Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 16: No 1) >> Simms as ''Nemo'': The Rediscovered Letters to the Charleston Mercury >> Page 7 / Our New York Correspondence (29 September 1860)

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Page 7 / Our New York Correspondence (29 September 1860)

Correspondence | 1860-09-29
Transcription [3]
Charleston Mercury, 29 September 1860

Our New York Correspondence
NEW YORK, September 15.
You have, no doubt, my dear MERCURY, enjoyed the perusal of the pleasant
volume, from the press of TtcKNOR and FIELDS, comprising the
autobiographical recollections, by Tom TAYLOR (editor of the very
interesting autobiography of HAYDON), of CHARLES ROBERT LESLIE, R. A.,
deservedly famous, as one of the most exquisite artists in our day. The work
is opened with a prefatory essay analyzing the qualities of LESLIE as an
artist, with such extracts from his correspondence as illustrate his objects in
art, and his opinions in regard to it. LESLIE was not ambitious of grand
performances, and did not attempt to do that which poor HAYDON proposed
to himself the achievement of grand success in what we may call heroic or
historical art. With less ardor of character, nicer and more delicate
sensibilities; more lymphatic in temperament, with an exquisite feeling of
grace and propriety, and a keen but quiet appreciation of humor, he
contented himself with less imposing subjects; and aimed rather at nice
effects in cabinet pictures, than startling ones of a size to illustrate a
cathedral. LESLIE must, I fancy, have greatly resembled in his tastes, and, in
some degree in his talents, your own accomplished fellow-citizen, CHARLES
FRASER. Like FRASER, a contemporary and associate, also, with ALLSTON
and SULLY, he partook of the love of finish, the delicate care, the
circumspect management, and great fastidiousness of manner which
distinguish the works of all these artists. His vein of humor gave him one
advantage over them all, and led to his adoption of subjects, which enabled
him to snatch those portraits of the quaint in character, of grave in mirth, and
latent fun, which constitute a leading feature in his pictures. Hence his
choice of the Knight of La Mancha as a favorite figure in his groupe—his
subjects from Don Quixotte, from Tristam Shandy, and the ludicrous or
humorous subjects from SHAKESPEARE; his Sir Roger de Coverley going to
church, the May-Day in the time of Queen ELIZABETH; Sancho and the
Duchess, from Don Quixotte; the Catherine and Petruchio from
SHAKESPEARE; Gullivers introduction to the Queen of Brobingnag, from
SWIFT; Don Quixotte doing penance; and a, variety besides, of similar
subjects; showing the ascendancy of this delicate spirit of humor, quiet and
sly, lurking ever in the painter's constitution.
Not that this was his single role. On the contrary, we find him
engaged on subjects of grave, and even tragical interest sad topics, in
which the slightest show of humor would be an equal offence to art and
feeling. Such are "Lady Carlyle carrying the pardon to her father in the