedral where he worships, and in the galleries around him, free and open to all. He thus becomes familiar with the names of artists; he is taught by their representations, and as he looks at Art, he is educated to look at Nature and then again at Art, until by reciprocation, from one to the other, a new sense is developed, and he grows appreciative alike in the works of God and in those of man.
The life of the American has been hard and dry. He commenced in poverty, and what with the felling of the forest, and the elbowing away of the Indian to give him room, he has thought of little else. He has not tarried to take a lesson of patience from his ox, that calmly chewed the cud under the yoke; nor one of enjoyment from the little robin, that cheerily sang all the day long in the tree near where he labored. Ever hurrying on, restless and nervous, applying to work with a never before known intensity, he brings up at length at the end of his days, without scarcely a single pause by the way, to inquire for what he has lived. He “has eyes, but he sees not;" he “has ears, but hears not
has ears, but hears not;" seeing nothing nor hearing nothing, but bending all his energies, body and soul, to the one great end"the main chance."
This is wrong. “Man was not made to live by bread alone.” Those finer faculties, our tastes, the love of Nature, Art, Poetry, and Music, were given to be cultivated, and the pauses to administer to them, are the resting-places in this not altogether work-day-world.
Art is so little appreciated among us, that scarcely a name of a successful American artist has impressed the American people at large, save perhaps one, a sculptor, and he only because he is said to have excelled all European cotemporaries in the carving of a nude female figure. A change is to ensue, The flush of a new dawn is shooting upward. And we trust the day will. soon arrive, when the walls of even the cottages of the land will generally be attractive, from pleasant pictures of landscapes, of instructive scenes in history, and heart-improving delineations of domestic life.
America has produced some artists of note; enough to show that this kind of talent, when required among us, will be forthcoming, and in no stinted measure. Possibly, at this moment, somewhere in the dark pine forests of Minnesota, or by the shores of the rolling Atlantic, or on the sunny slopes of the Alleghanies, is a white-headed, hatless, and bare-footed little urchin, playing in the sand before the door of a rude cabin, who is marked for a great career in Art; to bless the future of our people by a matchless genius in illustrating the heroic in American annals, or by touching pictures of American life, that shall sweetly influence to a more vivid appreciation and love of home.
So little at an early day was Art cultivated in our country, that our men of genius in this line were obliged to seek a field for their efforts mainly in Europe. We introduce the histories of a few of these.
Something more than a century since, the screams of a cat in sore distress issued from the farm-house of a Quaker, in Springfield, Chester county, Pennsylvania ; and she had cause, for little “Benny” West held her in his grip, and was pulling out her fur by the roots, to make his paint brushes from; genius was working in him, and poor puss had to suffer. When her hair was drawn through a goose quill, it answered his purpose very well. His resources for paints were the wandering Indians, who supplied him with the red and yellow earths with which they daubed their skins, and his mother's indigo pot, from which he got his blue color.
He early showed a fondness for Art. In 1745, when he was but seven years old, he was placed with a fly-brush to watch the sleeping infant of his eldest sister. As he sat there the child smiled in sleep. Struck by its beauty he attempted to draw its portrait in red and black ink. His sober parents encouraged this new taste, and in a little while, the quiet Quaker home was filled with his pictorial efforts.
A Mr. Pennington, a merchant of Philadelphia, made a visit to Chester county, where he saw some of these sketches of the boy-artist, and when he returned home he sent him a present worth more to him than a kingdom—"a box of paints and brushes, and several pieces of canvas prepared, and six engravings by Greveling." These were the first works or implements of Art the boy had ever seen. “ West placed the box on a chair by his bedside, and he was unable to sleep. He rose with the dawn, carried his canvas and colors to the garret, hung up the engravings, prepared a palette, and commenced copying. So completely was he under the control of this species of enchantment, that he absented himself from school, labored secretly and incessantly for several days, when the anxious inquiries of the schoolmaster introduced his mother to his studio with no pleasure in her looks, but her anger vanished as she looked upon his performance. He had avoided copyism, and made a picture composed from two of the engravings, telling a new story, and colored with a skill and effect that was in her sight surprising. "She kissed him," says Galt, who had the story from the artist, “ with transports of affection, and assured him that she would not only intercede with his father to pardon him for having absented himself from school, but would go herself to the master and beg that he might not be punished.”
When West was nine years of age, Pennington took him to Philadelphia, and introduced him to Williams, a portrait painter, who was so much delighted with a landscape that he had painted, that he warmly encouraged him to prosecute his studies. He gave him a couple of books, and an invitation to call whenever he pleased and see his pictures.
The books and the pictures made the love of Art overcome all other feelings, and he returned home resolved to become a painter. Williams' pictures, which were "the first specimens of true Art the boy had seen, affected West so much that he burst into tears."
A story well authenticated is told by all his biographers, which goes to show that Benjamin was quite an ambitious little fellow for a Quaker. * One of his school-fellows allured him on a half-holiday from trap and ball, by promising him a ride to a neighboring plantation. Here is the horse, bridled and saddled,' said his friend, .so come, get up behind me.' 'Behind you,' said Benjamin ; 'I will ride behind nobody.' 'Oh! very well,' replied the other, 'I will ride behind you; so mount. He mounted accordingly and away they rode. “This is the last ride I shall have,' said his companion, 'for some time. To-morrow I am to be appenticed to a tailor.' 'A tailor!' exclaimed West; ' you will surely never be a tailor.' 'Indeed, but I shall,' replied the other; 'it is a good trade. What do you intend to be, Benjamin?' 'A painter.' A painter! What sort of a trade is a painter? I never heard of it before.' ‘A painter,' said this humble son of a Pennsylvania Quaker, “is the companion of kings and emperors.' 'You are surely mad,' said the embryo tailor, 'there are neither kings nor emperors in America.' 'Aye, but there are plenty in other parts of the world. And do you really intend to be a tailor?' 'Indeed I do nothing surer.' Then you may ride alone,' said the future companion of kings and emperors, leaping down ; 'I will not ride with one willing to be a tailor !• '
A gentleman by the name of Flower, who lived in a neighboring town, saw some of West's first pictures, and was so well pleased with the boy that he invited him to visit his house. There he met a young Eng. lish lady, who was governess to his daughter. She was well acquainted with Art, and also intimate with Greek and Latin Poets, and loved to point out to the young artist the most picturesque passages. He had never before heard of Greece or of Rome, or of the heroes, philosophers, poets, painters, and historians, whom they had produced, and he listened while the lady spoke of them, with an enthusiasm which, after an experience of nearly seventy years in the world he loved to live over again.