Famous Reviews eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 678 pages of information about Famous Reviews.

“England’s wealthiest son” performs his travels, of course, in a style of great external splendour.

  Conspictuus longe cunctisque notabilis intrat—­

Courts and palaces, as well as convents and churches, and galleries of all sorts, fly open at his approach:  he is caressed in every capital—­he is fete in every chateau.  But though he appears amidst such accompaniments with all the airiness of a Juan, he has a thread of the blackest of Harold in his texture; and every now and then seems willing to draw a veil between him and the world of vanities.  He is a poet, and a great one too, though we know not that he ever wrote a line of verse.  His rapture amidst the sublime scenery of mountains and forests—­in the Tyrol especially, and in Spain—­is that of a spirit cast originally in one of nature’s finest moulds; and he fixes it in language which can scarcely be praised beyond its deserts—­simple, massive, nervous, apparently little laboured, yet revealing, in its effect, the perfection of art.  Some immortal passages in Gray’s letters and Byron’s diaries, are the only things, in our tongue, that seem to us to come near the profound melancholy, blended with a picturesqueness of description at once true and startling, of many of these extraordinary pages.  Nor is his sense for the highest beauty of art less exquisite.  He seems to describe classical architecture, and the pictures of the great Italian schools, with a most passionate feeling of the grand, and with an inimitable grace of expression.  On the other hand, he betrays, in a thousand places, a settled voluptuousness of temperament, and a capricious recklessness of self-indulgence, which will lead the world to identify him henceforth with his Vathek, as inextricably as it has long since connected Harold with the poet that drew him; and then, that there may be no limit to the inconsistencies of such a strange genius, this spirit, at once so capable of the noblest enthusiasm, and so dashed with the gloom of over-pampered luxury, can stoop to chairs and china, ever and anon, with the zeal of an auctioneer—­revel in the design of a clock or a candlestick, and be as ecstatic about a fiddler or a soprano as the fools in Hogarth’s concert.  On such occasions he reminds us, and will, we think, remind everyone, of the Lord of Strawberry Hill.  But even here all we have is on a grander scale.  The oriental prodigality of his magnificence shines out even in trifles.  He buys a library where the other would have cheapened a missal.  He is at least a male Horace Walpole; as superior to the “silken Baron,” as Fonthill, with its York-like tower embosomed among hoary forests, was to that silly band-box which may still be admired on the road to Twickenham ...

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Famous Reviews from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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