Изображения страниц




life, or the cultivation of arts and letters. The industry of the people was in every way oppressed,-not only by irregular taxation, but by interferences totally at variance with the advancing intelligence of the time. The merchants were unprotected from pirates; the landowners were harassed by inquiries into their titles, and by obsolete demands under forest-laws. The plague was always in London, and no exercise of authority was employed for its prevention; indeed its ravages were increased by the excessive crowding of inhabitants caused by the proclamations against new buildings. When despotism manifests itself to the world in erecting gorgeous palaces; in sweeping away miserable dwellings from narrow streets, and substituting buildings that astonish by their magnificence or delight by their commodiousness; in turning barren wastes into beauteous gardens, which the humblest may enjoy in common with the greatest; in delighting the pleasure-loving multitude with displays of military pomp, with illuminations and fireworksthe world is somewhat too ready to believe that despotism is a magician that can perform wonders far beyond the reach of limited authority or combined popular action. To Charles the First cannot be assigned either the praise or the blame of having expended his revenues in any such efforts to throw a factitious splendour over the decay of public liberty. He was to some extent, indeed, a patron of the Fine Arts. He is looked upon by many as the English monarch from whom the Fine Arts received the highest encouragement. Charles was a large purchaser of paintings, and his galleries were adorned with several glorious works of Raffaelle and Titian, of Corregio and Guido. He brought Raffaelle's Cartoons into England, as Cromwell saved them from going away. Vandyck was invited by him to his court; and his encouragement has been amply repaid by the ideal of the king which this great painter has handed down to us. Mytens, also the court portraitpainter, was scarcely so favoured. The one had 2001. a year, the other 401. as pension.* Rubens painted for Charles the ceiling of the Banqueting-house. Dobson was encouraged by him, and received from him the name of "The English Tintoret." All this is highly creditable to the monarch; but it must not be forgotten that no consideration of public benefit influenced this elegant expenditure of revenue. Individual gratification was its sole end and aim. Individual vanity was abundantly satisfied by flattering portraits; but great original compositions were not produced for this court. Nor was there wanting amongst the nobility and richer commoners a desire to cultivate those Arts which England had in some measure neglected. The earl of Arundel had begun the formation of his noble collection of sculpture when Charles was a boy. To his "liberal charges and magnificence," says a writer about 1634, "this angle of the world oweth the first sight of Greek and Roman statues, with whose admired presence he began to honour the gardens and gallery of Arundel House, and hath ever since continued to transplant old Greece into England." The Arundel collection was formed by a costly and judicious private expenditure. The royal collection might have been increased by influences not strictly honourable to the head of an independent kingdom. Charles was most anxious to obtain a statue of Adonis from a private collection at Rome. The queen's confessor urged his desire for that

See Note at end of this chapter.

1 Peacham, "Compleat Gentleman."



and other rare works of ancient art. Cardinal Barberini seconded these efforts; and he wrote to Mazarine, "The statues go on prosperously; nor shall I hesitate to rob Rome of her most valuable ornaments, if in exchange

[graphic][merged small]


we might be so happy as to have the king of England's name amongst those princes who submit to the Apostolic See." It is to be hoped that Charles resisted such temptations.

During this reign there were invasions enough of the subjects' liberty by proclamations against the extension of London; but they were for no purpose of regulating that extension upon any systematic plan of convenience or beauty. There were still more direct violations of the rights of property, in ordering the sheriff to pull down shops and houses in the vicinity of St. Paul's, compelling the owners to accept any compensation that was offered to them. Here was the vigour of despotism, but not such a vigour as England was formed to endure. All shops also in Cheapside and Lombard-street, except those of the goldsmiths, were commanded to be shut up, that the great avenue to the cathedral might not exhibit any trace of vulgar industries; and that when foreigners went to the city to see the Lord Mayor's procession, they might not be offended by butchers' stalls and "fripperies." This was to enforce arbitrarily the custom, which partially prevailed, that those of the same trade should occupy the same street. The greatest thoroughfare was to display the most striking wealth. What Cheapside then was on gala-days may be seen in a print of the entry of Mary de Medicis, who came to England

* Quoted by Mr. D'Israeli from Panzani's Memoirs.

[blocks in formation]



very much against the wishes of the king, in 1638. This print accompanies a description, in French, by the Sieur de la Serre, historiographer of France, of the ceremonies that attended this visit of the queen-mother, a visit of which Laud, in his Diary, says, "great apprehensions of this business." She came, however, and Cheapside-" la grande rue"-had its houses, which a previous visitor had described as "all windows," crowded with fair city dames and portly livery-men; and the city companies sat on elevated platforms covered with blue cloth; and the lord mayor and the recorder were there, and twenty-four aldermen, in their robes of scarlet; and, above all, a sight that in a few years was not so agreeable-six thousand soldiers of the city separated in divers companies. These were trained bands, whose number does not seem to have varied from that of 1617, when the chaplain of the Venetian ambassador could not eat his dinner in peace from the noise of "musket and artillery exercise" in the fields near Bishopsgate-street Without.† London was accustomed to processions and pageants, and especially to its Lord Mayor's shows, in which all the dignitaries of the land followed the civic magistrate to his dinner in Guildhall, amidst a very merry and boisterous crowd, that scarcely gave way to the "twenty savages or green-men, walking with squibs or fire-works to sweep


Merchant's Wife of London. (From
Ornatus Muliebris, 1640.)

the streets." Though the times were evil when Mary de Medicis came to London, the love of sight-seeing and sightperforming kept the crowd of idlers pleased, and even the discontented of the city quiet, though the corporation had been fined £70,000 by the Star-chamber, upon a complaint that the conditions by which they held lands in Ulster had been infringed. The city offered, by way of compensation, to build the king a palace in St.


James's park. The courtiers wanted the money to squander in masques and

"Histoire de l' Entrée Royale de la Reyne Mère," London, 1639. Reprinted in 1775. "Quarterly Review," October, 1857, p. 411.




banquets, and the offer was refused. Charles had employed Inigo Jones to prepare plans for a magnificent Whitehall. The Banqueting-house is the only architectural monument of the taste of the two first Stuarts.


Cheapside, with the Procession of Mary de Medicis on her Visit to Charles I. and his Quoen.





In the Manchester Exhibition of Art Treasures an opportunity was afforded of comparing the portrait of Charles by each of the painters, Vandyck and Mytens, almost in juxtaposition. There, was a family group by Mytens, and a family group by Vandyck. In that of Mytens the king and queen are preparing to ride; and there is Jeffrey Hudson, the dwarf, holding a small dog in a leash, the favourite spaniels, and a larger dog with a monkey. In the group by Vandyck the king is sitting by the side of his queen, with an infant on her lap. The Charles of Mytens' group is younger than in that of Vandyck. There are no decided markings of character in his face. The expression is gentle, almost feeble. The Charles of Vandyck's group has the almost invariable countenance which this painter gives to him—the well-known composed and reflective character, with a tinge of foreboding melancholy, as some imagine. Near these groups hung a whole length of the king by Mytens. The technical art of Mytens was little inferior to that of Vandyck; and he was more faithful in portraiture, if amongst the requirements of fidelity we ask that portraits of the same person at different periods of life, and in different situations, should have some variety. The portraits of Charles by Mytens show how much of the general expression of the character of the king is due to the ideal of Vandyck. The features are the same in both artists, but the contemplative and tender expression is wholly due to Vandyck. Mytens gives us a sober and apathetic face, more remarkable for the want of sentiment than for its excess-a face not wholly pleasant. The grace also belongs to the more poetical painter. In Mytens we can see how Charles would have grown into a likeness of his father. In the head of the king by Vandyck, in the same collection, painted in 1637, there is more animation than in his other portraits. But in all of them, not to yield too much to the historical evidences of character, there are the indications, however faint, of suspicion and mental reservation, and an especial want of those physiognomical traits which indicate self-reliance. Compare the Charles of Vandyck with the Strafford of Vandyck. Strafford has the care-worn expression, and the imagined presentiment of evil, to a far greater extent than his master. But it is the weight of responsibility pressing upon a powerful mind. What decision, what keenness of observation, what inflexibility, wholly wanting in the portraits of Charles.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »