WHITNEY'S CHOICE OF EN1BLEMES.*
WE are glad to be able to praise heartily the care, conscientious- ness, and completeness with which this book has been edited.. Whitney's Choice of Emblemes lies before us, exactly as it issued from Plantyn's printing press more than three centuries ago. It is a fine specimen of the usefulness and the accuracy of photo- lithography. At first we were inclined to pity Mr. Green, on account of the aridity of his subject, but when we had pursued in his company everything connected with Whitney into the remotest nook where any information had taken refuge, and found that under his hand Whitney grew more and more into the dimen- sions of an intellectual giant, we began to feel that an editor may become so enamoured of his hero as to make his excellences perfection and his faults delightful.
" Veluti Balbinum polypus Hagme."
It is characteristic of Mr. Green's glorification of his subject that he imputes the exploits of a Captain J. Whitney, a famous highwayman in the seventeenth century, to an outbreak in him of the old spirit of the Whitneys of Herefordshire, who, being petty border chieftains, passed their lives in fighting and plunder- ing and in an indignant contempt for the law.
Geffrey Whitney, the compiler of the Emblems, was descended from the Cheshire Whitneys, a much less warlike race than the Welsh Borderers. The manor house of Coole Pilate, in which
Whitney's• Choice 0/ Emblems. A Fee-simile Reprint. Edited by Henry Green,
M.A. London: Lovell, Reeve, and Co.
they lived and died, still exists on the banks of the river Weever, and is surrounded by an undulating and wooded country. It was here that Whitney's youth was passed. The dates of his birth and of his death are unknown, but the evidence Mr. Green has collected makes 1548 probable for the first and 1612 for the latter. He was a student at Magdalen College, Cambridge, in 1567, read apparently for the law, and became, during thirteen studious years, familiar with the classic authors, the Fathers of the Church, and with the poets and the emblem writers of his time. In 1580 we find him Under Bailiff of Great Yarmouth. It was here that he formed his connection with the literati of the Netherlands. Jan Dousa, President of the University of Leyden, Bonaventura Vulcanius, Greek Professor there, and Colvius of Bruges were his friends and encomiasts. In the year 1555 Plantyn had established his printing press in Antwerp, and a succession of emblem works issued from it in Latin, French, and English. Several editions of Les Devises de Claude Paradin, of Sambucus, of Alciatus, were published, both at Antwerp and Leyden. Out of these and others Whitney made his " Choice." In 1585 he completed his work, and dedicated it to his patron, the Earl of Leicester. The next year he went over to Leyden, and caused his book to be " imprinted" there, " in the house of Christopher Plantyn, by Francis Raphelengius. After this we hear but little more of Whitney. Mr. Green conjectures that he re- mained in Holland as one of the band of learned men whom the new University of Leyden had gathered together. He seems to have passed out of the immediate knowledge of his countrymen, and to have died about twenty-five years after the publication of his Choice of Emblemes.
The Choice of Emblemes is, as the name imports, not an original work. Most of the engravings are copies, and most of the verses are translations. We are told that of the 248 devices contained in the book, 23 were " newly devised" and 235 " gathered out of sundrie writers." Whitney seems to have exercised a fine power of choice, and there is this advantage in his non-originality, that in studying his book we are studying all that is most worthy in the emblematists who preceded him. A few of the verses are his own, and are not devoid of force of thought and ease of versi- fication. Some of his translations are excellent, and he frequently ex- panded so largely the original lines as to make of them a new poem. But on the whole " his reputation rests on having so well executed what he undertook to accomplish—to present to his nation a full and correct view of a species of literature which in a few years had grown into high favour, and been the instruction and amusement of the monk in his cloister and the pontiff in his chair of supremacy, engaged the talent of the foremost men of law, medicine, and theology, and entertained alike Fleming, Frenchman, and Spaniard, the Hungarian on the Danube, and the Dutch by Utrecht, Leyden, and the Zuyder Zee."
There is no doubt, as Mr. Green implies in the above quotation, that emblem literature awoke an extraordinary interest all over Europe from 1522, when Alciatus published his Book of Emblemes, to 1660, when Jacob Catz left behind a name still honoured in his country. So widespread a popularity seems to us to partake of the same character as the mania for tulips or the mania for the Proverbial Philosophy. We confess that we have found the Emblemes stupid reading. The morality is dreary and the wisdom dull. There is but little imaginative power in the devices. Many of them are painfully common-place, some abso • lately irritating—a few are good—but they only make the general mediocrity more remarkable. The explanations given in the verses underneath the engravings are so minute that they destroy the pleasurable excitement of discovering the meaning of the device. The reader suffers as the lover of charades might suffer, if immediately after reading the enigma which stirs his intellect he were compelled to read the answer.
Mr. Green regrets our loss of interest in emblems, and imputes itto our having outgrown the "pleasure of tracing resemblances between pictures and mottoes," and to our modern dislike of the quaint and far-fetched fancies of language which the English emblem writers borrowed from the Latin originals. He seems to think that our age is too practical for any delight in imaginative inutilities. But the fact is—not that we have outgrown the pleasure he men- tions, but that we require that the analogies between a picture and its meaning should be more subtly and finely woven than those of the Emblemes—not that a quaint and rugged style displeases us, for we have our enthusiasm ready for Browning in poetry and Carlyle in prose—not that our age is non-imagina- tive, and therefore negligent of " emblems," but that we are more imaginative, that our imagination, better educated, requires higher food than Whitney's Choice of Emblemes can afford us. It is absurd also to suggest that because Whitney's quips and cranks of thought do not please us that therefore " we could not endure a second Spenser," or that " Dante risen from the dead would be repellent to our modern culture." There is no com- parison possible. We read Spenser with more appreciation perhaps than either Raleigh or Essex. We would not banish our Dante, did such good luck as Dante befall us, to experience "come sa sale, lo pane altrui." We read Whitney's Emblemes with the same attention which we give to old coins of inferior workmanship, which are interesting only for their rarity and their antiquity. It is irritating to be told so continually of their poetical excellence. Mr. Green would have done more wisely had he not made a literary idol of Geffrey Whitney.
The part of the book due to Mr. Green is eminently satisfactory. There is no pains spared to discover the smallest shred of colla- teral information. We find all the allusions in the Emblemes in- vestigated. There are short and well written biographies of all the principal emblematists. The obsolete words used by Whitney are compared with their use in Chaucer, Spenser, and Shake- speare. Shakespeare's employment of emblems forms the subject of an essay. English and foreign emblem books are discussed and analyzed, and there is a dissertation " on the nature of emblems." It is in this last that we think Mr. Green has failed. His definition of an emblem is confused. It is " any moulding, picture, the implied meaning of which is something additional to what the actual delineation represents." It is " the portraiture of some thought or fancy, sentiment or saying ; hieroglyphics, heraldic badges, picture writings are thus emblems." It is "any painting, drawing, or print representative of an action, a quality of mind, or any attribute of character." Taken separately, none of these definitions are satisfactory, taken together they are too large a definition. The shield of Achilles and the tablet of Cebes are instanced as examples of emblematic art. They are nothing of the kind. They are representations of the whole range of human life ; an emblem can only picture some particular social, moral, or political precept useful for the instruction of life. It is a proverb expressed in a picture, and the picture explained by certain stanzas, or, to use Whitney's own words, a " holsome precepte shadowed by a pleasant devise." It is not difficult to illustrate this distinction. The representation of the whole idea of War in Achilles' shield is, for example, far beyond the province of the emblem ; but the engraving at p. 114 of Whitney's book, representing Regulus lying bound beside his legendary barrel of spikes, with the motto, " Hosti etiam servanda fides," and the engraving at p. 37 representing Ajax and Hector exchang- ing the sword and the belt which afterwards proved unfortu- nate to their possessors, with the motto, " lnimicorum dona, infausta," are true emblems, confining themselves to the illustra- tion of particular moral or prudential maxims necessary in War. The tablet of Cebes, again, which sets forth the whole of human Life, cannot be called emblematic art, but pictures which express such proverbs concerning human Life, as " interminabilis vita humana labor," p. 215, "Dum atatis ver agitur, consule ()mina," p. 159, are within the true sphere of emblematic representation.
It is well to make this distinction, for the enthusiasm of the author has obliterated all the boundaries of art, and made him rank as emblematic—" pictures the implied meaning of which is something additional to what the actual delineation represents." On this ground Turner's " Pliryne," which symbolizes the joyous, sensuous life of Greece, would be an emblem. To state this is to demonstrate its absurdity. Those, however, who can recall that picture will remember the two dogs in the foreground playing with a crystal ball. If we could take this incident out of the picture, place a motto above it, and write a few stanzas beneath it, we should have a perfect emblem, and one so beautiful as to throw the whole of Whitney's book into the shade. As to Mr. Green's assertion that hieroglyphics—picture writing, &c.—are emblems, they are no more so than a printed page or a written letter, the words of which represent thought.
To illustrate further what this distinction is we may refer to emblematic poetry. One famous instance in our literature is Spenser's " Shepherd's Calender," in which a " poesie," supposed to be descriptive of a person and adopted by him as a device, is allotted to each month of the year, and a poem made upon the subject of the motto. The tale of Narcissus, for example, is versified, with the poesie " Inopem me copia fecit"—" Plenty made me poor." This is emblematic poetry. The difference between it and emblematic art is that the picture is omitted, and instead of it increased force is given to the poetical delineation. Here a particular folly of human life is exposed, but if we were to adopt the principle that a universal representation of human life, such as the tablet of Cebes or the shield of Achilles,-was emblematic art, we ought to hold that Schiller's " Song of the Bell " or Shakes-
peare's " Seven Stages" were emblematic poetry, and, as we said
by it. We welcome all whose faces are set in the direction we have swift restlessness of the woman's walking. Of this Whitney takes no notice in his stanzas. We quote a part of his description to indicated- And we are especiallyrejoiced to find amongst them a man of ability and earnestness, such as Mr. Cox proves himself to be in the give our readers a notion of his poetry, especially as Mr. Green has chosen to contrast it with Spencer:— volume before us.
This Envie is—leane, pale, and full of yeares,
This, in Mr. Great's opinion, "has less force, but more simplicity, are full of interest, as being written by a man who.has really seen what condensation, and naturalness " than the following:— he is writing about, and not, after.the _fashion of veraifiera, merely col-
As if that long she had not eaten ought : year, though not belonging to the class that lives for ever. That round about her jaws one might descry and poyson dropping lothsomely;
This, Mr. Green says, "has a coarseness which does not belong to glance at the present volume, we are inclined to think that it is distill Whitney ;" and again, " Spencer's power of imagination may be, guished bythe same characteristics as the rest of the series, fullness and greater, but not the fineness of his perceptions." Mr. Green does •accuracy of information, simplicity of description, and aptness of quota- not see that here delicacy is out of the question, and that the true tion. At the same time we fancy that it is not quite so careful as it
be as loathsome as possible—a man who is painting Envy
poet will might be of the interests of pedestrian folk. We miss the useful "Itineraries " of Black, and at least two important walks are but barely- does not dip his pencil in azure—and as to Mr. Green's second sen- indicated, the one from Ulleswater through Gowbarrow Park to Kes- tence, it removes him at once out of the rank of a critic of art or wick, and the other from Crammock Water by Scale Force to Enner- poetry. The man who does not know that fineness of perception, dale. These are of importance, as enabling the pedestrian to make a in the sense it is used here, depends on power of imagination may complete circuit of the Lakes, starting from Coniston as a centre. We- be a good antiquarian, but cannot be a judge of poetry. There is, also think that it would be an improvement in the excellent map which however, a still more forcible personification of Envy by Spenser, accompanies the volume if the position of the mountains were more- in the second book, which Mr. Green omits to quote. It is 50 clearly marked. We have nothing farther to add in the way of criti- instinct with imagination that it would have spoiled his compari- aim, and, in conclusion, we shall allow the editor to call attention to- son. It would have put out Whitney's description as the sun puts what he considers the " differentia " of his volume. "The Handbook out a candle. We cannot refrain from quoting the salient lines :— for Westmoreland and Cumberland not only includes the Lake district, but
And in his bosom secretly there lay
In many folds, and mortal sting implyes." out to the traveller where the finest scenery exists, and how it may be There every word tells. Any comparison between Whitney and most conveniently visited ;" and for the due attainment of this end he. Spenser is to compare Argus to a bleared-eyed man, and can only claims the qualification of a long residence in the district. Finally, the be excused by the blind love with which an author regards a sub- map " has been constructed chiefly from the new Ordnance survey, and ject on which he has spent a world of toil. This is the fault of will be found to be the most complete that has been hitherto published."' We have no objection to make to this account of it, but we think that all Mr. Green's dissertations on Whitney. The editor's critical it is susceptible of further improvement in the point we mentioned at' faculty has been destroyed by his enthusiasm. But on the other the 'beginning of the notice, and that it would not suffer by the introduc- hand, it is his enthusiasm which has made the book so valuable to tion of additional pedestrian routes. the antiquarian, to all those interestedin emblematic.literature. It Life of John Welsh, Minister of Ayr, including Illustrations of the is a reservoir of knowledge on the-subject, and we give it a hearty Contemporary Ecclesiastical History of Scotland and France. By the late welcome. Rev. J. Young. With a biographical sketch of the Author. (Mae-