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children too young to comprehend the notions of their parents, the results being nevertheless satisfactory to believers. We ourselves know a person of firm faith, who was called upon to perform over a little child that had been severely scalded; and those present were verily persuaded that it was not in vain, as the sufferer seemed, in their eyes, to be relieved at once. And those who rely upon that grand resort of bothered philosophers, the force of imagination, must also remember that the “charme to staunch blood” is used indifferently for brutes or men, and is as efficacious in the one case as the other. Moreover, there is a formula of words ordained for the cure of the diseases of horses, and another to aid in the churning of butter, taught the people by a “learned churchman in Queen Marie's days, whenas churchmen had more cunning, and could teach the people many a trick that our ministers now-a-days know not.” We doubt not but that our readers are in a perfect phrensy of curiosity to learn the mystic form of words by which, in the case of burns, such wonders are wrought in our own day. And some enterprising New-Englander may contemplate making an immense fortune by practicing on this system among the parboiled passengers of the explosive steamers on the Ohio and Mississippi. This thirst for knowledge is laudable, and it should be gratified. We have pursued our investigations into this branch of the subject with all the ardor and perseverance of which it is worthy; and we are happy to state that our researches have been crowned with the discovery of three different formularies, all, doubtless, of equal potency. One is crabbed Low Dutch; but as we have some scruples about making a parade of learning, we refrain from quoting it: besides, we have forgotten it entirely. We will, therefore, give the English version; and, while we repeat it, we hope all will comport themselves with propriety:—“Fire is fire, and water quenches thirst; father and mother are never out of bread; in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.” To treat the matter seriously, as we needs must from the character of the language employed, it would seem from the latter half of the formulary, that this is an imperfect imitation of “the prayer of faith,” which, in the days of the apostles, “saved the sick.” But, in despite of the outward appearance, we are convinced, from all that we can learn, that the form is not viewed as a prayer, but literally as a spell or charm; being used in many cases by those who make no profession of piety, and not seldom by the openly profane. The former part of the spell has no definite application to the case of one suffering from a burn; in fact, it is perfect nonsense, but mere sounds, without a shadow of meaning, make as powerful a charm as any. Bacon remarks, with reference to these remedial charms, “There have ever been used, either barbarous words of no sense, lest they should disturb the imagination, or words of similitude, which may second and feed the imagination; and this was ever as well in heathen charms as in charms of later times.”—Nat. Hist. Perhaps some votary of empiricism (employing the term in its best sense) is disposed to apply the test by himself, repeating the magic words. But we would assure him, with all gravity, that they cannot be thus tested. By the operation of an occult law, the form can have no power when it is learned by the present mode of tradition. Its laws are as rigid as those of the succession by virtue of which a certain “bishop of New-York,” whilom imparted great grace to all upon whom he laid his apostolic hands. We speak of his official acts, without the slightest allusion to miscellaneous performances. These mystic laws demand that the initiated impart the wondrous spell to those of the other sex only. They are as tenacious of gender as the Greek article. If a man reveals the formulary to one of the same sex, the novice can gain nothing and the initiated loses the power for ever. We were unhappily instructed in the magic terms by one of the gender masculine, and consequently the charm has lost its virtue, and become fulmen brutum. We are out of the “succession.” Therefore, if any of our readers should venture on experiments and meet with failure, they are entreated not to be skeptical on that account. In order to a full elucidation of our subject, it is necessary for us to state that those who are endowed with these supernatural gifts, hold them by various tenures, and subject to various conditions. There is now an old lady in Easton, Pa., who uses divers kinds of incantations to remove tumors and cure burns; and she, like certain of the same profession who flourished centuries ago, avers that she can retain her power only by refusing to make any charge for her valuable services. The moment she fixes a price upon the exercise of the charm, its efficacy will be gone. But as it was in the case of her predecessors, however, to receive a present in nowise interferes with the virtue of her pow-wows. And indeed once, in a very communicative hour, something like the moment when the sun went under the cloud, and the juvenile fish in the spelling book laid hold upon the book, she remarked that if her visitors “only knew what hard words she had to say, they would pay her.” It is to be hoped that if any of our readers should ever ask her aid, they will not forget this pathetic appeal.
Those who imagine that these follies are too trivial to be noticed, and have always been passed by with contempt by those of ordinary intellect, little know the influence they have swayed over the popular mind in times past, or the strength that has been put forth in seriously battling with them. There have been some in all ages who have rejected the superstitions of the multitude. Lucian ridicules the whole system of Greek mythology, and Cicero wonders how two Roman augurs could look each other in the face without laughing. And when spells and magic remedies were at the height of their fame in England, many, like King James, spoke contemptuously of them as the “kinde of charmes that, commonly, daft wives use.” Now and then individuals revolted from the tyranny of vulgar custom, like the “great learned clarke,” described in a pamphlet published in 1605, who, “in a daungerous sicknesse,” obstinately refused to be assisted out of the world in any but the regular way, utterly scouting the “magnifical incantations and sorcerie” offered him, and protesting with his latest breath, that “he had lived all his life by the booke, and would now, God willing, likewise dye by the booke.”
Since the invention of printing has furnished a new and powerful weapon, and the Reformation has given men the privilege of thinking, a mighty war has been waged against these superstitions. Scores of volumes and pamphlets have been written, and the subject treated as a serious matter, as it has been in reality. But the victory has not been wholly won. The elements of superstition, which hung the Salem witches, yet live; and though they may now “squat like a toad,” it does not require the spear of Ithuriel to cause them to start up in a form which will enable us to scan their proportions. The details of modern superstitious practices could be increased indefinitely. We could give an authentic instance of a thief's returning his booty, in greatalarm, when the rumor was circulated that the “doctor” had been consulted touching the matter. We could introduce the curious, personally, to a mother who stained her child's garment with three drops of blood and then burned it, in order to cure the child's convulsions. Ea uno, disce omnes. We have imported an immense quantity of superstition from the other side of the Atlantic, and we also have some which may be original inventions; so that our population is, on the whole, tolerably well supplied The American Walter Scott, who shall write up the “Demonology and Witchcraft” of his own land, will find abundant materials for his volume, and add an instructive chapter to the history of mind.
Belvidere, N. J., 1847.
ART. III.-Hand-book of Young Artists and Amateurs in Oilpainting; being chiefly a condensed Compilation from the celebrated Manual of Bouvier, with Additional Matter selected from the Labors of Merimee, De Montabert, and other distinguished Continental Writers in the Art. In Seven Parts. The whole adapted, by the Method of its Arrangement and the Completeness of its Detail, as well for a Tert-book in Academies of both Seres as for Self-instruction. Appended, a new Explanatory and Critical Vocabulary. By an American Artist. New-York: Wiley and Putnam, Broadway. 1845.
If this were an age of genius, the beautifully executed volume before us would afford incalculable facilities for its development. We fear its precepts, gathered with painful labor from the experience of many practical artists, will be fated to profit mediocrity, or to be wasted upon invincible stolidity. It is useless to aspire to elevate insipidity, or to illuminate dullness; and those who entertain the prevalent notion that it is the prerogative of talent to discard formulas, and disdain elementary instruction, will doubtless deem this collection of primary principles superfluous. To us it appears that initial training is as indispensable to genius as to mediocrity. Its beginnings will be far less exposed to be marked with feebleness, or marred by eccentricity; and it will the sooner reach the point where it is destined to burst from the trammels of precedent, to reject the false and the accidental, and to seize and apply the principles of the true and the real, with the grasp of mastery and the readiness of intuition. In imitative art, brilliant and forcible conception is not more highly requisite than fidelity of eye and skillful manipulation; yet skill in manipulation can only be attained by that untiring practice with the implements of art, without which even genius itself would achieve no triumphs. The famous “nulla dies sine linea” discloses the secret of the success of the generous rival of Protogenes; the perfect circle, struck out upon paper with a single sweep of the hand, discovered the masterly practice of Giotto to the profligate Benedict IX. It is selfevident that no instruction, no amount of facility in mechanical execution, can compensate for the elevated conception, the untiring range of fancy and feeling, that constitute the true artist; yet, to show that “nice perception” and “natural adaptation” are not above the necessity for “thoughtful practice,” the author of the
Hand-book tells us, in the “Address to the Young Artist,” with
which he prefaces his instructions, that “even Titian was hard* at first;” that “Raphael's early style was stiff, and that he has left examples dryf and destitute of fine relief.” The laws of periodicity in sublime genius are as little understood as those of meteorological science. The second great age of the Apellean art was certainly at an awful remove from the first, and, judging by the past, the interval to the next appearance of artistical greatness will be to former intervals in the ratio of the period of the Le Verrier planet to that of Uranus; and we have reason to fear that the next age of the epic and dramatic in art will not arrive until every existing representative of the “grand style,” together with any accurate knowledge of its principles and modes, shall have shared the fate of the works of the Olympic ages. However willing to confess certain deficiencies, no recent age has been so entirely wanting in self-complacency as to imagine itself utterly destitute of models of true excellence; and several of these have indulged the harmless vanity of fancying themselves the rivals of the great masters. Critics, contemporary and proximate, mingling personal tastes, and not unfrequently personal feelings and national prejudices, with professional sagacity, have meted out praise where it was not due, exposed beauties that others have been unable to see, and detected merits that others have been slow to appreciate. With Pliny, “the name of Apelles is the synonyme of unrivaled and unattainable excellence;” the accomplished Fuseli would despoil the encomium of those qualifying epithets to which it owes its chief expressiveness. Burke regards Reynolds, “in taste, in grace, in facility, in happy invention, and in richness and harmony of coloring, equal to the greatest masters of the renowned ages;” his Scottish biographer thinks the words “a little loftier than is necessary, and somewhat warmer.”—Cunningham's Lives, vol. i, p. 280. The philosophical author of “Democracy in America” doubts “whether Raphael studied the minutest intricacies of human nature as thoroughly as David and his scholars,” who were “as good anatomists as they were good painters.” They represented nature faithfully. “Raphael sought for something better than nature:” his translator opines, that “to compare the drawing of David with that of Raphael, is to compare the science of a surgeon with that of a butcher: the former penetrated, by his art, into the hidden beauty and truth of nature; the latter dragged nature to the easel, and
* Hardness—want of tenderness, modesty, and truth in the coloring.—Dictionary of the Hand-book.
† Dryness—sharp and frigid preciseness of outline.-Ib.