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   Chapter 14 THE GALLERIES, MUSEUMS, AND COLLECTIONS

Highways and Byways in London By Emily Constance Baird Cook Characters: 63481

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Infinite riches in a little room."

"The great city has an unbroken history of 1,000 years, and has never been sacked by an enemy."-Sir Walter Besant.

"Great are your privileges. For you is collected in the public palaces of London all that human genius has ever achieved, all that power and wealth can procure. For you has been dug from the earth all that remains of mighty empires and long-vanished civilisations. The arts of Greece and Rome, and Egypt and Assyria, and the not less wonderful arts of India, are all contributory to your pleasures. The whole art and mystery of painting is unfolded for you on the walls of our National Gallery.... You are rich indeed, for you are the heirs of all the Ages."

Are picture-galleries, museums, and such-like treasures of the metropolis, to be described as London's Highways, or as its Byways? That they ought to be the former, is certain; as certain as that they are but too often used as the latter, or are, at any rate, regarded as refuges and shelters from the inclemency of the outer air. For Art, like Religion, has a tendency in this respect, to serve not so much as a cloak, as in the capacity of an umbrella. And it is sometimes conveniently adapted to yet other profane uses: "This 'ere ain't a gymnasium, nor yet a refreshment room," I have heard a much-enduring officer of the law remark, more in sorrow than in anger, to a too-presuming visitor, who, seated opposite the Ansidei Madonna, was placidly feeding such of her offspring as were not engaged in playing leap-frog over the chairs, with crumbly bath-buns.

A Sketch in Trafalgar Square.

These, however, are varieties in the human species that are ever with us. "Fear not to Sow because of the Birds," says the Koran; and the widespread sowing of culture has so far shown results, that every year the British Museum, the National Gallery, and other kindred institutions, are growing more popular and more frequented. In Art and Knowledge, as in other directions, it takes time for "the People" to appreciate fully their oldest, much less their newest, heritage. Such treasures in our vast metropolis are still too much hidden, still undiscovered by the majority. Even the educated visitor fresh from the country does not immediately realise the fact that he is free at any time to walk the marble halls of the National Gallery, to hear the fountain plashing in the Pompeian hall of the riverside palace raised by Sir Henry Tate to modern British Art, or to follow the strange instincts and laws of Nature in the beautifully arranged Natural History Museum of Kensington. The recent movement for "Sunday opening," now more or less widespread, has tended greatly to the popularisation of the national collections, and does a good deal, also, to the mitigation of the too utter gloom of the stranger's "Sunday in London." Even M. Taine, who in the "sixties" compared the metropolis of his day to "a well-ordered cemetery," or "a large manufactory of bone-black closed on account of a death," would surely have been less severely splenetic had but a museum or two been open to beguile his tedium. In our present year of grace, the British Museum, from two till four, is thronged by the lower middle-class, who, if their affection for mummies is a trifle out of proportion to the interest they take in the Elgin Marbles, and their love of historic missals is sometimes too subordinate to the intricacies of the neighbouring World's Unique Stamp-Collection, yet show in their way an intelligent and praiseworthy desire for knowledge.

These treasure-houses of London,-what wealth do they not represent,-what unimagined riches do they not contain? London, the richest city in the world, yet for so long a period far behind other capitals in representative art, has in the last century equalled, if not surpassed them all. Some fifty or more years ago, the great "Pan-Opticon" of Leicester Square, the precursor of the present Biograph and Cinematograph, was the chief "artistic" glory of London. In the days of our grandfathers, people were for ever taken to see this "Pan-Opticon," a great building with endless galleries, on the site of the present "Alhambra"; where you saw all the things of the world and the glory thereof. Now this baby-show is superseded by museums and galleries filled with the most priceless gems of art and of history: yes, the London collections may in this sense be regarded as variations of the Pan-Opticon-Pan-Opticons of a nobler kind. London's National Gallery is now a collection of pictures worthy of so great a nation, her museums are filled with the best of the spoils of ancient Greek art. If London has been late in awaking to her artistic responsibilities, at any rate she takes them seriously enough at the present day. And, of late years, her art treasure has been enormously and continuously enriched, not only by the expenditure of public moneys, but by private bequest and private munificence. Rich men, with true patriotism, have spent their lives in painfully searching for, and collecting, beautiful things, to leave them, afterwards, freely to the nation. Millionaires, too, have, it would seem, their uses. And we are thus all, in a sense, millionaires, for we inherit the priceless treasures of others, and we enjoy the fruits of their lifelong toil.

It is in London, more than anywhere, that the real poetry of living may be enjoyed, and that every passing artistic whim may be indulged. Does your mind require stimulating by the study of Greek art? the galleries of the British Museum are open to you; or

"Dost thou love pictures? we will fetch thee straight

Adonis painted by a running brook;

Or Cytherea, 'mid the sedges hid,

That seem to move and wanton with her breath."

Or do you feel that what your mood needs is the contemplation of beautiful eighteenth century French furniture, and Fragonard's pictures? Go then, to Hertford House in quiet Manchester Square, and see the world-famed Wallace Collection. The "Wallace Collection," that pearl of great price, of which the bequest has recently so convulsed the art world, is the latest expression of the patriotism of wealth. Collected mainly by the third Marquess of Hertford,-the "Lord Steyne" of Thackeray's novel,-and his successor the fourth Marquess, Attaché at the Paris Embassy,-the treasure, since its formation, has met, at one time or another, with strange and unique adventures. In Paris, the fourth Marquess, Richard Seymour Conway, built for his collection "a stately pleasure house," fitted and designed after his own sumptuous taste; living meanwhile, his wealth no doubt crippled by his vast "unearned increment," not, indeed, as a miser, but in a degree of seclusion that almost amounted to eccentricity. During the Commune, the bulk of that collection that we now admire was even, it is said, buried in underground cellars for safety. The beautiful French furniture,-the bric-à-brac, blazing with enamels and precious stones,-one can well imagine these the constant delight of the old collector, with whom the love for such things had become a ruling passion. Yet, by the irony of fate, this fourth Lord Hertford suffered from a painful disease, a continual affliction which, they say, only the news of victories achieved in sale rooms, by his agents, over some rival collector, at all tended to alleviate.

Though reproached during his lifetime as an "absentee landlord," a nobleman who preferred residence in Paris to a home in his native land, Lord Hertford has certainly, in the upshot, been proved to have deserved as well as any man of his country. Time's revenges are slow, but they are effective; and the fourth Marquess, the flouted foreign resident, has proved, indirectly, the greatest patriot of his age. But, while the old nobleman's sentiment appears to have been mainly negative (as shown, for instance, by his decision that the collection should not enrich the Louvre), it was really Sir Richard Wallace, his successor, faithful friend, and co-collector (some say, also near kinsman), who should have the largest share of the nation's gratitude.

Sir Richard Wallace, Lord Hertford's sole heir, deciding, after the imminent dangers of the Commune, that it was rash to leave the inheritance thus at the mercy of vandalism, removed it, in 1872, to London, where, for three years, it filled the Bethnal Green Museum; being removed to Hertford House, the London residence of the family (by then arranged to receive it), in 1875. Sir Richard, whose only son had meanwhile died, left in his turn the whole of the property to his wife, a French lady, whose loyalty to her husband's country should cause her name, for all time, to be writ large on the roll of honour. Here, in Hertford House, a few years after Sir Richard's death, Lady Wallace died; and, in accordance with her husband's secret wish, bequeathed the whole of the immense property to the British nation. And now, for future ages, Hertford House, with all its myriad treasures, a collection perfect as it stands, fresh from the arrangement and taste of the collector, will be the glorious heritage of the nation.

One of the greatest charms of Hertford House is that it suggests none of the red-tapeism, or of the dull uniformity of a museum, and, consequently, does not affect visitors, as so many museums do, with a primary sense of fatigue and boredom. The rooms of the palatial mansion are still arranged mainly as they were in the owner's time; the long suites of reception saloons, through which the reflected sunlight glitters,-vistas of French tapestries, pictures, lapis-lazuli, enamels, and Sèvres china,-convey all the suggestion, even in prosaic London, of a fairy palace. Even a Countess d'Aulnoy, with her wealth of imagery, could hardly have imagined a finer setting for her Gracieuse and Percinet, or any of their dainty royal line. There is an intime air, almost as of home, even about the long picture gallery where the Gainsboroughs and Sir Joshuas smile sedately upon us. The sweet presentments of fair dead ladies, seen here in their proper setting; the Pompeian central courtyard and plashing fountain, whence, it is said, the aged Lady Wallace was daily to be seen, leaning from the balcony that projects from the upper rooms, to feed her crowd of birds, eager pensioners, with their breakfast of crumbs; these combine to give an atmosphere of human charm, a thing quite apart from the usual cold aloofness of museums. It is again the idea of the Soane Museum, but on a very magnificent scale. Beautiful in its publicity, how mysteriously lovely must it not have been in the days of its seclusion! One can almost share the feelings of that old retainer who said, on the last sad day before the opening; "Ah, Sir! the Wallace Collection, as it was, you and I will never see again-for the common people are going to be let in!"

Londoners, in this instance, at any rate, fully appreciate the magnificence of the gift made them. Hertford House is, on fine days, usually thronged; all classes are represented there; but there is noticeably more of the "smart world" to be seen there, than is usually to be found in London galleries. The "smart world," as distinguished from the scholarly; but the scholarly world is to be met there too, and will still visit Hertford House, after the "Good Society" has forsaken it, and betaken itself to some newer haunt of fashion. In each of London's picture galleries and museums, its special clientèle may very easily be detected; and, at any rate, that of Hertford House is certainly, so far, the best-dressed. Among the crowd are often to be seen groups of young girls, demurely following in the wake of some feminine leader, who discourses to them about the pictures, and the various schools of painting,-a thing, this, that surely requires some courage in a mixed community. It is not to be denied that the visitor is often sadly in need of some guide: "Are all these pictures hand-painted?" I have myself heard a well-dressed and (presumably) well-educated young girl say, at the National Gallery. Perhaps it is a felt want, for one never knows what extra "following" one may not, unconsciously, attract: I myself once saw an unhappy lady lecturer, carried away by the enthusiasm of the subject, turn round and give an eloquent peroration and summary of it to a policeman, a deaf old lady, and a nursemaid carrying a vacant looking baby:

"Now," said the lady cheerfully, "just to show what you have learned, tell me, in your own words, what you consider to have been the influence of Giotto on Early Italian Art?"

No one answered; but the vacant baby, apparently thinking it a challenge, wailed.

And, in Hertford House, the custom lends itself to additional dangers; for peripatetic classes are many, and in the nooks and unexpected corners of the mansion, it is fatally easy to lose your special crowd of students altogether, and to attach yourself, again unconsciously, to some one else's flock; who, by the chilly indifference with which they receive your well-intentioned homilies, soon make you unpleasantly aware of your mistake. Like "Little Bo-Peep," you then vainly pursue your wandering sheep, from one gallery into another, feeling, perhaps, that the pursuit of pupils, as of Art, has its drawbacks; and that tea, in the shape of the nearest "Aerated," is all too distant.

The "sheep" in question are, however, discovered at last, placidly gloating over the wonderful collection of jewelled snuff-boxes-was there ever such a marvellous display of miniatures and of brilliants? Truly, the eighteenth century was a luxurious age!... Surely, no one can ever have dared to sit comfortably on those priceless chairs, or to have taken tea out of a Sèvres cup, at one of those marvellously inlaid, jewel-encrusted tables?

The pictures, however, are the chief delight of Hertford House. It is easy to admire porcelain, armour, bric-à-brac; but to really enjoy it in the best sense, one must be more or less learned in the cult; while pictures, though their full appreciation implies a certain amount of education, are better understanded of the multitude. But, though the British and foreign schools are well represented, it is the unrivalled collection of French pictures of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, works by Watteau, Lancret, Fragonard, Greuze, and all the noted painters of the French school, that the great world, primarily, flock to see at Hertford House. Twenty-one pictures by Greuze alone will delight the lovers of that painter's work, and bring their minds back to the eternally-charming affectations of that eighteenth century in which so many of our modern poets yearn to have lived. One can imagine, for instance, Mr. Austin Dobson echoing Campbell's lovely lines to the pretty, typical girl-face that Greuze loved so well:

"Transported to thy time I seem,

Though dust thy coffin covers-

And hear the songs, in fancy's dream,

Of thy devoted lovers."...

Here, na?ve as always, yet never quite without a certain faint meretriciousness of effect, the "girl-child" of Greuze looks down on the visitor in every costume and attitude.

In the long picture-gallery that forms one side of the great quadrangle, there are large canvases by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Romney, Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Hals, Murillo, and many others. Here is a charming picture of "Miss Bowles" by Reynolds,-the little girl with round eyes, cuddling a dog, so long familiar to us by engraving or print; and here, too, is Frans Hals's Laughing Cavalier, whose infectious laugh lingers so long in the memory.

Sir Richard Wallace offered his collection, with his house, to the nation before his death; the Government, however, after the usual manner of Governments in such matters, raised objections; and the affair subsided, till the surprise of the widow's legacy came, and showed the long and serious intention of the gift. One little picture, The Peace of Münster, by Terburg, a small historical panel of untold and unique value, was, indeed, given by Sir Richard to the National Gallery before his death; yet even this gift had a narrow escape of being rejected; for the would-be donor, unrecognized, and wearing shabby clothes, was ill received by Sir William Boxall, the then Director, and was all but sent away with contumely, with his picture, till he made it and himself known:

"My name is Wallace," said the stranger quietly, "Sir Richard Wallace; and I came to offer this picture to the National Gallery." "I nearly fainted," said Boxall when he told the story.... "I had nearly refused The Peace of Münster, one of the wonders of the world!"

Nevertheless, the little scene is in its way truly typical of the nation's treatment of its would-be benefactors!

The story of the foundation of the British Museum, the classic edifice in Bloomsbury that has arisen on the site of the old historic Montague House, is not unlike that of Hertford House. For, the first beginnings of the enormous museum collections originated very much in the same manner as the Hertford Bequest. Sir Hans Sloane, the Sir Richard Wallace of his day, Chelsea magnate, physician, naturalist, and philanthropist, determined his large library collections to the nation, offering them by his will, at a fourth of their estimated value; desiring, like Sir Richard, that, if possible, the collections should remain in his house,-Henry VIII.'s historic Chelsea manor-house. This wish, however, was not in his case carried out; the ancient building was demolished, and, in its stead, the British Museum was founded.

At the British Museum the lady-lecturer, with her tribe of earnest students, is occasionally also to be met with. Here she is often youthful and attractive, and is generally to be found,-strange contrast of associations!-either in the Mausoleum Room, or among the Elgin Marbles: her little band of eager pupils scribbling in their note-books at a respectful distance. Last March I saw a charming, Hypatia-like lady, tall and fair, gray-eyed and gray-robed, holding thus her little court, by the lovely figure of Demeter; I would fain have joined myself to the small gathering, and posed as a pupil, but that my courage failed.... I felt, however, glad to think that, in this case, the study of Art had not, as some declare, tended to make the young lady regardless either of her appearance or of neatly-fitting tailor-made clothes. But she went on with her following to the Nereid's Tomb, and I saw her no more.

In the long galleries of the British Museum is generally to be found a motley gathering of visitors, in which the poor, and the children of the poor, largely predominate. Rows of chattering little girls in pinafores, corresponding batches of little boys in knickerbockers, greet one at every turn. And the more ragged the children, the more astonishingly erudite and profound are sometimes their utterances. This is a surprising testimony to the efficacy of the Board Schools, as well as to the advance of learning generally. The visitor who "lies low" and listens, in any of the Greek Marble Rooms, will often find cause to marvel at youthful and ragged intelligence. Girls are more flippant, perhaps, than boys: "'Ere's the Wenus," one will say: "you can always tell 'er, 'cos she seems to be lookin' around and sayin': 'Ain't I pretty'?" Yet, though to hear unkempt and neglected waifs talking wisely about Greek marbles does, I must confess, puzzle me, I must, in fairness, own that there appears to be another side to the question, and that the officials on guard appear to entertain no very high views as to juvenile erudition. "So far as I've noticed," a kindly British Museum policeman once said to me, "the street children don't get much real good out of going to the Museum. They bring a lot of dirt out of the streets in with them, their fingers are generally sticky, and they look about 'em-oh, yes! but not usually with any object, just vacantly."

This was depressing. (Did the accompanying dirt, I wondered, at all affect this particular policeman's outlook?) "But I saw a small crowd of boys and girls looking hard at the King Alfred documents and missals," I murmured.

"Oh, and so you might have done; but didn't you notice," said the stern guardian of the law, "that a lot of ladies and gentlemen had been lookin' at 'em just before? They wouldn't have troubled about 'em without that.... And King Alfred's all the thing now.... Children always come, like bees, where other people are lookin'; and try and squeeze the older folks out just to see what they've been a-lookin' at.... Yes," he owned, in reply to my incredulous interjection, "the children might have heard the name of Alfred in their history books, but no more; that wouldn't be the cause of their crowding up. Their mothers often send 'em into the Museum when they want to go out themselves, or perhaps just to get rid of 'em for a time. Children are more indulged, and not half so well-behaved, as I was when I was a boy."

But the chatter of the children is stilled, or, at any rate, lost among the vast marbles of the collection, where so many sounds mix and mingle in a soothing aloofness. Here, in the long galleries, where the faint light, "that kind of light," as Rossetti said, "that London takes the day to be," slants down on Roman bust and Greek god, may sometimes be heard charitable ladies explaining to dirty little street-arabs the influence of Phidias on Early Italian sculpture; or one of the elegant Hypatia-like girl-lecturers already described, discourses, while a motley crowd of pupils:

-"school-foundations in the act

Of holiday, three files compact-"

-draw near to listen.... And who can tell where the grain may fall?

Sunday is now the great "People's Day" at the British Museum. Those who cavil at "Sunday opening" should really visit the Museum then, when, from two till four, the galleries are dotted with intelligent sightseers. (For the Museum, be it noted, is not so often used as a mere shelter from rain, "jes' to pass the toime away," or as the "refreshment-room" already referred to, as it used to be.) Perhaps the greatest crowd is to be found upstairs, where the mummy-room is greatly beloved, both of small boys and of honey-mooning couples. Young couples, I notice, either in the "courting" or newly-married stage, have ever a strong affinity for mummies;-and as to boys!... While you are, perchance, reflecting over the decaying embroideries of a mummy-case, and wondering what was the life and fate of its once-lovely occupant, after the manner of Sir Edwin Arnold:

"Tiny slippers of gold and green!

Tied with a mouldering golden cord!

What pretty feet you must have been

When C?sar Augustus was Egypt's lord'-

"'Ere, look 'ere, Jimmy," one of those demon boys will break in, interrupting your reverie: "you can see the corpse's 'ole fice! My! ain't 'e jes' black! Blimy if 'e aint 'ad 'is nose bruk in a fight, as 'e ain't got but the 'alf of it left," &c., &c.

"See wot this lydy's got wrote on 'er, 'Arry," the blooming betrothed of a speechless young man will strike in, unconsciously carrying on the chorus: "Three thieusand years old! My! 'ow-ever could they a kep' 'er all that time! She's a bit orf colour, certingly-but sich good clothes to bury 'er in-I call it nothin' but sinful waste," &c., &c.

Yet I can tell a more touching story, in another sort, of the Mummy Room. Once I happened to watch a small boy-a very decidedly "earthly" small boy, too; one would not have expected it of him-on whom the mummies seemed to exercise a quite indescribable fascination. He even stopped half-way through his stale Museum bun, and gazed at them with a species of horror. Then, after a five-minutes' silence, he breathed hard, and said to his companion, in an awe-struck whisper:

"They don't know we're looking at them!"

The "Jewel Room" is another favourite haunt. Here only some twenty people are allowed in at one time, and the policemen are doubly reinforced; and indeed, since the accident to the Portland Vase, it is certainly a necessary precaution. This beautiful vase, lent in 1810 by the Duke of Portland, was smashed by a semi-lunatic in 1845. This man, suddenly and without motive, deliberately aimed a brick at it, and crashed it into fragments, from which it has been cleverly restored as we see it at present.

People who find the British Museum exhausting-and they are many-take too much of it at one time. It is therefore small wonder that they often suffer from a kind of mental indigestion-"Museum headache" it has been appropriately termed. A pretty young girl complained to me of just such a headache the other day: "I wanted," she said, "to go to "Niagara," but T- insisted on taking me to that dreadful Museum instead, and I had to walk past rows and rows of awful headless things for two hours!" Poor thing! But many people share her feelings without possessing her frankness. And to walk through the long, gloomy galleries of the Museum without due object, preparation, or intention, is, no doubt, exhausting. It is true that we are there "heirs of all the ages," but it is equally true that nobody can satisfactorily inherit all the ages at one and the same time. If we content ourselves with but one department for the day, it is wonderful how interested we may become. Mr. Grant Allen-who, by the way, was generally unkind about London, must have experienced the boredom that comes with a mental surfeit.

"The British Museum" (he says) "is indeed a place to despair in-or else to saunter through carelessly with a glance right and left at what happens to catch your eye or take your fancy. I must add" (he continues unpleasantly), "that a certain blight of inexplicable shabbiness hangs somehow over the vast collection; whether it is the gloom of Bloomsbury, the want of space in the galleries, the haphazard mode of acquisition, or what, I know not; but certainly, for some mysterious reason, the objects here exhibited are far less interesting, relatively to their intrinsic scientific and artistic worth, than those of the Louvre, the Vatican, the Munich galleries, or any other great European museum. Dinginess and stinginess are everywhere conspicuous."

Mr. Grant Allen was, evidently, a West Ender. And as he elsewhere calls St. Paul's "bare, pretentious, and unimpressive," and London generally "a squalid village," we need the less mind his calling the British Museum "a gloomy and depressed looking building." He had evidently never seen the pillared portico shining in the May sun, its flocks of pretty pigeons feeding on the green plots that line the enclosure, and the lately-planted young plane-trees bursting into vivid green,-a new "boulevard" along its outer line of railings.

Mr. Allen was, of course, thinking of the more romantic surroundings of foreign galleries, housed in ancient palaces, with all the adornments of parquet, mosaic, and often tropical gardens. There is, however, a faint glimmer of truth in what he says. We in London have not the consummate art of the foreigner in the arrangement and setting-off of beautiful objects. In the Louvre, for instance, all the galleries lead to a final star, shining through the long vista of space,-the Venus of Milo; in the Vatican, all the noble chefs-d'?uvre glimmer in alcoves round a central fountain. Here, in our Museum, per contra, you seem rather to be in a Gallery of Instruction. It is not only in shops that we in England have to learn how to "dress our windows." But at any rate, no one will deny that we have of late made enormous advances in the art.

Nevertheless, the beauty and grandeur of the British Museum collections, beauty on which I have already touched in the Bloomsbury chapter, impress us in spite of fog, and grime, and dull London galleries. And the feeling for the suitable arrangement and disposal of our artistic treasures grows upon our directors year by year. Thus, the gigantic figure of Mausolus, as he stands driving his triumphal car, a wonder of the world, is effectively placed; and though it is but seldom light enough to view the Assyrian Bull-gods thoroughly in their dark corner, they form, doubtless, an imposing entrance to the old Greek marbles. The Egyptian Hall is also impressive, and the enormous scarab, called irreverently by an American visitor, "about the biggest bug in Europe," is advantageously placed, as also that Grammar of Hieroglyphic, the "Rosetta Stone."

At the Royal Academy.

The collection of Tanagra figurines, on the upper floor, near the Jewel Room, is one of the most interesting departments in the Museum. Here, in a small compass, you may follow the whole development of the plastic art, from the rudest clay effigies and caricatures, to the most lovely realisation of the Greek feeling for beauty. Some of the ladies, with their palm-leaf fans and "Liberty" draperies, seem hardly to come to us from the tomb; have we not met and loved them in our own day? Their dresses, their attitudes, are so modern, even their hair is arranged in the present styles. Especially charming are two damsels in tea-gowns, leaning earnestly towards one another, enjoying some choice bit of gossip. And there are two figures in this particular gallery, in which I claim to take a quite special interest; having seen them, so to speak, in their transition stage. It happened thus: When I was in Athens some few years back, a waiter, taking us no doubt for "rich English milors," said, in a stage whisper, that he had some fine things to dispose of. He kept them, he said, for safety in the cellar. So to the cellar he went, and produced, from many wrappings of cotton-wool, the treasures:-that very winged Eros and that same pirouetting ballet-dancer that now adorn one of the central wall-cases. Alas, in our case, that waiter was doomed to disappointment. He wanted no less than £40 for the Eros and £30 for the ballet dancer; and they were returned to their cotton-wool and to the cellar. But, a twelvemonth passed, and behold! one fine day we recognised with joy our old friends in the familiar surroundings of the British Museum!

Many of the British Museum treasures have, like that winged Eros, endured strange vicissitudes of fortune. The great "Elgin" marbles,-those sculptures from the Parthenon so long furiously raged over in print on the much-vexed charge of vandalism in appropriation, and still more furiously threatened by the rage of the sea on their transit from the Acropolis,-were, indeed, shipwrecked on their way here. Then there are the contents of the "Mausoleum" Room, the whole story of the discovery of which, by Sir Charles Newton at Halicarnassus, in 1856 is like one long romance. Other objects recall various stories. The familiar bust called "Clytie," for instance, so admired by Carlyle, and so familiar in drawing schools, was the most cherished possession of Mr. Townley, who "escaped with it in his arms when he was expecting his house to be sacked during the Gordon riots." "Fortunately," says the chronicler, "the attack did not take place, and Mr. Townley's wife, as he called her, returned to her companions." The corridors of the British Museum, that suggest such boredom to the uninitiated, are full of such stories. So much we know, but, ah! if these stones could only tell their histories, and let the full light into their chequered past!

The South Kensington Museum, now officially, by order of the late Queen, termed "the Victoria and Albert Museum," is well known to all dwellers in, and visitors to, London. The large and wonderful collections that it contains have been for m

any years so overcrowded and so irregularly arranged, as to lose half their attraction. For long it existed partly in shanties and temporary buildings, and a hideous iron structure, nicknamed the "Brompton Boilers," was for long the disgrace of a rich and a beauty-loving nation. All these have at length been swept away; the terribly inadequate main entrance (in the Brompton Road) is being done away with, and a new fa?ade is rising, which will soon effect great changes and improvements. Mr. Ruskin, who was always a victim of moods, was apparently in his day made very cross by the general muddle, and expressed his feelings on the subject in the following burst of pathetic eloquence:

"At South Kensington" (he says), "where I lost myself in a Cretan labyrinth of military ironmongery, advertisements of spring blinds, model fish-farming, and plaster bathing nymphs with a year's smut on the noses of them; and had to put myself in charge of a policeman to get out again."

Indeed, in its vast size, its involved construction, and its encyclop?dic scope, the South Kensington Museum much resembles a maze, and, once inside it, it is difficult indeed to know the points of the compass. Yet, everything can be seen here, if only you know where to look for it. It is, itself, a "General Exhibition" on no mean scale. And here is more than ever exemplified the great truth, that the most beautiful objects lose in effect in proportion to the unsuitableness of their immediate surroundings. Even the model of the Pisan pulpit, crowded as it is among so many incongruous objects, seems here a sort of glorified stove-pipe, while the carved front of Sir Paul Pindar's old house almost suggests a magnified dolls'-house awaiting sale, and plaster casts jostle on all sides with the valuable treasures of antiquity. Here again are the groups of feminine students with their guides, and also many isolated toilers, "working up" some special branch of knowledge in the different sections, such as Ivories, Porcelain, Lace, Musical Instruments, or Italian woodwork. (The students are here, I may add, a trifle better dressed than those at the British Museum; they are also, on an average, a thought cleaner, and their hair has, perhaps, a tendency to be neater.) The "omnium-gatherum," as it has been called, of South Kensington, should, like any other Exhibition, be taken piecemeal, and on the first visit the stranger should merely try, if possible, to see the historic Raphael cartoons, and those most interesting pictures of the British School that form the famous "Sheepshanks" collection.

The neighbouring Natural History Museum, Waterhouse's vast edifice of terra-cotta, is, internally, a most beautifully planned building, and the arrangement of its various classes of specimens is no less excellent. Nothing could be better done, either for purposes of entertainment or of instruction, than the groups in the Great Hall of the building, where animals, birds, and insects, are shown charmingly mounted and in their own natural surroundings; and where, by careful and well-selected illustration, such strange living mysteries as "melanism" and "albinism" are demonstrated and explained. One of the most striking glass cases of all is that which illustrates "Protective Resemblances and Mimicry," a subject which is attracting much notice at the present day among naturalists (see the late Professor Henry Drummond's Tropical Africa for further curious information on this interesting subject). Some of the strange natural imitations shown here, such as of dead leaves by butterflies, or of bits of straw by insects, are wonderful indeed.

The new Tate Gallery, raised by the munificence of one of our merchant princes for the enshrinement of modern British Art, is a building of quite another kind. This edifice, in the Greek style, was built by the late Sir Henry Tate, on the site of old Millbank Prison, at Westminster. When this Gallery was first opened, in July, 1897, its approaches were always thronged by private carriages, and powdered footmen waited in the muddy, half-finished roads (for the whole locality was then in a state of incompleteness). But this was in the early days of its fame; the vagaries of fashion are of short duration, and although even yet "smart" people are to be met with occasionally in the Tate Gallery, they are now in a decided minority; they have, most likely, betaken themselves to the still newer exhibition of Hertford House.

It is the artisan, the small shopkeeper, the great "lower middle-class," that frequent chiefly the Tate Gallery. Not by any means the same class, for instance, that you see at the National Gallery; the visitors to the Tate Gallery are mainly the lovers of "the human interest" in a picture, and not the earnest students. Here the sightseers roam, like butterflies, from flower to flower; not so much to gather the honey, as just to enjoy the moment. Therefore, at Millbank, they are but rarely gowned in angular "art serge," and are but seldom be-spectacled and be-catalogued. Neither are the Hypatia-like girl-lecturers at all evident. Sir Henry Tate used to take an evident pleasure in walking about the galleries that his munificence had provided. Only a short time before his death, he was to be seen there, benevolent and urbane as ever, the type of what Mr. Ruskin has called "the entirely honest merchant."

The Tate Gallery is considered, administratively, as part of the National Gallery; and many pictures of the modern British school have, as every one knows, been removed to Millbank from the older collection. But the earlier pictures of the British School, and the Turners, are still in Trafalgar Square.

The wealth of foreign pictures now to be seen in the National Gallery of London renders it the Mecca of every visitor, both from our own country, and from overseas. The National Gallery, fine as it is, is but a comparatively modern growth. Founded in 1824 by the purchase of the Angerstein Collection, it slowly, very slowly at first, crept into fame and distinction. Only some forty-five years ago, Mr. Ruskin said of it that it was "an European jest!" Since 1887 its pictures have nearly doubled in number and it is now, if not one of the finest, at least one of the most representative, collections in the world. The internal arrangement of the Gallery leaves little to be desired, and its spacious entrance hall and staircase, adorned with coloured marbles, has a solid dignity, with a cheerfulness and brightness usually somewhat lacking in London. A fine bust of Egyptian porphyry, called the "Dying Alexander," (a copy of one in the Uffizi), presented by Mr. Henry Yates Thompson, forms an effective centre-piece for the Entrance Vestibule.

Once inside the magic portals of the National Gallery, a very paradise is opened to the art-loving visitor. He will soon forget, revelling in those soft Italian skies, that glowing southern colour, that outside his shelter hums the London of the twentieth century. The pictures are finely arranged, and they are not crowded. A hint has been taken from the Louvre, and the famous "Blenheim Raphael," the Ansidei Madonna (bought by the nation for such a tremendous price from the Duke of Marlborough), greets the entering visitor from the far end of a long vista. The walls on which the pictures are hung are covered in Pompeian red or sober green, with a wall-covering that has the soothing effect of rich Venetian brocade, and that even improves in tone with years.

Recruiting Serjeants by the National Gallery.

The National Gallery cannot be seen in one visit. For any real appreciation of the vast collections, ten, twenty visits rather are needed; visits that need never, now, be other than a pleasure; the improved conditions making the place itself attractive, and whatever light is obtainable in London finding its way to those large and lofty galleries. The mass of "the People" mainly frequent the British Schools; and, even in the larger portion of the building occupied by the Foreign Schools, every room has usually, like the London collections generally, its special votaries. For instance, in the little room devoted to the Early Sienese painters, you will nearly always find a few earnest students, making pencil marks on note-books or in elaborate catalogues; in the long Italian Gallery they are, perhaps, just a trifle less severe, but are still more or less of the same type, sitting in rapt contemplation and still with catalogues; but the Dutch School is already more flippant, and but few catalogues survive into the Spanish and French Schools.

The romance of the National Gallery,-what volumes might not be written on the fascinating subject! If, here again, old pictures could tell stories of their past, what adventures could they not relate! The long corridors of the National Gallery, filled with masterpieces from all nations and ages, would of themselves furnish as copious records as many a shelf in the British Museum Library. What stories might these pictures tell: of their painting, their owners, the generations to which they have served as the Lares and Penates, the families whose vicissitudes they have shared! This, maybe, had hung for years, blackened and tarnished, in a pawnbroker's shop till some vigilant eye rescued it from its oblivion; that, perhaps, had saved its owner's life, or redeemed the fortunes of a nation. This, again, formed the "wedding-chest" of a beautiful dark-eyed bride, dust long ago; that caused the imprisonment, almost the death, of its author. Unhappily, old pictures are "silent witnesses" of history. We can, indeed, discover, through much searching in dusty archives, the provenance of a few of our most celebrated pictures, or read, perhaps, one or two of the stories relating to them; but how many are there of which we have not been able to find a record? It depends mainly on chance what stories survive, and what do not. Then, such as are known are often not widely known; they lie hidden, for the most part, in musty blue-books, or in tomes of ancient lore, attainable by the student only. The mere title, The Cornfield or The Repose, tells so little. Does it not add to our interest in the pictures to know that the one was thought by Constable to be his best work, and that the scene of the other was laid among the hills of Titian's own country? In connection with the inscriptions on the frames, most visitors, I fancy, will share the disappointment I felt, when on revisiting the Gallery one day I found the familiar "Raphael" disguised as "Sanzio," "Tintoret," as "Robusti" and so forth; but this somewhat pedantic innovation has now been partially remedied.

The early Italian pictures were usually painted to adorn particular places; some, perhaps, to decorate a wooden chest for the furnishing of a room, as Benozzo Gozzoli's Rape of Helen; others to consecrate an altar, as Raphael's Madonna; many to assist in the carrying out of some architectural design, as in Crivelli's pictures, or Fra Filippo Lippi's Vision of St. Bernard. All, at any rate, were painted, not to hang in rows in a gallery, but for particular persons, places, and occasions, far removed from the present environment of them. Perhaps our only pictures specially painted with a view to the Gallery which they now adorn, are those in which Turner's rivalry with Claude is immortalised. Visitors may wonder why, in a room devoted to the French School of Painting, they are suddenly confronted with two large canvases of Turner's. The fact is that Turner painted them in direct competition with Claude. The great modern landscape-painter determined to beat the ancient on his own classical ground. Whether he has conquered is indeed a question; but the pictures still hang side by side in unconscious rivalry, telling the pathetic story of the dead man's ambition. Turner, who left these two pictures, among many others, to the nation, expressly stipulated that they should hang between those two by Claude. In vain, during his life, large sums were offered for them; he steadily refused to sell. "What in the world, Turner, are you going to do with it?" his friend Chantrey asked, referring to the Carthage. "Be buried in it," Turner replied grimly, keeping its real destination a secret.

There are in the National Gallery some pictures actually painted for the sitters to be buried in. These are the early Gr?co-Egyptian portraits, which glare down upon us in the vestibule. A few years ago a workman's spade, digging in the Fayoum, accidentally struck against a mummy-case. Affixed to the outside covering, in a position corresponding to the head of the corpse, was a portrait of a man in his habit as he lived. That "find" led to others. Some dozen tombs, closed 1,500 years ago, were rifled in order to supply a fresh link in the historical development of art as exhibited in our National Gallery.

Just above these old-world pagans hangs Spinello Aretino's Fall of the Rebel Angels, with devils and dragons galore. If you gaze at the mummy faces long enough, you can quite imagine the dead men's faces looking at you; as Spinello, who was an imaginative Florentine, used to think his devils did. Spinello's picture was painted to decorate the church of Sta. Maria degli Angeli, in his native town of Arezzo; and he laboured hard to make the chief fiend, Lucifer, as hideous as possible. So much did this idea prey upon him, that one night he had a terrible dream. The demon he had painted appeared to him in his sleep, demanding to know why the painter had made him so ugly. Spinello, it is said, did not survive the shock, which is a warning to those who take liberties with the devil. The Greek painter, who, when confronted with an unpleasing sitter, said frankly, "Paint you? Who would paint you, when no one would even look at you?" was wiser.

Seeing the pictures in the National Gallery is like reading bits of old biographies. All true artists put their life into their work, and leave it there. Take Marco Marziale's work-The Circumcision of Christ (No. 803)-it is wonderful in respect of the faithful labour put into things that the modern painter would generalise as mere accessories. An amateur embroideress could easily copy the elaborate cross-stitch of Marziale's lectern border, and find no stitch in its wrong place. He who did this was only a second-rate Venetian painter, and a label painted on the canvas fixes the date and makes it probable that this was his first important commission; therefore, Marco spared no trouble, and crowded his picture with all the most beautiful textures and patterns known to the Venice of his day. People did not scamp work in those times.

The painter-poet, William Blake, with his charming insanity, has left us glimpses of his strangely warped mind in his mysterious painting of Pitt Guiding Behemoth, which hangs on the walls in another part of the gallery. The more one looks at this little picture, the more its green and gold hues and the tongues of its flames have fascination. It is dark and unattractive at a first glance: but, to show how fatally easy it is to attract a "following," and also how much in need the average visitor is of a pilot to the Gallery, one only has to draw up a chair and seat one's self before this small canvas to collect an inquisitive crowd. People, even educated people, are strangely imitative! Besides this picture, there are only one or two minor works by Blake in our National Gallery. Instead of his Canterbury Pilgrims, we have here that of his contemporary Stothard, who took the idea from Blake and supplanted him. Stothard's Canterbury Pilgrims caused a quarrel between himself and Blake; a quarrel which was never healed; and Blake criticised his rival's painting freely on its exhibition. Hoppner, the artist, praised it; adding that Stothard had "contrived to give a value to a common scene, and very ordinary forms." Thereupon Blake, in criticising the critic, said that this was Hoppner's only just observation; "for it is so, and very wretchedly so indeed. The scene of Mr. S.'s picture," he adds, "is by Dulwich hills, which is not the way to Canterbury; but perhaps the painter thought he would give them a ride round about, because they were a burlesque set of scarecrows, not worth any man's respect or care." Tant?ne animis c?lestibus ir??

Among the works of the Lombard School is a picture by Parmigiano, The Vision of St. Jerome (No. 33), which shows how the artist can forget himself in his work. For Parmigiano was engaged on this very picture, in Rome, during the German sack of the city in 1527. Vasari says that the painter was so intent on his work that, even while his own dwelling was filled with the German invaders, he continued undisturbed; and that when they arrived in his room and found him so employed they stood amazed at the beautiful paintings, and wisely permitted him to continue. Parmigiano's picture is thus, in the truest sense, historical.

There is another class of pictures that is associated with incidents in history. First, we have that priceless little painting by Gerard Terburg, The Peace of Münster (896), mentioned before in connection with Hertford House. It hangs in the Dutch Room, and is so small that one might easily overlook it. Small as it is, it cost at its last sale £8,800; £24 for every square inch of canvas. The Dutch painter has represented one of the turning-points of his country's history; the ratification, in 1684, of the Treaty of Münster, by which the long war between Spain and the United Provinces was ended. The numerous heads are all portraits, and, in the background, the painter has introduced himself. There is about this painting a photographic truth, a minute fidelity, which makes it doubly interesting. Terburg would not part with it during his life. Afterwards, amid many vicissitudes, it passed into the possession of Prince Talleyrand, and was actually hanging in the room of his hotel, under the view of the Allied Sovereigns, at the signing of the Treaty of 1814. Not less interesting in its way is the painting by Holbein of the Duchess Christina of Denmark. Among Holbein's duties, as Court painter and favourite of Henry VIII., was that of taking the portraits of the ladies whom the King proposed to wed. This young Christina was prime favourite after the death of Jane Seymour, and Holbein was despatched to Brussels to paint her. The picture pleased his Majesty; but, for political reasons, the match was broken off. The story of Christina's message to the King, that she had but one head, but that if she "had two one should be at the service of his Majesty," is now discredited; but the Duchess seems to have had a character of her own.

Peace and War, by Rubens, an allegorical canvas (46), is another picture designed to sway the fate of nations. Rubens painted it when he came over to England, in 1630, as ambassador to negotiate a peace with Spain. He produced an elaborate allegory showing forth the Blessings of Peace, and presented it, with much diplomacy, to Charles I. It was sold, after the King's death, for £100; to be bought back again for £3,000. With regard to Charles I.'s pictures generally, much might be said of the strange irony of history. The large equestrian picture of the King by Vandyck (1172), bought for the nation at the Blenheim sale for £17,000, was, after his death, sold by Parliament, for a paltry sum; and Correggio's famous Mercury, Venus, and Cupid, (10), also included in Charles's collection, was sold and bought again by successive Parliaments.

Among the early Florentine pictures in the Gallery, Botticelli's Nativity of Christ (1034), is history in the sense of showing the force of the religious revival in Savonarola's time. Botticelli, at the age of forty, fell under the preacher's influence, and, forsaking the world's pleasures, made a "mourner" of himself until his death. This is the picture that, as Mr. Lang says, was:

"Wrought in the troublous times of Italy

By Sandro Botticelli, when for fear

Of that last judgment, and last day drawn near,

To end all labour and all revelry,

He wept and prayed in silence."

The painting is full of theological symbolism, and its Greek inscription, being translated, runs: "This, I, Alexander, painted at the end of the year 1500, in the troubles of Italy, in the half-time after the time during the fulfilment of the eleventh of St. John, in the second woe of the Apocalypse, in the loosing of the Devil for three years and a half. Afterwards he shall be chained, and we shall see him trodden down, as in this picture." Botticelli had already, earlier in life, got into religious trouble by his reforming tendencies. When quite a young man, he had painted, for a Florentine citizen, Matteo Palmieri, a large picture called The Assumption of the Virgin, which also hangs in our Gallery (No. 1126). Palmieri had adopted Origen's strange heresy that the human race was an incarnation of those angels who, in the revolt of Lucifer, were neither for God nor for his enemies; and, as he and Botticelli, in working out the design of the picture, had made amendments in theology, they fell into disgrace. Suspected of heresy, Botticelli's work was covered up; and the chapel for which it had been painted was closed until the picture left Florence for the Duke of Hamilton's collection and was bought by the nation in 1882. "The story of the heresy interprets," Mr. Pater says, "much of the peculiar sentiment with which Botticelli infuses his profane and sacred persons, neither all human nor all divine."

Most interesting, too, is Carpaccio's Venetian painting of the Doge Giovanni Mocenigo (750), which faithfully represents a page of the history of Venice. The doge is shown kneeling before the Virgin, and begging her protection, on the occasion of the plague in 1478. Medicaments and nostrums against the epidemic are contained in a gold vase on the altar before the throne; and a blessing (according to the inscription below) is asked on them: "Celestial Virgin, preserve the City and Republic of Venice, and the Venetian State, and extend your protection to me, if I deserve it." Simple and modest indeed was Venice in the good days of her prosperity! Compare with this kneeling, crownless doge, the new and elaborate frescoes in the Vatican, where the Pope is represented in his grandest robes, benevolently granting to the Madonna an audience, with masters of the ceremonies standing by, and obsequious pages holding his gold-laced train.

Some of the greatest ornaments of our Gallery are those which have been thrown off easily in the magnanimity of art. Chief of these is the Veronese called The Family of Darius (294). This large painting, with its splendid architecture, gem-like colour, and wonderful composition, was painted while Veronese was detained by an accident at the Pisani Villa at Este. Having left it behind him there, he sent word that he had left wherewithal to defray the expense of his entertainment; and his words were more than verified. The picture, whose golden tones Smetham, the artist, so much admired, turned really to gold afterwards. The Pisani family sold it to the National Gallery, in 1857, for £13,650. Veronese's lavishness in giving away his masterpieces was almost equalled, however, by our own Gainsborough, who gave his Parish Clerk (760) to a carrier who had conveyed his pictures from Bath to the Royal Academy.

The wanderings and vicissitudes of celebrated pictures have been many indeed. The celebrated Van Eyck, Jan Arnolfini and his Wife (186), painted five hundred years ago, has had, for instance, an eventful history. At one time a barber-surgeon at Bruges presented it to the Queen Regent of the Netherlands, who valued it so highly that she pensioned him in consideration of the gift. At another, it must have passed again into humbler hands; for General Hay found it in the room at Brussels to which he was taken in 1815 to recover from the battle of Waterloo. The story of Michael Angelo's Entombment is also curious. It was once in the gallery of Cardinal Fesch, which was sold and dispersed after the cardinal's death. Being in a neglected condition and unfinished it attracted little attention, and was bought very cheaply by Mr. Macpherson, a Scotchman sojourning in Rome. After the dirt had been removed, it was submitted to competent judges, who pronounced it to be by Michael Angelo. This caused a great sensation; and a lawsuit was instituted against Mr. Macpherson for the recovery of the picture, a suit which ultimately ended in his favour. He removed the picture to England, and sold it to the National Gallery for £2,000.

The pictures that were the favourites of great men gain an additional value in our eyes from that fact. Vandyck's Portrait of Rubens (49), Bassano's Good Samaritan (277), and Bourdon's Return of the Ark (64), were all owned and much-prized by Sir Joshua Reynolds, who would often admire, to his Academy pupils, the "poetical style" of the Bourdon. Vandyck himself singled out the Portrait of Gevartius as his masterpiece, and used to "carry it about from court to court and from patron to patron, to show what he could do as a portrait-painter." There is, too, a pretty story of how Sir George Beaumont valued a little landscape by Claude (61), so highly that he made it his travelling companion. He presented it to the National Gallery in 1826; but, unable to bear its loss, begged it back for the rest of his life. He took it with him into the country; and on his death two years later, his widow restored it to the nation.

I might go on multiplying picture-stories for ever; for the romance of the National Gallery is inexhaustible. Times, and men, change; we live our little day, and are gone; but here, upon our walls, live souls embodied in canvases, monuments of human spirits which from age to age are still instinct with life. "Paul Veronese," James Smetham writes, "three hundred years ago, painted that bright Alexander, with his handsome flushed Venetian face, and that glowing uniform of the Venetian general which he wears; and before him, on their knees, he set those golden ladies, who are pleading in pink and violet; and there is he, and there are they in our National Gallery; he, flushed and handsome, they, golden and suppliant as ever. It takes an oldish man to remember the comet of 1811. Who remembers Paul Veronese, nine generations since? But not a tint of his thoughts is unfixed; they beam along the walls as fresh as ever. Saint Nicholas stoops to the Angelic Coronation, and the solemn fiddling of the Marriage at Cana is heard along the silent galleries of the Louvre ('Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter')! yes; and will be so when you and I have cleaned our last palette, and, 'in the darkness over us, the four-handed mole shall scrape.'"

Paul Veronese and his contemporaries knew how to make their works last. We in our day are not so fortunate. It is sad to think how many pictures of our own English School are gradually fading away; how many men have put their best powers into pictures which are now (among them some of Sir Joshua Reynolds's most beautiful creations) rapidly becoming "ghosts of ghosts." With Turner the general wreck is more complete. "Turner," Constable said, "seems to paint with tinted steam,-so evanescent, and so airy." Alas! evanescent indeed. Reynolds devoted much time and attention to finding out durable pigments. Trying to discover the secret, he even cut up some old Italian pictures. It was a vain quest. The old masters are long ago buried, and they have carried their secret to the grave.

Sadder still is the case of those artists whose pictures themselves have not faded, but the fashion for whose pictures has gone. Sir Benjamin West, who died some sixty odd years ago, enjoyed very great fame during his life. He painted many large historical canvases, all painstaking, and, in their way, of undoubted merit. They gained high prices in their day, and are now mostly consigned either to cellars or to the darkest rooms of suburban galleries.

Time is, after all, the greatest of art critics, and its judgment is sure. The best of all the centuries adorns the walls of the National Museum. It is the best only that survives. To us, in all our painful twentieth-century newness, it is given to inherit the mystery and magic of the old Greeks and Egyptians; the charming imagery of Raphael, filled with simple faith and sweet imagination; the quaint beauty of Botticelli, and of the early Florentines, whose art was a part of their life; the gay voluptuousness of the later Venetians; "the courtly Spanish grace" of Velasquez; the charming affectations of Sir Joshua Reynolds, shown in the fair ladies whose portraits, in their beauty, once filled the halls of England. All is given to us, unsparingly. For us and for the enrichment of the walls of our National Gallery, did the rude barbarians, in the sack of Italian cities, stay the hand of destruction; for us the treasures of art were wrested from many a palace of antiquity; it was for the delight of thousands of modern Londoners that the monasteries of the Middle Ages were plundered. Altar-pieces painted for adoration in the private chapel of some patron saint are now seen dimly, through London fog and smoke, hanging, maybe, next to some pagan Bacchus and Ariadne, or Venus and the Loves. For our sake were battles fought, to include masterpieces among the spoils; for us did the Italian nobles sell their treasures into the hands of money-lenders. Could Botticelli, that fervent follower of Savonarola, he who "worked and prayed in silence," have guessed that his beloved Nativity of Christ would, centuries hence, be removed to barbarous London, and be stared at by crowds of wondering Philistines, who should see in it only the curious uncouthness of its gestures,-he would, surely, have held his hand.

The National Gallery is the natural haunt of such dreams. Sitting there in the quickly-growing twilight, how easily it becomes peopled with ghosts, ghosts even more intangible than Reynolds's. Our thoughts wander back into the past, the walls grow dim, they seem to melt away into distance; we hear the sound of music, and see the glimmer of gay banners, as Cimabue's Madonna is carried past, amid the acclamation of a multitude; or a gay court appears before our eyes, filled with fine ladies, grandees, and inquisitors; and, apart from all, a great King conversing eagerly with a little dark painter, whose only ornament, beyond his lace ruffles, is the red cross of the Order of Santiago on his breast; or we seem to be in Italy, in a poetic "Romeo and Juliet" time and atmosphere, in a rich noble's house, bright with splendid hangings and works of art; a painted wedding-chest, or cassone, has just been presented, on the occasion of a marriage, and the young bride herself gazes down lovingly into its depths, which she has just stored with rich silks and brocaded velvets, and all her treasures; just such a chest as Ginevra might have hid and perished in; just such a bride as Ginevra herself. Or the scene changes again to a dusty gallery in a dingy street, with a little ugly old man mounted high on a stool, painting furiously away amid a horde of tailless cats; and anon a transformation, and we see a brilliant illumination of Queen Mab's Grotto, with fairies in wonderful gondolas, gliding to and fro; a ball in Venice.... We, too, are invited, but, as we hesitate to trust ourselves to Turner's airy structures, a voice sounds in our ear,-a prosaic voice, however: "Closin' time, ma'am, closin' time!"

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