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unrivalled in her department of romance. It is impossible to read this enchanting writer, without following her in all her magic windings. If she traverse the tops of the Pyrenees, the romantic plains of Gascony, the odoriferous shores of Languedoc; the mountains of Switzerland, or the vales of Savoy ; we are never weary of the journey. If she lead us through a forest, at morning, evening, or in the gloom of night, still are we enchained, as with a magic girdle, and follow from scene to scene, unsatiated and untired a.
Rousseau confesses, that when he was forming the plan of his New Heloise, he was anxious to select a country, which should be worthy of his characters. He was, in consequence, some time before he could finally determine upon the province, in which he should lay the scene of that celebrated romance. He successively called to mind the most delightful spots that he had seen ; but he remembered no grove sufficiently charming; no glen sufficiently beautiful. The valleys of Thessaly would have fixed his wavering thought; but those valleys he had never seen : and, fatigued with invention, he desired a landscape of reality, to elicit his descriptive powers, and to operate, as a point, on which he might occasionally repose his strong, vivid, and excursive imagination. At length, weary of selection, he fixed upon those vales, and upon that lake, which, in early life, had charmed his fancy, and formed his taste. Who has not beheld the pictures of his youth, in the first part of his Confessions ? and who has not been captivated with the description, he has given, of Geneva and Vevay, the Lake of Lausanne, and the orchard of Clarens ?
a For this criticism Mrs. Ratcliffe was pleased to send me her thanks. Some time after, I was invited to supper. Her conversation was delightful! She sung Adeste Fideles with a voice mellow and melodious, but somewhat tremulous. Her countenance indicated melancholy. She had been, doubtless, in her youth, beautiful. She was a great admirer of Schiller's Robbers. Her favourite tragedy was Macbeth. Her favourite painters were, Salvator, Claude, and Gaspar Poussin: her favourite poets, after Shakspeare, Tasso, Spenser, and Milton.
There was, for many years, a report that this accomplished lady was afflicted with insanity. How the report came to be raised I know not; but, I believe, it never was the case. She had not only an elegant taste, but a com. prehensive understanding. She died in 1823; and was buried in the chapel of ease, (belonging to the parish of St. George, Hanover Square,) at Bayswater.
I have read her RomaNCE OF THE FOREST four times; her Italian five times; her MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO nine times ; and my imagination is, even now, always charmed whenever I think of either.
In general description, Homer was as great a master, as in the sublime departments of his art. What can be more admirable, than the scenes of harvest and the vintage, with which he has embellished the eighteenth book of the Iliad ? As to his gardens of Alcinous, I must take the liberty of observing, that, as they seem to have exhibited a union of the modern kitchen garden of Italy and the ancient orchard of Greece, they are no more to be compared with Milton's Garden of Eden, than a Dutch landscape is to an Italian one.
Hesiod has many descriptions of rural scenery; sketched with all the truth and simplicity of Nature. He deserves the elegant encomiums of Heinsius. There are also some fine specimens of landscape painting in Apollonius Rhodius ; particularly in those terrific scenes, which announce the approach to Tartarus. It is curious, however, that though Greece had so many poets, and so many objects, which conspire to form the poet, yet none of them, except Hesiod and Aratus, have left any particular indication of their having derived much vivid satisfaction from them. Nor have they left any poem, that can vie with the Fleece of Dyer ; the Cyder of Phillips; Grongar Hill; Pope's Windsor Forest ; or Thomson's Seasons.
Among the Latins, Virgil excels in the delineation of particular, and Lucretius in that of general landscape. What a passage is the following !
Inque dies magis in montem succedere sylvas
Lucretius, De Rer. Nat. lib. v. I. 1370.
In that part, too, where he sings the praises of Empedocles, beautiful is the picture, which he draws of the coast of Sicily, and the wonders of Ætna and Charybdis :—and no finer contrast is exhibited by any of the poets, ancient or modern, than the one, in which he compares the pleasure of being stretched beneath the shade of a tree, or on the banks of a river, with the more costly raptures of a splendid banquet. It has all the feeling of Nature, and all the denial of philosophy: the versification (with the exception of the last line) is flowing ; the sentiments are golden sentiments; and, to speak after the manner of painters, the composition is correct, and the colours “ dipt in heaven.”
Si non aurea sunt juvenum simulacra per ædis
Virgil, too,—that great master of the passions, and the best of all the Latin descriptive poets, if we except Lucretius,—was an ardent lover of picturesque imagery. Hence he is, at all times, on the watch to inquire into, and explain the pheno
mena of Nature; to boast the number of flocks and herds of
Turriti scopuli, refugitque a litore templum 4. A view at the dawn of day is delineated with all the fidelity of actual observation.
Jamque rubescebat radiis mare, et æthere ab alto
Æthera mulcebant cantu, lucoque volabant b. Nor is it possible to draw for the eye a more agreeable picture, than that which has so often been esteemed a sketch, in miniature, of the bay of Naples.
Est in secessu longo locus : insula portum
Desuper, horrentique atrum nemus imminet umbra.
Among the Latin descriptive poets, Lucretius occupies the first rank; Virgil the second ; Silius Italicus the third ; Statius the fourth; and Lucan the fifth. Some of the French writers, too, indicate a lively sense of natural beauty. La Fontaine affords some highly animated scenes ; particularly in the fable of the “Oak and the Reed.” He adds, indeed, a landscape to every fable. What fine passages are there in De Lille! How beautiful are the descriptions of Fenelon and St. Pierre! While those of Rousseau combine the richness of Claude, with the grace, splendour, and magnificence of Titian.
But to confine ourselves to British writers. Chaucer, active, ardent, and gay; a lover of wine, fond of society, and well qualified to charm, by the elasticity of his spirits, the agreeableness of his manners, and the native goodness of his heart, was a lover of that kind of cheerful scenery, which amuses in the fields, or delights us in the garden. The rising sun, the song of the sky-lark, and a clear day, had peculiar charms for him. His descriptions, therefore, are animated and gay, full of richness, and evidently the result of having studied for himself. Spenser,—the wild, the fascinating Spenser,—delineates, with force and simplicity, the romantic and enchanting. Milton,-born, as Richardson finely observes, two thousand years after his time,—was a lover of the beautiful in Nature, as he was of the sublime in poetry. For, though his “Il Penseroso" abounds in those images, which excite the most sombre reflections, the general character of his delineations is of an animated cast. In his minor poems,—which afforded him an opportunity of consulting his natural taste, unconnected with epic gravity,—we find him, almost universally, sketching with a light, elegant, and animated pencil. What can be more cheerful, for instance, than his song on May morning; or his Latin poem, on the coming of Spring? And can any thing be more rich than the scenery