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A Brief Appraisal Of The Greek Literature In Its Foremost Pretensions
by [?]

[Footnote 1:
Objectively and subjectively are terms somewhat too metaphysical; but they are so indispensable to accurate thinking that we are inclined to show them some indulgence; and, the more so, in cases where the mere position and connection of the words are half sufficient to explain their application.]

It is indeed a pitiable spectacle to any man of sense and feeling, who happens to be really familiar with the golden treasures of his own ancestral literature, and a spectacle which moves alternately scorn and sorrow, to see young people squandering their time and painful study upon writers not fit to unloose the shoes’ latchets of many amongst their own compatriots; making painful and remote voyages after the drossy refuse, when the pure gold lies neglected at their feet. Too often he is reminded of a case, which is still sometimes to be witnessed in London. Now and then it will happen that a lover of art, modern or antique alike, according to its excellence, will find himself honoured by an invitation from some millionnaire, or some towering grandee, to ‘assist,’ as the phrase is, at the opening of a case newly landed from the Tiber or the Arno, and fraught (as he is assured) with the very gems of Italian art, inter-mingled besides with many genuine antiques. He goes: the cases are solemnly disgorged; adulatory hangers on, calling themselves artists, and, at all events, so much so as to appreciate the solemn farce enacted, stand by uttering hollow applauses of my Lord’s taste, and endeavouring to play upon the tinkling cymbals of spurious enthusiasm: whilst every man of real discernment perceives at a glance the mere refuse and sweeping of a third-rate studio, such as many a native artist would disdain to turn out of his hands; and antiques such as could be produced, with a month’s notice, by cart-loads, in many an obscure corner of London. Yet for this rubbish has the great man taken a painful tour; compassed land and sea; paid away in exchange a king’s ransom; and claims now on their behalf, the very humblest homage of artists who are taxed with the basest envy if they refuse it, and who, meantime, cannot in sincerity look upon the trumpery with other feelings than such as the potter’s wheel, if (like Ezekiel’s wheels) it were instinct with spirit, would entertain for the vilest of its own creations;–culinary or ‘post-culinary’ mugs and jugs. We, the writers of this paper, are not artists, are not connected with artists. And yet, upon the general principle of sympathy with native merit, and of disgust towards all affectation, we cannot but recall such anecdotes with scorn; and often we recollect the stories recorded by poor Benvenuto Cellini, that dissolute but brilliant vagabond, who (like our own British artists) was sometimes upbraided with the degeneracy of modern art, and, upon his humbly requesting some evidence, received, by way of practical answer, a sculptured gem or vase, perhaps with a scornful demand of–when would he be able to produce anything like that–‘eh, Master Ben? Fancy we must wait a few centuries or so, before you’ll be ready with the fellow of this.’ And, lo! on looking into some hidden angle of the beautiful production, poor Cellini discovered his own private mark, the supposed antique having been a pure forgery of his own. Such cases remind one too forcibly of the pretty Horatian tale, where, in a contest between two men who undertake to mimic a pig’s grunting, he who happens to be the favourite of the audience is applauded to the echo for his felicitous execution, and repeatedly encored, whilst the other man is hissed off the stage, and well kicked by a band of amateurs and cognoscenti, as a poor miserable copyist and impostor; but, unfortunately for the credit of his exploders, he has just time, before they have quite kicked him off, for exposing to view the real pig concealed under his cloak, which pig it was, and not himself, that had been the artist–forced by pinches into ‘mimicry’ of his own porcine music. Of all baffled connoisseurs, surely, these Roman pig-fanciers must have looked the most confounded. Yet there is no knowing: and we ourselves have a clever friend, but rather too given to subtilising, who contends, upon some argument not perfectly intelligible to us, that Horace was not so conclusive in his logic as he fancied; that the real pig might not have an ‘ideal’ or normal squeak, but a peculiar and non-representative squeak; and that, after all, the man might deserve the ‘threshing’ he got. Well, it may be so; but, however, the Roman audience, wrong or not, for once fancied themselves in the wrong; and we cannot but regret that our own ungenerous disparagers of native merit, and exclusive eulogisers of the dead or the alien–of those only ‘quos Libitina sacravit,’ or whom oceans divide from us–are not now and then open to the same palpable refutation, as they are certainly guilty of the same mean error, in prejudging the whole question, and refusing to listen even to the plain evidence of their own feelings, or, in some cases, to the voice of their own senses.