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Title: Laurus Nobilis - Chapters on Art and Life
Author: Lee, Vernon, 1856-1935
Language: English
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LAURUS NOBILIS

BY

VERNON LEE



CONTENTS


 The Use of Beauty
 "Nisi Citharam"
 Higher Harmonies
 Beauty and Sanity
 The Art and the Country
 Art and Usefulness
 Wasteful Pleasures



LAURUS NOBILIS.

CHAPTERS ON ART AND LIFE.



 TO
 ANGELICA RASPONI DALLE TESTE
 FROM
 HER GRATEFUL OLD FRIEND AND NEIGHBOUR
 VERNON LEE.
 1885-1908.



    Die Realität der Dinge ist der Dinge Werk; der Schein der Dinge
    ist der Menschen Werk; und ein Gemüt, das sich am Scheine weidet,
    ergötzt sich schon nicht mehr an dem, was es empfängt, sondern an
    dem, was es tut. SCHILLER, _Briefe über Ästhetik_.



LAURUS NOBILIS.

THE USE OF BEAUTY.


I.

One afternoon, in Rome, on the way back from the Aventine, the
road-mender climbed onto the tram as it trotted slowly along, and
fastened to its front, alongside of the place of the driver, a bough
of budding bay.

Might one not search long for a better symbol of what we may all do by
our life? Bleakness, wind, squalid streets, a car full of
heterogeneous people, some very dull, most very common; a laborious
jog-trot all the way. But to redeem it all with the pleasantness of
beauty and the charm of significance, this laurel branch.


II.

Our language does not possess any single word wherewith to sum up the
various categories of things (made by nature or made by man, intended
solely for the purpose of subserving by mere coincidence) which
minister to our organic and many-sided æsthetic instincts: the things
affecting us in that absolutely special, unmistakable, and hitherto
mysterious manner expressed in our finding them _beautiful_. It is of
the part which such things--whether actually present or merely
shadowed in our mind--can play in our life; and of the influence of
the instinct for beauty on the other instincts making up our nature,
that I would treat in these pages. And for this reason I have been
glad to accept from the hands of chance, and of that road-mender of
the tram-way, the bay laurel as a symbol of what we have no word to
express: the aggregate of all art, all poetry, and particularly of all
poetic and artistic vision and emotion.


For the Bay Laurel--_Laurus Nobilis_ of botanists--happens to be not
merely the evergreen, unfading plant into which Apollo metamorphosed,
while pursuing, the maiden whom he loved, even as the poet, the artist
turns into immortal shapes his own quite personal and transient moods,
or as the fairest realities, nobly sought, are transformed, made
evergreen and restoratively fragrant for all time in our memory and
fancy. It is a plant of noblest utility, averting, as the ancients
thought, lightning from the dwellings it surrounded, even as
disinterested love for beauty averts from our minds the dangers which
fall on the vain and the covetous; and curing many aches and fevers,
even as the contemplation of beauty refreshes and invigorates our
spirit. Indeed, we seem to be reading a description no longer of the
virtues of the bay laurel, but of the _virtues_ of all beautiful
sights and sounds, of all beautiful thoughts and emotions, in reading
the following quaint and charming words of an old herbal:--

   "The bay leaves are of as necessary use as any other in garden or
    orchard, for they serve both for pleasure and profit, both for
    ornament and use, both for honest civil uses and for physic; yea,
    both for the sick and for the sound, both for the living and for
    the dead. The bay serveth to adorn the house of God as well as of
    man, to procure warmth, comfort, and strength to the limbs of men
    and women;... to season vessels wherein are preserved our meats as
    well as our drinks; to crown or encircle as a garland the heads of
    the living, and to stick and deck forth the bodies of the dead; so
    that, from the cradle to the grave we have still use of it, we
    have still need of it."


III.

Before beginning to expound the virtues of Beauty, let me, however,
insist that these all depend upon the simple and mysterious fact
that--well, that the Beautiful _is_ the Beautiful. In our discussion of
what the Bay Laurel symbolises, let us keep clear in our memory the
lovely shape of the sacred tree, and the noble places in which we have
seen it.

There are bay twigs, gathered together in bronze sheaves, in the great
garland surrounding Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise. There are two
interlaced branches of bay, crisp-edged and slender, carved in fine
low relief inside the marble chariot in the Vatican. There is a
fan-shaped growth of Apollo's Laurel behind that Venetian portrait of
a poet, which was formerly called Ariosto by Titian. And, most
suggestive of all, there are the Mycenaean bay leaves of beaten gold,
so incredibly thin one might imagine them to be the withered crown of
a nameless singer in a forgotten tongue, grown brittle through three
thousand years and more.

Each of such presentments, embodying with loving skill some feature of
the plant, enhances by association the charm of its reality,
accompanying the delight of real bay-trees and bay leaves with
inextricable harmonics, vague recollections of the delight of bronze,
of delicately cut marble, of marvellously beaten gold, of deep
Venetian crimson and black and auburn.

But best of all, most satisfying and significant, is the remembrance
of the bay-trees themselves. They greatly affect the troughs of
watercourses, among whose rocks and embanked masonry they love to
strike their roots. In such a stream trough, on a spur of the Hill of
Fiesole, grow the most beautiful poet's laurels I can think of. The
place is one of those hollowings out of a hillside which, revealing
how high they lie only by the sky-lines of distant hills, always feel
so pleasantly remote. And the peace and austerity of this little
valley are heightened by the dove-cot of a farm invisible in the
olive-yards, and looking like a hermitage's belfry. The olives are
scant and wan in the fields all round, with here and there the blossom
of an almond; the oak woods, of faint wintry copper-rose, encroach
above; and in the grassy space lying open to the sky, the mountain
brook is dyked into a weir, whence the crystalline white water leaps
into a chain of shady pools. And there, on the brink of that weir, and
all along that stream's shallow upper course among grass and brakes of
reeds, are the bay-trees I speak of: groups of three or four at
intervals, each a sheaf of smooth tapering boles, tufted high up with
evergreen leaves, sparse bunches whose outermost leaves are sharply
printed like lance-heads against the sky. Most modest little trees,
with their scant berries and rare pale buds; not trees at all, I fancy
some people saying. Yet of more consequence, somehow, in their calm
disregard of wind, their cheerful, resolute soaring, than any other
trees for miles; masters of that little valley, of its rocks, pools,
and overhanging foliage; sovereign brothers and rustic demi-gods for
whom the violets scent the air among the withered grass in March, and,
in May, the nightingales sing through the quivering star night.

Of all southern trees, most simple and aspiring; and certainly most
perfect among evergreens, with their straight, faintly carmined
shoots, their pliable strong leaves so subtly rippled at the edge, and
their clean, dry fragrance; delicate, austere, alert, serene; such are
the bay-trees of Apollo.


IV.

I have gladly accepted, from the hands of that tram-way road-mender,
the Bay Laurel--_Laurus Nobilis_--for a symbol of all art, all poetry,
and all poetic and artistic vision and emotion. It has summed up,
better than words could do, what the old Herbals call the _virtues_,
of all beautiful things and beautiful thoughts. And it has suggested,
I hope, the contents of the following notes; the nature of my attempt
to trace the influence which art should have on life.


V.

Beauty, save by a metaphorical application of the word, is not in the
least the same thing as Goodness, any more than beauty (despite
Keats' famous assertion) is the same thing as Truth. These three
objects of the soul's pursuit have different natures, different laws,
and fundamentally different origins. But the energies which express
themselves in their pursuit--energies vital, primordial, and necessary
even to man's physical survival--have all been evolved under the same
stress of adaptation of the human creature to its surroundings; and
have therefore, in their beginnings and in their ceaseless growth,
been working perpetually in concert, meeting, crossing, and
strengthening one another, until they have become indissolubly woven
together by a number of great and organic coincidences.

It is these coincidences which all higher philosophy, from Plato
downwards, has strained for ever to expound. It is these coincidences,
which all religion and all poetry have taken for granted. And to three
of these it is that I desire to call attention, persuaded as I am that
the scientific progress of our day will make short work of all the
spurious æstheticism and all the shortsighted utilitarianism which
have cast doubts upon the intimate and vital connection between beauty
and every other noble object of our living.

The three coincidences I have chosen are: that between development of
the æsthetic faculties and the development of the altruistic
instincts; that between development of a sense of æsthetic harmony and
a sense of the higher harmonies of universal life; and, before
everything else, the coincidence between the preference for æsthetic
pleasures and the nobler growth of the individual.


VI.

The particular emotion produced in us by such things as are beautiful,
works of art or of nature, recollections and thoughts as well as
sights and sounds, the emotion of æsthetic pleasure, has been
recognised ever since the beginning of time as of a mysteriously
ennobling quality. All philosophers have told us that; and the
religious instinct of all mankind has practically proclaimed it, by
employing for the worship of the highest powers, nay, by employing for
the mere designation of the godhead, beautiful sights, and sounds, and
words by which beautiful sights and sounds are suggested. Nay, there
has always lurked in men's minds, and expressed itself in the
metaphors of men's speech, an intuition that the Beautiful is in some
manner one of the primordial and, so to speak, cosmic powers of the
world. The theories of various schools of mental science, and the
practice of various schools of art, the practice particularly of the
persons styled by themselves æsthetes and by others decadents, have
indeed attempted to reduce man's relations with the great world-power
Beauty to mere intellectual dilettantism or sensual superfineness. But
the general intuition has not been shaken, the intuition which
recognised in Beauty a superhuman, and, in that sense, a truly divine
power. And now it must become evident that the methods of modern
psychology, of the great new science of body and soul, are beginning
to explain the reasonableness of this intuition, or, at all events, to
show very plainly in what direction we must look for the explanation
of it. This much can already be asserted, and can be indicated even
to those least versed in recent psychological study, to wit, that the
power of Beauty, the essential power therefore of art, is due to the
relations of certain visible and audible forms with the chief mental
and vital functions of all human beings; relations established
throughout the whole process of human and, perhaps, even of animal,
evolution; relations seated in the depths of our activities, but
radiating upwards even like our vague, organic sense of comfort and
discomfort; and permeating, even like our obscure relations with
atmospheric conditions, into our highest and clearest consciousness,
colouring and altering the whole groundwork of our thoughts and
feelings.

Such is the primordial, and, in a sense, the cosmic power of the
Beautiful; a power whose very growth, whose constantly more complex
nature proclaims its necessary and beneficial action in human
evolution. It is the power of making human beings live, for the
moment, in a more organically vigorous and harmonious fashion, as
mountain air or sea-wind makes them live; but with the difference that
it is not merely the bodily, but very essentially the spiritual life,
the life of thought and emotion, which is thus raised to unusual
harmony and vigour. I may illustrate this matter by a very individual
instance, which will bring to the memory of each of my readers the
vivifying power of some beautiful sight or sound or beautiful
description. I was seated working by my window, depressed by the
London outlook of narrow grey sky, endless grey roofs, and rusty elm
tops, when I became conscious of a certain increase of vitality,
almost as if I had drunk a glass of wine, because a band somewhere
outside had begun to play. After various indifferent pieces, it began
a tune, by Handel or in Handel's style, of which I have never known
the name, calling it for myself the _Te Deum_ Tune. And then it seemed
as if my soul, and according to the sensations, in a certain degree my
body even, were caught up on those notes, and were striking out as if
swimming in a great breezy sea; or as if it had put forth wings and
risen into a great free space of air. And, noticing my feelings, I
seemed to be conscious that those notes were being played _on me_, my
fibres becoming the strings; so that as the notes moved and soared and
swelled and radiated like stars and suns, I also, being identified
with the sound, having become apparently the sound itself, must needs
move and soar with them.

We can all recollect a dozen instances when architecture, music,
painting, or some sudden sight of sea or mountain, have thus affected
us; and all poetry, particularly all great lyric poetry, Goethe's,
Shelley's, Wordsworth's, and, above all, Browning's, is full of the
record of such experience.

I have said that the difference between this æsthetic heightening of
our vitality (and this that I have been describing is, I pray you to
observe, the æsthetic phenomenon _par excellence_), and such other
heightening of vitality as we experience from going into fresh air and
sunshine or taking fortifying food, the difference between the
æsthetic and the mere physiological pleasurable excitement consists
herein, that in the case of beauty, it is not merely our physical but
our spiritual life which is suddenly rendered more vigorous. We do not
merely breathe better and digest better, though that is no small
gain, but we seem to understand better. Under the vitalising touch of
the Beautiful, our consciousness seems filled with the affirmation of
what life is, what is worth being, what among our many thoughts and
acts and feelings are real and organic and important, what among the
many possible moods is the real, eternal _ourself_.

Such are the great forces of Nature gathered up in what we call the
_æsthetic phenomenon_, and it is these forces of Nature which, stolen
from heaven by the man of genius or the nation of genius, and welded
together in music, or architecture, in the arts of visible design or
of written thoughts, give to the great work of art its power to
quicken the life of our soul.


VII.

I hope I have been able to indicate how, by its essential nature, by
the primordial power it embodies, all Beauty, and particularly Beauty
in art, tends to fortify and refine the spiritual life of the
individual.

But this is only half of the question, for, in order to get the full
benefit of beautiful things and beautiful thoughts, to obtain in the
highest potency those potent æsthetic emotions, the individual must
undergo a course of self-training, of self-initiation, which in its
turn elicits and improves some of the highest qualities of his soul.
Nay, as every great writer on art has felt, from Plato to Ruskin, but
none has expressed as clearly as Mr. Pater, in all true æsthetic
training there must needs enter an ethical element, almost an ascetic
one.

The greatest art bestows pleasure just in proportion as people are
capable of buying that pleasure at the price of attention,
intelligence, and reverent sympathy. For great art is such as is
richly endowed, full of variety, subtlety, and suggestiveness; full of
delightfulness enough for a lifetime, the lifetime of generations and
generations of men; great art is to its true lovers like Cleopatra to
Antony--"age cannot wither it, nor custom stale its infinite variety."
Indeed, when it is the greatest art of all, the art produced by the
marvellous artist, the most gifted race, and the longest centuries, we
find ourselves in presence of something which, like Nature itself,
contains more beauty, suggests more thought, works more miracles than
anyone of us has faculties to appreciate fully. So that, in some of
Titian's pictures and Michael Angelo's frescoes, the great Greek
sculptures, certain cantos of Dante and plays of Shakespeare, fugues
of Bach, scenes of Mozart and quartets of Beethoven, we can each of
us, looking our closest, feeling our uttermost, see and feel perhaps
but a trifling portion of what there is to be seen and felt, leaving
other sides, other perfections, to be appreciated by our neighbours.
Till it comes to pass that we find different persons very differently
delighted by the same masterpiece, and accounting most discrepantly
for their delight in it.

Now such pleasure as this requires not merely a vast amount of
activity on our part, since all pleasure, even the lowest, is the
expression of an activity; it requires a vast amount of attention, of
intelligence, of what, in races or in individuals, means special
training.


VIII.

There is a sad confusion in men's minds on the very essential subject
of pleasure. We tend, most of us, to oppose the idea of pleasure to
the idea of work, effort, strenuousness, patience; and, therefore,
recognise as pleasures only those which cost none of these things, or
as little as possible; pleasures which, instead of being produced
through our will and act, impose themselves upon us from outside. In
all art--for art stands halfway between the sensual and emotional
experiences and the experiences of the mere reasoning intellect--in
all art there is necessarily an element which thus imposes itself upon
us from without, an element which takes and catches us: colour,
strangeness of outline, sentimental or terrible quality, rhythm
exciting the muscles, or clang which tickles the ear. But the art
which thus takes and catches our attention the most easily, asking
nothing in return, or next to nothing, is also the poorest art: the
oleograph, the pretty woman in the fashion plate, the caricature, the
representation of some domestic or harrowing scene, children being put
to bed, babes in the wood, railway accidents, etc.; or again, dance or
march music, and the equivalents of all this in verse. It catches your
attention, instead of your attention conquering it; but it speedily
ceases to interest, gives you nothing more, cloys, or comes to a dead
stop. It resembles thus far mere sensual pleasure, a savoury dish, a
glass of good wine, an excellent cigar, a warm bed, which impose
themselves on the nerves without expenditure of attention; with the
result, of course, that little or nothing remains, a sensual
impression dying, so to speak, childless, a barren, disconnected
thing, without place in the memory, unmarried as it is to the memory's
clients, thought and human feeling.

If so many people prefer poor art to great, 'tis because they refuse
to give, through inability or unwillingness, as much of their soul
as great art requires for its enjoyment. And it is noticeable that
busy men, coming to art for pleasure when they are too weary for
looking, listening, or thinking, so often prefer the sensation-novel,
the music-hall song, and such painting as is but a costlier kind of
oleograph; treating all other art as humbug, and art in general as a
trifle wherewith to wile away a lazy moment, a trifle about which
every man _can know what he likes best_.

Thus it is that great art makes, by coincidence, the same demands as
noble thinking and acting. For, even as all noble sports develop
muscle, develop eye, skill, quickness and pluck in bodily movement,
qualities which are valuable also in the practical business of life;
so also the appreciation of noble kinds of art implies the acquisition
of habits of accuracy, of patience, of respectfulness, and suspension
of judgment, of preference of future good over present, of harmony and
clearness, of sympathy (when we come to literary art), judgment and
kindly fairness, which are all of them useful to our neighbours and
ourselves in the many contingencies and obscurities of real life. Now
this is not so with the pleasures of the senses: the pleasures of the
senses do not increase by sharing, and sometimes cannot be shared at
all; they are, moreover, evanescent, leaving us no richer; above all,
they cultivate in ourselves qualities useful only for that particular
enjoyment. Thus, a highly discriminating palate may have saved the
life of animals and savages, but what can its subtleness do nowadays
beyond making us into gormandisers and winebibbers, or, at best, into
cooks and tasters for the service of gormandising and winebibbing
persons?


IX.

Delight in beautiful things and in beautiful thoughts requires,
therefore, a considerable exercise of the will and the attention, such
as is not demanded by our lower enjoyments. Indeed, it is probably
this absence of moral and intellectual effort which recommends such
lower kinds of pleasure to a large number of persons. I have said
lower _kinds_ of pleasure, because there are other enjoyments besides
those of the senses which entail no moral improvement in ourselves:
the enjoyments connected with vanity and greed. We should not--even if
any of us could be sure of being impeccable on these points--we should
not be too hard on the persons and the classes of persons who are
conscious of no other kind of enjoyment. They are not necessarily
base, not necessarily sensual or vain, because they care only for
bodily indulgence, for notice and gain. They are very likely not base,
but only apathetic, slothful, or very tired. The noble sport, the
intellectual problem, the great work of art, the divinely beautiful
effect in Nature, require that one should _give oneself_; the
French-cooked dinner as much as the pot of beer; the game of chance,
whether with clean cards at a club or with greasy ones in a tap-room;
the outdoing of one's neighbours, whether by the ragged heroes of Zola
or the well-groomed heroes of Balzac, require no such coming forward
of the soul: they _take_ us, without any need for our giving
ourselves. Hence, as I have just said, the preference for them does
not imply original baseness, but only lack of higher energy. We can
judge of the condition of those who can taste no other pleasures by
remembering what the best of us are when we are tired or ill: vaguely
craving for interests, sensations, emotions, variety, but quite unable
to procure them through our own effort, and longing for them to come
to us from without. Now, in our still very badly organised world, an
enormous number of people are condemned by the tyranny of poverty or
the tyranny of fashion, to be, when the day's work or the day's
business is done, in just such a condition of fatigue and languor, of
craving, therefore, for the baser kinds of pleasure. We all recognise
that this is the case with what we call _poor people_, and that this
is why poor people are apt to prefer the public-house to the picture
gallery or the concert-room. It would be greatly to the purpose were
we to acknowledge that it is largely the case with the rich, and that
for that reason the rich are apt to take more pleasure in ostentatious
display of their properties than in contemplation of such beauty as is
accessible to all men. Indeed, it is one of the ironies of the
barbarous condition we are pleased to call _civilisation_, that so
many rich men--thousands daily--are systematically toiling and moiling
till they are unable to enjoy any pleasure which requires vigour of
mind and attention, rendering themselves impotent, from sheer fatigue,
to enjoy the delights which life gives generously to all those who
fervently seek them. And what for? Largely for the sake of those
pleasures which can be had only for money, but which can be enjoyed
without using one's soul.


X.

[PARENTHETICAL]

"And these, you see," I said, "are bay-trees, the laurels they used
the leaves of to ..."

I was going to say "to crown poets," but I left my sentence in
mid-air, because of course he knew that as well as I.

"Precisely," he answered with intelligent interest--"I have noticed
that the leaves are sometimes put in sardine boxes."

Soon after this conversation I discovered the curious circumstance
that one of the greatest of peoples and perhaps the most favoured by
Apollo, calls Laurus Nobilis "Laurier-Sauce." The name is French; the
symbol, alas, of universal application.

This paragraph X. had been intended to deal with "Art as it is
understood by persons of fashion and eminent men of business."


XI.

Thus it is that real æsthetic keenness--and æsthetic keenness, as I
shall show you in my next chapter, means appreciating beauty, not
collecting beautiful properties--thus it is that all æsthetic keenness
implies a development of the qualities of patience, attention,
reverence, and of that vigour of soul which is not called forth, but
rather impaired, by the coarser enjoyments of the senses and of
vanity. So far, therefore, we have seen that the capacity for æsthetic
pleasure is allied to a certain nobility in the individual. I think I
can show that the preference for æsthetic pleasure tends also to a
happier relation between the individual and his fellows.

But the cultivation of our æsthetic pleasures does not merely
necessitate our improvement in certain very essential moral qualities.
It implies as much, in a way, as the cultivation of the intellect and
the sympathies, that we should live chiefly in the spirit, in which
alone, as philosophers and mystics have rightly understood, there is
safety from the worst miseries and room for the most complete
happiness. Only, we shall learn from the study of our æsthetic
pleasures that while the stoics and mystics have been right in
affirming that the spirit only can give the highest good, they have
been fatally wrong in the reason they gave for their preference. And
we may learn from our æsthetic experiences that the spirit is useful,
not in detaching us from the enjoyable things of life, but, on the
contrary, in giving us their consummate possession. The spirit--one of
whose most precious capacities is that it enables us to print off all
outside things on to ourselves, to store moods and emotions, to
recombine and reinforce past impressions into present ones--the spirit
puts pleasure more into our own keeping, making it more independent of
time and place, of circumstances, and, what is equally important,
independent of other people's strivings after pleasure, by which our
own, while they clash and hamper, are so often impeded.


XII.

For our intimate commerce with beautiful things and beautiful thoughts
does not exist only, or even chiefly, at the moment of seeing, or
hearing, or reading; nay, if the beautiful touched us only at such
separate and special moments, the beautiful would play but an
insignificant part in our existence.

As a fact, those moments represent very often only the act of
_storage_, or not much more. Our real æsthetic life is in ourselves,
often isolated from the beautiful words, objects, or sounds; sometimes
almost unconscious; permeating the whole rest of life in certain
highly æsthetic individuals, and, however mixed with other activities,
as constant as the life of the intellect and sympathies; nay, as
constant as the life of assimilation and motion. We can live off a
beautiful object, we can live by its means, even when its visible or
audible image is partially, nay, sometimes wholly, obliterated; for
the emotional condition can survive the image and be awakened at the
mere name, awakened sufficiently to heighten the emotion caused by
other images of beauty. We can sometimes feel, so to speak, the
spiritual companionship and comfort of a work of art, or of a scene in
nature, nay, almost its particular caress to our whole being, when the
work of art or the scene has grown faint in our memory, but the
emotion it awakened has kept warm.

Now this possibility of storing for later use, of increasing by
combination, the impressions of beautiful things, makes art--and by
art I mean all æsthetic activity, whether in the professed artist who
creates or the unconscious artist who assimilates--the type of such
pleasures as are within our own keeping, and makes the æsthetic life
typical also of that life of the spirit in which alone we can realise
any kind of human freedom. We shall all of us meet with examples
thereof if we seek through our consciousness. That such things
existed was made clear to me during a weary period of illness, for
which I shall always be grateful, since it taught me, in those months
of incapacity for enjoyment, that there is a safe kind of pleasure,
_the pleasure we can defer_. I spent part of that time at Tangier,
surrounded by everything which could delight me, and in none of which
I took any real delight. I did not enjoy Tangier at the time, but I
have enjoyed Tangier ever since, on the principle of the bee eating
its honey months after making it. The reality of Tangier, I mean the
reality of my presence there, and the state of my nerves, were not in
the relation of enjoyment. But how often has not the image of Tangier,
the remembrance of what I saw and did there, returned and haunted me
in the most enjoyable fashion.

After all, is it not often the case with pictures, statues, journeys,
and the reading of books? The weariness entailed, the mere continuity
of looking or attending, quite apart from tiresome accompanying
circumstances, make the apparently real act, what we expect to be the
act of enjoyment, quite illusory; like Coleridge, "we see, not _feel_,
how beautiful things are." Later on, all odious accompanying
circumstances are utterly forgotten, eliminated, and the weariness is
gone: we enjoy not merely unhampered by accidents, but in the very way
our heart desires. For we can choose--our mood unconsciously does it
for us--the right moment and right accessories for consuming some of
our stored delights; moreover, we can add what condiments and make
what mixtures suit us best at that moment. We draw not merely upon one
past reality, making its essentials present, but upon dozens. To
revert to Tangier (whose experience first brought these possibilities
clearly before me), I find I enjoy it in connection with Venice, the
mixture having a special roundness of tone or flavour. Similarly, I
once heard Bach's _Magnificat_, with St. Mark's of Venice as a
background in my imagination. Again, certain moonlight songs of
Schumann have blended wonderfully with remembrances of old Italian
villas. King Solomon, in all his ships, could not have carried the
things which I can draw, in less than a second, from one tiny
convolution of my brain, from one corner of my mind. No wizard that
ever lived had spells which could evoke such kingdoms and worlds as
anyone of us can conjure up with certain words: Greece, the Middle
Ages, Orpheus, Robin Hood, Mary Stuart, Ancient Rome, the Far East.


XIII.

And here, as fit illustration of these beneficent powers, which can
free us from a life where we stifle and raise us into a life where we
can breathe and grow, let me record my gratitude to a certain young
goat, which, on one occasion, turned what might have been a detestable
hour into a pleasant one.

The goat, or rather kid, a charming gazelle-like creature, with
budding horns and broad, hard forehead, was one of my fourteen fellow
passengers in a third-class carriage on a certain bank holiday
Saturday. Riding and standing in such crowded misery had cast a
general gloom over all the holiday makers; they seemed to have
forgotten the coming outing in sullen hatred of all their neighbours;
and I confess that I too began to wonder whether Bank Holiday was an
altogether delightful institution. But the goat had no such doubts.
Leaning against the boy who was taking it holiday-making, it tried
very gently to climb and butt, and to play with its sulky fellow
travellers. And as it did so it seemed to radiate a sort of poetry on
everything: vague impressions of rocks, woods, hedges, the Alps,
Italy, and Greece; mythology, of course, and that amusement of "jouer
avec des chèvres apprivoisées," which that great charmer M. Renan has
attributed to his charming Greek people. Now, as I realised the joy of
the goat on finding itself among the beech woods and short grass of
the Hertfordshire hills, I began also to see my other fellow
travellers no longer as surly people resenting each other's presence,
but as happy human beings admitted once more to the pleasant things of
life. The goat had quite put me in conceit with bank holiday. When it
got out of the train at Berkhampstead, the emptier carriage seemed
suddenly more crowded, and my fellow travellers more discontented. But
I remained quite pleased, and when I had alighted, found that instead
of a horrible journey, I could remember only a rather exquisite little
adventure. That beneficent goat had acted as Pegasus; and on its small
back my spirit had ridden to the places it loves.

In this fashion does the true æsthete tend to prefer, even like the
austerest moralist, the delights which, being of the spirit, are most
independent of circumstances and most in the individual's own keeping.


XIV.

It was Mr. Pater who first pointed out how the habit of æsthetic
enjoyment makes the epicurean into an ascetic. He builds as little as
possible on the things of the senses and the moment, knowing how
little, in comparison, we have either in our power. For, even if the
desired object, person, or circumstance comes, how often does it not
come at the wrong hour! In this world, which mankind fits still so
badly, the wish and its fulfilling are rarely in unison, rarely in
harmony, but follow each other, most often, like vibrations of
different instruments, at intervals which can only jar. The _n'est-ce
que cela_, the inability to enjoy, of successful ambition and
favoured, passionate love, is famous; and short of love even and
ambition, we all know the flatness of long-desired pleasures. King
Solomon, who had not been enough of an ascetic, as we all know, and
therefore ended off in cynicism, knew that there is not only satiety
as a result of enjoyment; but a sort of satiety also, an absence of
keenness, an incapacity for caring, due to the deferring of enjoyment.
He doubtless knew, among other items of vanity, that our wishes are
often fulfilled without our even knowing it, so indifferent have we
become through long waiting, or so changed in our wants.


XV.

There is another reason for such ascetism as was taught in _Marius the
Epicurean_ and in Pater's book on Plato: the modest certainty of all
pleasure derived from the beautiful will accustom the perfect æsthete
to seek for the like in other branches of activity. Accustomed to the
happiness which is in his own keeping, he will view with suspicion all
craving for satisfactions which are beyond his control. He will not
ask to be given the moon, and he will not even wish to be given it,
lest the wish should grow into a want; he will make the best of
candles and glowworms and of distant heavenly luminaries. Moreover,
being accustomed to enjoy the mere sight of things as much as other
folk do their possession, he will probably actually prefer that the
moon should be hanging in the heavens, and not on his staircase.

Again, having experience of the æsthetic pleasures which involve, in
what Milton called their sober waking bliss, no wear and tear, no
reaction of satiety, he will not care much for the more rapturous
pleasures of passion and success, which always cost as much as they
are worth. He will be unwilling to run into such debt with his own
feelings, having learned from æsthetic pleasure that there are
activities of the soul which, instead of impoverishing, enrich it.

Thus does the commerce with beautiful things and beautiful thoughts
tend to develop in us that healthy kind of asceticism so requisite to
every workable scheme of greater happiness for the individual and the
plurality: self-restraint, choice of aims, consistent and
thorough-paced subordination of the lesser interest to the greater;
above all, what sums up asceticism as an efficacious means towards
happiness, preference of the spiritual, the unconditional, the
durable, instead of the temporal, the uncertain, and the fleeting.

The intimate and continuous intercourse with the Beautiful teaches us,
therefore, the renunciation of the unnecessary for the sake of the
possible. It teaches asceticism leading not to indifference and
Nervana, but to higher complexities of vitalisation, to a more
complete and harmonious rhythm of individual existence.


XVI.

Art can thus train the soul because art is free; or, more strictly
speaking, because art is the only complete expression, the only
consistent realisation of our freedom. In other parts of our life,
business, affection, passion, pursuit of utility, glory or truth, we
are for ever _conditioned_. We are twisting perpetually, perpetually
stopped short and deflected, picking our way among the visible and
barely visible habits, interests, desires, shortcomings, of others and
of that portion of ourselves which, in the light of that particular
moment and circumstance, seems to be foreign to us, to be another's.
We can no more follow the straight line of our wishes than can the
passenger in Venice among those labyrinthine streets, whose
everlasting, unexpected bends are due to canals which the streets
themselves prevent his seeing. Moreover, in those gropings among
looming or unseen obstacles, we are pulled hither and thither, checked
and misled by the recurring doubt as to which, of these thwarted and
yielding selves, may be the chief and real one, and which, of the goals
we are never allowed finally to touch, is the goal we spontaneously
tend to.

Now it is different in the case of Art, and of all those æsthetic
activities, often personal and private, which are connected with Art
and may be grouped together under Art's name. Art exists to please,
and, when left to ourselves, we feel in what our pleasure lies. Art is
a free, most open and visible space, where we disport ourselves
freely. Indeed, it has long been remarked (the poet Schiller working
out the theory) that, as there is in man's nature a longing for mere
unconditioned exercise, one of Art's chief missions is to give us free
scope to be ourselves. If therefore Art is the playground where each
individual, each nation or each century, not merely toils, but
untrammelled by momentary passion, unhampered by outer cares, freely
exists and feels itself, then Art may surely become the training-place
of our soul. Art may teach us how to employ our liberty, how to select
our wishes: employ our liberty so as to respect that of others; select
our wishes in such a manner as to further the wishes of our
fellow-creatures.

For there are various, and variously good or evil ways of following
our instincts, fulfilling our desires, in short, of being independent
of outer circumstances; in other words, there are worthy and worthless
ways of using our leisure and our surplus energy, of seeking our
pleasure. And Art--Art and all Art here stands for--can train us to do
so without injuring others, without wasting the material and spiritual
riches of the world. Art can train us to delight in the higher
harmonies of existence; train us to open our eyes, ears and souls,
instead of shutting them, to the wider modes of universal life.

In such manner, to resume our symbol of the bay laurel which the
road-mender stuck on to the front of that tramcar, can our love for
the beautiful avert, like the plant of Apollo, many of the storms, and
cure many of the fevers, of life.



"NISI CITHARAM."


I.

It is well that this second chapter--in which I propose to show how a
genuine æsthetic development tends to render the individual more
useful, or at least less harmful, to his fellow-men--should begin,
like the first, with a symbol, such as may sum up my meaning, and
point it out in the process of my expounding it. The symbol is
contained in the saying of the Abbot Joachim of Flora, one of the
great precursors of St. Francis, to wit: "He that is a true monk
considers nothing his own except a lyre--_nihil reputat esse suum nisi
citharam_." Yes; nothing except a lyre.


II.

But that lyre, our only real possession, is our _Soul_. It must be
shaped, and strung, and kept carefully in tune; no easy matter in
surroundings little suited to delicate instruments and delicate music.
Possessing it, we possess, in the only true sense of possession, the
whole world. For going along our way, whether rough or even, there are
formed within us, singing the beauty and wonder of _what is_ or _what
should_ be, mysterious sequences and harmonies of notes, new every
time, answering to the primæval everlasting affinities between
ourselves and all things; our souls becoming musical under the touch
of the universe.

Let us bear this in mind, this symbol of the lyre which Abbot Joachim
allowed as sole property to the man of spiritual life. And let us
remember that, as I tried to show in my previous chapter, the true
Lover of the Beautiful, active, self-restrained, and indifferent to
lower pleasures and interests, is in one sense your man of real
spiritual life. For the symbol of Abbot Joachim's lyre will make it
easier to follow my meaning, and easier to forestall it, while I try
to convince you that art, and all æsthetic activity, is important as a
type of the only kind of pleasure which reasonable beings should admit
of, the kind of pleasure which tends not to diminish by wastefulness
and exclusive appropriation, but to increase by sympathy, the possible
pleasures of other persons.


III.

'Tis no excessive puritanism to say that while pleasure, in the
abstract, is a great, perhaps the greatest, good; pleasures, our
actual pleasures in the concrete, are very often evil.

Many of the pleasures which we allow ourselves, and which all the
world admits our right to, happen to be such as waste wealth and time,
make light of the advantage of others, and of the good of our own
souls. This fact does not imply either original sinfulness or
degeneracy--religious and scientific terms for the same thing--in poor
mankind. It means merely that we are all of us as yet very undeveloped
creatures; the majority, moreover, less developed than the minority,
and the bulk of each individual's nature very much in the rear of his
own aspirations and definitions. Mankind, in the process of adapting
itself to external circumstances, has perforce evolved a certain
amount of intellectual and moral quality; but that intellectual and
moral quality is, so far, merely a means for rendering material
existence endurable; it will have to become itself the origin and aim
of what we must call a spiritual side of life. In the meanwhile, human
beings do not get any large proportion of their enjoyment from what
they admit to be their nobler side.

Hence it is that even when you have got rid of the mere struggle for
existence--fed, clothed, and housed your civilised savage, and secured
food, clothes, and shelter for his brood--you have by no means
provided against his destructive, pain-giving activities. He has spare
time and energy; and these he will devote, ten to one, to recreations
involving, at the best, the slaughter of harmless creatures; at the
worst, to the wasting of valuable substance, of what might be other
people's food; or else to the hurting of other people's feelings in
various games of chance or skill, particularly in the great skilled
game of brag called "Society."

Our gentlemanly ancestors, indeed, could not amuse themselves without
emptying a certain number of bottles and passing some hours under the
table; while our nimble-witted French neighbours, we are told,
included in their expenditure on convivial amusements a curious item
called _la casse_, to wit, the smashing of plates and glasses. The
Spaniards, on the other hand, have bull-fights, most shocking
spectacles, as we know, for we make it a point to witness them when
we are over there. Undoubtedly we have immensely improved in such
matters, but we need a great deal of further improvement. Most people
are safe only when at work, and become mischievous when they begin to
play. They do not know how to _kill time_ (for that is the way in
which we poor mortals regard life) without incidentally killing
something else: proximately birds and beasts, and their neighbours'
good fame; more remotely, but as surely, the constitution of their
descendants, and the possible wages of the working classes.

It is quite marvellous how little aptness there is in the existing
human being for taking pleasure either in what already exists ready to
hand, or in the making of something which had better be there; in what
can be enjoyed without diminishing the enjoyment of others, as nature,
books, art, thought, and the better qualities of one's neighbours. In
fact, one reason why there is something so morally pleasant in cricket
and football and rowing and riding and dancing, is surely that they
furnish on the physical plane the counterpart of what is so sadly
lacking on the spiritual: amusements which do good to the individual
and no harm to his fellows.

Of course, in our state neither of original sinfulness nor of
degeneracy, but of very imperfect development, it is still useless and
absurd to tell people to make use of intellectual and moral resources
which they have not yet got. It is as vain to preach to the majority
of the well-to-do the duty of abstinence from wastefulness, rivalry,
and ostentation as it is vain to preach to the majority of the
badly-off abstinence from alcohol; without such pleasures their life
would be unendurably insipid.

But inevitable as is such evil in the present, it inevitably brings
its contingent of wretchedness; and it is therefore the business of
all such as _could_ become the forerunners of a better state of things
to refuse to follow the lead of their inferiors. Exactly because the
majority is still so hopelessly wasteful and mischievous, does it
behove the minority not merely to work to some profit, but to play
without damage. To do this should become the mark of Nature's
aristocracy, a sign of liberality of spiritual birth and breeding, a
question of _noblesse oblige_.


IV.

And here comes in the immense importance of Art as a type of pleasure:
of Art in the sense of æsthetic appreciation even more than of
æsthetic creation; of Art considered as the extracting and combining
of beauty in the mind of the obscure layman quite as much as the
embodiment of such extracted and combined beauty in the visible or
audible work of the great artist.

For experience of true æsthetic activity must teach us, in proportion
as it is genuine and ample, that the enjoyment of the beautiful is not
merely independent of, but actually incompatible with, that tendency
to buy our satisfaction at the expense of others which remains more or
less in all of us as a survival from savagery. The reasons why genuine
æsthetic feeling inhibits these obsolescent instincts of rapacity and
ruthlessness, are reasons negative and positive, and may be roughly
divided into three headings. Only one of them is generally admitted to
exist, and of it, therefore, I shall speak very briefly, I mean the
fact that the enjoyment of beautiful things is originally and
intrinsically one of those which are heightened by sharing. We know it
instinctively when, as children, we drag our comrades and elders to
the window when a regiment passes or a circus parades by; we learn it
more and more as we advance in life, and find that we must get other
people to see the pictures, to hear the music, to read the books which
we admire. It is a case of what psychologists call the _contagion of
emotion_, by which the feeling of one individual is strengthened by
the expression of similar feeling in his neighbour, and is explicable,
most likely, by the fact that the greatest effort is always required
to overcome original inertness, and that two efforts, like two horses
starting a carriage instead of one, combined give more than double the
value of each taken separately. The fact of this æsthetic sociability
is so obvious that we need not discuss it any further, but merely hold
it over to add, at last, to the result of the two other reasons,
negative and positive, which tend to make æsthetic enjoyment the type
of unselfish, nay, even of altruistic pleasure.


V.

The first of these reasons, the negative one, is that æsthetic
pleasure is not in the least dependent upon the fact of personal
ownership, and that it therefore affords an opportunity of leaving
inactive, of beginning to atrophy by inactivity, the passion for
exclusive possession, for individual advantage, which is at the bottom
of all bad luxury, of all ostentation, and of nearly all rapacity. But
before entering on this discussion I would beg my reader to call to
mind that curious saying of Abbot Joachim's; and to consider that I
wish to prove that, like his true monk, the true æsthete, who nowadays
loves and praises creation much as the true monk did in former
centuries, can really possess as sole personal possession only a
musical instrument--to wit, his own well-strung and resonant soul.
Having said this, we will proceed to the question of Luxury, by which
I mean the possession of such things as minister only to weakness and
vanity, of such things as we cannot reasonably hope that all men may
some day equally possess.

When we are young--and most of us remain mere withered children, never
attaining maturity, in similar matters--we are usually attracted by
luxury and luxurious living. We are possessed by that youthful
instinct of union, fusion, marriage, so to speak, with what our soul
desires; we hanker after close contact and complete possession; and we
fancy, in our inexperience, that luxury, the accumulation of
valuables, the appropriation of opportunities, the fact of rejecting
from our life all that is not costly, brilliant, and dainty, implies
such fusion of our soul with beauty.

But, as we reach maturity, we find that this is all delusion. We
learn, from the experience of occasions when our soul has truly
possessed the beautiful, or been possessed by it, that if such union
with the harmony of outer things is rare, perhaps impossible, among
squalor and weariness, it is difficult and anomalous in the condition
which we entitle luxury.

We learn that our assimilation of beauty, and that momentary renewal
of our soul which it effects, rarely arises from our own ownership;
but comes, taking us by surprise, in presence of hills, streams,
memories of pictures, poets' words, and strains of music, which are
not, and cannot be, our property. The essential character of beauty is
its being a relation between ourselves and certain objects. The
emotion to which we attach its name is produced, motived by something
outside us, pictures, music, landscape, or whatever it may be; but the
emotion resides in us, and it is the emotion, and not merely its
object, which we desire. Hence material possession has no æsthetic
meaning. We possess a beautiful object with our soul; the possession
thereof with our hands or our legal rights brings us no nearer the
beauty. Ownership, in this sense, may empower us to destroy or hide
the object and thus cheat others of the possession of its beauty, but
does not help _us_ to possess that beauty. It is with beauty as with
that singer who answered Catherine II., "Your Majesty's policemen can
make me _scream_, but they cannot make me _sing_;" and she might have
added, for my parallel, "Your policemen, great Empress, even could
they make _me_ sing, would not be able to make _you_ hear."


VI.

Hence all strong æsthetic feeling will always prefer ownership of the
mental image to ownership of the tangible object. And any desire for
material appropriation or exclusive enjoyment will be merely so much
weakening and adulteration of the æsthetic sentiment. Since the mental
image, the only thing æsthetically possessed, is in no way diminished
or damaged by sharing; nay, we have seen that by one of the most
gracious coincidences between beauty and kindliness, the æsthetic
emotion is even intensified by the knowledge of co-existence in
others: the delight in each person communicating itself, like a
musical third, fifth, or octave, to the similar yet different delight
in his neighbour, harmonic enriching harmonic by stimulating fresh
vibration.

If, then, we wish to possess casts, copies, or photographs of certain
works of art, this is, æsthetically considered, exactly as we wish to
have the means--railway tickets, permissions for galleries, and so
forth--of seeing certain pictures or statues as often as we wish. For
we feel that the images in our mind require renewing, or that, in
combination with other more recently acquired images, they will, if
renewed, yield a new kind of delight. But this is quite another matter
from wishing to own the material object, the thing we call _work of
art itself_, forgetting that it is a work of art only for the soul
capable of instating it as such.

Thus, in every person who truly cares for beauty, there is a necessary
tendency to replace the illusory legal act of ownership by the real
spiritual act of appreciation. Charles Lamb already expressed this
delightfully in the essay on the old manor-house. Compared with his
possession of its beauties, its walks, tapestried walls and family
portraits, nay, even of the ghosts of former proprietors, the
possession by the legal owner was utterly nugatory, unreal:

    "Mine too, Blakesmoor, was thy noble Marble Hall, with its mosaic
    pavements, and its twelve Cæsars;... mine, too, thy lofty Justice
    Hall, with its one chair of authority.... Mine, too--whose
    else?--thy costly fruit-garden ... thy ampler pleasure-garden ...
    thy firry wilderness.... I was the true descendant of those old
    W----'s, and not the present family of that name, who had fled the
    old waste places."

How often have not some of us felt like that; and how much might not
those of us who never have, learn, could they learn, from those words
of Elia?


VII.

I have spoken of _material, actual_ possession. But if we look closer
at it we shall see that, save with regard to the things which are
actually consumed, destroyed, disintegrated, changed to something else
in their enjoyment, the notion of ordinary possession is a mere
delusion. It can be got only by a constant obtrusion of a mere idea,
the _idea of self_, and of such unsatisfactory ideas as one's right,
for instance, to exclude others. 'Tis like the tension of a muscle,
this constant keeping the consciousness aware by repeating
"Mine--mine--_mine_ and not _theirs_; not _theirs_, but _mine_." And
this wearisome act of self-assertion leaves little power for
appreciation, for the appreciation which others can have quite
equally, and without which there is no reality at all in ownership.

Hence, the deeper our enjoyment of beauty, the freer shall we become
of the dreadful delusion of exclusive appropriation, despising such
unreal possession in proportion as we have tasted the real one. We
shall know the two kinds of ownership too well apart to let ourselves
be cozened into cumbering our lives with material properties and their
responsibilities. We shall save up our vigour, not for obtaining and
keeping (think of the thousand efforts and cares of ownership, even
the most negative) the things which yield happy impressions, but for
receiving and storing up and making capital of those impressions. We
shall seek to furnish our mind with beautiful thoughts, not our houses
with pretty things.


VIII.

I hope I have made clear enough that æsthetic enjoyment is hostile to
the unkind and wasteful pleasures of selfish indulgence and selfish
appropriation, because the true possession of the beautiful things of
Nature, of Art, and of thought is spiritual, and neither damages, nor
diminishes, nor hoards them; because the lover of the beautiful seeks
for beautiful impressions and remembrances, which are vested in his
soul, and not in material objects. That is the negative benefit of the
love of the beautiful. Let us now proceed to the positive and active
assistance which it renders, when genuine and thorough-paced, to such
thought as we give to the happiness and dignity of others.


IX.

I have said that our pleasure in the beautiful is essentially a
spiritual phenomenon, one, I mean, which deals with our own
perceptions and emotions, altering the contents of our mind, while
leaving the beautiful object itself intact and unaltered. This being
the case, it is easy to understand that our æsthetic pleasure will be
complete and extensive in proportion to the amount of activity of our
soul; for, remember, all pleasure is proportionate to activity, and,
as I said in my first chapter, great beauty does not merely _take us_,
but _we_ must give _ourselves to it_. Hence, an increase in the
capacity for æsthetic pleasure will mean, _cæeteris paribus_, an
increase in a portion of our spiritual activity, a greater readiness
to take small hints, to connect different items, to reject the lesser
good for the greater. Moreover, a great, perhaps the greater, part of
our æsthetic pleasure is due, as I also told you before, to the
storing of impressions in our mind, and to the combining of them there
with other impressions. Indeed, it is for this reason that I have made
no difference, save in intensity between æsthetic creation, so called,
and æsthetic appreciation; telling you, on the contrary, that the
artistic layman creates, produces something new and personal, only in
a less degree than the professed artist.

For the æsthetic life does not consist merely in the perception of the
beautiful object, not merely in the emotion of that spiritual contact
between the beautiful product of art or of nature and the soul of the
appreciator: it is continued in the emotions and images and thoughts
which are awakened by that perception; and the æsthetic life _is_
life, is something continuous and organic, just because new forms,
however obscure and evanescent, are continually born, in their turn
continually to give birth, of that marriage between the beautiful
thing outside and the beautiful soul within.

Hence, full æsthetic life means the creating and extending of ever new
harmonies in the mind of the layman, the unconscious artist who merely
enjoys, as a result of the creating and extending of new harmonies in
the work of the professed artist who consciously creates. This being
the case, the true æsthete is for ever seeking to reduce his
impressions and thoughts to harmony; and is for ever, accordingly,
being pleased with some of them, and disgusted with others.


X.

The desire for beauty and harmony, therefore, in proportion as it
becomes active and sensitive, explores into every detail, establishes
comparisons between everything, judges, approves, and disapproves; and
makes terrible and wholesome havoc not merely in our surroundings, but
in our habits and in our lives. And very soon the mere thought of
something ugly becomes enough to outweigh the actual presence of
something beautiful. I was told last winter at San Remo, that the
scent of the Parma violet can be distilled only by the oil of the
flower being passed through a layer of pork fat; and since that
revelation violet essence has lost much of the charm it possessed for
me: the thought of the suet counterbalanced the reality of the
perfume.

Now this violet essence, thus obtained, is symbolic of many of the
apparently refined enjoyments of our life. We shall find that luxury
and pomp, delightful sometimes in themselves, are distilled through a
layer of coarse and repulsive labour by other folk; and the thought of
the pork suet will spoil the smell of the violets. For the more dishes
we have for dinner, the greater number of cooking-pots will have to be
cleaned; the more carriages and horses we use, the more washing and
grooming will result; the more crowded our rooms with furniture and
nicknacks, the more dust will have to be removed; the more numerous
and delicate our clothes, the more brushing and folding there will
be; and the more purely ornamental our own existence, the less
ornamental will be that of others.

There is a _pensée_ of Pascal's to the effect that a fop carries on
his person the evidence of the existence of so many people devoted to
his service. This thought may be delightful to a fop; but it is not
pleasant to a mind sensitive to beauty and hating the bare thought of
ugliness: for while vanity takes pleasure in lack of harmony between
oneself and one's neighbour, æsthetic feeling takes pleasure only in
harmonious relations. The thought of the servile lives devoted to make
our life more beautiful counterbalances the pleasure of the beauty;
'tis the eternal question of the violet essence and the pork suet. Now
the habit of beauty, the æsthetic sense, becomes, as I said, more and
more sensitive and vivacious; you cannot hide from it the knowledge of
every sort of detail, you cannot prevent its noticing the ugly side,
the ugly lining of certain pretty things. 'Tis a but weak and sleepy
kind of æstheticism which "blinks and shuts its apprehension up" at
your bidding, which looks another way discreetly, and discreetly
refrains from all comparisons. The real æsthetic activity _is_ an
activity; it is one of the strongest and most imperious powers of
human nature; it does not take orders, it only gives them. It is, when
full grown, a kind of conscience of beautiful and ugly, analogous to
the other conscience of right and wrong, and it is equally difficult
to silence. If you can silence your æsthetic faculty and bid it be
satisfied with the lesser beauty, the lesser harmony, instead of the
greater, be sure that it is a very rudimentary kind of instinct; and
that you are no more thoroughly æsthetic than if you could make your
sense of right and wrong be blind and dumb at your convenience, you
could be thoroughly moral.

Hence, the more æsthetic we become, the less we shall tolerate such
modes of living as involve dull and dirty work for others, as involve
the exclusion of others from the sort of life which we consider
æsthetically tolerable. We shall require such houses and such habits
as can be seen, and, what is inevitable in all æsthetical development,
as can also be _thought of_, in all their details. We shall require a
homogeneous impression of decorum and fitness from the lives of others
as well as from our own, from what we actually see and from what we
merely know: the imperious demand for beauty, for harmony will be
applied no longer to our mere material properties, but to that other
possession which is always with us and can never be taken from us, the
images and feelings within our soul. Now, that other human beings
should be drudging sordidly in order that we may be idle and showy
means a thought, a vision, an emotion which do not get on in our mind
in company with the sight of sunset and sea, the taste of mountain air
and woodland freshness, the faces and forms of Florentine saints and
Antique gods, the serene poignancy of great phrases of music. This is
by no means all. Developing in æsthetic sensitiveness we grow to think
of ourselves also, our own preferences, moods and attitudes, as more
or less beautiful or ugly; the inner life falling under the same
criticism as the outer one. We become aristocratic and epicurean about
our desires and habits; we grow squeamish and impatient towards
luxury, towards all kinds of monopoly and privilege on account of the
mean attitude, the graceless gesture they involve on our own part.


XI.

This feeling is increasing daily. Our deepest æsthetic emotions are,
we are beginning to recognise, connected with things which we do not,
cannot, possess in the vulgar sense. Nay, the deepest æsthetic
emotions depend, to an appreciable degree, on the very knowledge that
these things are either not such as money can purchase, or that they
are within the purchasing power of all. The sense of being shareable
by others, of being even shareable, so to speak, by other kinds of
utility, adds a very keen attraction to all beautiful things and
beautiful actions, and, of course, _vice versâ_. And things which are
beautiful, but connected with luxury and exclusive possession, come to
affect one as, in a way, _lacking harmonics_, lacking those additional
vibrations of pleasure which enrich impressions of beauty by
impressions of utility and kindliness.

Thus, after enjoying the extraordinary lovely tints--oleander pink,
silver-grey, and most delicate citron--of the plaster which covers the
commonest cottages, the humblest chapels, all round Genoa, there is
something _short and acid_ in the pleasure one derives from equally
charming colours in expensive dresses. Similarly, in Italy, much of
the charm of marble, of the sea-cave shimmer, of certain palace-yards
and churches, is due to the knowledge that this lovely, noble
substance is easy to cut and quarried in vast quantities hard by: no
wretched rarity like diamonds and rubies, which diminish by the worth
of a family's yearly keep if only the cutter cuts one hair-breadth
wrong!

Again, is not one reason why antique sculpture awakens a state of mind
where stoicism, humaneness, simplicity, seem nearer possibilities--is
not one reason that it shows us the creature in its nakedness, in such
beauty and dignity as it can get through the grace of birth only?
There is no need among the gods for garments from silken Samarkand,
for farthingales of brocade and veils of Mechlin lace like those of
the wooden Madonnas of Spanish churches; no need for the ruffles and
plumes of Pascal's young beau, showing thereby the number of his
valets. The same holds good of trees, water, mountains, and their
representation in poetry and painting; their dignity takes no account
of poverty or riches. Even the lilies of the field please us, not
because they toil not neither do they spin, but because they do not
require, while Solomon does, that other folk should toil and spin to
make them glorious.


XII.

Again, do we not prefer the books which deal with habits simpler than
our own? Do we not love the Odyssey partly because of Calypso weaving
in her cave, and Nausicaa washing the clothes with her maidens? Does
it not lend additional divinity that Christianity should have arisen
among peasants and handicraftsmen?

Nay more, do we not love certain objects largely because they are
useful; boats, nets, farm carts, ploughs; discovering therein a grace
which actually exists, but which might else have remained unsuspected?
And do we not feel a certain lack of significance and harmony of
fulness of æsthetic quality in our persons when we pass in our
idleness among people working in the fields, masons building, or
fishermen cleaning their boats and nets; whatever beauty such things
may have being enhanced by their being common and useful.

In this manner our æsthetic instinct strains vaguely after a double
change: not merely giving affluence and leisure to others, but giving
simplicity and utility to ourselves?


XIII.

And, even apart from this, does not all true æstheticism tend to
diminish labour while increasing enjoyment, because it makes the
already existing more sufficient, because it furthers the joys of the
spirit, which multiply by sharing, as distinguished from the pleasures
of vanity and greediness, which only diminish?


XIV.

You may at first feel inclined to pooh-pooh the notion that mere love
of beauty can help to bring about a better distribution of the world's
riches; and reasonably object that we cannot feed people on images and
impressions which multiply by sharing; they live on bread, and not on
the _idea_ of bread.

But has it ever struck you that, after all, the amount of material
bread--even if we extend the word to everything which is consumed for
bodily necessity and comfort--which any individual can consume is
really very small; and that the bad distribution, the shocking waste
of this material bread arises from being, so to speak, used
symbolically, used as spiritual bread, as representing those _ideas_
for which men hunger: superiority over other folk, power of having
dependants, social position, ownership, and privilege of all kinds?
For what are the bulk of worldly possessions to their owners: houses,
parks, plate, jewels, superfluous expenditure of all kinds [and armies
and navies when we come to national wastefulness]--what are all these
ill-distributed riches save _ideas_, ideas futile and ungenerous, food
for the soul, but food upon which the soul grows sick and corrupteth?

Would it not be worth while to reorganise this diet of ideas? To
reorganise that part of us which is independent of bodily sustenance
and health, which lives on spiritual commodities--the part of us
including ambition, ideal, sympathy, and all that I have called
_ideas_? Would it not be worth while to find such ideas as all people
can live upon without diminishing each other's share, instead of the
_ideas_, the imaginative satisfactions which each must refuse to his
neighbour, and about which, therefore, all of us are bound to fight
like hungry animals? Thus to reform our notions of what is valuable
and distinguished would bring about an economic reformation; or, if
other forces were needed, would make the benefits of such economic
reformation completer, its hardships easier to bear; and, altering our
views of loss and gain, lessen the destructive struggle of snatching
and holding.

Now, as I have been trying to show, beauty, harmony, fitness, are of
the nature of the miraculous loaves and fishes: they can feed
multitudes and leave basketfuls for the morrow.

But the desire for such spiritual food is, you will again object,
itself a rarity, a product of leisure and comfort, almost a luxury.

Quite true. And you will remember, perhaps, that I have already
remarked that they are not to be expected either from the poor in
material comfort, nor from the poor in soul, since both of these are
condemned, the first by physical wretchedness, the second by spiritual
inactivity, to fight only for larger shares of material bread; with
the difference that this material bread is eaten by the poor, and made
into very ugly symbols of glory by the rich.

But, among those of us who are neither hungry nor vacuous, there is
not, generally speaking, much attempt to make the best of our
spiritual privileges. We teach our children, as we were taught
ourselves, to give importance only to the fact of exclusiveness,
expense, rareness, already necessarily obtruded far too much by our
struggling, imperfect civilisation. We are indeed angry with little
boys and girls if they enquire too audibly whether certain people are
rich or certain things cost much money, as little boys and girls are
apt to do in their very far from innocence; but we teach them by our
example to think about such things every time we stretch a point in
order to appear richer or smarter than we are. While, on the contrary,
we rarely insist upon the intrinsic qualities for which things are
really valuable, without which no trouble or money would be spent on
them, without which their difficulty of obtaining would, as in the
case of Dr. Johnson's musical performance, become identical with
impossibility. I wonder how many people ever point out to a child that
the water in a tank may be more wonderful and beautiful in its beryls
and sapphires and agates than all the contents of all the jewellers'
shops in Bond Street? Moreover, we rarely struggle against the
standards of fashion in our habits and arrangements; which standards,
in many cases, are those of our ladies' maids, butlers, tradesfolk,
and in all cases the standards of our less intelligent neighbours.
Nay, more, we sometimes actually cultivate in ourselves, we superfine
and æsthetic creatures, a preference for such kinds of enjoyment as
are exclusive and costly; we allow ourselves to be talked into the
notion that solitary egoism, laborious self-assertion of ownership (as
in the poor mad Ludwig of Bavaria) is a badge of intellectual
distinction. We cherish a desire for the new-fangled and far-fetched,
the something no other has had before; little suspecting, or
forgetting, that to extract more pleasure not less, to enjoy the same
things longer, and to be able to extract more enjoyment out of more
things, is the sign of æsthetic vigour.


XV.

Still, on the whole, such as can care for beautiful things and
beautiful thoughts are beginning to care for them more fully, and are
growing, undoubtedly, in a certain moral sensitiveness which, as I
have said, is coincident with æsthetic development.

This strikes me every time that I see or think about a certain
priest's house on a hillside by the Mediterranean: a little house
built up against the village church, and painted and roofed, like the
church, a most delicate grey, against which the yellow of the
spalliered lemons sings out in exquisite intensity; alongside, a wall
with flower pots, and dainty white curtains to the windows. Such a
house and the life possible in it are beginning, for many of us, to
become the ideal, by whose side all luxury and worldly grandeur
becomes insipid or vulgar. For such a house as this embodies the
possibility of living with grace and decorum _throughout_ by dint of
loving carefulness and self-restraining simplicity. I say with grace
and decorum _throughout_, because all things which might beget
ugliness in the life of others, or ugliness in our own attitude
towards others, would be eliminated, thrown away like the fossil which
Thoreau threw away because it collected dust. Moreover, such a life as
this is such as all may reasonably hope to have; may, in some more
prosperous age, obtain because it involves no hoarding of advantage
for self or excluding therefrom of others.

And such a life we ourselves may attain at least in the spirit, if we
become strenuous and faithful lovers of the beautiful, æsthetes and
ascetics who recognise that their greatest pleasure, their only true
possessions are in themselves; knowing the supreme value of their own
soul, even as was foreshadowed by the Abbot Joachim of Flora, when he
said that the true monk can hold no property except his lyre.



HIGHER HARMONIES.


I.

    "To use the beauties of earth as steps along which he mounts
    upwards, going from one to two, and from two to all fair forms,
    and from fair forms to fair actions, and from fair actions to fair
    notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of
    absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is;
    this, my dear Socrates," said the prophetess of Mantineia, "is
    that life, above all others, which man should live, in the
    contemplation of beauty absolute. Do you not see that in that
    communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will
    be enabled to bring forth not images of beauty, but realities; for
    he has hold not of an image, but of a reality; and bringing forth
    and educating true virtue to become the friend of God, and be
    immortal, if mortal man may?"


Such are the æsthetics of Plato, put into the mouth of that mysterious
Diotima, who was a wise woman in many branches of knowledge. As we
read them nowadays we are apt to smile with incredulity not unmixed
with bitterness. Is all this not mere talk, charming and momentarily
elating us like so much music; itself mere beauty which, because we
like it, we half voluntarily confuse with _truth_? And, on the other
hand, is not the truth of æsthetics, the bare, hard fact, a very
different matter? For we have learned that we human creatures will
never know the absolute or the essence, that notions, which Plato took
for realities, are mere relative conceptions; that virtue and truth
are social ideals and intellectual abstractions, while beauty is a
quality found primarily and literally only in material existences and
sense-experiences; and every day we are hearing of new discoveries
connecting our æsthetic emotions with the structure of eye and ear,
the movement of muscles, the functions of nerve centres, nay, even
with the action of heart and lungs and viscera. Moreover, all round us
schools of criticism and cliques of artists are telling us forever
that so far from bringing forth and educating true virtue, art has the
sovereign power, by mere skill and subtlety, of investing good and
evil, healthy and unwholesome, with equal merit, and obliterating the
distinctions drawn by the immortal gods, instead of helping the
immortal gods to their observance.

Thus we are apt to think, and to take the words of Diotima as merely
so much lovely rhetoric. But--as my previous chapters must have led
you to expect--I think we are so far mistaken. I believe that,
although explained in the terms of fantastic, almost mythical
metaphysic, the speech of Diotima contains a great truth, deposited in
the heart of man by the unnoticed innumerable experiences of centuries
and peoples; a truth which exists in ourselves also as an instinctive
expectation, and which the advance of knowledge will confirm and
explain. For in that pellucid atmosphere of the Greek mind, untroubled
as yet by theoretic mists, there may have been visible the very things
which our scientific instruments are enabling us to see and
reconstruct piecemeal, great groupings of reality metamorphosed into
Fata Morgana cities seemingly built by the gods.

And thus I am going to try to reinstate in others' belief, as it is
fully reinstated in my own, the theory of higher æsthetic harmonies,
which the prophetess of Mantineia taught Socrates: to wit, that
through the contemplation of true beauty we may attain, by the
constant purification--or, in more modern language, the constant
selecting and enriching--of our nature, to that which transcends
material beauty; because the desire for harmony begets the habit of
harmony, and the habit thereof begets its imperative desire, and thus
on in never-ending alternation.


II.

Perhaps the best way of expounding my reasons will be to follow the
process by which I reached them; for so far from having started with
the theory of Diotima, I found the theory of Diotima, when I re-read
it accidentally after many years' forgetfulness, to bring to
convergence the result of my gradual experience.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thinking about the Hermes of Olympia, and the fact that so far he is
pretty well the only Greek statue which historical evidence
unhesitatingly gives us as an original masterpiece, it struck me that,
could one become really familiar with him, could eye and soul learn
all the fulness of his perfection, we should have the true
starting-point for knowledge of the antique, for knowledge, in great
measure, of all art.

Yes, and of more than art, or rather of art in more than one relation.

Is this a superstition, a mere myth, perhaps, born of words? I think
not. Surely if we could really arrive at knowing such a masterpiece,
so as to feel rather than see its most intimate organic principles,
and the great main reasons separating it from all inferior works and
making it be itself: could we do this, we should know not merely what
art is and should be, but, in a measure, what life should be and might
become: what are the methods of true greatness, the sensations of true
sanity.

It would teach us the eternal organic strivings and tendencies of our
soul, those leading in the direction of life, leading away from death.

If this seems mere allegory and wild talk, let us look at facts and
see what art is. For is not art inasmuch as untroubled by the
practical difficulties of existence, inasmuch as the free, unconscious
attempt of all nations and generations to satisfy, outside life, those
cravings which life still leaves unsatisfied--is not art a delicate
instrument, showing in its sensitive oscillations the most intimate
movements and habits of the soul? Does it not reveal our most
recondite necessities and possibilities, by sifting and selecting,
reinforcing or attenuating, the impressions received from without;
showing us thereby how we must stand towards nature and life, how we
must feel and be?

And this most particularly in those spontaneous arts which, first in
the field, without need of adaptations of material or avoidance of the
already done, without need of using up the rejected possibilities of
previous art, or awakening yet unknown emotions, are the simple,
straightforward expression, each the earliest satisfactory one in its
own line, of the long unexpressed, long integrated, organic wants and
wishes of great races of men: the arts, for instance, which have given
us that Hermes, Titian's pictures, and Michael Angelo's and Raphael's
frescoes; given us Bach, Gluck, Mozart, the serener parts of
Beethoven, music of yet reserved pathos, braced, spring-like strength,
learned, select: arts which never go beyond the universal, averaged
expression of the soul's desires, because the desires themselves are
sifted, limited to the imperishable and unchangeable, like the
artistic methods which embody them, reduced to the essential by the
long delay of utterance, the long--century long--efforts to utter.

Becoming intimate with such a statue as the Olympian Hermes, and
comparing the impressions received from it with the impressions both
of inferior works of the same branch of art and with the impressions
of equally great works--pictures, buildings, musical compositions--of
other branches of art, becoming conversant with the difference between
an original and a copy, great art and poor art, we gradually become
aware of a quality which exists in all good art and is absent in all
bad art, and without whose presence those impressions summed up as
beauty, dignity, grandeur, are never to be had. This peculiarity,
which most people perceive and few people define--explaining it away
sometimes as _truth_, or taking it for granted under the name of
_quality_--this peculiarity I shall call for convenience' sake
harmony; for I think you will all of you admit that the absence or
presence of harmony is what distinguishes bad art from good. Harmony,
in this sense--and remember that it is this which connoisseurs most
usually allude to as _quality_--harmony may be roughly defined as the
organic correspondence between the various parts of a work of art, the
functional interchange and interdependence thereof. In this sense there
is harmony in every really living thing, for otherwise it could not live.
If the muscles and limbs, nay, the viscera and tissues, did not adjust
themselves to work together, if they did not in this combination
establish a rhythm, a backward-forward, contraction-relaxation,
taking-in-giving-out, diastole-systole in all their movements, there
would be, instead of a living organism, only an inert mass. In all
living things, and just in proportion as they are really alive (for in
most real things there is presumably some defect of rhythm tending to
stoppage of life), there is bound to be this organic interdependence
and interchange. Natural selection, the survival of such individuals
and species as best work in with, are most rhythmical to, their
surroundings--natural selection sees to that.


III.

In art the place of natural selection is taken by man's selection; and
all forms of art which man keeps and does not send into limbo, all art
which man finds suitable to his wants, rhythmical with his habits,
must have that same quality of interdependence of parts, of
interchange of function. Only in the case of art, the organic
necessity refers not to outer surroundings, but to man's feeling; in
fact, man's emotion constitutes necessity towards art, as surrounding
nature constitutes necessity for natural objects. Now man requires
organic harmony, that is, congruity and co-ordination of processes,
because his existence, the existence of every cell of him, depends
upon it, is one complete microcosm of interchange, of give-and-take,
diastole-systole, of rhythm and harmony; and therefore all such things
as give him impressions of the reverse thereof, go against him, and in
a greater or lesser degree, threaten, disturb, paralyse, in a way
poison or maim him. Hence he is for ever seeking such congruity, such
harmony; and his artistic creativeness is conditioned by the desire
for it, nay, is perhaps mainly seeking to obtain it. Whenever he
spontaneously and truly creates artistic forms, he obeys the imperious
vital instinct for congruity; nay, he seeks to eke out the
insufficient harmony between himself and the things which he _cannot_
command, the insufficient harmony between the uncontrollable parts of
himself, by a harmony created on purpose in the things which he _can_
control. To a large extent man feels himself tortured by discordant
impressions coming from the world outside and the world inside him;
and he seeks comfort and medicine in harmonious impressions of his own
making, in his own strange inward-outward world of art.

This, I think, is the true explanation of that much-disputed-over
_ideal_, which, according to definitions, is perpetually being
enthroned and dethroned as the ultimate aim of all art: the ideal,
the imperatively clamoured-for mysterious something, is neither
conformity to an abstract idea, nor conformity to actual reality, nor
conformity to the typical, nor conformity to the individual; it is, I
take it, simply conformity to man's requirements, to man's inborn and
peremptory demand for greater harmony, for more perfect co-ordination
and congruity in his feelings.

Now, when, in the exercise of the artistic instincts, mankind are
partially obeying some other call than this one--the desire for money,
fame, or for some intellectual formula--things are quite different,
and there is no production of what I have called harmony. There is no
congruity when even great people set about doing pseudo-antique
sculpture in Canova-Thorwaldsen fashion because Winckelmann and Goethe
have made antique sculpture fashionable; there is no congruity when
people set to building pseudo-Gothic in obedience to the romantic
movement and to Ruskin. For neither the desire for making a mark, nor
the most conscientious pressure of formula gives that instinct of
selection and co-ordination characterising even the most rudimentary
artistic efforts in the most barbarous ages, when men are impelled
merely and solely by the æsthetic instinct. Moreover, where people do
not want and need (as they want and need food or drink or warmth or
coolness) one sort of effect, that is to say, one arrangement of
impressions rather than another, they are sure to be deluded by the
mere arbitrary classification, the mere _names_ of things. They will
think that smooth cheeks, wavy hair, straight noses, limbs of such or
such measure, attitude, and expression, set so, constitute the
Antique; that clustered pillars, cross vaulting, spandrils, and Tudor
roses make Gothic. But the Antique quality is the particular and all
permeating relation between all its items; and Gothic the particular
and all permeating relation between those other ones; and unless you
aim at the _specific emotion_ of Antique or Gothic, unless you feel
the imperious call for the special harmony of either, all the
measurements and all the formulas will not avail. While, on the
contrary, people without any formula or any attempt at imitation, like
the Byzantine architects and those of the fifteenth century, merely
because they are obeying their own passionate desire for congruity of
impressions, for harmony of structure and function, will succeed in
creating brand-new, harmonious, organic art out of the actual details,
sometimes the material ruins, of an art which has passed away.

If we become intimate with any great work of art, and intimate in so
far with the thoughts and emotions it awakens in ourselves, we shall
find that it possesses, besides this congruity within itself which
assimilates it to all really living things, a further congruity, not
necessarily found in real objects, but which forms the peculiarity of
the work of art, a congruity with ourselves; for the great work of art
is vitally connected with the habits and wants, the whole causality
and rhythm of mankind; it has been fitted thereto as the boat to the
sea.


IV.

In this manner can we learn from art the chief secret of life: the
secret of action and reaction, of causal connection, of suitability of
part to part, of organism, interchange, and growth.

And when I say _learn_, I mean learn in the least official and the
most efficacious way. I do not mean merely that, looking at a statue
like the Hermes, a certain fact is borne in upon our intelligence, the
fact of all vitality being dependent on harmony. I mean that perhaps,
nay probably, without any such formula, our whole nature becomes
accustomed to a certain repeated experience, our whole nature becomes
adapted thereunto, and acts and reacts in consequence, by what we call
intuition, instinct. It is not with our intellect alone that we
possess such a fact, as we might intellectually possess that twice two
is four, or that Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII., knowing
casually what we may casually also forget; we possess, in such a way
that forgetting becomes impossible, with our whole soul and our whole
being, re-living that fact with every breath that we draw, with every
movement we make, the first great lesson of art, that vitality means
harmony. Let us look at this fact, and at its practical applications,
apart from all æsthetic experience.

All life is harmony; and all improvement in ourselves is therefore,
however unconsciously, the perceiving, the realising, or the
establishing of harmonies, more minute or more universal. Yes, curious
and unpractical as it may seem, harmonies, or, under their humbler
separate names--arrangements, schemes, classifications, are the chief
means for getting the most out of all things, and particularly the
most out of ourselves.

For they mean, first of all, unity of means for the attaining of unity
of effect, that is to say, incalculable economy of material, of time,
and of effort; and secondly, unity of effect produced, that is to say,
economy even greater in our power of perceiving and feeling: nothing
to eliminate, nothing against whose interruptions we waste our energy,
our power of becoming more fit in the course of striving.

When there exists harmony one impression leads to, enhances another;
we, on the other hand, unconsciously recognise at once what is doing
to us, what we in return must do; the mood is indicated, fulfilled,
consummated; in plenitude we feel, we are; and in plenitude of feeling
and being, we, in our turn, _do_. Neither is such habit of harmony, of
scheme, of congruity, a mere device for sucking the full sweetness out
of life, although, heaven knows, that were important enough. As much
as such a habit husbands, and in a way multiplies, life's sweetness;
so likewise does it husband and multiply man's power. For there is no
quicker and more thorough mode of selecting among our feelings and
thoughts than submitting them to a standard of congruity; nothing more
efficacious than the question: "Is such or such a notion or proceeding
harmonious with what we have made the rest of our life, with what we
wish our life to be?" This is, in other words, the power of the
_ideal_, the force of _ideas_, of thought-out, recognised habits, as
distinguished from blind helter-skelter impulse. This is what welds
life into one, making its forces work not in opposition but in
concordance; this is what makes life consecutive, using the earlier
act to produce the later, tying together existence in an organic
fatality of _must be_: the fatality not of the outside and the
unconscious, but of the conscious, inner, upper man. Nay, it is what
makes up the _Ego_. For the _ego_, as we are beginning to understand,
is no mysterious separate entity, still less a succession of
disconnected, conflicting, blind impulses; the _ego_ is the congruous,
perceived, nay, thought-out system of habits, which feels all
incongruity towards itself as accidental and external. Hence, when we
ask which are the statements we believe in, we answer instinctively
(logic being but a form of congruity) those statements which accord
with themselves and with other statements; when we ask, which are the
persons we trust? we answer, those persons whose feelings and actions
are congruous with themselves and with the feelings and actions of
others. And, on the contrary, it is in the worthless, in the
degenerate creature, that we note moods which are destructive to one
another's object, ideas which are in flagrant contradiction; and it is
in the idiot, the maniac, the criminal, that we see thoughts
disconnected among themselves, perceptions disconnected with
surrounding objects, and instincts and habits incompatible with those
of other human beings. Nay, if we look closely, we shall recognise,
moreover, that those emotions of pleasure are the healthy, the safe
ones, which are harmonious not merely in themselves (as a musical note
is composed of even vibrations), but harmonious with all preceding and
succeeding pleasures in ourselves, and harmonious, congruous, with the
present and future pleasures in others.


V.

The instinct of congruity, of subordination of part to whole, the
desire for harmony which is fostered above all things by art, is one
of the most precious parts of our nature, if only, obeying its own
tendency to expand, we apply it to ever wider circles of being; not
merely to the accessories of living, but to life itself.

For this love of harmony and order leads us to seek what is most
necessary in our living: a selection of the congruous, an arrangement
of the mutually dependent in our thoughts and feelings.

Much of the work of the universe is done, no doubt, by what seems the
exercise of mere random energy, by the thinking of apparently
disconnected thoughts and the feeling of apparently sporadic impulses;
but if the thought and the impulse remained really disconnected and
sporadic, half would be lost and half would be distorted. It is one of
the economical adaptations of nature that every part of us tends not
merely to be consistent with itself, to eliminate the hostile, to
beget the similar, but tends also to be connected with other parts; so
that, action coming in contact with action, thought in contact with
thought, and feeling in contact with feeling, each single one will be
strengthened or neutralised by the other. And it is the especial
business of what we may call the central consciousness, the dominant
thought or emotion, to bring these separate thoughts and impulses,
these separate groups thereof, into more complex relations, to
continue on a far vaster scale that vital contact, that trying of all
things by the great trial of affinity or repulsion, of congruity or
incongruity. Thus we make trial of ourselves; and by the selfsame
process, by the test of affinity and congruity, the silent forces of
the universe make trial of _us_, rejecting or accepting, allowing us,
our thoughts, our feelings to live and be fruitful, or condemning us
and them to die in barrenness.

Whither are we going? In what shape shall the various members of our
soul proceed on their journey; which forming the van, which the rear
and centre? Or shall there be neither van, nor rear, nor wedge-like
forward flight?

If this question remains unasked or unanswered, our best qualities,
our truest thoughts and purest impulses, may be hopelessly scattered
into distant regions, become defiled in bad company, or, at least,
barren in isolation; the universal life rejecting or annihilating
them.

How often do we not see this! Natures whose various parts have rambled
asunder, or have come to live, like strangers in an inn, casually,
promiscuously, each refusing to be his brother's keeper: instincts of
kindliness at various ends, unconnected, unable to coalesce and conquer;
thoughts separated from their kind, incapable of application; and, in
consequence, strange superficial comradeships, shoulder-rubbings of
true and false, good and evil, become indifferent to one another,
incapable of looking each other in the face, careless, unblushing.
Nay, worse. For lack of all word of command, of all higher control,
hostile tendencies accommodating themselves to reign alternate,
sharing the individual in distinct halves, till he becomes like unto
that hero of Gautier's witch story, who was a pious priest one-half of
the twenty-four hours and a wicked libertine the other: all power of
selection, of reaction gone in this passive endurance of conflicting
tendencies; all identity gone, save a mere feeble outsider looking on
at the alternations of intentions and lapses, of good and bad. And the
soul of such a person--if, indeed, we can speak of one soul or one
person where there exists no unity--becomes like a jangle of notes
belonging to different tonalities, alternating and mingling in hideous
confusion for lack of a clear thread of melody, a consistent system of
harmony, to select, reject, and keep all things in place.

Melody, harmony: the two great halves of the most purely æsthetic of
all arts, symbolise, as we might expect, the two great forces of life:
consecutiveness and congruity, under their different names of
intention, fitness, selection, adaptation. These are what make the
human soul like a conquering army, a fleet freighted with riches, a
band of priests celebrating a rite. And this is what art, by no paltry
formula, but by the indelible teaching of habit, of requirement, and
expectation become part of our very fibre--this is what art can teach
to those who will receive its highest lesson.


VI.

Those who can receive that lesson, that is to say, those in whom it
can expand and ramify to the fulness and complexity which is its very
essence. For it happens frequently enough that we learn only a portion
of this truth, which by this means is distorted into error. We accept
the æsthetic instinct as a great force of Nature; but, instead of
acknowledging it as our master, as one of the great lords of life, of
whom Emerson spoke, we try to make it our servant. We attempt to get
congruity between the details of our everyday existence, and refuse to
seek for congruity between ourselves and the life which is greater
than ours.

A friend of mine, who had many better ways of spending her money, was
unable one day to resist the temptation of buying a beautiful old
majolica inkstand, which, not without a slight qualm of conscience,
she put into a very delightful old room of her house. The room had an
inkstand already, but it was of glass, and modern. "This one is in
harmony with the rest of the room," she said, and felt fully justified
in her extravagance. It is this form, or rather this degree, of
æstheticism, which so often prevents our realising the higher æsthetic
harmonies. In obedience to a perception of what is congruous on a
small scale we often do oddly incongruous things: spend money we ought
to save, give time and thought to trifles while neglecting to come to
conclusions about matters of importance; endure, or even cultivate,
persons with whom we have less than no sympathy; nay, sometimes, from
a keen sense of incongruity, tune down our thoughts and feelings to
the flatness of our surroundings. The phenomenon of what may thus
result from a certain æsthetic sensitiveness is discouraging, and I
confess that it used to discourage and humiliate me. But the
philosophy which the prophetess of Mautineia taught Socrates settles
the matter, and solves, satisfactorily what in my mind I always think
of as the question of the majolica inkstand.

Diotima, you will remember, did not allow her disciple to remain
engrossed in the contemplation of one kind of beauty, but particularly
insisted that he should use various fair forms as steps by which to
ascend to the knowledge of ever higher beauties. And this I should
translate into more practical language by saying that, in questions
like that of the majolica inkstand, we require not a lesser
sensitiveness to congruity, but a greater; that we must look not
merely at the smaller, but at the larger items of our life, asking
ourselves, "Is this harmonious? or is it, seen in some wider
connection, even like that clumsy glass inkstand in the oak panelled
and brocade hung room?" If we ask ourselves this, and endeavour to
answer it faithfully--with that truthfulness which is itself an item
of _consistency_--we may find that, strange as it may seem, the glass
inkstand, ugly as it is in itself, and out of harmony with the
furniture, is yet more congruous, and that we actually prefer it to
the one of majolica.

And it is in connection with this that I think that many persons who
are really æsthetic, and many more who imagine themselves to be so,
should foster a wholesome suspicion of the theory which makes it a
duty to accumulate certain kinds of possessions, to seek exclusively
certain kinds of impressions, on the score of putting beauty and
dignity into our lives.

Put beauty, dignity, harmony, serenity into our lives. It sounds very
fine. But _can_ we? I doubt it. We may put beautiful objects,
dignified manners, harmonious colours and shapes, but can we put
dignity, harmony, or beauty? Can we put them into an individual life;
can anything be put into an individual life save furniture and
garments, intellectual as well as material? For an individual life,
taken separately, is a narrow, weak thing at the very best; and
everything we can put into it, everything we lay hold of for the sake
of putting in, must needs be small also, merely the chips or dust of
great things; or if it have life, must be squeezed, cut down, made so
small before it can fit into that little receptacle of our egoism,
that it will speedily be a dead, dry thing: thoughts once thought,
feelings once felt, now neither thought nor felt, merely lying there
inert, as a dead fact, in our sterile self. Do we not see this on all
sides, examples of life into which all the dignified things have been
crammed and all the beautiful ones, and which despite the statues,
pictures, poems, and symphonies within its narrow compass, is yet so
far from dignified or beautiful?

But we need not trouble about dignity and beauty coming to our life so
long as we veritably and thoroughly _live_; that is to say, so long as
we try not to put anything into our life, but to put our life into the
life universal. The true, expanding, multiplying life of the spirit
will bring us in contact, we need not fear, with beauty and dignity
enough, for there is plenty such in creation, in things around us, and
in other people's souls; nay, if we but live to our utmost power the
life of all things and all men, seeing, feeling, understanding for the
mere joy thereof, even our individual life will be invested with
dignity and beauty in our own eyes.

But furniture will not do it, nor dress, nor exquisite household
appointments; nor any of the things, books, pictures, houses, parks,
of which we can call ourselves owners. I say _call_ ourselves: for can
we be sure we really possess them? And thus, if we think only of our
life, and the decking thereof, it is only furniture, garments, and
household appointments we can deal with; for beauty and dignity cannot
be confined in so narrow a compass.


VII.

I have spoken so far of the conscious habit of harmony, and of its
conscious effect upon our conduct. I have tried to show that the
desire for congruity, which may seem so trivial a part of mere
dilettanteist superfineness, may expand and develop into such love of
harmony between ourselves and the ways of the universe as shall make
us wince at other folks' loss united to our gain, at our
deterioration united to our pleasure, even as we wince at a false note
or a discordant arrangement of colours.

But there is something more important than conscious choice, and
something more tremendous than definite conduct, because conscious
choice and conduct are but its separate and plainly visible results. I
mean unconscious way of feeling and organic way of living: that which,
in the language of old-fashioned medicine, we might call the
complexion or habit of the soul.

This is undoubtedly affected by conscious knowledge and reason, as it
undoubtedly manifests itself in both. But it is, I believe, much more
what we might call a permanent emotional condition, a particular way
of feeling, of reacting towards the impressions given us by the
universe. And I believe that the individual is sound, that he is
capable of being happy while increasing the happiness of others, or
the reverse, according as he reacts harmoniously or inharmoniously
towards those universal impressions. And here comes in what seems to
me the highest benefit we can receive from art and from the æsthetic
activities, which, as I have said before, are in art merely
specialised and made publicly manifest.


VIII.

The habit of beauty, of harmony, is but the habit, engrained in our
nature by the unnoticed experiences of centuries, of _life_ in our
surroundings and in ourselves; the habit of beauty is the habit, I
believe scientific analysis of nature's ways and means will show
us--of the growing of trees, the flowing of water, the perfect play
of perfect muscles, all registered unconsciously in the very structure
of our soul. And for this reason every time we experience afresh the
particular emotion associated with the quality _beautiful_, we are
adding to that rhythm of life within ourselves by recognising the life
of all things. There is not room within us for two conflicting waves
of emotion, for two conflicting rhythms of life, one sane and one
unsound. The two may possibly alternate, but in most cases the weaker
will be neutralised by the stronger; and, at all events, they cannot
co-exist. We can account, only in this manner, for the indisputable
fact that great emotion of a really and purely æsthetic nature has a
morally elevating quality, that as long as it endures--and in finer
organisations its effect is never entirely lost--the soul is more
clean and vigorous, more fit for high thoughts and high decisions. All
understanding, in the wider and more philosophical sense, is but a
kind of becoming: our soul experiences the modes of being which it
apprehends. Hence the particular religious quality (all faiths and
rituals taking advantage thereof) of a high and complex æsthetic
emotion. Whenever we come in contact with real beauty, we become
aware, in an unformulated but overwhelming manner, of some of the
immense harmonies of which all beauty is the product, of which all
separate beautiful things are, so to speak, the single patterns
happening to be in our line of vision, while all around other patterns
connect with them, meshes and meshes of harmonies, spread out, outside
our narrow field of momentary vision, an endless web, like the
constellations which, strung on their threads of mutual dependence,
cover and fill up infinitude.

In the moments of such emotional perception, our soul also, ourselves,
become in a higher degree organic, alive, receiving and giving out the
life of the universe; come to be woven into the patterns of harmonies,
made of the stuff of reality, homogeneous with themselves,
consubstantial with the universe, like the living plant, the flowing
stream, the flying cloud, the great picture or statue.

And in this way is realised, momentarily, but with ever-increasing
power of repetition, that which, after the teaching of Diotima,
Socrates prayed for--"the harmony between the outer and the inner
man."

But this, I know, many will say, is but a delusion. Rapture is
pleasant, but it is not necessarily, as the men of the Middle Ages
thought, a union with God. And is this the time to revive, or seek to
revive, when science is for ever pressing upon us the conclusion that
soul is a function of matter--is this the time to revive discredited
optimistic idealisms of an unscientific philosophy?

But if science become omniscient, it will surely recognise and explain
the value of such recurring optimistic idealisms; and if the soul be a
function of matter, will not science recognise but the more, that the
soul is an integral and vitally dependent portion of the material
universe?


IX.

Be this as it may, one thing seems certain, that the artistic
activities are those which bring man into emotional communion with
external nature; and that such emotional communion is necessary for
man's thorough spiritual health. Perception of cause and effect,
generalisation of law, reduces the universe indeed to what man's
intellect can grasp; but in the process of such reduction to the laws
of man's thought, the universe is shorn of its very power to move
man's emotion and overwhelm his soul. The abstract which we have made
does not vivify us sufficiently. And the emotional communion of man
with nature is through those various faculties which we call æsthetic.
It is not to no purpose that poetry has for ever talked to us of skies
and mountains and waters; we require, for our soul's health, to think
about them otherwise than with reference to our material comfort and
discomfort; we require to feel that they and ourselves are brethren
united by one great law of life. And what poetry suggests in explicit
words, bidding us love and be united in love to external nature; art,
in more irresistible because more instinctive manner, forces upon our
feelings, by extracting, according to its various kinds, the various
vital qualities of the universe, and making them act directly upon our
mind: rhythms of all sorts, static and dynamic, in the spatial arts of
painting and sculpture; in the half spatial, half temporal art of
architecture: in music, which is most akin to life, because it is the
art of movement and change.


X.

We can all remember moments when we have seemed conscious, even to
overwhelming, of this fact. In my own mind it has become indissolubly
connected with a certain morning at Venice, listening to the organ in
St. Mark's.

Any old and beautiful church gives us all that is most moving and
noblest--organism, beauty, absence of all things momentary and
worthless, exclusion of grossness, of brute utility and mean
compromise, equality of all men before God; moreover, time, eternity,
the past, and the great dead. All noble churches give us this; how
much more, therefore, this one, which is noblest and most venerable!

It has, like no other building, been handed over by man to Nature;
Time moulding and tinting into life this structure already so organic,
so fit to live. For its curves and vaultings, its cupolas mutually
supported, the weight of each carried by all; the very colour of the
marbles, brown, blond, living colours, and the irregular symmetry,
flower-like, of their natural patterning, are all seemingly organic and
ready for life. Time has added that, with the polish and dimming
alternately of the marbles, the billowing of the pavement, the
slanting of the columns, and last, but not least, the tarnishing of
the gold and the granulating of the mosaic into an uneven surface: the
gold seeming to have become alive and in a way vegetable, and to have
faded and shrunk like autumn leaves.


XI.

The morning I speak of they were singing some fugued composition by I
know not whom. How well that music suited St. Mark's! The constant
interchange of vault and vault, cupola and cupola, column and column,
handing on their energies to one another; the springing up of new
details gathered at once into the great general balance of lines and
forces; all this seemed to find its natural voice in that fugue, to
express, in that continuous revolution of theme chasing, enveloping
theme, its own grave emotion of life everlasting: Being, becoming;
becoming, being.


XII.

It is such an alternation as this, ceaseless, rhythmic, which
constitutes the upward life of the soul: that life of which the wise
woman of Mantineia told Socrates that it might be learned through
faithful and strenuous search for ever widening kinds of beauty, the
"life above all," in the words of Diotima, "which a man should live."

The life which vibrates for ever between being better and conceiving
of something better still; between satisfaction in harmony and craving
for it. The life whose rhythm is that of happiness actual and
happiness ideal, alternating for ever, for ever pressing one another
into being, as the parts of a fugue, the dominant and the tonic.
Being, becoming; becoming, being; idealising, realising; realising,
idealising.



BEAUTY AND SANITY.


I.

Out of London at last; at last, though after only two months! Not,
indeed, within a walk of my clump of bay-trees on the Fiesole hill;
but in a country which has some of that Tuscan grace and serene
austerity, with its Tweed, clear and rapid in the wide shingly bed,
with its volcanic cones of the Eildons, pale and distinct in the
distance: river and hills which remind me of the valley where the
bay-trees grow, and bring to my mind all that which the bay-trees
stand for.

There is always something peculiar in these first hours of finding
myself once more alone, once more quite close to external things; the
human jostling over, an end, a truce at least, to "all the neighbours'
talk with man and maid--such men--all the fuss and trouble of street
sounds, window-sights" (how he knew these things, the poet!); once
more in communion with the things which somehow--nibbled grass and
stone-tossed water, yellow ragwort in the fields, blue cranesbill
along the road, big ash-trees along the river, sheep, birds, sunshine,
and showers--somehow contrive to keep themselves in health, to live,
grow, decline, die, be born again, without making a mess or creating a
fuss. The air, under the grey sky, is cool, even cold, with infinite
briskness. And this impression of briskness, by no means excluded by
the sense of utter isolation and repose, is greatly increased by a
special charm of this place, the quantity of birds to listen to and
watch; great blackening flights of rooks from the woods along the
watercourses and sheltered hillsides (for only solitary ashes and
wind-vexed beeches will grow in the open); peewits alighting with
squeals in the fields; blackbirds and thrushes in the thick coverts (I
found a poor dead thrush with a speckled chest like a toad, laid out
among the beech-nuts); wagtails on the shingle, whirling over the
water, where the big trout and salmon leap; every sort of swallow;
pigeons crossing from wood to wood; wild duck rattling up, and
seagulls circling above the stream; nay, two herons, standing
immovable, heraldic, on the grass among the sheep.

In such moments, with that briskness transferred into my feelings,
life seems so rich and various. All pleasant memories come to my mind
like tunes, and with real tunes among them (making one realise that
the greatest charm of music is often when no longer materially
audible). Pictures also of distant places, tones of voice, glance of
eyes of dear friends, visions of pictures and statues, and scraps of
poems and history. More seems not merely to be brought to me, but more
to exist, wherewith to unite it all, within myself.

Such moments, such modes of being, ought to be precious to us; they
and every impression, physical, moral, æsthetic, which is akin to
them, and we should recognise their moral worth. Since it would seem
that even mere bodily sensations, of pure air, bracing temperature,
vigor of muscles, efficiency of viscera, accustom us not merely to
health of our body, but also, by the analogies of our inner workings,
to health of our soul.


II.

How delicate an organism, how alive with all life's dangers, is the
human character; and how persistently do we consider it as the thing
of all others most easily forced into any sort of position, most
safely handled in ignorance! Surely some of the misery, much of the
waste and deadlock of the world are due to our all being made of such
obscure, unguessed at material; to our not knowing it betimes, and
others not admitting it even late in the day. When, for instance,
shall we recognise that the bulk of our psychic life is unconscious or
semi-unconscious, the life of long-organised and automatic functions;
and that, while it is absurd to oppose to these the more recent,
unaccustomed and fluctuating activity called _reason_, this same
reason, this conscious portion of ourselves, may be usefully employed
in understanding those powers of nature (powers of chaos sometimes)
within us, and in providing that these should turn the wheel of life
in the right direction, even like those other powers of nature outside
us, which reason cannot repress or alter, but can understand and put
to profit. Instead of this, we are ushered into life thinking
ourselves thoroughly conscious throughout, conscious beings of a
definite and stereotyped pattern; and we are set to do things we do
not understand with mechanisms which we have never even been shown:
Told to be good, not knowing why, and still less guessing how!

Some folk will answer that life itself settles all that, with its
jostle and bustle. Doubtless. But in how wasteful, destructive,
unintelligent, and cruel a fashion! Should we be satisfied with this
kind of surgery, which cures an ache by random chopping off a limb;
with this elementary teaching, which saves our body from the fire by
burning our fingers? Surely not; we are worth more care on our own
part.

The recognition of this, and more especially of the manner in which we
may be damaged by dangers we have never thought of as dangers, our
souls undermined and made boggy by emotions not yet classified, brings
home to me again the general wholesomeness of art; and also the fact
that, wholesome as art is, in general, and, compared with the less
abstract activities of our nature, there are yet differences in art's
wholesomeness, there are categories of art which can do only good, and
others which may also do mischief.

Art, in so far as it moves our fancies and emotions, as it builds up
our preferences and repulsions, as it disintegrates or restores our
vitality, is merely another of the great forces of nature, and we
require to select among its activities as we select among the
activities of any other natural force.... When, I wonder, I wonder,
will the forces _within_ us be recognised as natural, in the same
sense as those _without_; and our souls as part of the universe,
prospering or suffering, according to which of its rhythms they
vibrate to: the larger rhythm, which is for ever increasing, and which
means happiness; the smaller, for ever slackening, which means
misery?


III.

But since life has got two rhythms, why should art have only one? Our
poor mankind by no means always feel braced, serene, and energetic;
and we are far from necessarily keeping step with the movements of the
universe which imply happiness.

Let alone the fact of wretched circumstances beyond our control, of
natural decay and death, and loss of our nearest and dearest; the
universe has made it excessively difficult, nay, impossible, for us to
follow constantly its calm behest, "Be as healthy as possible." It is
all very fine to say _be healthy_. Of course we should be willing
enough. But it must be admitted that the Powers That Be have not
troubled about making it easy. Be healthy indeed! When health is so
nicely balanced that it is at the mercy of a myriad of microscopic
germs, of every infinitesimal increase of cold or heat, or damp or
dryness, of alternations of work and play, oscillation of want and
excess incalculably small, any of which may disturb the beautiful
needle-point balance and topple us over into disease. Such Job's
comforting is one of the many sledge-hammer ironies with which the
Cosmos diverts itself at our expense; and of course the Cosmos may
permit itself what it likes, and none of us can complain. But is it
possible for one of ourselves, a poor, sick, hustled human being, to
take up the jest of the absentee gods of Lucretius, and say to his
fellow-men: "Believe me, you would do much better to be quite healthy,
and quite happy?"

And, as art is one of mankind's modes of expressing itself, why in the
world should we expect it to be the expression only of mankind's
health and happiness? Even admitting that the very existence of the
race proves that the healthy and happy states of living must on the
whole preponderate (a matter which can, after all, not be proved so
easily), even admitting that, why should mankind be allowed artistic
emotions only at those moments, and requested not to express itself or
feel artistically during the others? Bay-trees are delightful things,
no doubt, and we are all very fond of them off and on. But why must we
pretend to enjoy them when we don't; why must we hide the fact that
they sometimes irritate or bore us, and that every now and then we
very much prefer--well, weeping-willows, upas-trees, and all the livid
or phosphorescent eccentricities of the various _fleurs du mal_?

Is it not stupid thus to "blink and shut our apprehension up?" Nay,
worse, is it not positively heartless, brutal?


IV.

This argument, I confess, invariably delights and humiliates me: it is
so full of sympathy for all sorts and conditions of men, and so
appreciative of what is and what is not. It is so very human and
humane. There is in it a sort of quite gentle and dignified Prometheus
Vinctus attitude towards the Powers That Be; and Zeus, with his
thunderbolts and chains, looks very much like a brute by contrast.

But what is to be done? Zeus exists with his chains and thunderbolts,
and all the minor immortals, lying down, colossal, dim, like mountains
at night, at Schiller's golden tables, each with his fine attribute,
olive-tree, horse, lyre, sun and what not, by his side; also his own
particular scourge, plague, dragon, wild boar, or sea monster, ready
to administer to recalcitrant, insufficiently pious man. And the gods
have it their own way, call them what you will, children of Chaos or
children of Time, dynasty succeeding dynasty, but only for the same
old gifts and same old scourges to be handed on from one to the other.

In more prosaic terms, we cannot get loose of nature, the nature of
ourselves; we cannot get rid of the fact that certain courses, certain
habits, certain preferences are to our advantage, and certain others
to our detriment. And therefore, to return to art, and to the various
imaginative and emotional activities which I am obliged to label by
that very insufficient name, we cannot get rid of the fact that,
however much certain sorts of art are the natural expression of
certain recurring and common states of being; however much certain
preferences correspond to certain temperaments or conditions, we must
nevertheless put them aside as much as possible, and give our
attention to the opposite sorts of art and the opposite sorts of
preference, for the simple reason that the first make us less fit for
life and less happy in the long run, while the second make us more fit
and happier.

It is a question not of what we _are_, but of what _we shall be_.


V.

A distinguished scientific psychologist, who is also a psychologist in
the unscientific sense, and who writes of Intellect and Will less in
the spirit (and, thank heaven, less in the style) of Mr. Spencer than
in that of Monsieur de Montaigne, has objected to music (and, I
presume, in less degree to other art) that it runs the risk of
enfeebling the character by stimulating emotions without affording
them a corresponding outlet in activity. I agree (as will be seen
farther on) that music more particularly may have an unwholesome
influence, but not for the reason assigned by Professor James, who
seems to me to mistake the nature and functions of artistic emotion.

I doubt very much whether any non-literary art, whether even music has
the power, in the modern man, of stimulating tendencies to action. It
may have had in the savage, and may still have in the civilised child;
but in the ordinary, cultivated grown-up person, the excitement
produced by any artistic sight, sound, or idea will most probably be
used up in bringing to life again some of the many millions of sights,
sounds, and ideas which lie inert, stored up in our mind. The artistic
emotion will therefore not give rise to an active impulse, but to that
vague mixture of feelings and ideas which we call a _mood_; and if any
alteration occur in subsequent action, it will be because all external
impressions must vary according to the mood of the person who receives
them, and consequently undergo a certain selection, some being allowed
to dominate and lead to action, while others pass unnoticed, are
neutralised or dismissed.

More briefly, it seems to me that artistic emotion is of practical
importance, not because it discharges itself in action, but, on the
contrary, because it produces a purely internal rearrangement of our
thoughts and feelings; because, in short, it helps to form
concatenations of preferences, habits of being.

Whether or not Mr. Herbert Spencer be correct in deducing all artistic
activities from our primæval instincts of play, it seems to me certain
that these artistic activities have for us adults much the same
importance as the play activities have for a child. They represent the
only perfectly free exercise, and therefore, free development, of our
preferences. Now, everyone will admit, I suppose, that it is extremely
undesirable that a child should amuse itself acquiring unwholesome
preferences and evil habits, indulging in moods which will make it or
its neighbours less comfortable out of play-time?

Mind, I do not for a moment pretend that art is to become the
conscious instrument of morals, any more than (Heaven forbid!) play
should become the conscious preparation of infant virtue. All I
contend is that if some kinds of infant amusement result in damage, we
suppress them as a nuisance; and that, if some kinds of art
disorganise the soul, the less we have of them the better.

Moreover, the grown-up human being is so constituted, is so full of
fine connections and analogies throughout his nature, that, while the
sense of emulation and gain lends such additional zest to his
amusements, the sense of increasing spiritual health and power,
wherever it exists, magnifies almost incredibly the pleasure derivable
from beautiful impressions.


VI.

The persons who maintained just now (and who does not feel a
hard-hearted Philistine for gainsaying them?) that we have no right to
ostracise, still less to stone, unwholesome kinds of art, make much of
the fact that, as we are told in church, "We have no health in us."
But it is the recognition of this lack of health which hardens my
heart to unwholesome persons and things. If we must be wary of what
moods and preferences we foster in ourselves, it is because so few of
us are congenitally sound--perhaps none without some organic weakness;
and because, even letting soundness alone, very few of us lead lives
that are not, in one respect or another, strained or starved or
cramped. Gods and archangels might certainly indulge exclusively in
the literature and art for which Baudelaire may stand in this
discussion. But gods and archangels require neither filters nor
disinfectants, and may slake their thirst in the veriest decoction of
typhoid.


VII.

The Greeks, who were a fortunate mixture of Conservatives and
Anarchists, averred that the desire for the impossible (I do not
quote, for, alas! I should not understand the quotation) is a disease
of the soul.

It is not, I think, the desire for the impossible (since few can tell
what seems impossible, and fewer care for what indubitably is so) so
much as the desire for the topsy-turvy. Baudelaire, who admired
persons thus afflicted, has a fine line:

     "De la réalité grands esprits contempteurs";

but what they despised was not the real, but the usual. Now the usual,
of the sort thus despised, happens to represent the necessities of our
organisms and of that wider organism which we call circumstances. We
may modify it, always in the direction in which it tends spontaneously
to evolve; but we cannot subvert it. You might as well try to subvert
gravitation: "Je m'en suis aperçu étant par terre," is the only
result, as in Molière's lesson of physics.


VIII.

Also, when you come to think of it, there is nothing showing a finer
organisation in the incapacity for finding sugar sweet and vinegar
sour. The only difference is that, as sugar happens to be sweet and
vinegar sour, an organisation which perceives the reverse is at sixes
and sevens with the universe, or a bit of the universe; and, exactly
to the extent to which this six-and-sevenness prevails, is likely to
be mulcted of some of the universe's good things.

How may I bring this home, without introducing a sickly atmosphere of
decadent art and literature into my valley of the bay-trees? And yet,
an instance is needed. Well; there is an old story, originating
perhaps in Suetonius, handed on by Edgar Poe, and repeated, with
variations, by various modern French writers, of sundry persons who,
among other realities, despise the fact that sheets and table-linen
are usually white; and show the subtlety of their organisation (the
Emperor Tiberius, a very subtle person, was one of the earliest to
apply the notion) by taking their sleep and food in an arrangement of
black materials; a sort of mourning warehouse of beds and
dining-tables.

Now this means simply that these people have bought "distinction" at
the price of one of mankind's most delightful birthrights, the
pleasure in white, the queen, as Leonardo put it, of all colours. Our
minds, our very sensations are interwoven so intricately of all manner
of impressions and associations, that it is no allegory to say that
white is good, and that the love of white is akin somehow to the love
of virtue. For the love of white has come to mean, thanks to the
practice of all centuries and to the very structure of our nerves,
strength, cleanness, and newness of sensation, capacity for
re-enjoying the already enjoyed, for preferring the already preferred,
for discovering new interest and pleasureableness in old things,
instead of running to new ones, as one does when not the old ones are
exhausted, but one's own poor vigour. The love of white means,
furthermore, the appreciation of certain circumstances, delightful and
valuable in themselves, without which whiteness cannot be present: in
human beings, good health and youth and fairness of life; in houses
(oh! the white houses of Cadiz, white between the blue sky and blue
sea!), excellence of climate, warmth, dryness and clearness of air;
and in all manner of household goods and stuff, care, order,
daintiness of habits, leisure and affluence. All things these which,
quite as much as any peculiarity of optic function, give for the
healthy mind a sort of restfulness, of calm, of virtue, and I might
almost say, of regal or priestly quality to white; a quality which
suits it to the act of restoring our bodies with food and wine, above
all, to the act of spiritual purification, the passing through the
cool, colourless, stainless, which constitutes true sleep.

All this the Emperor Tiberius and his imitators forego with their
bogey black sheets and table-cloths....


IX.

But what if we _do not care for white_? What if we are so constituted
that its insipidity sickens _us_ as much as the most poisonous and
putrescent colours which Blake ever mixed to paint hell and sin? Nay,
if those grumous and speckly viscosities of evil green, orange, poppy
purple, and nameless hues, are the only things which give us any
pleasure?

Is it a reason, because you arcadian Optimists of Evolution extract,
or imagine you extract, some feeble satisfaction out of white, that we
should pretend to enjoy it, and the Antique and Outdoor Nature, and
Early Painters, and Mozart and Gluck, and all the whitenesses physical
and moral? You say we are abnormal, unwholesome, decaying; very good,
then why should we not get pleasure in decaying, unwholesome, and
abnormal things? We are like the poison-monger's daughter in Nathaniel
Hawthorne's story. Other people's poison is our meat, and we should be
killed by an antidote; that is to say, bored to death, which, in our
opinion, is very much worse.

To this kind of speech, common since the romantic and pre-Raphaelite
movement, and getting commoner with the spread of theories of
intellectual anarchy and nervous degeneracy, one is often tempted to
answer impatiently, "Get out of the way, you wretched young people;
don't you see that there isn't room or time for your posing?"

But unfortunately it is not all pose. There are a certain number of
people who really are _bored with white_; for whom, as a result of
constitutional morbidness, of nervous exhaustion, or of that very
disintegration of soul due to unwholesome æsthetic self-indulgence, to
the constant quest for violent artistic emotion, our soul's best food
has really become unpalatable and almost nauseous. These people cannot
live without spiritual opium or alcohol, although that opium or
alcohol is killing them by inches. It is absurd to be impatient with
them. All one can do is to let them go in peace to their undoing, and
hope that their example will be rather a warning than a model to
others.


X.

But, letting alone the possibility of art acting as a poison for the
soul, there remains an important question. As I said, although art is
one of the most wholesome of our soul's activities, there are yet
kinds of art, or (since it is a subjective question of profit or
damage to ourselves) rather kinds of artistic effect, which, for some
evident reason, or through some obscure analogy or hidden point of
contact awaken those movements of the fancy, those states of the
emotions which disintegrate rather than renew the soul, and accustom
us rather to the yielding and proneness which we shun, than to the
resistance and elasticity which we seek throughout life to increase.

I was listening, last night, to some very wonderful singing of modern
German songs; and the emotion that still remains faintly within me
alongside of the traces of those languishing phrases and passionate
intonations, the remembrance of the sense of--how shall I call
it?--violation of the privacy of the human soul which haunted me
throughout that performance, has brought home to me, for the hundredth
time, that the Greek legislators were not so fantastic in considering
music a questionable art, which they thought twice before admitting
into their ideal commonwealths. For music can do more by our emotions
than the other arts, and it can, therefore, separate itself from them
and their holy ways; it can, in a measure, actually undo the good they
do to our soul.

But, you may object, poetry does the very same; it also expresses,
strengthens, brings home our human, momentary, individual emotions,
instead of uniting with the arts of visible form, with the harmonious
things of nature, to create for us another kind of emotion, the
emotion of the eternal, unindividual, universal life, in whose
contemplation our souls are healed and made whole after the
disintegration inflicted by what is personal and fleeting.

It is true that much poetry expresses merely such personal and momentary
emotion; but it does so through a mechanism differing from that of music,
and possessing a saving grace which the emotion-compelling mechanism
of music does not. For by the very nature of the spoken or written
word, by the word's strictly intellectual concomitants, poetry, even
while rousing emotion, brings into play what is most different to
emotion, emotion's sifter and chastener, the great force which reduces
all things to abstraction, to the eternal and typical: reason. You
cannot express in words, even the most purely instinctive,
half-conscious feeling, without placing that dumb and blind emotion in
the lucid, balanced relations which thought has given to words;
indeed, words rarely, if ever, reproduce emotion as it is, but
instead, emotion as it is instinctively conceived, in its setting of
cause and effect. Hence there is in all poetry a certain reasonable
element which, even in the heyday of passion, makes us superior to
passion by explaining its why and wherefore; and even when the poet
succeeds in putting us in the place of him who feels, we enter only
into one-half of his personality, the half which contemplates while
the other suffers: we _know_ the feeling, rather than _feel_ it.

Now, it is different with music. Its relations to our nerves are such
that it can reproduce emotion, or, at all events, emotional moods,
directly and without any intellectual manipulation. We weep, but know
not why. Its specifically artistic emotion, the power it shares with
all other arts of raising our state of consciousness to something more
complete, more vast, and more permanent--the specific musical emotion
of music can become subservient to the mere awakening of our latent
emotional possibilities, to the stimulating of emotions often
undesirable in themselves, and always unable, at the moment, to find
their legitimate channel, whence enervation and perhaps degradation of
the soul. There are kinds of music which add the immense charm, the
subduing, victorious quality of art, to the power of mere emotion as
such; and in these cases we are pushed, by the delightfulness of
beauty and wonder, by the fascination of what is finer than ourselves,
into deeper consciousness of our innermost, primæval, chaotic self:
the stuff in which soul has not yet dawned. We are made to enjoy what
we should otherwise dread; and the dignity of beauty, and beauty's
frankness and fearlessness, are lent to things such as we regard,
under other circumstances, as too intimate, too fleeting, too obscure,
too unconscious, to be treated, in ourselves and our neighbours,
otherwise than with decorous reserve.

It is astonishing, when one realises it, that the charm of music, the
good renown it has gained in its more healthful and more decorous
days, can make us sit out what we do sit out under its influence:
violations of our innermost secrets, revelations of the hidden
possibilities of our own nature and the nature of others; stripping
away of all the soul's veils; nay, so to speak, melting away of the
soul's outward forms, melting away of the soul's active structure, its
bone and muscle, till there is revealed only the shapeless primæval
nudity of confused instincts, the soul's vague viscera.

When music does this, it reverts, I think, towards being the nuisance
which, before it had acquired the possibilities of form and beauty it
now tends to despise, it was felt to be by ancient philosophers and
law-givers. At any rate, it sells its artistic birthright. It
renounces its possibility of constituting, with the other great arts,
a sort of supplementary contemplated nature; an element wherein to
buoy up and steady those fluctuations which we express in speech; a
vast emotional serenity, an abstract universe in which our small and
fleeting emotions can be transmuted, and wherein they can lose
themselves in peacefulness and strength.


XI.

I mentioned this one day to my friend the composer. His answer is
partly what I was prepared for: this emotionally disintegrating
element ceases to exist, or continues to exist only in the very
slightest degree, for the real musician. The effect on the nerves is
overlooked, neutralised, in the activity of the intellect; much as the
emotional effect of the written word is sent into the background by
the perception of cause and effect which the logical associations of
the word produce. For the composer, even for the performer, says my
friend, music has a logic of its own, so strong and subtle as to
overpower every other consideration.

But music is not merely for musicians; the vast majority will always
receive it not actively through the intellect, but passively through
the nerves; the mood will, therefore, be induced before, so to speak,
the image, the musical structure, is really appreciated. And,
meanwhile, the soul is being made into a sop.

"For the moment," answers my composer, "perhaps; but only for the
moment. Once the nerves accustomed to those modulations and rhythms;
once the form perceived by the mind, the emotional associations will
vanish; the hearer will have become what the musician originally
was.... How do you know that, in its heyday, all music may not have
affected people as Wagner's music affects them nowadays? What proof
have you got that the strains of Mozart and Gluck, nay, those of
Palestrina, which fill our soul with serenity, may not have been full
of stress and trouble when they first were heard; may not have laid
bare the chaotic elements of our nature, brought to the surface its
primæval instincts? Historically, all you know is that Gluck's
_Orpheus_ made our ancestors weep; and that Wagner's _Tristram_ makes
our contemporaries sob...."

This is the musician's defence. Does it free his art from my rather
miserable imputation? I think not. If all this be true, if _Orpheus_
has been what _Tristram_ is, all one can say is _the more's the pity_.
If it be true, all music would require the chastening influence of
time, and its spiritual value would be akin to that of the Past and
Distant; it would be innocuous, because it had lost half of its
vitality. We should have to lay down music, like wine, for the future;
poisoning ourselves with the acrid fumes of its must, the heady,
enervating scent of scum and purpled vat, in order that our children
might drink vigour and warmth after we were dead.


XII.

But I doubt very much whether this is true. It is possible that the
music of Wagner may eventually become serene like the music of Handel;
but was the music of Handel ever morbid like the music of Wagner?

I do not base my belief on any preference from Handel's
contemporaries. We may, as we are constantly being told, be
_degenerates_; but there was no special grace whence to degenerate in
our perruked forefathers. Moreover, I believe that any very
spontaneous art is to a very small degree the product of one or even
two or three generations of men. It has been growing to be what it is
for centuries and centuries. Its germ and its necessities of organism
and development lie far, far back in the soul's world-history; and it
is but later, if at all, when the organic growth is at an end, that
times and individuals can fashion it in their paltry passing image.
No; we may be as strong and as pure as Handel's audiences, and our
music yet be less strong and pure than theirs.

My reason for believing in a fundamental emotional difference between
that music and ours is of another sort. I think that in art, as in all
other things, the simpler, more normal interest comes first, and the
more complex, less normal, follows when the simple and normal has
become, through familiarity, the insipid. While pleasure unspiced by
pain is still a novelty there is no reason thus to spice it.


XIII.

The question can, however, be tolerably settled by turning over the
means which enable music to awaken emotion--emotion which we recognise
as human, as distinguished from the mere emotion of pleasure attached
to all beautiful sights and sounds. Once we have understood what these
means are, we can enquire to what extent they are employed in the
music of various schools and epochs, and thus judge, with some chance
of likelihood, whether the music which strikes us as serene and
vigorous could have affected our ancestors as turbid and enervating.

'Tis a dull enough psychological examination; but one worth making,
not merely for the sake of music itself, but because music, being the
most emotional of all the arts, can serve to typify the good or
mischief which all art may do, according to which of our emotions it
fosters.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Tis repeating a fact in different words, not stating anything new, to
say that all beautiful things awaken a specific sort of emotion, the
emotion or the mood of the beautiful. Yet this statement, equivalent
to saying that hot objects give us the sensation of heat, and wet
objects the sensation of wetness, is well worth repeating, because we
so often forget that the fact of beauty in anything is merely the fact
of that thing setting up in ourselves a very specific feeling.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now, besides this beauty or quality producing the emotion of the
beautiful, there exist in things a lot of other qualities also
producing emotion, each according to its kind; or rather, the
beautiful thing may also be qualified in some other way, as the thing
which is useful, useless, old, young, common, rare, or whatever you
choose. And this coincidence of qualities produces a coincidence of
states of mind. We shall experience the feeling not merely of beauty
because the thing is beautiful, but also of surprise because it is
startling, of familiarity because we meet it often, of attraction
(independently of beauty) because the thing suits or benefits us, or
of repulsion (despite the beauty) because the thing has done us a bad
turn or might do us one. This is saying that beauty is only one of
various relations possible between something not ourselves and our
feelings, and that it is probable that other relations between them
may exist at the same moment, in the same way that a woman may be a
man's wife, but also his cousin, his countrywoman, his school-board
representative, his landlady, and his teacher of Latin, without one
qualification precluding the others.

Now, in the arts of line, colour, and projection, the arts which
usually copy the appearance of objects existing outside the art, these
other qualities, these other relations between ourselves and the
object which exists in the relation of beauty, are largely a matter of
superficial association--I mean, of association which may vary, and of
which we are most often conscious.

We are reminded by the picture or statue of qualities which do not
exist in it, but in its prototype in reality. A certain face will
awaken disgust when seen in a picture, or reverence or amusement,
besides the specific impression of beauty (or its reverse), because we
have experienced disgust, awe, amusement in connection with a similar
face outside the picture.

So far, therefore, as art is imitative, its non-artistic emotional
capacities are due (with a very few exceptions) to association; for
the feelings traceable directly to fatigue or disintegration of the
perceptive faculty usually, indeed almost always, prevent the object
from affecting us as beautiful. It is quite otherwise when we come to
music. Here the coincidence of other emotion resides, I believe, not
in the _musical thing itself_, not in the musician's creation without
prototype in reality, resembling nothing save other musical
structures; the coincidence resides in the elements out of which that
structure is made, and which, for all its complexities, are still very
strongly perceived by our senses. For instance, certain rhythms
existing in music are identical with, or analogous to, the rhythm of
our bodily movements under varying circumstances: we know
alternations of long and short, variously composed regularities and
irregularities of movement, fluctuations, reinforcements or
subsidences, from experience other than that of music; we know them in
connection with walking, jumping, dragging; with beating of heart and
arteries, expansion of throat and lungs; we knew them, long before
music was, as connected with energy or oppression, sickness or health,
elation or depression, grief, fear, horror, or serenity and happiness.
And when they become elements of a musical structure their
associations come along with them. And these associations are the more
powerful that, while they are rudimentary, familiar like our own
being, perhaps even racial, the musical structure into which they
enter is complete, individual, _new_: 'tis comparing the efficacy of,
say, Mozart Op. So-and-so, with the efficacy of somebody sobbing or
dancing in our presence.

So far for the associational power of music in awakening emotions. But
music has another source of such power over us. Existing as it does in
a sequence, it is able to give sensations which the arts dealing with
space, and not with time, could not allow themselves, since for them a
disagreeable effect could never prelude an agreeable one, but merely
co-exist with it; whereas for music a disagreeable effect is
effaceable by an agreeable one, and will even considerably heighten
the latter by being made to precede it. Now we not merely associate
fatigue or pain with any difficult perception, we actually feel it; we
are aware of real discomfort whenever our senses and attention are
kept too long on the stretch, or are stimulated too sharply by
something unexpected. In these cases we are conscious of something
which is exhausting, overpowering, unendurable if it lasted:
experiences which are but too familiar in matters not musical, and,
therefore, evoke the remembrance of such non-musical discomfort, which
reacts to increase the discomfort produced by the music; the reverse
taking place, a sense of freedom, of efficiency, of strength arising
in us whenever the object of perception can be easily, though
energetically, perceived. Hence intervals which the ear has difficulty
in following, dissonances to which it is unaccustomed, and phrases too
long or too slack for convenient scansion, produce a degree of
sensuous and intellectual distress, which can be measured by the
immense relief--relief as an acute satisfaction--of return to easier
intervals, of consonance, and of phrases of normal rhythm and length.

Thus does it come to pass that music can convey emotional suggestions
such as painting and sculpture, for all their imitations of reality,
can never match in efficacy; since music conveys the suggestions not
of mere objects which may have awakened emotion, but of emotion
itself, of the expression thereof in our bodily feelings and
movements. And hence also the curious paradox that musical emotion is
strong almost in proportion as it is vague. A visible object may, and
probably will, possess a dozen different emotional values, according
to our altering relations therewith; for one relation, one mood, one
emotion succeeds and obliterates the other, till nothing very potent
can remain connected with that particular object. But it matters not
how different the course of the various emotions which have expressed
themselves in movements of slackness, agitation, energy, or confusion;
it matters not through what circumstances our vigour may have leaked
away, our nerves have been harrowed, our attention worn out, so long
as those movements, those agitations, slackenings, oppressions,
reliefs, fatigues, harrowings, and reposings are actually taking place
within us. In briefer phrase, while painting and sculpture present us
only with objects possibly connected with emotions, but probably
connected with emotions too often varied to affect us strongly; music
gives us the actual bodily consciousness of emotion; nay (in so far as
it calls for easy or difficult acts of perception), the actual mental
reality of comfort or discomfort.


XIV.

The emotion uppermost in the music of all these old people is the
specific emotion of the beautiful; the emotional possibilities, latent
in so many elements of the musical structure, never do more than
qualify the overwhelming impression due to that structure itself. The
music of Handel and Bach is beautiful, with a touch of awe; that of
Gluck, with a tinge of sadness; Mozart's and his contemporaries' is
beautiful, with a reminiscence of all tender and happy emotions; then
again, there are the great Italians of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, Carissimi, Scarlatti the elder, Marcello, whose musical
beauty is oddly emphasised with energy and sternness, due to their
powerful, simple rhythms and straightforward wide intervals. But
whatever the emotional qualification, the chief, the never varying,
all-important characteristic, is the beauty; the dominant emotion is
the serene happiness which beauty gives: happiness, strong and
delicate; increase of our vitality; evocation of all cognate beauty,
physical and moral, bringing back to our consciousness all that which
is at once wholesome and rare. For beauty such as this is both
desirable and, in a sense, far-fetched; it comes naturally to us, and
we meet it half-way; but it does not come often enough.

Hence it is that the music of these masters never admits us into the
presence of such feelings as either were better not felt, or at all
events, not idly witnessed. There is not ever anything in the joy or
grief suggested by this music, in the love of which it is an
expression, which should make us feel abashed in feeling or
witnessing. The whole world may watch _Orpheus_ or _Alcestis_, as the
whole world may stand (with Bach or Pergolese to make music) at the
foot of the Cross. But may the whole world sit idly watching the
raptures and death-throes of Tristram and Yseult?

Surely the world has grown strangely intrusive and unblushing.


XV.

I have spoken of this old music as an expression of love; and this, in
the face of the emotional effects of certain modern composers, may
make some persons smile.

Perhaps I should rather have said that this old music expresses, above
everything else, the _lovable_; for does not eminent beauty inevitably
awaken love, either as respect or tenderness; the lovable,
_loveliness_? And at the same time the love itself such loveliness
awakens. Love far beyond particular cases or persons, fitting all
noble things, real and imaginary, complex or fragmentary. Love as a
lyric essence.


XVI.

But why not more than merely that? I used at one time to have frequent
discussions on art and life with a certain poor friend of mine, who
should have found sweetness in both, giving both sweetness in return,
but, alas, did neither. We were sitting in the fields where the
frost-bitten green was just beginning to soften into minute starlike
buds and mosses, and the birds were learning to sing in the leafless
lilac hedgerows, the sunshine, as it does in spring, seeming to hold
the world rather than merely to pour on to it. "You see," said my
friend, "you see, there is a fundamental difference between us. You
are satisfied with what you call _happiness_; but I want _rapture and
excess_."

Alas, a few years later, the chance of happiness had gone. That door
was opened, of which Epictetus wrote that we might always pass through
it; in this case not because "the room was too full of smoke," but,
what is sadder by far, because the room was merely whitewashed and
cleanly swept.

But those words "rapture and excess," spoken in such childlike
simplicity of spirit, have always remained in my mind. Should we not
teach our children, among whom there may be such as that one was, that
the best thing life can give is just that despised thing _happiness_?


XVII.

Now art, to my mind, should be one of our main sources of happiness;
and under the inappropriate word _art_, I am obliged, as usual, to
group all such activities of soul as deal with beauty, quite as much
when it exists in what is (in this sense) not art's antithesis, but
art's origin and completion, nature. Nay, art--the art exercised by
the craftsman, but much more so the art, the selecting, grouping
process performed by our own feelings--art can do more towards our
happiness than increase the number of its constituent items: it can
mould our preferences, can make our souls more resisting and flexible,
teach them to keep pace with the universal rhythm.

Now, there is not room enough in the world, and not stuff enough in
us, for much rapture, or for any excess. The space, as it were, the
material which these occupy and exhaust, has to be paid for; rapture
is paid for by subsequent stinting, and excess by subsequent
bankruptcy.

We all know this in even trifling matters; the dulness, the lassitude
or restlessness, the incapacity for enjoyment following any very acute
or exciting pleasure. A man after a dangerous ride, a girl after her
first wildly successful ball, are not merely exhausted in body and in
mind; they are momentarily deprived of the enjoyment of slighter
emotions; 'tis like the inability to hear one's own voice after
listening to a tremendous band.

The gods, one might say in Goethian phrase, did not intend us to share
their own manner of being; or, if you prefer it, in the language of
Darwin or Weissmann, creatures who died of sheer bliss, were unable to
rear a family and to found a species. Be it as it may, rapture must
needs be rare, because it destroys a piece of us (makes our precious
piece of chagrin skin, as in Balzac's story, shrink each time). And,
as we have seen, it destroys (which is more important than destruction
of mere life) our sensibility to those diffuse, long-drawn, gentle,
restorative pleasures which are not merely durable, but, because they
invigorate our spirit, are actually reproductive of themselves,
multiplying, like all sane desirable things, like grain and fruit,
ten-fold. Pleasures which I would rather call, but for the cumbersome
words, items of happiness. It is therefore no humiliating circumstance
if art and beauty should be unable to excite us like a game of cards,
a steeplechase, a fight, or some violent excitement of our senses or
our vanity. This inability, on the contrary, constitutes our chief
reason for considering our pleasure in beautiful sights, sounds, and
thoughts, as in a sense, holy.


XVIII.

Yesterday morning, riding towards the cypress woods, I had the first
impression of spring; and, in fact, to-day the first almond-tree had
come out in blossom on our hillside.

A cool morning; loose, quickly moving clouds, and every now and then a
gust of rain swept down from the mountains. The path followed a brook,
descending in long, steep steps from the hillside; water perfectly
clear, bubbling along the yellow stones between the grassy banks and
making now and then a little leap into a lower basin; along the stream
great screens of reeds, sere, pale, with barely a pennon of leaves,
rustling ready for the sickle; and behind, beneath the watery sky,
rainy but somehow peaceful, the russet oak-scrub of the hill. Of
spring there was indeed visible only the green of the young wheat
beneath the olives; not a bud as yet had moved. And still, it is
spring. The world is renewing itself. One feels it in the gusts of
cool, wet wind, the songs of the reeds, the bubble of the brook; one
feels it, above all, in oneself. All things are braced, elastic, ready
for life.



THE ART AND THE COUNTRY.

TUSCAN NOTES.

     "... all these are inhabitants of truly mountain cities, Florence
     being as completely among the hills as Innsbruck is, only the
     hills have softer outlines."--_Modern Painters_, iv., chap. xx.


I.

Sitting in the January sunshine on the side of this Fiesole hill,
overlooking the opposite quarries (a few long-stalked daisies at my
feet in the gravel, still soft from the night's frost), my thoughts
took the colour and breath of the place. They circled, as these paths
circle round the hill, about those ancient Greek and old Italian
cities, where the cyclopean walls, the carefully-terraced olives,
followed the tracks made first by the shepherd's and the goat's foot,
even as we see them now on the stony hills all round. What
civilisations were those, thus sowed on the rock like the wild mint
and grey myrrh-scented herbs, and grown under the scorch of sun upon
stone, and the eddy of winds down the valleys! They are gone,
disappeared, and their existence would be impossible in our days. But
they have left us their art, the essence they distilled from their
surroundings. And that is as good for our souls as the sunshine and
the wind, as the aromatic scent of the herbs of their mountains.


II.

I am tempted to think that the worst place for getting to know,
getting to _feel_, any school of painting, is the gallery, and the
best, perhaps, the fields: the fields (or in the case of the
Venetians, largely the waters), to which, with their qualities of air,
of light, their whole train of sensations and moods, the artistic
temperament, and the special artistic temperament of a local school,
can very probably be traced.

For to appreciate any kind of art means, after all, not to understand
its relations with other kinds of art, but to feel its relations with
ourselves. It is a matter of living, thanks to that art, according to
the spiritual and organic modes of which it is an expression. Now, to
go from room to room of a gallery, allowing oneself to be played upon
by very various kinds of art, is to prevent the formation of any
definite mood, and to set up what is most hostile to all mood, to all
unity of being: comparison, analysis, classification. You may know
quite exactly the difference between Giotto and Simon Martini, between
a Ferrarese and a Venetian, between Praxiteles and Scopas; and yet be
ignorant of the meaning which any of these might have in your life,
and unconscious of the changes they might work in your being. And
this, I fear, is often the case with connoisseurs and archæologists,
accounting for the latent suspicion of the ignoramus and the good
philistine, that such persons are somehow none the better for their
intercourse with art.

All art which is organic, short of which it cannot be efficient,
depends upon tradition. To say so sounds a truism, because we rarely
realise all that tradition implies: on the side of the artist, _what
to do_, and on the side of his public, _how to feel_: a habit, an
expectation which accumulates the results of individual creative
genius and individual appreciative sensibility, giving to each its
greatest efficacy. When one remembers, in individual instances--Kant,
Darwin, Michel Angelo, Mozart--how very little which is absolutely
new, how slight a variation, how inevitable a combination, marks,
after all, the greatest strokes of genius in all things, it seems
quite laughable to expect the mediocre person, mere looker-on or
listener, far from creative, to reach at once, without a similar
sequence of initiation, a corresponding state of understanding and
enjoyment. But, as a rule, this thought does not occur to us; and,
while we expatiate on the creative originality of artists and poets,
we dully take for granted the instant appreciation of their creation;
forgetting, or not understanding, in both cases, the wonderful
efficacy of tradition.

As regards us moderns, for whom the tradition of, say, Tuscan art has
so long been broken off or crossed by various other and very different
ones--as regards ourselves, I am inclined to think that we can best
recover it by sympathetic attention to those forms of art, humbler or
more public, which must originally have prepared and kept up the
interest of the people for whom the Tuscan craftsmen worked.

Pictures and statues, even in a traditional period, embody a large
amount of merely personal peculiarities of individual artists,
testifying to many activities--imitation, self-assertion,
rivalry--which have no real æsthetic value. And, during the fifteenth
century and in Tuscany especially, the flow of traditional æsthetic
feeling is grievously altered and adulterated by the merest scientific
tendencies: a painter or sculptor being often, in the first instance,
a student of anatomy, archæology or perspective. One may, therefore,
be familiar for twenty years with Tuscan Renaissance painting or
sculpture, and yet remain very faintly conscious of the special
æsthetic character, the _virtues_ (in the language of herbals) of
Tuscan art. Hence I should almost say, better let alone the pictures
and statues until you are sufficiently acquainted with the particular
quality lurking therein to recognise, extricate and assimilate it,
despite irrelevant ingredients. Learn the _quality_ of Tuscan art from
those categories of it which are most impersonal, most traditional,
and most organic and also freer from scientific interference, say
architecture and decoration; and from architecture rather in its
humble, unobtrusive work than in the great exceptional creations which
imply, like the cupola of Florence, the assertion of a personality,
the surmounting of a difficulty, and even the braving of other folks'
opinion. I believe that if one learned, not merely to know, but to
feel, to enjoy very completely and very specifically, the quality of
distinctness and reserve, slightness of means and greatness of
proportions, of the domestic architecture and decoration of the
fifteenth century, if one made one's own the mood underlying the
special straight lines and curves, the symmetry and hiatus of the
colonnades, for instance, inside Florentine houses; of the little bits
of carving on escutcheon and fireplace of Tuscan hillside farms; let
alone of the plainest sepulchral slabs in Santa Croce, one would be
in better case for really appreciating, say, Botticelli or Pier della
Francesca than after ever so much comparison of their work with that
of other painters. For, through familiarity with that humbler, more
purely impersonal and traditional art, a certain mode of being in
oneself, which is the special æsthetic mood of the Tuscan's would have
become organised and be aroused at the slightest indication of the
qualities producing it, so that their presence would never escape one.
This, I believe, is the secret of all æsthetic training: the growing
accustomed, as it were automatically, to respond to the work of art's
bidding; to march or dance to Apollo's harping with the irresistible
instinct with which the rats and the children followed the pied
piper's pipe. This is the æsthetic training which quite unconsciously
and incidentally came to the men of the past through daily habit of
artistic forms which existed and varied in the commonest objects just
as in the greatest masterpieces. And through it alone was the highest
art brought into fruitful contact with even the most everyday persons:
the tradition which already existed making inevitable the tradition
which followed.

But to return to us moderns, who have to reconstitute deliberately a
vanished æsthetic tradition, it seems to me that such familiarity with
Tuscan art once initiated, we can learn more, producing and canalising
its special moods, from a frosty afternoon like this one on the
hillside, with its particular taste of air, its particular line of
shelving rock and twisting road and accentuating reed or cypress in
the delicate light, than from hours in a room where Signorelli and
Lippi, Angelico and Pollaiolo, are all telling one different things
in different languages.


III.

These thoughts, and the ones I shall try to make clear as I go on,
began to take shape one early winter morning some ten years ago, while
I was staying among the vineyards in the little range of hills which
separate the valley of the Ombrone from the lower valley of the Arno.
Stony hills, stony paths between leafless lilac hedges, stony outlines
of crest, fringed with thin rosy bare trees; here and there a few
bright green pines; for the rest, olives and sulphur-yellow sere vines
among them; the wide valley all a pale blue wash, and Monte Morello
opposite wrapped in mists. It was visibly snowing on the great
Apennines, and suddenly, though very gently, it began to snow here
also, wrapping the blue distance, the yellow vineyards, in thin veils.
Brisk cold. At the house, when I returned from my walk, the children
were flattened against the window-panes, shouting for joy at the snow.
We grown-up folk, did we live wiser lives, might be equally delighted
by similar shows.

A very Tuscan, or rather (what I mean when I make use of that word,
for geographically Tuscany is very large and various) a very
Florentine day. Beauty, exquisiteness, serenity; but not without
austerity carried to a distinct bitingness. And this is the quality
which we find again in all very characteristic Tuscan art. Such a
country as this, scorched in summer, wind-swept in winter, and
constantly stony and uphill, a country of eminently dry, clear, moving
air, puts us into a braced, active, self-restrained mood; there is in
it, as in these frosty days which suit it best, something which gives
life and demands it: a quality of happy effort. The art produced by
people in whom such a condition of being is frequent, must necessarily
reproduce this same condition of being in others.

Therefore the connection between a country and its art must be sought
mainly in the fact that all art expresses a given state of being, of
emotion, not human necessarily, but vital; that is to say, expresses
not whether we love or hate, but rather _how_ we love or hate, how we
_are_. The mountain forms, colour, water, etc., of a country are
incorporated into its art less as that art's object of representation,
than as the determinant of a given mode of vitality in the artist.
Hence music and literature, although never actually reproducing any
part of them, may be strongly affected by their character. The _Vita
Nuova_, the really great (not merely historically interesting)
passages of the Divine Comedy, and the popular songs of Tigri's
collection, are as much the outcome of these Tuscan mountains and
hills, as is any picture in which we recognise their outlines and
colours. Indeed, it happens that of literal rendering (as
distinguished from ever-present reference to quality of air or light,
to climbing, to rock and stone as such) there is little in the
_Commedia_, none at all in either the old or the more modern lyrics,
and not so much even in painted landscape. The Tuscan backgrounds of
the fifteenth century are _not_ these stony places, sun-burnt or
wind-swept; they are the green lawns and pastures in vogue with the
whole international Middle Ages, but rendered with that braced,
selecting, finishing temper which _is_ the product of those stony
hills. Similarly the Tuscans must have been influenced by the grace,
the sparseness, the serenity of the olive, its inexhaustible vigour
and variety; yet how many of them ever painted it? That a people
should never paint or describe their landscape may mean that they have
not consciously inventoried the items; but it does not mean that they
have not æsthetically, so to speak _nervously_, felt them. Their
quality, their virtue, may be translated into that people's way of
talking of or painting quite different things: the Tuscan quality is a
quality of form, because it is a quality of mood.


IV.

This Tuscan, and more than Attic, quality--for there is something akin
to it in certain Greek archaic sculpture--is to be found, already
perfect and most essential, in the façades of the early mediæval
churches of Pistoia. _Is to be found_; because this quality, tense and
restrained and distributed with harmonious evenness, reveals itself
only to a certain fineness and carefulness of looking. The little
churches (there are four or five of them) belong to the style called
Pisan-Romanesque; and their fronts, carved arches, capitals, lintels,
and doorposts, are identical in plan, in all that the mind rapidly
inventories, with the fronts of the numerous contemporary churches of
Lucca. But a comparison with these will bring out most vividly the
special quality of the Pistoia churches. The Lucchese ones (of some of
which, before their restoration, Mr. Ruskin has left some marvellous
coloured drawings at Oxford) run to picturesqueness and even
something more; they do better in the picture than in the reality,
and weathering and defacement has done much for them. Whereas the
little churches at Pistoia, with less projection, less carving in the
round, few or no animal or clearly floral forms, and, as a rule,
pilasters or half-pillars instead of columns, must have been as
perfect the day they were finished; the subtle balancings and tensions
of lines and curves, the delicate fretting and inlaying of flat
surface pattern, having gained only, perhaps, in being drawn more
clearly by dust and damp upon a softer colour of marble. I have
mentioned these first, because their apparent insignificance--tiny
flat façades, with very little decoration--makes it in a way easier to
grasp the special delicate austerity of their beauty. But they are
humble offshoots, naturally, of two great and complex masterpieces,
and very modest sisters of a masterpiece only a degree less
marvellous: Pisa Cathedral, the Baptistery of Florence and San
Miniato. The wonderful nature of the most perfect of these three
buildings (and yet I hesitate to call it so, remembering the apse and
lateral gables of Pisa) can be the better understood that, standing
before the Baptistery of Florence, one has by its side Giotto's very
beautiful belfry. Looking at them turn about, one finds that the
Gothic boldness of light and shade of the Campanile makes the windows,
pillars and cornices of the Baptistery seem at first very flat and
uninteresting. But after the first time, and once that sense of
flatness overcome, it is impossible to revert to the belfry with the
same satisfaction. The eye and mind return to the greater perfection
of the Baptistery; by an odd paradox there is deeper feeling in those
apparently so slight and superficial carvings, those lintels and
fluted columns of green marble which scarcely cast a shadow on their
ivory-tinted wall. The Tuscan quality of these buildings is the better
appreciated when we take in the fact that their architectural items
had long existed, not merely in the Romanesque, but in the Byzantine
and late Roman. The series of temple-shaped windows on the outside of
the Florence Baptistery and of San Miniato, has, for instance, its
original in the Baptistery of Ravenna and the arch at Verona. What the
Tuscans have done is to perfect the inner and subtler proportions, to
restrain and accentuate, to phrase (in musical language) every detail
of execution. By an accident of artistic evolution, this style of
architecture, rather dully elaborated by a worn-out civilisation, has
had to wait six centuries for life to be put into it by a finer-strung
people at a chaster and more braced period of history. Nor should we
be satisfied with such loose phrases as this, leading one to think, in
a slovenly fashion (quite unsuitable to Tuscan artistic lucidity),
that the difference lay in some vague metaphysical entity called
_spirit_: the spirit of the Tuscan stonemasons of the early Middle
Ages altered the actual tangible forms in their proportions and
details: this spiritual quality affects us in their carved and inlaid
marbles, their fluted pilasters and undercut capitals, as a result of
actual work of eye and of chisel: they altered the expression by
altering the stone, even as the frosts and August suns and trickling
water had determined the expression, by altering the actual surface,
of their lovely austere hills.


V.

The Tuscan quality in architecture must not be sought for during the
hundred years of Gothic--that is to say, of foreign--supremacy and
interregnum. The stonemasons of Pisa and of Florence did indeed apply
their wholly classic instincts to the detail and ornament of this
alien style; and one is struck by the delicacy and self-restraint of,
say, the Tuscan ones among the Scaliger tombs compared with the more
picturesque looseness of genuine Veronese and Venetian Gothic
sculpture. But the constructive, and, so to speak, space enclosing,
principles of the great art of mediæval France were even less
understood by the Tuscan than by any other Italian builders; and, as
the finest work of Tuscan façade architecture was given before the
Gothic interregnum, so also its most noble work, as actual spatial
arrangement, must be sought for after the return to the round arch,
the cupola and the entablature of genuine Southern building. And then,
by a fortunate coincidence (perhaps because this style affords no real
unity to vast naves and transepts), the architectural masterpieces of
the fifteenth century are all of them (excepting, naturally,
Brunelleschi's dome) very small buildings: the Sacristies of S.
Lorenzo and S. Spirito, the chapel of the Pazzi, and the late, but
exquisite, small church of the Carceri at Prato. The smallness of
these places is fortunate, because it leaves no doubt that the sense
of spaciousness--of our being, as it were, enclosed with a great part
of world and sky around us--is an artistic illusion got by
co-ordination of detail, greatness of proportions, and, most of all,
perhaps, by quite marvellous distribution of light. These small
squares, or octagons, most often with a square embrasure for the
altar, seem ample habitations for the greatest things; one would wish
to use them for Palestrina's music, or Bach's, or Handel's; and then
one recognises that their actual dimensions in yards would not
accommodate the band and singers and the organ! Such music must remain
in our soul, where, in reality, the genius of those Florentine
architects has contrived the satisfying ampleness of their buildings.

That they invented nothing in the way of architectural ornament, nay,
took their capitals, flutings, cornices, and so forth, most
mechanically from the worst antique, should be no real drawback to
this architecture; it was, most likely, a matter of negative instinct.
For these meagre details leave the mind free, nay, force it rather, to
soar at once into the vaultings, into the serene middle space opposite
the windows, and up into the enclosed heaven of the cupolas.


VI.

The Tuscan sculpture of this period stands, I think, midway between
the serene perfection of the buildings (being itself sprung from the
architecture of the Gothic time), and the splendid but fragmentary
accomplishment of the paintings, many of whose disturbing problems, of
anatomy and anatomic movement, it shared to its confusion. It is not
for beautiful bodily structure or gesture, such as we find even in
poor antiques, that we should go to the Florentine sculptors, save,
perhaps, the two Robbias. It is the almost architectural distribution
of space and light, the treatment of masses, which makes the
immeasurable greatness of Donatello, and gives dignity to his greatest
contemporary, Jacopo della Quercia. And it is again an architectural
quality, though in the sense of the carved portals of Pistoia, the
flutings and fretwork and surface pattern of the Baptistery and S.
Miniato, which gives such poignant pleasure in the work of a very
different, but very great, sculptor, Desiderio. The marvel (for it is
a marvel) of his great monument in Santa Croce, depends not on
anatomic forms, but on the exquisite variety and vivacity of surface
arrangement; the word symphony (so often misapplied) fitting exactly
this complex structure of minute melodies and harmonies of rhythms and
accents in stone.

But the quality of Tuscan sculpture exists in humbler, often anonymous
and infinitely pathetic work. I mean those effigies of knights and
burghers, coats of arms and mere inscriptions, which constitute so
large a portion of what we walk upon in Santa Croce. Things not much
thought of, maybe, and ruthlessly defaced by all posterity. But the
masses, the main lines, were originally noble, and defacement has only
made their nobleness and tenderness more evident and poignant: they
have come to partake of the special solemnity of stone worn by frost
and sunshine.


VII.

There are a great many items which go to make up Tuscany and the
specially Tuscan mood. The country is at once hilly and mountainous,
but rich in alluvial river valleys, as flat and as wide, very often,
as plains; and the chains which divide and which bound it are as
various as can be: the crystalline crags of Carrara, the washed away
cones and escarpments of the high Apennines, repeating themselves in
counter forts and foothills, and the low, closely packed ridges of the
hills between Florence and Siena. Hence there is always a view,
definite and yet very complex, made up of every variety of line, but
always of clearest perspective: perfect horizontals at one's feet,
perfect perpendiculars opposite the eye, a constant alternation of
looking up and looking down, a never-failing possibility of looking
_beyond_, an outlet everywhere for the eye, and for the breath; and
endless intricacy of projecting spur and engulfed ravine, of valley
above valley, and ridge beyond ridge; and all of it, whether
definitely modelled by stormy lights or windy dryness, or washed to
mere outline by sunshine or mist, always massed into intelligible,
harmonious, and ever-changing groups. Ever changing as you move, hills
rising or sinking as you mount or descend, furling or unfurling as you
go to the right or to the left, valleys and ravines opening or closing
up, the whole country altering, so to speak, its attitude and gesture
as quickly almost, and with quite as perfect consecutiveness, as does
a great cathedral when you walk round it. And, for this reason, never
letting you rest; keeping _you_ also in movement, feet, eyes and
fancy. Add to all this a particular topographical feeling, very strong
and delightful, which I can only describe as that of seeing all the
kingdoms of the earth. In the high places close to Florence (and with
that especial lie of the land everything is a _high place_) a view is
not only of foregrounds and backgrounds, river troughs and mountain
lines of great variety, but of whole districts, or at least
indications of districts--distant peaks making you feel the places at
their feet--which you know to be extremely various: think of the
Carraras with their Mediterranean seaboard, the high Apennines with
Lombardy and the Adriatic behind them, the Siena and Volterra hills
leading to the Maremma, and the great range of the Falterona, with the
Tiber issuing from it, leading the mind through Umbria to Rome!

The imagination is as active among these Florentine hills as is the
eye, or as the feet and lungs have been, pleasantly tired, delighting
in the moment's rest, after climbing those steep places among the
pines or the myrtles, under the scorch of the wholesome summer sun, or
in the face of the pure, snowy wind. The wind, so rarely at rest, has
helped to make the Tuscan spirit, calling for a certain resoluteness
to resist it, but, in return, taking all sense of weight away, making
the body merge, so to speak, into eye and mind, and turning one, for a
little while, into part of the merely visible and audible. The
frequent possibility of such views as I have tried to define, of such
moments of fulness of life, has given, methinks, the quality of
definiteness and harmony, of active, participated in, greatness, to
the art of Tuscany.


VIII.

It is a pity that, as regards painting, this Tuscan feeling (for
Giottesque painting had the cosmopolitan, as distinguished from local,
quality of the Middle Ages and of the Franciscan movement) should have
been at its strongest just in the century when mere scientific
interest was uppermost. Nay, one is tempted to think that matters were
made worse by that very love of the strenuous, the definite, the
lucid, which is part of the Tuscan spirit. So that we have to pick
out, in men like Donatello, Uccello, Pollaiolo and Verrocchio, nay,
even in Lippi and Botticelli, the fragments which correspond to what
we get quite unmixed and perfect in the Romanesque churches of Pisa,
Florence, and Pistoia, in the sacristies and chapels of Brunelleschi,
Alberti, and Sangallo, and in a hundred exquisite cloisters and
loggias of unnoticed town houses and remote farms. But perhaps there
is added a zest (by no means out of keeping with the Tuscan feeling)
to our enjoyment by the slight effort which is thus imposed upon us:
Tuscan art does not give its exquisiteness for nothing.

Be this as it may, the beauty of Florentine Renaissance painting must
be sought, very often, not in the object which the picture represents,
but in the mode in which that object is represented. Our habits of
thought are so slovenly in these matters, and our vocabulary so poor
and confused, that I find it difficult to make my exact meaning clear
without some insistence. I am not referring to the mere moral
qualities of care, decision, or respectfulness, though the recognition
thereof adds undoubtedly to the noble pleasure of a work of art; still
less to the technical or scientific lucidity which the picture
exhibits. The beauty of fifteenth-century painting is a visible
quality, a quality of the distribution of masses, the arrangement of
space; above all, of the lines of a picture. But it is independent of
the fact of the object represented being or not what in real life we
should judge beautiful; and it is, in large works, unfortunately even
more separate from such arrangement as will render a complicated
composition intelligible to the mind or even to the eye. The problems
of anatomy, relief, muscular action, and perspective which engrossed
and in many cases harassed the Florentines of the Renaissance, turned
their attention away from the habit of beautiful general composition
which had become traditional even in the dullest and most effete of
their Giottesque predecessors, and left them neither time nor
inclination for wonderful new invention in figure distribution like
that of their contemporary Umbrians. Save in easel pictures,
therefore, there is often a distressing confusion, a sort of dreary
random packing, in the works of men like Uccello, Lippi, Pollaiolo,
Filippino, Ghirlandaio, and even Botticelli. And even in the more
simply and often charmingly arranged easel pictures, the men and women
represented, even the angels and children, are often very far from
being what in real life would be deemed beautiful, or remarkable by
any special beauty of attitude and gesture. They are, in truth,
studies, anatomical or otherwise, although studies in nearly every
case dignified by the habit of a very serious and tender devoutness:
rarely soulless or insolent studio drudgery or swagger such as came
when art ceased to be truly popular and religious. Studies, however,
with little or no selection of the reality studied, and less thought
even for the place or manner in which they were to be used.

But these studies are executed, however scientific their intention,
under the guidance of a sense and a habit of beauty, subtle and
imperious in proportion, almost, as it is self-unconscious. These
figures, sometimes ungainly, occasionally ill-made, and these
features, frequently homely or marred by some conspicuous ugliness,
are made up of lines as enchantingly beautiful, as seriously
satisfying, as those which surrounded the Tuscans in their landscape.
And it is in the extracting of such beauty of lines out of the
bewildering confusion of huge frescoes, it is in the seeing as
arrangements of such lines the sometimes unattractive men and women
and children painted (and for that matter, often also sculptured) by
the great Florentines of the fifteenth century, that consists the true
appreciation and habitual enjoyment of Tuscan Renaissance painting.
The outline of an ear and muscle of the neck by Lippi; the throw of
drapery by Ghirlandaio; the wide and smoke-like rings of heavy hair by
Botticelli; the intenser, more ardent spiral curls of Verrocchio or
the young Leonardo; all that is flower-like, flame-like, that has the
swirl of mountain rivers, the ripple of rocky brooks, the solemn and
poignant long curves and sudden crests of hills, all this exists in
the paintings of the Florentines; and it is its intrinsic nobility and
exquisiteness, its reminiscence and suggestion of all that is
loveliest and most solemn in nature, its analogy to all that is
strongest and most delicate in human emotion, which we should seek for
and cherish in their works.


IX.

The hour of low lights, which the painters of the past almost
exclusively reproduced, is naturally that in which we recognise
easiest, not only the identity of mood awakened by the art and by the
country, but the closer resemblance between the things which art was
able to do, and the things which the country had already done. Even
more, immediately after sunset. The hills, becoming uniform masses,
assert their movement, strike deep into the valley, draw themselves
strongly up towards the sky. The valleys also, with their purple
darkness, rising like smoke out of them, assert themselves in their
turn. And the sky, the more diaphanous for all this dark solidity
against it, becomes sky more decisively; takes, moreover, colour which
only fluid things can have; turns into washes of pale gold, of palest
tea-rose pink and beryl green. Against this sky the cypresses are
delicately finished off in fine black lacework, even as in the
background of Botticelli's _Spring_, and Leonardo's or Verrocchio's
_Annuniciation_. One understands that those passionate lovers of line
loved the moment of sunset apart even from colour. The ridges of pines
and cypresses soon remain the only distinguishable thing in the
valleys, pulling themselves (as one feels it) rapidly up, like great
prehistoric shapes of Saurians. Soon the sky only and mountains will
exist. Then begins the time, before the starlit night comes to say its
say, when everything grows drowsy, a little vague, and the blurred
mountains go to sleep in the smoke of dusk. Then only, due west, the
great Carrara peaks stand out against the sanguine sky, long pointed
curves and flame-shaped sudden crests, clear and keen beyond the power
of mortal hand to draw.


X.

The quality of such sights as these, as I have more than once
repeated, requires to be diligently sought for, and extricated from
many things which overlay or mar it, throughout nearly the whole of
Florentine Renaissance painting. But by good luck there is one painter
in whom we can enjoy it as subtle, but also as simple, as in the
hills and mountains outlined by sunset or gathered into diaphanous
folds by the subduing radiance of winter moon. I am speaking, of
course, of Pier della Francesca; although an over literal school of
criticism stickles at classing him with the other great Florentines.
Nay, by a happy irony of things, the reasons for this exclusion are
probably those to which we owe the very purity and perfection of this
man's Tuscan quality. For the remoteness of his home on the
southernmost border of Tuscany, and in a river valley--that of the
Upper Tiber--leading away from Florence and into Umbria, may have kept
him safe from that scientific rivalry, that worry and vexation of
professional problems, which told so badly on so many Florentine
craftsmen. And, on the other hand, the north Italian origin of one of
his masters, the mysterious Domenico Veneziano, seems to have given
him, instead of the colouring, always random and often coarse, of
contemporary Florence, a harmonious scheme of perfectly delicate,
clear, and flower-like colour. These two advantages are so distinctive
that, by breaking through the habits one necessarily gets into with
his Florentine contemporaries, they have resulted in setting apart,
and almost outside the pale of Tuscan painting, the purest of all
Tuscan artists. For with him there is no need for making allowances or
disentangling essentials. The vivid organic line need not be sought in
details nor, so to speak, abstracted: it bounds his figures, forms
them quite naturally and simply, and is therefore not thought about
apart from them. And the colour, integral as it is, and perfectly
harmonious, masses the figures into balanced groups, bossiness and
bulk, detail and depth, all unified, co-ordinated, satisfying as in
the sun-merged mountains and shelving valleys of his country; and with
the immediate charm of whiteness as of rocky water, pale blue of
washed skies, and that ineffable lilac, russet, rose, which makes the
basis of all southern loveliness. One thinks of him, therefore, as
something rather apart, a sort of school in himself, or at most with
Domenico, his master, and his follower, della Gatta. But more careful
looking will show that his greatest qualities, so balanced and so
clear in him, are shared--though often masked by the ungainlinesses of
hurried artistic growth--by Pollaiolo, Baldovinetti, Pesellino, let
alone Uccello, Castagno, and Masaccio; are, in a word, Tuscan,
Florentine. But more than by such studies, the kinship and nationality
of Pier della Francesca is proved by reference to the other branches
of Tuscan art: his peculiarities correspond to the treatment of line
and projection by those early stonemasons of the Baptistery and the
Pistoia churches, to the treatment of enclosed spaces and manipulated
light in those fifteenth-century sacristies and chapels, to the
treatment of mass and boundary in the finest reliefs of Donatello and
Donatello's great decorative follower Desiderio. To persons, however,
who are ready to think with me that we may be trained to art in fields
and on hillsides, the essential Tuscan character of Pier della
Francesca is brought home quite as strongly by the particular
satisfaction with which we recognise his pictures in some unlikely
place, say a Northern gallery. For it is a satisfaction, _sui generis_
and with its own emotional flavour, like that which we experience on
return to Tuscany, on seeing from the train the white houses on the
slopes, the cypresses at the cross roads, the subtler, lower lines of
hills, the blue of distant peaks, on realising once more our depth of
tranquil love for this austere and gentle country.


XI.

Save in the lushness of early summer, Tuscany is, on the whole, pale;
a country where the loveliness of colour is that of its luminousness,
and where light is paramount. From this arises, perhaps, the austerity
of its true summer--summer when fields are bare, grass burnt to
delicate cinnamon and russet, and the hills, with their sere herbs and
bushes, seem modelled out of pale rosy or amethyst light; an austerity
for the eye corresponding to a sense of healthfulness given by steady,
intense heat, purged of all damp, pure like the scents of dry leaves,
of warm, cypress resin and of burnt thyme and myrrh of the stony
ravines and stubbly fields. On such August days the plain and the more
distant mountains will sometimes be obliterated, leaving only the
inexpressible suavity of the hills on the same side as the sun, made
of the texture of the sky, lying against it like transparent and still
luminous shadows. All pictures of such effects of climate are false,
even Perugino's and Claude's, because even in these the eye is not
sufficiently attracted and absorbed away from the foreground, from the
earth to the luminous sky. That effect is the most powerful, sweetest,
and most restorative in all nature perhaps; a bath for the soul in
pure light and air. That is the incomparable buoyancy and radiance of
deepest Tuscan summer. But the winter is, perhaps, even more Tuscan
and more austerely beautiful. I am not even speaking of the fact that
the mountains, with their near snows and brooding blue storms and ever
contending currents of wind and battles and migrations of great
clouds, necessarily make much of winter very serious and solemn, as it
sweeps down their ravines and across their ridges. I am thinking of
the serene winter days of mist and sun, with ranges of hills made of a
luminous bluish smoke, and sky only a more luminous and liquid kind,
and the olives but a more solid specimen, of the mysterious silvery
substance of the world. The marvellous part of it all, and quite
impossible to convey, is that such days are not pensive, but
effulgent, that the lines of the landscape are not blurred, but
exquisitely selected and worked.


XII.

A quality like that of Tuscan art is, as I have once before remarked,
in some measure, abstract; a general character, like that of a
composite photograph, selected and compounded by the repetition of the
more general and the exclusion of more individual features. In so far,
therefore, it is something rather tended towards in reality than
thoroughly accomplished; and its accomplishment, to whatever extent,
is naturally due to a tradition, a certain habit among artists and
public, which neutralises the refractory tendencies of individuals
(the personal morbidness evident, for instance, in Botticelli) and
makes the most of what the majority may have in common--that dominant
interest, let us say, in line and mass. Such being the case, this
Tuscan quality comes to an end with the local art of the middle ages,
and can no longer be found, or only imperfect, after the breaking up
and fusion of the various schools, and the arising of eclectic
personalities in the earliest sixteenth century. After the painters
born between 1450 and 1460, there are no more genuine Tuscans.
Leonardo, once independent of Verrocchio and settled in Lombardy, is
barely one of them; and Michel Angelo never at all--Michel Angelo with
his moods all of Rome or the great mountains, full of trouble, always,
and tragedy. These great personalities, and the other eclectics,
Raphael foremost, bring qualities to art which it had lacked before,
and are required to make its appeal legitimately universal. I should
shrink from judging their importance, compared with the older and more
local and traditional men. Still further from me is it to prefer this
Tuscan art to that, as local and traditional in its way, of Umbria or
Venetia, which stands to this as the most poignant lyric or the
richest romance stands, let us say, to the characteristic quality,
sober yet subtle, of Dante's greatest passages. There is, thank
heaven, wholesome art various enough to appeal to many various healthy
temperaments; and perhaps for each single temperament more than one
kind of art is needful. My object in the foregoing pages has not been
to put forward reasons for preferring the art of the Tuscans any more
than the climate and landscape of Tuscany; but merely to bring home
what the especial charm and power of Tuscan art and Tuscan nature seem
to me to be. More can be gained by knowing any art lovingly in itself
than by knowing twenty arts from each other through dry comparison.

I have tried to suggest rather than to explain in what way the art of
a country may answer to its natural character, by inducing recurrent
moods of a given kind. I would not have it thought, however, that such
moods need be dominant, or even exist at all, in all the inhabitants
of that country. Art, wide as its appeal may be, is no more a product
of the great mass of persons than is abstract thought or special
invention, however largely these may be put to profit by the
generality. The bulk of the inhabitants help to make the art by
furnishing the occasional exceptionally endowed creature called an
artist, by determining his education and surroundings, in so far as he
is a mere citizen; and finally by bringing to bear on him the
stored-up habit of acquiescence in whatever art has been accepted by
that public from the artists of the immediate past. In fact, the
majority affects the artist mainly as itself has been affected by his
predecessors. If, therefore, the scenery and climate call forth moods
in a whole people definite enough to influence the art, this will be
due, I think, to some especially gifted individual having, at one time
or another, brought home those moods to them.

Therefore we need feel no surprise if any individual, peasant or man
of business or abstract thinker, reveal a lack, even a total lack, of
such impressions as I am speaking of; nor even if among those who love
art a great proportion be still incapable of identifying those vague
contemplative emotions from which all art is sprung. It is not merely
the special endowment of eye, ear, hand, not merely what we call
artistic talent, which is exceptional and vested in individuals only.
It takes a surplus of sensitiveness and energy to be determined in
one's moods by natural surroundings instead of solely by one's own
wants or circumstances or business. Now art is born of just this
surplus sensitiveness and energy; it is the response not to the
impressions made by our private ways and means, but to the impressions
made by the ways and means of the visible, sensible universe.

But once produced, art is received, and more or less assimilated, by
the rest of mankind, to whom it gives, in greater or less degree, more
of such sensitiveness and energy than it could otherwise have had. Art
thus calls forth contemplative emotions, otherwise dormant, and
creates in the routine and scramble of individual wants and habits a
sanctuary where the soul stops elbowing and trampling, and being
elbowed and trampled; nay, rather, a holy hill, neither ploughed nor
hunted over, a free high place, in which we can see clearly, breathe
widely, and, for awhile, live harmlessly, serenely, fully.


XIII.

Thinking these thoughts for the hundredth time, feeling them in a way
as I feel the landscape, I walk home by the dear rock path girdling
Fiesole, within sound of the chisels of the quarries. Blackthorn is
now mixed in the bare purple hedgerows, and almond blossom, here and
there, whitens the sere oak, and the black rocks above. These are the
heights from which, as tradition has it, Florence descended, the
people of which Dante said--

     "Che discese da Fiesole ab antico,
      E tiene ancor del monte e del macigno,"

meaning it in anger. But it is true, and truer, in the good sense
also. Mountain and rock! the art of Tuscany is sprung from it, from
its arduous fruitfulness, with the clear stony stream, and the sparse
gentle olive, and the cypress, unshaken by the wind, unscorched by the
sun, and shooting inflexibly upwards.



ART AND USEFULNESS.

     "Time was when everybody that made anything made a work of art
     besides a useful piece of goods, and it gave them pleasure to
     make it."--WILLIAM MORRIS, Address delivered at Burslem, 1881.


I.

Among the original capitals removed from the outer colonnade of the
ducal palace at Venice there is a series devoted to the teaching of
natural history, and another to that of such general facts about the
races of man, his various moral attributes and activities, as the
Venetians of the fourteenth century considered especially important.
First, botany, illustrated by the fruits most commonly in use, piled
up in baskets which constitute the funnel-shaped capital; each kind
separate, with the name underneath in funny Venetian spelling: _Huva_,
grapes; _Fici_, figs; _Moloni_, melons; _Zuche_, pumpkins; and
_Persici_, peaches. Then, with Latin names, the various animals:
_Ursus_, holding a honeycomb with bees on it; _Chanis_, mumbling only
a large bone, while his cousins, wolf and fox, have secured a duck and
a cock; _Aper_, the wild boar, munching a head of millet or similar
grain.

Now had these beautiful carvings been made with no aim besides their
own beauty, had they represented and taught nothing, they would have
received only a few casual glances, quite insufficient to make their
excellence familiar or even apparent; at best the occasional
discriminative examination of some art student; while the pleased,
spontaneous attentiveness which carries beauty deep into the soul and
the soul's storehouse would have been lacking. But consider these
capitals to have been what they undoubtedly were meant for: the
picture books and manuals off which young folks learned, and older
persons refreshed, their notions of natural history, of geography,
ethnology, and even of morals, and you will realise at once how much
attention, and of how constant and assimilative a kind, they must have
received. The child learns off them that figs (which he never sees
save packed in baskets in the barges at Rialto) have leaves like funny
gloves, while _huva_, grapes, have leaves all ribbed and looking like
tattered banners; that the bear is blunt-featured and eats honeycomb;
that foxes and wolves, who live on the mainland, are very like the
dogs we keep in Venice, but that they steal poultry instead of being
given bones from the kitchen. Also that there are in the world,
besides these clean-shaved Venetians in armour or doge's cap, bearded
Asiatics and thick-lipped negroes--the sort of people with whom uncle
and cousins traffic in the big ships, or among whom grandfather helped
the Doge to raise the standard of St. Mark. Also that carpenters work
with planes and vices, and stonemasons with mallets and chisels; and
that good and wise men are remembered for ever: for here is the story
of how Solomon discovered the true mother, and here again the Emperor
Trajan going to the wars, and reining in his horse to do justice first
to the poor widow. The child looks at the capitals in order to see
with his eyes all these interesting things of which he has been told;
and, during the holiday walk, drags his parents to the spot, to look
again, and to beg to be told once more. And later, he looks at the
familiar figures in order to show them to his children; or, perhaps,
more wistfully, loitering along the arcade in solitude, to remember
the days of his own childhood. And in this manner, the things
represented, fruit, animals and persons, and the exact form in which
they are rendered: the funnel shape of the capitals, the cling and
curl of the leafage, the sharp black undercutting, the clear, lightly
incised surfaces, the whole pattern of line and curve, light and
shade, the whole pattern of the eye's progress along it, of the rhythm
of expansion and restraint, of pressure and thrust, in short, the real
work of art, the visible form--become well-known, dwelling in the
memory, cohabiting with the various moods, and haunting the fancy; a
part of life, familiar, everyday, liked or disliked, discriminated in
every particular, become part and parcel of ourselves, for better or
for worse, like the tools we handle, the boats we steer, the horses we
ride and groom, and the furniture and utensils among which and through
whose help we live our lives.


II.

Furniture and utensils; things which exist because we require them,
which we know because we employ them, these are the type of all great
works of art. And from the selfsame craving which insists that these
should be shapely as well as handy, pleasant to the eye as well as
rational; through the selfsame processes of seeing and remembering and
altering their shapes--according to the same æsthetic laws of line and
curve, of surface and projection, of spring and restraint, of
clearness and compensation; and for the same organic reasons and by
the same organic methods of preference and adaptation as these
humblest things of usefulness, do the proudest and seemingly freest
works of art come to exist; come to be _just what they are_, and even
come _to be at all_.

I should like to state very clearly, before analysing its reasons,
what seems to me (and I am proud to follow Ruskin in this as in so
many essential questions of art and life) the true formula of this
matter. Namely: that while beauty has always been desired and obtained
for its own sake, the works in which we have found beauty embodied,
and the arts which have achieved beauty's embodying, have always
started from impulses or needs, and have always aimed at purposes or
problems entirely independent of this embodiment of beauty.


III.

The desire for beauty stands to art as the desire for righteousness
stands to conduct. People do not feel and act from a desire to feel and
act righteously, but from a hundred different and differently-combined
motives; the desire for righteousness comes in to regulate this feeling
and acting, to subject it all to certain preferences and repugnances
which have become organic, if not in the human being, at least in human
society. Like the desire for righteousness, the desire for beauty is not
a spring of action, but a regulative function; it decides the _how_ of
visible existence; in accordance with deep-seated and barely guessed at
necessities of body and soul, of nerves and perceptions, of brain and
judgments; it says to all visible objects: since you needs must be, you
shall be in _this_ manner, and not in that other. The desire for beauty,
with its more potent negative, the aversion to ugliness, has, like the
sense of right and wrong, the force of a categorical imperative.

Such, to my thinking, is the æsthetic instinct. And I call _Art_
whatever kind of process, intellectual and technical, creates,
incidentally or purposely, visible or audible forms, and creates them
under the regulation of this æsthetic instinct. Art, therefore, is art
whenever any object or any action, or any arrangement, besides being
such as to serve a practical purpose or express an emotion or transfer
a thought, is such also as to afford the _sui generis_ satisfaction
which we denote by the adjective: beautiful.

But, asks the reader, if every human activity resulting in visible or
audible form is to be considered, at least potentially, as art; what
becomes of _art_ as distinguished from _craft_, or rather what is the
difference between what we all mean by art and what we all mean by
_craft_?

To this objection, perfectly justified by the facts of our own day, I
would answer quite simply: There is no necessary or essential
distinction between what we call _art_ and what we call _craft_. It is
a pure accident, and in all probability a temporary one, which has
momentarily separated the two in the last hundred years. Throughout
the previous part of the world's history art and craft have been one
and the same, at the utmost distinguishable only from a different
point of view: _craft_ from the practical side, _art_ from the
contemplative. Every trade concerned with visible or audible objects
or movements has also been an art; and every one of those great
creative activities, for which, in their present isolation, we now
reserve the name of _art_, has also been a craft; has been connected
and replenished with life by the making of things which have a use, or
by the doing of deeds which have a meaning.


IV.

We must, of course, understand _usefulness_ in its widest sense;
otherwise we should be looking at the world in a manner too little
utilitarian, not too much so. Houses and furniture and utensils,
clothes, tools and weapons, must undoubtedly exemplify utility first
and foremost because they serve our life in the most direct,
indispensable and unvarying fashion, always necessary and necessary to
everyone. But once these universal unchanging needs supplied, a great
many others become visible: needs to the individual or to individuals
and races under definite and changing circumstances. The sonnet or the
serenade are useful to the romantic lover in the same manner that
carriage-horses and fine clothes are useful to the man who woos more
practically-minded ladies. The diamonds of a rich woman serve to mark
her status quite as much as to please the unpleasable eye of envy; in
the same way that the uniform, the robes and vestments, are needed to
set aside the soldier, the magistrate or priest, and give him the
right of dealing _ex officio_, not as a mere man among men. And the
consciousness of such apparent superfluities, whether they be the
expression of wealth or of hierarchy, of fashion or of caste, gives to
their possessor that additional self-importance which is quite as much
wanted by the ungainly or diffident moral man as the additional warmth
of his more obviously needed raiment is by the poor, chilly, bodily
human being. I will not enlarge upon the practical uses which recent
ethnology has discovered in the tattooing, the painting, the masks,
headdresses, feather skirts, cowries and beads, of all that elaborate
ornamentation with which, only a few years back, we were in the habit
of reproaching the poor, foolish, naked savages; additional knowledge
of their habits having demonstrated rather our folly than theirs, in
taking for granted that any race of men would prefer ornament to
clothes, unless, as was the case, these ornaments were really more
indispensable in their particular mode of life. For an ornament which
terrifies an enemy, propitiates a god, paralyses a wild beast, or
gains a wife, is a matter of utility, not of æsthetic luxury, so long
as it happens to be efficacious, or so long as its efficacy is
believed in. Indeed, the gold coach and liveried trumpeters of the
nostrum vendor of bygone days, like their less enlivening equivalents
in many more modern professions, are of the nature of trade tools,
although the things they fashion are only the foolish minds of
possible customers.

And this function of expressing and impressing brings us to the other
great category of utility. The sculptured pediment or frescoed wall,
the hieroglyph, or the map or the book, everything which records a
fact or transmits a feeling, everything which carries a message to men
or gods, is an object of utility: the coat-of-arms painted on a panel,
or the emblem carved upon a church front, as much as the helmet of the
knight or the shield of the savage. A church or a religious ceremony,
nay, every additional ounce of gilding or grain of incense, or day or
hour, bestowed on sanctuary and ritual, are not useful only to the
selfish devotee who employs them for obtaining celestial favours; they
are more useful and necessary even to the pure-minded worshipper,
because they enable him to express the longing and the awe with which
his heart is overflowing. For every oblation faithfully brought means
so much added moral strength; and love requires gifts to give as much
as hunger needs food and vanity needs ornament and wealth. All things
which minister to a human need, bodily or spiritual, simple or
complex, direct or indirect, innocent or noble, or base or malignant,
all such things exist for their use. They do exist, and would always
have existed equally if no such quality as beauty had ever arisen to
enhance or to excuse their good or bad existence.


V.

The conception of art as of something outside, and almost opposed to,
practical life, and the tendency to explain its gratuitous existence
by a special "play instinct" more gratuitous itself, are due in great
measure to our wrong way of thinking and feeling upon no less a matter
than human activity as such. The old-fashioned psychology which,
ignoring instinct and impulse, explained all action as the result of
a kind of calculation of future pleasure and pain, has accustomed us
to account for all fruitful human activity, whatever we call _work_,
by a wish for some benefit or fear of some disadvantage. And, on the
other hand, the economic systems of our time (or, at all events, the
systematic exposition of our economic arrangements) have furthermore
accustomed us to think of everything like _work_ as done under
compulsion, fear of worse, or a kind of bribery. It is really taken as
a postulate, and almost as an axiom, that no one would make or do
anything useful save under the goad of want; of want not in the sense
of _wanting to do or make that thing_, but of _wanting to have or be
able to do something else_. Hence everything which is manifestly done
from no such motive, but from an inner impulse towards the doing,
comes to be thought of as opposed to _work_, and to be designated as
_play_. Now art is very obviously carried on for its own sake:
experience, even of our mercantile age, teaches that if a man does not
paint a picture or compose a symphony from an inner necessity as
disinterested as that which makes another man look at the picture or
listen to the symphony, no amount of self-interest, of disadvantages
and advantages, will enable him to do either otherwise than badly.
Hence, as I said, we are made to think of art as _play_, or a kind of
play.

But play itself, being unaccountable on the basis of external
advantage and disadvantage, being, from the false economic point of
view, unproductive, that is to say, pure waste, has in its turn to be
accounted for by the supposition of surplus energy occasionally
requiring to be let off to no purpose, or merely to prevent the
machine from bursting. This opposition of work and play is founded in
our experience of a social state which is still at sixes and sevens;
of a civilisation so imperfectly developed and organised that the
majority does nothing save under compulsion, and the minority does
nothing to any purpose; and where that little boy's Scylla and
Charybdis _all work_ and _all play_ is effectually realised in a
nightmare too terrible and too foolish, above all too wakingly true,
to be looked at in the face without flinching. One wonders,
incidentally, how any creature perpetually working from the reasons
given by economists, that is to say, working against the grain, from
no spontaneous wish or pleasure, can possibly store up, in such
exhausting effort, a surplus of energy requiring to be let off! And
one wonders, on the other hand, how any really good work of any kind,
work not merely kept by dire competitive necessity up to a standard,
but able to afford any standard to keep up to, can well be produced
save by the letting off of surplus energy; that is to say, how good
work can ever be done otherwise than by impulses and instincts acting
spontaneously, in fact as play. The reality seems to be that,
imperfect as is our poor life, present and past, we are maligning it;
founding our theories, for simplicity's sake and to excuse our lack of
hope and striving, upon its very worst samples. Wasteful as is the
mal-distribution of human activities (mal-distribution worse than that
of land or capital!), cruel as is the consequent pressure of want,
there yet remains at the bottom of an immense amount of work an inner
push different from that outer constraint, an inner need as fruitful
as the outer one is wasteful: there remains the satisfaction in work,
the wish to work. However outer necessity, "competition," "minimum of
cost," "iron law of wages," call it what you choose, direct and
misdirect, through need of bread or greed of luxury, the application
of human activity, that activity has to be there, and with it its own
alleviation and reward: pleasure in work. All decent human work
partakes (let us thank the great reasonablenesses of real things!) of
the quality of play: if it did not it would be bad or ever on the
verge of badness; and if ever human activity attains to fullest
fruitfulness, it will be (every experience of our own best work shows
it) when the distinction of _work_ and of _play_ will cease to have a
meaning, play remaining only as the preparatory work of the child, as
the strength-repairing, balance-adjusting work of the adult.

And meanwhile, through all the centuries of centuries, art, which is
the type and sample of all higher, better modes of life, art has given
us in itself the concrete sample, the unmistakable type of that
needful reconciliation of work and play; and has shown us that there
is, or should be, no difference between them. For art has made the
things which are useful, and done the things which are needed, in
those shapes and ways of beauty which have no aim but our
satisfaction.


VI.

The way in which the work of art is born of a purpose, of something
useful to do or desirable to say, and the way in which the suggestions
of utility are used up for beauty, can best be shown by a really
existing object. Expressed in practical terms the object is humble
enough: a little trough with two taps built into a recess in a wall; a
place for washing hands and rinsing glasses, as you see the Dominican
brothers doing it all day, for I am speaking of the _Lavabo_ by
Giovanni della Robbia in the Sacristy of Santa Maria Novella in
Florence. The whole thing is small, and did not allow of the adjoining
room usually devoted to this purpose. The washing and rinsing had to
take place in the sacristy itself. But this being the case, it was
desirable that the space set apart for these proceedings should at
least appear to be separate; the trough, therefore, was sunk in a
recess, and the recess divided off from the rest of the wall by
pillars and a gable, becoming in this manner, with no loss of real
standing room, a building inside a building; the operations,
furthermore, implying a certain amount of wetting and slopping, the
dryness of the rest of the sacristy, and particularly the _idea_ of
its dryness (so necessary where precious stuffs and metal vessels are
kept) had to be secured not merely by covering a piece of wainscot and
floor with tiles, but by building the whole little enclosure (all save
the marble trough) of white and coloured majolica, which seemed to say
to the oaken and walnut presses, to the great table covered with
vestments: "Don't be afraid, you shall not feel a drop from all this
washing and rinsing."

So far, therefore, we have got for our lavabo-trough a shallow recess,
lined and paved with tiles, and cut off from the frescoed and panelled
walls by two pilasters and a rounded gable, of tile work also, the
general proportions being given by the necessity of two monks or two
acolytes washing the sacred vessels at the same moment. The word
_sacred_ now leads us to another determining necessity of our work of
art. For this place, where the lavabo stands, is actually consecrated;
it has an altar; and it is in it that take place all the preparations
and preliminaries for the most holy and most magnificent of rites. The
sacristy, like the church, is moreover an offering to heaven; and the
lavabo, since it has to exist, can exist with fitness only if it also
be offered, and made worthy of offering, to heaven. Besides,
therefore, those general proportions which have had to be made
harmonious for the satisfaction not merely of the builder, but of the
people whose eye rests on them daily and hourly; besides the
shapeliness and dignity which we insist upon in all things needful; we
further require of this object that it should have a certain
superabundance of grace, that it should have colour, elaborate
pattern, what we call _ornament_; details which will show that it is a
gift, and make it a fit companion for the magnificent embroideries and
damasks, the costly and exquisite embossed and enamelled vessels which
inhabit that place; and a worthy spectator of the sacred pageantry
which issues from this sacristy. The little tiled recess, the trough
and the little piece of architecture which frames it all, shall not
only be practically useful, they shall also be spiritually useful as
the expression of men's reverence and devotion. To whom? Why, to the
dear mother of Christ and her gracious angels, whom we place, in
effigy, on the gable, white figures on a blue ground. And since this
humble thing is also an offering, what can be more appropriate than to
hang it round with votive garlands, such as we bind to mark the course
of processions, and which we garnish (filling the gaps of glossy bay
and spruce pine branches) with the finest fruits of the earth, lemons,
and pears, and pomegranates, a grateful tithe to the Powers who make
the orchards fruitful. But, since such garlands wither and such fruits
decay, and there must be no withering or decaying in the sanctuary,
the bay leaves and the pine branches, and the lemons and pears and
pomegranates, shall be of imperishable material, majolica coloured
like reality, and majolica, moreover, which leads us back, pleasantly,
to the humble necessity of the trough, the spurting and slopping of
water, which we have secured against by that tiled floor and wainscot.

But here another suggestion arises. Water is necessary and infinitely
pleasant in a hot country and a hot place like this domed sacristy.
But we have very, oh, so very, little of it in Florence! We cannot
even, however great our love and reverence, offer Our Lady and the
Angels the thinnest perennial spurt; we must let out the water only
for bare use, and turn the tap off instantly after. There is something
very disappointing in this; and the knowledge of that dearth of water,
of those two taps symbolical of chronic drought, is positively
disheartening. Beautiful proportions, delicate patterns, gracious
effigies of the Madonna and the angels we can have, and also the most
lovely garlands. But we cannot have a fountain. For it is useless
calling this a fountain, this poor little trough with two taps....

But you _shall_ have a fountain! Giovanni della Robbia answers in his
heart; or, at least, you shall _feel_ as if you had one! And here we
may witness, if we use the eyes of the spirit as well as of the body,
one of the strangest miracles of art, when art is married to a
purpose. The idea of a fountain, the desirability of water, becomes,
unconsciously, dominant in the artist's mind; and under its sway, as
under the divining rod, there trickle and well up every kind of
thought, of feeling, about water; until the images thereof, visible,
audible, tactile, unite and steep and submerge every other notion.
Nothing deliberate; and, in all probability, nothing even conscious;
those watery thoughts merely lapping dreamily round, like a half-heard
murmur of rivers, the waking work with which his mind is busy. Nothing
deliberate or conscious, but all the more inevitable and efficacious,
this multifold suggestion of water.

And behold the result, the witness of the miracle: In the domed
sacristy, the fountain cooling this sultry afternoon of June as it has
cooled four hundred Junes and more since set up, arch and pilasters
and statued gables hung with garlands by that particular Robbia;
cooling and refreshing us with its empty trough and closed taps,
without a drop of real water! For it is made of water itself, or the
essence, the longing memory of water. It is water, this shining pale
amber and agate and grass-green tiling and wainscotting, starred at
regular intervals by wide-spread patterns as of floating weeds; water
which makes the glossiness of the great leaf-garlands and the
juiciness of the smooth lemons and cool pears and pomegranates; water
which has washed into ineffable freshness this piece of blue heaven
within the gable; and water, you would say, as of some shining
fountain in the dusk, which has gathered together into the white
glistening bodies and draperies which stand out against that
newly-washed æther. All this is evident, and yet insufficient to
account for our feelings. The subtlest and most potent half of the
spell is hidden; and we guess it only little by little. In this little
Grecian tabernacle, every line save the bare verticals and horizontals
is a line suggestive of trickling and flowing and bubbles; a line
suggested by water and water's movement; and every light and shadow is
a light or a shadow suggested by water's brightness or transparent
gloom; it is water which winds in tiny meanders of pattern along the
shallow shining pillars, and water which beads and dimples along the
shady cornice. The fountain has been thought out in longing for water,
and every detail of it has been touched by the memory thereof. Water!
they wanted water, and they should have it. By a coincidence almost,
Giovanni della Robbia has revealed the secret which himself most
probably never guessed, in the little landscape of lilac and bluish
tiles with which he filled up the arch behind the taps. Some Tuscan
scene, think you? Hills and a few cypresses, such as his
contemporaries used for background? Not a bit. A great lake, an
estuary, almost a sea, with sailing ships, a flooded country, such as
no Florentine had ever seen with mortal eyes; but such as, in his
longing for water, he must have dreamed about. Thus the landscape sums
up this dream, this realisation of every cool and trickling sight and
touch and sound which fills that sacristy as with a spray of watery
thoughts. In this manner, with perhaps but a small effort of invention
and a small output of fancy, and without departing in the least from
the general proportions and shapes and ornaments common in his day,
has an artist of the second order left us one of the most exquisitely
shapely and poetical of works, merely by following the suggestions of
the use, the place, the religious message and that humble human wish
for water where there was none.


VII.

It is discouraging and humiliating to think (and therefore we think it
very seldom) that nowadays we artists, painters of portraits and
landscapes, builders and decorators of houses, pianists, singers,
fiddlers, and, quite as really though less obviously, writers, are all
of us indirectly helping to keep up the greed which makes the
privileged and possessing classes cling to their monopolies and
accumulate their possessions. Bitter to realise that, disinterested as
we must mostly be (for good artistic work means talent, talent
preference, and preference disinterestedness), we are, as Ruskin has
already told us, but the parasites of parasites.

For of the pleasure-giving things we make, what portion really gives
any pleasure, or comes within reach of giving pleasure, to those whose
hands _as a whole class_ (as distinguished from the brain of an
occasional individual of the other class) produce the wealth we all of
us have to live, or try to live, upon? Of course there is the seeming
consolation that, like the Reynoldses and Gainsboroughs, the Watteaus
and the Fragonards of the past, the Millais and the Sargents (charming
sitters, or the reverse, and all), and the Monets and Brabazons, will
sooner or later become what we call public property in public
galleries. But, meanwhile, the Reynoldses and Gainsboroughs and
Watteaus and Fragonards themselves, though the legal property of
everybody, are really reserved for those same classes who own their
modern equivalents, simply because those alone have the leisure and
culture necessary to enjoy them. The case is not really different for
the one or two seemingly more independent and noble artistic
individualities, the great decorators like Watts or Besnard; their own
work, like their own conscience, is indeed the purer and stronger for
their intention of painting not for smoking-rooms and private
collections, but for places where all men can see and understand; but
then all men cannot see--they are busy or too tired--and they cannot
understand, because the language of art has become foreign to them.
The same applies to composers and to writers: music and books are
cheap enough, but the familiarity with musical forms and literary
styles, without which music and books are mere noise and waste-paper,
is practically unattainable to the classes who till the ground,
extract its stone and minerals, and make, with their hands, every
material thing (save works of art) that we possess.

Indeed, one additional reason why, ever since the eighteenth century,
art has been set up as the opposite of useful work, and explained as a
form of play (though its technical difficulties grew more exorbitant
and exhausting year by year) is probably that, in our modern
civilisations, art has been obviously produced for the benefit of the
classes who virtually do not work, and by artists born or bred to
belong to those idle classes themselves. For it is a fact that, as the
artist nowadays finds his public only among the comparatively idle
(or, at all events, those whose activity distributes wealth in their
own favour rather than creates it), so also he requires to be, more
and more, in sympathy with their mode of living and thinking: the
friend, the client, most often the son, of what we call (with terrible
unperceived irony in the words) _leisured_ folk. As to the folk who
have no leisure (and therefore, according to our modern æsthetics, no
_art_ because no _play_) they can receive from us privileged persons
(when privilege happens to be worth its keep) no benefits save very
practical ones. The only kind of work founded on "leisure"--which does
in our day not merely increase the advantages of already well-off
persons, but actually filter down to help the unleisured producers of
our wealth--is not the work of the artist, but of the doctor, the
nurse, the inventor, the man of science; who knows? Perhaps almost of
the philosopher, the historian, the sociologist: the clearer away of
convenient error, the unmaker and remaker of consciences.

As I began by saying, it is not very comfortable, nowadays, to be an
artist, and yet possess a mind and heart. And two of the greatest
artists of our times, Ruskin and Tolstoi, have done their utmost to
make it more uncomfortable still. So that it is natural for our
artists to decide that art exists only for art's own sake, since it
cannot nowadays be said to exist for the sake of anything else. And as
to us, privileged persons, with leisure and culture fitting us for
artistic enjoyment, it is even more natural to consider art as a kind
of play: play in which we get refreshed after somebody else's work.


VIII.

And are we really much refreshed? Watching the face and manner,
listless, perfunctory or busily attentive, of our fellow-creatures in
galleries and exhibitions, and in great measure in concert rooms and
theatres, one would imagine that, on the contrary, they were
fulfilling a social duty or undergoing a pedagogical routine. The
object of the proceeding would rather seem to be negative; one might
judge that they had come lest their neighbours should suspect that
they were somewhere else, or perhaps lest their neighbours should come
instead, according to our fertile methods of society intercourse and
of competitive examinations. At any rate, they do not look as if they
came to be refreshed, or as if they had taken the right steps towards
such spiritual refreshment: the faces and manner of children in a
playground, of cricketers on a village green, of Sunday trippers on
the beach, or of German townsfolk walking to the beerhouse or café in
the deep fragrant woods, present a different appearance. And if we
examine into our own feelings, we shall find that even for the most
art-loving of us the hours spent in galleries of pictures and statues,
or listening to music at concerts, are largely stolen from our real
life of real interests and real pleasures; that there enters into them
a great proportion of effort and boredom; at the very best that we do
not enjoy (nor expect to enjoy) them at all in the same degree as a
good dinner in good company, or a walk in bright, bracing weather, let
alone, of course, fishing, or hunting, or digging and weeding our
little garden.

Of course, if we are really artistic, and if we have the power of
analysing our own feelings and motives, we shall know that the gallery
or the concert afford occasion for laying in a store of pleasurable
impressions, to be enjoyed at the right moment and in the right mood
later: outlines of pictures, washes of colour, grouped masses of
sculpture, bars of melody, clang of especial chords or timbre
combinations, and even the vague æsthetic emotion, the halo
surrounding blurred recollections of sights and sounds. And knowing
this, we are content that the act of garnering, of preparing, for such
future enjoyment, should lack any steady or deep pleasurableness about
itself. But, thinking over the matter, there seems something wrong,
derogatory to art and humiliating to ourselves, in this admission that
the actual presence of the work of art, sometimes the masterpiece,
should give us the minimum, and not the maximum, of our artistic
enjoyment. And comparing the usual dead level of such merely potential
pleasure with certain rare occasions when we have enjoyed art more at
the moment than afterwards, quite vividly, warmly and with the proper
reluctant clutch at the divine minute as it passes; making this
comparison, we can, I think, guess at the nature of the mischief and
the possibility of its remedy.

Examining into our experience, we shall find that, while our lack of
enjoyment (our state of æsthetic _aridity_, to borrow the expression
of religious mystics) had coincided with a deliberate intention to see
or hear works of art, and a consequent clearing away of other claims,
and on our attention, in fact, to an effort made more or less in
_vacuo_; on the contrary, our Faust-moments ("Stay, thou art
beautiful!") of plenitude and consummation, have always come when our
activity was already flowing, our attention stimulated, and when, so
to speak, the special artistic impressions were caught up into our
other interests, and woven by them into our life. We can all recall
unexpected delights like Hazlitt's in the odd volume of Rousseau found
on the window-seat, and discussed, with his savoury supper, in the
roadside inn, after his long day's pleasant tramp.

Indeed, this preparing of the artistic impression by many others, or
focussing of others by it, accounts for the keenness of our æsthetic
pleasure when on a journey; we are thoroughly alive, and the seen or
heard thing of beauty lives _into_, us, or we into it (there is an
important psychological law, a little too abstract for this moment of
expansiveness, called "the Law of the Summation of Stimuli"). The
truth of what I say is confirmed by the frequent fact that the work of
art which gives us this full and vivid pleasure (actually refreshing!
for here, at last, is refreshment!) is either fragmentary or by no
means first-rate. We have remained arid, hard, incapable of absorbing,
while whole Joachim quartets flowed and rippled all _round_, but never
_into_, us; and then, some other time, our soul seems to have drunk
up (every fibre blissfully steeping) a few bars of a sonata (it was
Beethoven's 10th violin, and they were stumbling through it for the
first time) heard accidentally while walking up and down under an open
window.

It is the same with painting and sculpture. I shall never forget the
exquisite poetry and loveliness of that Matteo di Giovanni, "The
Giving of the Virgin's Girdle," when I saw it for the first time, in
the chapel of that villa, once a monastery, near Siena. Even through
the haze of twenty years (like those delicate blue December mists
which lay between the sunny hills) I can see that picture, illumined
piecemeal by the travelling taper on the sacristan's reed, far more
distinctly than I see it to-day with bodily eyes in the National
Gallery. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that where it hangs in
that gallery it has not once given me one half-second of real
pleasure. It is a third-rate picture now; but even the masterpieces,
Perugino's big fresco, Titian's "Bacchus and Ariadne," Pier della
Francesca's "Baptism"; have they ever given me the complete and steady
delight which that mediocre Sienese gave me at the end of the wintry
drive, in the faintly illumined chapel? More often than not, as
Coleridge puts it, I have "seen, not _felt_, how beautiful they are."
But, apart even from fortunate circumstances or enhancing activities,
we have all of us experienced how much better we see or hear a work of
art with the mere dull help of some historical question to elucidate
or technical matter to examine into; we have been able to follow a
piece of music by watching for some peculiarity of counterpoint or
excellence or fault of execution; and our attention has been carried
into a picture or statue by trying to make out whether a piece of
drapery was repainted or an arm restored. Indeed, the irrelevant
literary programme of concerts and all that art historical lore
(information about things of no importance, or none to us) conveyed in
dreary monographs and hand-books, all of them perform a necessary
function nowadays, that of bringing our idle and alien minds into some
sort of relation of business with the works of art which we should
otherwise, nine times out of ten, fail really to approach.

And here I would suggest that this necessity of being, in some way,
busy about beautiful things in order thoroughly to perceive them, may
represent some sterner necessity of life in general; art being, in
this as in so many other cases, significantly typical of what is
larger than itself. Can we get the full taste of pleasure sought for
pleasure's own sake? And is not happiness in life, like beauty in art,
rather a means than an aim: the condition of going on, the
replenishing of force; in short, the thing by whose help, not for the
sake of which, we feel and act and live?


IX.

Beauty is an especial quality in visible or audible shapes and movements
which imposes on our soul a certain rhythm and pattern of feeling entirely
_sui generis_, but unified, harmonious, and, in a manner, consummate.
Beauty is a power in our life, because, however intermittent its
action and however momentary, it makes us live, by a kind of sympathy
with itself, a life fuller, more vivid, and at the same time more
peaceful. But, as the word _sympathy_, _with-feeling_--(_Einfühlen_,
"feeling into," the Germans happily put it)--as the word _sympathy_ is
intended to suggest, this subduing and yet liberating, this enlivening
and pacifying power of beautiful form over our feelings is exercised
only when our feelings enter, and are absorbed into, the form we
perceive; so that (very much as in the case of sympathy with human
vicissitudes) we participate in the supposed life of the form while in
reality lending _our_ life to it. Just as in our relations with our
fellow-men, so also in our subtler but even more potent relations with
the appearances of things and actions, our heart can be touched,
purified, and satisfied only just in proportion as we _give_ our
heart. And even as it is possible to perceive other human beings and
to adjust our action (sometimes heartlessly enough) to such qualities
in them as we find practically important to ourselves, without putting
out one scrap of sympathy with their own existence as felt by them; so
also it is possible to recognise things and actions, to become rapidly
aware of such of their peculiarities as most frequently affect us
practically, and to consequently adjust our behaviour, without giving
our sympathy to their form, without entering into and _living into_
those forms; and in so far it is possible for us to remain indifferent
to those forms' quality of beauty or ugliness, just as, in the hurry
of practical life, we remain indifferent to the stuff our neighbours'
souls are made of. This rapid, partial, superficial, perfunctory mode
of dealing with what we see and hear constitutes the ordinary,
constant, and absolutely indispensable act of recognising objects and
actions, of _spotting_ their qualities and _twigging_ their meaning:
an act necessarily tending to more and more abbreviation and rapidity
and superficiality, to a sort of shorthand which reduces what has to
be understood, and enables us to pass immediately to understanding
something else; according to that law of necessarily saving time and
energy.

And so we rush on, recognising, naming, spotting, twigging, answering,
using, or parrying; we need not fully _see_ the complete appearance of
the word we read, of the man we meet, of the street we run along, of
the water we drink, the fire we light, the adversary whom we pursue or
whom we evade; and in the selfsame manner we need not fully see the
form of the building of which we say "This is a Gothic cathedral"--of
the picture of which we say "Christ before Pilate"--or of the piece of
music of which we say "A cheerful waltz by Strauss" or "A melancholy
adagio by Beethoven." Now it is this fragmentary, superficial
attention which we most often give to art; and giving thus little, we
find that art gives us little, perhaps nothing, in return. For
understand: you can be utterly perfunctory towards a work of art
without hurrying away from in front of it, or setting about some
visible business in its presence. Standing ten minutes before a
picture or sitting an hour at a concert, with fixed sight or tense
hearing, you may yet be quite hopelessly inattentive if, instead of
following the life of the visible or audible forms, and _living
yourself_ into their pattern and rhythm, you wander off after dramatic
or sentimental associations suggested by the picture's subject; or if
you let yourself be hypnotised, as pious Wagnerians are apt to be,
into monotonous over response (and over and over again response) to
the merely emotional stimulation of the sounds. The activity of the
artist's soul has been in vain for you, since you do not let your soul
follow its tracks through the work of art; he has not created for you,
because you have failed to create his work afresh in vivid
contemplation.

But attention cannot be forced on to any sort of contemplation, or at
least it cannot remain, steady and abiding, by any act of forcing.
Attention, to be steady, must be held by the attraction of the thing
attended to; and, to be spontaneous and easy, must be carried by some
previous interest within the reach of that attractiveness. Above all,
attention requires that its ways should have been made smooth by
repetition of similar experience; it is excluded, rebutted by the dead
wall of utter novelty; for seeing, hearing, understanding is
interpreting the unknown by the known, assimilation in the literal
sense also of rendering similar the new to the less new. This will
explain why it is useless trying to enjoy a totally unfamiliar kind of
art: as soon expect to take pleasure in dancing a dance you do not
know, and whose rhythm and step you fail as yet to follow. And it is
not only music, as Nietzsche said, but all art, that is but a kind of
dancing, a definite rhythmic carrying and moving of the soul. And for
this reason there can be no artistic enjoyment without preliminary
initiation and training.

Art cannot be enjoyed without initiation and training. I repeat this
statement, desiring to impress it on the reader, because, by a
coincidence of misunderstanding, it happens to constitute the
weightiest accusation in the whole of Tolstoi's very terrible (and,
in part, terribly justified) recent arraignment of art. For of what
use is the restorative and refreshing power, this quality called
beauty, if the quality itself cannot be recognised save after previous
training? And what moral dignity, nay, what decent innocence, can
there be in a kind of relaxation from which lack of initiation
excludes the vast majority of men, the majority which really labours,
and therefore has a real claim to relaxation and refreshment?

This question of Tolstoi's arises from that same limiting of
examination to a brief, partial, and, as it happens, most transitional
and chaotic present, which has given us that cut-and-dried distinction
between work and play; and, indeed, the two misconceptions are very
closely connected. For even as our present economic system of
production for exchange rather than for consumption has made us
conceive _work_ as _work_ done under compulsion for someone else, and
_play_ as _play_, with no result even to ourselves; so also has the
economic system which employs the human hand and eye merely as a
portion of a complicated, monotonously working piece of machinery, so
also has our present order of mechanical and individual production
divided the world into a small minority which sees and feels what it
is about, and a colossal majority which has no perception, no
conception, and, consequently, no preferences attached to the objects
it is employed (by the methods of division of labour) to produce, so
to speak, without seeing them. Tolstoi has realised that this is the
present condition of human labour, and his view of it has been
corrected neither by historical knowledge nor by psychological
observation. He has shown us _art_, as it nowadays exists, divided and
specialised into two or three "fine arts," each of which employs
exceptional and highly trained talent in the production of objects so
elaborate and costly, so lacking in all utility, that they can be
possessed only by the rich few; objects, moreover, so unfamiliar in
form and in symbol that only the idle can learn to enjoy (or pretend
to enjoy) them after a special preliminary initiation and training.


X.

_Initiation and training_, we have returned to those wretched words,
for we also had recognised that without initiation and training there
could be no real enjoyment of art. But, looking not at this brief,
transitional, and topsy-turvey present, but at the centuries and
centuries which have evolved, not only art, but the desire and habit
thereof, we have seen what Tolstoi refused to see, namely, that
wherever and whenever (that is to say, everywhere and at all times
save these present European days) art has existed spontaneously, it
has brought with it that initiation and training. The initiation and
training, the habit of understanding given qualities of form, the
discrimination and preference thereof, have come, I maintain, as a
result of practical utility.

Or rather: out of practical utility has arisen the art itself, and the
need for it. The attention, the familiarity which made beauty
enjoyable had previously made beauty necessary. It was because the
earthenware lamp, the bronze pitcher, the little rude household idols
displayed the same arrangements of lines and surfaces, presented the
same patterns and features, embodied, in a word, the same visible
rhythms of being, that the Greeks could understand without being
taught the temples and statues of Athens, Delphi or Olympia. It was
because the special form qualities of ogival art (so subtle in
movement, unstable in balance and poignant in emotion that a whole
century of critical study has scarce sufficed to render them familiar
to us) were present in every village tower, every window coping, every
chair-back, in every pattern carved, painted, stencilled or woven
during the Gothic period; it was because of this that every artisan of
the Middle Ages could appreciate less consciously than we, but far
more deeply, the loveliness and the wonder of the great cathedrals.
Nay, even in our own times we can see how, through the help of all the
cheapest and most perishable household wares, the poorest Japanese is
able to enjoy that special peculiarity and synthesis of line and
colour and perspective which strikes even initiated Westerns as so
exotic, far-fetched and almost wilfully unintelligible.

I have said that thanks to the objects and sights of everyday use and
life the qualities of art could be perceived and enjoyed. It may be
that it was thanks to them that art had any qualities and ever existed
at all. For, however much the temple, cathedral, statue, fresco, the
elaborate bronze or lacquer or coloured print, may have reacted on the
form, the proportions and linear rhythms and surface arrangements, of
all common useful objects; it was in the making of these common useful
objects (first making by man of genius and thousandfold minute
adaptation by respectful mediocrity) that the form qualities came to
exist. One may at least hazard this supposition in the face of the
extreme unlikeliness that the complexity and perfection of the great
works of art could have been obtained solely in works so necessarily
rare and few; and that the particular forms constituting each separate
style could have originated save under the repeated suggestion of
everyday use and technique. And can we not point to the patterns grown
out of the necessities of weaving or basket-making, the shapes started
by the processes of metal soldering or clay squeezing; let alone the
innumerable categories of form manifestly derived from the mere
convenience of handling or using, of standing, pouring, holding,
hanging up or folding? This much is certain, that only the manifold
application of given artistic forms in useful common objects is able
to account for that very slow, gradual and unconscious alteration of
them which constitutes the spontaneous evolution of artistic form; and
only such manifold application could have given that almost automatic
certainty of taste which allowed the great art of the past to continue
perpetually changing, through centuries and centuries, and adapting
itself over immense geographical areas to every variation of climate,
topography, mode of life, or religion. Unless the forms of ancient art
had been safely embodied in a hundred modest crafts, how could they
have undergone the imperceptible and secure metamorphosis from
Egyptian to Hellenic, from Greek to Græco-Roman, and thence, from
Byzantine, have passed, as one great half, into Italian mediæval art?
or how, without such infinite and infinitely varied practice of minute
adaptation to humble needs, could Gothic have given us works so
different as the French cathedrals, the Ducal Palace, the tiny chapel
at Pisa, and remained equally great and wonderful, equally _Gothic_,
in the ornament of a buckle as in the porch of Amiens or of Reims?

Beauty is born of attention, as happiness is born of life, because
attention is rendered difficult and painful by lack of harmony, even
as life is clogged, diminished or destroyed by pain. And therefore,
when there ceases to exist a close familiarity with visible objects or
actions; when the appearance of things is passed over in perfunctory
and partial use (as we see it in all mechanical and divided labour);
when the attention of all men is not continually directed to shape
through purpose, then there will cease to be spontaneous beauty and
the spontaneous appreciation of beauty, because there will be no need
for either. Beauty of music does not exist for the stone-deaf, nor
beauty of painting for the purblind; but beauty of no kind whatever,
nor in any art, can really exist for the inattentive, for the
over-worked or the idle.


XI.

That music should be so far the most really alive of all our modern
arts is a fact which confirms all I have argued in the foregoing
pages. For music is of all arts the one which insists on most
co-operation on the part of its votaries. Requiring to be performed
(ninety-nine times out of a hundred) in order to be enjoyed, it has
made merely _musical people_ into performers, however humble; and has
by this means called forth a degree of attention, of familiarity, of
practical effort, which makes the art enter in some measure into
life, and in that measure, become living. To play an instrument,
however humbly, to read at sight, or to sing, if only in a choir, is
something wholly different from lounging in a gallery or wandering on
a round of cathedrals: it means acquired knowledge, effort,
comparison, self-restraint, and all the realities of manipulation;
quite apart even from trying to read the composer's intentions, there
is in learning to strike the keys with a particular part of the
finger-tips, or in dealing out the breath and watching intonation and
timbre in one's own voice, an output of care and skill akin to those
of the smith, the potter or the glass blower: all this has a purpose
and is work, and brings with it disinterested work's reward, love.

To find the analogy of this co-operation in the arts addressing
themselves to the eye, we require, nowadays, to leave the great number
who merely enjoy (or ought to enjoy) painting, sculpture or
architecture, and seek, now that craft is entirely divorced from art,
among the small minority which creates, or tries to create. Artistic
enjoyment exists nowadays mainly among the class of executive artists;
and perhaps it is for this very reason, and because all chance of
seeing or making shapely things has ceased in other pursuits, that the
"fine arts" are so lamentably overstocked; the man or woman who would
have been satisfied with playing the piano enough to read a score or
sing sufficiently to take part in a chorus, has, in the case of other
arts, to undergo the training of a painter, sculptor or art critic,
and often to delude himself or herself with grotesque ambitions in one
of these walks.


XII.

Be this as it may, and making the above happy and honourable exception
in favour of music, it is no exaggeration to say that in our time it
is only artists who get real pleasure out of art, because it is only
artists who approach art from the side of work and bring to it work's
familiar attention and habitual energy. Indeed, paradoxical as it may
sound, art has remained alive during the nineteenth century, and will
remain alive during the twentieth, only and solely because there has
been a large public of artists.

Of artists, I would add, of quite incomparable vigour and elasticity
of genius, and of magnificent disinterestedness and purity of heart.
For let us remember that they have worked without having the sympathy
of their fellow-men, and worked without the aid and comfort of allied
crafts: that they have created while cut off from tradition, unhelped
by the manifold suggestiveness of useful purpose or necessary message;
separated entirely from the practical and emotional life of the world
at large; tiny little knots of voluntary outlaws from a civilisation
which could not understand them; and, whatever worldly honours may
have come to mock their later years, they have been weakened and
embittered by early solitude of spirit. No artistic genius of the past
has been put through such cruel tests, has been kept on such miserably
short commons, as have our artists of the last hundred years, from
Turner to Rossetti and Watts, from Manet and Degas and Whistler to
Rodin and Albert Besnard. And if their work has shown lapses and
failings; if it has been, alas, lacking at times in health or joy or
dignity or harmony, let us ask ourselves what the greatest
individualities of Antiquity and the Middle Ages would have produced
if cut off from the tradition of the Past and the suggestion of the
Present--if reduced to exercise art outside the atmosphere of life;
and let us look with wonder and gratitude on the men who have been
able to achieve great art even for only art's own sake.


XIII.

No better illustration of this could be found than the sections of the
Paris Exhibition which came under the heading of _Decorative Art_.

Decoration. But decoration of what? In reality of nothing. All the
objects--from the jewellery and enamels to the furniture and
hangings--which this decorative art is supposed to decorate, are the
merest excuse and sham. Not one of them is the least useful, or at all
events useful once it is decorated. And nobody wants it to be useful.
What _is_ wanted is a pretext, for _doing art_ on the side of the
artist, for buying costly things on the side of the public. And behind
this pretext there is absolutely no genuine demand for any definite
object serving any definite use; none of that insistence (which we see
in the past) that the shape, material, and colour should be the very
best for practical purposes; and of that other insistence,
marvellously blended with the requirements of utility, that the shape,
material and colour should also be as beautiful as possible. The
invaluable suggestions of real practical purpose, the organic dignity
of integrated habit and necessity, the safety of tradition, the
spiritual weightiness of genuine message, all these elements of
creative power are lacking. And in default of them we see a great
amount of artistic talent, artificially fed and excited by the
teaching and the example of every possible past or present art,
exhausting itself in attempts to invent, to express, to be something,
anything, so long as it is new. Hence forms gratuitous, without
organic quality or logical cogency, pulled about, altered and
re-altered, carried to senseless finish and then wilfully blurred.
Hence that sickly imitation, in a brand-new piece of work, of the
effects of time, weather, and of every manner of accident or
deterioration: the pottery and enamels reproducing the mere patina of
age or the trickles of bad firing; the relief work in marble or metal
which looks as if it had been rolled for centuries in the sea, or
corroded by acids under ground. And the total effect, increased by all
these methods of wilful blunting and blurring, is an art without
stamina, tired, impotent, short-lived, while produced by an excessive
expense of talent and effort of invention.

For here we have the mischief: all the artistic force is spent by the
art in merely keeping alive; and there is no reserve energy for living
with serenity and depth of feeling. The artist wears himself out, to a
great extent, in wondering what he shall do (there being no practical
reason for doing one thing more than another, or indeed anything at
all), instead of applying his power, with steady, habitual certainty
of purpose and efficiency of execution, to doing it in the very best
way. Hence, despite this outlay of inventive force, or rather in
direct consequence thereof, there is none of that completeness and
measure and congruity, that restrained exuberance of fancy, that more
than adequate carrying out, that all-round harmony, which are possible
only when the artist is altering to his individual taste some shape
already furnished by tradition or subduing to his pleasure some
problem insisted on by practical necessity.

Meanwhile, all round these galleries crammed with useless objects
barely pretending to any utility, round these pavilions of the
Decorative Arts, the Exhibition exhibits (most instructive of all its
shows) samples of the most marvellous indifference not merely to
beauty, peace and dignity, but to the most rudimentary æsthetic and
moral comfort. For all the really useful things which men take
seriously because they increase wealth and power, because they save
time and overcome distance; all these "useful" things have the naïve
and colossal ugliness of rudimentary animals, or of abortions, of
everything hurried untimely into existence: machines, sheds, bridges,
trams, motor-cars: not one line corrected, not one angle smoothed, for
the sake of the eye, of the nerves of the spectator. And all of it,
both decorative futility and cynically hideous practicality (let alone
the various exotic raree shows from distant countries or more distant
centuries) expect to be enjoyed after a jostle at the doors and a
scurry along the crowded corridors, and to the accompaniment of every
rattling and shrieking and jarring sound. For mankind in our days
intends to revel in the most complicated and far-fetched kinds of
beauty while cultivating convenient callousness to the most elementary
and atrocious sorts of ugliness. The art itself reveals it; for even
in its superfine isolation and existence for its own sake only, art
cannot escape its secondary mission of expressing and recording the
spirit of its times. These elaborate æsthetic baubles of the
"Decorative Arts" are full of quite incredibly gross barbarism. And,
even as the iron chest, studded with nails, or the walnut press,
unadorned save by the intrinsic beauty and dignity of their
proportions, and the tender irregularities of their hammered surface,
the subtle bevelling of their panels; even as these humble objects in
some dark corner of an Italian castle or on the mud floor of a Breton
cottage, symbolise in my mind the most intense artistic sensitiveness
and reverence of the Past; so, here at this Exhibition, my impressions
of contemporary over-refinement and callousness are symbolised in a
certain cupboard, visibly incapable of holding either linen or
garments or crockery or books, of costly and delicately polished wood,
but shaped like a packing-case, and displaying with marvellous
impartiality two exquisitely cast and chased doorguard plates of
far-fetched, many-tinted alloys of silver, and--a set of hinges, a
lock and a key, such as the village ironmonger supplies in blue paper
parcels of a dozen. A mere coincidence, an accident, you may object;
an unlucky oversight which cannot be fairly alleged against the art of
our times. Pardon me: there may be coincidences and accidents in other
matters, but there are none in art; because the essence of art is to
sacrifice even the finest irrelevancies, to subordinate the most
refractory details, to subdue coincidence and accident into seeming
purpose and harmony. And whatever our practical activity, in its
identification of time and money, may allow itself in the way of
"scamping" and of "shoddy"--art can never plead an oversight, because
art, in so far as it _is_ art, represents those organic and organised
preferences in the domain of form, those imperative and stringent
demands for harmony, which see everything, feel everything, and know
no law or motive save their own complete satisfaction.

Art for art's sake! We see it nowhere revealed so clearly as in the
Exhibition, where it masks as "Decorative Art." Art answering no claim
of practical life and obeying no law of contemplative preference, art
without root, without organism, without logical reason or moral
decorum, art for mere buying and selling, art which expresses only
self-assertion on the part of the seller, and self-satisfaction on the
part of the buyer. A walk through this Exhibition is an object-lesson
in a great many things besides æsthetics; it forces one to ask a good
many of Tolstoi's angriest questions; but it enables one also, if duly
familiar with the art of past times, to answer them in a manner
different from Tolstoi's.

One carries away the fact, which implies so many others, that not one
of these objects is otherwise than expensive; expensive, necessarily
and intentionally, from the rarity both of the kind of skill and of
the kind of material; these things are reserved by their price as well
as their uselessness, for a small number of idle persons. They have no
connection with life, either by penetrating, by serviceableness, deep
into that of the individual; or by spreading, by cheapness, over a
wide surface of the life of the nations.


XIV.

The moment has now come for that inevitable question, with which
friendly readers unintentionally embarrass, and hostile ones purposely
interrupt, any exposition of mal-adjustment in the order of the
universe: But what remedy do you propose?

Mal-adjustments of a certain gravity are not set right by proposable
arrangements: they are remedied by the fulness and extent of the
feeling against them, which employs for its purposes and compels into
its service all the unexpected and incalculable coincidences and
accidents which would otherwise be wasted, counteracted or even used
by some different kind of feeling. And the use that a writer can
be--even a Ruskin or a Tolstoi--is limited not to devising programmes
of change (mere symptoms often that some unprogrammed change is
preparing), but to nursing the strength of that great motor which
creates its own ways and instruments: impatience with evil conditions,
desire for better.

A cessation of the special æsthetic mal-adjustment of our times, by
which art is divorced from life and life from art, is as difficult to
foretell in detail as the new-adjustment between labour and the other
elements of production which will, most probably, have to precede it.

A healthy artistic life has indeed existed in the past through
centuries of social wrongness as great as our own, and even greater;
indeed, such artistic life, more or less continuous until our day,
attests the existence of great mitigations in the world's former
wretchedness (such as individuality in labour, spirit of co-operative
solidarity, religious feeling: but perhaps the most important
alleviations lie far deeper and more hidden)--mitigations without
which there would not have been happiness and strength enough to
produce art; nor, for the matter of that, to produce what was then the
future, including ourselves and our advantages and disadvantages. The
existence of art has by no means implied, as Ruskin imagined, with his
teleological optimism and tendency to believe in Eden and banishment
from Eden, that people once lived in a kind of millennium; it merely
shows that, however far from millennial their condition, there was
stability enough to produce certain alleviations, and notably the
alleviations without which art cannot exist, and the alleviations
which art itself affords.

It is not therefore the badness of our present social arrangements (in
many ways far less bad than those of the past) which is responsible
for our lack of all really vital, deep-seated, widely spread and
happiness-giving art; but merely the feature in this latter-day
badness which, after all, is our chief reason for hope: the fact that
the social mal-adjustments of this century are, to an extent hitherto
unparalleled, the mal-adjustments incident to a state of over-rapid
and therefore insufficiently deep-reaching change, of superficial
legal and material improvements extending in reality only to a very
small number of persons and things, and unaccompanied by any real
renovation in the thought, feeling or mode of living of the majority;
the mal-adjustment of transition, of disorder, and perfunctoriness, by
the side of which the regularly recurring disorders of the past--civil
wars, barbarian invasions, plagues, etc., are incidents leaving the
foundation of life unchanged, transitional disorders, which we fail to
remark only because we are ourselves a part of the hurry, the scuffle,
and the general wastefulness. How soon and how this transition period
of ours will come to an end, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to
foretell; but that it _must_ soon end is certain, if only for one
reason: namely, that the changes accumulated during our times must
inevitably work their way below the surface; the new material and
intellectual methods must become absorbed and organised, and thereby
produce some kind of interdependent and less easily disturbed new
conditions; briefly, that the amount of alteration we have witnessed
will occasion a corresponding integration. And with this period of
integration and increasing organisation and comparative stability
there will come new alleviations and adjustments in life, and with
these, the reappearance in life of art.


XV.

In what manner it is absurd, merely foolishly impatient or foolishly
cavilling, to ask. Not certainly by a return to the past and its
methods, but by the coming of the future with new methods having the
same result: the maintenance and tolerable quality of human life, of
body and soul. Hence probably by a further development of democratic
institutions and machine industry, but democratic institutions neither
authoritative nor _laissez faire_; machinery of which the hand and
mind of men will be the guide, not the slave.

One or two guesses may perhaps be warranted. First, that the
distribution of wealth, or more properly of work and idleness, will
gradually be improved, and the exploitation of individuals in great
gangs cease; hence that the workman will be able once more to see and
shape what he is making, and that, on the other side, the possessor of
objects will have to use them, and therefore learn their appearance
and care for them; also that many men will possess enough, and
scarcely any men possess much more than enough, so that what there is
of houses, furniture, chattels, books or pictures in private
possession may be enjoyed at leisure and with unglutted appetite, and
for that reason be beautiful. We may also guess that willing
co-operation in peaceful employments, that spontaneous formation of
groups of opinion as well as of work, and the multiplication of small
centres of activity, may create a demand for places of public
education and amusement and of discussion and self-expression, and
revive those celebrations, religious and civil, in which the art of
Antiquity and of the Middle Ages found its culmination; the service of
large bodies and of the community absorbing the higher artistic gifts
in works necessarily accessible to the multitude; and the humbler
talents--all the good amateur quality at present wasted in ambitious
efforts--being applied in every direction to the satisfaction of
individual artistic desire.

If such a distribution of artistic activity should seem, to my
contemporaries, Utopian, I would point out that it has existed
throughout the past, and in states of society infinitely worse than
are ever likely to recur. For even slaves and serfs could make unto
themselves some kind of art befitting their conditions; and even the
most despotic aristocracies and priesthoods could adequately express
their power and pride only in works which even the slave and serf was
able to see. In the whole of the world's art history, it is this
present of ours which forms the exception; and as the changes of the
future will certainly be for greater social health and better social
organisation, it is not likely that this bad exception will be the
beginning of a new rule.


XVI.

Meanwhile we can, in some slight measure, foretell one or two of the
directions in which our future artistic readjustment is most likely to
begin, even apart from that presumable social reorganisation and
industrial progress which will give greater leisure and comfort to the
workers, and make their individual character the guide, and not the
slave, of this machinery. Such a direction is already indicated by one
of our few original and popular forms of art: the picture-book and the
poster, which, by the new processes of our colour printing, have
placed some of the most fanciful and delicate of our artists--men like
Caldecott and Walter Crane, like Cheret and Boutet de Monvel, at the
service of everyone equally. Moreover, it is probable that long before
machinery is so perfected as to demand individual guidance, preference
and therefore desire for beauty, and long before a corresponding
readjustment of work and leisure, the eye will have again become
attentive through the necessities of rational education. The habit of
teaching both adults and children by demonstration rather than
precept, by awaking the imagination rather than burdening the memory,
will quite undoubtedly recall attention to visible things, and thereby
open new fields to art: geography, geology, natural history, let alone
history in its vaster modern sociological and anthropological aspect,
will insist upon being taught no longer merely through books, but
through collections of visible objects; and, for all purposes of
reconstructive and synthetic conception, through pictures.

And, what is more, the sciences will afford a new field for poetic
contemplation; while the philosophy born of such sciences will
synthetise new modes of seeing life and demand new visible symbols.
The future will create cosmogonies and Divine Comedies more numerous,
more various, than those on sculptured Egyptian temples and Gothic
cathedrals, and Bibles more imaginative perhaps than the ones painted
in the Pisa Campo Santo and in the Sixtine Chapel. The future? Nay, we
can see a sample already in the present. I am alluding to the panels
by Albert Besnard in the School of Pharmacy in Paris, a series
illustrating the making of medicinal drugs, their employment and the
method and subject-matter of the sciences on which pharmaceutical
practice is based. Not merely the plucking and drying of the herbs in
sunny, quiet botanical gardens, and the sorting and mingling of earths
and metals among the furnaces of the laboratory; not merely the first
tremendous tragic fight between the sudden sickness and the physician,
and the first pathetic, hard-won victory, the first weary but
rapturous return out of doors of the convalescent; but the life of the
men on whose science our power for life against death is based: the
botanists knee-deep in the pale spring woods; the geologists in the
snowy hollows of the great blue mountain; the men themselves, the
youths listening and the elder men teaching, grave and eager
intellectual faces, in the lecture rooms. And, finally, the things
which fill the minds of these men, their thoughts and dreams, the
poetry they have given to the world; the poetry of that infinitely
remote, dim past, evoked out of cavern remains and fossils--the lake
dwellers among the mists of melting glaciers; the primæval horses
playing on the still manless shores; the great saurians plunging in
the waves of long-dried seas; the jungles which are now our coal beds;
and see! the beginning of organic life, the first callow vegetation on
the stagnant waters in the dawn-light of the world. The place is but a
mean boarded and glazed vestibule; full of the sickly fumes of
chemicals; and the people who haunt it are only future apothecaries.
But the compositions are as spacious and solemn, the colours as tender
and brilliant, and the poetry as high and contemplative as that of any
mediæval fresco; it is all new also, undreamed of, _sui generis_, in
its impersonal cosmic suggestiveness, as in its colouring of opal, and
metallic patinas, and tea rose and Alpine ice cave.


XVII.

I have alluded already to the fact that, perhaps because of the part
of actual participating work which it entails, music is the art which
has most share in life and of life, nowadays. It seems probable
therefore that its especial mission may be to keep alive in us the
feeling and habit of art, and to transmit them back to those arts of
visible form to which it owes, perhaps, the training necessary to its
own architectural structure and its own colour combinations. Compared
with the arts of line and projection, music seems at a certain moral
disadvantage, as not being applicable to the things of everyday use,
and also not educating us to the better knowledge of the beautiful and
significant things of nature. In connection with this kind of
blindness, music is also compatible (as we see by its flourishing in
great manufacturing towns) with a great deal of desecration of nature
and much hand-to-mouth ruthlessness of life. But, on the other hand,
music has the especial power of suggesting and regulating emotion, and
the still more marvellous faculty of creating an inner world for
itself, inviolable because ubiquitous.

And, therefore, with its audible rhythms and harmonies, its restrained
climaxes and finely ordered hierarchies, music may discipline our
feelings, or rather what underlies our feelings, the almost
unconscious life of our nerves, to modalities of order and selection,
and make the spaceless innermost of our spirit into some kind of
sanctuary, swept and garnished, until the coming of better days.


XVIII.

According to a certain class of thinkers, among whom I find Guyau and
other men of note, art is destined partially to replace religion in
our lives. But with what are you going to replace religion itself in
art? For the religious feeling, whenever it existed, gave art an
element of thoroughness which the desire for pleasure and interest,
even for æsthetic pleasure and interest, does not supply. An immense
fulness of energy is due to the fact that beautiful things, as
employed by religion, were intended to be beautiful all through,
adequate in the all-seeing eye of God or Gods, not merely beautiful on
the surface, on the side turned towards the glance of man. For, in
religious art, beautiful things are an oblation; they are the best
that we can give, as distinguished from a pleasure arranged for
ourselves and got as cheap as possible. Herein lies the impassable
gulf between the church and theatre, considered æsthetically; for it
is only in the basest times, of formalism in art as in religion, of
superstition and sensualism, that we find the church imitating the
theatre in its paper glories and plaster painted like marble. The
real, living religious spirit insists on bringing, as in St Mark's, a
gift of precious material, of delicate antique ornament, with every
shipload. The crown of the Madonna is not, like the tragedy queen's,
of tinsel, the sacrament is not given in an empty chalice. The priest,
even where he makes no effort to be holy as a man, is at least sacred
as a priest; whereas there is something uncomfortable in the sense
that the actor is only pretending to be this or the other, and we
ourselves pretending to believe him; there is a thin and acid taste in
the shams of the stage and in all art which, like that of the stage,
exists only to the extent necessary to please our fancy or excite our
feelings. Why so? For is not pleasing the fancy and exciting the
feelings the real, final use of art? Doubtless. But there would seem
to be in nature a law not merely of the greater economy of means, but
also of the greatest output of efficacy: effort helping effort, and
function, function; and many activities, in harmonious interaction,
obtaining a measure of result far surpassing their mere addition. The
creations of our mind are, of course, mere spiritual existences,
things of seeming, akin to illusions; and yet our mind can never rest
satisfied with an unreality, because our mind is active, penetrative
and grasping, and therefore craves for realisation, for completeness
and truth, and feels bruised and maimed whenever it hits against a
dead wall or is pulled up by a contradiction; nay, worst of all, it
grows giddy and faint when suddenly brought face to face with
emptiness. All insufficiency and shallowness means loss of power; and
it is such loss of power that we remark when we compare with the
religious art of past times the art which, every day more and more, is
given us by the hurried and over-thrifty (may I say "Reach-me-down"?)
hands of secularism. The great art of Greece and of the Middle Ages
most often represents something which, to our mind and feelings, is as
important, and even as beautiful, as the representation itself; and
the representation, the actual "work of art" itself, gains by that
added depth and reverence of our mood, is carried deeper (while
helping to carry deeper) into our soul. Instead of which we moderns
try to be satisfied with allowing the seeing part of us to light on
something pleasant and interesting, while giving the mind only
triviality to rest upon; and the mind goes to sleep or chafes to move
away. We cannot live intellectually and morally in presence of the
idea, say, of a jockey of Degas or one of his ballet girls in
contemplation of her shoe, as long as we can live æsthetically in the
arrangement of lines and masses and dabs of colour and interlacings of
light and shade which translate themselves into this _idea_ of jockey
or ballet girl; we are therefore bored, ruffled, or, what is worse, we
learn to live on insufficient spiritual rations, and grow anæmic. Our
shortsighted practicality, which values means while disregarding ends,
and conceives usefulness only as a stage in making some other
_utility_, has led us to suppose that the desire for beauty is
compatible, nay commensurate, with indifference to reality: the _real_
having come to mean that which you can plant, cook, eat or sell, not
what you can feel and think.

This notion credits us with an actual craving for something which
should exist as little as possible, in one dimension only, so to
speak, or as upon a screen (for fear of occupying valuable space which
might be given to producing more food than we can eat); whereas what
we desire is just such beauty as will surround us on all sides, such
harmony as we can live in; our soul, dissatisfied with the reality
which happens to surround it, seeks on the contrary to substitute a
new reality of its own making, to rebuild the universe, like Omar
Khayyam, according to the heart's desire. And nothing can be more
different than such an instinct from the alleged satisfaction in
playing with dolls and knowing that they are not real people. By an
odd paradoxical coincidence, that very disbelief in the _real_
character of art, and that divorce betwixt art and utility, is really
due to our ultra-practical habit of taking seriously only the
serviceable or instructive sides of things: the quality of beauty,
which the healthy mind insists upon in everything it deals with,
getting to be considered as an idle adjunct, fulfilling no kind of
purpose; and therefore, as something detachable, separate, and
speedily relegated to the museum or lumber-room where we keep our
various shams: ideals, philosophies, all the playthings with which we
sometimes wile away our idleness. Whereas in fact a great work of art,
like a great thought of goodness, exists essentially for our more
thorough, our more _real_ satisfaction: the soul goes into it with all
its higher hankerings, and rests peaceful, satisfied, so long as it is
enclosed in this dwelling of its own choice. And it is, on the
contrary, the flux of what we call real life, that is to say, of life
imposed on us by outer necessities and combinations, which is so often
one-sided, perfunctory, not to be dwelt upon by thought nor penetrated
into by feeling, and endurable only according to the angle or the
lighting up--the angle or lighting up called "purpose" which we apply
to it.


XIX.

With what, I ventured to ask just now, are you going to fill the place
of religion in art?

With nothing, I believe, unless with religion itself. Religion,
perhaps externally unlike any of which we have historical experience;
but religion, whether individual or collective, possessing, just
because it is immortal, all the immortal essence of all past and
present creeds. And just because religion is the highest form of human
activity, and its utility is the crowning one of thoughtful and
feeling life, just for this reason will religion return, sooner or
later, to be art's most universal and most noble employer.


XX.

In the foregoing pages I have tried to derive the need of beauty from
the fact of attention, attention to what we do, think and feel, as
well as see and hear; and to demonstrate therefore that all
spontaneous and efficient art is _the making and doing of useful
things in such manner as shall be beautiful_. During this
demonstration I have, incidentally, though inexplicitly, pointed out
the utility of art itself and of beauty. For beauty is that mode of
existence of visible or audible or thinkable things which imposes on
our contemplating energies rhythms and patterns of unity, harmony and
completeness; and thereby gives us the foretaste and the habit of
higher and more perfect forms of life. Art is born of the utilities of
life; and art is in itself one of life's greatest utilities.



WASTEFUL PLEASURES.

     "Er muss lernen edler begehren, damit er nicht nötig habe,
     erhaben zu wollen."--SCHILLER, "_Ästhetische Erziehung_."


I.

A pretty, Caldecott-like moment, or rather minute, when the huntsmen
stood on the green lawn round the moving, tail-switching, dapple mass
of hounds; and the red coats trotted one by one from behind the
screens of bare trees, delicate lilac against the slowly moving grey
sky. A delightful moment, followed, as the hunt swished past, by the
sudden sense that these men and women, thus whirled off into what may
well be the sole poetry of their lives, are but noisy intruders into
these fields and spinnies, whose solemn, secret speech they drown with
clatter and yelp, whose mystery and charm stand aside on their
passage, like an interrupted, a profaned rite.

Gone; the yapping and barking, the bugle-tootling fade away in the
distance; and the trees and wind converse once more.

This West Wind, which has been whipping up the wan northern sea, and
rushing round the house all this last fortnight, singing its big
ballads in corridor and chimney, piping its dirges and lullabies in
one's back-blown hair on the sand dunes--this West Wind, with its
many chaunts, its occasional harmonies and sudden modulations mocking
familiar tunes, can tell of many things: of the different way in which
the great trunks meet its shocks and answer vibrating through
innermost fibres; the smooth, muscular boles of the beeches, shaking
their auburn boughs; the stiff, rough hornbeams and thorns isolated
among the pastures; the ashes whose leaves strew the roads with green
rushes; the creaking, shivering firs and larches. The West Wind tells
us of the way how the branches spring outwards, or balance themselves,
or hang like garlands in the air, and carry their leaves, or needles,
or nuts; and of their ways of bending and straightening, of swaying
and trembling. It tells us also, this West Wind, how the sea is lashed
and furrowed; how the little waves spring up in the offing, and the
big waves rise and run forward and topple into foam; how the rocks are
shaken, the sands are made to hiss and the shingle is rattled up and
down; how the great breakers vault over the pier walls, leap
thundering against the breakwaters, and disperse like smoke off the
cannon's mouth, like the whiteness of some vast explosion.

These are the things which the Wind and the Woods can talk about with
us, nay, even the gorse and the shaking bents. But the hunting folk
pass too quickly, and make too much noise, to hear anything save
themselves and their horses' hoofs and their bugle and hounds.


II.

I have taken fox-hunting as the type of a pleasure _which destroys
something_, just because it is, in many ways, the most noble and, if I
may say so, the most innocent of such pleasures. The death, the,
perhaps agonising, flight of the fox, occupy no part of the hunter's
consciousness, and form no part of his pleasure; indeed, they could,
but for the hounds, be dispensed with altogether. There is a fine
community of emotion between men and creatures, horses and dogs adding
their excitement to ours; there is also a fine lack of the mere
feeling of trying to outrace a competitor, something of the collective
and almost altruistic self-forgetfulness of a battle. There is the
break-neck skurry, the flying across the ground and through the air at
the risk of limbs and life, and at the mercy of one's own and one's
horse's pluck, skill and good fellowship. All this makes up a rapture
in which many ugly things vanish, and certain cosmic intuitions flash
forth for some, at least, of the hunters. The element of poetry is
greater, the element of brutality less, in this form of intoxication
than in many others. It has a handsomer bearing than its modern
successor, the motor-intoxication, with its passiveness and (for all
but the driver) its lack of skill, its confinement, moreover, to
beaten roads, and its petrol-stench and dustcloud of privilege and of
inconvenience to others. And the intoxication of hunting is, to my
thinking at least, cleaner, wholesomer, than the intoxication of, let
us say, certain ways of hearing music. But just because so much can be
said, both positive and negative, in its favour, I am glad that
hunting, and not some meaner or some less seemly amusement, should
have set me off moralising about such pleasures as are wasteful of
other things or of some portion of our soul.


III.

For nothing can be further from scientific fact than that
cross-grained and ill-tempered puritanism identifying pleasure with
something akin to sinfulness. Philosophically considered, Pain is so
far stronger a determinant than Pleasure, that its _vis a tergo_ might
have sufficed to ensure the survival of the race, without the far
milder action of Pleasure being necessary at all; so that the very
existence of Pleasure would lead us to infer that, besides its
function of selecting, like Pain, among life's possibilities, it has
the function of actually replenishing the vital powers, and thus
making amends, by its healing and invigorating, for the wear and tear,
the lessening of life's resources through life's other great Power of
Selection, the terror-angel of Pain. This being the case, Pleasure
tends, and should tend more and more, to be consistent with itself, to
mean a greater chance of its own growth and spreading (as opposed to
Pain's dwindling and suicidal nature), and in so far to connect itself
with whatsoever facts make for the general good, and to reject,
therefore, all cruelty, injustice, rapacity and wastefulness of
opportunities and powers.

Nay, paradoxical though such a notion may seem in the face of our past
and present state of barbarism, Pleasure, and hence amusement, should
become incompatible with, be actually _spoilt by_, any element of
loss to self and others, of mischief even to the distant, the future,
and of impiety to that principle of Good which is but the summing up
of the claims of the unseen and unborn.


IV.

I was struck, the other day, by the name of a play on a theatre
poster: _A Life of Pleasure_. The expression is so familiar that we
hear and employ it without thinking how it has come to be. Yet, when
by some accident it comes to be analysed, its meaning startles with an
odd revelation. Pleasure, a life of pleasure.... Other lives, to be
livable, must contain more pleasure than pain; and we know, as a fact,
that all healthy work is pleasurable to healthy creatures. Intelligent
converse with one's friends, study, sympathy, all give pleasure; and
art is, in a way, the very type of pleasure. Yet we know that none of
all that is meant in the expression: a life of pleasure. A curious
thought, and, as it came to me, a terrible one. For that expression is
symbolic. It means that, of all the myriads of creatures who surround
us, in the present and past, the vast majority identifies pleasure
mainly with such a life; despises, in its speech at least, all other
sorts of pleasure, the pleasure of its own honest strivings and
affections, taking them for granted, making light thereof.


V.

We are mistaken, I think, in taxing the generality of people with
indifference to ideals, with lack of ideas directing their lives. Few
lives are really lawless or kept in check only by the _secular arm_,
the judge or policeman. Nor is conformity to _what others do, what is
fit for one's class_ or _seemly in one's position_ a result of mere
unreasoning imitation or of the fear of being boycotted. The potency
of such considerations is largely that of summing up certain rules and
defining the permanent tendencies of the individual, or those he would
wish to be permanent; in other words, we are in the presence of
_ideals of conduct_.

Why else are certain things _those which have to be done_; whence
otherwise such expressions as _social duties_ and _keeping up one's
position_? Why such fortitude under boredom, weariness, constraint;
such heroism sometimes in taking blows and snubs, in dancing on with
broken heart-strings like the Princess in Ford's play? All this means
an ideal, nay, a religion. Yes; people, quite matter-of-fact, worldly
people, are perpetually sacrificing to ideals. And what is more, quite
superior, virtuous people, religious in the best sense of the word,
are apt to have, besides the ostensible and perhaps rather obsolete
one of churches and meeting-houses, another cultus, esoteric, unspoken
but acted upon, of which the priests and casuists are ladies'-maids
and butlers.

Now, if one could only put to profit some of this wasted dutifulness,
this useless heroism; if some of the energy put into the ideal
progress (as free from self-interest most often as the _accumulating
merit_ of Kim's Buddhist) called _getting on in the world_ could only
be applied in _getting the world along_!


VI.

An eminent political economist, to whom I once confided my aversion
for such _butler's and lady's-maid's ideals of life_, admonished me
that although useless possessions, unenjoyable luxury, ostentation,
and so forth, undoubtedly represented a waste of the world's energies
and resources, they should nevertheless be tolerated, inasmuch as
constituting a great incentive to industry. People work, he said,
largely that they may be able to waste. If you repress wastefulness
you will diminish, by so much, the production of wealth by the
wasteful, by the luxurious and the vain....

This may be true. Habits of modesty and of sparingness might perhaps
deprive the world of as much wealth as they would save. But even
supposing this to be true, though the wealth of the world did not
immediately gain, there would always be the modesty and sparingness to
the good; virtues which, sooner or later, would be bound to make more
wealth exist or to make existing wealth _go a longer way_. Appealing
to higher motives, to good sense and good feeling and good taste, has
the advantage of saving the drawbacks of lower motives, which _are_
lower just because they have such drawbacks. You may get a man to do a
desirable thing from undesirable motives; but those undesirable
motives will induce him, the very next minute, to do some undesirable
thing. The wages of good feeling and good taste is the satisfaction
thereof. The wages of covetousness and vanity is the grabbing of
advantages and the humiliating of neighbours; and these make life
poorer, however much bread there may be to eat or money to spend. What
are called higher motives are merely those which expand individual
life into harmonious connection with the life of all men; what we call
lower motives bring us hopelessly back, by a series of vicious
circles, to the mere isolated, sterile egos. Sterile, I mean, in the
sense that the supply of happiness dwindles instead of increasing.


VII.

Waste of better possibilities, of higher qualities, of what we call
_our soul_. To denounce this is dignified, but it is also easy and
most often correspondingly useless. I wish to descend to more prosaic
matters, and, as Ruskin did in his day, to denounce the _mere waste of
money_. For the wasting of money implies nearly always all those other
kinds of wasting. And although there are doubtless pastimes (pastimes
promoted, as is our wont, for fear of yet _other_ pastimes), which are
in themselves unclean or cruel, these are less typically evil, just
because they are more obviously so, than the amusements which imply
the destruction of wealth, the destruction of part of the earth's
resources and of men's labour and thrift, and incidentally thereon of
human leisure and comfort and the world's sweetness.

Do you remember La Bruyère's famous description of the peasants under
Louis XIV.? "One occasionally meets with certain wild animals, both
male and female, scattered over the country; black, livid and parched
by the sun, bound to the soil which they scratch and dig up with
desperate obstinacy. They have something which sounds like speech, and
when they raise themselves up they show a human face. And, as a fact,
they are human beings." The _Ancien Régime_, which had reduced them to
that, and was to continue reducing them worse and worse for another
hundred years by every conceivable tax, tithe, toll, servage, and
privilege, did so mainly to pay for amusements. Amusements of the
_Roi-Soleil_, with his Versailles and Marly and aqueducts and
waterworks, plays and operas; amusements of Louis XV., with his
Parc-aux-Cerfs; amusements of Marie-Antoinette, playing the virtuous
rustic at Trianon; amusements of new buildings, new equipages, new
ribbons and bibbons, new diamonds (including the fatal necklace);
amusements of hunting and gambling and love-making; amusements
sometimes atrocious, sometimes merely futile, but all of them leaving
nothing behind, save the ravaged grass and stench of brimstone of
burnt-out fireworks.

Moreover, wasting money implies _getting more_. And the processes by
which such wasted money is replaced are, by the very nature of those
who do the wasting, rarely, nay, never, otherwise than wasteful in
themselves. To put into their pockets or, like Marshall Villeroi
("a-t-on mis de l'or dans mes poches?"), have it put by their valets,
to replace what was lost overnight, these proud and often honourable
nobles would ante-chamber and cringe for sinecures, pensions,
indemnities, privileges, importune and supplicate the King, the King's
mistress, pandar or lacquey. And the sinecure, pension, indemnity or
privilege was always deducted out of the bread--rye-bread,
straw-bread, grass-bread--which those parched, prone human animals
described by La Bruyère were extracting "with desperate
obstinacy"--out of the ever more sterile and more accursed furrow.

It is convenient to point the moral by reference to those kings and
nobles of other centuries, without incurring pursuit for libel, or
wounding the feelings of one's own kind and estimable contemporaries.
Still, it may be well to add that, odd though it appears, the vicious
circle (in both senses of the words) continues to exist; and that,
even in our democratic civilisation, _you cannot waste money without
wasting something else in getting more money to replace it_.

Waste, and _lay waste_, even as if your pastime had consisted not in
harmless novelty and display, in gentlemanly games or good-humoured
sport, but in destruction and devastation for their own sake.


VIII.

It has been laid waste, that little valley which, in its delicate and
austere loveliness, was rarer and more perfect than any picture or
poem. Those oaks, ivy garlanded like Maenads, which guarded the
shallow white weirs whence the stream leaps down; those ilexes, whose
dark, loose boughs hung over the beryl pools like hair of drinking
nymphs; those trees which were indeed the living and divine owners of
that secluded place, dryads and oreads older and younger than any
mortals,--have now been shamefully stripped, violated and maimed,
their shorn-off leafage, already withered, gathered into faggots or
trodden into the mud made by woodcutters' feet in the place of violets
and tender grasses and wild balm; their flayed bodies, hacked grossly
out of shape, and flung into the defiled water until the moment when,
the slaughter and dishonour and profanation being complete, the
dealers' carts will come cutting up the turf and sprouting reeds, and
carry them off to the station or timber-yard. The very stumps and
roots will be dragged out for sale; the earthy banks, raw and torn,
will fall in, muddying and clogging that pure mountain brook; and the
hillside, turning into sliding shale, will dam it into puddles with
the refuse from the quarries above. And thus, for less guineas than
will buy a new motor or cover an hour of Monte Carlo, a corner of the
world's loveliness and peace will be gone as utterly as those chairs
and tables and vases and cushions which the harlot in Zola's novel
broke, tore, and threw upon the fire for her morning's amusement.


IX.

There is in our imperfect life too little of pleasure and too much of
play. This means that our activities are largely wasted in
pleasureless ways; that, being more tired than we should be, we lose
much time in needed rest; moreover, that being, all of us more or
less, slaves to the drudgery of need or fashion, we set a positive
value on that negative good called freedom, even as the pause between
pain takes, in some cases, the character of pleasure.

There is in all play a sense not merely of freedom from
responsibility, from purpose and consecutiveness, a possibility of
breaking off, or slackening off, but a sense also of margin, of
permitted pause and blank and change; all of which answer to our
being on the verge of fatigue or boredom, at the limit of our energy,
as is normal in the case of growing children (for growth exhausts),
and inevitable in the case of those who work without the renovation of
interest in what they are doing.

If you notice people on a holiday, you will see them doing a large
amount of "nothing," dawdling, in fact; and "amusements" are, when
they are not excitements, that is to say, stimulations to deficient
energy, full of such "doing nothing." Think, for instance, of "amusing
conversation" with its gaps and skippings, and "amusing" reading with
its perpetual chances of inattention.

All this is due to the majority of us being too weak, too badly born
and bred, to give full attention except under the constraint of
necessary work, or under the lash of some sort of excitement; and as a
consequence to our obtaining a sense of real well-being only from the
spare energy which accumulates during idleness. Moreover, under our
present conditions (as under those of slave-labour) "work" is rarely
such as calls forth the effortless, the willing, the pleased
attention. Either in kind or length or intensity, work makes a greater
demand than can be met by the spontaneous, happy activity of most of
us, and thereby diminishes the future chances of such spontaneous
activity by making us weaker in body and mind.

Now, so long as work continues to be thus strained or against the
grain, play is bound to be either an excitement which leaves us poorer
and more tired than before (the fox-hunter, for instance, at the close
of the day, or on the off-days), or else play will be mere dawdling,
getting out of training, in a measure demoralisation. For
demoralisation, in the etymological sense being _debauched_, is the
correlative of over-great or over-long effort; both spoil, but the one
spoils while diminishing the mischief made by the other.

Art is so much less useful than it should be, because of this bad
division of "work" and "play," between which two it finds no place.
For Art--and the art we unwittingly practice whenever we take pleasure
in nature--is without appeal either to the man who is straining at
business and to the man who is dawdling in amusement.

Æsthetic pleasure implies energy during rest and leisureliness during
labour. It means making the most of whatever beautiful and noble
possibilities may come into our life; nay, it means, in each single
soul, _being_ for however brief a time, beautiful and noble because
one is filled with beauty and nobility.


X.

To eat his bread in sorrow and the sweat of his face was, we are apt
to forget, the first sign of man's loss of innocence. And having
learned that we must reverse the myth in order to see its meaning
(since innocence is not at the beginning, but rather at the end of the
story of mankind), we might accept it as part of whatever religion we
may have, that the evil of our world is exactly commensurate with the
hardship of useful tasks and the wastefulness and destructiveness of
pleasures and diversions. Evil and also folly and inefficiency, for
each of these implies the existence of much work badly done, of much
work to no purpose, of a majority of men so weak and dull as to be
excluded from choice and from leisure, and a minority of men so weak
and dull as to use choice and leisure mainly for mischief. To reverse
this original sinful constitution of the world is the sole real
meaning of progress. And the only reason for wishing inventions to be
perfected, wealth to increase, freedom to be attained, and, indeed,
the life of the race to be continued at all, lies in the belief that
such continued movement must bring about a gradual diminution of
pleasureless work and wasteful play. Meanwhile, in the wretched past
and present, the only aristocracy really existing has been that of the
privileged creatures whose qualities and circumstances must have been
such that, whether artisans or artists, tillers of the ground or
seekers after truth, poets, philosophers, or mothers and nurses, their
work has been their pleasure. This means _love_; and love means
fruitfulness.


XI.

There are moments when, catching a glimpse of the frightful weight of
care and pain with which mankind is laden, I am oppressed by the
thought that all improvement must come solely through the continued
selfish shifting of that burden from side to side, from shoulder to
shoulder; through the violent or cunning destruction of some of the
intolerable effects of selfishness in the past by selfishness in the
present and the future. And that in the midst of this terrible but
salutary scuffle for ease and security, the ideals of those who are
privileged enough to have any, may be not much more useful than the
fly on the axle-tree.

It may be, it doubtless is so nowadays, although none of us can tell
to what extent.

But even if it be so, let us who have strength and leisure for
preference and ideals prepare ourselves to fit, at least to acquiesce,
in the changes we are unable to bring about. Do not let us seek our
pleasure in things which we condemn, or remain attached to those which
are ours only through the imperfect arrangements which we deplore. We
are, of course, all tied tight in the meshes of our often worthless
and cruel civilisation, even as the saints felt themselves caught in
the meshes of bodily life. But even as they, in their day, fixed their
hopes on the life disembodied, so let us, in our turn, prepare our
souls for that gradual coming of justice on earth which we shall never
witness, by forestalling its results in our valuations and our wishes.


XII.

The other evening, skirting the Links, we came upon a field, where,
among the brown and green nobbly grass, was gathered a sort of
parliament of creatures: rooks on the fences, seagulls and peewits
wheeling overhead, plovers strutting and wagging their tails; and,
undisturbed by the white darting of rabbits, a covey of young
partridges, hopping leisurely in compact mass.

Is it because we see of these creatures only their harmlessness to us,
but not the slaughter and starving out of each other; or is it because
of their closer relation to simple and beautiful things, to nature;
or is it merely because they are _not human beings_--who shall tell?
but, for whatever reason, such a sight does certainly bring up in us a
sense, however fleeting, of simplicity, _mansuetude_ (I like the
charming mediæval word), of the kinship of harmlessness.

I was thinking this while wading up the grass this morning to the
craig behind the house, the fields of unripe corn a-shimmer and
a-shiver in the light, bright wind; the sea and distant sky so merged
in delicate white mists that a ship, at first sight, seemed a bird
poised in the air. And, higher up, among the ragwort and tall
thistles, I found in the coarse grass a dead baby-rabbit, shot and not
killed at once, perhaps; or shot and not picked up, as not worth
taking: a little soft, smooth, feathery young handful, laid out very
decently, as human beings have to be laid out by one another, in
death.

It brought to my mind a passage where Thoreau, who understood such
matters, says, that although the love of nature may be fostered by
sport, such love, when once consummate, will make nature's lover
little by little shrink from slaughter, and hanker after a diet
wherein slaughter is unnecessary.

It is sad, not for the beasts but for our souls, that, since we must
kill beasts for food (though may not science teach a cleaner, more
human diet?) or to prevent their eating us out of house and home, it
is sad that we should choose to make of this necessity (which ought to
be, like all our baser needs, a matter if not of shame at least of
decorum) that we should make of this ugly necessity an opportunity for
amusement. It is sad that nowadays, when creatures, wild and tame,
are bred for killing, the usual way in which man is brought in contact
with the creatures of the fields and woods and streams (such man, I
mean, as thinks, feels or is expected to) should be by slaughtering
them.

Surely it might be more akin to our human souls, to gentleness of
bringing up, Christianity of belief and chivalry of all kinds, to be,
rather than a hunter, a shepherd. Yet the shepherd is the lout in our
idle times; the shepherd, and the tiller of the soil; and alas, the
naturalist, again, is apt to be the _muff_.

But may the time not come when, apart from every man having to do some
useful thing, something perchance like tending flocks, tilling the
ground, mowing and forestering--the mere love of beauty, the desire
for peace and harmony, the craving for renewal by communion with the
life outside our own, will lead men, without dogs or guns or rods,
into the woods, the fields, to the river-banks, as to some ancient
palace full of frescoes, as to some silent church, with solemn rites
and liturgy?


XIII.

The killing of creatures for sport seems a necessity nowadays. There
is more than mere bodily vigour to be got by occasional interludes of
outdoor life, early hours, discomfort and absorption in the ways of
birds and beasts; there is actual spiritual renovation. The mere
reading about such things, in Tolstoi's _Cossacks_ and certain
chapters of _Anna Karenina_ makes one realise the poetry attached to
them; and we all of us know that the genuine sportsman, the man of
gun and rod and daybreak and solitude, has often a curious halo of
purity about him; contact with natural things and unfamiliarity with
the sordidness of so much human life and endeavour, amounting to a
kind of consecration. A man of this stamp once told me that no emotion
in his life had ever equalled that of his first woodcock.

You cannot have such open-air life, such clean and poetic emotion
without killing. Men are men; they will not get up at cock-crow for
the sake of a mere walk, or sleep in the woods for the sake of the
wood's noises: they must have an object; and what object is there
except killing beasts or birds or fish? Men have to be sportsmen
because they can't all be either naturalists or poets. Killing animals
(and, some persons would add, killing other men) is necessary to keep
man manly. And where men are no longer manly they become cruel, not
for the sake of sport or war, but for their lusts and for cruelty's
own sake. And that seems to settle the question.


XIV.

But the question is not really settled. It is merely settled for the
present, but not for the future. It is surely a sign of our weakness
and barbarism that we cannot imagine to-morrow as better than to-day,
and that, for all our vaunted temporal progress and hypocritical talk
of duty, we are yet unable to think and to feel in terms of
improvement and change; but let our habits, like the vilest vested
interests, oppose a veto to the hope and wish for better things.

To realise that _what is_ does not mean what _will be_, constitutes,
methinks, the real spirituality of us poor human creatures, allowing
our judgments and aspirations to pass beyond our short and hidebound
life, to live on in the future, and help to make that _yonside of our
mortality_, which some of us attempt to satisfy with theosophic
reincarnation and planchette messages!

But such spirituality, whose "it shall"--or "it shall not"--will
become an ever larger part of all _it is_, depends upon the courage of
recognising that much of what the past forces us to accept is not good
enough for the future; recognising that, odious as this may seem to
our self-conceit and sloth, many of the things we do and like and are,
will not bear even our own uncritical scrutiny. Above all, that the
lesser evil which we prefer to the greater is an evil for all that,
and requires riddance.

Much of the world's big mischief is due to the avoidance of a bigger
one. For instance, all this naïvely insisted on masculine inability to
obtain the poet's or naturalist's joys without shooting a bird or
hooking a fish, this inability to love wild life, early hours and
wholesome fatigue unless accompanied by a waste of life and of money;
in short, all this incapacity _for being manly without being
destructive_, is largely due among us Anglo-Saxons to the bringing up
of boys as mere playground dunces, for fear (as we are told by parents
and schoolmasters) that the future citizens of England should take to
evil communications and worse manners if they did not play and talk
cricket and football at every available moment. For what can you
expect but that manly innocence which has been preserved at the
expense of every higher taste should grow up into manly virtue unable
to maintain itself save by hunting and fishing, shooting and
horse-racing; expensive amusements requiring, in their turn, a further
sacrifice of all capacities for innocent, noble and inexpensive
interests, in the absorbing, sometimes stultifying, often debasing
processes of making money?

The same complacency towards waste and mischief for the sake of moral
advantages may be studied in the case also of our womankind. The
absorption in their _toilettes_ guards them from many dangers to
family sanctity. And from how much cruel gossip is not society saved
by the prevalent passion for bridge!

So at least moralists, who are usually the most complacently
demoralised of elderly cynics, are ready to assure us.


XV.

"We should learn to have noble desires," wrote Schiller, "in order to
have no need for sublime resolutions." And morality might almost take
care of itself, if people knew the strong and exquisite pleasures to
be found, like the aromatic ragwort growing on every wall and
stone-heap in the south, everywhere in the course of everyday life.
But alas! the openness to cheap and simple pleasures means the fine
training of fine faculties; and mankind asks for the expensive and
far-fetched and unwholesome pleasures, because it is itself of poor
and cheap material and of wholesale scamped manufacture.


XVI.

Biological facts, as well as our observation of our own self (which is
psychology), lead us to believe that, as I have mentioned before,
Pleasure fulfils the function not merely of leading us along livable
ways, but also of creating a surplus of vitality. Itself an almost
unnecessary boon (since Pain is sufficient to regulate our choice),
Pleasure would thus tend to ever fresh and, if I may use the word,
gratuitous supplies of good. Does not this give to Pleasure a certain
freedom, a humane character wholly different from the awful,
unappeasable tyranny of Pain? For let us be sincere. Pain, and all the
cruel alternatives bidding us obey or die, are scarcely things with
which our poor ideals, our good feeling and good taste, have much
chance of profitable discussion. There is in all human life a side
akin to that of the beast; the beast hunted, tracked, starved, killing
and killed for food; the side alluded to under decent formulæ like
"pressure of population," "diminishing returns," "competition," and so
forth. Not but this side of life also tends towards good, but the
means by which it does so, nature's atrocious surgery, are evil,
although one cannot deny that it is the very nature of Pain to
diminish its own recurrence. This thought may bring some comfort in
the awful earnestness of existence, this thought that in its cruel
fashion, the universe is weeding out cruel facts. But to pretend that
we can habitually exercise much moral good taste, be of delicate
forethought, squeamish harmony when Pain has yoked and is driving us,
is surely a bad bit of hypocrisy, of which those who are being
starved or trampled or tortured into acquiescence may reasonably bid
us be ashamed. Indeed, stoicism, particularly in its discourses to
others, has not more sense of shame than sense of humour.

But since our power of choosing is thus jeopardised by the presence of
Pain, it would the more behove us to express our wish for goodness,
our sense of close connection, wide and complex harmony with the
happiness of others, in those moments of respite and liberty which we
call happiness, and particularly in those freely chosen concerns which
we call play.

Alas, we cannot help ourselves from becoming unimaginative,
unsympathising, destructive and brutish when we are hard pressed by
agony or by fear. Therefore, let such of us as have stuff for finer
things, seize some of our only opportunities, and seek to become
harmless in our pleasures.

Who knows but that the highest practical self-cultivation would not be
compassed by a much humbler paraphrase of Schiller's advice: let us
learn to like what does no harm to the present or the future, in order
not to throw away heroic efforts or sentimental intentions, in doing
what we don't like for someone else's supposed benefit.


XVII.

The various things I have been saying have been said, or, better
still, taken for granted, by Wordsworth, Keats, Browning, Ruskin,
Pater, Stevenson, by all our poets in verse and prose. What I wish to
add is that, being a poet, seeing and feeling like a poet, means
quite miraculously multiplying life's resources for oneself and
others; in fact the highest practicality conceivable, the real
transmutation of brass into gold. Now what we all waste, more even
than money, land, time and labour, more than we waste the efforts and
rewards of other folk, and the chances of enjoyment of unborn
generations (and half of our so-called practicality is nothing but
such waste), what we waste in short more than anything else, is our
own and our children's inborn capacity to see and feel as poets do,
and make much joy out of little material.


XVIII.

There is no machine refuse, cinder, husk, paring or rejected material
of any kind which modern ingenuity cannot turn to profit, making
useful and pleasant goods out of such rubbish as we would willingly,
at first sight, shoot out of the universe into chaos. Every material
thing can be turned, it would seem, into new textures, clean metal,
manure, fuel or what not. But while we are thus economical with our
dust-heaps, what horrid wastefulness goes on with our sensations,
impressions, memories, emotions, with our souls and all the things
that minister to their delight!


XIX.

An ignorant foreign body--and, after all, everyone is a foreigner
somewhere and ignorant about something--once committed the enormity of
asking his host, just back from cub-hunting, whether the hedgerows,
when he went out of a morning, were not quite lovely with those dewy
cobwebs which the French call Veils of the Virgin. It had to be
explained that such a sight was the most unwelcome you could imagine,
since it was a sure sign there would be no scent. The poor foreigner
was duly crestfallen, as happens whenever one has nearly spoilt a
friend's property through some piece of blundering.

But the blunder struck me as oddly symbolical. Are we not most of us
pursuing for our pleasure, though sometimes at risk of our necks, a
fox of some kind: worth nothing as meat, little as fur, good only to
gallop after, and whose unclean scent is incompatible with those
sparkling gossamers flung, for everyone's delight, over gorse and
hedgerow?

       *       *       *       *       *

THE END.



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:

The edition from which this text was drawn is volume 4175 of the
Tauchnitz Edition of British Authors, where it appeared together with
_The Spirit of Rome_, also by Vernon Lee. The volume was published in
1910.

The following changes were made to the text:

 solely for the purpose or          solely for the purpose of

 coeteris paribus                   cæeteris paribus

 Mautineia (Higher Harmonies I)     Mantineia

 The Gothic boldness of light and   The Gothic boldness of light and
 shade of the Campanile make        shade of the Campanile makes

 Tuskan                             Tuscan

 the workmen will be able (...)     the workman will be able (...)

 learn their appearance and care    learn their appearance and care
 for it                             for them

 The death, (...) the (...)         The death, (...) the (...)
 flight of the fox, occupy no part  flight of the fox, occupy no part
 (...) and forms no part            (...) and form no part

 the Monnets                        the Monets





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