Tag: england

The Monday Poem – An American to Mother England by H. P. Lovecraft

The Monday Poem – An American to Mother England by H. P. Lovecraft

This week’s poem is H. P. Lovecraft’s An American to Mother England. I hope you enjoy it!

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An American to Mother England
By H. P. Lovecraft

England! My England! Can the surging sea
That lies between us tear my heart from thee?
Can distant birth and distant dwelling drain
Th’ ancestral blood that warms the loyal vein?
Isle of my Fathers! hear the filial song
Of him whose sources but to thee belong!
World-conquering Mother! by thy mighty hand
Was carv’d from savage wilds my native land:
Thy matchless sons the firm foundation laid;
Thy matchless arts the nascent nation made:
By thy just laws the young republic grew,
And thro’ thy greatness, kindred greatness knew:
What man that springs from thy untainted line
But sees Columbia’s virtues all as thine?
Whilst nameless multitudes upon our shore
From the dim corners of creation pour,
Whilst mongrel slaves crawl hither to partake
Of Saxon liberty they could not make,
From such an alien crew in grief I turn,
And for the mother’s voice of Britain burn.
England! Can aught remove the cherish’d chain
That binds my spirit to thy blest domain?
Can Revolution’s bitter precepts sway
The soul that must the ties of race obey?
Create a new Columbia if ye will;
The flesh that forms me is Britannic still!
Hail! oaken shades, and meads of dewy green,
So oft in sleep, yet ne’er in waking seen.
Peal out, ye ancient chimes, from vine-clad tow’r
Where pray’d my fathers in a vanish’d hour:
What countless years of rev’rence can ye claim
From bygone worshippers that bore my name!
Their forms are crumbling in the vaults around,
Whilst I, across the sea, but dream the sound.
Return, Sweet Vision! Let me glimpse again
The stone-built abbey, rising o’er the plain;
The neighb’ring village with its sun-show’r’d square;
The shaded mill-stream, and the forest fair,
The hedge-lin’d lane, that leads to rustic cot
Where sweet contentment is the peasant’s lot;
The mystic grove, by Druid wraiths possess’d,
The flow’ring fields, with fairy-castles blest:
And the old manor-house, sedate and dark,
Set in the shadows of the wooded park.
Can this be dreaming? Must my eyelids close
That I may catch the fragrance of the rose?
Is it in fancy that the midnight vale
Thrills with the warblings of the nightingale?
A golden moon bewitching radiance yields,
And England’s fairies trip o’er England’s fields.
England! Old England! in my love for thee
No dream is mine, but blessed memory;
Such haunting images and hidden fires
Course with the bounding blood of British sires:
From British bodies, minds, and souls I come,
And from them draw the vision of their home.
Awake, Columbia! scorn the vulgar age
That bids thee slight thy lordly heritage.
Let not the wide Atlantic’s wildest wave
Burst the blest bonds that fav’ring Nature gave:
Connecting surges ’twixt the nations run,
Our Saxon souls dissolving into one!

 

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5 Days of Oscar Wilde – 4: The Grosvenor Gallery, 1877

5 Days of Oscar Wilde – 4: The Grosvenor Gallery, 1877

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Welcome to day 4 of ‘5 Days of Oscar Wilde’!

THE GROSVENOR GALLERY, 1877

(Dublin University Magazine, July 1877.)

That ‘Art is long and life is short’ is a truth which every one feels, or ought to feel; yet surely those who were in London last May, and had in one week the opportunities of hearing Rubenstein play the Sonata Impassionata, of seeing Wagner conduct the Spinning-Wheel Chorus from the Flying Dutchman, and of studying art at the Grosvenor Gallery, have very little to complain of as regards human existence and art-pleasures.

Descriptions of music are generally, perhaps, more or less failures, for music is a matter of individual feeling, and the beauties and lessons that one draws from hearing lovely sounds are mainly personal, and depend to a large extent on one’s own state of mind and culture.  So leaving Rubenstein and Wagner to be celebrated by Franz Hüffer, or Mr. Haweis, or any other of our picturesque writers on music, I will describe some of the pictures now being shown in the Grosvenor Gallery.

The origin of this Gallery is as follows: About a year ago the idea occurred to Sir Coutts Lindsay of building a public gallery, in which, untrammelled by the difficulties or meannesses of ‘Hanging Committees,’ he could exhibit to the lovers of art the works of certain great living artists side by side: a gallery in which the student would not have to struggle through an endless monotony of mediocre works in order to reach what was worth looking at; one in which the people of England could have the opportunity of judging of the merits of at least one great master of painting, whose pictures had been kept from public exhibition by the jealousy and ignorance of rival artists.  Accordingly, last May, in New Bond Street, the Grosvenor Gallery was opened to the public.

As far as the Gallery itself is concerned, there are only three rooms, so there is no fear of our getting that terrible weariness of mind and eye which comes on after the ‘Forced Marches’ through ordinary picture galleries.  The walls are hung with scarlet damask above a dado of dull green and gold; there are luxurious velvet couches, beautiful flowers and plants, tables of gilded and inlaid marbles, covered with Japanese china and the latest ‘Minton,’ globes of ‘rainbow glass’ like large soap-bubbles, and, in fine, everything in decoration that is lovely to look on, and in harmony with the surrounding works of art.

Burne-Jones and Holman Hunt are probably the greatest masters of colour that we have ever had in England, with the single exception of Turner, but their styles differ widely.  To draw a rough distinction, Holman Hunt studies and reproduces the colours of natural objects, and deals with historical subjects, or scenes of real life, mostly from the East, touched occasionally with a certain fancifulness, as in the Shadow of the Cross.  Burne-Jones, on the contrary, is a dreamer in the land of mythology, a seer of fairy visions, a symbolical painter.  He is an imaginative colourist too, knowing that all colour is no mere delightful quality of natural things, but a ‘spirit upon them by which they become expressive to the spirit,’ as Mr. Pater says.  Watts’s power, on the other hand, lies in his great originative and imaginative genius, and he reminds us of Æschylus or Michael Angelo in the startling vividness of his conceptions.  Although these three painters differ much in aim and in result, they yet are one in their faith, and love, and reverence, the three golden keys to the gate of the House Beautiful.

On entering the West Gallery the first picture that meets the eye is Mr. Watts’s Love and Death, a large painting, representing a marble doorway, all overgrown with white-starred jasmine and sweet brier-rose.  Death, a giant form, veiled in grey draperies, is passing in with inevitable and mysterious power, breaking through all the flowers.  One foot is already on the threshold, and one relentless hand is extended, while Love, a beautiful boy with lithe brown limbs and rainbow-coloured wings, all shrinking like a crumpled leaf, is trying, with vain hands, to bar the entrance.  A little dove, undisturbed by the agony of the terrible conflict, waits patiently at the foot of the steps for her playmate; but will wait in vain, for though the face of Death is hidden from us, yet we can see from the terror in the boy’s eyes and quivering lips, that, Medusa-like, this grey phantom turns all it looks upon to stone; and the wings of Love are rent and crushed.  Except on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, there are perhaps few paintings to compare with this in intensity of strength and in marvel of conception.  It is worthy to rank with Michael Angelo’s God Dividing the Light from the Darkness.

Next to it are hung five pictures by Millais.  Three of them are portraits of the three daughters of the Duke of Westminster, all in white dresses, with white hats and feathers; the delicacy of the colour being rather injured by the red damask background.  These pictures do not possess any particular merit beyond that of being extremely good likenesses, especially the one of the Marchioness of Ormonde.  Over them is hung a picture of a seamstress, pale and vacant-looking, with eyes red from tears and long watchings in the night, hemming a shirt.  It is meant to illustrate Hood’s familiar poem.  As we look on it, a terrible contrast strikes us between this miserable pauper-seamstress and the three beautiful daughters of the richest duke in the world, which breaks through any artistic reveries by its awful vividness.

The fifth picture is a profile head of a young man with delicate aquiline nose, thoughtful oval face, and artistic, abstracted air, which will be easily recognised as a portrait of Lord Ronald Gower, who is himself known as an artist and sculptor.  But no one would discern in these five pictures the genius that painted the Home at Bethlehem and the portrait of John Ruskin which is at Oxford.

Then come eight pictures by Alma Tadema, good examples of that accurate drawing of inanimate objects which makes his pictures so real from an antiquarian point of view, and of the sweet subtlety of colouring which gives to them a magic all their own.  One represents some Roman girls bathing in a marble tank, and the colour of the limbs in the water is very perfect indeed; a dainty attendant is tripping down a flight of steps with a bundle of towels, and in the centre a great green sphinx in bronze throws forth a shower of sparkling water for a very pretty laughing girl, who stoops gleefully beneath it.  There is a delightful sense of coolness about the picture, and one can almost imagine that one hears the splash of water, and the girls’ chatter.  It is wonderful what a world of atmosphere and reality may be condensed into a very small space, for this picture is only about eleven by two and a half inches.

1868_Lawrence_Alma-Tadema_-_Phidias_Showing_the_Frieze_of_the_Parthenon_to_his_Friends

The most ambitious of these pictures is one of Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to his Friends.  We are supposed to be on a high scaffolding level with the frieze, and the effect of great height produced by glimpses of light between the planking of the floor is very cleverly managed.  But there is a want of individuality among the connoisseurs clustered round Phidias, and the frieze itself is very inaccurately coloured.  The Greek boys who are riding and leading the horses are painted Egyptian red, and the whole design is done in this red, dark blue, and black.  This sombre colouring is un-Greek; the figures of these boys were undoubtedly tinted with flesh colour, like the ordinary Greek statues, and the whole tone of the colouring of the original frieze was brilliant and light; while one of its chief beauties, the reins and accoutrements of burnished metal, is quite omitted.  This painter is more at home in the Greco-Roman art of the Empire and later Republic than he is in the art of the Periclean age.

The most remarkable of Mr. Richmond’s pictures exhibited here is his Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon—a very magnificent subject, to which, however, justice is not done.  Electra and her handmaidens are grouped gracefully around the tomb of the murdered King; but there is a want of humanity in the scene: there is no trace of that passionate Asiatic mourning for the dead to which the Greek women were so prone, and which Æschylus describes with such intensity; nor would Greek women have come to pour libations to the dead in such bright-coloured dresses as Mr. Richmond has given them; clearly this artist has not studied Æschylus’ play of the Choëphori, in which there is an elaborate and pathetic account of this scene.  The tall, twisted tree-stems, however, that form the background are fine and original in effect, and Mr. Richmond has caught exactly that peculiar opal-blue of the sky which is so remarkable in Greece; the purple orchids too, and daffodil and narcissi that are in the foreground are all flowers which I have myself seen at Argos.

Sir Coutts Lindsay sends a life-size portrait of his wife, holding a violin, which has some good points of colour and position, and four other pictures, including an exquisitely simple and quaint little picture of the Dower House at Balcarres, and a Daphne with rather questionable flesh-painting, and in whom we miss the breathlessness of flight.

I saw the blush come o’er her like a rose;
The half-reluctant crimson comes and goes;
Her glowing limbs make pause, and she is stayed
Wondering the issue of the words she prayed.

It is a great pity that Holman Hunt is not represented by any of his really great works, such as the Finding of Christ in the Temple, or Isabella Mourning over the Pot of Basil, both of which are fair samples of his powers.  Four pictures of his are shown here: a little Italian child, painted with great love and sweetness, two street scenes in Cairo full of rich Oriental colouring, and a wonderful work called the Afterglow in Egypt.  It represents a tall swarthy Egyptian woman, in a robe of dark and light blue, carrying a green jar on her shoulder, and a sheaf of grain on her head; around her comes fluttering a flock of beautiful doves of all colours, eager to be fed.  Behind is a wide flat river, and across the river a stretch of ripe corn, through which a gaunt camel is being driven; the sun has set, and from the west comes a great wave of red light like wine poured out on the land, yet not crimson, as we see the Afterglow in Northern Europe, but a rich pink like that of a rose.  As a study of colour it is superb, but it is difficult to feel a human interest in this Egyptian peasant.

Mr. Albert Moore sends some of his usual pictures of women, which as studies of drapery and colour effects are very charming.  One of them, a tall maiden, in a robe of light blue clasped at the neck with a glowing sapphire, and with an orange headdress, is a very good example of the highest decorative art, and a perfect delight in colour.

(c) Manchester City Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Mr. Spencer Stanhope’s picture of Eve Tempted is one of the remarkable pictures of the Gallery.  Eve, a fair woman, of surpassing loveliness, is leaning against a bank of violets, underneath the apple tree; naked, except for the rich thick folds of gilded hair which sweep down from her head like the bright rain in which Zeus came to Danae.  The head is drooped a little forward as a flower droops when the dew has fallen heavily, and her eyes are dimmed with the haze that comes in moments of doubtful thought.  One arm falls idly by her side; the other is raised high over her head among the branches, her delicate fingers just meeting round one of the burnished apples that glow amidst the leaves like ‘golden lamps in a green night.’  An amethyst-coloured serpent, with a devilish human head, is twisting round the trunk of the tree and breathes into the woman’s ear a blue flame of evil counsel.  At the feet of Eve bright flowers are growing, tulips, narcissi, lilies, and anemones, all painted with a loving patience that reminds us of the older Florentine masters; after whose example, too, Mr. Stanhope has used gilding for Eve’s hair and for the bright fruits.

Next to it is another picture by the same artist, entitled Love and the Maiden.  A girl has fallen asleep in a wood of olive trees, through whose branches and grey leaves we can see the glimmer of sky and sea, with a little seaport town of white houses shining in the sunlight.  The olive wood is ever sacred to the Virgin Pallas, the Goddess of Wisdom; and who would have dreamed of finding Eros hidden there?  But the girl wakes up, as one wakes from sleep one knows not why, to see the face of the boy Love, who, with outstretched hands, is leaning towards her from the midst of a rhododendron’s crimson blossoms.  A rose-garland presses the boy’s brown curls, and he is clad in a tunic of oriental colours, and delicately sensuous are his face and his bared limbs.  His boyish beauty is of that peculiar type unknown in Northern Europe, but common in the Greek islands, where boys can still be found as beautiful as the Charmides of Plato.  Guido’s St. Sebastian in the Palazzo Rosso at Genoa is one of those boys, and Perugino once drew a Greek Ganymede for his native town, but the painter who most shows the influence of this type is Correggio, whose lily-bearer in the Cathedral at Parma, and whose wild-eyed, open-mouthed St. Johns in the ‘Incoronata Madonna’ of St. Giovanni Evangelista, are the best examples in art of the bloom and vitality and radiance of this adolescent beauty.  And so there is extreme loveliness in this figure of Love by Mr. Stanhope, and the whole picture is full of grace, though there is, perhaps, too great a luxuriance of colour, and it would have been a relief had the girl been dressed in pure white.

Mr. Frederick Burton, of whom all Irishmen are so justly proud, is represented by a fine water-colour portrait of Mrs. George Smith; one would almost believe it to be in oils, so great is the lustre on this lady’s raven-black hair, and so rich and broad and vigorous is the painting of a Japanese scarf she is wearing.  Then as we turn to the east wall of the gallery we see the three great pictures of Burne-Jones, the Beguiling of Merlin, the Days of Creation, and the Mirror of Venus.  The version of the legend of Merlin’s Beguiling that Mr. Burne-Jones has followed differs from Mr. Tennyson’s and from the account in the Morte d’Arthur.  It is taken from the Romance of Merlin, which tells the story in this wise:

It fell on a day that they went through the forest of Breceliande, and found a bush that was fair and high, of white hawthorn, full of flowers, and there they sat in the shadow.  And Merlin fell on sleep; and when she felt that he was on sleep she arose softly, and began her enchantments, such as Merlin had taught her, and made the ring nine times, and nine times the enchantments.

. . . . .

And then he looked about him, and him seemed he was in the fairest tower of the world, and the most strong; neither of iron was it fashioned, nor steel, nor timber, nor of stone, but of the air, without any other thing; and in sooth so strong it is that it may never be undone while the world endureth.

So runs the chronicle; and thus Mr. Burne-Jones, the ‘Archimage of the esoteric unreal,’ treats the subject.  Stretched upon a low branch of the tree, and encircled with the glory of the white hawthorn-blossoms, half sits, half lies, the great enchanter.  He is not drawn as Mr. Tennyson has described him, with the ‘vast and shaggy mantle of a beard,’ which youth gone out had left in ashes; smooth and clear-cut and very pale is his face; time has not seared him with wrinkles or the signs of age; one would hardly know him to be old were it not that he seems very weary of seeking into the mysteries of the world, and that the great sadness that is born of wisdom has cast a shadow on him.  But now what availeth him his wisdom or his arts?  His eyes, that saw once so clear, are dim and glazed with coming death, and his white and delicate hands that wrought of old such works of marvel, hang listlessly.  Vivien, a tall, lithe woman, beautiful and subtle to look on, like a snake, stands in front of him, reading the fatal spell from the enchanted book; mocking the utter helplessness of him whom once her lying tongue had called

   Her lord and liege,
Her seer, her bard, her silver star of eve,
Her god, her Merlin, the one passionate love
Of her whole life.

In her brown crisp hair is the gleam of a golden snake, and she is clad in a silken robe of dark violet that clings tightly to her limbs, more expressing than hiding them; the colour of this dress is like the colour of a purple sea-shell, broken here and there with slight gleams of silver and pink and azure; it has a strange metallic lustre like the iris-neck of the dove.  Were this Mr. Burne-Jones’s only work it would be enough of itself to make him rank as a great painter.  The picture is full of magic; and the colour is truly a spirit dwelling on things and making them expressive to the spirit, for the delicate tones of grey, and green, and violet seem to convey to us the idea of languid sleep, and even the hawthorn-blossoms have lost their wonted brightness, and are more like the pale moonlight to which Shelley compared them, than the sheet of summer snow we see now in our English fields.

The next picture is divided into six compartments, each representing a day in the Creation of the World, under the symbol of an angel holding a crystal globe, within which is shown the work of a day.  In the first compartment stands the lonely angel of the First Day, and within the crystal ball Light is being separated from Darkness.  In the fourth compartment are four angels, and the crystal glows like a heated opal, for within it the creation of the Sun, Moon, and Stars is passing; the number of the angels increases, and the colours grow more vivid till we reach the sixth compartment, which shines afar off like a rainbow.  Within it are the six angels of the Creation, each holding its crystal ball; and within the crystal of the sixth angel one can see Adam’s strong brown limbs and hero form, and the pale, beautiful body of Eve.  At the feet also of these six winged messengers of the Creator is sitting the angel of the Seventh Day, who on a harp of gold is singing the glories of that coming day which we have not yet seen.  The faces of the angels are pale and oval-shaped, in their eyes is the light of Wisdom and Love, and their lips seem as if they would speak to us; and strength and beauty are in their wings.  They stand with naked feet, some on shell-strewn sands whereon tide has never washed nor storm broken, others it seems on pools of water, others on strange flowers; and their hair is like the bright glory round a saint’s head.

The scene of the third picture is laid on a long green valley by the sea; eight girls, handmaidens of the Goddess of Love, are collected by the margin of a long pool of clear water, whose surface no wandering wind or flapping bird has ruffled; but the large flat leaves of the water-lily float on it undisturbed, and clustering forget-me-nots rise here and there like heaps of scattered turquoise.

In this Mirror of Venus each girl is reflected as in a mirror of polished steel.  Some of them bend over the pool in laughing wonder at their own beauty, others, weary of shadows, are leaning back, and one girl is standing straight up; and nothing of her is reflected in the pool but a glimmer of white feet.  This picture, however, has not the intense pathos and tragedy of the Beguiling of Merlin, nor the mystical and lovely symbolism of the Days of the Creation.  Above these three pictures are hung five allegorical studies of figures by the same artist, all worthy of his fame.

Mr. Walter Crane, who has illustrated so many fairy tales for children, sends an ambitious work called the Renaissance of Venus, which in the dull colour of its ‘sunless dawn,’ and in its general want of all the glow and beauty and passion that one associates with this scene reminds one of Botticelli’s picture of the same subject.  After Mr. Swinburne’s superb description of the sea-birth of the goddess in his Hymn to Proserpine, it is very strange to find a cultured artist of feeling producing such a vapid Venus as this.  The best thing in it is the painting of an apple tree: the time of year is spring, and the leaves have not yet come, but the tree is laden with pink and white blossoms, which stand out in beautiful relief against the pale blue of the sky, and are very true to nature.

M. Alphonse Legros sends nine pictures, and there is a natural curiosity to see the work of a gentleman who holds at Cambridge the same professorship as Mr. Ruskin does at Oxford.  Four of these are studies of men’s heads, done in two hours each for his pupils at the Slade Schools.  There is a good deal of vigorous, rough execution about them, and they are marvels of rapid work.  His portrait of Mr. Carlyle is unsatisfactory; and even in No. 79, a picture of two scarlet-robed bishops, surrounded by Spanish monks, his colour is very thin and meagre.  A good bit of painting is of some metal pots in a picture called Le Chaudronnier.

Mr. Leslie, unfortunately, is represented only by one small work, called Palm-blossom.  It is a picture of a perfectly lovely child that reminds one of Sir Joshua’s cherubs in the National Gallery, with a mouth like two petals of a rose; the under-lip, as Rossetti says quaintly somewhere, ‘sucked in, as if it strove to kiss itself.’

Whistler-Nocturne_in_black_and_gold

Then we come to the most abused pictures in the whole Exhibition—the ‘colour symphonies’ of the ‘Great Dark Master,’ Mr. Whistler, who deserves the name of ‘Ο σκοτεινος as much as Heraclitus ever did.  Their titles do not convey much information.  No. 4 is called Nocturne in Black and Gold, No. 6A Nocturne in Blue and Silver, and so on.  The first of these represents a rocket of golden rain, with green and red fires bursting in a perfectly black sky, two large black smudges on the picture standing, I believe, for a tower which is in ‘Cremorne Gardens’ and for a crowd of lookers-on.  The other is rather prettier; a rocket is breaking in a pale blue sky over a large dark blue bridge and a blue and silver river.  These pictures are certainly worth looking at for about as long as one looks at a real rocket, that is, for somewhat less than a quarter of a minute.

No. 7 is called Arrangement in Black No. 3, apparently some pseudonym for our greatest living actor, for out of black smudgy clouds comes looming the gaunt figure of Mr. Henry Irving, with the yellow hair and pointed beard, the ruff, short cloak, and tight hose in which he appeared as Philip II. in Tennyson’s play Queen Mary.  One hand is thrust into his breast, and his legs are stuck wide apart in a queer stiff position that Mr. Irving often adopts preparatory to one of his long, wolflike strides across the stage.  The figure is life-size, and, though apparently one-armed, is so ridiculously like the original that one cannot help almost laughing when one sees it.  And we may imagine that any one who had the misfortune to be shut up at night in the Grosvenor Gallery would hear this Arrangement in Black No. 3 murmuring in the well-known Lyceum accents:

   By St. James, I do protest,
Upon the faith and honour of a Spaniard,
I am vastly grieved to leave your Majesty.
Simon, is supper ready?

Nos. 8 and 9 are life-size portraits of two young ladies, evidently caught in a black London fog; they look like sisters, but are not related probably, as one is a Harmony in Amber and Black, the other only an Arrangement in Brown.

Mr. Whistler, however, sends one really good picture to this exhibition, a portrait of Mr. Carlyle, which is hung in the entrance hall; the expression on the old man’s face, the texture and colour of his grey hair, and the general sympathetic treatment, show Mr. Whistler {19} to be an artist of very great power when he likes.

There is not so much in the East Gallery that calls for notice.  Mr. Leighton is unfortunately represented only by two little heads, one of an Italian girl, the other called A Study.  There is some delicate flesh painting of red and brown in these works that reminds one of a russet apple, but of course they are no samples of this artist’s great strength.  There are two good portraits—one of Mrs. Burne-Jones, by Mr. Poynter.  This lady has a very delicate, artistic face, reminding us, perhaps, a little of one of the angels her husband has painted.  She is represented in a white dress, with a perfectly gigantic old-fashioned watch hung to her waist, drinking tea from an old blue china cup.  The other is a head of the Duchess of Westminster by Mr. Forbes-Robertson, who both as an actor and an artist has shown great cleverness.  He has succeeded very well in reproducing the calm, beautiful profile and lustrous golden hair, but the shoulders are ungraceful, and very unlike the original.  The figure of a girl leaning against a wonderful screen, looking terribly ‘misunderstood,’ and surrounded by any amount of artistic china and furniture, by Mrs. Louise Jopling, is worth looking at too.  It is called It Might Have Been, and the girl is quite fit to be the heroine of any sentimental novel.

The two largest contributors to this gallery are Mr. Ferdinand Heilbuth and Mr. James Tissot.  The first of these two artists sends some delightful pictures from Rome, two of which are particularly pleasing.  One is of an old Cardinal in the Imperial scarlet of the Cæsars meeting a body of young Italian boys in purple soutanes, students evidently in some religious college, near the Church of St. John Lateran.  One of the boys is being presented to the Cardinal, and looks very nervous under the operation; the rest gaze in wonder at the old man in his beautiful dress.  The other picture is a view in the gardens of the Villa Borghese; a Cardinal has sat down on a marble seat in the shade of the trees, and is suspending his meditation for a moment to smile at a pretty child to whom a French bonne is pointing out the gorgeously dressed old gentleman; a flunkey in attendance on the Cardinal looks superciliously on.

Nearly all of Mr. Tissot’s pictures are deficient in feeling and depth; his young ladies are too fashionably over-dressed to interest the artistic eye, and he has a hard unscrupulousness in painting uninteresting objects in an uninteresting way.  There is some good colour and drawing, however, in his painting of a withered chestnut tree, with the autumn sun glowing through the yellow leaves, in a picnic scene, No. 23; the remainder of the picture being something in the photographic style of Frith.

What a gap in art there is between such a picture as the Banquet of the Civic Guard in Holland, with its beautiful grouping of noble-looking men, its exquisite Venetian glass aglow with light and wine, and Mr. Tissot’s over-dressed, common-looking people, and ugly, painfully accurate representation of modern soda-water bottles!

Mr. Tissot’s Widower, however, shines in qualities which his other pictures lack; it is full of depth and suggestiveness; the grasses and wild, luxuriant growth of the foreground are a revel of natural life.

We must notice besides in this gallery Mr. Watts’s two powerful portraits of Mr. Burne-Jones and Lady Lindsay.

To get to the Water-Colour Room we pass through a small sculpture gallery, which contains some busts of interest, and a pretty terra-cotta figure of a young sailor, by Count Gleichen, entitled Cheeky, but it is not remarkable in any way, and contrasts very unfavourably with the Exhibition of Sculpture at the Royal Academy, in which are three really fine works of art—Mr. Leighton’s Man Struggling with a Snake, which may be thought worthy of being looked on side by side with the Laocoon of the Vatican, and Lord Ronald Gower’s two statues, one of a dying French Guardsman at the Battle of Waterloo, the other of Marie Antoinette being led to execution with bound hands, Queenlike and noble to the last.

The collection of water-colours is mediocre; there is a good effect of Mr. Poynter’s, the east wind seen from a high cliff sweeping down on the sea like the black wings of some god; and some charming pictures of Fairy Land by Mr. Richard Doyle, which would make good illustrations for one of Mr. Allingham’s Fairy-Poems, but the tout-ensemble is poor.

Taking a general view of the works exhibited here, we see that this dull land of England, with its short summer, its dreary rains and fogs, its mining districts and factories, and vile deification of machinery, has yet produced very great masters of art, men with a subtle sense and love of what is beautiful, original, and noble in imagination.

Nor are the art-treasures of this country at all exhausted by this Exhibition; there are very many great pictures by living artists hidden away in different places, which those of us who are yet boys have never seen, and which our elders must wish to see again.

Holman Hunt has done better work than the Afterglow in Egypt; neither Millais, Leighton, nor Poynter has sent any of the pictures on which his fame rests; neither Burne-Jones nor Watts shows us here all the glories of his art; and the name of that strange genius who wrote the Vision of Love revealed in Sleep, and the names of Dante Rossetti and of the Marchioness of Waterford, cannot be found in the catalogue.  And so it is to be hoped that this is not the only exhibition of paintings that we shall see in the Grosvenor Gallery; and Sir Coutts Lindsay, in showing us great works of art, will be most materially aiding that revival of culture and love of beauty which in great part owes its birth to Mr. Ruskin, and which Mr. Swinburne, and Mr. Pater, and Mr. Symonds, and Mr. Morris, and many others, are fostering and keeping alive, each in his own peculiar fashion.

Author Interview: Lauren Jimerson

Author Interview: Lauren Jimerson

Today we have an interview with author Lauren Jimerson!

What were you like at school?

I was the quiet kid in school with a popular big brother. No one knew that I existed.

Which writers inspire you?

JK Rowling. Harper Lee. Octavia Butler. George RR Martin. Christopher Paul Curtis.

Some nice choices there. Martin’s Fevre Dream is my current bath book!

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

I created Siobhan June out of this need to read about a character like me. She’s the protagonist of The Sarea Legends. She’s not your traditional female protagonist in a fantasy novel. She’s an adult with real life problems like family and finances.  Creating someone who is classy, elegant and prudish and then making them unravel is so much fun.

What are you working on at the minute?

Currently, I’m working on The Sarea Legends Book Two and a shorter novel called The Lavish Northrup Hall. It’s about the hunting party of Lord Benton’s heir are being haunted by a mysterious entity in 1920s England.

Oo, sounds like an intriguing one. 1920s England is always an interesting setting.

What genre are your books?

I love speculative fiction, particularly urban fantasy and paranormal. I always write from the perspective of a black woman encountering the supernatural. Another favorite genre of mine is southern gothic literature.

What draws you to this genre?

I was in the 6th grade when I first read Harry Potter and the experience really made fall in love with fantasy. You can create any type of world that you want. That was the initial appeal. But there is a lack diversity in the genre. So I started inserting it in my books.

How much research do you do?

A lot. One can never do enough.

Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?

No. But I’m most definitely interested.

Why do you write?

I write because I have all of these stories and ideas in my head. As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t a lot of main characters that look like me in mainstream fantasy. I write for the shy and quiet little black girl in school who needs a role model. I write for diverse storytelling.

This is a great answer Lauren. I hope it inspires others to do the same!

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?

Short answer: I was getting old. There was a lot that I wanted to do in life but hadn’t. At a certain point I became disappointed in myself. That’s when I sat down and started writing They Came from the River.


Follow Lauren on Instagram and Twitter.

Thanks to Lauren for taking part in this interview.

The Sarea Legends Book One – They Came from the River

Review: The Eye of Nefertiti

Review: The Eye of Nefertiti

I recently reviewed Maria Luisa Lang’s The Pharaoh’s Cat and I absolutely loved it. The Eye of Nefertiti is its sequel and is just as excellent!

The Eye of Nefertiti by Maria Luisa Lang
The Eye of Nefertiti by Maria Luisa Lang

The cat must free Queen Nefertiti from a horrific curse 

The Eye of Nefertiti is both a stand-alone novel and a sequel to The Pharaoh’s Cat. The time-traveling ancient Egyptian feline with human powers returns together with his beloved Pharaoh and his close friends, the High Priest of Amun-Ra and Elena, an Egyptologist’s daughter. 

The cat is quick-witted, wise-cracking narrator as well as free-spirited, ever-curious protagonist, and the story he tells is an exotic, imaginative, spell-binding tragicomedy. The cat travels from present-day New York City to England, both ancient and modern, then to ancient Egypt, where he confronts a horrible demon and experiences a sublime emotion. Once back in England, he descends into a psychological abyss so deep only the Pharaoh can save him.

The Eye of Nefertiti interweaves feline and human, past and present, natural and supernatural. It contains numerous surprises, twists and turns, intriguing characters, both human and animal, fascinating revelations about ancient Egyptian history and culture, and an ingenious application of the Tarot and an Italian opera.

Maria Luisa Lang was born in Rome, Italy, and lives in New York City. She has a degree in art history and is an amateur Egyptologist. The Eye of Nefertiti is her second novel. Her first novel,The Pharaoh’s Cat, is also available on Amazon in paperback and in a Kindle edition – Blurb

Once again, we follow an adorable cat as he goes on wild, time-traveling adventures with his friends and family. Just like The Pharaoh’s Cat, this book manages to be hilarious, poetic and emotional throughout. I had a little cry during both books!

Although The Eye of Nefertiti stands up as a novel by itself, I think it would ruin The Pharaoh’s Cat if you read the sequel first. You’re just going to have to grab a copy of each book!

A bit Puss in Boots, a little Angela Carter, but totally unique, I highly recommend these books to anyone who enjoys… well, anything really. They’re for cat lovers, history enthusiasts, those who enjoy a good laugh, even fans of romance! You just need to read them.

Short Story Saturday – Dunce by Mike Russell

Short Story Saturday – Dunce by Mike Russell

This week’s Short Story is Mike Russell‘s Dunce. I hope you enjoy it. Dunce is from Mike’s first short story anthology Nothing Is Strange. He also has a book of longer short stories called Strange Medicine.

Mike Russell lives in the South of England with his girlfriend (me) and their two cats (Charlie and Mimu).

Dunce

Everyone calls Dunce ‘Dunce’. Everyone thinks that Dunce is an idiot. I used to think so too but not any more.

Dunce is completely bald and has a really pointed head so the temptation to get him paralytic on his thirtieth birthday, carry him to the tattooist’s and get a nice big ‘D’ smack bang in the middle of his forehead was too much for me. Trouble is he can’t afford to have it removed so he wears a big plaster over it. Gangs of children tease him.

‘What’s underneath the plaster, mister? Show us!’

They swear he has a third eye under there.

My name is Bill but Dunce calls me ‘Fez’ on account of my hat. I’ve known Dunce for over sixteen years. I don’t have to use my memory to work that out; I just count the number of boxes of Turkish Delight I’ve got stashed in my cupboard. Dunce buys me a box every birthday. Dunce thinks that because I wear a fez I must be Turkish (I’m not) and that being Turkish I must like that powder-covered gunk (I don’t, I hate the stuff).

On my last birthday, after saying:

‘No, Dunce, I’ll eat it later,’ and stashing box number sixteen in the cupboard, I decided to take Dunce to the theatre. He’d never been before.

The play was called ‘Death in the Dark’. We had front row seats. Dunce was captivated. He stared at the actors with a gaping mouth.

The lights dimmed to darkness. Kitty Malone, the beautiful star of the show, was stood centre stage. A shot was heard. Dunce jumped right out of his seat.

‘What was that?’ he said.

The lights came back on and Kitty was lying in a pool of blood. Dunce let out a scream then shouted:

‘Someone call for an ambulance! And the police!’

The audience thought that Dunce was an actor, that the play was being cleverly extended beyond the stage, questioning the boundaries of theatre.

‘What’s wrong with you?’ Dunce shouted at the audience. ‘How can you carry on as if nothing has happened?’

‘This is wonderful, just wonderful,’ I heard someone say behind me.

Kitty was stoically sticking to her role, thinking that the show must go on, but Dunce was clambering up onto the stage, crying, stroking Kitty’s hair and checking her pulse.

‘She’s alive!’ he shouted with relief.

‘No I’m not!’ Kitty hissed at him through clenched teeth.

That was it; I was in hysterics. What a birthday treat this was turning out to be.

‘I’m acting. It’s part of the play. No one really shot me,’ Kitty hissed at Dunce.

The realisation was excruciatingly slow. I watched Dunce’s face change from shock to confusion to understanding to embarrassment. He made his way back to his seat. He didn’t speak or look at me until the play was over. The play got a standing ovation and we headed for the bar.

Kitty was in the bar too. She smiled at Dunce who blushed. She seemed to be fascinated by the top of his head. She walked over and invited him to her dressing room.

Twelve hours later and Dunce was in love! How about that? And what’s more, Kitty was in love too! And not only that but they were in love with each other! Kitty fell for Dunce. Not ‘fell for’ as in ‘was deceived by’ because there’s no deception where Dunce is concerned, he can’t do it, but she fell from her deceptions towards him. I couldn’t believe it.

‘It won’t last,’ I said to Dunce. ‘Enjoy it while you can but face facts: you are Dunce and she is Kitty Malone. Think about it.’

Dunce told me that Kitty had a thing about ice cream cones, a fetish you could say. She ate six a day. She liked to bite off the tip of the cone and suck out all the ice cream. She had a recording of ice cream van music that she played whilst they were having sex. She was forever stroking the top of Dunce’s head.

Then came the day. Dunce came round looking really worried.

‘Fez, have you seen Kitty? Do you know where she is?’

‘No, I haven’t seen her. Why? What’s the problem?’

‘I had a dream last night,’ Dunce said. ‘I dreamt that I was in bed and I looked at the calendar by the side of my bed and it was tonight. I put out my hand to touch Kitty but she wasn’t there. There was just this cold sludge covering her side of the bed and this smell: vanilla. It was melted ice cream.’

‘So what’s the problem?’

‘I think that something is going to happen to Kitty. I have to find her before tonight. I don’t want to wake up tomorrow morning alone in a bed full of melted ice cream.’

‘Dunce, dreams don’t mean anything and prophecies are impossible. Sit yourself down. Let’s have a couple of beers.’

I opened a cupboard, reached in to get the beers and a pile of boxes of Turkish Delight toppled over and fell out, breaking open and spilling their contents all over the floor. Dunce looked at the boxes then looked at me. I watched his face go through the same slow transformation from shock to confusion to understanding to embarrassment that I had witnessed so many times before.

‘You don’t like Turkish Delight?’ he said.

I said nothing and guiltily handed him a beer.

Dunce sighed then said:

‘So why did I have that dream?’

‘No reason at all,’ I said.

We sat in silence for a while then Dunce suddenly stood up.

‘It’s no good, Fez, I have to find her.’

Dunce found Kitty in the centre of town, lying on the pavement in a pool of blood. An ambulance and the police were on their way. An ice cream vendor was crying and yelling:

‘I don’t understand! I don’t understand!’

A huge, plastic ice cream cone was protruding from Kitty’s chest. It had fallen from on top of the ice cream shop for no apparent reason, smashed through her rib cage and crushed her heart.

Dunce cried. Then he cried some more. The next day, he cried and the day after that he cried. Three weeks later, he awoke, dressed, ate some breakfast, then cried. The next day, he came round to see me. He was crying.

‘Hello Dunce,’ I said. ‘Do you want a beer?’

‘What’s wrong with you?’ he said. ‘How can you carry on as if nothing has happened?’

‘It was an accident, Dunce,’ I said angrily, ‘a random occurrence. These things happen. You just have to get on with life. Why are you so stupid?’

I regretted saying it as soon as I heard it come out of my mouth. Dunce stared at me with tears in his eyes.

‘A fez is only a severed cone,’ Dunce said. ‘At least I have a point.’

I took off my hat and looked at it sullenly. Dunce had a point that he had a point. If he’d found Kitty a moment earlier… if I hadn’t delayed him with my arrogance, my cynicism…

‘Fez,’ Dunce said, ‘you remember the tears that I cried in the theatre when I thought that Kitty was dead but she wasn’t? I think that the tears I am crying now are the same as those. I didn’t understand what was going on in the theatre and I didn’t understand what was going on when the cone fell on her. I think that maybe we only cry because we don’t understand what is going on. Maybe if we understood what is really going on we wouldn’t cry at all, ever.’

Dunce smiled through his tears and beneath the plaster on his forehead I swear I saw something move.

 

This story is one of twenty that can be yours by purchasing Nothing Is Strange.

Mike Russell and his Surreal Stories

Mike Russell and his Surreal Stories

mike-performing

Mike Russell is the author of two short story collections; Nothing Is Strange and Strange Medicine. His work is surreal and often humorous, with some stories even being described as erotic, absurd or disturbing. Mike has performed his stories in the South of England for over a decade, wearing his famous top hat with its all-seeing eye.

A review for Mike’s first collection, Nothing Is Strange: “Reader Beware: If you enjoy reading stories that are written with structure, stories that are comprised of a beginning, middle, and end, or stories that do not transcend the boundaries of reality, then this book is not for you. If, on the other hand, you want to read stories that will free you from the chains that are attached to the anchor of reality, then this is your must-read collection.

Nothing is Strange is a collection of twenty short stories in which everything is strange, but strange in a good way.

The twenty stories are miniature narratives. The collection is well written and highly imaginative. Each story takes you on a journey where the imaginary becomes reality. Instead of reason we have imagination. In place of the banal we have passion for liberation. Instead of the ordinary, we have magic.

By their very nature, the stories are freeing. They will take you to places within your mind you never knew existed. For those unaccustomed to reading surreal stories these stories may be hard to swallow. One might compare it to looking at modern art for the first time. I can only imagine how people felt the first time Duchamp exhibited his Readymades, or Picasso his art. A typical first reaction might raise the question of whether or not the artist is authentic, or is he simply trying to put one over on us.

The concept of these stories first appears to be too simple to be called art. Yet, as one delves into the collection, and crosses back and forth between the boundaries of real and unreal, one comes away with the feeling that there is more to them than at first appears – and you would be correct in this assumption.

Reading these stories feels as if you’re following footprints in the snow, footprints that take you somewhere and nowhere. Sometimes the footprints are deep and easy to follow, but sometimes they are obliterated and nearly imperceptible. The reader may, for a time, get lost. For some, tripping through these stories may be a harrowing experience. But for others, the journey on the wind of imagination will be a mind-blowing and rewarding experience.

But the magic doesn’t end there, for once discovered and devoured, the effects of a surreal adventure multiplies the further out one travels.

My advice then, dear reader, is for you to read this collection. Take a chance you may be hooked on the reality of non reality, which, in turn, will inspire you to explore other artists of the genre, some who are long gone, and others, like Mike Russell, who are our modern guides on the surreal journey.

So go ahead: Jump into the swimming pool with your clothes on. You may very well find you won’t want to get out of the water.” – Gerard Bianco

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Mike Russell’s website is StrangeBooks.com and both books are available in paperback or for Kindle. You can also read Dunce, a story from Nothing Is Strange for free here, and Flock, a story from Strange Medicine for free here!

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Salvador Dali Crazy Kiss Eau de Toilette for Women – It Exists

Salvador Dali Crazy Kiss Eau de Toilette for Women – It Exists

I spend a lot of time looking at and for strange things, but sometimes I am surprised. You can buy Salvador Dali perfume. Sadly, there is no description of its smell, but I’m hoping for a swan-elephant juxtaposition. Elegant and strong. I’d love to know if anyone has actually tried the stuff.

dali

Super-famous creator of dreamlike and unique images Salvador Dalí would have celebrated his 112th birthday today, in his own fantasy world. Let’s celebrate by having a brief look at the man and his work.

salvador-dali-with-women-forming-a-skull-photographed-by-phillipe-halsman-1951

I must admit that my interest in Dali has waned as I’ve got older and I tend to roll my eyes when, 99% of the time, he’s the first Surrealist anyone can think of. But his work is wonderful and is always worth looking at.

The-Enigma-of-William-Tell-by-Salvador-Dali

The Spanish artist was known to blur the lines between illusion and reality both on the canvas and in his public life, establishing him as an unforgettable figure of the Modern art movement. Biography.com

Here are some facts about the moustachioed man…

According to his autobiography, his childhood was characterized by fits of anger against his parents and schoolmates and resultant acts of cruelty. He was a precocious child, producing highly sophisticated drawings at an early age. He studied painting in Madrid, responding to various influences, especially the metaphysical school of painting founded by Giorgio de Chirico, and at the same time dabbling in cubism.Your Dictionary

Dali

By now considered in artistic circles to be more of a commercial painter, in 1955 Dalí was commissioned to paint a portrait of Laurence Olivier for a film poster for Richard III, in which Olivier played the title role, by the film’s director, Sir Alexander Korda. However, the desired poster never emerged. Despite sketching Olivier in the Shepperton Studios, Dalí refused to paint it in England, which he called “the most unpleasant place”, and returned to Spain to complete the portrait. It got held up in Barcelona Airport after being deemed too valuable to transport. Although Korda was naturally angered by this, Olivier got lucky and received it as a gift.The Telegraph

The surrealists saw in Dali the promise of a breakthrough of the surrealist dilemma in 1930. Many of the surrealists had broken away from the movement, feeling that direct political action had to come before any mental revolutions. Dali put forth his “Paranoic-Critical method” as an alternative to having to politically conquer the world. He felt that his own vision could be imposed on and color the world to his liking so that it became unnecessary to change it objectively. Specifically, the Paranoic-Critical method meant that Dali had trained himself to possess the hallucinatory power to look at one object and “see” another. On the nonvisual level, it meant that Dali could take a myth which had a generally accepted interpretation and impose upon it his own personal and bizarre interpretation. Encyclopedia.com

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I also found this excellent Dali-inspired ring on Etsy. The artist will customise it to your own eye, or that of a loved one.

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