LECTURE III. TURNER AND HIS WORKS.

Delivered November 15, 1853.

77. My object this evening is not so much to give you any account of the works or the genius of the great painter whom we have so lately lost (which it would require rather a year than an hour to do), as to give you some idea of the position which his works hold with respect to the landscape of other periods, and of the general condition and prospects of the landscape art of the present day. I will not lose time in prefatory remarks, as I have little enough at any rate, but will enter abruptly on my subject.

78. You are all of you well aware that landscape seems hardly to have exercised any strong influence, as such, on any pagan nation or pagan artist. I have no time to enter into any details on this, of course, most intricate and difficult subject; but I will only ask you to observe, that wherever natural scenery is alluded to by the ancients, it is either agriculturally, with the kind of feeling that a good Scotch farmer has; sensually, in the enjoyment of sun or shade, cool winds or sweet scents; fearfully, in a mere vulgar dread of rocks and desolate places, as compared with the comfort of cities; or, finally, superstitiously, in the personification or deification of natural powers, generally with much degradation of their impressiveness, as in the paltry fables of Ulysses receiving the winds in bags from Æolus, and of the Cyclops hammering lightning sharp at the ends, on an anvil.[29] Of course, you will here and there find feeble evidences of a higher sensibility, chiefly, I think, in Plato, Æschylus, Aristophanes, and Virgil. Homer, though in the epithets he applies to landscape always thoroughly graphic, uses the same epithet for rocks, seas, and trees, from one end of his poem to the other, evidently without the smallest interest in anything of the kind; and in the mass of heathen writers, the absence of sensation on these subjects is singularly painful. For instance, in that, to my mind, most disgusting of all so-called poems, the Journey to Brundusium, you remember that Horace takes exactly as much interest in the scenery he is passing through as Sancho Panza would have done.