صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

fancy for such refinements. It appears, therefore, to be of primary importance in seeking the power and advantages of writing, to divest it of all needless incumbrances, to articulate every letter distinctly, -and, as in music, to understand the air before attempting any variations.

“ The course which is usually pursued in learning to write, enjoin. ing the absolute necessity, undeviatingly from the first stroke to the last, of giving the exact swell and hair stroke of every letter, greatly retards the progress of the learner, whose first and chief attention should be directed to the forms and proportions of letters. Besides, as every person's experience shows, the regular and alternate succes. sion of hairstroke and swell, which has been acquired with so much labor at the copy-book, is almost entirely incompatible with that faci. lity which the business of life requires; and the rapidity, which is often subsequently practised, is attained by abstaining from the effort to swell, except in a few letters, which serve to give some force and effect to the page. Is it not reasonable, therefore, so to instruct the writer, that he shall have nothing to unlearn ? and to obtain the essen. tial use of writing before any attempts be made at the embellish. ment of it? The style of writing which is taught in large-hand copies is seldom wanted, and may much more easily be learned after the student is able to draw the letters correctly, and write them flu. ently; which depends less upon the motion of the joints of the fingers and thumb than upon that of the wrist and elbow, with an occasional exception.

“ Although facility can be gained only by practice, yet to practise carelessly or incorrectly is to labor in obtaining bad habits. Every repetition of a line or copy should be made with the spirit and resolu. tion to perform it better, or it should not be done at all. It is therefore seldom advisable to write at one sitting more than two or three lines of the same copy. The custom of filling up a page with one dull theme always proves itself to be injurious or useless, when the last lines are worse than the first or second—which is generally the case.”

If to any reader we should appear to be dwelling unduly on a tri. fling subject, let us make the avowal, that we regard nothing as 11nimportant which lies among the foundations of all sound education. Before leaving Mr. Peale's little volume we must take occasion to say that his whole manner of delivering his opinions is at once so modest, concise, polished, and original, that we feel persuadad he would do well to let the public hear from him more at length, upon such topics of the arts as might draw forth richer results of his long experience.

It has been usual to rank drawing among the mere accomplishments of education; that is, to regard it as an elegant and ornamental art, but altogether supererogatory. It is high time that so gross a mis. conception should be dislodged from the public mind. Drawing should enter into every plan of education, as being a useful and elementary art. “Writing is nothing else than drawing the forms of letters. Drawing is little more than writing the forms of objects." The re. marks of Pestalozzi are quoted by Mr. Peale, and must carry convic. tion with them.

“Our artists have no elements of measure; but by long practice they acquire a greater or less degree of precision in seizing and imi. tating outlines, by which the necessity of measuring is superseded.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Each of them has his own peculiar method of proceeding, which, however, none of them is able to explain. Hence it is, that if he comes to teach others, he leaves his pupils to grope in the dark, even as he did himself, and to acquire, by immense exertion and great perseverance, the same sort of instinctive feeling of proportions. This is the reason why art has remained exclusively in the hands of a few privileged individuals who had talents and leisure sufficient to pursue that circuitous road. And yet the art of drawing ought to be a uni. versal acquirement, for the simple reason, that the faculty for it is universally inherent in the constitution of the human mind. This can, at all events, not be denied by those who admit that every individual born in a civilized country has a claim to instruction in reading and writing. For let it be remembered, that a taste for measuring and drawing is invariably manifesting itself in the child, without any as. sistance of art, by a spontaneous impulse of nature ; whereas the task of learning to read and write is, on account of its toilsomeness, so disagreeable to children, that it requires great art, or great violence, to overcome the aversion to it which they almost generally evince; and that, in many instances, they sustain a greater injury from the means adopted in gaining their attention, and enforcing their application, than can ever be repaired by the advantages accruing to them from the possession of those two mechanical acquirements. In proposing, however, the art of drawing as a general branch of education, it is not to be forgotten that I consider it as a means of leading the child from vague perceptions to clear ideas.”

The phrenologists have an organ allotted to the cognizance of form. We have all observed the difference of men's apprehensions with re. gard to figure, and other accidents of visible things, and also the high degree of cultivation which may be given to this power, as in the case of all delicate artizans. The faculty of observation cannot be neglected with impunity, and it should be a chief part of juvenile education to develop and train it. There is no species of discipline which will so effectually do this as the art of drawing. There is a new sense of things communicated by the practice of design. We never so fully learn a figure, as when we contemplate it with a view to reproduce it. This is perpetually taking place in the use of the pencil. Such of us as have not forgotten the impressions of the drawing-school know that after our earliest attempts at regular imitation we were at once drawn to the eager examination of every outline in nature. The exercise is highly important, even without reference to practical utility. Between the man who contemplates nature with the ordinary, undiscriminating gaze, and him who traces and scans the lines and shades of the whole scene, there is almost the same difference as between the clown who sees the characters of the printed pages, and the scholar who recog. nizes in them letters and words : it is the difference between looking and reading.

This admits of an exemplification in the case of geography. Time was when geography was taught chiefly by getting sentences by rote out of a book ; maps were few and imperfect, and less regarded than the text-book. The state of things is altered, if not wholly, yet in good measure. The map and the globe are considered as the grand source of information. Now, in the study of geography, the learner would be perfect, if he could carry a complete map in his head; and

he is best who approaches most nearly to this. If we were desirous of putting to the test the knowledge of any one as to the geography of Germany, for instance, we should not be content to ask him for the latitude and longitude of Munich, Dresden, Leipsick, and Frankfort ; but we should call upon him to describe with pen or pencil the tra. pezium formed by these four great cities. In like manner we should cause him to delineate the precise courses of the great rivers, singly and comparatively. He who can do this is so far a geographer : and no one can do this without cultivating just that kind of observation which is educed by the practice of drawing. Hence the use of outline maps, and of black-board exercises in map drawing. The old-fashioned mapping, wherein the girl or boy slavishly copied a given map, is by no means desirable ; the pupil should be in the daily practice of delineating from memory, on a large surface, and in bold outline, every country which he pretends to learn. Why do boys find the geography of Italy comparatively easy? Because it resembles a boot. Hence they carry in their mind the inflections of the coast. But if they were accustomed to catch the outline of every country, as drawing forces them to do, they would find a similar assistance in all. In the work before us, Göethe is quoted as saying that “we talk too much, and draw too little," and that “persons who never see attentively, and whose eyes convey but dim images to the mind, never become good observers, and seldom close reasoners.” This brought to our mind the descriptive writings of this great poet, and we reflected with pleasure on the means by which he probably improved his wonderful faculty of minute and graphic description. The reader of Göethe's works remembers his scenes, as actually beheld, rather than described. We shall add a passage from his autobiography, which happens to strike us as illustrative of his great nicety and care in this particular. “ As I had been accustomed from my youth to look upon every landscape as a picture, I was naturally led to seek some way of fixing in my mind a per. manent impression of the momentary view. Interruptions and haste conspired to render necessary a strange method. No sooner had I seized upon an interesting object, and indicated its outline on my paper by the most general touches, than I began to fill up with words the details, which time forbade me to represent with the pencil. By this means I gained so intimate a presence with such views, that if afterward I had occasion to introduce the locality in a poem, or a narrative, the whole scene passed before my memory, and stood at my command.”* No. thing could more fully point out the sort of observation which is culti. vated by the arts of design.

The art of drawing is almost indispensable to a teacher of mathema. tics or the natural sciences. There is in the university of Paris a ce. lebrated professor of comparative anatomy, who is said to owe much of his popularity to the ease and accuracy with which he executes drawings on the black-board, in gigantic outline. The same facility is in a certain degree important to the student, that he may carry away with him exact copies of the numerous figures which illustrate his course. If space were allowed, we could introduce numerous facts, showing the value of drawing in various branches of British manu. facture.

* Göethe's Works, vol. xlviii.

There is one consideration which has been too much overlooked in estimating the value of this art; it is that the introduction of visible illustrations into books is more common than it has ever been in any age of the world; and therefore it is in the same proportion desirable that every author should be able to avail himself of the important aux. iliary. The wonderful improvements in wood engraving, and the cheapness of lithography, have united to bring pictorial embellishments within the reach of the poorest readers. We can scarcely regard a man as fully competent to be a traveller, particularly in a new field, who knows nothing of drawing. How different are the impressions and recollections of such a one from those of a Bartlett or a Catherwood! When we consider that our missionaries are penetrating into every region of the earth, and are transmitting to us accounts of foreign and almost undiscovered countries, accounts and narratives superior in fidelity and fulness to any thing the world has had before ; coming as they do from veracious and educated men, usually residing in the lands which they describe; we cannot but lament that so few of them should have acquired even the elements of drawing.

In all that has preceded, we have not even touched upon the art of design as one of the fine arts : being desirous to rest our little argu. ment on a safe foundation, from which it could not be pushed by the most resolute or cynical utilitarian.

From the New-York Observer. Art. XIII.—THE ACROPOLIS AND THE PARTHENON. THE Acropolis of Athens! It is difficult to conceive the perpetual and vivid interest with which the stranger wanders around its scenery, inhaling, at every step, the air of ancient Athenian glory. Even now it is an object which one would never be wearied with gazing at; and in its perfection it must have been a combination of natural beauty of situation with the highest magnificence of art,-such as would renew the admiration of the mind with every day's examination. Its Propylæa, its Parthenon, and its other temples, in solemn, melancholy ruins, make it an altar of the past, magnificent beyond description. How glorious must it have been in the freshness of its early unity, and the unbroken symmetry of all its outlines-a vast white pile of fretted Pentelican marble, with every sculpture in the pediments and friezes of its temples breathing with life, its noble columns perfect in all their ranges, and every line and corner sharply defined in the clear transparent atmosphere! All things were full of beauty; the advance toward it, emerging from the common city, and winding around the base of its crags toward the deep arches of its entrance; the view of its Propylæa in front, a splendid temple for a gateway, with the supporting towers on either side crowned with statues, and the ranges of columns with their fine marble portals admitting the strangers up the access to the tabular summit of the rock; there the sight of the Parthenon, rising in its majesty, and filling the mind like the realized idea of all beauty in architecture; together with the prospects around in every direction of mountain and plain, sea and sky, the city, the harbors, the ships, the islands, the temples, the monuments, the statues of the gods, such a combination of objects and associations as the whole world besides could not exhibit, and which must have exerted no small influence in moulding the minds of the Athenians, and maintaining the spirit of their poetry and eloquence.

These objects are all present now to the mind of the beholder, with the additional melancholy interest of ruins and the clustering remembrances of a people of great genius long passed from existence. Walk with me, then, to the Acropolis as it is, and let us enjoy the almost sacred sadness that steals over the mind amid its present piles of shattered magnificence. Passing from the modern city, your path coasts the base of the northern battlement and crags of the citadel, and as you look upward to observe the masonry of its polygonal walls, you notice that portion which was probably rebuilt by Themistocles after the Persian war, with a haste of which Thucydides supposed that he saw the evidences in the foundations of variously shaped stones inserted just as they happened to be brought, and mingled with columns and wrought blocks. From some conspicuous fragments of large Doric columns, Col. Leake supposes that Themistocles made use of the remains of the old Hecatompedum, or Temple of Minerva, which the Persians burned. In the crags of the rocks we observe several caves or grottoes, and climbing up to that which we pass beneath the north-western corner of the citadel, we find it filled with niches and grooves cut in the surface of the stone for tablets and votive offerings. It was a grotto sacred to Pan; and almost every part of the mountain, as well as the temples with which it was covered, seems to have been thus consecrated to some favorite deity. A little past the north-western corner is an exterior gateway, probably erected by the Greek chief Odysseus in fortifying the Acropolis against the Turks, the side column of which seems to have been the architrave of some sacred building in ancient times, containing a long inscription, still legible, and translated by Mr. Wordsworth as follows: “I deliver to the infernal gods this chapel to guard ; to Pluto, and to Demeter, and Proserpine, and the Furies, and to all the infernal gods: if any one shall deface this chapel, or mutilate it, or remove any thing from it, either by himself or by any other, to that man may not the land be passable, nor the sea navigable. He shall be extirpated utterly; he shall make trial of all evils; of ague, and fever, and quartan ague, and leprosy; and as many other ills and sufferings as befall men, may they befall that man who dareth to remove aught from this chapel.” It is a commination which might be rendered worthily by the curse of Kehama. A few steps farther in this ascent, and Mars' hill rises near us, just on our right, with a valley intervening, which is now partially sown with wheat. The harbor of the Piræus, with the sea and the coast of the Morea, here begins to be visible. The front western wall of the Acropolis, before which we now stand, looks directly toward the port of the Piræus. Entering now the deep massive arched way which forms the only access to the citadel, we see beneath us on our right the remains of the Theatre of Herodes. Passing another dilapidated gateway, and presenting our passport or permit at the door of the cell of the keeper, a precaution that, if it had been adopted at a much earlier period, would have saved the ruins of the Parthenon from many a pilferer,

« السابقةمتابعة »