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AMONGST THE PAINTERS.
THEN Clive Newcome comes to be old, no doubt he will reaVV member his Roman days as amongst the happiest which fate ever awarded him. The simplicity of the student's life there, the greatness and friendly splendour of the scenes surrounding him, the delightful nature of the occupation in which he is engaged, the pleasant company of comrades inspired by a like pleasure over a similar calling, the labour, the meditation, the holiday and the kindly feast afterwards, should make the art-students the happiest of youth, did they but know their good fortune. Their work is, for the most part, delightfully easy. It does not exercise the brain too much, but gently occupies it, and with a subject most agreeable to the scholar. The mere poetic flame, or jet of invention, needs to be lighted up but very seldom, namely, when the young painter is devising his subject, or settling the composition thereof. The posing of figures and drapery; the dexterous copying of the line; the artful processes of crosshatching, of stumping, of laying on lights, and what not; the arrangement of colour, and the pleasing operations of glazing and the like, are labours for the most part merely manual. These, with the smoking of a proper number of pipes, carry the student through his day's work. If you pass his door you will very probably hear him singing at his easel. I should like to know what young lawyer, mathematician, or divinity scholar, can sing over his volumes, and at the same time advance with his labour ? In every city where Art is practised, there are old gentlemen who never touched a pencil in their lives, but find. the occupation and company of artists so agreeable that they are never out of the studios, follow one generation of painters after another; sit by with perfect contentment while Jack is drawing his pifferaro, or Tom designing his cartoon, and years afterwards, when Jack is. established in Newman Street, and Tom a Royal Academician, shall still be found in their rooms, occupied now by fresh painters and pictures, telling the youngsters, their successors, what glorious fellows Jack and Tom were. A poet must retire to privy places and meditate his rhymes in secret; a painter can practise his trade in the company of friends. Your splendid chef d'école, a Rubens or a Horace Vernet, may sit with a secretary reading to him; a troop of admiring scholars watching the master's hand; or a company of court ladies and gentlemen (to whom he addresses a few kind words now and again) looking on admiringly; whilst the humblest painter, be he ever so poor, may have a friend watching at his easel, or a gentle wife sitting by with her work in her lap, and with fond smiles, or talk or silence, cheering his labour.
Amongst all ranks and degrees of painters assembled at Rome, Mr. Clive found, companions and friends. The cleverest man was not the best artist very often; the ablest artist not the best critic nor the best companion. Many a man could give no account of the faculty within him, but achieved success because he could not help it; and did, in an hour and without effort, that which another could not effect with half a life's labour. There were young sculptors who had never read a line of Homer, who took on themselves, nevertheless, to interpret and continue the heroic Greek art. There were young painters with the strongest natural taste for low humour, comic singing, and Cyder-cellar jollifications, who would imitate nothing under Michael Angelo, and whose canvases teemed with tremendous allegories of fates, furies, genii of death and battle. There were longhaired lads who fancied the sublime lay in the Peruginesque manner, and depicted saintly personages with crisp draperies, crude colours, and haloes of gold-leaf. Our friend marked all these practitioners of Art with their various oddities and tastes, and was welcomed in the ateliers of all of them, from the grave dons and seniors, the senators of the French and English Academy, down to the jovial students who railed at the elders over their cheap cups at the “ Lepre.” What a gallant, starving, generous, kindly life, many of them led! What fun in their grotesque airs, what friendship and gentleness in their poverty ! How splendidly Carlo talked of the marquis his cousin, and the duke his intimate friend! How great Federigo was on the subject of his wrongs from the Academy at honie, a pack of tradesmen who could not understand high art, and who had never seen a good picture ! With what haughtiness Augusto swaggered about at Sir John's soirées, though he was known to have borrowed Fernando's coat, and Luigi's dress-boots! If one or the other was ill, how nobly and generously his companions flocked to comfort him, took turns to nurse the sick man through nights of fever, contributed out of their slender means to help him through his difficulty. Max, who loves fine dresses and the carnival so, gave up a costume, and a carriage so as to help Paul. Paul, when he sold his picture (through the agency of Pietro, with whom he had “quarrelled, and who recommended him to a patron), gave a third of the money back to Max, and took another third portion to Lazaro, with his poor wife and children, who had not got a
single order all that winter--and so the story went on. I have heard Clive tell of two noble young Americans who came to Europe to study their art; of whom the one fell sick whilst the other supported his. penniless comrade, and out of sixpence a day absolutely kept but a penny for himself, giving the rest to his sick companion. “I should like to have known that good Samaritan, sir," our Colonel said, twirling his mustachios, when we saw him again, and his son told him that story.
J. J., in his steady silent way, worked on every day, and for many hours every day. When Clive entered their studio of a morning, he found J. J. there, and there he left him. When the Life Academy was. over, at night, and Clive went out to his soirées, J. J. lighted his lamp and continued his happy labour. He did not care for the brawling supper-parties of his comrades; liked better to stay at home than to go into the world, and was seldom abroad of a night except during the illness of Luigi before mentioned, when J. J. spent constant evenings.. at the other's bedside. J. J. was fortunate as well as skilful: people in the world took a liking to the modest young man, and he had more than one order for pictures. The Artists' Club, at the “ Lepre," set him down as close with his money; but a year after he left Rome, Lazaro and his wife, who still remained there, told a different tale. Clive Newcome, when he heard of their distress, gave them something -as much as he could spare; but J. J. gave more, and Clive was as eager in acknowledging and admiring his friend's generosity as he was in speaking of his genius. His was a fortunate organisation indeed. Study was his chief amusement. Self-denial came easily to him. Pleasure, or what is generally called so, had little charm for him. His ordinary companions were pure and sweet thoughts; his out-door enjoyment the contemplation of natural beauty; for recreation, the hundred pleasant dexterities and manipulations of his craft were: ceaselessly interesting to him: he would draw every knot in an oak. panel, or every leaf in an orange-tree, smiling, and taking a gay delight over the simple feats of skill: whenever you found him he seemed watchful and serene, his modest virgin-lamp always lighted and trim. No gusts of passion extinguished it; no hopeless wandering in the darkness afterwards led him astray. Wayfarers through the world, we meet now and again with such purity, and salute it, and hush whilst it passes on.
We have it under Clive Newcome's own signature that he intended to pass a couple of years in Italy, devoting himself exclusively to the study of his profession. Other besides professional reasons were working secretly in the young man's mind, causing him to think that absence from England was the best cure for a malady under which he secretly laboured. But change of air may cure some sick people more: 391 speedily than the sufferers ever hoped; and also it is on record that young men with the very best intentions respecting study do not fulfil them, and are led away from their scheme by accident, or pleasure, or necessity, or some good cause. Young Clive worked sedulously two or three months at his vocation at Rome, secretly devouring, no doubt, the pangs of sentimental disappointment under which he laboured; and he drew from his models, and he sketched round about everything that suited his pencil on both sides of Tiber; and he laboured at the Life Academy of nights-a model himself to other young students. The symptoms of his sentimental malady began to abate. He took an interest in the affairs of Jack, and Tom, and Harry round about him:
to be sure, had never given in. The meeting of the painters at the “ Caffè Greco," and at their private houses, was very jovial, pleasant, and lively. Clive smoked his pipe, drank his glass of Marsala, sang his song, and took part in the general chorus as gaily as the jolliest of the boys. He was the cock of the whole painting school, the favourite of all; and to be liked by the people, you may be pretty sure that we, for our parts, must like them.
Then, besides the painters, he had, as he has informed us, the other society of Rome. Every winter there is a gay and pleasant English colony in that capital, of course more or less remarkable for rank, fashion, and agreeability with every varying year. In Clive's year some very pleasant folks set up their winter quarters in the usual foreigners' resort round about the Piazza di Spagna. I was amused to find, lately, on looking over the travels of the respectable M. de Pöllnitz, that, a hundred and twenty years ago, the same quarter, the same streets and palaces, scarce changed from those days, were even then polite foreigners' resort. Of one or two of the gentlemen, Clive had made the acquaintance in the hunting-field; others he had met during his brief appearance in the London world. Being a youth of great personal agility, fitted thereby to the graceful performance of polkas, &c.; having good manners, and good looks, and good credit with Prince Polonia, or some other banker, Mr. Newcome was thus made very welcome to the Anglo-Roman society; and as kindly received in genteel houses, where they drank tea and danced the galop, as in those dusky taverns and retired lodgings where his bearded comrades, the painters, held their meetings.
Thrown together every day, and night after night; flocking to the same picture-galleries, statue-galleries, Pincian drives, and church functions, the English colonists at Rome perforce become intimate. and in many cases friendly. They have an English library where the various meets for the week are placarded: on such a day the Vatican galleries are open; the next is the feast of Saint so-and-so: on Wednesday there will be music and vespers at the Sistine Chapel; on Thursday the Pope will bless the animals-sheep, horses, and what-not: and flocks of English accordingly rush to witness the benediction of droves of donkeys. In a word, the ancient city of the Cæsars, the august fahes of the Popes, with their splendour and ceremony, are all mapped out and arranged for English diversion; and we run in a crowd to high-mass at St. Peter's, or to the illumination on Easter-day, as we run when the bell rings to the Bosjesman at Cremorne, or the fireworks at Vauxhall.
Running to see fireworks alone, rushing off to examine Bosjesmen by one's self is a dreary work! I should think very few men would have the courage to do it unattended, and personally would not prefer a pipe in their own rooms. Hence if Clive went to see all these sights, as he did, it is to be concluded that he went in company, and if he went in company, and sought it, we may suppose that little affair which annoyed him at Baden no longer tended to hurt his peace of mind very seriously. The truth is, our countrymen are pleasanter abroad than at home; most hospitable, kindly, and eager to be pleased and to please. You see a family half a dozen times in a week in the little Roman circle, whom you shall not meet twice in a season afterwards in the enormous London round. When Easter is over and everybody is going away at Rome, you and your neighbour shake hands, sincerely sorry to part: in London we are obliged to dilute our kindness so that there is hardly any smack of the original milk. As one by one the pleasant families dropped off with whom Clive had spent his happy winter; as Admiral Freeman's carriage drove away, whose pretty girls he caught at St. Peter's kissing St. Peter's toe; as Dick Denby's family ark appeared with all Denby's sweet young children kissing farewells to him out of window; as those three charming Miss Baliols with whom he had that glorious day in the Catacombs; as friend after friend quitted the great city with kind greetings, warm pressures of the hand, and hopes of meeting in a yet greater city on the banks of the Thames, young Clive felt a depression of spirit. Rome was Rome, but it was pleasanter to see it in company; our painters are smoking still at the “ Caffè Greco," but a society all smoke and all painters did not suit him. If Mr. Clive is not a Michael Angelo or a Beethoven, if his genius is not gloomy, solitary, gigantic, shining alone, like a lighthouse, a storm round about him, and breakers dashing at his feet, I cannot help myself; he is as heaven made him, brave, honest, gay, and friendly, and persons of a gloomy turn must not look to him as a hero.
So Clive and his companion worked away with all their hearts from November until far into April, when Easter came, and the glorious gala with which the Roman Church celebrates that holy season. By this