Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 16: No 1) >> Simms as ''Nemo'': The Rediscovered Letters to the Charleston Mercury >> Page 8

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Page 8

Correspondence | [1860]
Transcription Tower;""Murder," from Macbeth; the Death Scene of Catherine in Henry
the Eighth; "The Lady in Comus;""The Princes at their prayers before their
murder in the Tower;" and others. These, with numerous studies of heads
from SHAKESPEARE and other writers, constitute a second class of his
performances; in which, though the grouping is in admirable design, the
arrangement of light excellent, the coloring fine, and the general effect at
once rich and harmonious, yet the success is less great than in those pictures
which admitted the element of human in which LESLIE so specially excelled.
He possessed pathos enough for what is called High Art; and, indeed, the
presence of humor implies the pathetic. Mere fun does not; nor wit; and
persons who are clever at a repartee are frequently just as incapable of
appreciating humor as pathos. But LESLIE possessed all the requisite
faculties for nearly all the provinces of art; those, perhaps, only excepted, in
which the passion is intensified in the wildest and fiercest action, in
spasmodic agonies of emotion alternating with silent rages. His most favorite
storehouse for material was SHAKESPEARE, and especially from his Merry
Wives of Windsor; his Slender and Anna Page; his Falstaff (from Henry
IV.); Autotycus;—these were among his greatest successes; and LESLIE,
without further detail or catalogue, was a successful painter; successfully
equally in art and fortune. His mind was admirably balanced; so that his life
was genial, his aims just and moderate; his passion temperate; he was no
ruffler with society; but gently, calmly, and with pleasant equanimity, he
prosecuted his toils in modest ways, from obscurity, through trial and labor,
to the final result of all honest and well directed industry to triumph.
LESLIE narrowly escaped being an American born. His parents were
both natives of Maryland, and had but recently gone to England, where their
distinguished son was born in London, 1794. The general reader will find a
great deal to interest him in the perusal of this volume; the artist-reader, the
student, the much to instruct, as well as interest. He will be particularly
curious to note the gradual progresses of Leslie's taste, especially in regard
to coloring, step by step, through the usual processes of doubt and
incertitude, and the usual experiences of error; which necessarily occur in the
case of every honest student who is resolved to be true to nature and not to
suffer his vanities or prejudices, or unwise associates, to warp, defeat or
defraud his judgment. A diary of the Painter's Own will help the young
student in this study very considerably. LESLIE does not deal very profoundly
with his topics; does not often theorize upon them; rather skims over the idea
discursively; but tells enough to show that though he does not give the
philosophy of his art in his writings, and perhaps was not well prepared to
give it through the medium of letters, yet he had reached all the resultant
truths, laws and principles which belonged to it at bottom, and of which the
philosophy could only prove a dilation of thought upon details already
delivered to the eye.