"Punch among the Painters." Punch 20 (17 May 1851), 219.

excerpt

Bearing in mind Prince Albert’s admonition to critics, and feeling that genius draws itself up like a sensitive plant, at the harsh touch of satire, we are determined, this year, to water our artistic Mayflowers, which blossom on the walls of the Academy, with the milk of human kindness, and not the bitter water from the well of Truth. Delightful task, to find beauty everywhere–even where common observers can only find ugliness–all the more complete, from being represented with the most scrupulous exactitude.

Our dear and promising young friends, the Pre-Raphaelites, deserve special commendation for the courage with which they have dared to tell some most disagreeable truths on their canvasses of this year. Mr. Ruskin was quite right in taking up the cudgels against the Times on this matter. The pictures of the P.R.B. are true, and that’s the worst of them. Nothing can be more wonderful than the truth of Collins’s representation of the "Alisma Plantago," except the unattractiveness of the demure lady, whose botanical pursuits he has recorded under the name of Convent Thoughts. [illustration]

Whether by the passion flower he has put into her hand, he meant to symbolise the passion with which Messrs. Lacey, Drummond, and Spooner are inspired against the conventual life, or the passion the young lady is in within herself, at having shut up a heart and life capable of love and charity, and good works, and wifely and motherly affections and duties, within that brick wall at her back–whether the flower regarded, and the book turned aside from, are meant to imply that the life of nature is a better study than the legend of a saint, and that, therefore, the nun makes a mistake when she shuts herself up in her cloister, we are not sufficiently acquainted with Mr. Collins’s ways of thinking to say. By the size of the lady’s head he no doubt meant to imply her vast capacity of brains–while by the utter absence of form and limb under the robe, he subtilely [sic] conveys that she has given up all thoughts of making a figure in the world.

Mr. Millais’ "Mariana in the moated Grange," is obviously meant to insinuate a delicate excuse for the gentleman who wouldn’t come–and to show the world the full import of Tennyson’s description:

"The, she said, I am very dreary."

Anything drearier than the lady, or brighter than her blue velvet robe, it is impossible to conceive. [illustration]

It is clear that that bit of crochet is too much for her. Her weary stretch and the yawn that is so finely foreshadowed in her face, say plainly, "Oh, dear, how tired I am!" which is the vulgar English of Tennyson’s world-famous refrain.


This document was scanned/transcribed from the original source.

Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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