Robert Jones

The best place to begin an analysis of the relationship between eighteenth-century poetry and the visual arts is where the poets would have begun it: with Horace. In his Ars Poetica the Roman critic made an analogy between the arts of poetry and painting, writing famously: "ut pictura poesis." Horace may be translated thus: "as is painting, so is poetry." From the Renaissance onward Horace's comparison was interpreted (regardless of his original intention) as meaning that painting and poetry had the same end and, accordingly, deserved the same dignity, so: "as is poetry, so is painting." This view was elaborated by humanist art theorists such as Leon Battista Alberti and the Abbé du Bos, who claimed that — if properly undertaken — both arts could, because they articulated ideas derived from history and scripture, give instruction as well as pleasure. Aristotle's argument, in the Poetics, that the highest purpose of art was to show human nature in action also supported this claim, as did his suggestion that design in painting was much like plot in tragedy (again, the precise point of the classical analogy was largely forgotten in order to appreciate the wider point of comparison). The claim could be confirmed by other classical references such as Simonides' observation, recorded by Plutarch, that painting is mute poetry and that poetry is a speaking picture. Relying on these classical references, art and literary theorists argued that poetry and painting were united by their shared capacity to express the highest endeavors of the human mind, regardless of their differences of medium. This attitude would change during the course of the eighteenth century, especially as the influence of Longinus grew in English critical writing; however, its importance at the beginning of the century cannot be overestimated (Lee 1940: 197—202; Hagstrum 1958: 3-36).

The connection proposed by humanist criticism between painting and poetry had received considerable new impetus at the close of the seventeenth century with the publication of Charles du Fresnoy's ambitious poem De Arte Graphica, first in Latin and then in a French translation by Roger de Piles. Du Fresnoy's poem built upon the slender foundations provided by Horace to argue for a close relation between poetry and painting, stressing the superlative qualities of both arts, but principally defending painting from the insinuation, hurtful to its practitioners, that it was a merely mechanical art. John Dryden translated the work into English prose in 1695, after some encouragement from the painter Sir Godfrey Kneller. Dryden's translation begins:

Painting and Poesy are two Sisters, which are so like in all things, that they mutually lend to each other both their Name and Office. One is call'd a dumb Poesy, and the other a speaking Picture. The Poets have never said any thing but what they believ'd would please the Ears. And it has been the constant endeavour of the Painters to give pleasure to the Eyes. In short, those things which the Poets have thought unworthy of their Pens, the Painters have judg'd to be unworthy of their pencils. (Dryden 1989: 84)

There would be better, more dynamic translations by the end of the century, but Dryden's words captured something of the sympathy that was meant to exist between the arts of poetry and painting (see Lipking 1970: 38—65). It is easy to see why painters appreciated the Horatian argument, especially as Dryden also suggested that a painter's use of color was comparable to a poet's use of words (Dryden 1989: 50, 75—7). Why poets should be gratified by the argument is less immediately obvious. By the end of the seventeenth century they did not need to make claims for poetry's status as an art capable of delivering historical and moral truths. Nor did poets need to claim that their art could produce powerful images of the sublime or the beautiful. Yet throughout the eighteenth century poets wrote verses addressed to prominent painters (to Kneller at the beginning of the period, then to Charles Jervas, and later to Sir Joshua Reynolds) that acknowledged their investment in the idea that poetry and painting were fundamentally similar or suggested a real competition between the arts, one that could be argued from both sides. This essay will argue that this sometimes heated discussion is best understood in terms of a larger debate about the extent to which the value and requirements of form should predominate over the possibilities of the imagination. It is a debate that reveals much about the complex interplay between poetry and painting in Georgian Britain.

To understand how this debate arose, why poets became intrigued by comparisons (favorable or otherwise) with the work of painters, and why they would wish to see their art in relation to those working with brush or knife upon canvas, requires a specific understanding of the intersection of theories of taste, culture, and science at the beginning of the century. One key factor was the sudden rise in the status of the arts in Britain at the start of the eighteenth century. Around 1700 educated Britons became increasingly interested in the art of painting, and treatises began to be published that explained its methods and redefined its ambitions. Jonathan Richardson, himself a noted reader of Milton, argued decisively for the dignity and significance of painting as an intellectual pursuit, as did George Turnbull (see Pears 1988; Solkin 1993). French critical thought was also influential. Heavily indebted to the doctrine of ut pictura poesis, French academy thinking — exemplified by Du Bos, Du Fresnoy, and De Piles — sought to establish the dignity of the arts by arguing that painting should instruct the viewer morally by representing only the most significant moments from history and literature. In this way painting, like poetry, was given a rhetorical and persuasive function. This moral purpose demanded a clear emphasis on form and decorum. Given the high expectations placed upon the arts, it was not enough merely to copy nature. Painterly images were to be derived from nature, to be sure, but only after a proper selection and arrangement had been made: imitation was to be ideal; nature was to be modified, made decorous. This agenda was given life by the work of Nicholas Poussin and Claude Lorraine (Lee 1940: 203-9, 226-8).

Some of these ideas, with changes of emphasis and direction, were to find their way into British theories of both art and poetry, including those of Pope and Reynolds, who are discussed later in the essay. However, it is also possible to detect the influence of French ideas in the work of the Scottish poet James Thomson, who probably knew the work of the French theorists well (Hagstrum 1958: 244, 257-8). Certainly his writing shows the influence of Claude, whose work was highly prized in Britain. Claude's landscapes are highly organized and represent distance, not by vanishing-point perspective, but via an arrangement of bands of light and shade that recede from the viewer's gaze: first foreground, then brightly lit middle grounds, and finally darker backgrounds, perhaps revealing brooding hills. This arrangement of the landscape has the advantage of allowing the painter to shape the countryside in ways that stress certain features or privilege certain ways of looking; but it also has the effect of making the landscape highly formal and to a degree predictable. Thomson frequently translates this powerful device into verse (Barrell 1986: 100-36). In his poem "Spring," first published in 1728, he depicts his patron Lord Lyttelton reaching some high ground on his Worcestershire estate:

Meantime, you gain the Height, from whose fair Brow

The bursting Prospect spreads immense around;

And snatch'd o'er Hill and Dale, and Wood and Lawn,

The verdant Field, and darkening Heath between,

And Villages embosom'd soft in Trees,

And spiry Towns by surging Columns mark'd

Of household Smoak, your Eye excursive roams:

Wide-stretching from the Hall, in whose kind Haunt

The Hospitable Genius lingers still,

To where the broken Landskip, by Degrees,

Ascending roughens into rigid Hills;

O'er which the Cambrian Mountains, like far Clouds

That skirt the blue Horizon, dusky, rise.

Thomson uses his syntax to recreate the view in ways that imitate the bands that characterize a Claudian landscape. Crucially, Lyttelton's house - the seat of hospitality and good sense - is placed at the center of the image, its significance underlined by the painterly organization of the verse. However, Thomson steps outside the French tradition as he unfolds the meaning and purpose of this partially borrowed image. He does not expect Lyttelton simply to see this view or to be impressed merely with its beauties, structure, or refinement. Lyttelton, he hopes, will understand the beauty of nature as a call to public duty and to civic renewal. He should plan with a mind "unwarped by Party-Rage, / Britannia's weal" (ll. 929—30). In this respect Thomson differs from his French predecessors and locates himself more squarely in the British civic humanist tradition associated with the Earl of Shaftesbury and the poet Mark Akenside (Barrell 1986: 39-45).

If the increasingly ambitious claims made for painting were one influence upon Thomson and his contemporaries, then philosophy and science were equally informative. Of primary importance in this context is the philosopher John Locke. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) Locke argued that the human mind contained no ideas without first receiving impressions from the senses. According to Locke, humans were not born with minds already filled with notions of sweetness, smoothness, volume, or beauty but rather formed them as they encountered the world about them. Locke's conjecture coincided with Isaac Newton's researches on sight, published as Opticks: or, a Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light in 1704. Newton suggested a fresh and compelling idea of what seeing involved and what light was. Crucially, these new ways of thinking privileged not just the senses above innate ideas but the sense of sight, the sense that is peculiarly the province of the painter's art.

The possibilities represented by this new focus on vision are powerfully realized in the work of Thomson, whose poetry revels in the effects of vision on the sensitive mind. Here he describes the beauties of the sky:

Meantime, refracted from yon eastern Cloud, Bestriding Earth, the grand ethereal Bow Shoots up immense; and every Hue unfolds, In fair Proportion running from the Red To where the Violet fades into the Sky. Here, awful Newton, the dissolving Clouds Form, fronting on the Sun, thy showery Prism; And to the sage-instructed Eye unfold The various Twine of Light, by thee disclosed From the white mingling Maze.

Newton provides the idea and the language (light is "refracted", a "prism" yields a rainbow), but Thomson's verse succeeds because he makes his image simultaneously painterly and poetic. As in the passage discussed above, the view of the clouds and their colors is highly organized: views and distances, shapes and colors are stressed to underscore a more essential harmony. Throughout the poem the act of looking at a munificent Nature is the central idea within a poetics increasingly based on the pleasures of vision. Thomson's literary pictorialism therefore unites many influences, including British and French art theory alongside powerful new scientific ideas.

Science, philosophy, and criticism came together in the first decades of the century in ways that offered poets new opportunities and set them fresh challenges relative to the visual arts. The impact of this new understanding of sight can be found in the elegant pages of The Spectator, where Joseph Addison used it to initiate the discourse of polite taste: "Our Sight is the most perfect and most delightful of all our Senses. It fills the Mind with the largest variety of Ideas converses with its Objects at the greatest Distance, and continues the longest in Action without being tired or satiated with its proper Enjoyments." "It is this Sense," argues Addison, "which furnishes the imagination with its Ideas." It is sight that allows the "Man of Polite Imagination" to "converse with a Picture, and find an agreeable Companion in a Statue" (Spectator, no. 411, June 21, 1712). For Addison sight is a refined sense, yielding discreet pleasures to the cultivated. Although he accepts that the human mind, once it has received sufficient data, can assemble and reassemble images so as to produce an infinite variety of ideas (such is the capacity of the imagination), Addison retains an appreciation of how sight can impact directly on the consciousness of the viewer. This gives painting an advantage over poetic descriptions of the same scene: "for a Picture has a real Resemblance to its Original, which Letters and Syllables are wholly void of. Colours speak all Languages, but Words are understood only by such a People or Nation." In Addison's account of the imagination, however, sight falls into the category of primary pleasures, while words gain their final superiority by acting upon the higher secondary pleasures of the imagination: "Words, when well chosen, have so great a Force in them, that a Description often gives us more lively Ideas than the Sight of Things themselves" (Spectator, no. 416, June 27, 1712). Although Addison gives painting a subordinate role here, making it less elevated than poetry, which appeals to the mind alone, the polarity was reversed in some eighteenth-century poetry, including Addison's own.

The combination of Locke and Newton was to revolutionize poetry and the relationship between the arts, a process aided by Dryden's translation of Du Fresnoy and the work of Addison and others in founding a new critical language. This critical project was often sympathetic to the interplay between the two art forms. Accordingly, references to the visual arts can be found in the works of a great many eighteenth-century poets. Poets sometimes appear to borrow from visual artists, taking a lead from their example or praising their works through ekphrasis. Derived from the Greek word for description, ekphrasis is the pictorial depiction in poetry of an object (usually, but not exclusively, another art object). This can take the form of specific praise or censure, though it can also be used as the basis for reflections upon the state of culture more generally. The poem Addison addressed to Kneller in 1716 is a case in point. Addison praises the painter for his portrait of George I (recently and controversially installed on the British throne), thereby making his poem political, especially as the image was intended to stand as a model for new coinage. However, although Addison's poem owes something to his Whiggish politics, it is more forcefully about the superlative qualities of Kneller's art, which, according to Addison, rivals that of the ancient artist Phidias ("To Sir Godfrey Kneller," ll. 55, 81—2). This appreciation is most evident when Addison praises Kneller for the precisely pictorial elements of his art:

The magic of thy art calls forth His secret soul and hidden worth, His probity and mildness shows, His care of friends and scorn of foes In every stroke in every line, Does some exalted virtue shine, And Albion's happiness we trace Through all the features of his face.

The magic of Kneller's art lies in its ability to show instantly and simultaneously a private image of the king and an icon of the nation: "In all the force of light and shade / And awed by thy delusive hand / As in the presence-chamber stand" (ll. 4-6). Crucially, Kneller's image is thought by Addison to do these things immediately, seizing its viewers, cementing their allegiance through the power of art: "And crowds grow loyal as they gaze" (l. 22). It is for this reason, Addison claims, that British monarchs have often sought the aid of Kneller's pencil (ll. 33-40). To praise a painting for its likely instantaneous and ideological effect is to recommend precisely its qualities as a work of visual art (and its effectiveness as propaganda). Poetry, as Addison's lines themselves show, cannot do this. The instantaneous ideological effect of an image cannot be achieved in poetry, which must build its effects up with words over time.

Addison's poem recognizes the challenge painting offered to poetry throughout the eighteenth century, when it was accepted that painters worked in a medium in which colors could add vibrancy and interest to their designs. Their art, furthermore, was one of powerful synchronic effects. Poets would have to work harder if they wanted their readers to "see" the images they wished to convey. Addison understands this but avoids the challenge, merely acknowledging it. By contrast, more outwardly ambitious poets, such as Thomson, felt liberated by the encounter between poetry and the possibilities of vision. The colors, tones, and shades of the painter's art gave poets fresh ways of expressing their concerns. Literary pictorialism extended their art, offering them new topics and ways of seeing. This is most obviously the case in Thomson's wonderful description of the "Unbounded Beauty" of nature ("Spring," l. 507). But in The Seasons Thomson also begins to explore his own imagination and hints at the limits of the painter's vision. Throughout his long and digressive poem he shifts easily between natural description, poetic reverie, and philosophical reflection in ways that reveal that although poetry fires the imagination less immediately than painting, it may do so more extensively. Moreover, as The Seasons also demonstrates, poetry is not static, but rather a diachronic medium, one that is able, with sequences of sound and image, to build complex narratives as well as vivid scenes. In this respect poetry could surpass painting. Throughout the eighteenth century poets would be inspired by the visual arts, even if that inspiration was to encourage them to aim not just to emulate but to exceed their contemporaries. It is possible to see poets such as Thomas Gray ("Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College" and Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard) and Anna Laetitia Barbauld ("A Summer Evening's Meditation") as working within precisely this dynamic. Moreover, while poets gained from painters they were also suspicious, querying painting's reliance on imitation, convention, and deception (Hagstrum 1958: 243-67).

Pope's verse epistle "To Mr Jervas, with Dryden's Translation of Fresnoy's Art of Painting" (1715) engages in this debate, the poet offering both praise and gentle rebuke to his fellow artist. Curiously, Pope spent perhaps a year and a half working in Jervas's studio just as he was completing Windsor-Forest, and seems to have found the atmosphere of the artist's world congenial, finding work in paint almost as inspiring as that with a pen. One critic has even suggested that Pope's interest in color, detectable in some of the vivid descriptions of Windsor-Forest (the wonderfully plumed pheasant, for example) reveals a debt to these months spent working with paint (ll. 111-18). The specific purpose of Pope's verse, however, was to accompany a copy of Dryden's translation of Du Fresnoy. For Pope, the combination of Dryden's "native fire" with "Fresnoy's close art" gives him a model both for his own friendship with Jervas and for the relationship between the arts:

Smit with the love of Sister-arts we came, And met congenial, mingling flame with flame; Like friendly colours found them both unite, And each from each contract new strength and light. How oft' in pleasing tasks we wear the day, While summer suns roll unperceiv'd away? How oft' our slowly-growing works impart, While images reflect from art to art.

Pope tells Jervas that they have both gained delight and inspiration from the same scenes, having modeled their respective arts on the pursuit of the same ideals. Initially Pope suggests Italy and Italian art as the source of their creativity: "Together o'er the Alps methinks we fly"; and later "With thee, on Raphael's Monument I mourn" (ll. 25, 27). He depicts Jervas as reveling in the Italian renaissance: Raphael, Guido, Correggio, Caracci, and Titian are all cited with apparent approval. Jervas's admiration gives Pope's poem both its object and its energy, the superlative qualities of the painter's art encouraging his best efforts.

Yet despite this early praise, Pope's attitude to the work of his sometime colleague becomes increasingly competitive. Toward the end of the poem Pope implies that the Italian scenes revered by Jervas can take art only so far, leaving it stilted and uninspired. Du Fresnoy's precepts are similarly useful, but limited. For is it not the case, Pope suggests a little teasingly, that the living beauty of a woman implants the "image in the painter's breast" more forcibly than this "small, well-polished gem, the work of years" (ll. 42, 40)? To make his case more persuasive, Pope reminds Jervas of his success in painting their most beautiful female contemporaries: Elizabeth, Countess of Bridgewater, Martha and Teresa Blount, Arabella Fermor, and Lady Worsley (in early editions Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was praised instead of the last-named):

Oh lasting as those colours may they shine,

Free as thy stroke, yet faultless as thy line!

New graces yearly, like thy works, display;

Soft without weakness, without glaring gay;

Led by some rule, that guides, but not constrains;

And finish'd more thro' happiness than pains!

The kindred arts shall in their praise conspire,

One dip the pencil, and one string the lyre.

Pope's willingness to treat women as art objects, rhetorically recreating their physical and social presence in aesthetic terms, recurs in his poetry. Such is the fate of the Blount sisters and Arabella Fermor (Belinda in The Rape of the Lock). It has even been suggested that the dressing-table scene in The Rape of the Lock should also be considered as ekphrastic (Chico 2002: 1-23). The case is a persuasive one. However, a clearer example of this mode can be found in An Epistle to a Lady (1735):

How many pictures of one Nymph we view, All how unlike each other, all how true! Arcadia's Countess, here, in ermin'd pride, Is there, Pastora by a fountain side. Here Fannia, leering on her own good man, And there, a naked Leda with a Swan.

Significantly, Pope writes about art because he wishes to see both painting and women better regulated. Suspicion of women and the visual arts underlies his poem: he claims that both are false, excessive, misleading. Worst of all, paintings and women lack the clarity of form that Pope associates with the truly valuable (ll. 151-6).

This judgmental aspect of Pope's ekphrasis seems to have upset Barbauld, who rejects his association of women, corruption, and visual display. Though she begins her poem "To Mrs Priestley, with some Drawings of Birds and Insects" (1773) by following Pope's lead — "The kindred arts two sister Muses guide: / This charms the eye, that steals upon the ear" (ll. 6—7) — Barbauld disengages herself from his skepticism by praising illustrations from natural history, images she associates with the proper province of the educated woman. The poem closes with an affectionate tribute to her friend:

Thy friend thus strives to cheat the lonely hour, With song, or paint, an insect, or a flower: Yet if Amanda praise the flowing line, And bend delighted o'er the gay design, I envy not, nor emulate the fame Or of the painter's, or the poet's name: Could I to both with equal claim pretend, Yet far, far dearer were the name of friend.

For Barbauld the visual arts are connected to the acquisition of knowledge: knowledge that both delights and instructs, granting women intellectual opportunities rather than merely fashionable diversions. Viewed from this challenging perspective, Pope's later work reveals an antipathy toward women and toward painting, one that replaced an earlier affection for both.

Nonetheless, Reynolds took a line from Pope's Epistle to a Lady to make a similar point. Discussing the work of the painters Correggio and Parmigianino, Reynolds complains that by "endeavouring to give the utmost degree of grace, [they] have exceeded its boundaries, and have fallen into the most hateful of all hateful qualities, affectation." Such work, he writes, is on "the brink of all we hate" (Reynolds 1997: 72). Reynolds's position is quite clear: he can tolerate a measure of graceful elegance, but when overdone it reaches "the very verge of ridicule." For Reynolds, the masculinity of both the painter and the critic is threatened by the dangerous softening enacted by an overly polished art: solid form had to be maintained. What is important in this context is that Reynolds's borrowing of Pope's condemnation of the erring woman returns critical focus to the question of decorum and appropriateness. This was a crucial concern for all writers on the arts after Horace. Indeed, Horace's famous comparison of painting and poetry was made not in pursuit of any union of the arts, but in defense of the principle of decorum. According to Horace, poets should restrict and modify their imaginations by remembering the limits that plausibility and good sense imposed on painters. To do otherwise was to risk, in Reynolds's terms, effeminate excess. This shared masculinist language, found both in Pope's poetry (even the epistles to Jervas and Addison) discloses the often highly gendered language in which the arts were discussed and in which the necessity of form and control was maintained.

The emphasis that both Reynolds and Pope place on form, decorum, and elegant restraint was challenged in the later decades of the century (though Reynolds remained enormously influential on poets and artists alike, as will be seen below). Increasingly, Pope was seen as restricting the activity of the poet, preserving decorum but to the detriment of passion and the imagination. Foremost in making this objection were

Joseph and Thomas Warton. The work of the Warton brothers builds on poetry by Akenside, Thomson, and William Collins that sought to release the imagination, to express feeling unconstrained by rules. This approach is evident from Joseph Warton's poem "The Enthusiast" (1744), where he writes of "art's vain pomps" and opposes such limited ambition to the natural sublime of "some pine topp'd precipice" or a "foamy stream" (ll. 4, 29, 30). One of the ways Warton chooses to disclose the endless capacity of the imagination is by comparison with what painting can or cannot achieve:

Creative Titian, can thy vivid strokes, Or thine, O graceful Raphael, dare to vie With the rich tints that paint the breathing mead? The thousand colour'd tulip, violet's bell Snow-clad and meek, the vermil-tinctur'd rose, And golden crocus?

This is a direct challenge to the authority of painting within its own province of vision. Warton is even using the word "paint" to describe what painting cannot reach. Nature, the true source of all art, exceeds in its variety all attempts to contain or represent it. A critic inspired by a Johnsonian regard for the propriety of poetic language might object in painting's defense that Warton has pushed his meaning too far and that color is truly realizable only in paint, a point evidenced by the poet's recourse to a phrase like "vermil-tinctur'd." It could also be objected that Warton, in his self-declared enthusiasm, has written something that cannot be fully imagined: the "thousand colour'd tulip." Warton's primary target is not, however, the art of painting. His point is more that nature and the imagination will always exceed attempts to represent them. To this degree he anticipates renewed British critical and creative interest in Longinus (see Meehan 1986), whose treatise On the Sublime had become increasingly influential by midcentury. Central to the text's appeal was its assertion of language's power, not merely to persuade but to entrance. This gave poets a renewed license to experiment with the power and possibilities of words. Edmund Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756) built on this claim, extending poetry's power to realize the sublime, to raise images beyond the confines of sight. By stressing the creative power of words, Burke's argument challenged contemporary poets to exceed artists working in other fields (Burke 1987: 167-77).

Profound as these shifts and challenges were by the end of the period, they should not be allowed to overshadow the equally strong ties that still bound the two arts together. In this context Reynolds's authority cannot be neglected. Reynolds had an extraordinary influence on poets in the latter half of the century, largely because of his pre-eminence as an aesthetic theorist. The primary concern of his Discourses (delivered as speeches at the award of the Royal Academy prizes) was to instill in his listeners the idea that painting was a great art that was best practiced by diligent yet ambi tious artists familiar not only with the Old Masters but equally with the works of the best poets. They should also appreciate the ideal forms of nature, knowledge that was to be realized in the form of clear designs expressed in distinct, bold lines. These designs were to express a moral purpose, acting as an inspiration to acts of public virtue. Driven by this unshakable ambition, Reynolds insisted that in truly great art there could be no submission to the delinquent forms of modern style or dress, no reliance on mere color, no lazy admission of defects from the lower forms of the arts. Were his advice to be followed, Reynolds claimed, there was no reason why the young painters to whom he directed his more practical remarks should not succeed. Nor was there - at the dawn of a promising new age - any reason why the arts more generally should not prosper. For in Britain, Reynolds asserted, the conditions suddenly existed for such a revival: Wealth combined with taste and elegance provided a rich soil, while patronage poured down from the king and a new institution - the Royal Academy itself — promoted learning (Reynolds 1997: 13; Barrell 1986: 69—162; Lipking 1970: 164—207).

This new confidence was a great inspiration for painters, but what did it matter to poets? In the first place, Reynolds's argument that the arts in Britain were improving matched the aspiration expressed by many poets throughout the century. Indeed, the aim of reviving the arts recurs time and again in eighteenth-century poetry and its criticism. The ambition was most often expressed within a civic humanist analysis of cultures and their progression and collapse. Accordingly, accounts of the revival of the arts were haunted by that ideology's fearful anticipation of eventual fall. Joseph Spence, to take just one example, explained in his Polymetis (1747) how in the Roman world the arts rose together from rude force through all the stages of mounting excellence before decaying together as a result of the luxury and folly that characterized the corruption of that empire. Similarly stadial models can be found in John Brown's Dissertation on the Rise, Union, and Power, the Progressions, Separations and Corruptions, of Poetry and Music (1763) and in the work of Scottish Enlightenment thinkers such as David Hume, Adam Ferguson, and Adam Smith. In each case there is the assumption that political and moral conditions need to be right for the arts to flourish. Reynolds advances much the same argument in his Discourses, yet does so rather more hopefully than some of his contemporaries. His own career seemed to confirm his optimism, allowing him to blaze a path that others might set out to follow. It was in this spirit that the painter received generous praise from William Cowper in the first book of The Task. There, amid his otherwise cautious and ambivalent discussion of London, Cowper found a moment to praise the talents of his great contemporary: "There, touched by Reynolds, a dull blank becomes / A lucid mirror, in which nature sees / All her reflected features" (bk. 1, ll. 700—2). Reynolds, along with the sculptor John Bacon, is thought by Cowper to offer some recompense for the greedy calculus that characterizes a modern commercial city. Cowper was not the only poet to praise Reynolds. The artist received similarly high praise from Oliver Goldsmith (admittedly a friend), Mary Robinson, and even a young William Wordsworth — all of whom seem to have been inspired by Reynolds's ability as a painter to make renewed efforts in their own art. These commendations are important. They speak to the kinds of supportive interconnection though which the arts were united in the minds of many eighteenth-century writers as a challenge to emulation.

Notwithstanding this mutual regard, poets - even those who admired painters or were friends with them - insisted that the power of words exceeded that of line and pigment. In some senses this competitiveness was all on one side. Reynolds never suggested that painters could exceed poets, save in the purely visual aspects of their art. On the contrary, he insisted that young painters should learn from the poets and find their inspiration in the works of the best writers (Reynolds 1997: 117-18). Yet it remained true that when poets wished to assert their version of what art should be, they chose to dispute the art of painting - and perhaps with Reynolds in particular. This is certainly the case in Thomas Warton's "Verses on Sir Joshua Reynolds's Painted Window at New-College Oxford" (1782). Warton's poem is one of apparent praise for his friend's designs for the new windows that were installed in the Oxford chapel. The design was allegorical: figures representing Justice, Mercy, and others were depicted in loose flowing gowns in accordance with the canons of neoclassical taste. Reynolds made little effort to respond to the fourteenth-century gothic surroundings of the chapel, preferring instead to insist upon his own high-minded aesthetic (Postle 1995: 168-84). Warton was a lover of the gothic and of British antiquities, the reverse of what Reynolds held dear. Yet his poem is affectionate, even playful. He clearly values Reynolds's art, understanding the intention that animates the work. Nonetheless, Warton steadily questions the appropriateness of such ambitions within the venerable space of the chapel. The poem begins flatteringly:

Ah, stay thy treacherous hand, forbear to trace Those faultless forms of elegance and grace! Ah, cease to spread the bright transparent mass, With Titian's pencil, o'er the speaking glass! Nor steal by strokes of art with truth combin'd, The fond illusions of my wayward mind! For long, enamour'd of a barbarous age, A faithless truant to the classic page; Long have I lov'd to catch the simple chime Of minstrel-harps, and spell the fabling rime; To view the festive rites, the knightly play, That deck'd heroic Albion's elder day.

Warton is being canny here: he represents Reynolds's art (much as the artist might have done) as committed to truth and elegance, acknowledging its "faultless forms" along the way. But Warton's poem has a rather subtle and shifting surface: "faultless" begins to look like a synonym for insipid as the poet describes the pageantry of "heroic Albion's day." In this opening Warton represents Reynolds's classical art as something that seduces him away from his own first and true love, the native gothic as represented by knights and minstrels with their simple and heroic lives.

This idea of being in love is crucial. Warton bases his aesthetic not on reason and discrimination, as Reynolds had done, but on intuitive feeling, and it is this emotional responsiveness (a certain susceptibility to sensory delight or pain) that had sanctioned his taste, not cold judgment. The poet's preference for imagination over staid decorum becomes more marked later in the poem as Warton launches into fine nostalgic reverie on his love for gothic:

But chief, enraptur'd have I lov'd to roam, A lingering votary, the vaulted dome, Where the tall shafts, that mount in massy pride, Their mingling branches shoot from side to side; Where elfin sculptors, with fantastic clew, O'er the long roof their wild embroidery drew; Where superstition, with capricious hand In many a maze the wreathed window plann'd, With hues romantic ting'd the gorgeous pane, To fill with holy light the wondrous fane.

It is rather luxuriant writing, and it is meant to be: Warton allows himself, and in turn his reader, to reverse the seduction of Reynolds's classical forms and to return in wonder to the alternately brooding and illuminated spaces of ancient Britannia. Warton's poem continues in this vein, basing its praise for the gothic on a display of sumptuous feeling rather than reasoned argument. It is in many senses a triumph for the new poetics of feeling - an aesthetic that would run a parallel path to Reynolds's rational classicism. However, Warton's poem ends abruptly, with a return to praise of Reynolds:

Reynolds, 'tis thine, from this broad window's height,

To add new lustre to religious light:

Not of its pomp to strip this ancient shrine,

But bid that pomp with purer radiance shine:

With arts unknown before, to reconcile

The willing Graces to the Gothic pile.

Reynolds, wisely, did not believe him. Writing after he had received a copy of the poem, he confided: "I owe you great obligations for the Sacrifice which you have made or pretend to have made, to modern Art" (Reynolds 2000: 107). Warton's vision of a reconciliation of European classicism with British gothic was perhaps always a little suspect. More accurately, Reynolds understood that the two men represented rival views of what art should be. For Warton, the gothic with its brooding darkness and embodied feeling fostered sensations that have at their heart an image of ancient Britain. For Reynolds, classicism represented the light and promise of European rationality: clear-thinking, dignified art. During the eighteenth century both viewpoints provided powerful accounts of what art could and should be, and if Reynolds's scheme now seems more alien to us, then that is only because of the continuing and now unquestioned association of creativity with feeling. More importantly, the argument between Warton and Reynolds reveals that, as eighteenth-century poets worked to create new directions in poetry, they did do in relation to what Reynolds, quite rightly, called "modern Art."

See also chs. 3, "Poetry and Science"; 9, "Poetry, Sentiment, and Sensibility"; 14, "James Thomson, The Seasons"; 34, "Augustanism and Pre-Romanticism"; 36, "The Pleasures and Perils of the Imagination"; 37, "The Sublime."

References and Further Reading

Ault, Norman (1949). New Light on Pope: With Some Additions to His Poetry Hitherto Unknown. London: Methuen.

Barrell, John (1986). The Political Theory of Painting from Reynolds to Hazlitt: The "Body of the Public." New Haven: Yale University Press.

Barrell, John (1988). Poetry, Language and Politics. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Brownell, Morris R. (1978). Alexander Pope and the Arts of Georgian England. Oxford: Clarendon.

Brownell, Morris R. (1989). Samuel Johnson's Attitude to the Arts. Oxford: Clarendon.

Burke, Edmund (1987). A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime andBeautiful, ed. and intr. James T. Boulton. Oxford: Blackwell.

Chico, Tita (2002). "The Arts of Beauty: Women's Cosmetics and Pope's Ekphrasis." Eighteenth-Century Life 26: 1, 1-23.

Dryden, John (1989). "De Arte Graphica." In The Works of John Dryden, ed. E. N. Hooker and H. T. Swedenberg, vol. 22: Prose 1691-1698: De Arte Graphica and Shorter Works. Berkeley and London: University of California Press.

Hagstrum, Jean H. (1958). The Sister Arts: The Tradition of Literary Pictorialism and English Poetry from Dryden to Gray. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lee, Rensselaer W. (1940). "Ut Pictura Poesis: The Humanist Theory of Painting." Art Bulletin 12, 197-269.

Lipking, Lawrence (1970). The Ordering of the Arts in Eighteenth-Century England. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Meehan, Michael (1986). Liberty and Poetics in Eighteenth-Century England. London: Croom Helm.

Mitchell, W. J. T. (1986). Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Paulson, Ronald (1996). The Beautiful, Novel, and Strange: Aesthetics and Heterodoxy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Pears, Iain (1988). The Discovery of Painting: The Growth of Interest in the Arts in England 16801768. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Postle, Martin (1995). Sir Joshua Reynolds: The Subject Pictures. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Reynolds, Joshua (1997). Discourses on Art, ed. Robert R. Wark. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Reynolds, Joshua (2000). The Letters of Sir Joshua Reynolds, ed. John Ingamells and John Edg-cumbe. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Solkin, David H. (1993). Painting for Money: The Visual Arts and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century England. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Terry, Richard, ed. (2000). James Thomson: Essays for the Tercentenary. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

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