Ernest Carroll, or Artist-Life in Italy
A Novel, in Three Parts. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 1858.
THIS book is not strictly of the kind which the Germans call the Art-Novel, and yet we know not how else to class it. The author has spun a somewhat improbable story as the thread for his reflections on Art and his reminiscences of artists and travel. We confess that we should have liked it better, had be made his book simply a record of experience and reflection. But there are many admirable things in this little volume, which is evidently the work of a person of refined artistic culture and clear intelligence. Of especial value we reckon the reminiscences of Allston and his methods; and it seems a little singular, since the scene is laid chiefly in Florence and in 1847, that we get nothing more satisfactory than a single anecdote about the elder Greenough, whose life and works and thoroughly emancipated style of thought have done more to honor American Art than those of any other man, except Allston.
We the rather regret that the author had not made his book more of a journal, and recorded directly his own impressions, because he shows a decided ability in bringing scenes before the eye of the reader. The sketches of Doney's Caffé and the Venetian improvvisatore are especially vivid; so is that of the old picture-dealer ; though in all we think some of the phrases might have been softened with advantage. We enter our earnest protest also against the Ruskin-chapter. The scenes at Graefenberg are fresh, lively, and interesting. The book is also enlivened by many entertaining anecdotes of living American artists and savans, which are told with the skill of a practised raconteur. We hope to hear from the author again, and in a form which shall enable his knowledge and experience in matters of Art to have freer play than the exigencies of a novel allow them, and in which his abilities in the discussion of aesthetics shall have more scope given them than that of the obiter dicta in a story.