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The progress of the nation page 17


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Sir John Soane, who had been a pupil of Dance, Holland, and Sir William Chambers, introduced a more purely Greek style, and his achievements may be seen in Dulwich Gallery, the National Debt Office, the law courts at Westminster, Trinity Church, Marylebone, and the State Paper Office. The most eminent disciples of this school were William Wilkins and Sir Robert Smirke. Wilkins was a servile copyist, and the National Gallery is the chief monument of his skill, or want of it. Sir Robert Smirke was of a higher order, and his erection of Covent Garden Theatre, the Mint, the Post-Office, the College of Physicians, the law courts at Gloucester, Lowther Castle, &c., speak for themselves. Nash, the cotemporary and successor of these architects, has left us abundance of his Greco- Romano-Italian medleys in the church in Langham Place, Regent's Park, Regent's Street, and Buckingham Palace. The great merit of Nash was, that, like Adam, he gave us space, and showed, as in Regent's Park, what was needed for our immense metropolis. Towards the end of the reign Gothic architecture was more cultivated, and one of Wyatt's last works was Ashridge House, in Buckinghamshire, a vast and stately Gothic pile, imposing in general effect, but far from pure in style. Still less so was Eaton Hall, in Cheshire, built by William Pordon; but the real Anglo- Gothic was now receiving the true development of its principles by the works of James Bentham, Carter, John Britton; and, finally, Thomas Rickman, in 181G, published his " Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture," which placed these principles perspicuously before the public.

painting.

To do justice to the history of painting under George III. would require volumes; we can give only a few lines to it. Under Sir Joshua Reynolds a perfect revolution in the art, as practised in England, was effected. He threw aside past, traditional fashions, and returned to nature; and his portraits at once excited the consternation of the painters of the day, and placed him in the very first class of artists. In 1768 was established the Royal Academy, and amongst its foreign members were Benjamin West and Angelica Kauffmann. West produced all his great works in England, and, however much they may now be criticised, they were a great advance on past art in England, and had the merit of introducing modern costume for modern heroes, as in the "Death of General Wolfe," contrary to the advice of even Reynolds himself. Barry made a spasmodic attempt to lead the public back to what ho deemed the classical, but in vain; and the successive appearance of Wilson, Gainsborough, and Opie, in different styles, but all genuinely English, established the public in its attachment to the true English school. Wilson, during his lifetime, indeed, was neglected, and died in poverty; but the next generation made the amende to his fame, though too late for his own enjoyment of it. To Paul Sandby we owe the origin of the water- colour school, cow grown so extensive and so rich in production. Amongst eminent painters of this portion of the reign, we must mention Wright, of Derby, Mortimer, Stubbs and Sawrey, animal painters, and Copley, who, though an American by birth, produced most of his works here.

Of water-colour painters who extended the fame of the school were Payne, Cozens, Glover, Girtin, and Turner; but Turner soon deserted water for oil. In 1804 the Water-Colour Society was established, and Turner was not amongst its numbers, having already gone over to oil- painting; but there were Varley, Barrett, Hills, Rigaud, Pocock, &c. Wild and Pugin were exhibitors of architectural drawings at its exhibitions. Afterwards came Heapy, Francia, Westall, Uwins, De Wint, Mackenzie, Copley Fielding, Robson, Prout, Gandy, and Bonington. In their rear, but extending beyond the reign, appeared a brilliant host.

In general art the names of Fuseli, Northcote, and Stothard stand eminent, and were the foremost contributors to alderman Boydell's celebrated Shakespeare Gallery. After them came Hoppner, Beechey, Morland; in Scotland, Allan and Raeburn.

In 1805 a great step in British painting was made by the establishment of the British Institution; and in 1813 this institution opened the National Gallery. The annual exhibitions soon became enriched by the consummate works of Hilton, Etty, Haydon, Briggs, Sir Thomas Lawrence (in elegant portraits), Phillips, Shee, Carpenter, Harlow, Wilkie, Mulready, Turner, Calcot, Collins, Landseer, Martin, Danby, Howard, Cooper, Leslie, and Hone. No age in England had produced so illustrious a constellation of painters, as varied in character as they were masterly in artistic power.

sculpture.

This art, like that of painting, took a new spring in this reign, but the early part of it was encumbered by the taste-.less works of Wilton, Read, and Tyler. It remained for the genius of Banks, Nollekens, Bacon, Baily, Behnes, and Chantrey, to place sculpture on its proper elevation in England.

engraving.

To this department of art Woollett and Strange gave a first-rate eminence, and were successfully followed by Browne, Byrne, Rosker, and Major. In mezzo-tint M. Ardell admirably rendered the portraits of Sir Joshua Reynolds; and Smith, Green, Thomas, and Watson also excelled in this class of engraving. In engravings for books Heath and Angus stand pre-eminent; and Boydell's " Shakespeare " spread the taste, though his illustrations were chiefly done in the inferior style of dot engraving. In line engraving the names of Sharp, Sherwin, Fittler, Anker Smith, Neagle, Lowry, Turrell, Scott, and others, are of high repute. In landscape engraving no names, in the middle period of the reign, stood more prominent than those of Middiman, Watt, Angus, Milton, Pouncey, Peak, and Taylor.

There arose a second school of mezzo-tint engravers, the chief of whom were Earlom, Reynolds, Daniell, Sutherland, and Westall. The strange but intellectual Blake was both painter and his own engraver, in a style of his own. Towards the end of the reign flourished, chiefly in architectural illustrations, Le Keux, John and Henry, pupils of Bazire, Roffe, Ransom, and Scott; in landscape, William and George Cooke, William and Edward Finden, Byrne, and Pye; in portrait, Charles and James Heath, John Taylor, Skelton, Burnet, Bromley, Robinson, Warren, Lewis, &c.

In wood engraving, Thomas Bewick, of Newcastle-on- Tyne, revived the art, and threw such fascination into it by the exquisite tail-pieces in his " Natural History," that it has ever since continued to extend its use and importance.

coins and coinage

Of the coinage of this reign little is to be said. It was of the most contemptible character, till Boulton and Watt, as already mentioned, struck the copper pence in 1797 in a superior style. In 1818 was issued a gold and silver coinage, which was intrusted to a foreign artist, Pistrucci, and which was turned out of very unequal merit. Flaxman would have produced admirable designs, and we had a medallist of high talent, Thomas Wyon, who would have executed these designs most ably. In fact, the best part of the silver coinage was produced by Wyon, from the designs of Pistrucci.

manners and custom

In the early portion of the reign these differed little from those described in the preceding one. There was great dissipation, and even coarseness of manners, amongst the nobility and gentry. It was the custom to drink to intoxication at dinners, and swearing still greatly garnished the language of the wealthy as well as the low. Balls, routs, the opera, the theatre, with Vauxhall and Ranelagh, filled up the time of the fashionable, and gaming was carried to an extraordinary extent. Amongst our leading statesmen, Charles Fox was famous for this habit. Duelling was equally common, and infidelity amongst fashionable people was of notorious prevalence. George III. and his queen did what they could to discourage this looseness of morals, and to set a different example; but the decorum of the court was long in passing into the wealthy classes around it. An affluent middle class was fast mingling with the old nobility, and this brought some degree of sobriety and public decency with it. Amongst the lower classes dog, cock, and bull fights were, during a great part of the reign, the chief amusements, and the rudest manners continued to prevail, because there was next to no education. Wesley and Whitfield, and their followers, were the first to break into this condition of heathenism. Robberies and murders abounded both in town and country, and the police was of a very defective character. For the most part there was none but the parish constable. The novels of Fielding and Smollett are pictures of the rudeness and profligacy of these »times. The resources in the country of books and news- papers were few, and the pot-house supplied the necessary excitement. The clergy were of a very low tone, or were non-resident, and the farmers, getting rich, aped the gentlemen, followed the hounds, and ended the day with a carouse.

Gradually, however, a more refined tone was diffusing itself. The example of the head of the nation had not been without its effect. The higher classes abandoned Ranelagh and Vauxhall to the middle and lower classes, if they did not abandon their theatre, opera, and rout. But the theatres, too, became more decorous, and the spread of what had been called Methodism began to reach the higher classes through such men as Wilberforce, and such women as the countess of Huntingdon and Hannah More. The most sensible drawback to this better state of sentiment and manners was the profligacy of the prince of Wales and his associates. But towards the end of the reign a decided improvement in both manners and morals had taken place. The momentous events passing over the world, and in which Great Britain had the principal agency, seemed to have rooted out much frivolity, and given a soberer and higher tone to the public mind. The spread of a purer and more humane literature baptised the community with a new and better spirit; art added its refinements, and religion its restraints. The efforts to introduce education amongst the people had begun, and the lowest amusements of dog-fighting, cock-fighting, and bull-baiting were discouraged and put down. The new birth of science, art, literature, and manufactures, was accompanied by a new birth of morals, taste, and sentiment, and this, happily, was a true birth; and the growth of what was then born has been proceeding ever since. In whatever point of view we contemplate the reign of George III. it is a new era in both public and private, in political, social, artistic, mechanical, and commercial life.

costume

In the opening of the reign, the gentlemen retained the full-skirted coat, with huge cuffs, the cocked-hats and knee- breeches of the former period. Pigtails were universal, and the more foppish set up their hair in a high peak, like the women. The ladies had their hair turned up on frames half yard high, and this hairy mountain was ornamented with strings of pearls or diamonds, or surmounted with a huge cap edged with lace. They wore their waists as long as possible, with a peaked stomacher, and hanging sleeves of Mecklenburg lace. Their gowns were of the richest silks, satins, and brocades, their skirts flowing; and the fan was in indispensable article.

In the army the cocked-hat and pigtail at first prevailed, but these were soon dismissed, as well as the great jack-boots of the cavalry. With the employment of the Hessian soldiers in the American war, and afterwards on the continent, prevailed amongst English gentlemen the Hessian boot. Instead of the queue, cropped hair, close- fitting small bats. Powdering became profuse, both amongst ladies and gentlemen, till Pitt taxed it, and it vanished, except from the heads of particularly positive old gentlemen. During the French war, when the Paris fashions were intercepted, much variety in the fashion of dress took place amongst both gentlemen and ladies; but before the peace had arrived, the most tasteless costumes had become général, and the waists of both sexes were elevated nearly to their shoulders. The tight skirts and short waists of the ladies gave them the most uncouth aspect imaginable; and the cut-away coats and chimney-pot hats of the gentlemen were by no means more graceful. The military costume had undergone an equally complete revolution, and with no better success.

The changes in furniture were not remarkable. During the French war, a rage for furniture on the classic model had taken place; but on the return of peace Paris fashions were restored. Rosewood superseded mahogany, and a more easy and luxurious style of sofas and couches was adopted. There came also Pembroke tables, Argand lamps, register stoves, Venetian and spring blinds, a variety of ladies' work- tables and what-nots; and a more tasteful disposition of curtains and ornamental articles purchased on the continent.

condition of the people

The condition of the people during this reign did not advance with the progression of national wealth, and the reason of that is to be found in the war, and in the corn-laws passed at its close to maintain the high prices of the war. We have so fully demonstrated these facts, that we need not again do more than state them generally. The high prices occasioned by the war had increased the value of the property of the landowner and of the crops of the farmer. Both these classes had benefited by this, and had risen into a style of living and a condition of luxury extremely beyond what were known at the commencement of the reign. But though the working classes were introduced to a vastly extended scale of employment by the growth of invention and of manufactures, their wages were in no degree proportioned to the cost of living and of the rental of their houses. Therefore, pauperism abounded; there were continual bread riots and agrarian outrages, and the poor were still found living in mean and very unsanitary dwellings, and fed on very coarse and insufficient fare. The wonderful developments of genius, invention, literature, and commerce during this reign, were to them utterly neutralised by the effects of the stupendous wars which had been carried on; and it was not till years of great political contention had passed over that they were enabled to eat the bread of their industry at a moderate cost.

Such was the close of the most remarkable reign of George III. - an era of new life and energy, which brought wealth and abundance to all but the labouring people, to whom the great wars had proved great curses, and who had still to work out their own prosperity by their new career in education, and in the exercise of the powers found only in alliance with intelligence.

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Pictures for The progress of the nation page 17

Westminster Hall
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Sir William Blackstone
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Eminent divines
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St. Georges Chapel, Windsor.
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Selina
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Olive Goldsmith
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the Vicar of Wakefield
the Vicar of Wakefield >>>>
Sir Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott >>>>
Garrick
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Residence of Thomas Moore
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Residence of Cowper
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Thomas Moore
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Watt
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Sir Joshua Reynolds
Sir Joshua Reynolds >>>>
Sir William Herschel
Sir William Herschel >>>>
George III coinage
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Ladies head-dress
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Fashionable riding dress
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Fashionable dress
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Beau and belle
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Ball dresses
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Evening dresses
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Walking dress
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