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Title: Hopes and Fears for Art
Author: Morris, William
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1919 Longmans, Green and Co. edition by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org



                            HOPES & FEARS FOR
                           ART.  FIVE LECTURES
                            BY WILLIAM MORRIS


                                * * * * *

                             _POCKET EDITION_

                                * * * * *

                         LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
                        39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON
                  FOURTH AVENUE & 30TH STREET, NEW YORK
                       BOMBAY, CALCUTTA, AND MADRAS

                                   1919

                                * * * * *

1st Edition,        Ellis & White,    1882
2nd ,,                   do.          1883
3rd ,,                   do.          1883
4th ,,                 Longmans       1896
5th ,,                   do.          1898
6th ,,                   do.          1903
7th ,,                   do.          1911

                       Included in Longmans’ Pocket
                          Library, February 1919



CONTENTS

                                                    PAGE
The Lesser Arts                                        1
The Art of the People                                 38
The Beauty of Life                                    71
Making the Best of It                                114
The Prospects of Architecture in Civilisation        169



THE LESSER ARTS {1}


HEREAFTER I hope in another lecture to have the pleasure of laying before
you an historical survey of the lesser, or as they are called the
Decorative Arts, and I must confess it would have been pleasanter to me
to have begun my talk with you by entering at once upon the subject of
the history of this great industry; but, as I have something to say in a
third lecture about various matters connected with the practice of
Decoration among ourselves in these days, I feel that I should be in a
false position before you, and one that might lead to confusion, or
overmuch explanation, if I did not let you know what I think on the
nature and scope of these arts, on their condition at the present time,
and their outlook in times to come.  In doing this it is like enough that
I shall say things with which you will very much disagree; I must ask you
therefore from the outset to believe that whatever I may blame or
whatever I may praise, I neither, when I think of what history has been,
am inclined to lament the past, to despise the present, or despair of the
future; that I believe all the change and stir about us is a sign of the
world’s life, and that it will lead—by ways, indeed, of which we have no
guess—to the bettering of all mankind.

Now as to the scope and nature of these Arts I have to say, that though
when I come more into the details of my subject I shall not meddle much
with the great art of Architecture, and less still with the great arts
commonly called Sculpture and Painting, yet I cannot in my own mind quite
sever them from those lesser so-called Decorative Arts, which I have to
speak about: it is only in latter times, and under the most intricate
conditions of life, that they have fallen apart from one another; and I
hold that, when they are so parted, it is ill for the Arts altogether:
the lesser ones become trivial, mechanical, unintelligent, incapable of
resisting the changes pressed upon them by fashion or dishonesty; while
the greater, however they may be practised for a while by men of great
minds and wonder-working hands, unhelped by the lesser, unhelped by each
other, are sure to lose their dignity of popular arts, and become nothing
but dull adjuncts to unmeaning pomp, or ingenious toys for a few rich and
idle men.

However, I have not undertaken to talk to you of Architecture, Sculpture,
and Painting, in the narrower sense of those words, since, most unhappily
as I think, these master-arts, these arts more specially of the
intellect, are at the present day divorced from decoration in its
narrower sense.  Our subject is that great body of art, by means of which
men have at all times more or less striven to beautify the familiar
matters of everyday life: a wide subject, a great industry; both a great
part of the history of the world, and a most helpful instrument to the
study of that history.

A very great industry indeed, comprising the crafts of house-building,
painting, joinery and carpentry, smiths’ work, pottery and glass-making,
weaving, and many others: a body of art most important to the public in
general, but still more so to us handicraftsmen; since there is scarce
anything that they use, and that we fashion, but it has always been
thought to be unfinished till it has had some touch or other of
decoration about it.  True it is that in many or most cases we have got
so used to this ornament, that we look upon it as if it had grown of
itself, and note it no more than the mosses on the dry sticks with which
we light our fires.  So much the worse! for there _is_ the decoration, or
some pretence of it, and it has, or ought to have, a use and a meaning.
For, and this is at the root of the whole matter, everything made by
man’s hands has a form, which must be either beautiful or ugly; beautiful
if it is in accord with Nature, and helps her; ugly if it is discordant
with Nature, and thwarts her; it cannot be indifferent: we, for our
parts, are busy or sluggish, eager or unhappy, and our eyes are apt to
get dulled to this eventfulness of form in those things which we are
always looking at.  Now it is one of the chief uses of decoration, the
chief part of its alliance with nature, that it has to sharpen our dulled
senses in this matter: for this end are those wonders of intricate
patterns interwoven, those strange forms invented, which men have so long
delighted in: forms and intricacies that do not necessarily imitate
nature, but in which the hand of the craftsman is guided to work in the
way that she does, till the web, the cup, or the knife, look as natural,
nay as lovely, as the green field, the river bank, or the mountain flint.

To give people pleasure in the things they must perforce _use_, that is
one great office of decoration; to give people pleasure in the things
they must perforce _make_, that is the other use of it.

Does not our subject look important enough now?  I say that without these
arts, our rest would be vacant and uninteresting, our labour mere
endurance, mere wearing away of body and mind.

As for that last use of these arts, the giving us pleasure in our work, I
scarcely know how to speak strongly enough of it; and yet if I did not
know the value of repeating a truth again and again, I should have to
excuse myself to you for saying any more about this, when I remember how
a great man now living has spoken of it: I mean my friend Professor John
Ruskin: if you read the chapter in the 2nd vol. of his _Stones of Venice_
entitled, ‘On the Nature of Gothic, and the Office of the Workman
therein,’ you will read at once the truest and the most eloquent words
that can possibly be said on the subject.  What I have to say upon it can
scarcely be more than an echo of his words, yet I repeat there is some
use in reiterating a truth, lest it be forgotten; so I will say this much
further: we all know what people have said about the curse of labour, and
what heavy and grievous nonsense are the more part of their words
thereupon; whereas indeed the real curses of craftsmen have been the
curse of stupidity, and the curse of injustice from within and from
without: no, I cannot suppose there is anybody here who would think it
either a good life, or an amusing one, to sit with one’s hands before one
doing nothing—to live like a gentleman, as fools call it.

Nevertheless there _is_ dull work to be done, and a weary business it is
setting men about such work, and seeing them through it, and I would
rather do the work twice over with my own hands than have such a job: but
now only let the arts which we are talking of beautify our labour, and be
widely spread, intelligent, well understood both by the maker and the
user, let them grow in one word _popular_, and there will be pretty much
an end of dull work and its wearing slavery; and no man will any longer
have an excuse for talking about the curse of labour, no man will any
longer have an excuse for evading the blessing of labour.  I believe
there is nothing that will aid the world’s progress so much as the
attainment of this; I protest there is nothing in the world that I desire
so much as this, wrapped up, as I am sure it is, with changes political
and social, that in one way or another we all desire.

Now if the objection be made, that these arts have been the handmaids of
luxury, of tyranny, and of superstition, I must needs say that it is true
in a sense; they have been so used, as many other excellent things have
been.  But it is also true that, among some nations, their most vigorous
and freest times have been the very blossoming times of art: while at the
same time, I must allow that these decorative arts have flourished among
oppressed peoples, who have seemed to have no hope of freedom: yet I do
not think that we shall be wrong in thinking that at such times, among
such peoples, art, at least, was free; when it has not been, when it has
really been gripped by superstition, or by luxury, it has straightway
begun to sicken under that grip.  Nor must you forget that when men say
popes, kings, and emperors built such and such buildings, it is a mere
way of speaking.  You look in your history-books to see who built
Westminster Abbey, who built St. Sophia at Constantinople, and they tell
you Henry III., Justinian the Emperor.  Did they? or, rather, men like
you and me, handicraftsmen, who have left no names behind them, nothing
but their work?

Now as these arts call people’s attention and interest to the matters of
everyday life in the present, so also, and that I think is no little
matter, they call our attention at every step to that history, of which,
I said before, they are so great a part; for no nation, no state of
society, however rude, has been wholly without them: nay, there are
peoples not a few, of whom we know scarce anything, save that they
thought such and such forms beautiful.  So strong is the bond between
history and decoration, that in the practice of the latter we cannot, if
we would, wholly shake off the influence of past times over what we do at
present.  I do not think it is too much to say that no man, however
original he may be, can sit down to-day and draw the ornament of a cloth,
or the form of an ordinary vessel or piece of furniture, that will be
other than a development or a degradation of forms used hundreds of years
ago; and these, too, very often, forms that once had a serious meaning,
though they are now become little more than a habit of the hand; forms
that were once perhaps the mysterious symbols of worships and beliefs now
little remembered or wholly forgotten.  Those who have diligently
followed the delightful study of these arts are able as if through
windows to look upon the life of the past:—the very first beginnings of
thought among nations whom we cannot even name; the terrible empires of
the ancient East; the free vigour and glory of Greece; the heavy weight,
the firm grasp of Rome; the fall of her temporal Empire which spread so
wide about the world all that good and evil which men can never forget,
and never cease to feel; the clashing of East and West, South and North,
about her rich and fruitful daughter Byzantium; the rise, the
dissensions, and the waning of Islam; the wanderings of Scandinavia; the
Crusades; the foundation of the States of modern Europe; the struggles of
free thought with ancient dying system—with all these events and their
meaning is the history of popular art interwoven; with all this, I say,
the careful student of decoration as an historical industry must be
familiar.  When I think of this, and the usefulness of all this
knowledge, at a time when history has become so earnest a study amongst
us as to have given us, as it were, a new sense: at a time when we so
long to know the reality of all that has happened, and are to be put off
no longer with the dull records of the battles and intrigues of kings and
scoundrels,—I say when I think of all this, I hardly know how to say that
this interweaving of the Decorative Arts with the history of the past is
of less importance than their dealings with the life of the present: for
should not these memories also be a part of our daily life?

And now let me recapitulate a little before I go further, before we begin
to look into the condition of the arts at the present day.  These arts, I
have said, are part of a great system invented for the expression of a
man’s delight in beauty: all peoples and times have used them; they have
been the joy of free nations, and the solace of oppressed nations;
religion has used and elevated them, has abused and degraded them; they
are connected with all history, and are clear teachers of it; and, best
of all, they are the sweeteners of human labour, both to the
handicraftsman, whose life is spent in working in them, and to people in
general who are influenced by the sight of them at every turn of the
day’s work: they make our toil happy, our rest fruitful.

And now if all I have said seems to you but mere open-mouthed praise of
these arts, I must say that it is not for nothing that what I have
hitherto put before you has taken that form.

It is because I must now ask you this question: All these good
things—will you have them? will you cast them from you?

Are you surprised at my question—you, most of whom, like myself, are
engaged in the actual practice of the arts that are, or ought to be,
popular?

In explanation, I must somewhat repeat what I have already said.  Time
was when the mystery and wonder of handicrafts were well acknowledged by
the world, when imagination and fancy mingled with all things made by
man; and in those days all handicraftsmen were _artists_, as we should
now call them.  But the thought of man became more intricate, more
difficult to express; art grew a heavier thing to deal with, and its
labour was more divided among great men, lesser men, and little men; till
that art, which was once scarce more than a rest of body and soul, as the
hand cast the shuttle or swung the hammer, became to some men so serious
labour, that their working lives have been one long tragedy of hope and
fear, joy and trouble.  This was the growth of art: like all growth, it
was good and fruitful for awhile; like all fruitful growth, it grew into
decay; like all decay of what was once fruitful, it will grow into
something new.

Into decay; for as the arts sundered into the greater and the lesser,
contempt on one side, carelessness on the other arose, both begotten of
ignorance of that _philosophy_ of the Decorative Arts, a hint of which I
have tried just now to put before you.  The artist came out from the
handicraftsmen, and left them without hope of elevation, while he himself
was left without the help of intelligent, industrious sympathy.  Both
have suffered; the artist no less than the workman.  It is with art as it
fares with a company of soldiers before a redoubt, when the captain runs
forward full of hope and energy, but looks not behind him to see if his
men are following, and they hang back, not knowing why they are brought
there to die.  The captain’s life is spent for nothing, and his men are
sullen prisoners in the redoubt of Unhappiness and Brutality.

I must in plain words say of the Decorative Arts, of all the arts, that
it is not so much that we are inferior in them to all who have gone
before us, but rather that they are in a state of anarchy and
disorganisation, which makes a sweeping change necessary and certain.

So that again I ask my question, All that good fruit which the arts
should bear, will you have it? will you cast it from you?  Shall that
sweeping change that must come, be the change of loss or of gain?

We who believe in the continuous life of the world, surely we are bound
to hope that the change will bring us gain and not loss, and to strive to
bring that gain about.

Yet how the world may answer my question, who can say?  A man in his
short life can see but a little way ahead, and even in mine wonderful and
unexpected things have come to pass.  I must needs say that therein lies
my hope rather than in all I see going on round about us.  Without
disputing that if the imaginative arts perish, some new thing, at present
unguessed of, _may_ be put forward to supply their loss in men’s lives, I
cannot feel happy in that prospect, nor can I believe that mankind will
endure such a loss for ever: but in the meantime the present state of the
arts and their dealings with modern life and progress seem to me to
point, in appearance at least, to this immediate future; that the world,
which has for a long time busied itself about other matters than the
arts, and has carelessly let them sink lower and lower, till many not
uncultivated men, ignorant of what they once were, and hopeless of what
they might yet be, look upon them with mere contempt; that the world, I
say, thus busied and hurried, will one day wipe the slate, and be clean
rid in her impatience of the whole matter with all its tangle and
trouble.

And then—what then?

Even now amid the squalor of London it is hard to imagine what it will
be.  Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, with the crowd of lesser arts
that belong to them, these, together with Music and Poetry, will be dead
and forgotten, will no longer excite or amuse people in the least: for,
once more, we must not deceive ourselves; the death of one art means the
death of all; the only difference in their fate will be that the luckiest
will be eaten the last—the luckiest, or the unluckiest: in all that has
to do with beauty the invention and ingenuity of man will have come to a
dead stop; and all the while Nature will go on with her eternal
recurrence of lovely changes—spring, summer, autumn, and winter;
sunshine, rain, and snow; storm and fair weather; dawn, noon, and sunset;
day and night—ever bearing witness against man that he has deliberately
chosen ugliness instead of beauty, and to live where he is strongest
amidst squalor or blank emptiness.

You see, sirs, we cannot quite imagine it; any more, perhaps, than our
forefathers of ancient London, living in the pretty, carefully whitened
houses, with the famous church and its huge spire rising above them,—than
they, passing about the fair gardens running down to the broad river,
could have imagined a whole county or more covered over with hideous
hovels, big, middle-sized, and little, which should one day be called
London.

Sirs, I say that this dead blank of the arts that I more than dread is
difficult even now to imagine; yet I fear that I must say that if it does
not come about, it will be owing to some turn of events which we cannot
at present foresee: but I hold that if it does happen, it will only last
for a time, that it will be but a burning up of the gathered weeds, so
that the field may bear more abundantly.  I hold that men would wake up
after a while, and look round and find the dulness unbearable, and begin
once more inventing, imitating, and imagining, as in earlier days.

That faith comforts me, and I can say calmly if the blank space must
happen, it must, and amidst its darkness the new seed must sprout.  So it
has been before: first comes birth, and hope scarcely conscious of
itself; then the flower and fruit of mastery, with hope more than
conscious enough, passing into insolence, as decay follows ripeness; and
then—the new birth again.

Meantime it is the plain duty of all who look seriously on the arts to do
their best to save the world from what at the best will be a loss, the
result of ignorance and unwisdom; to prevent, in fact, that most
discouraging of all changes, the supplying the place of an extinct
brutality by a new one; nay, even if those who really care for the arts
are so weak and few that they can do nothing else, it may be their
business to keep alive some tradition, some memory of the past, so that
the new life when it comes may not waste itself more than enough in
fashioning wholly new forms for its new spirit.

To what side then shall those turn for help, who really understand the
gain of a great art in the world, and the loss of peace and good life
that must follow from the lack of it?  I think that they must begin by
acknowledging that the ancient art, the art of unconscious intelligence,
as one should call it, which began without a date, at least so long ago
as those strange and masterly scratchings on mammoth-bones and the like
found but the other day in the drift—that this art of unconscious
intelligence is all but dead; that what little of it is left lingers
among half-civilised nations, and is growing coarser, feebler, less
intelligent year by year; nay, it is mostly at the mercy of some
commercial accident, such as the arrival of a few shiploads of European
dye-stuffs or a few dozen orders from European merchants: this they must
recognise, and must hope to see in time its place filled by a new art of
conscious intelligence, the birth of wiser, simpler, freer ways of life
than the world leads now, than the world has ever led.

I said, _to see_ this in time; I do not mean to say that our own eyes
will look upon it: it may be so far off, as indeed it seems to some, that
many would scarcely think it worth while thinking of: but there are some
of us who cannot turn our faces to the wall, or sit deedless because our
hope seems somewhat dim; and, indeed, I think that while the signs of the
last decay of the old art with all the evils that must follow in its
train are only too obvious about us, so on the other hand there are not
wanting signs of the new dawn beyond that possible night of the arts, of
which I have before spoken; this sign chiefly, that there are some few at
least who are heartily discontented with things as they are, and crave
for something better, or at least some promise of it—this best of signs:
for I suppose that if some half-dozen men at any time earnestly set their
hearts on something coming about which is not discordant with nature, it
will come to pass one day or other; because it is not by accident that an
idea comes into the heads of a few; rather they are pushed on, and forced
to speak or act by something stirring in the heart of the world which
would otherwise be left without expression.

By what means then shall those work who long for reform in the arts, and
who shall they seek to kindle into eager desire for possession of beauty,
and better still, for the development of the faculty that creates beauty?

People say to me often enough: If you want to make your art succeed and
flourish, you must make it the fashion: a phrase which I confess annoys
me; for they mean by it that I should spend one day over my work to two
days in trying to convince rich, and supposed influential people, that
they care very much for what they really do not care in the least, so
that it may happen according to the proverb: _Bell-wether took the leap_,
_and we all went over_.  Well, such advisers are right if they are
content with the thing lasting but a little while; say till you can make
a little money—if you don’t get pinched by the door shutting too quickly:
otherwise they are wrong: the people they are thinking of have too many
strings to their bow, and can turn their backs too easily on a thing that
fails, for it to be safe work trusting to their whims: it is not their
fault, they cannot help it, but they have no chance of spending time
enough over the arts to know anything practical of them, and they must of
necessity be in the hands of those who spend their time in pushing
fashion this way and that for their own advantage.

Sirs, there is no help to be got out of these latter, or those who let
themselves be led by them: the only real help for the decorative arts
must come from those who work in them; nor must they be led, they must
lead.

You whose hands make those things that should be works of art, you must
be all artists, and good artists too, before the public at large can take
real interest in such things; and when you have become so, I promise you
that you shall lead the fashion; fashion shall follow your hands
obediently enough.

That is the only way in which we can get a supply of intelligent popular
art: a few artists of the kind so-called now, what can they do working in
the teeth of difficulties thrown in their way by what is called Commerce,
but which should be called greed of money? working helplessly among the
crowd of those who are ridiculously called manufacturers, _i.e._
handicraftsmen, though the more part of them never did a stroke of
hand-work in their lives, and are nothing better than capitalists and
salesmen.  What can these grains of sand do, I say, amidst the enormous
mass of work turned out every year which professes in some way to be
decorative art, but the decoration of which no one heeds except the
salesmen who have to do with it, and are hard put to it to supply the
cravings of the public for something new, not for something pretty?

The remedy, I repeat, is plain if it can be applied; the handicraftsman,
left behind by the artist when the arts sundered, must come up with him,
must work side by side with him: apart from the difference between a
great master and a scholar, apart from the differences of the natural
bent of men’s minds, which would make one man an imitative, and another
an architectural or decorative artist, there should be no difference
between those employed on strictly ornamental work; and the body of
artists dealing with this should quicken with their art all makers of
things into artists also, in proportion to the necessities and uses of
the things they would make.

I know what stupendous difficulties, social and economical, there are in
the way of this; yet I think that they seem to be greater than they are:
and of one thing I am sure, that no real living decorative art is
possible if this is impossible.

It is not impossible, on the contrary it is certain to come about, if you
are at heart desirous to quicken the arts; if the world will, for the
sake of beauty and decency, sacrifice some of the things it is so busy
over (many of which I think are not very worthy of its trouble), art will
begin to grow again; as for those difficulties above mentioned, some of
them I know will in any case melt away before the steady change of the
relative conditions of men; the rest, reason and resolute attention to
the laws of nature, which are also the laws of art, will dispose of
little by little: once more, the way will not be far to seek, if the will
be with us.

Yet, granted the will, and though the way lies ready to us, we must not
be discouraged if the journey seem barren enough at first, nay, not even
if things seem to grow worse for a while: for it is natural enough that
the very evil which has forced on the beginning of reform should look
uglier, while on the one hand life and wisdom are building up the new,
and on the other folly and deadness are hugging the old to them.

In this, as in all other matters, lapse of time will be needed before
things seem to straighten, and the courage and patience that does not
despise small things lying ready to be done; and care and watchfulness,
lest we begin to build the wall ere the footings are well in; and always
through all things much humility that is not easily cast down by failure,
that seeks to be taught, and is ready to learn.

For your teachers, they must be Nature and History: as for the first,
that you must learn of it is so obvious that I need not dwell upon that
now: hereafter, when I have to speak more of matters of detail, I may
have to speak of the manner in which you must learn of Nature.  As to the
second, I do not think that any man but one of the highest genius, could
do anything in these days without much study of ancient art, and even he
would be much hindered if he lacked it.  If you think that this
contradicts what I said about the death of that ancient art, and the
necessity I implied for an art that should be characteristic of the
present day, I can only say that, in these times of plenteous knowledge
and meagre performance, if we do not study the ancient work directly and
learn to understand it, we shall find ourselves influenced by the feeble
work all round us, and shall be copying the better work through the
copyists and _without_ understanding it, which will by no means bring
about intelligent art.  Let us therefore study it wisely, be taught by
it, kindled by it; all the while determining not to imitate or repeat it;
to have either no art at all, or an art which we have made our own.

Yet I am almost brought to a stand-still when bidding you to study nature
and the history of art, by remembering that this is London, and what it
is like: how can I ask working-men passing up and down these hideous
streets day by day to care about beauty?  If it were politics, we must
care about that; or science, you could wrap yourselves up in the study of
facts, no doubt, without much caring what goes on about you—but beauty!
do you not see what terrible difficulties beset art, owing to a long
neglect of art—and neglect of reason, too, in this matter?  It is such a
heavy question by what effort, by what dead-lift, you can thrust this
difficulty from you, that I must perforce set it aside for the present,
and must at least hope that the study of history and its monuments will
help you somewhat herein.  If you can really fill your minds with
memories of great works of art, and great times of art, you will, I
think, be able to a certain extent to look through the aforesaid ugly
surroundings, and will be moved to discontent of what is careless and
brutal now, and will, I hope, at last be so much discontented with what
is bad, that you will determine to bear no longer that short-sighted,
reckless brutality of squalor that so disgraces our intricate
civilisation.

Well, at any rate, London is good for this, that it is well off for
museums,—which I heartily wish were to be got at seven days in the week
instead of six, or at least on the only day on which an ordinarily busy
man, one of the taxpayers who support them, can as a rule see them
quietly,—and certainly any of us who may have any natural turn for art
must get more help from frequenting them than one can well say.  It is
true, however, that people need some preliminary instruction before they
can get all the good possible to be got from the prodigious treasures of
art possessed by the country in that form: there also one sees things in
a piecemeal way: nor can I deny that there is something melancholy about
a museum, such a tale of violence, destruction, and carelessness, as its
treasured scraps tell us.

But moreover you may sometimes have an opportunity of studying ancient
art in a narrower but a more intimate, a more kindly form, the monuments
of our own land.  Sometimes only, since we live in the middle of this
world of brick and mortar, and there is little else left us amidst it,
except the ghost of the great church at Westminster, ruined as its
exterior is by the stupidity of the restoring architect, and insulted as
its glorious interior is by the pompous undertakers’ lies, by the
vainglory and ignorance of the last two centuries and a half—little
besides that and the matchless Hall near it: but when we can get beyond
that smoky world, there, out in the country we may still see the works of
our fathers yet alive amidst the very nature they were wrought into, and
of which they are so completely a part: for there indeed if anywhere, in
the English country, in the days when people cared about such things, was
there a full sympathy between the works of man, and the land they were
made for:—the land is a little land; too much shut up within the narrow
seas, as it seems, to have much space for swelling into hugeness: there
are no great wastes overwhelming in their dreariness, no great solitudes
of forests, no terrible untrodden mountain-walls: all is measured,
mingled, varied, gliding easily one thing into another: little rivers,
little plains; swelling, speedily-changing uplands, all beset with
handsome orderly trees; little hills, little mountains, netted over with
the walls of sheep-walks: all is little; yet not foolish and blank, but
serious rather, and abundant of meaning for such as choose to seek it: it
is neither prison nor palace, but a decent home.

All which I neither praise nor blame, but say that so it is: some people
praise this homeliness overmuch, as if the land were the very axle-tree
of the world; so do not I, nor any unblinded by pride in themselves and
all that belongs to them: others there are who scorn it and the tameness
of it: not I any the more: though it would indeed be hard if there were
nothing else in the world, no wonders, no terrors, no unspeakable
beauties: yet when we think what a small part of the world’s history,
past, present, and to come, is this land we live in, and how much smaller
still in the history of the arts, and yet how our forefathers clung to
it, and with what care and pains they adorned it, this unromantic,
uneventful-looking land of England, surely by this too our hearts may be
touched, and our hope quickened.

For as was the land, such was the art of it while folk yet troubled
themselves about such things; it strove little to impress people either
by pomp or ingenuity: not unseldom it fell into commonplace, rarely it
rose into majesty; yet was it never oppressive, never a slave’s nightmare
nor an insolent boast: and at its best it had an inventiveness, an
individuality that grander styles have never overpassed: its best too,
and that was in its very heart, was given as freely to the yeoman’s
house, and the humble village church, as to the lord’s palace or the
mighty cathedral: never coarse, though often rude enough, sweet, natural
and unaffected, an art of peasants rather than of merchant-princes or
courtiers, it must be a hard heart, I think, that does not love it:
whether a man has been born among it like ourselves, or has come
wonderingly on its simplicity from all the grandeur over-seas.  A peasant
art, I say, and it clung fast to the life of the people, and still lived
among the cottagers and yeomen in many parts of the country while the big
houses were being built ‘French and fine’: still lived also in many a
quaint pattern of loom and printing-block, and embroiderer’s needle,
while over-seas stupid pomp had extinguished all nature and freedom, and
art was become, in France especially, the mere expression of that
successful and exultant rascality, which in the flesh no long time
afterwards went down into the pit for ever.

Such was the English art, whose history is in a sense at your doors,
grown scarce indeed, and growing scarcer year by year, not only through
greedy destruction, of which there is certainly less than there used to
be, but also through the attacks of another foe, called nowadays
‘restoration.’

I must not make a long story about this, but also I cannot quite pass it
over, since I have pressed on you the study of these ancient monuments.
Thus the matter stands: these old buildings have been altered and added
to century after century, often beautifully, always historically; their
very value, a great part of it, lay in that: they have suffered almost
always from neglect also, often from violence (that latter a piece of
history often far from uninteresting), but ordinary obvious mending would
almost always have kept them standing, pieces of nature and of history.

But of late years a great uprising of ecclesiastical zeal, coinciding
with a great increase of study, and consequently of knowledge of mediæval
architecture, has driven people into spending their money on these
buildings, not merely with the purpose of repairing them, of keeping them
safe, clean, and wind and water-tight, but also of ‘restoring’ them to
some ideal state of perfection; sweeping away if possible all signs of
what has befallen them at least since the Reformation, and often since
dates much earlier: this has sometimes been done with much disregard of
art and entirely from ecclesiastical zeal, but oftener it has been well
meant enough as regards art: yet you will not have listened to what I
have said to-night if you do not see that from my point of view this
restoration must be as impossible to bring about, as the attempt at it is
destructive to the buildings so dealt with: I scarcely like to think what
a great part of them have been made nearly useless to students of art and
history: unless you knew a great deal about architecture you perhaps
would scarce understand what terrible damage has been done by that
dangerous ‘little knowledge’ in this matter: but at least it is easy to
be understood, that to deal recklessly with valuable (and national)
monuments which, when once gone, can never be replaced by any splendour
of modern art, is doing a very sorry service to the State.

You will see by all that I have said on this study of ancient art that I
mean by education herein something much wider than the teaching of a
definite art in schools of design, and that it must be something that we
must do more or less for ourselves: I mean by it a systematic
concentration of our thoughts on the matter, a studying of it in all
ways, careful and laborious practice of it, and a determination to do
nothing but what is known to be good in workmanship and design.

Of course, however, both as an instrument of that study we have been
speaking of, as well as of the practice of the arts, all handicraftsmen
should be taught to draw very carefully; as indeed all people should be
taught drawing who are not physically incapable of learning it: but the
art of drawing so taught would not be the art of designing, but only a
means towards _this_ end, _general capability in dealing with the arts_.

For I wish specially to impress this upon you, that _designing_ cannot be
taught at all in a school: continued practice will help a man who is
naturally a designer, continual notice of nature and of art: no doubt
those who have some faculty for designing are still numerous, and they
want from a school certain technical teaching, just as they want tools:
in these days also, when the best school, the school of successful
practice going on around you, is at such a low ebb, they do undoubtedly
want instruction in the history of the arts: these two things schools of
design can give: but the royal road of a set of rules deduced from a sham
science of design, that is itself not a science but another set of rules,
will lead nowhere;—or, let us rather say, to beginning again.

As to the kind of drawing that should be taught to men engaged in
ornamental work, there is only _one best_ way of teaching drawing, and
that is teaching the scholar to draw the human figure: both because the
lines of a man’s body are much more subtle than anything else, and
because you can more surely be found out and set right if you go wrong.
I do think that such teaching as this, given to all people who care for
it, would help the revival of the arts very much: the habit of
discriminating between right and wrong, the sense of pleasure in drawing
a good line, would really, I think, be education in the due sense of the
word for all such people as had the germs of invention in them; yet as
aforesaid, in this age of the world it would be mere affectation to
pretend to shut one’s eyes to the art of past ages: that also we must
study.  If other circumstances, social and economical, do not stand in
our way, that is to say, if the world is not too busy to allow us to have
Decorative Arts at all, these two are the _direct_ means by which we
shall get them; that is, general cultivation of the powers of the mind,
general cultivation of the powers of the eye and hand.

Perhaps that seems to you very commonplace advice and a very roundabout
road; nevertheless ’tis a certain one, if by any road you desire to come
to the new art, which is my subject to-night: if you do not, and if those
germs of invention, which, as I said just now, are no doubt still common
enough among men, are left neglected and undeveloped, the laws of Nature
will assert themselves in this as in other matters, and the faculty of
design itself will gradually fade from the race of man.  Sirs, shall we
approach nearer to perfection by casting away so large a part of that
intelligence which makes us _men_?

And now before I make an end, I want to call your attention to certain
things, that, owing to our neglect of the arts for other business, bar
that good road to us and are such an hindrance, that, till they are dealt
with, it is hard even to make a beginning of our endeavour.  And if my
talk should seem to grow too serious for our subject, as indeed I think
it cannot do, I beg you to remember what I said earlier, of how the arts
all hang together.  Now there is one art of which the old architect of
Edward the Third’s time was thinking—he who founded New College at
Oxford, I mean—when he took this for his motto: ‘Manners maketh man:’ he
meant by manners the art of morals, the art of living worthily, and like
a man.  I must needs claim this art also as dealing with my subject.

There is a great deal of sham work in the world, hurtful to the buyer,
more hurtful to the seller, if he only knew it, most hurtful to the
maker: how good a foundation it would be towards getting good Decorative
Art, that is ornamental workmanship, if we craftsmen were to resolve to
turn out nothing but excellent workmanship in all things, instead of
having, as we too often have now, a very low average standard of work,
which we often fall below.

I do not blame either one class or another in this matter, I blame all:
to set aside our own class of handicraftsmen, of whose shortcomings you
and I know so much that we need talk no more about it, I know that the
public in general are set on having things cheap, being so ignorant that
they do not know when they get them nasty also; so ignorant that they
neither know nor care whether they give a man his due: I know that the
manufacturers (so called) are so set on carrying out competition to its
utmost, competition of cheapness, not of excellence, that they meet the
bargain-hunters half way, and cheerfully furnish them with nasty wares at
the cheap rate they are asked for, by means of what can be called by no
prettier name than fraud.  England has of late been too much busied with
the counting-house and not enough with the workshop: with the result that
the counting-house at the present moment is rather barren of orders.

I say all classes are to blame in this matter, but also I say that the
remedy lies with the handicraftsmen, who are not ignorant of these things
like the public, and who have no call to be greedy and isolated like the
manufacturers or middlemen; the duty and honour of educating the public
lies with them, and they have in them the seeds of order and organisation
which make that duty the easier.

When will they see to this and help to make men of us all by insisting on
this most weighty piece of manners; so that we may adorn life with the
pleasure of cheerfully _buying_ goods at their due price; with the
pleasure of _selling_ goods that we could be proud of both for fair price
and fair workmanship: with the pleasure of working soundly and without
haste at _making_ goods that we could be proud of?—much the greatest
pleasure of the three is that last, such a pleasure as, I think, the
world has none like it.

You must not say that this piece of manners lies out of my subject: it is
essentially a part of it and most important: for I am bidding you learn
to be artists, if art is not to come to an end amongst us: and what is an
artist but a workman who is determined that, whatever else happens, his
work shall be excellent? or, to put it in another way: the decoration of
workmanship, what is it but the expression of man’s pleasure in
successful labour?  But what pleasure can there be in _bad_ work, in
unsuccessful labour; why should we decorate _that_? and how can we bear
to be always unsuccessful in our labour?

As greed of unfair gain, wanting to be paid for what we have not earned,
cumbers our path with this tangle of bad work, of sham work, so the
heaped-up money which this greed has brought us (for greed will have its
way, like all other strong passions), this money, I say, gathered into
heaps little and big, with all the false distinction which so unhappily
it yet commands amongst us, has raised up against the arts a barrier of
the love of luxury and show, which is of all obvious hindrances the worst
to overpass: the highest and most cultivated classes are not free from
the vulgarity of it, the lower are not free from its pretence.  I beg you
to remember both as a remedy against this, and as explaining exactly what
I mean, that nothing can be a work of art which is not useful; that is to
say, which does not minister to the body when well under command of the
mind, or which does not amuse, soothe, or elevate the mind in a healthy
state.  What tons upon tons of unutterable rubbish pretending to be works
of art in some degree would this maxim clear out of our London houses, if
it were understood and acted upon!  To my mind it is only here and there
(out of the kitchen) that you can find in a well-to-do house things that
are of any use at all: as a rule all the decoration (so called) that has
got there is there for the sake of show, not because anybody likes it.  I
repeat, this stupidity goes through all classes of society: the silk
curtains in my Lord’s drawing-room are no more a matter of art to him
than the powder in his footman’s hair; the kitchen in a country farmhouse
is most commonly a pleasant and homelike place, the parlour dreary and
useless.

Simplicity of life, begetting simplicity of taste, that is, a love for
sweet and lofty things, is of all matters most necessary for the birth of
the new and better art we crave for; simplicity everywhere, in the palace
as well as in the cottage.

Still more is this necessary, cleanliness and decency everywhere, in the
cottage as well as in the palace: the lack of that is a serious piece of
_manners_ for us to correct: that lack and all the inequalities of life,
and the heaped-up thoughtlessness and disorder of so many centuries that
cause it: and as yet it is only a very few men who have begun to think
about a remedy for it in its widest range: even in its narrower aspect,
in the defacements of our big towns by all that commerce brings with it,
who heeds it? who tries to control their squalor and hideousness? there
is nothing but thoughtlessness and recklessness in the matter: the
helplessness of people who don’t live long enough to do a thing
themselves, and have not manliness and foresight enough to begin the
work, and pass it on to those that shall come after them.

Is money to be gathered? cut down the pleasant trees among the houses,
pull down ancient and venerable buildings for the money that a few square
yards of London dirt will fetch; blacken rivers, hide the sun and poison
the air with smoke and worse, and it’s nobody’s business to see to it or
mend it: that is all that modern commerce, the counting-house forgetful
of the workshop, will do for us herein.

And Science—we have loved her well, and followed her diligently, what
will she do?  I fear she is so much in the pay of the counting-house, the
counting-house and the drill-sergeant, that she is too busy, and will for
the present do nothing.  Yet there are matters which I should have
thought easy for her; say for example teaching Manchester how to consume
its own smoke, or Leeds how to get rid of its superfluous black dye
without turning it into the river, which would be as much worth her
attention as the production of the heaviest of heavy black silks, or the
biggest of useless guns.  Anyhow, however it be done, unless people care
about carrying on their business without making the world hideous, how
can they care about Art?  I know it will cost much both of time and money
to better these things even a little; but I do not see how these can be
better spent than in making life cheerful and honourable for others and
for ourselves; and the gain of good life to the country at large that
would result from men seriously setting about the bettering of the
decency of our big towns would be priceless, even if nothing specially
good befell the arts in consequence: I do not know that it would; but I
should begin to think matters hopeful if men turned their attention to
such things, and I repeat that, unless they do so, we can scarcely even
begin with any hope our endeavours for the bettering of the arts.

Unless something or other is done to give all men some pleasure for the
eyes and rest for the mind in the aspect of their own and their
neighbours’ houses, until the contrast is less disgraceful between the
fields where beasts live and the streets where men live, I suppose that
the practice of the arts must be mainly kept in the hands of a few highly
cultivated men, who can go often to beautiful places, whose education
enables them, in the contemplation of the past glories of the world, to
shut out from their view the everyday squalors that the most of men move
in.  Sirs, I believe that art has such sympathy with cheerful freedom,
open-heartedness and reality, so much she sickens under selfishness and
luxury, that she will not live thus isolated and exclusive.  I will go
further than this and say that on such terms I do not wish her to live.
I protest that it would be a shame to an honest artist to enjoy what he
had huddled up to himself of such art, as it would be for a rich man to
sit and eat dainty food amongst starving soldiers in a beleaguered fort.

I do not want art for a few, any more than education for a few, or
freedom for a few.

No, rather than art should live this poor thin life among a few
exceptional men, despising those beneath them for an ignorance for which
they themselves are responsible, for a brutality that they will not
struggle with,—rather than this, I would that the world should indeed
sweep away all art for awhile, as I said before I thought it possible she
might do; rather than the wheat should rot in the miser’s granary, I
would that the earth had it, that it might yet have a chance to quicken
in the dark.

I have a sort of faith, though, that this clearing way of all art will
not happen, that men will get wiser, as well as more learned; that many
of the intricacies of life, on which we now pride ourselves more than
enough, partly because they are new, partly because they have come with
the gain of better things, will be cast aside as having played their
part, and being useful no longer.  I hope that we shall have leisure from
war,—war commercial, as well as war of the bullet and the bayonet;
leisure from the knowledge that darkens counsel; leisure above all from
the greed of money, and the craving for that overwhelming distinction
that money now brings: I believe that as we have even now partly achieved
LIBERTY, so we shall one day achieve EQUALITY, which, and which only,
means FRATERNITY, and so have leisure from poverty and all its griping,
sordid cares.

Then having leisure from all these things, amidst renewed simplicity of
life we shall have leisure to think about our work, that faithful daily
companion, which no man any longer will venture to call the Curse of
labour: for surely then we shall be happy in it, each in his place, no
man grudging at another; no one bidden to be any man’s _servant_, every
one scorning to be any man’s _master_: men will then assuredly be happy
in their work, and that happiness will assuredly bring forth decorative,
noble, _popular_ art.

That art will make our streets as beautiful as the woods, as elevating as
the mountain-sides: it will be a pleasure and a rest, and not a weight
upon the spirits to come from the open country into a town; every man’s
house will be fair and decent, soothing to his mind and helpful to his
work: all the works of man that we live amongst and handle will be in
harmony with nature, will be reasonable and beautiful: yet all will be
simple and inspiriting, not childish nor enervating; for as nothing of
beauty and splendour that man’s mind and hand may compass shall be
wanting from our public buildings, so in no private dwelling will there
be any signs of waste, pomp, or insolence, and every man will have his
share of the _best_.

It is a dream, you may say, of what has never been and never will be;
true, it has never been, and therefore, since the world is alive and
moving yet, my hope is the greater that it one day will be: true, it is a
dream; but dreams have before now come about of things so good and
necessary to us, that we scarcely think of them more than of the
daylight, though once people had to live without them, without even the
hope of them.

Anyhow, dream as it is, I pray you to pardon my setting it before you,
for it lies at the bottom of all my work in the Decorative Arts, nor will
it ever be out of my thoughts: and I am here with you to-night to ask you
to help me in realising this dream, this _hope_.



THE ART OF THE PEOPLE {38}


    ‘And the men of labour spent their strength in daily struggling for
    bread to maintain the vital strength they labour with: so living in a
    daily circulation of sorrow, living but to work, and working but to
    live, as if daily bread were the only end of a wearisome life, and a
    wearisome life the only occasion of daily bread.’—DANIEL DEFOE.

I KNOW that a large proportion of those here present are either already
practising the Fine Arts, or are being specially educated to that end,
and I feel that I may be expected to address myself specially to these.
But since it is not to be doubted that we are _all_ met together because
of the interest we take in what concerns these arts, I would rather
address myself to you _all_ as representing the public in general.
Indeed, those of you who are specially studying Art could learn little of
me that would be useful to yourselves only.  You are already learning
under competent masters—most competent, I am glad to know—by means of a
system which should teach you all you need, if you have been right in
making the first step of devoting yourselves to Art; I mean if you are
aiming at the right thing, and in some way or another understand what Art
means, which you may well do without being able to express it, and if you
are resolute to follow on the path which that inborn knowledge has shown
to you; if it is otherwise with you than this, no system and no teachers
will help you to produce real art of any kind, be it never so humble.
Those of you who are real artists know well enough all the special advice
I can give you, and in how few words it may be said—follow nature, study
antiquity, make your own art, and do not steal it, grudge no expense of
trouble, patience, or courage, in the striving to accomplish the hard
thing you have set yourselves to do.  You have had all that said to you
twenty times, I doubt not; and twenty times twenty have said it to
yourselves, and now I have said it again to you, and done neither you nor
me good nor harm thereby.  So true it all is, so well known, and so hard
to follow.

But to me, and I hope to you, Art is a very serious thing, and cannot by
any means be dissociated from the weighty matters that occupy the
thoughts of men; and there are principles underlying the practice of it,
on which all serious-minded men, may—nay, must—have their own thoughts.
It is on some of these that I ask your leave to speak, and to address
myself, not only to those who are consciously interested in the arts, but
to all those also who have considered what the progress of civilisation
promises and threatens to those who shall come after us: what there is to
hope and fear for the future of the arts, which were born with the birth
of civilisation and will only die with its death—what on this side of
things, the present time of strife and doubt and change is preparing for
the better time, when the change shall have come, the strife be lulled,
and the doubt cleared: this is a question, I say, which is indeed
weighty, and may well interest all thinking men.

Nay, so universally important is it, that I fear lest you should think I
am taking too much upon myself to speak to you on so weighty a matter,
nor should I have dared to do so, if I did not feel that I am to-night
only the mouthpiece of better men than myself; whose hopes and fears I
share; and that being so, I am the more emboldened to speak out, if I
can, my full mind on the subject, because I am in a city where, if
anywhere, men are not contented to live wholly for themselves and the
present, but have fully accepted the duty of keeping their eyes open to
whatever new is stirring, so that they may help and be helped by any
truth that there may be in it.  Nor can I forget, that, since you have
done me the great honour of choosing me for the President of your Society
of Arts for the past year, and of asking me to speak to you to-night, I
should be doing less than my duty if I did not, according to my lights,
speak out straightforwardly whatever seemed to me might be in a small
degree useful to you.  Indeed, I think I am among friends, who may
forgive me if I speak rashly, but scarcely if I speak falsely.

The aim of your Society and School of Arts is, as I understand it, to
further those arts by education widely spread.  A very great object is
that, and well worthy of the reputation of this great city; but since
Birmingham has also, I rejoice to know, a great reputation for not
allowing things to go about shamming life when the brains are knocked out
of them, I think you should know and see clearly what it is you have
undertaken to further by these institutions, and whether you really care
about it, or only languidly acquiesce in it—whether, in short, you know
it to the heart, and are indeed part and parcel of it, with your own
will, or against it; or else have heard say that it is a good thing if
any one care to meddle with it.

If you are surprised at my putting that question for your consideration,
I will tell you why I do so.  There are some of us who love Art most, and
I may say most faithfully, who see for certain that such love is rare
nowadays.  We cannot help seeing, that besides a vast number of people,
who (poor souls!) are sordid and brutal of mind and habits, and have had
no chance or choice in the matter, there are many high-minded,
thoughtful, and cultivated men who inwardly think the arts to be a
foolish accident of civilisation—nay, worse perhaps, a nuisance, a
disease, a hindrance to human progress.  Some of these, doubtless, are
very busy about other sides of thought.  They are, as I should put it, so
_artistically_ engrossed by the study of science, politics, or what not,
that they have necessarily narrowed their minds by their hard and
praiseworthy labours.  But since such men are few, this does not account
for a prevalent habit of thought that looks upon Art as at best trifling.

What is wrong, then, with us or the arts, since what was once accounted
so glorious, is now deemed paltry?

The question is no light one; for, to put the matter in its clearest
light, I will say that the leaders of modern thought do for the most part
sincerely and single-mindedly hate and despise the arts; and you know
well that as the leaders are, so must the people be; and that means that
we who are met together here for the furthering of Art by wide-spread
education are either deceiving ourselves and wasting our time, since we
shall one day be of the same opinion as the best men among us, or else we
represent a small minority that is right, as minorities sometimes are,
while those upright men aforesaid, and the great mass of civilised men,
have been blinded by untoward circumstances.

That we are of this mind—the minority that is right—is, I hope, the case.
I hope we know assuredly that the arts we have met together to further
are necessary to the life of man, if the progress of civilisation is not
to be as causeless as the turning of a wheel that makes nothing.

How, then, shall we, the minority, carry out the duty which our position
thrusts upon us, of striving to grow into a majority?

If we could only explain to those thoughtful men, and the millions of
whom they are the flower, what the thing is that we love, which is to us
as the bread we eat, and the air we breathe, but about which they know
nothing and feel nothing, save a vague instinct of repulsion, then the
seed of victory might be sown.  This is hard indeed to do; yet if we
ponder upon a chapter of ancient or mediæval history, it seems to me some
glimmer of a chance of doing so breaks in upon us.  Take for example a
century of the Byzantine Empire, weary yourselves with reading the names
of the pedants, tyrants, and tax-gatherers to whom the terrible chain
which long-dead Rome once forged, still gave the power of cheating people
into thinking that they were necessary lords of the world.  Turn then to
the lands they governed, and read and forget a long string of the
causeless murders of Northern and Saracen pirates and robbers.  That is
pretty much the sum of what so-called history has left us of the tale of
those days—the stupid languor and the evil deeds of kings and scoundrels.
Must we turn away then, and say that all was evil?  How then did men live
from day to day?  How then did Europe grow into intelligence and freedom?
It seems there were others than those of whom history (so called) has
left us the names and the deeds.  These, the raw material for the
treasury and the slave-market, we now call ‘the people,’ and we know that
they were working all that while.  Yes, and that their work was not
merely slaves’ work, the meal-trough before them and the whip behind
them; for though history (so called) has forgotten them, yet their work
has not been forgotten, but has made another history—the history of Art.
There is not an ancient city in the East or the West that does not bear
some token of their grief, and joy, and hope.  From Ispahan to
Northumberland, there is no building built between the seventh and
seventeenth centuries that does not show the influence of the labour of
that oppressed and neglected herd of men.  No one of them, indeed, rose
high above his fellows.  There was no Plato, or Shakespeare, or Michael
Angelo amongst them.  Yet scattered as it was among many men, how strong
their thought was, how long it abided, how far it travelled!

And so it was ever through all those days when Art was so vigorous and
progressive.  Who can say how little we should know of many periods, but
for their art?  History (so called) has remembered the kings and
warriors, because they destroyed; Art has remembered the people, because
they created.

I think, then, that this knowledge we have of the life of past times
gives us some token of the way we should take in meeting those honest and
single-hearted men who above all things desire the world’s progress, but
whose minds are, as it were, sick on this point of the arts.  Surely you
may say to them: When all is gained that you (and we) so long for, what
shall we do then?  That great change which we are working for, each in
his own way, will come like other changes, as a thief in the night, and
will be with us before we know it; but let us imagine that its
consummation has come suddenly and dramatically, acknowledged and hailed
by all right-minded people; and what shall we do then, lest we begin once
more to heap up fresh corruption for the woeful labour of ages once
again?  I say, as we turn away from the flagstaff where the new banner
has been just run up; as we depart, our ears yet ringing with the blare
of the heralds’ trumpets that have proclaimed the new order of things,
what shall we turn to then, what _must_ we turn to then?

To what else, save to our work, our daily labour?

With what, then, shall we adorn it when we have become wholly free and
reasonable?  It is necessary toil, but shall it be toil only?  Shall all
we can do with it be to shorten the hours of that toil to the utmost,
that the hours of leisure may be long beyond what men used to hope for?
and what then shall we do with the leisure, if we say that all toil is
irksome?  Shall we sleep it all away?—Yes, and never wake up again, I
should hope, in that case.

What shall we do then? what shall our necessary hours of labour bring
forth?

That will be a question for all men in that day when many wrongs are
righted, and when there will be no classes of degradation on whom the
dirty work of the world can be shovelled; and if men’s minds are still
sick and loathe the arts, they will not be able to answer that question.

Once men sat under grinding tyrannies, amidst violence and fear so great,
that nowadays we wonder how they lived through twenty-four hours of it,
till we remember that then, as now, their daily labour was the main part
of their lives, and that that daily labour was sweetened by the daily
creation of Art; and shall we who are delivered from the evils they bore,
live drearier days than they did?  Shall men, who have come forth from so
many tyrannies, bind themselves to yet another one, and become the slaves
of nature, piling day upon day of hopeless, useless toil?  Must this go
on worsening till it comes to this at last—that the world shall have come
into its inheritance, and with all foes conquered and nought to bind it,
shall choose to sit down and labour for ever amidst grim ugliness?  How,
then, were all our hopes cheated, what a gulf of despair should we tumble
into then?

In truth, it cannot be; yet if that sickness of repulsion to the arts
were to go on hopelessly, nought else would be, and the extinction of the
love of beauty and imagination would prove to be the extinction of
civilisation.  But that sickness the world will one day throw off, yet
will, I believe, pass through many pains in so doing, some of which will
look very like the death-throes of Art, and some, perhaps, will be
grievous enough to the poor people of the world; since hard necessity, I
doubt, works many of the world’s changes, rather than the purblind
striving to see, which we call the foresight of man.

Meanwhile, remember that I asked just now, what was amiss in Art or in
ourselves that this sickness was upon us.  Nothing is wrong or can be
with Art in the abstract—that must always be good for mankind, or we are
all wrong together: but with Art, as we of these latter days have known
it, there is much wrong; nay, what are we here for to-night if that is
not so? were not the schools of art founded all over the country some
thirty years ago because we had found out that popular art was fading—or
perhaps had faded out from amongst us?

As to the progress made since then in this country—and in this country
only, if at all—it is hard for me to speak without being either
ungracious or insincere, and yet speak I must.  I say, then, that an
apparent external progress in some ways is obvious, but I do not know how
far that is hopeful, for time must try it, and prove whether it be a
passing fashion or the first token of a real stir among the great mass of
civilised men.  To speak quite frankly, and as one friend to another, I
must needs say that even as I say those words they seem too good to be
true.  And yet—who knows?—so wont are we to frame history for the future
as well as for the past, so often are our eyes blind both when we look
backward and when we look forward, because we have been gazing so
intently at our own days, our own lines.  May all be better than I think
it!

At any rate let us count our gains, and set them against less hopeful
signs of the times.  In England, then—and as far as I know, in England
only—painters of pictures have grown, I believe, more numerous, and
certainly more conscientious in their work, and in some cases—and this
more especially in England—have developed and expressed a sense of beauty
which the world has not seen for the last three hundred years.  This is
certainly a very great gain, which is not easy to over-estimate, both for
those who make the pictures and those who use them.

Furthermore, in England, and in England only, there has been a great
improvement in architecture and the arts that attend it—arts which it was
the special province of the afore-mentioned schools to revive and foster.
This, also, is a considerable gain to the users of the works so made, but
I fear a gain less important to most of those concerned in making them.

Against these gains we must, I am very sorry to say, set the fact not
easy to be accounted for, that the rest of the civilised world (so
called) seems to have done little more than stand still in these matters;
and that among ourselves these improvements have concerned comparatively
few people, the mass of our population not being in the least touched by
them; so that the great bulk of our architecture—the art which most
depends on the taste of the people at large—grows worse and worse every
day.  I must speak also of another piece of discouragement before I go
further.  I daresay many of you will remember how emphatically those who
first had to do with the movement of which the foundation of our
art-schools was a part, called the attention of our pattern-designers to
the beautiful works of the East.  This was surely most well judged of
them, for they bade us look at an art at once beautiful, orderly, living
in our own day, and above all, popular.  Now, it is a grievous result of
the sickness of civilisation that this art is fast disappearing before
the advance of western conquest and commerce—fast, and every day faster.
While we are met here in Birmingham to further the spread of education in
art, Englishmen in India are, in their short-sightedness, actively
destroying the very sources of that education—jewellery, metal-work,
pottery, calico-printing, brocade-weaving, carpet-making—all the famous
and historical arts of the great peninsula have been for long treated as
matters of no importance, to be thrust aside for the advantage of any
paltry scrap of so-called commerce; and matters are now speedily coming
to an end there.  I daresay some of you saw the presents which the native
Princes gave to the Prince of Wales on the occasion of his progress
through India.  I did myself, I will not say with great disappointment,
for I guessed what they would be like, but with great grief, since there
was scarce here and there a piece of goods among these costly gifts,
things given as great treasures, which faintly upheld the ancient fame of
the cradle of the industrial arts.  Nay, in some cases, it would have
been laughable, if it had not been so sad, to see the piteous simplicity
with which the conquered race had copied the blank vulgarity of their
lords.  And this deterioration we are now, as I have said, actively
engaged in forwarding.  I have read a little book, {50} a handbook to the
Indian Court of last year’s Paris Exhibition, which takes the occasion of
noting the state of manufactures in India one by one.  ‘Art
manufactures,’ you would call them; but, indeed, all manufactures are, or
were, ‘art manufactures’ in India.  Dr. Birdwood, the author of this
book, is of great experience in Indian life, a man of science, and a
lover of the arts.  His story, by no means a new one to me, or others
interested in the East and its labour, is a sad one indeed.  The
conquered races in their hopelessness are everywhere giving up the
genuine practice of their own arts, which we know ourselves, as we have
indeed loudly proclaimed, are founded on the truest and most natural
principles.  The often-praised perfection of these arts is the blossom of
many ages of labour and change, but the conquered races are casting it
aside as a thing of no value, so that they may conform themselves to the
inferior art, or rather the lack of art, of their conquerors.  In some
parts of the country the genuine arts are quite destroyed; in many others
nearly so; in all they have more or less begun to sicken.  So much so is
this the case, that now for some time the Government has been furthering
this deterioration.  As for example, no doubt with the best intentions,
and certainly in full sympathy with the general English public, both at
home and in India, the Government is now manufacturing cheap Indian
carpets in the Indian gaols.  I do not say that it is a bad thing to turn
out real work, or works of art, in gaols; on the contrary, I think it
good if it be properly managed.  But in this case, the Government, being,
as I said, in full sympathy with the English public, has determined that
it will make its wares cheap, whether it make them nasty or not.  Cheap
and nasty they are, I assure you; but, though they are the worst of their
kind, they would not be made thus, if everything did not tend the same
way.  And it is the same everywhere and with all Indian manufactures,
till it has come to this—that these poor people have all but lost the one
distinction, the one glory that conquest had left them.  Their famous
wares, so praised by those who thirty years ago began to attempt the
restoration of popular art amongst ourselves, are no longer to be bought
at reasonable prices in the common market, but must be sought for and
treasured as precious relics for the museums we have founded for our art
education.  In short, their art is dead, and the commerce of modern
civilisation has slain it.

What is going on in India is also going on, more or less, all over the
East; but I have spoken of India chiefly because I cannot help thinking
that we ourselves are responsible for what is happening there.
Chance-hap has made us the lords of many millions out there; surely, it
behoves us to look to it, lest we give to the people whom we have made
helpless scorpions for fish and stones for bread.

But since neither on this side, nor on any other, can art be amended,
until the countries that lead civilisation are themselves in a healthy
state about it, let us return to the consideration of its condition among
ourselves.  And again I say, that obvious as is that surface improvement
of the arts within the last few years, I fear too much that there is
something wrong about the root of the plant to exult over the bursting of
its February buds.

I have just shown you for one thing that lovers of Indian and Eastern
Art, including as they do the heads of our institutions for art
education, and I am sure many among what are called the governing
classes, are utterly powerless to stay its downward course.  The general
tendency of civilisation is against them, and is too strong for them.

Again, though many of us love architecture dearly, and believe that it
helps the healthiness both of body and soul to live among beautiful
things, we of the big towns are mostly compelled to live in houses which
have become a byword of contempt for their ugliness and inconvenience.
The stream of civilisation is against us, and we cannot battle against
it.

Once more those devoted men who have upheld the standard of truth and
beauty amongst us, and whose pictures, painted amidst difficulties that
none but a painter can know, show qualities of mind unsurpassed in any
age—these great men have but a narrow circle that can understand their
works, and are utterly unknown to the great mass of the people:
civilisation is so much against them, that they cannot move the people.

Therefore, looking at all this, I cannot think that all is well with the
root of the tree we are cultivating.  Indeed, I believe that if other
things were but to stand still in the world, this improvement before
mentioned would lead to a kind of art which, in that impossible case,
would be in a way stable, would perhaps stand still also.  This would be
an art cultivated professedly by a few, and for a few, who would consider
it necessary—a duty, if they could admit duties—to despise the common
herd, to hold themselves aloof from all that the world has been
struggling for from the first, to guard carefully every approach to their
palace of art.  It would be a pity to waste many words on the prospect of
such a school of art as this, which does in a way, theoretically at
least, exist at present, and has for its watchword a piece of slang that
does not mean the harmless thing it seems to mean—art for art’s sake.
Its fore-doomed end must be, that art at last will seem too delicate a
thing for even the hands of the initiated to touch; and the initiated
must at last sit still and do nothing—to the grief of no one.

Well, certainly, if I thought you were come here to further such an art
as this I could not have stood up and called you _friends_; though such a
feeble folk as I have told you of one could scarce care to call foes.

Yet, as I say, such men exist, and I have troubled you with speaking of
them, because I know that those honest and intelligent people, who are
eager for human progress, and yet lack part of the human senses, and are
anti-artistic, suppose that such men are artists, and that this is what
art means, and what it does for people, and that such a narrow, cowardly
life is what we, fellow-handicraftsmen, aim at.  I see this taken for
granted continually, even by many who, to say truth, ought to know
better, and I long to put the slur from off us; to make people understand
that we, least of all men, wish to widen the gulf between the classes,
nay, worse still, to make new classes of elevation, and new classes of
degradation—new lords and new slaves; that we, least of all men, want to
cultivate the ‘plant called man’ in different ways—here stingily, there
wastefully: I wish people to understand that the art we are striving for
is a good thing which all can share, which will elevate all; in good
sooth, if all people do not soon share it there will soon be none to
share; if all are not elevated by it, mankind will lose the elevation it
has gained.  Nor is such an art as we long for a vain dream; such an art
once was in times that were worse than these, when there was less
courage, kindness, and truth in the world than there is now; such an art
there will be hereafter, when there will be more courage, kindness, and
truth than there is now in the world.

Let us look backward in history once more for a short while, and then
steadily forward till my words are done: I began by saying that part of
the common and necessary advice given to Art students was to study
antiquity; and no doubt many of you, like me, have done so; have
wandered, for instance, through the galleries of the admirable museum of
South Kensington, and, like me, have been filled with wonder and
gratitude at the beauty which has been born from the brain of man.  Now,
consider, I pray you, what these wonderful works are, and how they were
made; and indeed, it is neither in extravagance nor without due meaning
that I use the word ‘wonderful’ in speaking of them.  Well, these things
are just the common household goods of those past days, and that is one
reason why they are so few and so carefully treasured.  They were common
things in their own day, used without fear of breaking or spoiling—no
rarities then—and yet we have called them ‘wonderful.’

And how were they made?  Did a great artist draw the designs for them—a
man of cultivation, highly paid, daintily fed, carefully housed, wrapped
up in cotton wool, in short, when he was not at work?  By no means.
Wonderful as these works are, they were made by ‘common fellows,’ as the
phrase goes, in the common course of their daily labour.  Such were the
men we honour in honouring those works.  And their labour—do you think it
was irksome to them?  Those of you who are artists know very well that it
was not; that it could not be.  Many a grin of pleasure, I’ll be
bound—and you will not contradict me—went to the carrying through of
those mazes of mysterious beauty, to the invention of those strange
beasts and birds and flowers that we ourselves have chuckled over at
South Kensington.  While they were at work, at least, these men were not
unhappy, and I suppose they worked most days, and the most part of the
day, as we do.

Or those treasures of architecture that we study so carefully
nowadays—what are they? how were they made?  There are great minsters
among them, indeed, and palaces of kings and lords, but not many; and,
noble and awe-inspiring as these may be, they differ only in size from
the little grey church that still so often makes the commonplace English
landscape beautiful, and the little grey house that still, in some parts
of the country at least, makes an English village a thing apart, to be
seen and pondered on by all who love romance and beauty.  These form the
mass of our architectural treasures, the houses that everyday people
lived in, the unregarded churches in which they worshipped.

And, once more, who was it that designed and ornamented them?  The great
architect, carefully kept for the purpose, and guarded from the common
troubles of common men?  By no means.  Sometimes, perhaps, it was the
monk, the ploughman’s brother; oftenest his other brother, the village
carpenter, smith, mason, what not—‘a common fellow,’ whose common
everyday labour fashioned works that are to-day the wonder and despair of
many a hard-working ‘cultivated’ architect.  And did he loathe his work?
No, it is impossible.  I have seen, as we most of us have, work done by
such men in some out-of-the-way hamlet—where to-day even few strangers
ever come, and whose people seldom go five miles from their own doors; in
such places, I say, I have seen work so delicate, so careful, and so
inventive, that nothing in its way could go further.  And I will assert,
without fear of contradiction, that no human ingenuity can produce work
such as this without pleasure being a third party to the brain that
conceived and the hand that fashioned it.  Nor are such works rare.  The
throne of the great Plantagenet, or the great Valois, was no more
daintily carved than the seat of the village mass-john, or the chest of
the yeoman’s good-wife.

So, you see, there was much going on to make life endurable in those
times.  Not every day, you may be sure, was a day of slaughter and
tumult, though the histories read almost as if it were so; but every day
the hammer chinked on the anvil, and the chisel played about the oak
beam, and never without some beauty and invention being born of it, and
consequently some human happiness.

That last word brings me to the very kernel and heart of what I have come
here to say to you, and I pray you to think of it most seriously—not as
to my words, but as to a thought which is stirring in the world, and will
one day grow into something.

That thing which I understand by real art is the expression by man of his
pleasure in labour.  I do not believe he can be happy in his labour
without expressing that happiness; and especially is this so when he is
at work at anything in which he specially excels.  A most kind gift is
this of nature, since all men, nay, it seems all things too, must labour;
so that not only does the dog take pleasure in hunting, and the horse in
running, and the bird in flying, but so natural does the idea seem to us,
that we imagine to ourselves that the earth and the very elements rejoice
in doing their appointed work; and the poets have told us of the spring
meadows smiling, of the exultation of the fire, of the countless laughter
of the sea.

Nor until these latter days has man ever rejected this universal gift,
but always, when he has not been too much perplexed, too much bound by
disease or beaten down by trouble, has striven to make his work at least
happy.  Pain he has too often found in his pleasure, and weariness in his
rest, to trust to these.  What matter if his happiness lie with what must
be always with him—his work?

And, once more, shall we, who have gained so much, forego this gain, the
earliest, most natural gain of mankind?  If we have to a great extent
done so, as I verily fear we have, what strange fog-lights must have
misled us; or rather let me say, how hard pressed we must have been in
the battle with the evils we have overcome, to have forgotten the
greatest of all evils.  I cannot call it less than that.  If a man has
work to do which he despises, which does not satisfy his natural and
rightful desire for pleasure, the greater part of his life must pass
unhappily and without self-respect.  Consider, I beg of you, what that
means, and what ruin must come of it in the end.

If I could only persuade you of this, that the chief duty of the
civilised world to-day is to set about making labour happy for all, to do
its utmost to minimise the amount of unhappy labour—nay, if I could only
persuade some two or three of you here present—I should have made a good
night’s work of it.

Do not, at any rate, shelter yourselves from any misgiving you may have
behind the fallacy that the art-lacking labour of to-day is happy work:
for the most of men it is not so.  It would take long, perhaps, to show
you, and make you fully understand that the would-be art which it
produces is joyless.  But there is another token of its being most
unhappy work, which you cannot fail to understand at once—a grievous
thing that token is—and I beg of you to believe that I feel the full
shame of it, as I stand here speaking of it; but if we do not admit that
we are sick, how can we be healed?  This hapless token is, that the work
done by the civilised world is mostly dishonest work.  Look now: I admit
that civilisation does make certain things well, things which it knows,
consciously or unconsciously, are necessary to its present unhealthy
condition.  These things, to speak shortly, are chiefly machines for
carrying on the competition in buying and selling, called falsely
commerce; and machines for the violent destruction of life—that is to
say, materials for two kinds of war; of which kinds the last is no doubt
the worst, not so much in itself perhaps, but because on this point the
conscience of the world is beginning to be somewhat pricked.  But, on the
other hand, matters for the carrying on of a dignified daily life, that
life of mutual trust, forbearance, and help, which is the only real life
of thinking men—these things the civilised world makes ill, and even
increasingly worse and worse.

If I am wrong in saying this, you know well I am only saying what is
widely thought, nay widely said too, for that matter.  Let me give an
instance, familiar enough, of that wide-spread opinion.  There is a very
clever book of pictures {61} now being sold at the railway bookstalls,
called ‘The British Working Man, by one who does not believe in him,’—a
title and a book which make me both angry and ashamed, because the two
express much injustice, and not a little truth in their quaint, and
necessarily exaggerated way.  It is quite true, and very sad to say, that
if any one nowadays wants a piece of ordinary work done by gardener,
carpenter, mason, dyer, weaver, smith, what you will, he will be a lucky
rarity if he get it well done.  He will, on the contrary, meet on every
side with evasion of plain duties, and disregard of other men’s rights;
yet I cannot see how the ‘British Working Man’ is to be made to bear the
whole burden of this blame, or indeed the chief part of it.  I doubt if
it be possible for a whole mass of men to do work to which they are
driven, and in which there is no hope and no pleasure, without trying to
shirk it—at any rate, shirked it has always been under such
circumstances.  On the other hand, I know that there are some men so
right-minded, that they will, in despite of irksomeness and hopelessness,
drive right through their work.  Such men are the salt of the earth.  But
must there not be something wrong with a state of society which drives
these into that bitter heroism, and the most part into shirking, into the
depths often of half-conscious self-contempt and degradation?  Be sure
that there is, that the blindness and hurry of civilisation, as it now
is, have to answer a heavy charge as to that enormous amount of
pleasureless work—work that tries every muscle of the body and every atom
of the brain, and which is done without pleasure and without aim—work
which everybody who has to do with tries to shuffle off in the speediest
way that dread of starvation or ruin will allow him.

I am as sure of one thing as that I am living and breathing, and it is
this: that the dishonesty in the daily arts of life, complaints of which
are in all men’s mouths, and which I can answer for it does exist, is the
natural and inevitable result of the world in the hurry of the war of the
counting-house, and the war of the battlefield, having forgotten—of all
men, I say, each for the other, having forgotten, that pleasure in our
daily labour, which nature cries out for as its due.

Therefore, I say again, it is necessary to the further progress of
civilisation that men should turn their thoughts to some means of
limiting, and in the end of doing away with, degrading labour.

I do not think my words hitherto spoken have given you any occasion to
think that I mean by this either hard or rough labour; I do not pity men
much for their hardships, especially if they be accidental; not
necessarily attached to one class or one condition, I mean.  Nor do I
think (I were crazy or dreaming else) that the work of the world can be
carried on without rough labour; but I have seen enough of that to know
that it need not be by any means degrading.  To plough the earth, to cast
the net, to fold the flock—these, and such as these, which are rough
occupations enough, and which carry with them many hardships, are good
enough for the best of us, certain conditions of leisure, freedom, and
due wages being granted.  As to the bricklayer, the mason, and the
like—these would be artists, and doing not only necessary, but beautiful,
and therefore happy work, if art were anything like what it should be.
No, it is not such labour as this which we need to do away with, but the
toil which makes the thousand and one things which nobody wants, which
are used merely as the counters for the competitive buying and selling,
falsely called commerce, which I have spoken of before—I know in my
heart, and not merely by my reason, that this toil cries out to be done
away with.  But, besides that, the labour which now makes things good and
necessary in themselves, merely as counters for the commercial war
aforesaid, needs regulating and reforming.  Nor can this reform be
brought about save by art; and if we were only come to our right minds,
and could see the necessity for making labour sweet to all men, as it is
now to very few—the necessity, I repeat; lest discontent, unrest, and
despair should at last swallow up all society—If we, then, with our eyes
cleared, could but make some sacrifice of things which do us no good,
since we unjustly and uneasily possess them, then indeed I believe we
should sow the seeds of a happiness which the world has not yet known, of
a rest and content which would make it what I cannot help thinking it was
meant to be: and with that seed would be sown also the seed of real art,
the expression of man’s happiness in his labour,—an art made by the
people, and for the people, as a happiness to the maker and the user.

That is the only real art there is, the only art which will be an
instrument to the progress of the world, and not a hindrance.  Nor can I
seriously doubt that in your hearts you know that it is so, all of you,
at any rate, who have in you an instinct for art.  I believe that you
agree with me in this, though you may differ from much else that I have
said.  I think assuredly that this is the art whose welfare we have met
together to further, and the necessary instruction in which we have
undertaken to spread as widely as may be.

Thus I have told you something of what I think is to be hoped and feared
for the future of art; and if you ask me what I expect as a practical
outcome of the admission of these opinions, I must say at once that I
know, even if we were all of one mind, and that what I think the right
mind on this subject, we should still have much work and many hindrances
before us; we should still have need of all the prudence, foresight, and
industry of the best among us; and, even so, our path would sometimes
seem blind enough.  And, to-day, when the opinions which we think right,
and which one day will be generally thought so, have to struggle sorely
to make themselves noticed at all, it is early days for us to try to see
our exact and clearly mapped road.  I suppose you will think it too
commonplace of me to say that the general education that makes men think,
will one day make them think rightly upon art.  Commonplace as it is, I
really believe it, and am indeed encouraged by it, when I remember how
obviously this age is one of transition from the old to the new, and what
a strange confusion, from out of which we shall one day come, our
ignorance and half-ignorance is like to make of the exhausted rubbish of
the old and the crude rubbish of the new, both of which lie so ready to
our hands.

But, if I must say, furthermore, any words that seem like words of
practical advice, I think my task is hard, and I fear I shall offend some
of you whatever I say; for this is indeed an affair of morality, rather
than of what people call art.

However, I cannot forget that, in my mind, it is not possible to
dissociate art from morality, politics, and religion.  Truth in these
great matters of principle is of one, and it is only in formal treatises
that it can be split up diversely.  I must also ask you to remember how I
have already said, that though my mouth alone speaks, it speaks, however
feebly and disjointedly, the thoughts of many men better than myself.
And further, though when things are tending to the best, we shall still,
as aforesaid, need our best men to lead us quite right; yet even now
surely, when it is far from that, the least of us can do some yeoman’s
service to the cause, and live and die not without honour.

So I will say that I believe there are two virtues much needed in modern
life, if it is ever to become sweet; and I am quite sure that they are
absolutely necessary in the sowing the seed of an _art which is to be
made by the people and for the people_, _as a happiness to the maker and
the user_.  These virtues are honesty, and simplicity of life.  To make
my meaning clearer I will name the opposing vice of the second of
these—luxury to wit.  Also I mean by honesty, the careful and eager
giving his due to every man, the determination not to gain by any man’s
loss, which in my experience is not a common virtue.

But note how the practice of either of these virtues will make the other
easier to us.  For if our wants are few, we shall have but little chance
of being driven by our wants into injustice; and if we are fixed in the
principle of giving every man his due, how can our self-respect bear that
we should give too much to ourselves?

And in art, and in that preparation for it without which no art that is
stable or worthy can be, the raising, namely, of those classes which have
heretofore been degraded, the practice of these virtues would make a new
world of it.  For if you are rich, your simplicity of life will both go
towards smoothing over the dreadful contrast between waste and want,
which is the great horror of civilised countries, and will also give an
example and standard of dignified life to those classes which you desire
to raise, who, as it is indeed, being like enough to rich people, are
given both to envy and to imitate the idleness and waste that the
possession of much money produces.

Nay, and apart from the morality of the matter, which I am forced to
speak to you of; let me tell you that though simplicity in art may be
costly as well as uncostly, at least it is not wasteful, and nothing is
more destructive to art than the want of it.  I have never been in any
rich man’s house which would not have looked the better for having a
bonfire made outside of it of nine-tenths of all that it held.  Indeed,
our sacrifice on the side of luxury will, it seems to me, be little or
nothing: for, as far as I can make out, what people usually mean by it,
is either a gathering of possessions which are sheer vexations to the
owner, or a chain of pompous circumstance, which checks and annoys the
rich man at every step.  Yes, luxury cannot exist without slavery of some
kind or other, and its abolition will be blessed, like the abolition of
other slaveries, by the freeing both of the slaves and of their masters.

Lastly, if, besides attaining to simplicity of life, we attain also to
the love of justice, then will all things be ready for the new springtime
of the arts.  For those of us that are employers of labour, how can we
bear to give any man less money than he can decently live on, less
leisure than his education and self-respect demand? or those of us who
are workmen, how can we bear to fail in the contract we have undertaken,
or to make it necessary for a foreman to go up and down spying out our
mean tricks and evasions? or we the shopkeepers—can we endure to lie
about our wares, that we may shuffle off our losses on to some one else’s
shoulders? or we the public—how can we bear to pay a price for a piece of
goods which will help to trouble one man, to ruin another, and starve a
third?  Or, still more, I think, how can we bear to use, how can we enjoy
something which has been a pain and a grief for the maker to make?

And now, I think, I have said what I came to say.  I confess that there
is nothing new in it, but you know the experience of the world is that a
thing must be said over and over again before any great number of men can
be got to listen to it.  Let my words to-night, therefore, pass for one
of the necessary times that the thought in them must be spoken out.

For the rest I believe that, however seriously these words may be
gainsayed, I have been speaking to an audience in whom any words spoken
from a sense of duty and in hearty goodwill, as mine have been, will
quicken thought and sow some good seed.  At any rate, it is good for a
man who thinks seriously to face his fellows, and speak out whatever
really burns in him, so that men may seem less strange to one another,
and misunderstanding, the fruitful cause of aimless strife, may be
avoided.

But if to any of you I have seemed to speak hopelessly, my words have
been lacking in art; and you must remember that hopelessness would have
locked my mouth, not opened it.  I am, indeed, hopeful, but can I give a
date to the accomplishment of my hope, and say that it will happen in my
life or yours?

But I will say at least, Courage! for things wonderful, unhoped-for,
glorious, have happened even in this short while I have been alive.

Yes, surely these times are wonderful and fruitful of change, which, as
it wears and gathers new life even in its wearing, will one day bring
better things for the toiling days of men, who, with freer hearts and
clearer eyes, will once more gain the sense of outward beauty, and
rejoice in it.

Meanwhile, if these hours be dark, as, indeed, in many ways they are, at
least do not let us sit deedless, like fools and fine gentlemen, thinking
the common toil not good enough for us, and beaten by the muddle; but
rather let us work like good fellows trying by some dim candle-light to
set our workshop ready against to-morrow’s daylight—that to-morrow, when
the civilised world, no longer greedy, strifeful, and destructive, shall
have a new art, a glorious art, made by the people and for the people, as
a happiness to the maker and the user.



THE BEAUTY OF LIFE {71}


    ‘—propter vitam vivendi perdere causas.’—_Juvenal_.

I STAND before you this evening weighted with a disadvantage that I did
not feel last year;—I have little fresh to tell you; I can somewhat
enlarge on what I said then; here and there I may make bold to give you a
practical suggestion, or I may put what I have to say in a way which will
be clearer to some of you perhaps; but my message is really the same as
it was when I first had the pleasure of meeting you.

It is true that if all were going smoothly with art, or at all events so
smoothly that there were but a few malcontents in the world, you might
listen with some pleasure, and perhaps advantage, to the talk of an old
hand in the craft concerning ways of work, the snares that beset success,
and the shortest road to it, to a tale of workshop receipts and the like:
that would be a pleasant talk surely between friends and fellow-workmen;
but it seems to me as if it were not for us as yet; nay, maybe we may
live long and find no time fit for such restful talk as the cheerful
histories of the hopes and fears of our workshops: anyhow to-night I
cannot do it, but must once again call the faithful of art to a battle
wider and more distracting than that kindly struggle with nature, to
which all true craftsmen are born; which is both the building-up and the
wearing-away of their lives.

As I look round on this assemblage, and think of all that it represents,
I cannot choose but be moved to the soul by the troubles of the life of
civilised man, and the hope that thrusts itself through them; I cannot
refrain from giving you once again the message with which, as it seems,
some chance-hap has charged me: that message is, in short, to call on you
to face the latest danger which civilisation is threatened with, a danger
of her own breeding: that men in struggling towards the complete
attainment of all the luxuries of life for the strongest portion of their
race should deprive their whole race of all the beauty of life: a danger
that the strongest and wisest of mankind, in striving to attain to a
complete mastery over nature, should destroy her simplest and
widest-spread gifts, and thereby enslave simple people to them, and
themselves to themselves, and so at last drag the world into a second
barbarism more ignoble, and a thousandfold more hopeless, than the first.

Now of you who are listening to me, there are some, I feel sure, who have
received this message, and taken it to heart, and are day by day fighting
the battle that it calls on you to fight: to you I can say nothing but
that if any word I speak discourage you, I shall heartily wish I had
never spoken at all: but to be shown the enemy, and the castle we have
got to storm, is not to be bidden to run from him; nor am I telling you
to sit down deedless in the desert because between you and the promised
land lies many a trouble, and death itself maybe: the hope before you you
know, and nothing that I can say can take it away from you; but friend
may with advantage cry out to friend in the battle that a stroke is
coming from this side or that: take my hasty words in that sense, I beg
of you.

But I think there will be others of you in whom vague discontent is
stirring: who are oppressed by the life that surrounds you; confused and
troubled by that oppression, and not knowing on which side to seek a
remedy, though you are fain to do so: well, we, who have gone further
into those troubles, believe that we can help you: true we cannot at once
take your trouble from you; nay, we may at first rather add to it; but we
can tell you what we think of the way out of it; and then amidst the many
things you will have to do to set yourselves and others fairly on that
way, you will many days, nay most days, forget your trouble in thinking
of the good that lies beyond it, for which you are working.

But, again, there are others amongst you (and to speak plainly, I daresay
they are the majority), who are not by any means troubled by doubt of the
road the world is going, nor excited by any hope of its bettering that
road: to them the cause of civilisation is simple and even commonplace:
it wonder, hope, and fear no longer hang about it; has become to us like
the rising and setting of the sun; it cannot err, and we have no call to
meddle with it, either to complain of its course, or to try to direct it.

There is a ground of reason and wisdom in that way of looking at the
matter: surely the world will go on its ways, thrust forward by impulses
which we cannot understand or sway: but as it grows in strength for the
journey, its necessary food is the life and aspirations of _all_ of us:
and we discontented strugglers with what at times seems the hurrying
blindness of civilisation, no less than those who see nothing but smooth,
unvarying progress in it, are bred of civilisation also, and shall be
used up to further it in some way or other, I doubt not: and it may be of
some service to those who think themselves the only loyal subjects of
progress to hear of our existence, since their not hearing of it would
not make an end of it: it may set them a-thinking not unprofitably to
hear of burdens that they do not help to bear, but which are nevertheless
real and weighty enough to some of their fellow-men, who are helping,
even as they are, to form the civilisation that is to be.

The danger that the present course of civilisation will destroy the
beauty of life—these are hard words, and I wish I could mend them, but I
cannot, while I speak what I believe to be the truth.

That the beauty of life is a thing of no moment, I suppose few people
would venture to assert, and yet most civilised people act as if it were
of none, and in so doing are wronging both themselves and those that are
to come after them; for that beauty, which is what is meant by _art_,
using the word in its widest sense, is, I contend, no mere accident to
human life, which people can take or leave as they choose, but a positive
necessity of life, if we are to live as nature meant us to; that is,
unless we are content to be less than men.

Now I ask you, as I have been asking myself this long while, what
proportion of the population in civilised countries has any share at all
in that necessity of life?

I say that the answer which must be made to that question justifies my
fear that modern civilisation is on the road to trample out all the
beauty of life, and to make us less than men.

Now if there should be any here who will say: It was always so; there
always was a mass of rough ignorance that knew and cared nothing about
art; I answer first, that if that be the case, then it was always wrong,
and we, as soon as we have become conscious of that wrong, are bound to
set it right if we can.

But moreover, strange to say, and in spite of all the suffering that the
world has wantonly made for itself, and has in all ages so persistently
clung to, as if it were a good and holy thing, this wrong of the mass of
men being regardless of art was _not_ always so.

So much is now known of the periods of art that have left abundant
examples of their work behind them, that we can judge of the art of all
periods by comparing these with the remains of times of which less has
been left us; and we cannot fail to come to the conclusion that down to
very recent days everything that the hand of man touched was more or less
beautiful: so that in those days all people who made anything shared in
art, as well as all people who used the things so made: that is, _all_
people shared in art.

But some people may say: And was that to be wished for? would not this
universal spreading of art stop progress in other matters, hinder the
work of the world?  Would it not make us unmanly? or if not that, would
it not be intrusive, and push out other things necessary also for men to
study?

Well, I have claimed a necessary place for art, a natural place, and it
would be in the very essence of it, that it would apply its own rules of
order and fitness to the general ways of life: it seems to me, therefore,
that people who are over-anxious of the outward expression of beauty
becoming too great a force among the other forces of life, would, if they
had had the making of the external world, have been afraid of making an
ear of wheat beautiful, lest it should not have been good to eat.

But indeed there seems no chance of art becoming universal, unless on the
terms that it shall have little self-consciousness, and for the most part
be done with little effort; so that the rough work of the world would be
as little hindered by it, as the work of external nature is by the beauty
of all her forms and moods: this was the case in the times that I have
been speaking of: of art which was made by conscious effort, the result
of the individual striving towards perfect expression of their thoughts
by men very specially gifted, there was perhaps no more than there is
now, except in very wonderful and short periods; though I believe that
even for such men the struggle to produce beauty was not so bitter as it
now is.  But if there were not more great thinkers than there are now,
there was a countless multitude of happy workers whose work did express,
and could not choose but express, some original thought, and was
consequently both interesting and beautiful: now there is certainly no
chance of the more individual art becoming common, and either wearying us
by its over-abundance, or by noisy self-assertion preventing highly
cultivated men taking their due part in the other work of the world; it
is too difficult to do: it will be always but the blossom of all the
half-conscious work below it, the fulfilment of the shortcomings of less
complete minds: but it will waste much of its power, and have much less
influence on men’s minds, unless it be surrounded by abundance of that
commoner work, in which all men once shared, and which, I say, will, when
art has really awakened, be done so easily and constantly, that it will
stand in no man’s way to hinder him from doing what he will, good or
evil.  And as, on the one hand, I believe that art made by the people and
for the people as a joy both to the maker and the user would further
progress in other matters rather than hinder it, so also I firmly believe
that that higher art produced only by great brains and miraculously
gifted hands cannot exist without it: I believe that the present state of
things in which it does exist, while popular art is, let us say, asleep
or sick, is a transitional state, which must end at last either in utter
defeat or utter victory for the arts.

For whereas all works of craftsmanship were once beautiful, unwittingly
or not, they are now divided into two kinds, works of art and non-works
of art: now nothing made by man’s hand can be indifferent: it must be
either beautiful and elevating, or ugly and degrading; and those things
that are without art are so aggressively; they wound it by their
existence, and they are now so much in the majority that the works of art
we are obliged to set ourselves to seek for, whereas the other things are
the ordinary companions of our everyday life; so that if those who
cultivate art intellectually were inclined never so much to wrap
themselves in their special gifts and their high cultivation, and so live
happily, apart from other men, and despising them, they could not do so:
they are as it were living in an enemy’s country; at every turn there is
something lying in wait to offend and vex their nicer sense and educated
eyes: they must share in the general discomfort—and I am glad of it.

So the matter stands: from the first dawn of history till quite modern
times, art, which nature meant to solace all, fulfilled its purpose; all
men shared in it; that was what made life romantic, as people call it, in
those days; that and not robber-barons and inaccessible kings with their
hierarchy of serving-nobles and other such rubbish: but art grew and
grew, saw empires sicken and sickened with them; grew hale again, and
haler, and grew so great at last, that she seemed in good truth to have
conquered everything, and laid the material world under foot.  Then came
a change at a period of the greatest life and hope in many ways that
Europe had known till then: a time of so much and such varied hope that
people call it the time of the New Birth: as far as the arts are
concerned I deny it that title; rather it seems to me that the great men
who lived and glorified the practice of art in those days, were the fruit
of the old, not the seed of the new order of things: but a stirring and
hopeful time it was, and many things were newborn then which have since
brought forth fruit enough: and it is strange and perplexing that from
those days forward the lapse of time, which, through plenteous confusion
and failure, has on the whole been steadily destroying privilege and
exclusiveness in other matters, has delivered up art to be the exclusive
privilege of a few, and has taken from the people their birthright; while
both wronged and wrongers have been wholly unconscious of what they were
doing.

Wholly unconscious—yes, but we are no longer so: there lies the sting of
it, and there also the hope.

When the brightness of the so-called Renaissance faded, and it faded very
suddenly, a deadly chill fell upon the arts: that New-birth mostly meant
looking back to past times, wherein the men of those days thought they
saw a perfection of art, which to their minds was different in kind, and
not in degree only, from the ruder suggestive art of their own fathers:
this perfection they were ambitious to imitate, this alone seemed to be
art to them, the rest was childishness: so wonderful was their energy,
their success so great, that no doubt to commonplace minds among them,
though surely not to the great masters, that perfection seemed to be
gained: and, perfection being gained, what are you to do?—you can go no
further, you must aim at standing still—which you cannot do.

Art by no means stood still in those latter days of the Renaissance, but
took the downward road with terrible swiftness, and tumbled down at the
bottom of the hill, where as if bewitched it lay long in great content,
believing itself to be the art of Michael Angelo, while it was the art of
men whom nobody remembers but those who want to sell their pictures.

Thus it fared with the more individual forms of art.  As to the art of
the people; in countries and places where the greater art had flourished
most, it went step by step on the downward path with that: in more
out-of-the-way places, England for instance, it still felt the influence
of the life of its earlier and happy days, and in a way lived on a while;
but its life was so feeble, and, so to say, illogical, that it could not
resist any change in external circumstances, still less could it give
birth to anything new; and before this century began, its last flicker
had died out.  Still, while it was living, in whatever dotage, it did
imply something going on in those matters of daily use that we have been
thinking of, and doubtless satisfied some cravings for beauty: and when
it was dead, for a long time people did not know it, or what had taken
its place, crept so to say into its dead body—that pretence of art, to
wit, which is done with machines, though sometimes the machines are
called men, and doubtless are so out of working hours: nevertheless long
before it was quite dead it had fallen so low that the whole subject was
usually treated with the utmost contempt by every one who had any
pretence of being a sensible man, and in short the whole civilised world
had forgotten that there had ever been an art _made by the people for the
people as a joy for the maker and the user_.

But now it seems to me that the very suddenness of the change ought to
comfort us, to make us look upon this break in the continuity of the
golden chain as an accident only, that itself cannot last: for think how
many thousand years it may be since that primeval man graved with a flint
splinter on a bone the story of the mammoth he had seen, or told us of
the slow uplifting of the heavily-horned heads of the reindeer that he
stalked: think I say of the space of time from then till the dimming of
the brightness of the Italian Renaissance! whereas from that time till
popular art died unnoticed and despised among ourselves is just but two
hundred years.

Strange too, that very death is contemporaneous with new-birth of
something at all events; for out of all despair sprang a new time of hope
lighted by the torch of the French Revolution: and things that have
languished with the languishing of art, rose afresh and surely heralded
its new birth: in good earnest poetry was born again, and the English
Language, which under the hands of sycophantic verse-makers had been
reduced to a miserable jargon, whose meaning, if it have a meaning,
cannot be made out without translation, flowed clear, pure, and simple,
along with the music of Blake and Coleridge: take those names, the
earliest in date among ourselves, as a type of the change that has
happened in literature since the time of George II.

With that literature in which romance, that is to say humanity, was
re-born, there sprang up also a feeling for the romance of external
nature, which is surely strong in us now, joined with a longing to know
something real of the lives of those who have gone before us; of these
feelings united you will find the broadest expression in the pages of
Walter Scott: it is curious as showing how sometimes one art will lag
behind another in a revival, that the man who wrote the exquisite and
wholly unfettered naturalism of the Heart of Midlothian, for instance,
thought himself continually bound to seem to feel ashamed of, and to
excuse himself for, his love of Gothic Architecture: he felt that it was
romantic, and he knew that it gave him pleasure, but somehow he had not
found out that it was art, having been taught in many ways that nothing
could be art that was not done by a named man under academical rules.

I need not perhaps dwell much on what of change has been since: you know
well that one of the master-arts, the art of painting, has been
revolutionised.  I have a genuine difficulty in speaking to you of men
who are my own personal friends, nay my masters: still, since I cannot
quite say nothing of them I must say the plain truth, which is this;
never in the whole history of art did any set of men come nearer to the
feat of making something out of nothing than that little knot of painters
who have raised English art from what it was, when as a boy I used to go
to the Royal Academy Exhibition, to what it is now.

It would be ungracious indeed for me who have been so much taught by him,
that I cannot help feeling continually as I speak that I am echoing his
words, to leave out the name of John Ruskin from an account of what has
happened since the tide, as we hope, began to turn in the direction of
art.  True it is, that his unequalled style of English and his wonderful
eloquence would, whatever its subject-matter, have gained him some sort
of a hearing in a time that has not lost its relish for literature; but
surely the influence that he has exercised over cultivated people must be
the result of that style and that eloquence expressing what was already
stirring in men’s minds; he could not have written what he has done
unless people were in some sort ready for it; any more than those
painters could have begun their crusade against the dulness and
incompetency that was the rule in their art thirty years ago unless they
had some hope that they would one day move people to understand them.

Well, we find that the gains since the turning-point of the tide are
these: that there are some few artists who have, as it were, caught up
the golden chain dropped two hundred years ago, and that there are a few
highly cultivated people who can understand them; and that beyond these
there is a vague feeling abroad among people of the same degree, of
discontent at the ignoble ugliness that surrounds them.

That seems to me to mark the advance that we have made since the last of
popular art came to an end amongst us, and I do not say, considering
where we then were, that it is not a great advance, for it comes to this,
that though the battle is still to win, there are those who are ready for
the battle.

Indeed it would be a strange shame for this age if it were not so: for as
every age of the world has its own troubles to confuse it, and its own
follies to cumber it, so has each its own work to do, pointed out to it
by unfailing signs of the times; and it is unmanly and stupid for the
children of any age to say: We will not set our hands to the work; we did
not make the troubles, we will not weary ourselves seeking a remedy for
them: so heaping up for their sons a heavier load than they can lift
without such struggles as will wound and cripple them sorely.  Not thus
our fathers served us, who, working late and early, left us at last that
seething mass of people so terribly alive and energetic, that we call
modern Europe; not thus those served us, who have made for us these
present days, so fruitful of change and wondering expectation.

The century that is now beginning to draw to an end, if people were to
take to nicknaming centuries, would be called the Century of Commerce;
and I do not think I undervalue the work that it has done: it has broken
down many a prejudice and taught many a lesson that the world has been
hitherto slow to learn: it has made it possible for many a man to live
free, who would in other times have been a slave, body or soul, or both:
if it has not quite spread peace and justice through the world, as at the
end of its first half we fondly hoped it would, it has at least stirred
up in many fresh cravings for peace and justice: its work has been good
and plenteous, but much of it was roughly done, as needs was;
recklessness has commonly gone with its energy, blindness too often with
its haste: so that perhaps it may be work enough for the next century to
repair the blunders of that recklessness, to clear away the rubbish which
that hurried work has piled up; nay even we in the second half of its
last quarter may do something towards setting its house in order.

You, of this great and famous town, for instance, which has had so much
to do with the Century of Commerce, your gains are obvious to all men,
but the price you have paid for them is obvious to many—surely to
yourselves most of all: I do not say that they are not worth the price; I
know that England and the world could very ill afford to exchange the
Birmingham of to-day for the Birmingham of the year 1700: but surely if
what you have gained be more than a mockery, you cannot stop at those
gains, or even go on always piling up similar ones.  Nothing can make me
believe that the present condition of your Black Country yonder is an
unchangeable necessity of your life and position: such miseries as this
were begun and carried on in pure thoughtlessness, and a hundredth part
of the energy that was spent in creating them would get rid of them: I do
think if we were not all of us too prone to acquiesce in the base byword
‘after me the deluge,’ it would soon be something more than an idle dream
to hope that your pleasant midland hills and fields might begin to become
pleasant again in some way or other, even without depopulating them; or
that those once lovely valleys of Yorkshire in the ‘heavy woollen
district,’ with their sweeping hill-sides and noble rivers, should not
need the stroke of ruin to make them once more delightful abodes of men,
instead of the dog-holes that the Century of Commerce has made them.

Well, people will not take the trouble or spend the money necessary to
beginning this sort of reforms, because they do not feel the evils they
live amongst, because they have degraded themselves into something less
than men; they are unmanly because they have ceased to have their due
share of art.

For again I say that therein rich people have defrauded themselves as
well as the poor: you will see a refined and highly educated man
nowadays, who has been to Italy and Egypt, and where not, who can talk
learnedly enough (and fantastically enough sometimes) about art, and who
has at his fingers’ ends abundant lore concerning the art and literature
of past days, sitting down without signs of discomfort in a house, that
with all its surroundings is just brutally vulgar and hideous: all his
education has not done more for him than that.

The truth is, that in art, and in other things besides, the laboured
education of a few will not raise even those few above the reach of the
evils that beset the ignorance of the great mass of the population: the
brutality of which such a huge stock has been accumulated lower down,
will often show without much peeling through the selfish refinement of
those who have let it accumulate.  The lack of art, or rather the murder
of art, that curses our streets from the sordidness of the surroundings
of the lower classes, has its exact counterpart in the dulness and
vulgarity of those of the middle classes, and the double-distilled
dulness, and scarcely less vulgarity of those of the upper classes.

I say this is as it should be; it is just and fair as far as it goes; and
moreover the rich with their leisure are the more like to move if they
feel the pinch themselves.

But how shall they and we, and all of us, move?  What is the remedy?

What remedy can there be for the blunders of civilisation but further
civilisation?  You do not by any accident think that we have gone as far
in that direction as it is possible to go, do you?—even in England, I
mean?

When some changes have come to pass, that perhaps will be speedier than
most people think, doubtless education will both grow in quality and in
quantity; so that it may be, that as the nineteenth century is to be
called the Century of Commerce, the twentieth may be called the Century
of Education.  But that education does not end when people leave school
is now a mere commonplace; and how then can you really educate men who
lead the life of machines, who only think for the few hours during which
they are not at work, who in short spend almost their whole lives in
doing work which is not proper for developing them body and mind in some
worthy way?  You cannot educate, you cannot civilise men, unless you can
give them a share in art.

Yes, and it is hard indeed as things go to give most men that share; for
they do not miss it, or ask for it, and it is impossible as things are
that they should either miss or ask for it.  Nevertheless everything has
a beginning, and many great things have had very small ones; and since,
as I have said, these ideas are already abroad in more than one form, we
must not be too much discouraged at the seemingly boundless weight we
have to lift.

After all, we are only bound to play our own parts, and do our own share
of the lifting, and as in no case that share can be great, so also in all
cases it is called for, it is necessary.  Therefore let us work and faint
not; remembering that though it be natural, and therefore excusable,
amidst doubtful times to feel doubts of success oppress us at whiles, yet
not to crush those doubts, and work as if we had them not, is simple
cowardice, which is unforgivable.  No man has any right to say that all
has been done for nothing, that all the faithful unwearying strife of
those that have gone before us shall lead us nowhither; that mankind will
but go round and round in a circle for ever: no man has a right to say
that, and then get up morning after morning to eat his victuals and sleep
a-nights, all the while making other people toil to keep his worthless
life a-going.

Be sure that some way or other will be found out of the tangle, even when
things seem most tangled, and be no less sure that some use will then
have come of our work, if it has been faithful, and therefore unsparingly
careful and thoughtful.

So once more I say, if in any matters civilisation has gone astray, the
remedy lies not in standing still, but in more complete civilisation.

Now whatever discussion there may be about that often used and often
misused word, I believe all who hear me will agree with me in believing
from their hearts, and not merely in saying in conventional phrase, that
the civilisation which does not carry the whole people with it, is doomed
to fall, and give place to one which at least aims at doing so.

We talk of the civilisation of the ancient peoples, of the classical
times, well, civilised they were no doubt, some of their folk at least:
an Athenian citizen for instance led a simple, dignified, almost perfect
life; but there were drawbacks to happiness perhaps in the lives of his
slaves: and the civilisation of the ancients was founded on slavery.

Indeed that ancient society did give a model to the world, and showed us
for ever what blessings are freedom of life and thought, self-restraint
and a generous education: all those blessings the ancient free peoples
set forth to the world—and kept them to themselves.

Therefore no tyrant was too base, no pretext too hollow, for enslaving
the grandsons of the men of Salamis and Thermopylæ: therefore did the
descendants of those stern and self-restrained Romans, who were ready to
give up everything, and life as the least of things, to the glory of
their commonweal, produce monsters of license and reckless folly.
Therefore did a little knot of Galilean peasants overthrow the Roman
Empire.

Ancient civilisation was chained to slavery and exclusiveness, and it
fell; the barbarism that took its place has delivered us from slavery and
grown into modern civilisation; and that in its turn has before it the
choice of never-ceasing growth, or destruction by that which has in it
the seeds of higher growth.

There is an ugly word for a dreadful fact, which I must make bold to
use—the residuum: that word since the time I first saw it used, has had a
terrible significance to me, and I have felt from my heart that if this
residuum were a necessary part of modern civilisation, as some people
openly, and many more tacitly, assume that it is, then this civilisation
carries with it the poison that shall one day destroy it, even as its
elder sister did: if civilisation is to go no further than this, it had
better not have gone so far: if it does not aim at getting rid of this
misery and giving some share in the happiness and dignity of life to
_all_ the people that it has created, and which it spends such unwearying
energy in creating, it is simply an organised injustice, a mere
instrument for oppression, so much the worse than that which has gone
before it, as its pretensions are higher, its slavery subtler, its
mastery harder to overthrow, because supported by such a dense mass of
commonplace well-being and comfort.

Surely this cannot be: surely there is a distinct feeling abroad of this
injustice: so that if the residuum still clogs all the efforts of modern
civilisation to rise above mere population-breeding and money-making, the
difficulty of dealing with it is the legacy, first of the ages of
violence and almost conscious brutal injustice, and next of the ages of
thoughtlessness, of hurry and blindness; surely all those who think at
all of the future of the world are at work in one way or other in
striving to rid it of this shame.

That to my mind is the meaning of what we call National Education, which
we have begun, and which is doubtless already bearing its fruits, and
will bear greater, when all people are educated, not according to the
money which they or their parents possess, but according to the capacity
of their minds.

What effect that will have upon the future of the arts, I cannot say, but
one would surely think a very great effect; for it will enable people to
see clearly many things which are now as completely hidden from them as
if they were blind in body and idiotic in mind: and this, I say, will act
not only upon those who most directly feel the evils of ignorance, but
also upon those who feel them indirectly,—upon us, the educated: the
great wave of rising intelligence, rife with so many natural desires and
aspirations, will carry all classes along with it, and force us all to
see that many things which we have been used to look upon as necessary
and eternal evils are merely the accidental and temporary growths of past
stupidity, and can be escaped from by due effort, and the exercise of
courage, goodwill, and forethought.

And among those evils, I do, and must always, believe will fall that one
which last year I told you that I accounted the greatest of all evils,
the heaviest of all slaveries; that evil of the greater part of the
population being engaged for by far the most part of their lives in work,
which at the best cannot interest them, or develop their best faculties,
and at the worst (and that is the commonest, too) is mere unmitigated
slavish toil, only to be wrung out of them by the sternest compulsion, a
toil which they shirk all they can—small blame to them.  And this toil
degrades them into less than men: and they will some day come to know it,
and cry out to be made men again, and art only can do it, and redeem them
from this slavery; and I say once more that this is her highest and most
glorious end and aim; and it is in her struggle to attain to it that she
will most surely purify herself, and quicken her own aspirations towards
perfection.

But we—in the meantime we must not sit waiting for obvious signs of these
later and glorious days to show themselves on earth, and in the heavens,
but rather turn to the commonplace, and maybe often dull work of fitting
ourselves in detail to take part in them if we should live to see one of
them; or in doing our best to make the path smooth for their coming, if
we are to die before they are here.

What, therefore, can we do, to guard traditions of time past that we may
not one day have to begin anew from the beginning with none to teach us?
What are we to do, that we may take heed to, and spread the decencies of
life, so that at the least we may have a field where it will be possible
for art to grow when men begin to long for it: what finally can we do,
each of us, to cherish some germ of art, so that it may meet with others,
and spread and grow little by little into the thing that we need?

Now I cannot pretend to think that the first of these duties is a matter
of indifference to you, after my experience of the enthusiastic meeting
that I had the honour of addressing here last autumn on the subject of
the (so called) restoration of St. Mark’s at Venice; you thought, and
most justly thought, it seems to me, that the subject was of such moment
to art in general, that it was a simple and obvious thing for men who
were anxious on the matter to address themselves to those who had the
decision of it in their hands; even though the former were called
Englishmen, and the latter Italians; for you felt that the name of lovers
of art would cover those differences: if you had any misgivings, you
remembered that there was but one such building in the world, and that it
was worth while risking a breach of etiquette, if any words of ours could
do anything towards saving it; well, the Italians were, some of them,
very naturally, though surely unreasonably, irritated, for a time, and in
some of their prints they bade us look at home; that was no argument in
favour of the wisdom of wantonly rebuilding St. Mark’s façade: but
certainly those of us who have not yet looked at home in this matter had
better do so speedily, late and over late though it be: for though we
have no golden-pictured interiors like St. Mark’s Church at home, we
still have many buildings which are both works of ancient art and
monuments of history: and just think what is happening to them, and note,
since we profess to recognise their value, how helpless art is in the
Century of Commerce!

In the first place, many and many a beautiful and ancient building is
being destroyed all over civilised Europe as well as in England, because
it is supposed to interfere with the convenience of the citizens, while a
little forethought might save it without trenching on that convenience;
{96} but even apart from that, I say that if we are not prepared to put
up with a little inconvenience in our lifetimes for the sake of
preserving a monument of art which will elevate and educate, not only
ourselves, but our sons, and our sons’ sons, it is vain and idle of us to
talk about art—or education either.  Brutality must be bred of such
brutality.

The same thing may be said about enlarging, or otherwise altering for
convenience’ sake, old buildings still in use for something like their
original purposes: in almost all such cases it is really nothing more
than a question of a little money for a new site: and then a new building
can be built exactly fitted for the uses it is needed for, with such art
about it as our own days can furnish; while the old monument is left to
tell its tale of change and progress, to hold out example and warning to
us in the practice of the arts: and thus the convenience of the public,
the progress of modern art, and the cause of education, are all furthered
at once at the cost of a little money.

Surely if it be worth while troubling ourselves about the works of art of
to-day, of which any amount almost can be done, since we are yet alive,
it is worth while spending a little care, forethought, and money in
preserving the art of bygone ages, of which (woe worth the while!) so
little is left, and of which we can never have any more, whatever
good-hap the world may attain to.

No man who consents to the destruction or the mutilation of an ancient
building has any right to pretend that he cares about art; or has any
excuse to plead in defence of his crime against civilisation and
progress, save sheer brutal ignorance.

But before I leave this subject I must say a word or two about the
curious invention of our own days called Restoration, a method of dealing
with works of bygone days which, though not so degrading in its spirit as
downright destruction, is nevertheless little better in its results on
the condition of those works of art; it is obvious that I have no time to
argue the question out to-night, so I will only make these assertions:

That ancient buildings, being both works of art and monuments of history,
must obviously be treated with great care and delicacy: that the
imitative art of to-day is not, and cannot be the same thing as ancient
art, and cannot replace it; and that therefore if we superimpose this
work on the old, we destroy it both as art and as a record of history:
lastly, that the natural weathering of the surface of a building is
beautiful, and its loss disastrous.

Now the restorers hold the exact contrary of all this: they think that
any clever architect to-day can deal off-hand successfully with the
ancient work; that while all things else have changed about us since
(say) the thirteenth century, art has not changed, and that our workmen
can turn out work identical with that of the thirteenth century; and,
lastly, that the weather-beaten surface of an ancient building is
worthless, and to be got rid of wherever possible.

You see the question is difficult to argue, because there seem to be no
common grounds between the restorers and the anti-restorers: I appeal
therefore to the public, and bid them note, that though our opinions may
be wrong, the action we advise is not rash: let the question be shelved
awhile: if, as we are always pressing on people, due care be taken of
these monuments, so that they shall not fall into disrepair, they will be
always there to ‘restore’ whenever people think proper and when we are
proved wrong; but if it should turn out that we are right, how can the
‘restored’ buildings be restored?  I beg of you therefore to let the
question be shelved, till art has so advanced among us, that we can deal
authoritatively with it, till there is no longer any doubt about the
matter.

Surely these monuments of our art and history, which, whatever the
lawyers may say, belong not to a coterie, or to a rich man here and
there, but to the nation at large, are worth this delay: surely the last
relics of the life of the ‘famous men and our fathers that begat us’ may
justly claim of us the exercise of a little patience.

It will give us trouble no doubt, all this care of our possessions: but
there is more trouble to come; for I must now speak of something else, of
possessions which should be common to all of us, of the green grass, and
the leaves, and the waters, of the very light and air of heaven, which
the Century of Commerce has been too busy to pay any heed to.  And first
let me remind you that I am supposing every one here present professes to
care about art.

Well, there are some rich men among us whom we oddly enough call
manufacturers, by which we mean capitalists who pay other men to organise
manufacturers; these gentlemen, many of whom buy pictures and profess to
care about art, burn a deal of coal: there is an Act in existence which
was passed to prevent them sometimes and in some places from pouring a
dense cloud of smoke over the world, and, to my thinking, a very lame and
partial Act it is: but nothing hinders these lovers of art from being a
law to themselves, and making it a point of honour with them to minimise
the smoke nuisance as far as their own works are concerned; and if they
don’t do so, when mere money, and even a very little of that, is what it
will cost them, I say that their love of art is a mere pretence: how can
you care about the image of a landscape when you show by your deeds that
you don’t care for the landscape itself? or what right have you to shut
yourself up with beautiful form and colour when you make it impossible
for other people to have any share in these things?

Well, and as to the smoke Act itself: I don’t know what heed you pay to
it in Birmingham, {100} but I have seen myself what heed is paid to it in
other places; Bradford for instance: though close by them at Saltaire
they have an example which I should have thought might have shamed them;
for the huge chimney there which serves the acres of weaving and spinning
sheds of Sir Titus Salt and his brothers is as guiltless of smoke as an
ordinary kitchen chimney.  Or Manchester: a gentleman of that city told
me that the smoke Act was a mere dead letter there: well, they buy
pictures in Manchester and profess to wish to further the arts: but you
see it must be idle pretence as far as their rich people are concerned:
they only want to talk about it, and have themselves talked of.

I don’t know what you are doing about this matter here; but you must
forgive my saying, that unless you are beginning to think of some way of
dealing with it, you are not beginning yet to pave your way to success in
the arts.

Well, I have spoken of a huge nuisance, which is a type of the worst
nuisances of what an ill-tempered man might be excused for calling the
Century of Nuisances, rather than the Century of Commerce.  I will now
leave it to the consciences of the rich and influential among us, and
speak of a minor nuisance which it is in the power of every one of us to
abate, and which, small as it is, is so vexatious, that if I can prevail
on a score of you to take heed to it by what I am saying, I shall think
my evening’s work a good one.  Sandwich-papers I mean—of course you
laugh: but come now, don’t you, civilised as you are in Birmingham, leave
them all about the Lickey hills and your public gardens and the like?  If
you don’t I really scarcely know with what words to praise you.  When we
Londoners go to enjoy ourselves at Hampton Court, for instance, we take
special good care to let everybody know that we have had something to
eat: so that the park just outside the gates (and a beautiful place it
is) looks as if it had been snowing dirty paper.  I really think you
might promise me one and all who are here present to have done with this
sluttish habit, which is the type of many another in its way, just as the
smoke nuisance is.  I mean such things as scrawling one’s name on
monuments, tearing down tree boughs, and the like.

I suppose ’tis early days in the revival of the arts to express one’s
disgust at the daily increasing hideousness of the posters with which all
our towns are daubed.  Still we ought to be disgusted at such horrors,
and I think make up our minds never to buy any of the articles so
advertised.  I can’t believe they can be worth much if they need all that
shouting to sell them.

Again, I must ask what do you do with the trees on a site that is going
to be built over? do you try to save them, to adapt your houses at all to
them? do you understand what treasures they are in a town or a suburb? or
what a relief they will be to the hideous dog-holes which (forgive me!)
you are probably going to build in their places?  I ask this anxiously,
and with grief in my soul, for in London and its suburbs we always {103}
begin by clearing a site till it is as bare as the pavement: I really
think that almost anybody would have been shocked, if I could have shown
him some of the trees that have been wantonly murdered in the suburb in
which I live (Hammersmith to wit), amongst them some of those magnificent
cedars, for which we along the river used to be famous once.

But here again see how helpless those are who care about art or nature
amidst the hurry of the Century of Commerce.

Pray do not forget, that any one who cuts down a tree wantonly or
carelessly, especially in a great town or its suburbs, need make no
pretence of caring about art.

What else can we do to help to educate ourselves and others in the path
of art, to be on the road to attaining an _Art made by the people and for
the people as a joy to the maker and the user_?

Why, having got to understand something of what art was, having got to
look upon its ancient monuments as friends that can tell us something of
times bygone, and whose faces we do not wish to alter, even though they
be worn by time and grief: having got to spend money and trouble upon
matters of decency, great and little; having made it clear that we really
do care about nature even in the suburbs of a big town—having got so far,
we shall begin to think of the houses in which we live.

For I must tell you that unless you are resolved to have good and
rational architecture, it is, once again, useless your thinking about art
at all.

I have spoken of the popular arts, but they might all be summed up in
that one word Architecture; they are all parts of that great whole, and
the art of house-building begins it all: if we did not know how to dye or
to weave; if we had neither gold, nor silver, nor silk; and no pigments
to paint with, but half-a-dozen ochres and umbers, we might yet frame a
worthy art that would lead to everything, if we had but timber, stone,
and lime, and a few cutting tools to make these common things not only
shelter us from wind and weather, but also express the thoughts and
aspirations that stir in us.

Architecture would lead us to all the arts, as it did with earlier men:
but if we despise it and take no note of how we are housed, the other
arts will have a hard time of it indeed.

Now I do not think the greatest of optimists would deny that, taking us
one and all, we are at present housed in a perfectly shameful way, and
since the greatest part of us have to live in houses already built for
us, it must be admitted that it is rather hard to know what to do, beyond
waiting till they tumble about our ears.

Only we must not lay the fault upon the builders, as some people seem
inclined to do: they are our very humble servants, and will build what we
ask for; remember, that rich men are not obliged to live in ugly houses,
and yet you see they do; which the builders may be well excused for
taking as a sign of what is wanted.

Well, the point is, we must do what we can, and make people understand
what we want them to do for us, by letting them see what we do for
ourselves.

Hitherto, judging us by that standard, the builders may well say, that we
want the pretence of a thing rather than the thing itself; that we want a
show of petty luxury if we are unrich, a show of insulting stupidity if
we are rich: and they are quite clear that as a rule we want to get
something that shall look as if it cost twice as much as it really did.

You cannot have Architecture on those terms: simplicity and solidity are
the very first requisites of it: just think if it is not so: How we
please ourselves with an old building by thinking of all the generations
of men that have passed through it! do we not remember how it has
received their joy, and borne their sorrow, and not even their folly has
left sourness upon it? it still looks as kind to us as it did to them.
And the converse of this we ought to feel when we look at a newly-built
house if it were as it should be: we should feel a pleasure in thinking
how he who had built it had left a piece of his soul behind him to greet
the new-comers one after another long and long after he was gone:—but
what sentiment can an ordinary modern house move in us, or what
thought—save a hope that we may speedily forget its base ugliness?

But if you ask me how we are to pay for this solidity and extra expense,
that seems to me a reasonable question; for you must dismiss at once as a
delusion the hope that has been sometimes cherished, that you can have a
building which is a work of art, and is therefore above all things
properly built, at the same price as a building which only pretends to be
this: never forget when people talk about cheap art in general, by the
way, that all art costs time, trouble, and thought, and that money is
only a counter to represent these things.

However, I must try to answer the question I have supposed put, how are
we to pay for decent houses?

It seems to me that, by a great piece of good luck, the way to pay for
them is by doing that which alone can produce popular art among us:
living a simple life, I mean.  Once more I say that the greatest foe to
art is luxury, art cannot live in its atmosphere.

When you hear of the luxuries of the ancients, you must remember that
they were not like our luxuries, they were rather indulgence in pieces of
extravagant folly than what we to-day call luxury; which perhaps you
would rather call comfort: well I accept the word, and say that a Greek
or Roman of the luxurious time would stare astonished could he be brought
back again, and shown the comforts of a well-to-do middle-class house.

But some, I know, think that the attainment of these very comforts is
what makes the difference between civilisation and uncivilisation, that
they are the essence of civilisation.  Is it so indeed?  Farewell my hope
then!—I had thought that civilisation meant the attainment of peace and
order and freedom, of goodwill between man and man, of the love of truth
and the hatred of injustice, and by consequence the attainment of the
good life which these things breed, a life free from craven fear, but
full of incident: that was what I thought it meant, not more stuffed
chairs and more cushions, and more carpets and gas, and more dainty meat
and drink—and therewithal more and sharper differences between class and
class.

If that be what it is, I for my part wish I were well out of it, and
living in a tent in the Persian desert, or a turf hut on the Iceland
hill-side.  But however it be, and I think my view is the true view, I
tell you that art abhors that side of civilisation, she cannot breathe in
the houses that lie under its stuffy slavery.

Believe me, if we want art to begin at home, as it must, we must clear
our houses of troublesome superfluities that are for ever in our way:
conventional comforts that are no real comforts, and do but make work for
servants and doctors: if you want a golden rule that will fit everybody,
this is it:

‘_Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or
believe to be beautiful_.’

And if we apply that rule strictly, we shall in the first place show the
builders and such-like servants of the public what we really want, we
shall create a demand for real art, as the phrase goes; and in the second
place, we shall surely have more money to pay for decent houses.

Perhaps it will not try your patience too much if I lay before you my
idea of the fittings necessary to the sitting-room of a healthy person: a
room, I mean, in which he would not have to cook in much, or sleep in
generally, or in which he would not have to do any very litter-making
manual work.

First a book-case with a great many books in it: next a table that will
keep steady when you write or work at it: then several chairs that you
can move, and a bench that you can sit or lie upon: next a cupboard with
drawers: next, unless either the book-case or the cupboard be very
beautiful with painting or carving, you will want pictures or engravings,
such as you can afford, only not stop-gaps, but real works of art on the
wall; or else the wall itself must be ornamented with some beautiful and
restful pattern: we shall also want a vase or two to put flowers in,
which latter you must have sometimes, especially if you live in a town.
Then there will be the fireplace of course, which in our climate is bound
to be the chief object in the room.

That is all we shall want, especially if the floor be good; if it be not,
as, by the way, in a modern house it is pretty certain not to be, I admit
that a small carpet which can be bundled out of the room in two minutes
will be useful, and we must also take care that it is beautiful, or it
will annoy us terribly.

Now unless we are musical, and need a piano (in which case, as far as
beauty is concerned, we are in a bad way), that is quite all we want: and
we can add very little to these necessaries without troubling ourselves,
and hindering our work, our thought, and our rest.

If these things were done at the least cost for which they could be done
well and solidly, they ought not to cost much; and they are so few, that
those that could afford to have them at all, could afford to spend some
trouble to get them fitting and beautiful: and all those who care about
art ought to take great trouble to do so, and to take care that there be
no sham art amongst them, nothing that it has degraded a man to make or
sell.  And I feel sure, that if all who care about art were to take this
pains, it would make a great impression upon the public.

This simplicity you may make as costly as you please or can, on the other
hand: you may hang your walls with tapestry instead of whitewash or
paper; or you may cover them with mosaic, or have them frescoed by a
great painter: all this is not luxury, if it be done for beauty’s sake,
and not for show: it does not break our golden rule: _Have nothing in
your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be
beautiful_.

All art starts from this simplicity; and the higher the art rises, the
greater the simplicity.  I have been speaking of the fittings of a
dwelling-house—a place in which we eat and drink, and pass familiar
hours; but when you come to places which people want to make more
specially beautiful because of the solemnity or dignity of their uses,
they will be simpler still, and have little in them save the bare walls
made as beautiful as may be.  St. Mark’s at Venice has very little
furniture in it, much less than most Roman Catholic churches: its lovely
and stately mother St. Sophia of Constantinople had less still, even when
it was a Christian church: but we need not go either to Venice or
Stamboul to take note of that: go into one of our own mighty Gothic naves
(do any of you remember the first time you did so?) and note how the huge
free space satisfies and elevates you, even now when window and wall are
stripped of ornament: then think of the meaning of simplicity, and
absence of encumbering gew-gaws.

Now after all, for us who are learning art, it is not far to seek what is
the surest way to further it; that which most breeds art is art; every
piece of work that we do which is well done, is so much help to the
cause; every piece of pretence and half-heartedness is so much hurt to
it.  Most of you who take to the practice of art can find out in no very
long time whether you have any gifts for it or not: if you have not,
throw the thing up, or you will have a wretched time of it yourselves,
and will be damaging the cause by laborious pretence: but if you have
gifts of any kind, you are happy indeed beyond most men; for your
pleasure is always with you, nor can you be intemperate in the enjoyment
of it, and as you use it, it does not lessen, but grows: if you are by
chance weary of it at night, you get up in the morning eager for it; or
if perhaps in the morning it seems folly to you for a while, yet
presently, when your hand has been moving a little in its wonted way,
fresh hope has sprung up beneath it and you are happy again.  While
others are getting through the day like plants thrust into the earth,
which cannot turn this way or that but as the wind blows them, you know
what you want, and your will is on the alert to find it, and you,
whatever happens, whether it be joy or grief, are at least alive.

Now when I spoke to you last year, after I had sat down I was half afraid
that I had on some points said too much, that I had spoken too bitterly
in my eagerness; that a rash word might have discouraged some of you; I
was very far from meaning that: what I wanted to do, what I want to do
to-night is to put definitely before you a cause for which to strive.

That cause is the Democracy of Art, the ennobling of daily and common
work, which will one day put hope and pleasure in the place of fear and
pain, as the forces which move men to labour and keep the world a-going.

If I have enlisted any one in that cause, rash as my words may have been,
or feeble as they may have been, they have done more good than harm; nor
do I believe that any words of mine can discourage any who have joined
that cause or are ready to do so: their way is too clear before them for
that, and every one of us can help the cause whether he be great or
little.

I know indeed that men, wearied by the pettiness of the details of the
strife, their patience tried by hope deferred, will at whiles, excusably
enough, turn back in their hearts to other days, when if the issues were
not clearer, the means of trying them were simpler; when, so stirring
were the times, one might even have atoned for many a blunder and
backsliding by visibly dying for the cause.  To have breasted the Spanish
pikes at Leyden, to have drawn sword with Oliver: that may well seem to
us at times amidst the tangles of to-day a happy fate: for a man to be
able to say, I have lived like a fool, but now I will cast away fooling
for an hour, and die like a man—there is something in that certainly: and
yet ’tis clear that few men can be so lucky as to die for a cause,
without having first of all lived for it.  And as this is the most that
can be asked from the greatest man that follows a cause, so it is the
least that can be taken from the smallest.

So to us who have a Cause at heart, our highest ambition and our simplest
duty are one and the same thing: for the most part we shall be too busy
doing the work that lies ready to our hands, to let impatience for
visibly great progress vex us much; but surely since we are servants of a
Cause, hope must be ever with us, and sometimes perhaps it will so
quicken our vision that it will outrun the slow lapse of time, and show
us the victorious days when millions of those who now sit in darkness
will be enlightened by an _Art made by the people and for the people_, _a
joy to the maker and the user_.



MAKING THE BEST OF IT {114}


I HAVE to-night to talk to you about certain things which my experience
in my own craft has led me to notice, and which have bred in my mind
something like a set of rules or maxims, which guide my practice.  Every
one who has followed a craft for long has such rules in his mind, and
cannot help following them himself, and insisting on them practically in
dealing with his pupils or workmen if he is in any degree a master; and
when these rules, or if you will, impulses, are filling the minds and
guiding the hands of many craftsmen at one time, they are busy forming a
distinct school, and the art they represent is sure to be at least alive,
however rude, timid, or lacking it may be; and the more imperious these
rules are, the wider these impulses are spread, the more vigorously alive
will be the art they produce; whereas in times when they are felt but
lightly and rarely, when one man’s maxims seem absurd or trivial to his
brother craftsman, art is either sick or slumbering, or so thinly
scattered amongst the great mass of men as to influence the general life
of the world little or nothing.

For though this kind of rules of a craft may seem to some arbitrary, I
think that it is because they are the result of such intricate
combinations of circumstances, that only a great philosopher, if even he,
could express in words the sources of them, and give us reasons for them
all, and we who are craftsmen must be content to prove them in practice,
believing that their roots are founded in human nature, even as we know
that their first-fruits are to be found in that most wonderful of all
histories, the history of the arts.

Will you, therefore, look upon me as a craftsman who shares certain
impulses with many others, which impulses forbid him to question the
rules they have forced on him? so looking on me you may afford perhaps to
be more indulgent to me if I seem to dogmatise over much.

Yet I cannot claim to represent any one craft.  The division of labour,
which has played so great a part in furthering competitive commerce, till
it has become a machine with powers both reproductive and destructive,
which few dare to resist, and none can control or foresee the result of,
has pressed specially hard on that part of the field of human culture in
which I was born to labour.  That field of the arts, whose harvest should
be the chief part of human joy, hope, and consolation, has been, I say,
dealt hardly with by the division of labour, once the servant, and now
the master of competitive commerce, itself once the servant, and now the
master of civilisation; nay, so searching has been this tyranny, that it
has not passed by my own insignificant corner of labour, but as it has
thwarted me in many ways, so chiefly perhaps in this, that it has so
stood in the way of my getting the help from others which my art forces
me to crave, that I have been compelled to learn many crafts, and belike,
according to the proverb, forbidden to master any, so that I fear my
lecture will seem to you both to run over too many things and not to go
deep enough into any.

I cannot help it.  That above-mentioned tyranny has turned some of us
from being, as we should be, contented craftsmen, into being discontented
agitators against it, so that our minds are not at rest, even when we
have to talk over workshop receipts and maxims; indeed I must confess
that I should hold my peace on all matters connected with the arts, if I
had not a lurking hope to stir up both others and myself to discontent
with and rebellion against things as they are, clinging to the further
hope that our discontent may be fruitful and our rebellion steadfast, at
least to the end of our own lives, since we believe that we are rebels
not against the laws of Nature, but the customs of folly.

Nevertheless, since even rebels desire to live, and since even they must
sometimes crave for rest and peace—nay, since they must, as it were, make
for themselves strongholds from whence to carry on the strife—we ought
not to be accused of inconsistency, if to-night we consider how to make
the best of it.  By what forethought, pains, and patience, can we make
endurable those strange dwellings—the basest, the ugliest, and the most
inconvenient that men have ever built for themselves, and which our own
haste, necessity, and stupidity, compel almost all of us to live in?
That is our present question.

In dealing with this subject, I shall perforce be chiefly speaking of
those middle-class dwellings of which I know most; but what I have to say
will be as applicable to any other kind; for there is no dignity or unity
of plan about any modern house, big or little.  It has neither centre nor
individuality, but is invariably a congeries of rooms tumbled together by
chance hap.  So that the unit I have to speak of is a room rather than a
house.

Now there may be some here who have the good luck to dwell in those noble
buildings which our forefathers built, out of their very souls, one may
say; such good luck I call about the greatest that can befall a man in
these days.  But these happy people have little to do with our troubles
of to-night, save as sympathetic onlookers.  All we have to do with them
is to remind them not to forget their duties to those places, which they
doubtless love well; not to alter them or torment them to suit any
passing whim or convenience, but to deal with them as if their builders,
to whom they owe so much, could still be wounded by the griefs and
rejoice in the well-doing of their ancient homes.  Surely if they do
this, they also will neither be forgotten nor unthanked in the time to
come.

There may be others here who dwell in houses that can scarcely be called
noble—nay, as compared with the last-named kind, may be almost called
ignoble—but their builders still had some traditions left them of the
times of art.  They are built solidly and conscientiously at least, and
if they have little or no beauty, yet have a certain common-sense and
convenience about them; nor do they fail to represent the manners and
feelings of their own time.  The earliest of these, built about the reign
of Queen Anne, stretch out a hand toward the Gothic times, and are not
without picturesqueness, especially when their surroundings are
beautiful.  The latest built in the latter days of the Georges are
certainly quite guiltless of picturesqueness, but are, as above said,
solid, and not inconvenient.  All these houses, both the so-called Queen
Anne ones and the distinctively Georgian, are difficult enough to
decorate, especially for those who have any leaning toward romance,
because they have still some style left in them which one cannot ignore;
at the same time that it is impossible for any one living out of the time
in which they were built to sympathise with a style whose characteristics
are mere whims, not founded on any principle.  Still they are at the
worst not aggressively ugly or base, and it is possible to live in them
without serious disturbance to our work or thoughts; so that by the force
of contrast they have become bright spots in the prevailing darkness of
ugliness that has covered all modern life.

But we must not forget that that rebellion which we have met here, I
hope, to further, has begun, and to-day shows visible tokens of its life;
for of late there have been houses rising up among us here and there
which have certainly not been planned either by the common cut-and-dried
designers for builders, or by academical imitators of bygone styles.
Though they may be called experimental, no one can say that they are not
born of thought and principle, as well as of great capacity for design.
It is nowise our business to-night to criticise them.  I suspect their
authors, who have gone through so many difficulties (not of their own
breeding) in producing them, know their shortcomings much better than we
can do, and are less elated by their successes than we are.  At any rate,
they are gifts to our country which will always be respected, whether the
times better or worsen, and I call upon you to thank their designers most
heartily for their forethought, labour, and hope.

Well, I have spoken of three qualifications to that degradation of our
dwellings which characterises this period of history only.

First, there are the very few houses which have been left us from the
times of art.  Except that we may sometimes have the pleasure of seeing
these, we most of us have little enough to do with them.

Secondly, there are those houses of the times when, though art was sick
and all but dead, men had not quite given it up as a bad job, and at any
rate had not learned systematic bad building; and when, moreover, they
had what they wanted, and their lives were expressed by their
architecture.  Of these there are still left a good many all over the
country, but they are lessening fast before the irresistible force of
competition, and will soon be very rare indeed.

Thirdly, there are a few houses built and mostly inhabited by the
ringleaders of the rebellion against sordid ugliness, which we are met
here to further to-night.  It is clear that as yet these are very few,—or
you could never have thought it worth your while to come here to hear the
simple words I have to say to you on this subject.

Now, these are the exceptions.  The rest is what really amounts to the
dwellings of all our people, which are built without any hope of beauty
or care for it—without any thought that there can be any pleasure in the
look of an ordinary dwelling-house, and also (in consequence of this
neglect of manliness) with scarce any heed to real convenience.  It will,
I hope, one day be hard to believe that such houses were built for a
people not lacking in honesty, in independence of life, in elevation of
thought, and consideration for others; not a whit of all that do they
express, but rather hypocrisy, flunkeyism, and careless selfishness.  The
fact is, they are no longer part of our lives.  We have given it up as a
bad job.  We are heedless if our houses express nothing of us but the
very worst side of our character both national and personal.

This unmanly heedlessness, so injurious to civilisation, so unjust to
those that are to follow us, is the very thing we want to shake people
out of.  We want to make them think about their homes, to take the
trouble to turn them into dwellings fit for people free in mind and
body—much might come of that I think.

Now, to my mind, the first step towards this end is, to follow the
fashion of our nation, so often, so _very_ often, called practical, and
leaving for a little an ideal scarce conceivable, to try to get people to
bethink them of what we can best do with those makeshifts which we cannot
get rid of all at once.

I know that those lesser arts, by which alone this can be done, are
looked upon by many wise and witty people as not worth the notice of a
sensible man; but, since I am addressing a society of artists, I believe
I am speaking to people who have got beyond even that stage of wisdom and
wit, and that you think all the arts of importance.  Yet, indeed, I
should think I had but little claim on your attention if I deemed the
question involved nothing save the gain of a little more content and a
little more pleasure for those who already have abundance of content and
pleasure; let me say it, that either I have erred in the aim of my whole
life, or that the welfare of these lesser arts involves the question of
the content and self-respect of all craftsmen, whether you call them
artists or artisans.  So I say again, my hope is that those who begin to
consider carefully how to make the best of the chambers in which they eat
and sleep and study, and hold converse with their friends, will breed in
their minds a wholesome and fruitful discontent with the sordidness that
even when they have done their best will surround their island of
comfort, and that as they try to appease this discontent they will find
that there is no way out of it but by insisting that all men’s work shall
be fit for free men and not for machines: my extravagant hope is that
people will some day learn something of art, and so long for more, and
will find, as I have, that there is no getting it save by the general
acknowledgment of the right of every man to have fit work to do in a
beautiful home.  Therein lies all that is indestructible of the pleasure
of life; no man need ask for more than that, no man should be granted
less; and if he falls short of it, it is through waste and injustice that
he is kept out of his birthright.

And now I will try what I can do in my hints on this making the best of
it, first asking your pardon for this, that I shall have to give a great
deal of negative advice, and be always saying ‘don’t’—that, as you know,
being much the lot of those who profess reform.

Before we go inside our house, nay, before we look at its outside, we may
consider its garden, chiefly with reference to town gardening; which,
indeed, I, in common, I suppose, with most others who have tried it, have
found uphill work enough—all the more as in our part of the world few
indeed have any mercy upon the one thing necessary for decent life in a
town, its trees; till we have come to this, that one trembles at the very
sound of an axe as one sits at one’s work at home.  However, uphill work
or not, the town garden must not be neglected if we are to be in earnest
in making the best of it.

Now I am bound to say town gardeners generally do rather the reverse of
that: our suburban gardeners in London, for instance, oftenest wind about
their little bit of gravel walk and grass plot in ridiculous imitation of
an ugly big garden of the landscape-gardening style, and then with a
strange perversity fill up the spaces with the most formal plants they
can get; whereas the merest common sense should have taught them to lay
out their morsel of ground in the simplest way, to fence it as orderly as
might be, one part from the other (if it be big enough for that) and the
whole from the road, and then to fill up the flower-growing space with
things that are free and interesting in their growth, leaving nature to
do the desired complexity, which she will certainly not fail to do if we
do not desert her for the florist, who, I must say, has made it harder
work than it should be to get the best of flowers.

It is scarcely a digression to note his way of dealing with flowers,
which, moreover, gives us an apt illustration of that change without
thought of beauty, change for the sake of change, which has played such a
great part in the degradation of art in all times.  So I ask you to note
the way he has treated the rose, for instance: the rose has been grown
double from I don’t know when; the double rose was a gain to the world, a
new beauty was given us by it, and nothing taken away, since the wild
rose grows in every hedge.  Yet even then one might be excused for
thinking that the wild rose was scarce improved on, for nothing can be
more beautiful in general growth or in detail than a wayside bush of it,
nor can any scent be as sweet and pure as its scent.  Nevertheless the
garden rose had a new beauty of abundant form, while its leaves had not
lost the wonderfully delicate texture of the wild one.  The full colour
it had gained, from the blush rose to the damask, was pure and true
amidst all its added force, and though its scent had certainly lost some
of the sweetness of the eglantine, it was fresh still, as well as so
abundantly rich.  Well, all that lasted till quite our own day, when the
florists fell upon the rose—men who could never have enough—they strove
for size and got it, a fine specimen of a florist’s rose being about as
big as a moderate Savoy cabbage.  They tried for strong scent and got
it—till a florist’s rose has not unseldom a suspicion of the scent of the
aforesaid cabbage—not at its best.  They tried for strong colour and got
it, strong and bad—like a conqueror.  But all this while they missed the
very essence of the rose’s being; they thought there was nothing in it
but redundance and luxury; they exaggerated these into coarseness, while
they threw away the exquisite subtilty of form, delicacy of texture, and
sweetness of colour, which, blent with the richness which the true garden
rose shares with many other flowers, yet makes it the queen of them
all—the flower of flowers.  Indeed, the worst of this is that these sham
roses are driving the real ones out of existence.  If we do not look to
it our descendants will know nothing of the cabbage rose, the loveliest
in form of all, or the blush rose with its dark green stems and
unequalled colour, or the yellow-centred rose of the East, which carries
the richness of scent to the very furthest point it can go without losing
freshness: they will know nothing of all these, and I fear they will
reproach the poets of past time for having done according to their wont,
and exaggerated grossly the beauties of the rose.

Well, as a Londoner perhaps I have said too much of roses, since we can
scarcely grow them among suburban smoke, but what I have said of them
applies to other flowers, of which I will say this much more.  Be very
shy of double flowers; choose the old columbine where the clustering
doves are unmistakable and distinct, not the double one, where they run
into mere tatters.  Choose (if you can get it) the old china-aster with
the yellow centre, that goes so well with the purple-brown stems and
curiously coloured florets, instead of the lumps that look like cut
paper, of which we are now so proud.  Don’t be swindled out of that
wonder of beauty, a single snowdrop; there is no gain and plenty of loss
in the double one.  More loss still in the double sunflower, which is a
coarse-coloured and dull plant, whereas the single one, though a late
comer to our gardens, is by no means to be despised, since it will grow
anywhere, and is both interesting and beautiful, with its sharply
chiselled yellow florets relieved by the quaintly patterned sad-coloured
centre clogged with honey and beset with bees and butterflies.

So much for over-artificiality in flowers.  A word or two about the
misplacing of them.  Don’t have ferns in your garden.  The hart’s tongue
in the clefts of the rock, the queer things that grow within reach of the
spray of the waterfall; these are right in their places.  Still more the
brake on the woodside, whether in late autumn, when its withered haulm
helps out the well-remembered woodland scent, or in spring, when it is
thrusting its volutes through last year’s waste.  But all this is nothing
to a garden, and is not to be got out of it; and if you try it you will
take away from it all possible romance, the romance of a garden.

The same thing may be said about many plants, which are curiosities only,
which Nature meant to be grotesque, not beautiful, and which are
generally the growth of hot countries, where things sprout over quick and
rank.  Take note that the strangest of these come from the jungle and the
tropical waste, from places where man is not at home, but is an intruder,
an enemy.  Go to a botanical garden and look at them, and think of those
strange places to your heart’s content.  But don’t set them to starve in
your smoke-drenched scrap of ground amongst the bricks, for they will be
no ornament to it.

As to colour in gardens.  Flowers in masses are mighty strong colour, and
if not used with a great deal of caution are very destructive to pleasure
in gardening.  On the whole, I think the best and safest plan is to mix
up your flowers, and rather eschew great masses of colour—in combination
I mean.  But there are some flowers (inventions of men, _i.e._ florists)
which are bad colour altogether, and not to be used at all.  Scarlet
geraniums, for instance, or the yellow calceolaria, which indeed are not
uncommonly grown together profusely, in order, I suppose, to show that
even flowers can be thoroughly ugly.

Another thing also much too commonly seen is an aberration of the human
mind, which otherwise I should have been ashamed to warn you of.  It is
technically called carpet-gardening.  Need I explain it further?  I had
rather not, for when I think of it even when I am quite alone I blush
with shame at the thought.

I am afraid it is specially necessary in these days when making the best
of it is a hard job, and when the ordinary iron hurdles are so common and
so destructive of any kind of beauty in a garden, to say when you fence
anything in a garden use a live hedge, or stones set flatwise (as they do
in some parts of the Cotswold country), or timber, or wattle, or, in
short, anything but iron. {128}

And now to sum up as to a garden.  Large or small, it should look both
orderly and rich.  It should be well fenced from the outside world.  It
should by no means imitate either the wilfulness or the wildness of
Nature, but should look like a thing never to be seen except near a
house.  It should, in fact, look like a part of the house.  It follows
from this that no private pleasure-garden should be very big, and a
public garden should be divided and made to look like so many
flower-closes in a meadow, or a wood, or amidst the pavement.

It will be a key to right thinking about gardens if you consider in what
kind of places a garden is most desired.  In a very beautiful country,
especially if it be mountainous, we can do without it well enough;
whereas in a flat and dull country we crave after it, and there it is
often the very making of the homestead.  While in great towns, gardens,
both private and public, are positive necessities if the citizens are to
live reasonable and healthy lives in body and mind.

So much for the garden, of which, since I have said that it ought to be
part of the house, I hope I have not spoken too much.

Now, as to the outside of our makeshift house, I fear it is too ugly to
keep us long.  Let what painting you have to do about it be as simple as
possible, and be chiefly white or whitish; for when a building is ugly in
form it will bear no decoration, and to mark its parts by varying colour
will be the way to bring out its ugliness.  So I don’t advise you to
paint your houses blood-red and chocolate with white facings, as seems to
be getting the fashion in some parts of London.  You should, however,
always paint your sash-bars and window-frames white to break up the
dreary space of window somewhat.  The only other thing I have to say, is
to warn you against using at all a hot brownish-red, which some
decorators are very fond of.  Till some one invents a better name for it,
let us call it cockroach colour, and have naught to do with it.

So we have got to the inside of our house, and are in the room we are to
live in, call it by what name you will.  As to its proportions, it will
be great luck indeed in an ordinary modern house if they are tolerable;
but let us hope for the best.  If it is to be well proportioned, one of
its parts, either its height, length, or breadth, ought to exceed the
others, or be marked somehow.  If it be square or so nearly as to seem
so, it should not be high; if it be long and narrow, it might be high
without any harm, but yet would be more interesting low; whereas if it be
an obvious but moderate oblong on plan, great height will be decidedly
good.

As to the parts of a room that we have to think of, they are wall,
ceiling, floor, windows and doors, fireplace, and movables.  Of these the
wall is of so much the most importance to a decorator, and will lead us
so far a-field that I will mostly clear off the other parts first, as to
the mere arrangement of them, asking you meanwhile to understand that the
greater part of what I shall be saying as to the design of the patterns
for the wall, I consider more or less applicable to patterns everywhere.

As to the windows then; I fear we must grumble again.  In most decent
houses, or what are so called, the windows are much too big, and let in a
flood of light in a haphazard and ill-considered way, which the
indwellers are forced to obscure again by shutters, blinds, curtains,
screens, heavy upholsteries, and such other nuisances.  The windows,
also, are almost always brought too low down, and often so low down as to
have their sills on a level with our ankles, sending thereby a raking
light across the room that destroys all pleasantness of tone.  The
windows, moreover, are either big rectangular holes in the wall, or,
which is worse, have ill-proportioned round or segmental heads, while the
common custom in ‘good’ houses is either to fill these openings with one
huge sheet of plate-glass, or to divide them across the middle with a
thin bar.  If we insist on glazing them thus, we may make up our minds
that we have done the worst we can for our windows, nor can a room look
tolerable where it is so treated.  You may see how people feel this by
their admiration of the tracery of a Gothic window, or the lattice-work
of a Cairo house.  Our makeshift substitute for those beauties must be
the filling of the window with moderate-sized panes of glass (plate-glass
if you will) set in solid sash-bars; we shall then at all events feel as
if we were indoors on a cold day—as if we had a roof over our heads.

As to the floor: a little time ago it was the universal custom for those
who could afford it to cover it all up into its dustiest and crookedest
corners with a carpet, good, bad, or indifferent.  Now I daresay you have
heard from others, whose subject is the health of houses rather than
their art (if indeed the two subjects can be considered apart, as they
cannot really be), you have heard from teachers like Dr. Richardson what
a nasty and unwholesome custom this is, so I will only say that it looks
nasty and unwholesome.  Happily, however, it is now a custom so much
broken into that we may consider it doomed; for in all houses that
pretend to any taste of arrangement, the carpet is now a rug, large it
may be, but at any rate not looking immovable, and not being a trap for
dust in the corners.  Still I would go further than this even and get
rich people no longer to look upon a carpet as a necessity for a room at
all, at least in the summer.  This would have two advantages: 1st, It
would compel us to have better floors (and less drafty), our present ones
being one of the chief disgraces to modern building; and 2ndly, since we
should have less carpet to provide, what we did have we could afford to
have better.  We could have a few real works of art at the same price for
which we now have hundreds of yards of makeshift machine-woven goods.  In
any case it is a great comfort to see the actual floor; and the said
floor may be, as you know, made very ornamental by either wood mosaic, or
tile and marble mosaic; the latter especially is such an easy art as far
as mere technicality goes, and so full of resources, that I think it is a
great pity it is not used more.  The contrast between its grey tones and
the rich positive colour of Eastern carpet-work is so beautiful, that the
two together make satisfactory decoration for a room with little
addition.

When wood mosaic or parquet-work is used, owing to the necessary
simplicity of the forms, I think it best not to vary the colour of the
wood.  The variation caused by the diverse lie of the grain and so forth,
is enough.  Most decorators will be willing, I believe, to accept it as
an axiom, that when a pattern is made of very simple geometrical forms,
strong contrast of colour is to be avoided.

So much for the floor.  As for its fellow, the ceiling, that is, I must
confess, a sore point with me in my attempts at making the best of it.
The simplest and most natural way of decorating a ceiling is to show the
underside of the joists and beams duly moulded, and if you will, painted
in patterns.  How far this is from being possible in our modern makeshift
houses, I suppose I need not say.  Then there is a natural and beautiful
way of ornamenting a ceiling by working the plaster into delicate
patterns, such as you see in our Elizabethan and Jacobean houses; which
often enough, richly designed and skilfully wrought as they are, are by
no means pedantically smooth in finish—nay, may sometimes be called rough
as to workmanship.  But, unhappily there are few of the lesser arts that
have fallen so low as the plasterer’s.  The cast work one sees
perpetually in pretentious rooms is a mere ghastly caricature of
ornament, which no one is expected to look at if he can help it.  It is
simply meant to say, ‘This house is built for a rich man.’  The very
material of it is all wrong, as, indeed, mostly happens with an art that
has fallen sick.  That richly designed, freely wrought plastering of our
old houses was done with a slowly drying tough plaster, that encouraged
the hand like modeller’s clay, and could not have been done at all with
the brittle plaster used in ceilings nowadays, whose excellence is
supposed to consist in its smoothness only.  To be good, according to our
present false standard, it must shine like a sheet of hot-pressed paper,
so that, for the present, and without the expenditure of abundant time
and trouble, this kind of ceiling decoration is not to be hoped for.

It may be suggested that we should paper our ceilings like our walls, but
I can’t think that it will do.  Theoretically, a paper-hanging is so much
distemper colour applied to a surface by being printed on paper instead
of being painted on plaster by the hand; but practically, we never forget
that it is paper, and a room papered all over would be like a box to live
in.  Besides, the covering a room all over with cheap recurring patterns
in an uninteresting material, is but a poor way out of our difficulty,
and one which we should soon tire of.

There remains, then, nothing but to paint our ceilings cautiously and
with as much refinement as we can, when we can afford it: though even
that simple matter is complicated by the hideousness of the aforesaid
plaster ornaments and cornices, which are so very bad that you must
ignore them by leaving them unpainted, though even this neglect, while
you paint the flat of the ceiling, makes them in a way part of the
decoration, and so is apt to beat you out of every scheme of colour
conceivable.  Still, I see nothing for it but cautious painting, or
leaving the blank white space alone, to be forgotten if possible.  This
painting, of course, assumes that you know better than to use gas in your
rooms, which will indeed soon reduce all your decorations to a pretty
general average.

So now we come to the walls of our room, the part which chiefly concerns
us, since no one will admit the possibility of leaving them quite alone.
And the first question is, how shall we space them out horizontally?

If the room be small and not high, or the wall be much broken by pictures
and tall pieces of furniture, I would not divide it horizontally.  One
pattern of paper, or whatever it may be, or one tint may serve us, unless
we have in hand an elaborate and architectural scheme of decoration, as
in a makeshift house is not like to be the case; but if it be a
good-sized room, and the wall be not much broken up, some horizontal
division is good, even if the room be not very high.

How are we to divide it then?  I need scarcely say not into two equal
parts; no one out of the island of Laputa could do that.  For the rest,
unless again we have a very elaborate scheme of decoration, I think
dividing it once, making it into two spaces is enough.  Now there are
practically two ways of doing that: you may either have a narrow frieze
below the cornice, and hang the wall thence to the floor, or you may have
a moderate dado, say 4 feet 6 inches high, and hang the wall from the
cornice to the top of the dado.  Either way is good according to
circumstances; the first with the tall hanging and the narrow frieze is
fittest if your wall is to be covered with stuffs, tapestry, or
panelling, in which case making the frieze a piece of delicate painting
is desirable in default of such plaster-work as I have spoken of above;
or even if the proportions of the room very much cry out for it, you may,
in default of hand-painting, use a strip of printed paper, though this, I
must say, is a makeshift of makeshifts.  The division into dado, and wall
hung from thence to the cornice, is fittest for a wall which is to be
covered with painted decoration, or its makeshift, paper-hangings.  As to
these, I would earnestly dissuade you from using more than one pattern in
one room, unless one of them be but a breaking of the surface with a
pattern so insignificant as scarce to be noticeable.  I have seen a good
deal of the practice of putting pattern over pattern in paper-hangings,
and it seems to me a very unsatisfactory one, and I am, in short,
convinced, as I hinted just now, that cheap recurring patterns in a
material which has no play of light in it, and no special beauty of its
own, should be employed rather sparingly, or they destroy all refinement
of decoration and blunt our enjoyment of whatever beauty may lie in the
designs of such things.

Before I leave this subject of the spacing out of the wall for
decoration, I should say that in dealing with a very high room it is best
to put nothing that attracts the eye above a level of about eight feet
from the floor—to let everything above that be mere air and space, as it
were.  I think you will find that this will tend to take off that look of
dreariness that often besets tall rooms.

So much then for the spacing out of our wall.  We have now to consider
what the covering of it is to be, which subject, before we have done with
it, will take us over a great deal of ground and lead us into the
consideration of designing for flat spaces in general with work other
than picture work.

To clear the way, I have a word or two to say about the treatment of the
wood-work in our room.  If I could I would have no wood-work in it that
needed flat painting, meaning by that word a mere paying it over with
four coats of tinted lead-pigment ground in oils or varnish, but unless
one can have a noble wood, such as oak, I don’t see what else is to be
done.  I have never seen deal stained transparently with success, and its
natural colour is poor, and will not enter into any scheme of decoration,
while polishing it makes it worse.  In short, it is such a poor material
that it must be hidden unless it be used on a big scale as mere timber.
Even then, in a church roof or what not, colouring it with distemper will
not hurt it, and in a room I should certainly do this to the wood-work of
roof and ceiling, while I painted such wood-work as came within touch of
hand.  As to the colour of this, it should, as a rule, be of the same
general tone as the walls, but a shade or two darker in tint.  Very dark
wood-work makes a room dreary and disagreeable, while unless the
decoration be in a very bright key of colour, it does not do to have the
wood-work lighter than the walls.  For the rest, if you are lucky enough
to be able to use oak, and plenty of it, found your decoration on that,
leaving it just as it comes from the plane.

Now, as you are not bound to use anything for the decoration of your
walls but simple tints, I will here say a few words on the main colours,
before I go on to what is more properly decoration, only in speaking of
them one can scarce think only of such tints as are fit to colour a wall
with, of which, to say truth, there are not many.

Though we may each have our special preferences among the main colours,
which we shall do quite right to indulge, it is a sign of disease in an
artist to have a prejudice against any particular colour, though such
prejudices are common and violent enough among people imperfectly
educated in art, or with naturally dull perceptions of it.  Still,
colours have their ways in decoration, so to say, both positively in
themselves, and relatively to each man’s way of using them.  So I may be
excused for setting down some things I seem to have noticed about these
ways.

Yellow is not a colour that can be used in masses unless it be much
broken or mingled with other colours, and even then it wants some
material to help it out, which has great play of light and shade in it.
You know people are always calling yellow things golden, even when they
are not at all the colour of gold, which, even unalloyed, is not a bright
yellow.  That shows that delightful yellows are not very positive, and
that, as aforesaid, they need gleaming materials to help them.  The light
bright yellows, like jonquil and primrose, are scarcely usable in art,
save in silk, whose gleam takes colour from and adds light to the local
tint, just as sunlight does to the yellow blossoms which are so common in
Nature.  In dead materials, such as distemper colour, a positive yellow
can only be used sparingly in combination with other tints.

Red is also a difficult colour to use, unless it be helped by some beauty
of material, for, whether it tend toward yellow and be called scarlet, or
towards blue and be crimson, there is but little pleasure in it, unless
it be deep and full.  If the scarlet pass a certain degree of impurity it
falls into the hot brown-red, very disagreeable in large masses.  If the
crimson be much reduced it tends towards a cold colour called in these
latter days magenta, impossible for an artist to use either by itself or
in combination.  The finest tint of red is a central one between crimson
and scarlet, and is a very powerful colour indeed, but scarce to be got
in a flat tint.  A crimson broken by greyish-brown, and tending towards
russet, is also a very useful colour, but, like all the finest reds, is
rather a dyer’s colour than a house-painter’s; the world being very rich
in soluble reds, which of course are not the most enduring of pigments,
though very fast as soluble colours.

Pink, though one of the most beautiful colours in combination, is not
easy to use as a flat tint even over moderate spaces; the more orangy
shades of it are the most useful, a cold pink being a colour much to be
avoided.

As to purple, no one in his senses would think of using it bright in
masses.  In combination it may be used somewhat bright, if it be warm and
tend towards red; but the best and most characteristic shade of purple is
nowise bright, but tends towards russet.  Egyptian porphyry, especially
when contrasted with orange, as in the pavement of St. Mark’s at Venice,
will represent the colour for you.  At the British Museum, and one or two
other famous libraries, are still left specimens of this tint, as
Byzantine art in its palmy days understood it.  These are books written
with gold and silver on vellum stained purple, probably with the now lost
murex or fish-dye of the ancients, the tint of which dye-stuff Pliny
describes minutely and accurately in his ‘Natural History.’  I need
scarcely say that no ordinary flat tint could reproduce this most
splendid of colours.

Though green (at all events in England) is the colour widest used by
Nature, yet there is not so much bright green used by her as many people
seem to think; the most of it being used for a week or two in spring,
when the leafage is small, and blended with the greys and other negative
colours of the twigs; when ‘leaves grow large and long,’ as the ballad
has it, they also grow grey.  I believe it has been noted by Mr. Ruskin,
and it certainly seems true, that the pleasure we take in the young
spring foliage comes largely from its tenderness of tone rather than its
brightness of hue.  Anyhow, you may be sure that if we try to outdo
Nature’s green tints on our walls we shall fail, and make ourselves
uncomfortable to boot.  We must, in short, be very careful of bright
greens, and seldom, if ever, use them at once bright and strong.

On the other hand, do not fall into the trap of a dingy bilious-looking
yellow-green, a colour to which I have a special and personal hatred,
because (if you will excuse my mentioning personal matters) I have been
supposed to have somewhat brought it into vogue.  I assure you I am not
really responsible for it.

The truth is, that to get a green that is at once pure and neither cold
nor rank, and not too bright to live with, is of simple things as
difficult as anything a decorator has to do; but it can be done,—and
without the help of special material; and when done such a green is so
useful, and so restful to the eyes, that in this matter also we are bound
to follow Nature and make large use of that work-a-day colour green.

But if green be called a work-a-day colour, surely blue must be called
the holiday one, and those who long most for bright colours may please
themselves most with it; for if you duly guard against getting it cold if
it tend towards red, or rank if it tend towards green, you need not be
much afraid of its brightness.  Now, as red is above all a dyer’s colour,
so blue is especially a pigment and an enamel colour; the world is rich
in insoluble blues, many of which are practically indestructible.

I have said that there are not many tints fit to colour a wall with: this
is my list of them as far as I know; a solid red, not very deep, but
rather describable as a full pink, and toned both with yellow and blue, a
very fine colour if you can hit it; a light orangy pink, to be used
rather sparingly.  A pale golden tint, _i.e._, a yellowish-brown; a very
difficult colour to hit.  A colour between these two last; call it pale
copper colour.  All these three you must be careful over, for if you get
them muddy or dirty you are lost.

Tints of green from pure and pale to deepish and grey: always remembering
that the purer the paler, and the deeper the greyer.

Tints of pure pale blue from a greenish one, the colour of a starling’s
egg, to a grey ultramarine colour, hard to use because so full of colour,
but incomparable when right.  In these you must carefully avoid the point
at which the green overcomes the blue and turns it rank, or that at which
the red overcomes the blue and produces those woeful hues of pale
lavender and starch blue which have not seldom been favourites with
decorators of elegant drawing-rooms and respectable dining-rooms.

You will understand that I am here speaking of distemper tinting, and in
that material these are all the tints I can think of; if you use bolder,
deeper or stronger colours I think you will find yourself beaten out of
monochrome in order to get your colour harmonious.

One last word as to distemper which is not monochrome, and its makeshift,
paper-hanging.  I think it is always best not to force the colour, but to
be content with getting it either quite light or quite grey in these
materials, and in no case very dark, trusting for richness to stuffs, or
to painting which allows of gilding being introduced.

I must finish these crude notes about general colour by reminding you
that you must be moderate with your colour on the walls of an ordinary
dwelling-room; according to the material you are using, you may go along
the scale from light and bright to deep and rich, but some soberness of
tone is absolutely necessary if you would not weary people till they cry
out against all decoration.  But I suppose this is a caution which only
very young decorators are likely to need.  It is the right-hand
defection; the left-hand falling away is to get your colour dingy and
muddy, a worse fault than the other because less likely to be curable.
All right-minded craftsmen who work in colour will strive to make their
work as bright as possible, as full of colour as the nature of the work
will allow it to be.  The meaning they may be bound to express, the
nature of its material, or the use it may be put to may limit this
fulness; but in whatever key of colour they are working, if they do not
succeed in getting the colour pure and clear, they have not learned their
craft, and if they do not see their fault when it is present in their
work, they are not likely to learn it.

Now, hitherto we have not got further into the matter of decoration than
to talk of its arrangement.  Before I speak of some general matters
connected with our subject, I must say a little on the design of the
patterns which will form the chief part of your decoration.  The subject
is a wide and difficult one, and my time much too short to do it any
justice, but here and there, perhaps, a hint may crop up, and I may put
it in a way somewhat new.

On the whole, in speaking of these patterns I shall be thinking of those
that necessarily recur; designs which have to be carried out by more or
less mechanical appliances, such as the printing block or the loom.

Since we have been considering colour lately, we had better take that
side first, though I know it will be difficult to separate the
consideration of it from that of the other necessary qualifications of
design.

The first step away from monochrome is breaking the ground by putting a
pattern on it of the same colour, but of a lighter or darker shade, the
first being the best and most natural way.  I need say but little on this
as a matter of colour, though many very important designs are so treated.
One thing I have noticed about these damasks, as I should call them; that
of the three chief colours, red is the one where the two shades must be
the nearest to one another, or you get the effect poor and weak; while in
blue you may have a great deal of difference without losing colour, and
green holds a middle place between the two.

Next, if you make these two shades different in tint as well as, or
instead of, in depth, you have fairly got out of monochrome, and will
find plenty of difficulties in getting your two tints to go well
together.  The putting, for instance, of a light greenish blue on a deep
reddish one, turquoise on sapphire, will try all your skill.  The
Persians practise this feat, but not often without adding a third colour,
and so getting into the next stage.  In fact, this plan of relieving the
pattern by shifting its tint as well as its depth, is chiefly of use in
dealing with quite low-toned colours—golden browns or greys, for
instance.  In dealing with the more forcible ones, you will find it in
general necessary to add a third colour at least, and so get into the
next stage.

This is the relieving a pattern of more than one colour, but all the
colours light, upon a dark ground.  This is above all useful in cases
where your palette is somewhat limited; say, for instance, in a figured
cloth which has to be woven mechanically, and where you have but three or
four colours in a line, including the ground.

You will not find this a difficult way of relieving your pattern, if you
only are not too ambitious of getting the diverse superimposed colours
too forcible on the one hand, so that they fly out from one another, or
on the other hand too delicate, so that they run together into confusion.
The excellence of this sort of work lies in a clear but soft relief of
the form, in colours each beautiful in itself, and harmonious one with
the other on ground whose colour is also beautiful, though unobtrusive.
Hardness ruins the work, confusion of form caused by timidity of colour
annoys the eye, and makes it restless, and lack of colour is felt as
destroying the _raison d’être_ of it.  So you see it taxes the designer
heavily enough after all.  Nevertheless I still call it the easiest way
of complete pattern-designing.

I have spoken of it as the placing of a light pattern on dark ground.  I
should mention that in the fully developed form of the design I am
thinking of there is often an impression given, of there being more than
one plane in the pattern.  Where the pattern is strictly on one plane, we
have not reached the full development of this manner of designing, the
full development of colour and form used together, but form predominant.

We are not left without examples of this kind of design at its best.  The
looms of Corinth, Palermo, and Lucca, in the twelfth, thirteenth, and
fourteenth centuries, turned out figured silk cloths, which were so
widely sought for, that you may see specimens of their work figured on
fifteenth-century screens in East Anglian churches, or the background of
pictures by the Van Eycks, while one of the most important collections of
the actual goods is preserved in the treasury of the Mary Church at
Dantzig; the South Kensington Museum has also a very fine collection of
these, which I can’t help thinking are not quite as visible to the public
as they should be.  They are, however, discoverable by the help of Dr.
Rock’s excellent catalogue published by the department, and I hope will,
as the Museum gains space, be more easy to see.

Now to sum up: This method of pattern-designing must be considered the
Western and civilised method; that used by craftsmen who were always
seeing pictures, and whose minds were full of definite ideas of form.
Colour was essential to their work, and they loved it, and understood it,
but always subordinated it to form.

There is next the method of relief by placing a dark figure on a light
ground.  Sometimes this method is but the converse of the last, and is
not so useful, because it is capable of less variety and play of colour
and tone.  Sometimes it must be looked on as a transition from the
last-mentioned method to the next of colour laid by colour.  Thus used
there is something incomplete about it.  One finds oneself longing for
more colours than one’s shuttles or blocks allow one.  There is a need
felt for the speciality of the next method, where the dividing line is
used, and it gradually gets drawn into that method.  Which, indeed, is
the last I have to speak to you of, and in which colour is laid by
colour.

In this method it is necessary that the diverse colours should be
separated each by a line of another colour, and that not merely to mark
the form, but to complete the colour itself; which outlining, while it
serves the purpose of gradation, which in more naturalistic work is got
by shading, makes the design quite flat, and takes from it any idea of
there being more than one plane in it.

This way of treating pattern design is so much more difficult than the
others, as to be almost an art by itself, and to demand a study apart.
As the method of relief by laying light upon dark may be called the
Western way of treatment and the civilised, so this is the Eastern, and,
to a certain extent, the uncivilised.

But it has a wide range, from works where the form is of little
importance and only exists to make boundaries for colour, to those in
which the form is so studied, so elaborate, and so lovely, that it is
hardly true to say that the form is subordinate to the colour; while, on
the other hand, so much delight is taken in the colour, it is so
inventive and so unerringly harmonious, that it is scarcely possible to
think of the form without it—the two interpenetrate.

Such things as these, which, as far as I know, are only found in Persian
art at its best, do carry the art of mere pattern-designing to its utmost
perfection, and it seems somewhat hard to call such an art uncivilised.
But, you see, its whole soul was given up to producing matters of
subsidiary art, as people call it; its carpets were of more importance
than its pictures; nay, properly speaking, they were its pictures.  And
it may be that such an art never has a future of change before it, save
the change of death, which has now certainly come over that Eastern art;
while the more impatient, more aspiring, less sensuous art which belongs
to Western civilisation may bear many a change and not die utterly; nay,
may feed on its intellect alone for a season, and enduring the martyrdom
of a grim time of ugliness, may live on, rebuking at once the
narrow-minded pedant of science, and the luxurious tyrant of plutocracy,
till change bring back the spring again, and it blossoms once more into
pleasure.  May it be so.

Meanwhile, we may say for certain that colour for colour’s sake only will
never take real hold on the art of our civilisation, not even in its
subsidiary art.  Imitation and affectation may deceive people into
thinking that such an instinct is quickening amongst us, but the
deception will not last.  To have a meaning and to make others feel and
understand it, must ever be the aim and end of our Western art.

Before I leave this subject of the colouring of patterns, I must warn you
against the abuse of the dotting, hatching, and lining of backgrounds,
and other mechanical contrivances for breaking them; such practices are
too often the resource to which want of invention is driven, and unless
used with great caution they vulgarise a pattern completely.  Compare,
for instance, those Sicilian and other silk cloths I have mentioned with
the brocades (common everywhere) turned out from the looms of Lyons,
Venice, and Genoa, at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the
eighteenth centuries.  The first perfectly simple in manufacture,
trusting wholly to beauty of design, and the play of light on the
naturally woven surface, while the latter eke out their gaudy feebleness
with spots and ribs and long floats, and all kinds of meaningless
tormenting of the web, till there is nothing to be learned from them save
a warning.

So much for the colour of pattern-designing.  Now, for a space, let us
consider some other things that are necessary to it, and which I am
driven to call its moral qualities, and which are finally reducible to
two—order and meaning.

Without order your work cannot even exist; without meaning, it were
better not to exist.

Now order imposes on us certain limitations, which partly spring from the
nature of the art itself, and partly from the materials in which we have
to work; and it is a sign of mere incompetence in either a school or an
individual to refuse to accept such limitations, or even not to accept
them joyfully and turn them to special account, much as if a poet should
complain of having to write in measure and rhyme.

Now, in our craft the chief of the limitations that spring from the
essence of the art is that the decorator’s art cannot be imitative even
to the limited extent that the picture-painter’s art is.

This you have been told hundreds of times, and in theory it is accepted
everywhere, so I need not say much about it—chiefly this, that it does
not excuse want of observation of nature, or laziness of drawing, as some
people seem to think.  On the contrary, unless you know plenty about the
natural form that you are conventionalising, you will not only find it
impossible to give people a satisfactory impression of what is in your
own mind about it, but you will also be so hampered by your ignorance,
that you will not be able to make your conventionalised form ornamental.
It will not fill a space properly, or look crisp and sharp, or fulfil any
purpose you may strive to put it to.

It follows from this that your convention must be your own, and not
borrowed from other times and peoples; or, at the least, that you must
make it your own by thoroughly understanding both the nature and the art
you are dealing with.  If you do not heed this, I do not know but what
you may not as well turn to and draw laborious portraits of natural forms
of flower and bird and beast, and stick them on your walls anyhow.  It is
true you will not get ornament so, but you may learn something for your
trouble; whereas, using an obviously true principle as a stalking-horse
for laziness of purpose and lack of invention, will but injure art all
round, and blind people to the truth of that very principle.

Limitations also, both as to imitation and exuberance, are imposed on us
by the office our pattern has to fulfil.  A small and often-recurring
pattern of a subordinate kind will bear much less naturalism than one in
a freer space and more important position, and the more obvious the
geometrical structure of a pattern is, the less its parts should tend
toward naturalism.  This has been well understood from the earliest days
of art to the very latest times during which pattern-designing has clung
to any wholesome tradition, but is pretty generally unheeded at present.

As to the limitations that arise from the material we may be working in,
we must remember that all material offers certain difficulties to be
overcome, and certain facilities to be made the most of.  Up to a certain
point you must be the master of your material, but you must never be so
much the master as to turn it surly, so to say.  You must not make it
your slave, or presently you will be a slave also.  You must master it so
far as to make it express a meaning, and to serve your aim at beauty.
You may go beyond that necessary point for your own pleasure and
amusement, and still be in the right way; but if you go on after that
merely to make people stare at your dexterity in dealing with a difficult
thing, you have forgotten art along with the rights of your material, and
you will make not a work of art, but a mere toy; you are no longer an
artist, but a juggler.  The history of the arts gives us abundant
examples and warnings in this matter.  First clear steady principle, then
playing with the danger, and lastly falling into the snare, mark with the
utmost distinctness the times of the health, the decline, and the last
sickness of art.

Allow me to give you one example in the noble art of mosaic.  The
difficulty in it necessary to be overcome was the making of a pure and
true flexible line, not over thick, with little bits of glass or marble
nearly rectangular.  Its glory lay in its durability, the lovely colour
to be got in it, the play of light on its faceted and gleaming surface,
and the clearness mingled with softness, with which forms were relieved
on the lustrous gold which was so freely used in its best days.
Moreover, however bright were the colours used, they were toned
delightfully by the greyness which the innumerable joints between the
tesseræ spread over the whole surface.

Now the difficulty of the art was overcome in its earliest and best days,
and no care or pains were spared in making the most of its special
qualities, while for long and long no force was put upon the material to
make it imitate the qualities of brush-painting, either in power of
colour, in delicacy of gradation, or intricacy of treating a subject;
and, moreover, easy as it would have been to minimise the jointing of the
tesseræ, no attempt was made at it.

But as time went on, men began to tire of the solemn simplicity of the
art, and began to aim at making it keep pace with the growing complexity
of picture painting, and, though still beautiful, it lost colour without
gaining form.  From that point (say about 1460), it went on from bad to
worse, till at last men were set to work in it merely because it was an
intractable material in which to imitate oil-painting, and by this time
it was fallen from being a master art, the crowning beauty of the most
solemn buildings, to being a mere tax on the craftsmen’s patience, and a
toy for people who no longer cared for art.  And just such a history may
be told of every art that deals with special material.

Under this head of order should be included something about the structure
of patterns, but time for dealing with such an intricate question
obviously fails me; so I will but note that, whereas it has been said
that a recurring pattern should be constructed on a geometrical basis, it
is clear that it cannot be constructed otherwise; only the structure may
be more or less masked, and some designers take a great deal of pains to
do so.

I cannot say that I think this always necessary.  It may be so when the
pattern is on a very small scale, and meant to attract but little
attention.  But it is sometimes the reverse of desirable in large and
important patterns, and, to my mind, all noble patterns should at least
_look_ large.  Some of the finest and pleasantest of these show their
geometrical structure clearly enough; and if the lines of them grow
strongly and flow gracefully, I think they are decidedly helped by their
structure not being elaborately concealed.

At the same time in all patterns which are meant to fill the eye and
satisfy the mind, there should be a certain mystery.  We should not be
able to read the whole thing at once, nor desire to do so, nor be
impelled by that desire to go on tracing line after line to find out how
the pattern is made, and I think that the obvious presence of a
geometrical order, if it be, as it should be, beautiful, tends towards
this end, and prevents our feeling restless over a pattern.

That every line in a pattern should have its due growth, and be traceable
to its beginning, this, which you have doubtless heard before, is
undoubtedly essential to the finest pattern work; equally so is it that
no stem should be so far from its parent stock as to look weak or
wavering.  Mutual support and unceasing progress distinguish real and
natural order from its mockery, pedantic tyranny.

Every one who has practised the designing of patterns knows the necessity
for covering the ground equably and richly.  This is really to a great
extent the secret of obtaining the look of satisfying mystery aforesaid,
and it is the very test of capacity in a designer.

Finally, no amount of delicacy is too great in drawing the curves of a
pattern, no amount of care in getting the leading lines right from the
first, can be thrown away, for beauty of detail cannot afterwards cure
any shortcoming in this.  Remember that a pattern is either right or
wrong.  It cannot be forgiven for blundering, as a picture may be which
has otherwise great qualities in it.  It is with a pattern as with a
fortress, it is no stronger than its weakest point.  A failure for ever
recurring torments the eye too much to allow the mind to take any
pleasure in suggestion and intention.

As to the second moral quality of design, meaning, I include in that the
invention and imagination which forms the soul of this art, as of all
others, and which, when submitted to the bonds of order, has a body and a
visible existence.

Now you may well think that there is less to be said of this than the
other quality; for form may be taught, but the spirit that breathes
through it cannot be.  So I will content myself with saying this on these
qualities, that though a designer may put all manner of strangeness and
surprise into his patterns, he must not do so at the expense of beauty.
You will never find a case in this kind of work where ugliness and
violence are not the result of barrenness, and not of fertility of
invention.  The fertile man, he of resource, has not to worry himself
about invention.  He need but think of beauty and simplicity of
expression; his work will grow on and on, one thing leading to another,
as it fares with a beautiful tree.  Whereas the laborious
paste-and-scissors man goes hunting up and down for oddities, sticks one
in here and another there, and tries to connect them with commonplace;
and when it is all done, the oddities are not more inventive than the
commonplace, nor the commonplace more graceful than the oddities.

No pattern should be without some sort of meaning.  True it is that that
meaning may have come down to us traditionally, and not be our own
invention, yet we must at heart understand it, or we can neither receive
it, nor hand it down to our successors.  It is no longer tradition if it
is servilely copied, without change, the token of life.  You may be sure
that the softest and loveliest of patterns will weary the steadiest
admirers of their school as soon as they see that there is no hope of
growth in them.  For you know all art is compact of effort, of failure
and of hope, and we cannot but think that somewhere perfection lies
ahead, as we look anxiously for the better thing that is to come from the
good.

Furthermore, you must not only mean something in your patterns, but must
also be able to make others understand that meaning.  They say that the
difference between a genius and a madman is that the genius can get one
or two people to believe in him, whereas the madman, poor fellow, has
himself only for his audience.  Now the only way in our craft of design
for compelling people to understand you is to follow hard on Nature; for
what else can you refer people to, or what else is there which everybody
can understand?—everybody that it is worth addressing yourself to, which
includes all people who can feel and think.

Now let us end the talk about those qualities of invention and
imagination with a word of memory and of thanks to the designers of time
past.  Surely he who runs may read them abundantly set forth in those
lesser arts they practised.  Surely it had been pity indeed, if so much
of this had been lost as would have been if it had been crushed out by
the pride of intellect, that will not stoop to look at beauty, unless its
own kings and great men have had a hand in it.  Belike the thoughts of
the men who wrought this kind of art could not have been expressed in
grander ways or more definitely, or, at least, would not have been;
therefore I believe I am not thinking only of my own pleasure, but of the
pleasure of many people, when I praise the usefulness of the lives of
these men, whose names are long forgotten, but whose works we still
wonder at.  In their own way they meant to tell us how the flowers grew
in the gardens of Damascus, or how the hunt was up on the plains of
Kirman, or how the tulips shone among the grass in the Mid-Persian
valley, and how their souls delighted in it all, and what joy they had in
life; nor did they fail to make their meaning clear to some of us.

But, indeed, they and other matters have led us afar from our makeshift
house, and the room we have to decorate therein.  And there is still left
the fireplace to consider.

Now I think there is nothing about a house in which a contrast is greater
between old and new than this piece of architecture.  The old, either
delightful in its comfortable simplicity, or decorated with the noblest
and most meaning art in the place; the modern, mean, miserable,
uncomfortable, and showy, plastered about with wretched sham ornament,
trumpery of cast-iron, and brass and polished steel, and what
not—offensive to look at, and a nuisance to clean—and the whole thing
huddled up with rubbish of ash-pan, and fender, and rug, till surely the
hearths which we have been bidden so often to defend (whether there was a
chance of their being attacked or not) have now become a mere figure of
speech the meaning of which in a short time it will be impossible for
learned philologists to find out.

I do most seriously advise you to get rid of all this, or as much of it
as you can without absolute ruin to your prospects in life; and even if
you do not know how to decorate it, at least have a hole in the wall of a
convenient shape, faced with such bricks or tiles as will at once bear
fire and clean; then some sort of iron basket in it, and out from that a
real hearth of cleanable brick or tile, which will not make you blush
when you look at it, and as little in the way of guard and fender as you
think will be safe; that will do to begin with.  For the rest, if you
have wooden work about the fireplace, which is often good to have, don’t
mix up the wood and the tiles together; let the wood-work look like part
of the wall-covering, and the tiles like part of the chimney.

As for movable furniture, even if time did not fail us, ’tis a large
subject—or a very small one—so I will but say, don’t have too much of it;
have none for mere finery’s sake, or to satisfy the claims of
custom—these are flat truisms, are they not?  But really it seems as if
some people had never thought of them, for ’tis almost the universal
custom to stuff up some rooms so that you can scarcely move in them, and
to leave others deadly bare; whereas all rooms ought to look as if they
were lived in, and to have, so to say, a friendly welcome ready for the
incomer.

A dining-room ought not to look as if one went into it as one goes into a
dentist’s parlour—for an operation, and came out of it when the operation
was over—the tooth out, or the dinner in.  A drawing-room ought to look
as if some kind of work could be done in it less toilsome than being
bored.  A library certainly ought to have books in it, not boots only, as
in Thackeray’s country snob’s house, but so ought each and every room in
the house more or less; also, though all rooms should look tidy, and even
very tidy, they ought not to look too tidy.

Furthermore, no room of the richest man should look grand enough to make
a simple man shrink in it, or luxurious enough to make a thoughtful man
feel ashamed in it; it will not do so if Art be at home there, for she
has no foes so deadly as insolence and waste.  Indeed, I fear that at
present the decoration of rich men’s houses is mostly wrought out at the
bidding of grandeur and luxury, and that art has been mostly cowed or
shamed out of them; nor when I come to think of it will I lament it
overmuch.  Art was not born in the palace; rather she fell sick there,
and it will take more bracing air than that of rich men’s houses to heal
her again.  If she is ever to be strong enough to help mankind once more,
she must gather strength in simple places; the refuge from wind and
weather to which the goodman comes home from field or hill-side; the
well-tidied space into which the craftsman draws from the litter of loom,
and smithy, and bench; the scholar’s island in the sea of books; the
artist’s clearing in the canvas-grove; it is from these places that Art
must come if she is ever again to be enthroned in that other kind of
building, which I think, under some name or other, whether you call it
church or hall of reason, or what not, will always be needed; the
building in which people meet to forget their own transient personal and
family troubles in aspirations for their fellows and the days to come,
and which to a certain extent make up to town-dwellers for their loss of
field, and river, and mountain.

Well, it seems to me that these two kinds of buildings are all we have
really to think of, together with whatsoever outhouses, workshops, and
the like may be necessary.  Surely the rest may quietly drop to pieces
for aught we care—unless it should be thought good in the interest of
history to keep one standing in each big town to show posterity what
strange, ugly, uncomfortable houses rich men dwelt in once upon a time.

Meantime now, when rich men won’t have art, and poor men can’t, there is,
nevertheless, some unthinking craving for it, some restless feeling in
men’s minds of something lacking somewhere, which has made many
benevolent people seek for the possibility of cheap art.

What do they mean by that?  One art for the rich and another for the
poor?  No, it won’t do.  Art is not so accommodating as the justice or
religion of society, and she won’t have it.

What then? there has been cheap art at some times certainly, at the
expense of the starvation of the craftsmen.  But people can’t mean that;
and if they did, would, happily, no longer have the same chance of
getting it that they once had.  Still they think art can be got round
some way or other—jockeyed, so to say.  I rather think in this fashion:
that a highly gifted and carefully educated man shall, like Mr.
Pecksniff, squint at a sheet of paper, and that the results of that
squint shall set a vast number of well-fed, contented operatives (they
are ashamed to call them workmen) turning crank handles for ten hours
a-day, bidding them keep what gifts and education they may have been born
with for their—I was going to say leisure hours, but I don’t know how to,
for if I were to work ten hours a-day at work I despised and hated, I
should spend my leisure I hope in political agitation, but I fear—in
drinking.  So let us say that the aforesaid operatives will have to keep
their inborn gifts and education for their dreams.  Well, from this
system are to come threefold blessings—food and clothing, poorish
lodgings and a little leisure to the operatives, enormous riches to the
capitalists that rent them, together with moderate riches to the squinter
on the paper; and lastly, very decidedly lastly, abundance of cheap art
for the operatives or crank turners to buy—in their dreams.

Well, there have been many other benevolent and economical schemes for
keeping your cake after you have eaten it, for skinning a flint, and
boiling a flea down for its tallow and glue, and this one of cheap art
may just go its way with the others.

Yet to my mind real art is cheap, even at the price that must be paid for
it.  That price is, in short, the providing of a handicraftsman who shall
put his own individual intelligence and enthusiasm into the goods he
fashions.  So far from his labour being ‘divided,’ which is the technical
phrase for his always doing one minute piece of work, and never being
allowed to think of any other; so far from that, he must know all about
the ware he is making and its relation to similar wares; he must have a
natural aptitude for his work so strong, that no education can force him
away from his special bent.  He must be allowed to think of what he is
doing, and to vary his work as the circumstances of it vary, and his own
moods.  He must be for ever striving to make the piece he is at work at
better than the last.  He must refuse at anybody’s bidding to turn out, I
won’t say a bad, but even an indifferent piece of work, whatever the
public want, or think they want.  He must have a voice, and a voice worth
listening to in the whole affair.

Such a man I should call, not an operative, but a workman.  You may call
him an artist if you will, for I have been describing the qualities of
artists as I know them; but a capitalist will be apt to call him a
‘troublesome fellow,’ a radical of radicals, and, in fact, he will be
troublesome—mere grit and friction in the wheels of the money-grinding
machine.

Yes, such a man will stop the machine perhaps; but it is only through him
that you can have art, _i.e._ civilisation unmaimed, if you really want
it; so consider, if you do want it, and will pay the price and give the
workman his due.

What is his due? that is, what can he take from you, and be the man that
you want?  Money enough to keep him from fear of want or degradation for
him and his; leisure enough from bread-earning work (even though it be
pleasant to him) to give him time to read and think, and connect his own
life with the life of the great world; work enough of the kind aforesaid,
and praise of it, and encouragement enough to make him feel good friends
with his fellows; and lastly (not least, for ’tis verily part of the
bargain), his own due share of art, the chief part of which will be a
dwelling that does not lack the beauty which Nature would freely allow
it, if our own perversity did not turn Nature out of doors.

That is the bargain to be struck, such work and such wages; and I believe
that if the world wants the work and is willing to pay the wages, the
workmen will not long be wanting.

On the other hand, if it be certain that the world—that is, modern
civilised society—will nevermore ask for such workmen, then I am as sure
as that I stand here breathing, that art is dying: that the spark still
smouldering is not to be quickened into life, but damped into death.  And
indeed, often, in my fear of that, I think, ‘Would that I could see what
is to take the place of art!’  For, whether modern civilised society
_can_ make that bargain aforesaid, who shall say?  I know well—who could
fail to know it?—that the difficulties are great.

Too apt has the world ever been, ‘for the sake of life to cast away the
reasons for living,’ and perhaps is more and more apt to it as the
conditions of life get more intricate, as the race to avoid ruin, which
seems always imminent and overwhelming, gets swifter and more terrible.
Yet how would it be if we were to lay aside fear and turn in the face of
all that, and stand by our claim to have, one and all of us, reasons for
living.  Mayhap the heavens would not fall on us if we did.

Anyhow, let us make up our minds which we want, art, or the absence of
art, and be prepared if we want art, to give up many things, and in many
ways to change the conditions of life.  Perhaps there are those who will
understand me when I say that that necessary change may make life poorer
for the rich, rougher for the refined, and, it may be, duller for the
gifted—for a while; that it may even take such forms that not the best or
wisest of us shall always be able to know it for a friend, but may at
whiles fight against it as a foe.  Yet, when the day comes that gives us
visible token of art rising like the sun from below—when it is no longer
a justly despised whim of the rich, or a lazy habit of the so-called
educated, but a thing that labour begins to crave as a necessity, even as
labour is a necessity for all men—in that day how shall all trouble be
forgotten, all folly forgiven—even our own!

Little by little it must come, I know.  Patience and prudence must not be
lacking to us, but courage still less.  Let us be a Gideon’s band.
‘Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return, and depart early from
Mount Gilead.’  And among that band let there be no delusions; let the
last encouraging lie have been told, the last after-dinner humbug spoken,
for surely, though the days seem dark, we may remember that men longed
for freedom while yet they were slaves; that it was in times when swords
were reddened every day that men began to think of peace and order, and
to strive to win them.

We who think, and can enjoy the feast that Nature has spread for us, is
it not both our right and our duty to rebel against that slavery of the
waste of life’s joys, which people thoughtless and joyless, by no fault
of their own, have wrapped the world in?  From our own selves we can tell
that there is hope of victory in our rebellion, since we have art enough
in our lives, not to content us, but to make us long for more, and that
longing drives us into trying to spread art and the longing for art; and
as it is with us so it will be with those that we win over: little by
little, we may well hope, will do its work, till at last a great many men
will have enough of art to see how little they have, and how much they
might better their lives, if every man had his due share of art—that is,
just so much as he could use if a fair chance were given him.

Is that, indeed, too extravagant a hope?  Have you not heard how it has
gone with many a cause before now?  First few men heed it; next most men
contemn it; lastly, all men accept it—and the cause is won.



THE PROSPECTS OF ARCHITECTURE IN CIVILISATION {169}


    ‘—the horrible doctrine that this universe is a Cockney
    Nightmare—which no creature ought for a moment to believe or listen
    to.’—THOMAS CARLYLE.

THE word Architecture has, I suppose, to most of you the meaning of the
art of building nobly and ornamentally.  Now I believe the practice of
this art to be one of the most important things which man can turn his
hand to, and the consideration of it to be worth the attention of serious
people, not for an hour only, but for a good part of their lives, even
though they may not have to do with it professionally.

But, noble as that art is by itself, and though it is specially the art
of civilisation, it neither ever has existed nor never can exist alive
and progressive by itself, but must cherish and be cherished by all the
crafts whereby men make the things which they intend shall be beautiful,
and shall last somewhat beyond the passing day.

It is this union of the arts, mutually helpful and harmoniously
subordinated one to another, which I have learned to think of as
Architecture, and when I use the word to-night, that is what I shall mean
by it and nothing narrower.

A great subject truly, for it embraces the consideration of the whole
external surroundings of the life of man; we cannot escape from it if we
would so long as we are part of civilisation, for it means the moulding
and altering to human needs of the very face of the earth itself, except
in the outermost desert.

Neither can we hand over our interests in it to a little band of learned
men, and bid them seek and discover, and fashion, that we may at last
stand by and wonder at the work, and learn a little of how ’twas all
done: ’tis we ourselves, each one of us, who must keep watch and ward
over the fairness of the earth, and each with his own soul and hand do
his due share therein, lest we deliver to our sons a lesser treasure than
our fathers left to us.  Nor, again, is there time enough and to spare
that we may leave this matter alone till our latter days or let our sons
deal with it: for so busy and eager is mankind, that the desire of to-day
makes us utterly forget the desire of yesterday and the gain it brought;
and whensoever in any object of pursuit we cease to long for perfection,
corruption sure and speedy leads from life to death and all is soon over
and forgotten: time enough there may be for many things: for peopling the
desert; for breaking down the walls between nation and nation; for
learning the innermost secrets of the fashion of our souls and bodies,
the air we breathe, and the earth we tread on: time enough for subduing
all the forces of nature to our material wants: but no time to spare
before we turn our eyes and our longing to the fairness of the earth;
lest the wave of human need sweep over it and make it not a hopeful
desert as it once was, but a hopeless prison; lest man should find at
last that he has toiled and striven, and conquered, and set all things on
the earth under his feet, that he might live thereon himself unhappy.

Most true it is that when any spot of earth’s surface has been marred by
the haste or carelessness of civilisation, it is heavy work to seek a
remedy, nay a work scarce conceivable; for the desire to live on any
terms which nature has implanted in us, and the terrible swift
multiplication of the race which is the result of it, thrusts out of
men’s minds all thought of other hopes, and bars the way before us as
with a wall of iron: no force but a force equal to that which marred can
ever mend, or give back those ruined places to hope and civilisation.

Therefore I entreat you to turn your minds to thinking of what is to come
of Architecture, that is to say, the fairness of the earth amidst the
habitations of men: for the hope and the fear of it will follow us though
we try to escape it; it concerns us all, and needs the help of all; and
what we do herein must be done at once, since every day of our neglect
adds to the heap of troubles a blind force is making for us; till it may
come to this if we do not look to it, that we shall one day have to call,
not on peace and prosperity, but on violence and ruin to rid us of them.

In making this appeal to you, I will not suppose that I am speaking to
any who refuse to admit that we who are part of civilisation are
responsible to posterity for what may befall the fairness of the earth in
our own days, for what we have done, in other words, towards the progress
of Architecture;—if any such exists among cultivated people, I need not
trouble myself about them; for they would not listen to me, nor should I
know what to say to them.

On the other hand, there may be some here who have a knowledge of their
responsibility in this matter, but to whom the duty that it involves
seems an easy one, since they are fairly satisfied with the state of
Architecture as it now is: I do not suppose that they fail to note the
strange contrast which exists between the beauty that still clings to
some habitations of men and the ugliness which is the rule in others, but
it seems to them natural and inevitable, and therefore does not trouble
them: and they fulfil their duties to civilisation and the arts by
sometimes going to see the beautiful places, and gathering together a few
matters to remind them of these for the adornment of the ugly dwellings
in which their homes are enshrined: for the rest they have no doubt that
it is natural and not wrong that while all ancient towns, I mean towns
whose houses are largely ancient, should be beautiful and romantic, all
modern ones should be ugly and commonplace: it does not seem to them that
this contrast is of any import to civilisation, or that it expresses
anything save that one town _is_ ancient as to its buildings and the
other modern.  If their thoughts carry them into looking any farther into
the contrasts between ancient art and modern, they are not dissatisfied
with the result: they may see things to reform here and there, but they
suppose, or, let me say, take for granted, that art is alive and healthy,
is on the right road, and that following that road, it will go on living
for ever, much as it is now.

It is not unfair to say that this languid complacency is the general
attitude of cultivated people towards the arts: of course if they were
ever to think seriously of them, they would be startled into discomfort
by the thought that civilisation as it now is brings inevitable ugliness
with it: surely if they thought this, they would begin to think that this
was not natural and right; they would see that this was not what
civilisation aimed at in its struggling days: but they do not think
seriously of the arts because they have been hitherto defended by a law
of nature which forbids men to see evils which they are not ready to
redress.

Hitherto: but there are not wanting signs that that defence may fail them
one day, and it has become the duty of all true artists, and all men who
love life though it be troublous better than death though it be peaceful,
to strive to pierce that defence and sting the world, cultivated and
uncultivated, into discontent and struggle.

Therefore I will say that the contrast between past art and present, the
universal beauty of men’s habitations as they _were_ fashioned, and the
universal ugliness of them as they _are_ fashioned, is of the utmost
import to civilisation, and that it expresses much; it expresses no less
than a blind brutality which will destroy art at least, whatever else it
may leave alive: art is not healthy, it even scarcely lives; it is on the
wrong road, and if it follow that road will speedily meet its death on
it.

Now perhaps you will say that by asserting that the general attitude of
cultivated people towards the arts is a languid complacency with this
unhealthy state of things, I am admitting that cultivated people
generally do not care about the arts, and that therefore this threatened
death of them will not frighten people much, even if the threat be
founded on truth: so that those are but beating the air who strive to
rouse people into discontent and struggle.

Well, I will run the risk of offending you by speaking plainly, and
saying, that to me it seems over true that cultivated people in general
do _not_ care about the arts: nevertheless I will answer any possible
challenge as to the usefulness of trying to rouse them to thought about
the matter, by saying that they do not care about the arts because they
do not know what they mean, or what they lose in lacking them:
cultivated, that is rich, as they are, they are also under that harrow of
hard necessity which is driven onward so remorselessly by the competitive
commerce of the latter days; a system which is drawing near now I hope to
its perfection, and therefore to its death and change: the many millions
of civilisation, as labour is now organised, can scarce think seriously
of anything but the means of earning their daily bread; they do not know
of art, it does not touch their lives at all: the few thousands of
cultivated people whom Fate, not always as kind to them as she looks, has
placed above the material necessity for this hard struggle, are
nevertheless bound by it in spirit: the reflex of the grinding trouble of
those who toil to live that they may live to toil weighs upon them also,
and forbids them to look upon art as a matter of importance: they know it
but as a toy, not as a serious help to life: as they know it, it can no
more lift the burden from the conscience of the rich, than it can from
the weariness of the poor.  They do not know what art means: as I have
said, they think that as labour is now organised art can go indefinitely
as it is now organised, practised by a few for a few, adding a little
interest, a little refinement to the lives of those who have come to look
upon intellectual interest and spiritual refinement as their birthright.

No, no, it can never be: believe me, if it were otherwise possible that
it should be an enduring condition of humanity that there must be one
class utterly refined and another utterly brutal, art would bar the way
and forbid the monstrosity to exist:—such refinement would have to do as
well as it might without the aid of Art: it may be she will die, but it
cannot be that she will live the slave of the rich, and the token of the
enduring slavery of the poor.  If the life of the world is to be
brutalised by her death, the rich must share that brutalisation with the
poor.

I know that there are people of good-will now, as there have been in all
ages, who have conceived of art as going hand in hand with luxury, nay,
as being much the same thing; but it is an idea false from the root up,
and most hurtful to art, as I could demonstrate to you by many examples
if I had time, lacking which I will only meet it with one, which I hope
will be enough.

We are here in the richest city of the richest country of the richest age
of the world: no luxury of time past can compare with our luxury; and yet
if you could clear your eyes from habitual blindness you would have to
confess that there is no crime against art, no ugliness, no vulgarity
which is not shared with perfect fairness and equality between the modern
hovels of Bethnal Green and the modern palaces of the West End: and then
if you looked at the matter deeply and seriously you would not regret it,
but rejoice at it, and as you went past some notable example of the
aforesaid palaces you would exult indeed as you said, ‘So that is all
that luxury and money can do for refinement.’

For the rest, if of late there has been any change for the better in the
prospects of the arts; if there has been a struggle both to throw off the
chains of dead and powerless tradition, and to understand the thoughts
and aspirations of those among whom those traditions were once alive
powerful and beneficent; if there has been abroad any spirit of
resistance to the flood of sordid ugliness that modern civilisation has
created to make modern civilisation miserable: in a word, if any of us
have had the courage to be discontented that art seems dying, and to hope
for her new birth, it is because others have been discontented and
hopeful in other matters than the arts; I believe most sincerely that the
steady progress of those whom the stupidity of language forces me to call
the lower classes in material, political, and social condition, has been
our real help in all that we have been able to do or to hope, although
both the helpers and the helped have been mostly unconscious of it.

It is indeed in this belief, the belief in the beneficent progress of
civilisation, that I venture to face you and to entreat you to strive to
enter into the real meaning of the arts, which are surely the expression
of reverence for nature, and the crown of nature, the life of man upon
the earth.

With this intent in view I may, I think, hope to move you, I do not say
to agree to all I urge upon you, yet at least to think the matter worth
thinking about; and if you once do that, I believe I shall have won you.
Maybe indeed that many things which I think beautiful you will deem of
small account; nay, that even some things I think base and ugly will not
vex your eyes or your minds: but one thing I know you will none of you
like to plead guilty to; blindness to the natural beauty of the earth;
and of that beauty art is the only possible guardian.

No one of you can fail to know what neglect of art has done to this great
treasure of mankind: the earth which was beautiful before man lived on
it, which for many ages grew in beauty as men grew in numbers and power,
is now growing uglier day by day, and there the swiftest where
civilisation is the mightiest: this is quite certain; no one can deny it:
are you contented that it should be so?

Surely there must be few of us to whom this degrading change has not been
brought home personally.  I think you will most of you understand me but
too well when I ask you to remember the pang of dismay that comes on us
when we revisit some spot of country which has been specially sympathetic
to us in times past; which has refreshed us after toil, or soothed us
after trouble; but where now as we turn the corner of the road or crown
the hill’s brow we can see first the inevitable blue slate roof, and then
the blotched mud-coloured stucco, or ill-built wall of ill-made bricks of
the new buildings; then as we come nearer and see the arid and
pretentious little gardens, and cast-iron horrors of railings, and
miseries of squalid out-houses breaking through the sweet meadows and
abundant hedge-rows of our old quiet hamlet, do not our hearts sink
within us, and are we not troubled with a perplexity not altogether
selfish, when we think what a little bit of carelessness it takes to
destroy a world of pleasure and delight, which now whatever happens can
never be recovered?

Well may we feel the perplexity and sickness of heart, which some day the
whole world shall feel to find its hopes disappointed, if we do not look
to it; for this is not what civilisation looked for: a new house added to
the old village, where is the harm of that?  Should it not have been a
gain and not a loss; a sign of growth and prosperity which should have
rejoiced the eye of an old friend? a new family come in health and hope
to share the modest pleasures and labours of the place we loved; that
should have been no grief, but a fresh pleasure to us.

Yes, and time was that it would have been so; the new house indeed would
have taken away a little piece of the flowery green sward, a few yards of
the teeming hedge-row; but a new order, a new beauty would have taken the
place of the old: the very flowers of the field would have but given
place to flowers fashioned by man’s hand and mind: the hedge-row oak
would have blossomed into fresh beauty in roof-tree and lintel and
door-post: and though the new house would have looked young and trim
beside the older houses and the ancient church; ancient even in those
days; yet it would have a piece of history for the time to come, and its
dear and dainty cream-white walls would have been a genuine link among
the numberless links of that long chain, whose beginnings we know not of,
but on whose mighty length even the many-pillared garth of Pallas, and
the stately dome of the Eternal Wisdom, are but single links, wondrous
and resplendent though they be.

Such I say can a new house be, such it has been: for ’tis no ideal house
I am thinking of: no rare marvel of art, of which but few can ever be
vouchsafed to the best times and countries; no palace either, not even a
manor-house, but a yeoman’s steading at grandest, or even his shepherd’s
cottage: there they stand at this day, dozens of them yet, in some parts
of England: such an one, and of the smallest, is before my eyes as I
speak to you, standing by the roadside on one of the western slopes of
the Cotswolds: the tops of the great trees near it can see a long way off
the mountains of the Welsh border, and between a great county of hill,
and waving woodland, and meadow and plain where lies hidden many a famous
battlefield of our stout forefathers: there to the right a wavering patch
of blue is the smoke of Worcester town, but Evesham smoke, though near,
is unseen, so small it is: then a long line of haze just traceable shows
where the Avon wends its way thence towards Severn, till Bredon Hill
hides the sight both of it and Tewkesbury smoke: just below on either
side the Broadway lie the grey houses of the village street ending with a
lovely house of the fourteenth century; above the road winds serpentine
up the steep hill-side, whose crest looking westward sees the glorious
map I have been telling of spread before it, but eastward strains to look
on Oxfordshire, and thence all waters run towards Thames: all about lie
the sunny slopes, lovely of outline, flowery and sweetly grassed, dotted
with the best-grown and most graceful of trees: ’tis a beautiful
countryside indeed, not undignified, not unromantic, but most familiar.

And there stands the little house that was new once, a labourer’s cottage
built of the Cotswold limestone, and grown now, walls and roof, a lovely
warm grey, though it was creamy white in its earliest day; no line of it
could ever have marred the Cotswold beauty; everything about it is solid
and well wrought: it is skilfully planned and well proportioned: there is
a little sharp and delicate carving about its arched doorway, and every
part of it is well cared for: ’tis in fact beautiful, a work of art and a
piece of nature—no less: there is no man who could have done it better
considering its use and its place.

Who built it then?  No strange race of men, but just the mason of
Broadway village: even such a man as is now running up down yonder three
or four cottages of the wretched type we know too well: nor did he get an
architect from London, or even Worcester, to design it: I believe ’tis
but two hundred years old, and at that time, though beauty still lingered
among the peasants’ houses, your learned architects were building houses
for the high gentry that were ugly enough, though solid and well built;
nor are its materials far-fetched; from the neighbouring field came its
walling stones; and at the top of the hill they are quarrying now as good
freestone as ever.

No, there was no effort or wonder about it when it was built, though its
beauty makes it strange now.

And are you contented that we should lose all this; this simple, harmless
beauty that was no hindrance or trouble to any man, and that added to the
natural beauty of the earth instead of marring it?

You cannot be contented with it; all you can do is to try to forget it,
and to say that such things are the necessary and inevitable consequences
of civilisation.  Is it so indeed?  The loss of suchlike beauty is an
undoubted evil: but civilisation cannot mean at heart to produce evils
for mankind: such losses therefore must be accidents of civilisation,
produced by its carelessness, not its malice; and we, if we be men and
not machines, must try to amend them: or civilisation itself will be
undone.

But, now let us leave the sunny slopes of the Cotswolds, and their little
grey houses, lest we fall a-dreaming over past time, and let us think
about the suburbs of London, neither dull nor unpleasant once, where
surely we ought to have some power to do something: let me remind you how
it fares with the beauty of the earth when some big house near our
dwelling-place, which has passed through many vicissitudes of rich
merchant’s dwelling, school, hospital, or what not, is at last to be
turned into ready money, and is sold to A, who lets it to B, who is going
to build houses on it which he will sell to C, who will let them to D,
and the other letters of the alphabet: well, the old house comes down;
that was to be looked for, and perhaps you don’t much mind it; it was
never a work of art, was stupid and unimaginative enough, though
creditably built, and without pretence; but even while it is being pulled
down, you hear the axe falling on the trees of its generous garden, which
it was such a pleasure even to pass by, and where man and nature together
have worked so long and patiently for the blessing of the neighbours: so
you see the boys dragging about the streets great boughs of the flowering
may-trees covered with blossom, and you know what is going to happen.
Next morning when you get up you look towards that great plane-tree which
has been such a friend to you so long through sun and rain and wind,
which was a world in itself of incident and beauty: but now there is a
gap and no plane-tree; next morning ’tis the turn of the great sweeping
layers of darkness that the ancient cedars thrust out from them, very
treasures of loveliness and romance; they are gone too: you may have a
faint hope left that the thick bank of lilac next your house may be
spared, since the newcomers may like lilac; but ’tis gone in the
afternoon, and the next day when you look in with a sore heart, you see
that once fair great garden turned into a petty miserable clay-trampled
yard, and everything is ready for the latest development of Victorian
architecture—which in due time (two months) arises from the wreck.

Do you like it?  You I mean, who have not studied art and do not think
you care about it?

Look at the houses (there are plenty to choose from)!  I will not say,
are they beautiful, for you say you don’t care whether they are or not:
but just look at the wretched pennyworths of material, of accommodation,
of ornament doled out to you! if there were one touch of generosity, of
honest pride, of wish to please about them, I would forgive them in the
lump.  But there is none—not one.

It is for this that you have sacrificed your cedars and planes and
may-trees, which I do believe you really liked—are you satisfied?

Indeed you cannot be: all you can do is to go to your business, converse
with your family, eat, drink, and sleep, and try to forget it, but
whenever you think of it, you will admit that a loss without compensation
has befallen you and your neighbours.

Once more neglect of art has done it; for though it is conceivable that
the loss of your neighbouring open space might in any case have been a
loss to you, still the building of a new quarter of a town ought not to
be an unmixed calamity to the neighbours: nor would it have been once:
for first, the builder doesn’t now murder the trees (at any rate not all
of them) for the trifling sum of money their corpses will bring him, but
because it will take him too much trouble to fit them into the planning
of his houses: so to begin with you would have saved the more part of
your trees; and I say your trees, advisedly, for they were at least as
much your trees, who loved them and would have saved them, as they were
the trees of the man who neglected and murdered them.  And next, for any
space you would have lost, and for any unavoidable destruction of natural
growth, you would in the times of art have been compensated by orderly
beauty, by visible signs of the ingenuity of man and his delight both in
the works of nature and the works of his own hands.

Yes indeed, if we had lived in Venice in early days, as islet after islet
was built upon, we should have grudged it but little, I think, though we
had been merchants and rich men, that the Greek shafted work, and the
carving of the Lombards was drawn nearer and nearer to us and blocked us
out a little from the sight of the blue Euganean hills or the Northern
mountains.  Nay, to come nearer home, much as I know I should have loved
the willowy meadows between the network of the streams of Thames and
Cherwell; yet I should not have been ill content as Oxford crept
northward from its early home of Oseney, and Rewley, and the Castle, as
townsman’s house, and scholar’s hall, and the great College and the noble
church hid year by year more and more of the grass and flowers of
Oxfordshire. {186}

That was the natural course of things then; men could do no otherwise
when they built than give some gift of beauty to the world: but all is
turned inside out now, and when men build they cannot but take away some
gift of beauty, which nature or their own forefathers have given to the
world.

Wonderful it is indeed, and perplexing, that the course of civilisation
towards perfection should have brought this about: so perplexing, that to
some it seems as if civilisation were eating her own children, and the
arts first of all.

I will not say that; time is big with so many a change; surely there must
be some remedy, and whether there be or no, at least it is better to die
seeking one, than to leave it alone and do nothing.

I have said, are you satisfied? and assumed that you are not, though to
many you may seem to be at least helpless: yet indeed it is something or
even a great deal that I can reasonably assume that you are discontented:
fifty years ago, thirty years ago, nay perhaps twenty years ago, it would
have been useless to have asked such a question, it could only have been
answered in one way: We are perfectly satisfied: whereas now we may at
least hope that discontent will grow till some remedy will be sought for.

And if sought for, should it not, in England at least, be as good as
found already, and acted upon?  At first sight it seems so truly; for I
may say without fear of contradiction that we of the English middle
classes are the most powerful body of men that the world has yet seen,
and that anything we have set our heart upon we will have: and yet when
we come to look the matter in the face, we cannot fail to see that even
for us with all our strength it will be a hard matter to bring about that
birth of the new art: for between us and that which is to be, if art is
not to perish utterly, there is something alive and devouring; something
as it were a river of fire that will put all that tries to swim across to
a hard proof indeed, and scare from the plunge every soul that is not
made fearless by desire of truth and insight of the happy days to come
beyond.

That fire is the hurry of life bred by the gradual perfection of
competitive commerce which we, the English middle classes, when we had
won our political liberty, set ourselves to further with an energy, an
eagerness, a single-heartedness that has no parallel in history; we would
suffer none to bar the way to us, we called on none to help us, we
thought of that one thing and forgot all else, and so attained to our
desire, and fashioned a terrible thing indeed from the very hearts of the
strongest of mankind.

Indeed I don’t suppose that the feeble discontent with our own creation
that I have noted before can deal with such a force as this—not yet—not
till it swells to very strong discontent: nevertheless as we were blind
to its destructive power, and have not even yet learned all about that,
so we may well be blind to what it has of constructive force in it, and
that one day may give us a chance to deal with it again and turn it
toward accomplishing our new and worthier desire: in that day at least
when we have at last learned what we want, let us work no less
strenuously and fearlessly, I will not say to quench it, but to force it
to burn itself out, as we once did to quicken and sustain it.

Meantime if we could but get ourselves ready by casting off certain old
prejudices and delusions in this matter of the arts, we should the sooner
reach the pitch of discontent which would drive us into action: such a
one I mean as the aforesaid idea that luxury fosters art, and especially
the Architectural arts; or its companion one, that the arts flourish best
in a rich country, _i.e._ a country where the contrast between rich and
poor is greatest; or this, the worst because the most plausible, the
assertion of the hierarchy of intellect in the arts: an old foe with a
new face indeed: born out of the times that gave the death-blow to the
political and social hierarchies, and waxing as they waned, it proclaimed
from a new side the divinity of the few and the subjugation of the many,
and cries out, like they did, that it is expedient, not that one man
should die for the people, but that the people should die for one man.

Now perhaps these three things, though they have different forms, are in
fact but one thing; tyranny to wit: but however that may be, they are to
be met by one answer, and there is no other: if art which is now sick is
to live and not die, it must in the future be of the people for the
people, and by the people; it must understand all and be understood by
all: equality must be the answer to tyranny: if that be not attained, art
will die.

The past art of what has grown to be civilised Europe from the time of
the decline of the ancient classical peoples, was the outcome of instinct
working on an unbroken chain of tradition: it was fed not by knowledge
but by hope, and though many a strange and wild illusion mingled with
that hope, yet was it human and fruitful ever: many a man it solaced,
many a slave in body it freed in soul; boundless pleasure it gave to
those who wrought it and those who used it: long and long it lived,
passing that torch of hope from hand to hand, while it kept but little
record of its best and noblest; for least of all things could it abide to
make for itself kings and tyrants: every man’s hand and soul it used, the
lowest as the highest, and in its bosom at least were all men free: it
did its work, not creating an art more perfect than itself, but rather
other things than art, freedom of thought and speech, and the longing for
light and knowledge and the coming days that should slay it: and so at
last it died in the hour of its highest hope, almost before the greatest
men that came of it had passed away from the world.  It is dead now; no
longing will bring it back to us; no echo of it is left among the peoples
whom it once made happy.

Of the art that is to come who may prophesy?  But this at least seems to
follow from comparing that past with the confusion in which we are now
struggling and the light which glimmers through it; that that art will no
longer be an art of instinct, of ignorance which is hopeful to learn and
strives to see; since ignorance is now no longer hopeful.  In this and in
many other ways it may differ from the past art, but in one thing it must
needs be like it; it will not be an esoteric mystery shared by a little
band of superior beings; it will be no more hierarchical than the art of
past time was, but like it will be a gift of the people to the people, a
thing which everybody can understand, and every one surround with love;
it will be a part of every life, and a hindrance to none.

For this is the essence of art, and the thing that is eternal to it,
whatever else may be passing and accidental.

Here it is, you see, wherein the art of to-day is so far astray, would
that I could say wherein it _has been_ astray; it has been sick because
of this packing and peeling with tyranny, and now with what of life it
has it must struggle back towards equality.

There is the hard business for us! to get all simple people to care about
art, to get them to insist on making it part of their lives, whatever
becomes of systems of commerce and labour held perfect by some of us.

This is henceforward for a long time to come the real business of art:
and—yes I will say it since I think it—of civilisation too for that
matter: but how shall we set to work about it?  How shall we give people
without traditions of art eyes with which to see the works we do to move
them?  How shall we give them leisure from toil, and truce with anxiety,
so that they may have time to brood over the longing for beauty which men
are born with, as ’tis said, even in London streets?  And chiefly, for
this will breed the others swiftly and certainly, how shall we give them
hope and pleasure in their daily work?

How shall we give them this soul of art without which men are worse than
savages?  If they would but drive us to it!  But what and where are the
forces that shall drive them to drive us?  Where is the lever and the
standpoint?

Hard questions indeed! but unless we are prepared to seek an answer for
them, our art is a mere toy, which may amuse us for a little, but which
will not sustain us at our need: the cultivated classes, as they are
called, will feel it slipping away from under them: till some of them
will but mock it as a worthless thing; and some will stand by and look at
it as a curious exercise of the intellect, useless when done, though
amusing to watch a-doing.  How long will art live on those terms?  Yet
such were even now the state of art were it not for that hope which I am
here to set forth to you, the hope of an art that shall express the soul
of the people.

Therefore, I say, that in these days we men of civilisation have to
choose if we will cast art aside or not; if we choose to do so I have no
more to say, save that we _may_ find something to take its place for the
solace and joy of mankind, but I scarce think we shall: but if we refuse
to cast art aside, then must we seek an answer for those hard questions
aforesaid, of which this is the first.

How shall we set about giving people without traditions of art eyes with
which to see works of art?  It will doubtless take many years of striving
and success, before we can think of answering that question fully: and if
we strive to do our duty herein, long before it is answered fully there
will be some kind of a popular art abiding among us: but meantime, and
setting aside the answer which every artist must make to his own share of
the question, there is one duty obvious to us all; it is that we should
set ourselves, each one of us, to doing our best to guard the natural
beauty of the earth: we ought to look upon it as a crime, an injury to
our fellows, only excusable because of ignorance, to mar the natural
beauty, which is the property of all men; and scarce less than a crime to
look on and do nothing while others are marring it, if we can no longer
plead this ignorance.

Now this duty, as it is the most obvious to us, and the first and
readiest way of giving people back their eyes, so happily it is the
easiest to set about; up to a certain point you will have all people of
good will to the public good on your side: nay, small as the beginning
is, something has actually been begun in this direction, and we may well
say, considering how hopeless things looked twenty years ago, that it is
marvellous in our eyes!  Yet if we ever get out of the troubles that we
are now wallowing in, it will seem perhaps more marvellous still to those
that come after us that the dwellers in the richest city in the world
were at one time rather proud that the members of a small, humble, and
rather obscure, though I will say it, a beneficent society, should have
felt it their duty to shut their eyes to the apparent hopelessness of
attacking with their feeble means the stupendous evils they had become
alive to, so that they might be able to make some small beginnings
towards awakening the general public to a due sense of those evils.

I say, that though I ask your earnest support for such associations as
the Kyrle and the Commons Preservation Societies, and though I feel sure
that they have begun at the right end, since neither gods nor governments
will help those who don’t help themselves; though we are bound to wait
for nobody’s help than our own in dealing with the devouring hideousness
and squalor of our great towns, and especially of London, for which the
whole country is responsible; yet it would be idle not to acknowledge
that the difficulties in our way are far too huge and wide-spreading to
be grappled by private or semi-private efforts only.

All we can do in this way we must look on not as palliatives of an
unendurable state of things, but as tokens of what we desire; which is in
short the giving back to our country of the natural beauty of the earth,
which we are so ashamed of having taken away from it: and our chief duty
herein will be to quicken this shame and the pain that comes from it in
the hearts of our fellows: this I say is one of the chief duties of all
those who have any right to the title of cultivated men: and I believe
that if we are faithful to it, we may help to further a great impulse
towards beauty among us, which will be so irresistible that it will
fashion for itself a national machinery which will sweep away all
difficulties between us and a decent life, though they may have increased
a thousand-fold meantime, as is only too like to be the case.

Surely that light will arise, though neither we nor our children’s
children see it, though civilisation may have to go down into dark places
enough meantime: surely one day making will be thought more honourable,
more worthy the majesty of a great nation than destruction.

It is strange indeed, it is woeful, it is scarcely comprehensible, if we
come to think of it as men, and not as machines, that, after all the
progress of civilisation, it should be so easy for a little official
talk, a few lines on a sheet of paper, to set a terrible engine to work,
which without any trouble on our part will slay us ten thousand men, and
ruin who can say how many thousand of families; and it lies light enough
on the conscience of _all_ of us; while, if it is a question of striking
a blow at grievous and crushing evils which lie at our own doors, evils
which every thoughtful man feels and laments, and for which we alone are
responsible, not only is there no national machinery for dealing with
them, though they grow ranker and ranker every year, but any hint that
such a thing may be possible is received with laughter or with terror, or
with severe and heavy blame.  The rights of property, the necessities of
morality, the interests of religion—these are the sacramental words of
cowardice that silence us!

Sirs, I have spoken of thoughtful men who feel these evils: but think of
all the millions of men whom our civilisation has bred, who are not
thoughtful, and have had no chance of being so; how can you fail then to
acknowledge the duty of defending the fairness of the Earth? and what is
the use of our cultivation if it is to cultivate us into cowards?  Let us
answer those feeble counsels of despair and say, We also have a property
which your tyranny of squalor cheats us of; we also have a morality which
its baseness crushes; we also have a religion which its injustice makes a
mock of.

Well, whatever lesser helps there may be to our endeavour of giving
people back the eyes we have robbed them of, we may pass them by at
present, for they are chiefly of use to people who are beginning to get
their eyesight again; to people who, though they have no traditions of
art, can study those mighty impulses that once led nations and races: it
is to such that museums and art education are of service; but it is clear
they cannot get at the great mass of people, who will at present stare at
them in unintelligent wonder.

Until our streets are decent and orderly, and our town gardens break the
bricks and mortar every here and there, and are open to all people; until
our meadows even near our towns become fair and sweet, and are unspoiled
by patches of hideousness: until we have clear sky above our heads and
green grass beneath our feet; until the great drama of the seasons can
touch our workmen with other feelings than the misery of winter and the
weariness of summer; till all this happens our museums and art schools
will be but amusements of the rich; and they will soon cease to be of any
use to them also, unless they make up their minds that they will do their
best to give us back the fairness of the Earth.

In what I have been saying on this last point I have been thinking of our
own special duties as cultivated people; but in our endeavours towards
this end, as in all others, cultivated people cannot stand alone; nor can
we do much to open people’s eyes till they cry out to us to have them
opened.  Now I cannot doubt that the longing to attack and overcome the
sordidness of the city life of to-day still dwells in the minds of
workmen, as well as in ours, but it can scarcely be otherwise than vague
and lacking guidance with men who have so little leisure, and are so
hemmed in with hideousness as they are.  So this brings us to our second
question.  How shall people in general get leisure enough from toil, and
truce enough with anxiety to give scope to their inborn longing for
beauty?

Now the part of this question that is not involved in the next one, How
shall they get proper work to do? is I think in a fair way to be
answered.

The mighty change which the success of competitive commerce has wrought
in the world, whatever it may have destroyed, has at least unwittingly
made one thing,—from out of it has been born the increasing power of the
working-class.  The determination which this power has bred in it to
raise their class as a class will I doubt not make way and prosper with
our goodwill, or even in spite of it; but it seems to me that both to the
working-class and especially to ourselves it is important that it should
have our abundant goodwill, and also what help we may be able otherwise
to give it, by our determination to deal fairly with workmen, even when
that justice may seem to involve our own loss.  The time of unreasonable
and blind outcry against the Trades Unions is, I am happy to think, gone
by; and has given place to the hope of a time when these great
Associations, well organised, well served, and earnestly supported, as I
_know_ them to be, will find other work before them than the temporary
support of their members and the adjustment of due wages for their
crafts: when that hope begins to be realised, and they find they can make
use of the help of us scattered units of the cultivated classes, I feel
sure that the claims of art, as we and they will then understand the
word, will by no means be disregarded by them.

Meantime with us who are called artists, since most unhappily that word
means at present another thing than artisan: with us who either practise
the arts with our own hands, or who love them so wholly that we can enter
into the inmost feelings of those who do,—with us it lies to deal with
our last question, to stir up others to think of answering this: How
shall we give people in general hope and pleasure in their daily work in
such a way that in those days to come the word art _shall_ be rightly
understood?

Of all that I have to say to you this seems to me the most important,
that our daily and necessary work, which we could not escape if we would,
which we would not forego if we could, should be human, serious, and
pleasurable, not machine-like, trivial, or grievous.  I call this not
only the very foundation of Architecture in all senses of the word, but
of happiness also in all conditions of life.

Let me say before I go further, that though I am nowise ashamed of
repeating the words of men who have been before me in both senses, of
time and insight, I mean, I should be ashamed of letting you think that I
forget their labours on which mine are founded.  I know that the pith of
what I am saying on this subject was set forth years ago, and for the
first time by Mr. Ruskin in that chapter of the Stones of Venice, which
is entitled, ‘On the Nature of Gothic,’ in words more clear and eloquent
than any man else now living could use.  So important do they seem to me,
that to my mind they should have been posted up in every school of art
throughout the country; nay, in every association of English-speaking
people which professes in any way to further the culture of mankind.  But
I am sorry to have to say it, my excuse for doing little more now than
repeating those words is that they have been less heeded than most things
which Mr. Ruskin has said: I suppose because people have been afraid of
them, lest they should find the truth they express sticking so fast in
their minds that it would either compel them to act on it or confess
themselves slothful and cowardly.

Nor can I pretend to wonder at that: for if people were once to accept it
as true, that it is nothing but just and fair that every man’s work
should have some hope and pleasure always present in it, they must try to
bring the change about that would make it so: and all history tells of no
greater change in man’s life than that would be.

Nevertheless, great as the change may be, Architecture has no prospects
in civilisation unless the change be brought about: and ’tis my business
to-day, I will not say to convince you of this, but to send some of you
away uneasy lest perhaps it may be true; if I can manage that I shall
have spoken to some purpose.

Let us see however in what light cultivated people, men not without
serious thoughts about life, look to this matter, lest perchance we may
seem to be beating the air only: when I have given you an example of this
way of thinking, I will answer it to the best of my power in the hopes of
making some of you uneasy, discontented, and revolutionary.

Some few months ago I read in a paper the report of a speech made to the
assembled work-people of a famous firm of manufacturers (as they are
called).  The speech was a very humane and thoughtful one, spoken by one
of the leaders of modern thought: the firm to whose people it was
addressed was and is famous not only for successful commerce, but also
for the consideration and goodwill with which it treats its work-people,
men and women.  No wonder, therefore, that the speech was pleasant
reading; for the tone of it was that of a man speaking to his friends who
could well understand him and from whom he need hide nothing; but towards
the end of it I came across a sentence, which set me a-thinking so hard,
that I forgot all that had gone before.  It was to this effect, and I
think nearly in these very words, ‘Since no man would work if it were not
that he hoped by working to earn leisure:’ and the context showed that
this was assumed as a self-evident truth.

Well, for many years I have had my mind fixed on what I in my turn
regarded as an axiom which may be worded thus: No work which cannot be
done without pleasure in the doing is worth doing; so you may think I was
much disturbed at a grave and learned man taking such a completely
different view of it with such calmness of certainty.  What a little way,
I thought, has all Ruskin’s fire and eloquence made in driving into
people so great a truth, a truth so fertile of consequences!

Then I turned the intrusive sentence over again in my mind: ‘No man would
work unless he hoped by working to earn leisure:’ and I saw that this was
another way of putting it: first, all the work of the world is done
against the grain: second, what a man does in his ‘leisure’ is not work.

A poor bribe the hope of such leisure to supplement the other inducement
to toil, which I take to be the fear of death by starvation: a poor
bribe; for the most of men, like those Yorkshire weavers and spinners
(and the more part far worse than they), work for such a very small share
of leisure that, one must needs say that if all their hope be in that,
they are pretty much beguiled of their hope!

So I thought, and this next, that if it were indeed true and beyond
remedy, that no man would work unless he hoped by working to earn
leisure, the hell of theologians was but little needed; for a thickly
populated civilised country, where, you know, after all people must work
at something, would serve their turn well enough.  Yet again I knew that
this theory of the general and necessary hatefulness of work was indeed
the common one, and that all sorts of people held it, who without being
monsters of insensibility grew fat and jolly nevertheless.

So to explain this puzzle, I fell to thinking of the one life of which I
knew something—my own to wit—and out tumbled the bottom of the theory.

For I tried to think what would happen to me if I were forbidden my
ordinary daily work; and I knew that I should die of despair and
weariness, unless I could straightway take to something else which I
could make my daily work: and it was clear to me that I worked not in the
least in the world for the sake of earning leisure by it, but partly
driven by the fear of starvation or disgrace, and partly, and even a very
great deal, because I love the work itself: and as for my leisure: well I
had to confess that part of it I do indeed spend as a dog does—in
contemplation, let us say; and like it well enough: but part of it also I
spend in work: which work gives me just as much pleasure as my
bread-earning work—neither more nor less; and therefore could be no bribe
or hope for my work-a-day hours.

Then next I turned my thought to my friends: mere artists, and therefore,
you know, lazy people by prescriptive right: I found that the one thing
they enjoyed was their work, and that their only idea of happy leisure
was other work, just as valuable to the world as their work-a-day work:
they only differed from me in liking the dog-like leisure less and the
man-like labour more than I do.

I got no further when I turned from mere artists, to important men—public
men: I could see no signs of their working merely to earn leisure: they
all worked for the work and the deeds’ sake.  Do rich gentlemen sit up
all night in the House of Commons for the sake of earning leisure? if so,
’tis a sad waste of labour.  Or Mr. Gladstone? he doesn’t seem to have
succeeded in winning much leisure by tolerably strenuous work; what he
does get he might have got on much easier terms, I am sure.

Does it then come to this, that there are men, say a class of men, whose
daily work, though maybe they cannot escape from doing it, is chiefly
pleasure to them; and other classes of men whose daily work is wholly
irksome to them, and only endurable because they hope while they are
about it to earn thereby a little leisure at the day’s end?

If that were wholly true the contrast between the two kinds of lives
would be greater than the contrast between the utmost delicacy of life
and the utmost hardship could show, or between the utmost calm and utmost
trouble.  The difference would be literally immeasurable.

But I dare not, if I would, in so serious a matter overstate the evils I
call on you to attack: it is not wholly true that such immeasurable
difference exists between the lives of divers classes of men, or the
world would scarce have got through to past the middle of this century:
misery, grudging, and tyranny would have destroyed us all.

The inequality even at the worst is not really so great as that: any
employment in which a thing can be done better or worse has some pleasure
in it, for all men more or less like doing what they can do well: even
mechanical labour is pleasant to some people (to me amongst others) if it
be not too mechanical.

Nevertheless though it be not wholly true that the daily work of some men
is merely pleasant and of others merely grievous; yet it is over true
both that things are not very far short of this, and also that if people
do not open their eyes in time they will speedily worsen.  Some work,
nay, almost all the work done by artisans _is_ too mechanical; and those
that work at it must either abstract their thoughts from it altogether,
in which case they are but machines while they are at work; or else they
must suffer such dreadful weariness in getting through it, as one can
scarcely bear to think of.  Nature desires that we shall at least live,
but seldom, I suppose, allows this latter misery to happen; and the
workmen who do purely mechanical work do as a rule become mere machines
as far as their work is concerned.  Now as I am quite sure that no art,
not even the feeblest, rudest, or least intelligent, can come of such
work, so also I am sure that such work makes the workman less than a man
and degrades him grievously and unjustly, and that nothing can compensate
him or us for such degradation: and I want you specially to note that
this was instinctively felt in the very earliest days of what are called
the industrial arts.

When a man turned the wheel, or threw the shuttle, or hammered the iron,
he was expected to make something more than a water-pot, a cloth, or a
knife: he was expected to make a work of art also: he could scarcely
altogether fail in this, he might attain to making a work of the greatest
beauty: this was felt to be positively necessary to the peace of mind
both of the maker and the user; and this is it which I have called
Architecture: the turning of necessary articles of daily use into works
of art.

Certainly, when we come to think of it thus, there does seem to be little
less than that immeasurable contrast above mentioned between such work
and mechanical work: and most assuredly do I believe that the crafts
which fashion our familiar wares need this enlightenment of happiness no
less now than they did in the days of the early Pharaohs: but we have
forgotten this necessity, and in consequence have reduced handicraft to
such degradation, that a learned, thoughtful, and humane man can set
forth as an axiom that no man will work except to earn leisure thereby.

But now let us forget any conventional ways of looking at the labour
which produces the matters of our daily life, which ways come partly from
the wretched state of the arts in modern times, and partly I suppose from
that repulsion to handicraft which seems to have beset some minds in all
ages: let us forget this, and try to think how it really fares with the
divers ways of work in handicrafts.

I think one may divide the work with which Architecture is conversant
into three classes: first there is the purely mechanical: those who do
this are machines only, and the less they think of what they are doing
the better for the purpose, supposing they are properly drilled: the
purpose of this work, to speak plainly, is not the making of wares of any
kind, but what on the one hand is called employment, on the other what is
called money-making: that is to say, in other words, the multiplication
of the species of the mechanical workman, and the increase of the riches
of the man who sets him to work, called in our modern jargon by a strange
perversion of language, a manufacturer: {208} Let us call this kind of
work Mechanical Toil.

The second kind is more or less mechanical as the case may be; but it can
always be done better or worse: if it is to be well done, it claims
attention from the workman, and he must leave on it signs of his
individuality: there will be more or less of art in it, over which the
workman has at least some control; and he will work on it partly to earn
his bread in not too toilsome or disgusting a way, but in a way which
makes even his work-hours pass pleasantly to him, and partly to make
wares, which when made will be a distinct gain to the world; things that
will be praised and delighted in.  This work I would call Intelligent
Work.

The third kind of work has but little if anything mechanical about it; it
is altogether individual; that is to say, that what any man does by means
of it could never have been done by any other man.  Properly speaking,
this work is all pleasure: true, there are pains and perplexities and
weariness in it, but they are like the troubles of a beautiful life; the
dark places that make the bright ones brighter: they are the romance of
the work and do but elevate the workman, not depress him: I would call
this Imaginative Work.

Now I can fancy that at first sight it may seem to you as if there were
more difference between this last and Intelligent Work, than between
Intelligent Work and Mechanical Toil: but ’tis not so.  The difference
between these two is the difference between light and darkness, between
Ormuzd and Ahriman: whereas the difference between Intelligent work and
what for want of a better word I am calling Imaginative work, is a matter
of degree only; and in times when art is abundant and noble there is no
break in the chain from the humblest of the lower to the greatest of the
higher class; from the poor weaver’s who chuckles as the bright colour
comes round again, to the great painter anxious and doubtful if he can
give to the world the whole of his thought or only nine-tenths of it,
they are all artists—that is men; while the mechanical workman, who does
not note the difference between bright and dull in his colours, but only
knows them by numbers, is, while he is at his work, no man, but a
machine.  Indeed when Intelligent work coexists with Imaginative, there
is no hard and fast line between them; in the very best and happiest
times of art, there is scarce any Intelligent work which is not
Imaginative also; and there is but little of effort or doubt, or sign of
unexpressed desires even in the highest of the Imaginative work: the
blessing of Equality elevates the lesser, and calms the greater, art.

Now further, Mechanical Toil is bred of that hurry and thoughtfulness of
civilisation of which, as aforesaid, the middle classes of this country
have been such powerful furtherers: on the face of it it is hostile to
civilisation, a curse that civilisation has made for itself and can no
longer think of abolishing or controlling: such it seems, I say; but
since it bears with it change and tremendous change, it may well be that
there is something more than mere loss in it: it will full surely destroy
art as we know art, unless art newborn destroy it: yet belike at the
worst it will destroy other things beside which are the poison of art,
and in the long run itself also, and thus make way for the new art, of
whose form we know nothing.

Intelligent work is the child of struggling, hopeful, progressive
civilisation: and its office is to add fresh interest to simple and
uneventful lives, to soothe discontent with innocent pleasure fertile of
deeds gainful to mankind; to bless the many toiling millions with hope
daily recurring, and which it will by no means disappoint.

Imaginative work is the very blossom of civilisation triumphant and
hopeful; it would fain lead men to aspire towards perfection: each hope
that it fulfils gives birth to yet another hope: it bears in its bosom
the worth and the meaning of life and the counsel to strive to understand
everything; to fear nothing and to hate nothing: in a word, ’tis the
symbol and sacrament of the Courage of the World.

Now thus it stands to-day with these three kinds of work; Mechanical Toil
has swallowed Intelligent Work and all the lower part of Imaginative
Work, and the enormous mass of the very worst now confronts the slender
but still bright array of the very best: what is left of art is rallied
to its citadel of the highest intellectual art, and stands at bay there.

At first sight its hope of victory is slender indeed: yet to us now
living it seems as if man had not yet lost all that part of his soul
which longs for beauty: nay we cannot but hope that it is not yet dying.
If we are not deceived in that hope, if the art of to-day has really come
alive out of the slough of despond which we call the eighteenth century,
it will surely grow and gather strength and draw to it other forms of
intellect and hope that now scarcely know it; and then, whatever changes
it may go through, it will at the last be victorious, and bring abundant
content to mankind.  On the other hand, if, as some think, it be but the
reflection and feeble ghost of that glorious autumn which ended the good
days of the mighty art of the Middle Ages, it will take but little
killing: Mechanical Toil will sweep over all the handiwork of man, and
art will be gone.

I myself am too busy a man to trouble myself much as to what may happen
after that: I can only say that if you do not like the thought of that
dull blank, even if you know or care little for art, do not cast the
thought of it aside, but think of it again and again, and cherish the
trouble it breeds till such a future seems unendurable to you; and then
make up your minds that you will not bear it; and even if you distrust
the artists that now are, set yourself to clear the way for the artists
that are to come.  We shall not count you among our enemies then, however
hardly you deal with us.

I have spoken of one most important part of that task; I have prayed you
to set yourselves earnestly to protecting what is left, and recovering
what is lost of the Natural Fairness of the Earth: no less I pray you to
do what you may to raise up some firm ground amid the great flood of
mechanical toil, to make an effort to win human and hopeful work for
yourselves and your fellows.

But if our first task of guarding the beauty of the Earth was hard, this
is far harder, nor can I pretend to think that we can attack our enemy
directly; yet indirectly surely something may be done, or at least the
foundations laid for something.

For Art breeds Art, and every worthy work done and delighted in by maker
and user begets a longing for more: and since art cannot be fashioned by
mechanical toil, the demand for real art will mean a demand for
intelligent work, which if persisted in will in time create its due
supply—at least I hope so.

I believe that what I am now saying will be well understood by those who
really care about art, but to speak plainly I know that these are rarely
to be found even among the cultivated classes: it must be confessed that
the middle classes of our civilisation have embraced luxury instead of
art, and that we are even so blindly base as to hug ourselves on it, and
to insult the memory of valiant people of past times and to mock at them
because they were not encumbered with the nuisances that foolish habit
has made us look on as necessaries.  Be sure that we are not beginning to
prepare for the art that is to be, till we have swept all that out of our
minds, and are setting to work to rid ourselves of all the useless
luxuries (by some called comforts) that make our stuffy art-stifling
houses more truly savage than a Zulu’s kraal or an East Greenlander’s
snow hut.

I feel sure that many a man is longing to set his hand to this if he only
durst; I believe that there are simple people who think that they are
dull to art, and who are really only perplexed and wearied by finery and
rubbish: if not from these, ’tis at least from the children of these that
we may look for the beginnings of the building up of the art that is to
be.

Meanwhile, I say, till the beginning of new construction is obvious, let
us be at least destructive of the sham art: it is full surely one of the
curses of modern life, that if people have not time and eyes to discern
or money to buy the real object of their desire, they must needs have its
mechanical substitute.  On this lazy and cowardly habit feeds and grows
and flourishes mechanical toil and all the slavery of mind and body it
brings with it: from this stupidity are born the itch of the public to
over-reach the tradesmen they deal with, the determination (usually
successful) of the tradesmen to over-reach them, and all the mockery and
flouting that has been cast of late (not without reason) on the British
tradesman and the British workman,—men just as honest as ourselves, if we
would not compel them to cheat us, and reward them for doing it.

Now if the public knew anything of art, that is excellence in things made
by man, they would not abide the shams of it; and if the real thing were
not to be had, they would learn to do without, nor think their gentility
injured by the forbearance.

Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very
foundation of refinement: a sanded floor and whitewashed walls, and the
green trees, and flowery meads, and living waters outside; or a grimy
palace amid the smoke with a regiment of housemaids always working to
smear the dirt together so that it may be unnoticed; which, think you, is
the most refined, the most fit for a gentleman of those two dwellings?

So I say, if you cannot learn to love real art, at least learn to hate
sham art and reject it.  It is not so much because the wretched thing is
so ugly and silly and useless that I ask you to cast it from you; it is
much more because these are but the outward symbols of the poison that
lies within them: look through them and see all that has gone to their
fashioning, and you will see how vain labour, and sorrow, and disgrace
have been their companions from the first,—and all this for trifles that
no man really needs!

Learn to do without; there is virtue in those words; a force that rightly
used would choke both demand and supply of Mechanical Toil: would make it
stick to its last: the making of machines.

And then from simplicity of life would rise up the longing for beauty,
which cannot yet be dead in men’s souls, and we know that nothing can
satisfy that demand but Intelligent work rising gradually into
Imaginative work; which will turn all ‘operatives’ into workmen, into
artists, into men.

Now, I have been trying to show you how the hurry of modern Civilisation,
accompanied by the tyrannous Organisation of labour which was a necessity
to the full development of Competitive Commerce, has taken from the
people at large, gentle and simple, the eyes to discern and the hands to
fashion that popular art which was once the chief solace and joy of the
world: I have asked you to think of that as no light matter, but a
grievous mishap: I have prayed you to strive to remedy this evil: first
by guarding jealously what is left, and by trying earnestly to win back
what is lost of the Fairness of the Earth; and next by rejecting luxury,
that you may embrace art, if you can, or if indeed you in your short
lives cannot learn what art means, that you may at least live a simple
life fit for men.

And in all I have been saying, what I have been really urging on you is
this—Reverence for the life of Man upon the Earth: let the past be past,
every whit of it that is not still living in us: let the dead bury their
dead, but let us turn to the living, and with boundless courage and what
hope we may, refuse to let the Earth be joyless in the days to come.

What lies before us of hope or fear for this?  Well, let us remember that
those past days whose art was so worthy, did nevertheless forget much of
what was due to the Life of Man upon the Earth; and so belike it was to
revenge this neglect that art was delivered to our hands for maiming: to
us, who were blinded by our eager chase of those things which our
forefathers had neglected, and by the chase of other things which seemed
revealed to us on our hurried way, not seldom, it may be for our
beguiling.

And of that to which we were blinded, not all was unworthy: nay the most
of it was deep-rooted in men’s souls, and was a necessary part of their
Life upon the Earth, and claims our reverence still: let us add this
knowledge to our other knowledge: and there will still be a future for
the arts.  Let us remember this, and amid simplicity of life turn our
eyes to real beauty that can be shared by all: and then though the days
worsen, and no rag of the elder art be left for our teaching, yet the new
art may yet arise among us, and even if it have the hands of a child
together with the heart of a troubled man, still it may bear on for us to
better times the tokens of our reverence for the Life of Man upon the
Earth.  For we indeed freed from the bondage of foolish habit and dulling
luxury might at last have eyes wherewith to see: and should have to
babble to one another many things of our joy in the life around us: the
faces of people in the streets bearing the tokens of mirth and sorrow and
hope, and all the tale of their lives: the scraps of nature the busiest
of us would come across; birds and beasts and the little worlds they live
in; and even in the very town the sky above us and the drift of the
clouds across it; the wind’s hand on the slim trees, and its voice amid
their branches, and all the ever-recurring deeds of nature; nor would the
road or the river winding past our homes fail to tell us stories of the
country-side, and men’s doings in field and fell.  And whiles we should
fall to muse on the times when all the ways of nature were mere wonders
to men, yet so well beloved of them that they called them by men’s names
and gave them deeds of men to do; and many a time there would come before
us memories of the deed of past times, and of the aspirations of those
mighty peoples whose deaths have made our lives, and their sorrows our
joys.

How could we keep silence of all this? and what voice could tell it but
the voice of art: and what audience for such a tale would content us but
all men living on the Earth?

This is what Architecture hopes to be: it will have this life, or else
death; and it is for us now living between the past and the future to say
whether it shall live or die.



FOOTNOTES


{1}  _Delivered before the Trades’ Guild of Learning_, _December_ 4,
1877.

{38}  _Delivered before the Birmingham Society of Arts and School of
Design_, _February_ 19, 1879.

{50}  Now incorporated in the _Handbook of Indian Art_, by Dr. (now Sir
George) Birdwood, published by the Science and Art Department.

{61}  These were originally published in _Fun_.

{71}  _Delivered before the Birmingham Society of Arts and School of
Design_, _February_ 19, 1880.

{96}  As I corrected these sheets for the press, the case of two such
pieces of destruction is forced upon me: first, the remains of the
Refectory of Westminster Abbey, with the adjacent Ashburnham House, a
beautiful work, probably by Inigo Jones; and second, Magdalen Bridge at
Oxford.  Certainly this seems to mock my hope of the influence of
education on the Beauty of Life; since the first scheme of destruction is
eagerly pressed forward by the authorities of Westminster School, the
second scarcely opposed by the resident members of the University of
Oxford.

{100}  Since perhaps some people may read these words who are not of
Birmingham, I ought to say that it was authoritatively explained at the
meeting to which I addressed these words, that in Birmingham the law is
strictly enforced.

{103}  Not _quite_ always: in the little colony at Bedford Park,
Chiswick, as many trees have been left as possible, to the boundless
advantage of its quaint and pretty architecture.

{114}  _A Paper read before tile Trades’ Guild of Learning and the
Birmingham Society of Artists_.

{128}  I know that well-designed hammered iron trellises and gates have
been used happily enough, though chiefly in rather grandiose gardens, and
so they might be again—one of these days—but I fear not yet awhile.

{169}  _Delivered at the London Institution_, _March_ 10, 1880.

{186}  Indeed it is a new world now, when the new Cowley dog-holes must
needs slay Magdalen Bridge!—Nov. 1881.

{208}  Or, to put it plainer still, the unlimited breeding of mechanical
workmen as _mechanical workmen_, not as _men_.





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