Miscellanies, Literary & Historical - Vol. 2

Miscellanies, Literary & Historical - Vol. 2

Miscellanies, Literary & Historical - Vol. 2

Miscellanies, Literary & Historical - Vol. 2

Excerpt

THE PORTRAITS OF BURNS1

MANIFOLD are the statues of Burns, but of busts or statues taken from life there is not one. There is not even a cast taken after death (though we have the cast of his skull), inestimably precious as it would be now. We have to some extent, therefore, to idealise our statues of Burns: though not so much so as in the case of that statue of Highland Mary which was erected the other day--a graceful tribute to a charming character, but one of whom we possess no likeness whatever. Still of Burns we have nothing but canvas, and canvas that is not wholly satisfactory, for the engraving (which was, after all, touched from life) always seems to me far more powerful and lifelike than the original painting--to give much more of the vigour of the face and the spirit flashing through the eyes. Skirving's head, again, refined and exquisite as it is, seems to me more delicate and less human than the man as we have him described by such eye-witnesses as Kirkpatrick Sharpe. At any rate we have ample scope in a statue of Burns for idealisation; and, after all, that is not a bad thing, if we cannot have an image taken directly from life and approved as a close likeness by contemporaries.

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