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I remember being present at the opening of St. Katharine's Docks, certainly one of the liveliest scenes on which I ever gazed. The quays and windows of the various warehouses were thronged with goodly spectators; while the vessels, showing the flags of all nations, and hung with pendants and streamers of all colours, passed proudly into the capacious basin. Every yard was manned with sailors ; at every mast-head sat a blue jacket, and every deck was crowded with company; while bands of music imparted additional life to the glowing scene.
What a puny thing is man, compared with his own workmanship! Look at the broad, bulging bows of that three-masted ship near the quay! Regard her prow, figure-head, bowsprit, towering masts, and enormous yards and sails! What an amazing hulk! And yet the whole navy of the world would not stand a moment before the excited breath of the Almighty. As bubbles on the face of the waters would it disappear, and be no more seen. When a ship quits the shore, it is not the strength of her timbers that will insure her return: she is in the hands of God alone. How infinite art thou, O God, in thy power, thy wisdom, and thy goodness!
SIR JOHN SOANE'S MUSEUM.The Lincoln's Inn Fields Museum, established by sir John Soane, has much to recommend it to public attention; and those who love curiosities and works of art, and have leisure as well as inclination to gratify themselves, will be amply rewarded in visiting its costly stores.
The museum consists of a considerable collection of sculpture, paintings, sarcophagi, medals, casts, vases, terracottas, bronzes, Gothic fragments, drawings, engravings, etchings, cabinets, carvings, gems, cameos, intaglios, and other curiosities. The general appearance of the several chambers of the institution will appear contracted in the eye of those who forget they are looking on what was the private residence of an individual artist, though now it has become a public institution.
I have paused a moment on the ancient Gothic corbels that adorn the front of the building. I have gazed on the porphyry-painted walls, casts, and reliefs of the entrance-hall and recess; and am now standing beneath the south central compartment of the painted ceiling in the dining-room and library.
If the first pleasure in gazing on a work of art arises from a keen conception of its beauties, the next in order certainly springs from a detection of its defects. Indeed, I somewhat fear that, in our unamiable moods, this order is not unfrequently reversed, and that we see more distinctly the faulty than the faultless parts of what is submitted to our observation.
That the very inconsiderable elevation of the ceiling sadly injures the effect of the paintings thereon, must strike every beholder. The subject of " Phoebus in his car, preceded by Aurora, and the Morning Star led on by the Hours, with the Zephyrs sporting in his train," appears to require space. The visitor is not prepared to find himself so near the celestial group, supposed to be careering the elevated heavens. Not willingly would I run the risk of affecting to be overwise in such matters; but to me it does appear that altitude is indispensable to a painted ceiling, and especially when the subject is an ethereal one.
The whole of the ceiling paintings—Phoebus in his car, Pandora and the assembled gods and goddesses, the Seasons, Night with the Pleiades, Epimetheus receiving Pandora, and the Opening of the Vase, are by Henry Howard, R.a. Antique busts, Greek and Etruscan vases, inlaid marble, mirrors, bronzes, books, and painted glass, are around me. That astronomical clock of Raingo of Paris is a real curiosity, and yonder model of the Corinthian order is excellent. The painting by sir Joshua Reynolds, the Snake in the Grass, is deservedly a favourite: it cost somewhat more than five hundred guineas. The painting over the chimney-piece has a double claim on public attention, from the circumstance of its being not only a portrait of the founder of this museum, but, also, one of the last productions of Sir Joshua's pencil.
I have not passed without a pause the model of the monument erected over the tomb where the dust of sir John Soane now reposes, in the burial ground of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, at St. Pancras. The monument was erected to the memory of Elizabeth, sir John's wife; but since then, the donor of this princely collection of curiosities has been borne to the same burial place- A man has but a life-interest in his own freehold. If rich, he may found an establishment that may endure for ages, but he himself must withdraw. "To-morrow" is a period too distant for him to calculate upon with certainty.
"How poor, how rich; how abject, how august;
The little study contains works of art, and some curious natural productions. Among the latter, the large fungus from Sumatra arrests the eye of the visitor. In the dressing-room and recess are various curiosities: the sulphur casts from gems, the engravings of Hogarth, and the drawings by Mortimer and Canaletti, are all deserving of attention.
The models, the casts, the terracottas, and the marble fragments in the corridor, ought not to be passed by hastily. To accustom the eye to forms of grace and beauty, and to become familiar with works of excellence, is to elevate our standard in matters of taste. He who has made acquaintance with the ancient masters will be somewhat fastidious as to the moderns. An instance of the advantage to be derived from a careful observation of what is excellent in art I will here note down.
I have just heard a remark fall from a visitor, while conversing with the curator of the museum, in reference to a graceful branch on a cast against the wall, now before me. "Years ago," said he, "the elegance of that branch caught my attention when you favoured me with a private admission to this place; and since then, making that branch my model, I have almost inundated the country with, confessedly, one of the most elegant articles of brass furniture that ever was made with hands." The speaker had a British broad back and chest, and was evidently "well to do." The energy of his eye bespoke the fact, that what