John Lothrop Motley. a memoir — Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 87 pages of information about John Lothrop Motley. a memoir — Volume 1.
surpasses all the world, but in his life-like, flesh-and-blood action,—­the tragic power of his composition.  And is it not appalling to think of the ‘large constitution of this man,’ when you reflect on the acres of canvas which he has covered?  How inspiriting to see with what muscular, masculine vigor this splendid Fleming rushed in and plucked up drowning Art by the locks when it was sinking in the trashy sea of such creatures as the Luca Giordanos and Pietro Cortonas and the like.  Well might Guido exclaim, ’The fellow mixes blood with his colors! . . .  How providentially did the man come in and invoke living, breathing, moving men and women out of his canvas!  Sometimes he is ranting and exaggerated, as are all men of great genius who wrestle with Nature so boldly.  No doubt his heroines are more expansively endowed than would be thought genteel in our country, where cryptogams are so much in fashion, nevertheless there is always something very tremendous about him, and very often much that is sublime, pathetic, and moving.  I defy any one of the average amount of imagination and sentiment to stand long before the Descent from the Cross without being moved more nearly to tears than he would care to acknowledge.  As for color, his effects are as sure as those of the sun rising in a tropical landscape.  There is something quite genial in the cheerful sense of his own omnipotence which always inspired him.  There are a few fine pictures of his here, and I go in sometimes of a raw, foggy morning merely to warm myself in the blaze of their beauty.”

I have been more willing to give room to this description of Rubens’s pictures and the effect they produced upon Motley, because there is a certain affinity between those sumptuous and glowing works of art and the prose pictures of the historian who so admired them.  He was himself a colorist in language, and called up the image of a great personage or a splendid pageant of the past with the same affluence, the same rich vitality, that floods and warms the vast areas of canvas over which the full-fed genius of Rubens disported itself in the luxury of imaginative creation.


1856-1857.  AEt. 42-43.

Publication of his first historical work, “Rise of the Dutch Republic.”—­ Its reception.—­Critical notices.

The labor of ten years was at last finished.  Carrying his formidable manuscript with him,—­and how formidable the manuscript which melts down into three solid octavo volumes is, only writers and publishers know,—­he knocked at the gate of that terrible fortress from which Lintot and Curll and Tonson looked down on the authors of an older generation.  So large a work as the “History of the Rise of the Dutch Republic,” offered for the press by an author as yet unknown to the British public, could

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