John Lothrop Motley, A Memoir — Complete eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 193 pages of information about John Lothrop Motley, A Memoir — Complete.
year are very regular.  I came here, having, as I thought, finished my work, or rather the first Part (something like three or four volumes, 8vo), but I find so much original matter here, and so many emendations to make, that I am ready to despair.  However, there is nothing for it but to penelopize, pull to pieces, and stitch away again.  Whatever may be the result of my labor, nobody can say that I have not worked like a brute beast,—­but I don’t care for the result.  The labor is in itself its own reward and all I want.  I go day after day to the archives here (as I went all summer at the Hague), studying the old letters and documents of the fifteenth century.  Here I remain among my fellow-worms, feeding on these musty mulberry-leaves, out of which we are afterwards to spin our silk.  How can you expect anything interesting from such a human cocoon?  It is, however, not without its amusement in a mouldy sort of way, this reading of dead letters.  It is something to read the real, bona fide signs-manual of such fellows as William of Orange, Count Egmont, Alexander Farnese, Philip II., Cardinal Granvelle, and the rest of them.  It gives a ‘realizing sense,’ as the Americans have it. . . .  There are not many public resources of amusement in this place,—­if we wanted them,—­which we don’t.  I miss the Dresden Gallery very much, and it makes me sad to think that I shall never look at the face of the Sistine Madonna again,—­that picture beyond all pictures in the world, in which the artist certainly did get to heaven and painted a face which was never seen on earth—­so pathetic, so gentle, so passionless, so prophetic. . . .  There are a few good Rubenses here,—­but the great wealth of that master is in Antwerp.  The great picture of the Descent from the Cross is free again, after having been ten years in the repairing room.  It has come out in very good condition.  What a picture?  It seems to me as if I had really stood at the cross and seen Mary weeping on John’s shoulder, and Magdalen receiving the dead body of the Saviour in her arms.  Never was the grand tragedy represented in so profound and dramatic a manner.  For it is not only in his color in which this man so easily 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
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John Lothrop Motley, A Memoir — Complete from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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