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Title: Picture and Text - 1893
Author: James, Henry
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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PICTURE AND TEXT

By Henry James

Harper And Brothers - MDCCCXCIII



NOTE

Two of the following papers were originally published, with
illustrations, in Harper’s Magazine and the title of one of them--the
first of titles has been altered from “Our Artists in Europe.” The
other, the article on Mr. Sargent, was accompanied by reproductions
of several of his portraits. The notice of Mr. Abbey and that of Mr.
Reinhart appeared in Harper’s Weekly. That of Mr. Alfred Parsons figured
as an introduction to the catalogue of an exhibition of his pictures.
The sketch of Daumier was first contributed to _The Century_, and “After
the Play” to _The New Review_.



BLACK AND WHITE

[Illustration: Black and White Page Image]

If there be nothing new under the sun there are some things a good
deal less old than others. The illustration of books, and even more of
magazines, may be said to have been born in our time, so far as
variety and abundance are the signs of it; or born, at any rate, the
comprehensive, ingenious, sympathetic spirit in which we conceive and
practise it.

If the centuries are ever arraigned at some bar of justice to answer
in regard to what they have given, of good or of bad, to humanity, our
interesting age (which certainly is not open to the charge of having
stood with its hands in its pockets) might perhaps do worse than put
forth the plea of having contributed a fresh interest in “black and
white.” The claim may now be made with the more confidence from the very
evident circumstance that this interest is far from exhausted. These
pages are an excellent place for such an assumption. In Harper they have
again and again, as it were, illustrated the illustration, and they
constitute for the artist a series of invitations, provocations and
opportunities. They may be referred to without arrogance in support of
the contention that the limits of this large movement, with all its new
and rare refinement, are not yet in sight.



I

It is on the contrary the constant extension that is visible, with
the attendant circumstances of multiplied experiment and intensified
research--circumstances that lately pressed once more on the attention
of the writer of these remarks on his finding himself in the particular
spot which history will perhaps associate most with the charming
revival. A very old English village, lying among its meadows and hedges,
in the very heart of the country, in a hollow of the green hills of
Worcestershire, is responsible directly and indirectly for some of the
most beautiful work in black and white with which I am at liberty to
concern myself here; in other words, for much of the work of Mr. Abbey
and Mr. Alfred Parsons. I do not mean that Broadway has told these
gentlemen all they know (the name, from which the American reader has to
brush away an incongruous association, may as well be written first as
last); for Mr. Parsons, in particular, who knows everything that can be
known about English fields and flowers, would have good reason to insist
that the measure of his large landscape art is a large experience. I
only suggest that if one loves Broadway and is familiar with it, and
if a part of that predilection is that one has seen Mr. Abbey and Mr.
Parsons at work there, the pleasant confusion takes place of itself;
one’s affection for the wide, long, grass-bordered vista of brownish
gray cottages, thatched, latticed, mottled, mended, ivied, immemorial,
grows with the sense of its having ministered to other minds and
transferred itself to other recipients; just as the beauty of many a
bit in many a drawing of the artists I have mentioned is enhanced by the
sense, or at any rate by the desire, of recognition. Broadway and much
of the land about it are in short the perfection of the old English
rural tradition, and if they do not underlie all the combinations by
which (in their pictorial accompaniments to rediscovered ballads, their
vignettes to story or sonnet) these particular talents touch us almost
to tears, we feel at least that they _would_ have sufficed: they cover
the scale.

[Illustration: Priory]

In regard, however, to the implications and explications of this
perfection of a village, primarily and to be just, Broadway is, more
than any one else. Mr. Frank Millet. Mr. Laurence Hutton discovered but
Mr. Millet appropriated it: its sweetness was wasted until he began to
distil and bottle it. He disinterred the treasure, and with impetuous
liberality made us sharers in his fortune. His own work, moreover,
betrays him, as well as the gratitude of participants, as I could easily
prove if it did not perversely happen that he has commemorated most of
his impressions in color. That excludes them from the small space here
at my command; otherwise I could testify to the identity of old nooks
and old objects, those that constitute both out-of-door and in-door
furniture.

[Illustration: The village-green, Broadway]

In such places as Broadway, and it is part of the charm of them to
American eyes, the sky looks down on almost as many “things” as
the ceiling, and “things” are the joy of the illustrator. Furnished
apartments are useful to the artist, but a furnished country is still
more to his purpose. A ripe midland English region is a museum of
accessories and specimens, and is sure, under any circumstances,
to contain the article wanted. This is the great recommendation of
Broadway; everything in it is convertible. Even the passing visitor
finds himself becoming so; the place has so much character that it rubs
off on him, and if in an old garden--an old garden with old gates and
old walls and old summer-houses--he lies down on the old grass (on
an immemorial rug, no doubt), it is ten to one but that he will be
converted. The little oblong sheaves of blank paper with elastic straps
are fluttering all over the place. There is portraiture in the air and
composition in the very accidents. Everything is a subject or an effect,
a “bit” or a good thing. It is always some kind of day; if it be not one
kind it is another. The garden walls, the mossy roofs, the open doorways
and brown interiors, the old-fashioned flowers, the bushes in figures,
the geese on the green, the patches, the jumbles, the glimpses, the
color, the surface, the general complexion of things, have all a value,
a reference and an application. If they are a matter of appreciation,
that is why the gray-brown houses are perhaps more brown than gray, and
more yellow than either. They are various things in turn, according to
lights and days and needs. It is a question of color (all consciousness
at Broadway is that), but the irresponsible profane are not called upon
to settle the tint.

It is delicious to be at Broadway and to _be_ one of the irresponsible
profane--not to have to draw. The single street is in the grand style,
sloping slowly upward to the base of the hills for a mile, but you may
enjoy it without a carking care as to how to “render” the perspective.
Everything is stone except the general greenness--a charming smooth
local stone, which looks as if it had been meant for great constructions
and appears even in dry weather to have been washed and varnished by the
rain. Half-way up the road, in the widest place, where the coaches used
to turn (there were many of old, but the traffic of Broadway was blown
to pieces by steam, though the destroyer has not come nearer than half a
dozen miles), a great gabled mansion, which was once a manor or a
house of state, and is now a rambling inn, stands looking at a detached
swinging sign which is almost as big as itself--a very grand sign, the
“arms” of an old family, on the top of a very tall post. You will find
something very like the place among Mr. Abbey’s delightful illustrations
to, “She Stoops to Conquer.” When the September day grows dim and some
of the windows glow, you may look out, if you like, for Tony Lumpkin’s
red coat in the doorway or imagine Miss Hardcastle’s quilted petticoat
on the stair.



II

[Illustration: Millet]

It is characteristic of Mr. Frank Millet’s checkered career, with
opposites so much mingled in it, that such work as he has done for
Harper should have had as little in common as possible with midland
English scenery. He has been less a producer in black and white than a
promoter and, as I may say, a protector of such production in others;
but none the less the back volumes of Harper testify to the activity of
his pencil as well as to the variety of his interests. There was a time
when he drew little else but Cossacks and Orientals, and drew them as
one who had good cause to be vivid. Of the young generation he was the
first to know the Russian plastically, especially the Russian soldier,
and he had paid heavily for his acquaintance. During the Russo-Turkish
war he was correspondent in the field (with the victors) of the New York
_Herald_ and the London _Daily News_--a capacity in which he made many
out-of-the-way, many precious, observations. He has seen strange
countries--the East and the South and the West and the North--and
practised many arts. To the London _Graphic_, in 1877 he sent striking
sketches from the East, as well as capital prose to the journals I have
mentioned. He has always been as capable of writing a text for his own
sketches as of making sketches for the text of others. He has made
pictures without words and words without pictures. He has written some
very clever ghost-stories, and drawn and painted some very immediate
realities. He has lately given himself up to these latter objects, and
discovered that they have mysteries more absorbing than any others. I
find in Harper, in 1885. “A Wild-goose Chase” through North Germany and
Denmark, in which both pencil and pen are Mr. Millet’s, and both show
the natural and the trained observer.

He knows the art-schools of the Continent, the studios of Paris, the
“dodges” of Antwerp, the subjects, the models of Venice, and has had
much æsthetic as well as much personal experience. He has draped and
distributed Greek plays at Harvard, as well as ridden over Balkans to
post pressing letters, and given publicity to English villages in which
susceptible Americans may get the strongest sensations with the least
trouble to themselves. If the trouble in each case will have been
largely his, this is but congruous with the fact that he has not only
found time to have a great deal of history himself, but has suffered
himself to be converted by others into an element--beneficent I should
call it if discretion did not forbid me--of _their_ history. Springing
from a very old New England stock, he has found the practice of art a
wonderful antidote, in his own language, “for belated Puritanism.” He is
very modern, in the sense of having tried many things and availed
himself of all of the facilities of his time; but especially on this
ground of having fought out for himself the battle of the Puritan habit
and the æsthetic experiment. His experiment was admirably successful
from the moment that the Puritan levity was forced to consent to its
becoming a serious one. In other words, if Mr. Millet is artistically
interesting to-day (and to the author of these remarks he is highly so),
it is because he is a striking example of what the typical American
quality can achieve.

He began by having an excellent pencil, because as a thoroughly
practical man he could not possibly have had a weak one. But nothing
is more remunerative to follow than the stages by which “faculty” in
general (which is what I mean by the characteristic American quality)
has become the particular faculty; so that if in the artist’s present
work one recognizes--recognizes even fondly--the national handiness, it
is as handiness regenerate and transfigured. The American adaptiveness
has become a Dutch finish. The only criticism I have to make is of the
preordained paucity of Mr. Millet’s drawings; for my mission is not to
speak of his work in oils, every year more important (as was indicated
by the brilliant interior with figures that greeted the spectator in so
friendly a fashion on the threshold of the Royal Academy exhibition
of 1888), nor to say that it is illustration too--illustration of
any old-fashioned song or story that hums in the brain or haunts the
memory--nor even to hint that the admirable rendering of the charming
old objects with which it deals (among which I include the human face
and figure in dresses unfolded from the lavender of the past), the old
surfaces and tones, the stuffs and textures, the old mahogany and silver
and brass--the old sentiment too, and the old picture-making vision--are
in the direct tradition of Terburg and De Hoogh and Metzu.



III

There is no paucity about Mr. Abbey as a virtuoso in black and white,
and if one thing more than another sets the seal upon the quality of
his work, it is the rare abundance in which it is produced. It is not a
frequent thing to find combinations infinite as well as exquisite. Mr.
Abbey has so many ideas, and the gates of composition have been
opened so wide to him, that we cultivate his company with a mixture of
confidence and excitement. The readers of Harper have had for years a
great deal of it, and they will easily recognize the feeling I allude
to--the expectation of familiarity in variety. The beautiful art and
taste, the admirable execution, strike the hour with the same note; but
the figure, the scene, is ever a fresh conception. Never was ripe skill
less mechanical, and never was the faculty of perpetual evocation less
addicted to prudent economies. Mr. Abbey never saves for the next
picture, yet the next picture will be as expensive as the last. His
whole career has been open to the readers of Harper, so that what they
may enjoy on any particular occasion is not only the talent, but a kind
of affectionate sense of the history of the talent, That history is,
from the beginning, in these pages, and it is one of the most
interesting and instructive, just as the talent is one of the richest
and the most sympathetic in the art-annals of our generation. I may as
well frankly declare that I have such a taste for Mr. Abbey’s work that
I cannot affect a judicial tone about it. Criticism is appreciation or
it is nothing, and an intelligence of the matter in hand is recorded
more substantially in a single positive sign of such appreciation than
in a volume of sapient objections for objection’s sake--the cheapest of
all literary commodities. Silence is the perfection of disapproval, and
it has the great merit of leaving the value of speech, when the moment
comes for it, unimpaired.

Accordingly it is important to translate as adequately as possible the
positive side of Mr. Abbey’s activity. None to-day is more charming, and
none helps us more to take the large, joyous, observant, various view
of the business of art. He has enlarged the idea of illustration, and
he plays with it in a hundred spontaneous, ingenious ways. “Truth and
poetry” is the motto legibly stamped upon his pencil-case, for if he has
on the one side a singular sense of the familiar, salient, importunate
facts of life, on the other they reproduce themselves in his mind in a
delightfully qualifying medium. It is this medium that the fond observer
must especially envy Mr. Abbey, and that a literary observer will envy
him most of all.

Such a hapless personage, who may have spent hours in trying to produce
something of the same result by sadly different means, will measure
the difference between the roundabout, faint descriptive tokens of
respectable prose and the immediate projection of the figure by the
pencil. A charming story-teller indeed he would be who should write as
Mr. Abbey draws. However, what is style for one art is style for other,
so blessed is the fraternity that binds them together, and the worker
in words may take a lesson from the picture-maker of “She Stoops to
Conquer.” It is true that what the verbal artist would like to do
would be to find out the secret of the pictorial, to drink at the same
fountain. Mr. Abbey is essentially one of those who would tell us if he
could, and conduct us to the magic spring; but here he is in the nature
of the case helpless, for the happy _ambiente_ as the Italians call it,
in which his creations move is exactly the thing, as I take it, that
he can least give an account of. It is a matter of genius and
imagination--one of those things that a man determines for himself as
little as he determines the color of his eyes. How, for instance, can
Mr. Abbey explain the manner in which he directly _observes_ figures,
scenes, places, that exist only in the fairy-land of his fancy? For the
peculiar sign of his talent is surely this observation in the remote. It
brings the remote near to us, but such a complicated journey as it must
first have had to make! Remote in time (in differing degrees), remote
in place, remote in feeling, in habit, and in their ambient air, are the
images that spring from his pencil, and yet all so vividly, so minutely,
so consistently seen! Where does he see them, where does he find them,
how does he catch them, and in what language does he delightfully
converse with them? In what mystic recesses of space does the revelation
descend upon him?

The questions flow from the beguiled but puzzled admirer, and their
tenor sufficiently expresses the claim I make for the admirable artist
when I say that his truth is interfused with poetry. He spurns the
literal and yet superabounds in the characteristic, and if he makes
the strange familiar he makes the familiar just strange enough to be
distinguished. Everything is so human, so humorous and so caught in the
act, so buttoned and petticoated and gartered, that it might be round
the corner; and so it is--but the corner is the corner of another world.
In that other world Mr. Abbey went forth to dwell in extreme youth, as I
need scarcely be at pains to remind those who have followed him in
Harper. It is not important here to give a catalogue of his
contributions to that journal: turn to the back volumes and you will
meet him at every step. Every one remembers his young, tentative,
prelusive illustrations to Herrick, in which there are the prettiest
glimpses, guesses and foreknowledge of the effects he was to make
completely his own. The Herrick was done mainly, if I mistake not,
before he had been to England, and it remains, in the light of this
fact, a singularly touching as well as a singularly promising
performance. The eye of sense in such a case had to be to a rare extent
the mind’s eye, and this convertibility of the two organs has persisted.

From the first and always that other world and that qualifying medium
in which I have said that the human spectacle goes on for Mr. Abbey have
been a county of old England which is not to be found in any geography,
though it borders, as I have hinted, on the Worcestershire Broadway. Few
artistic phenomena are more curious than the congenital acquaintance of
this perverse young Philadelphian with that mysterious locality. It is
there that he finds them all--the nooks, the corners, the people, the
clothes, the arbors and gardens and teahouses, the queer courts of old
inns, the sun-warmed angles of old parapets. I ought to have mentioned
for completeness, in addition to his pictures to Goldsmith and to the
scraps of homely British song (this latter class has contained some of
his most exquisite work), his delicate drawing’s for Mr. William Black’s
_Judith Shakespeare_. And in relation to that distinguished name--I
don’t mean Mr. Black’s--it is a comfort, if I may be allowed the
expression, to know that (as, to the best of my belief, I violate
no confidence in saying) he is even now engaged in the great work of
illustrating the comedies. He is busy with “The Merchant of Venice;”
 he is up to his neck in studies, in rehearsals. Here again, while in
prevision I admire the result, what I can least refrain from expressing
is a sort of envy of the process, knowing what it is with Mr. Abbey and
what explorations of the delightful it entails--arduous, indefatigable,
till the end seems almost smothered in the means (such material
complications they engender), but making one’s daily task a thing of
beauty and honor and beneficence.



IV

[Illustration: Alfred Parsons]

Even if Mr. Alfred Parsons were not a masterly contributor to the pages
of Harper, it would still be almost inevitable to speak of him after
speaking of Mr. Abbey, for the definite reason (I hope that in giving it
I may not appear to invade too grossly the domain of private life)
that these gentlemen are united in domestic circumstance as well as
associated in the nature of their work. In London, in the relatively
lucid air of Campden Hill, they dwell together, and their beautiful
studios are side by side. However, there is a reason for commemorating
Mr. Parsons’ work which has nothing to do with the accidental--the
simple fact that that work forms the richest illustration of the English
landscape that is offered us to-day. Harper has for a long time past
been full of Mr. Alfred Parsons, who has made the dense, fine detail
of his native land familiar in far countries, amid scenery of a very
different type. This is what the modern illustration can do when the
ripeness of the modern sense is brought to it and the wood-cutter plays
with difficulties as the brilliant Americans do to-day, following his
original at a breakneck pace. An illusion is produced which, in its very
completeness, makes one cast an uneasy eye over the dwindling fields
that are still left to conquer. Such art as Alfred Parsons’--such an
accomplished translation of local aspects, translated in its turn by
cunning hands and diffused by a wonderful system of periodicity through
vast and remote communities, has, I confess, in a peculiar degree, the
effect that so many things have in this age of multiplication--that
of suppressing intervals and differences and making the globe seem
alarmingly small. Vivid and repeated evocations of English rural
things--the meadows and lanes, the sedgy streams, the old orchards and
timbered houses, the stout, individual, insular trees, the flowers under
the hedge and in it and over it, the sweet rich country seen from the
slope, the bend of the unformidable river, the actual romance of the
castle against the sky, the place on the hill-side where the gray church
begins to peep (a peaceful little grassy path leads up to it over
a stile)--all this brings about a terrible displacement of the very
objects that make pilgrimage a passion, and hurries forward that
ambiguous advantage which I don’t envy our grandchildren, that of
knowing all about everything in advance, having trotted round the globe
annually in the magazines and lost the bloom of personal experience. It
is a part of the general abolition of mystery with which we are all so
complacently busy today. One would like to retire to another planet with
a box of Mr. Parsons’ drawings, and be homesick there for the pleasant
places they commemorate.

There are many things to be said about his talent, some of which are
not the easiest in the world to express. I shall not, however, make them
more difficult by attempting to catalogue his contributions in these
pages. A turning of the leaves of Harper brings one constantly face to
face with him, and a systematic search speedily makes one intimate.
The reader will remember the beautiful Illustrations to Mr. Blackmore’s
novel of _Springhaven_, which were interspersed with striking
figure-pieces from the pencil of that very peculiar pictorial humorist
Mr. Frederick Barnard, who, allowing for the fact that he always seems
a little too much to be drawing for Dickens and that the footlights
are the illumination of his scenic world, has so remarkable a sense of
English types and attitudes, costumes and accessories, in what may be
called the great-coat-and-gaiters period--the period when people
were stiff with riding and wicked conspiracies went forward in sanded
provincial inn-parlors. Mr. Alfred Parsons, who is still conveniently
young, waked to his first vision of pleasant material in the
comprehensive county of Somerset--a capital centre of impression for a
painter of the bucolic. He has been to America; he has even reproduced
with remarkable discrimination and truth some of the way-side objects
of that country, not making them look in the least like their English
equivalents, if equivalents they may be said to have. Was it there that
Mr. Parsons learned so well how Americans would like England to appear?
I ask this idle question simply because the England of his pencil, and
not less of his brush (of his eminent brush there would be much to say),
is exactly the England that the American imagination, restricted
to itself, constructs from the poets, the novelists, from all the
delightful testimony it inherits. It was scarcely to have been supposed
possible that the native point of view would embrace and observe so
many of the things that the more or less famished outsider is, in vulgar
parlance, “after.” In other words (though I appear to utter a foolish
paradox), the danger might have been that Mr. Parsons knew his subject
too well to feel it--to feel it, I mean, _à l’Américaine_. He is as
tender of it as if he were vague about it, and as certain of it as if he
were _blasé_.

But after having wished that his country should be just so, we proceed
to discover that it is in fact not a bit different. Between these phases
of our consciousness he is an unfailing messenger. The reader will
remember how often he has accompanied with pictures the text of some
amiable paper describing a pastoral region--Warwickshire or Surrey.
Devonshire or the Thames. He will remember his exquisite designs for
certain of Wordsworth’s sonnets. A sonnet of Wordsworth is a difficult
thing to illustrate, but Mr. Parsons’ ripe taste has shown him the way.
Then there are lovely morsels from his hand associated with the drawings
of his friend Mr. Abbey--head-pieces, tailpieces, vignettes, charming
combinations of flower and foliage, decorative clusters of all sorts
of pleasant rural emblems. If he has an inexhaustible feeling for the
country in general, his love of the myriad English flowers is perhaps
the fondest part of it. He draws them with a rare perfection, and
always--little definite, delicate, tremulous things as they are--with
a certain nobleness. This latter quality, indeed. I am prone to find in
all his work, and I should insist on it still more if I might refer
to his important paintings. So composite are the parts of which any
distinguished talent is made up that we have to feel our way as we
enumerate them; and yet that very ambiguity is a challenge to analysis
and to characterization. This “nobleness” on Mr. Parsons’ part is the
element of style--something large and manly, expressive of the total
character of his facts. His landscape is the landscape of the male
vision, and yet his touch is full of sentiment, of curiosity and
endearment. These things, and others besides, make him the most
interesting, the most living, of the new workers in his line. And what
shall I say of the other things besides? How can I take precautions
enough to say that among the new workers, deeply English as he is, there
is comparatively something French in his manner? Many people will like
him because they see in him--or they think they do--a certain happy
mean. Will they not fancy they catch him taking the middle way between
the unsociable French _étude_ and the old-fashioned English “picture”?
If one of these extremes is a desert, the other, no doubt, is an oasis
still more vain. I have a recollection of productions of Mr. Alfred
Parsons’ which might have come from a Frenchman who was in love with
English river-sides. I call to mind no studies--if he has made any--of
French scenery; but if I did they would doubtless appear English enough.
It is the fashion among sundry to maintain that the English landscape
is of no use for _la peinture sérieuse_, that it is wanting in technical
accent and is in general too storytelling, too self-conscious
and dramatic also too lumpish and stodgy, of a green--_d’un vert
bête_--which, when reproduced, looks like that of the chromo. Certain
it is that there are many hands which are not to be trusted with it,
and taste and integrity have been known to go down before it. But Alfred
Parsons may be pointed to as one who has made the luxuriant and
lovable things of his own country almost as “serious” as those familiar
objects--the pasture and the poplar--which, even when infinitely
repeated by the great school across the Channel, strike us as but meagre
morsels of France.



V

[Illustration: Mr. George H. Boughton]

In speaking of Mr. George H. Boughton, A.R.A., I encounter the same
difficulty as with Mr. Millet: I find the window closed through which
alone almost it is just to take a view of his talent. Mr. Boughton is
a painter about whom there is little that is new to tell to-day, so
conspicuous and incontestable is his achievement, the fruit of a career
of which the beginning was not yesterday. He is a draughtsman and an
illustrator only on occasion and by accident. These accidents have
mostly occurred, however, in the pages of Harper, and the happiest of
them will still be fresh in the memory of its readers. In the _Sketching
Rambles in Holland_ Mr. Abbey was a participant (as witness, among many
things, the admirable drawing of the old Frisian woman bent over her
Bible in church, with the heads of the burghers just visible above the
rough archaic pew-tops--a drawing opposite to page 112 in the handsome
volume into which these contributions were eventually gathered
together); but most of the sketches were Mr. Boughton’s, and the
charming, amusing text is altogether his, save in the sense that
it commemorates his companion’s impressions as well as his own--the
delightful, irresponsible, visual, sensual, pictorial, capricious
impressions of a painter in a strange land, the person surely whom
at particular moments one would give most to be. If there be anything
happier than the impressions of a painter, it is the impressions of two,
and the combination is set forth with uncommon spirit and humor in this
frank record of the innocent lust of the eyes. Mr. Boughton scruples
little, in general, to write as well as to draw, when the fancy takes
him; to write in the manner of painters, with the bold, irreverent,
unconventional, successful brush. If I were not afraid of the
patronizing tone I would say that there is little doubt that if as a
painter he had not had to try to write in character, he would certainly
have made a characteristic writer. He has the most enviable “finds,” not
dreamed of in timid literature, yet making capital descriptive prose.
Other specimens of them may be encountered in two or three Christmas
tales, signed with the name whose usual place is the corner of a
valuable canvas.

If Mr. Boughton is in this manner not a simple talent, further
complications and reversions may be observed in him, as, for instance,
that having reverted from America, where he spent his early years, back
to England, the land of his origin, he has now in a sense oscillated
again from the latter to the former country. He came to London one day
years ago (from Paris, where he had been eating nutritively of the tree
of artistic knowledge), in order to re-embark on the morrow for the
United States; but that morrow never came--it has never come yet.
Certainly now it never _can_ come, for the country that Mr. Boughton
left behind him in his youth is no longer there; the “old New York” is
no longer a port to sail to, unless for phantom ships. In imagination,
however, the author of “The Return of the _Mayflower_” has several times
taken his way back; he has painted with conspicuous charm and success
various episodes of the early Puritan story. He was able on occasion
to remember vividly enough the low New England coast and the thin New
England air. He has been perceptibly an inventor, calling into being
certain types of face and dress, certain tones and associations of color
(all in the line of what I should call subdued harmonies if I were not
afraid of appearing to talk a jargon), which people are hungry for when
they acquire “a Boughton,” and which they can obtain on no other terms.
This pictorial element in which he moves is made up of divers delicate
things, and there would be a roughness in attempting to unravel the
tapestry. There is old English, and old American, and old Dutch in
it, and a friendly, unexpected new Dutch too--an ingredient of New
Amsterdam--a strain of Knickerbocker and of Washington Irving. There is
an admirable infusion of landscape in it, from which some people regret
that Mr. Boughton should ever have allowed himself to be distracted by
his importunate love of sad-faced, pretty women in close-fitting coifs
and old silver-clasped cloaks. And indeed, though his figures are very
“tender,” his landscape is to my sense tenderer still. Moreover, Mr.
Boughton bristles, not aggressively, but in the degree of a certain
conciliatory pertinacity, with contradictious properties. He lives in
one of the prettiest and most hospitable houses in London, but the note
of his work is the melancholy of rural things, of lonely people and of
quaint, far-off legend and refrain. There is a delightful ambiguity of
period and even of clime in him, and he rejoices in that inability to
depict the modern which is the most convincing sign of the contemporary.
He has a genius for landscape, yet he abounds in knowledge of every sort
of ancient fashion of garment; the buckles and button-holes, the very
shoe-ties, of the past are dear to him. It is almost always autumn or
winter in his pictures. His horizons are cold, his trees are bare (he
does the bare tree beautifully), and his draperies lined with fur; but
when he exhibits himself directly, as in the fantastic “Rambles” before
mentioned, contagious high spirits are the clearest of his showing.
Here he appears as an irrepressible felicitous sketcher, and I know no
pleasanter record of the joys of sketching, or even of those of simply
looking. Théophile Gautier himself was not more inveterately addicted to
this latter wanton exercise. There ought to be a pocket edition of Mr.
Boughton’s book, which would serve for travellers in other countries
too, give them the point of view and put them in the mood. Such
a blessing, and such a distinction too, is it to have an eye. Mr.
Boughton’s, in his good-humored Dutch wanderings, holds from morning
till night a sociable, graceful revel. From the moment it opens till the
moment it closes, its day is a round of adventures. His jolly pictorial
narrative, reflecting every glint of October sunshine and patch of
russet shade, tends to confirm us afresh in the faith that the painter’s
life is the best life, the life that misses fewest impressions.



VI

[Illustration: Du Maurier]

Mr. Du Maurier has a brilliant history, but it must be candidly
recognized that it is written or drawn mainly in an English periodical.
It is only during the last two or three years that the most ironical of
the artists of _Punch_ has exerted himself for the entertainment of the
readers of Harper; but I seem to come too late with any commentary on
the nature of his satire or the charm of his execution. When he began to
appear in Harper he was already an old friend, and for myself I confess
I have to go through rather a complicated mental operation to put into
words what I think of him. What does a man think of the language he
has learned to speak? He judges it only while he is learning. Mr. Du
Maurier’s work, in regard to the life it embodies, is not so much a
thing we see as one of the conditions of seeing. He has interpreted for
us for so many years the social life of England that the interpretation
has become the text itself. We have accepted his types, his categories,
his conclusions, his sympathies and his ironies, It is not given to all
the world to thread the mazes of London society, and for the great body
of the disinherited, the vast majority of the Anglo-Saxon public. Mr. Du
Maurier’s representation is the thing represented. Is the effect of it
to nip in the bud any remote yearning for personal participation? I feel
tempted to say yes, when I think of the follies, the flatnesses, the
affectations and stupidities that his teeming pencil has made vivid. But
that vision immediately merges itself in another--a panorama of tall,
pleasant, beautiful people, placed in becoming attitudes, in charming
gardens, in luxurious rooms, so that I can scarcely tell which is the
more definite, the impression satiric or the impression plastic.

This I take to be a sign that Mr. Du Maurier knows how to be general
and has a conception of completeness. The world amuses him, such queer
things go on in it; but the part that amuses him most is certain lines
of our personal structure. That amusement is the brightest; the other
is often sad enough. A sharp critic might accuse Mr. Du Maurier of
lingering too complacently on the lines in question; of having a
certain ideal of “lissome” elongation to which the promiscuous truth is
sometimes sacrificed. But in fact this artist’s P truth never pretends
to be promiscuous; it is avowedly select and specific. What he depicts
is so preponderantly the “tapering” people that the remainder of the
picture, in a notice as brief as the present, may be neglected. If his
_dramatis personæ_ are not all the tenants of drawing-rooms, they are
represented at least in some relation to these. ‘Arry and his friends
at the fancy fair are in society for the time; the point of introducing
them is to show how the contrast intensifies them. Of late years Mr. Du
Maurier has perhaps been a little too docile to the muse of elegance;
the idiosyncrasies of the “masher” and the high girl with elbows have
beguiled him into occasional inattention to the doings of the short and
shabby. But his career has been long and rich, and I allude, in such
words, but to a moment of it.

The moral of it--I refer to the artistic one--seen altogether, is
striking and edifying enough. What Mr. Du Maurier has attempted to do is
to give, in a thousand interrelated drawings, a general satiric picture
of the social life of his time and country. It is easy to see that
through them “an increasing purpose runs;” they all hang together and
refer to each other--complete, confirm, correct, illuminate each other.
Sometimes they are not satiric: satire is not pure charm, and the artist
has allowed himself to “go in” for pure charm. Sometimes he has allowed
himself to go in for pure fantasy, so that satire (which should hold on
to the mane of the real) slides off the other side of the runaway horse.
But he remains, on the whole, pencil in hand, a wonderfully copious and
veracious historian of his age and his civilization.



VII

I have left Mr. Reinhart to the last because of his importance, and now
this very importance operates as a restriction and even as a sort of
reproach to me. To go well round him at a deliberate pace would take
a whole book. With Mr. Abbey, Mr. Reinhart is the artist who has
contributed most abundantly to Harper; his work, indeed, in quantity,
considerably exceeds Mr. Abbey’s. He is the observer of the immediate,
as Mr. Abbey is that of the considerably removed, and the conditions he
asks us to accept are less expensive to the imagination than those of
his colleague. He is, in short, the vigorous, racy _prosateur_ of that
human comedy of which Mr. Abbey is the poet. He illustrates the
modern sketch of travel, the modern tale--the poor little “quiet,”
 psychological, conversational modern tale, which I often think the
artist invited to represent it to the eye must hate, unless he be a very
intelligent master, little, on a superficial view, would there appear to
be in it to represent. The superficial view is, after all, the natural
one for the picture-maker. A talent of the first order, however, only
wants to be set thinking, as a single word will often make it. Mr.
Reinhart at any rate, triumphs; whether there be life or not in the
little tale itself, there is unmistakable life in his version of it.
Mr. Reinhart deals in that element purely with admirable frankness
and vigor. He is not so much suggestive as positively and sharply
representative. His facility, his agility, his universality are a truly
stimulating sight. He asks not too many questions of his subject, but to
those he does ask he insists upon a thoroughly intelligible answer. By
his universality I mean perhaps as much as anything else his admirable
drawing; not precious, as the æsthetic say, nor pottering, as the
vulgar, but free, strong and secure, which enables him to do with the
human figure at a moment’s notice anything that any occasion may demand.
It gives him an immense range, and I know not how to express (it is
not easy) my sense of a certain capable indifference that is in him
otherwise than by saying that he would quite as soon do one thing as
another.

For it is true that the admirer of his work rather misses in him that
intimation of a secret preference which many strong draughtsmen show,
and which is not absent, for instance (I don’t mean the secret, but the
intimation), from the beautiful doings of Mr. Abbey. It is extremely
present in Mr. Du Maurier’s work, just as it was visible, less
elusively, in that of John Leech, his predecessor in _Punch_. Mr. Abbey
has a haunting type; Du Maurier has a haunting type. There was little
perhaps of the haunted about Leech, but we know very well how he wanted
his pretty girls, his British swell, and his “hunting men” to look. He
betrayed a predilection; he had his little ideal. That an artist may be
a great force and not have a little ideal, the scarcely too much to be
praised Charles Keene is there (I mean he is in _Punch_) to show us.
He has not a haunting type--not he--and I think that no one has yet
discovered how he would have liked his pretty girls to look. He has kept
the soft conception too much to himself--he has not trifled with the
common truth by letting it appear. This common truth, in its innumerable
combinations, is what Mr. Rein-hart also shows us (with of course
infinitely less of a _parti pris_ of laughing at it), though, as I must
hasten to add, the female face and form in his hands always happen to
take on a much lovelier cast than in Mr. Keene’s. These things with him,
however, are not a private predilection, an artist’s dream. Mr. Reinhart
is solidly an artist, but I doubt whether as yet he dreams, and the
absence of private predilections makes him seem a little hard. He is
sometimes rough with our average humanity, and especially rough with the
feminine portion of it. He usually represents American life, in which
that portion is often spoken of as showing to peculiar advantage. But
Mr. Reinhart sees it generally, as very _bourgeois_. His good ladies are
apt to be rather thick and short, rather huddled and plain. I
shouldn’t mind it so much if they didn’t look so much alive. They are
incontestably possible. The long, brilliant series of drawings he
made to accompany Mr. Charles Dudley Warner’s papers on the American
watering-places form a rich _bourgeois_ epic, which imaginations haunted
by a type must accept with philosophy, for the sketches in question will
have carried the tale, and all sorts of irresistible illusion with it,
to the four corners of the earth. Full of observation and reality,
of happy impressionism, taking all things as they come, with many a
charming picture of youthful juxtaposition, they give us a sense, to
which nothing need be added, of the energy of Mr. Reinhart’s pencil.
They are a final collection of pictorial notes on the manners and
customs, the aspects and habitats, in July and August, of the great
American democracy; of which, certainly, taking one thing with another,
they give a very comfortable, cheerful account. But they confirm that
analytic view of which I have ventured to give a hint--the view of Mr.
Reinhart as an artist of immense capacity who yet somehow doesn’t care.
I must add that this aspect of him is modified, in the one case very
gracefully, in the other by the operation of a sort of constructive
humor, remarkably strong, in his illustrations of Spanish life and his
sketches of the Berlin political world.

His fashion of remaining outside, as it were, makes him (to the analyst)
only the more interesting, for the analyst, if he have any critical
life in him, will be prone to wonder _why_ he doesn’t care, and whether
matters may not be turned about in such a way as that he should, with
the consequence that his large capacity would become more fruitful
still. Mr. Reinhart is open to the large appeal of Paris, where he
lives--as is evident from much of his work--where he paints, and where,
in crowded exhibitions, reputation and honors have descended upon him.
And yet Paris, for all she may have taught him, has not given him the
mystic sentiment--about which I am perhaps writing nonsense. Is it
nonsense to say that, being very much an incarnation of the modern
international spirit (he might be a Frenchman in New York were he not
an American in Paris), the moral of his work is possibly the inevitable
want of finality, of intrinsic character, in that sweet freedom?
Does the cosmopolite necessarily pay for his freedom by a want of
function--the impersonality of not being representative? Must one be a
little narrow to have a sentiment, and very local to have a quality, or
at least a style; and would the missing type, if I may mention it
yet again, haunt our artist--who is somehow, in his rare instrumental
facility, outside of quality and style--a good deal more if he were not,
amid the mixture of associations and the confusion of races, liable to
fall into vagueness as to what types are? He can do anything he likes;
by which I mean he can do wonderfully even the things he doesn’t like.
But he strikes me as a force not yet fully used.



EDWIN A. ABBE

Nothing is more interesting in the history of an artistic talent than
the moment at which its “elective affinity” declares itself, and the
interest is great in proportion as the declaration is unmistakable.
I mean by the elective affinity of a talent its climate and period of
preference, the spot on the globe or in the annals of mankind to which
it most fondly attaches itself, to which it reverts incorrigibly, round
which it revolves with a curiosity that is insatiable, from which in
short it draws its strongest inspiration. A man may personally inhabit
a certain place at a certain time, but in imagination he may be a
perpetual absentee, and to a degree worse than the worst Irish landlord,
separating himself from his legal inheritance not only by mountains
and seas, but by centuries as well. When he is a man of genius these
perverse predilections become fruitful and constitute a new and
independent life, and they are indeed to a certain extent the sign and
concomitant of genius. I do not mean by this that high ability would
always rather have been born in another country and another age, but
certainly it likes to choose, it seldom fails to react against imposed
conditions. If it accepts them it does so because it likes them for
themselves; and if they fail to commend themselves it rarely scruples
to fly away in search of others. We have witnessed this flight in many
a case; I admit that if we have sometimes applauded it we have felt at
other moments that the discontented, undomiciled spirit had better have
stayed at home.

Mr. Abbey has gone afield, and there could be no better instance of a
successful fugitive and a genuine affinity, no more interesting example
of selection--selection of field and subject--operating by that insight
which has the precocity and certainty of an instinct. The domicile of
Mr. Abbey’s genius is the England of the eighteenth century; I should
add that the palace of art which he has erected there commands--from the
rear, as it were--various charming glimpses of the preceding age.
The finest work he has yet done is in his admirable illustrations, in
Harper’s Magazine, to “She Stoops to Conquer,” but the promise that he
would one day do it was given some years ago in his delightful volume
of designs to accompany Herrick’s poems; to which we may add, as
supplementary evidence, his drawings for Mr. William Black’s novel of
_Judith Shakespeare_.

Mr. Abbey was born in Philadelphia in 1852, and manifesting his
brilliant but un-encouraged aptitudes at a very early age, came in 1872
to New York to draw for Harper’s WEEKLY. Other views than this, if I
have been correctly Informed, had been entertained for his future--a
fact that provokes a smile now that his manifest destiny has been, or
is in course of being, so very neatly accomplished. The spirit of modern
aesthetics did not, at any rate, as I understand the matter, smile upon
his cradle, and the circumstance only increases the interest of his
having had from the earliest moment the clearest artistic vision.

It has sometimes happened that the distinguished draughtsman or painter
has been born in the studio and fed, as it were, from the palette, but
in the great majority of cases he has been nursed by the profane, and
certainly, on the doctrine of mathematical chances, a Philadelphia
genius would scarcely be an exception. Mr. Abbey was fortunate, however,
in not being obliged to lose time; he learned how to swim by jumping
into deep water. Even if he had not known by instinct how to draw, he
would have had to perform the feat from the moment that he found himself
attached to the “art department” of a remarkably punctual periodical.
In such a periodical the events of the day are promptly reproduced; and
with the morrow so near the day is necessarily a short one--too short
for gradual education. Such a school is not, no doubt, the ideal one,
but in fact it may have a very happy influence. If a youth is to give an
account of a scene with his pencil at a certain hour--to give it, as it
were, or perish--he will have become conscious, in the first place, of
a remarkable incentive to observe it. so that the roughness of the
foster-mother who imparts the precious faculty of quick, complete
observation is really a blessing in disguise. To say that it was simply
under this kind of pressure that Mr. Abbey acquired the extraordinary
refinement which distinguishes his work in black and white is doubtless
to say too much; but his admirers may be excused, in view of the
beautiful result, for almost wishing, on grounds of patriotism, to make
the training, or the absence of training, responsible for as much as
possible. For as no artistic genius that our country has produced is
more delightful than Mr. Abbey’s, so, surely, nothing could be more
characteristically American than that it should have formed itself in
the conditions that happened to be nearest at hand, with the crowds,
streets and squares, the railway stations and telegraph poles, the
wondrous sign-boards and triumphant bunting, of New York for the source
of its inspiration, and with a big hurrying printing-house for its
studio. If to begin the practice of art in these conditions was to incur
the danger of being crude, Mr. Abbey braved it with remarkable success.
At all events, if he went neither I through the mill of Paris nor
through that of Munich, the writer of these lines more than consoles
himself for the accident. His talent is unsurpassably fine, and yet we
reflect with complacency that he picked it up altogether at home.
If he is highly distinguished he is irremediably native, and (premising
always that I speak mainly of his work in black and white) it is
difficult to see, as we look, for instance, at the admirable series of
his drawings for “She Stoops to Conquer,” what more Paris or Munich
could have done for him. There is a certain refreshment in meeting an
American artist of the first order who is not a pupil of Gérôme or of
Cabanel.

Of course, I hasten to add, we must make our account with the fact that,
as I began with remarking, the great development of Mr. Abbey’s powers
has taken place amid the brown old accessories of a country where
that eighteenth century which he presently marked for his own are more
profusely represented than they have the good-fortune to be in America,
and consequently limit our contention to the point that his talent
itself was already formed when this happy initiation was opened to it.
He went to England for the first time in 1878. but it was not all at
once that he fell into the trick, so irresistible for an artist doing
his special work, of living there, I must forbid myself every
impertinent conjecture, but it may be respectfully assumed that Mr.
Abbey rather drifted into exile than committed himself to it with malice
prepense. The habit, at any rate, to-day appears to be confirmed, and,
to express it roughly, he is surrounded by the utensils and conveniences
that he requires. During these years, until the recent period when he
began to exhibit at the water-color exhibitions, his work has been done
principally for Harper’s Magazine, and the record of it is to be found
in the recent back volumes. I shall not take space to tell it over piece
by piece, for the reader who turns to the Magazine will have no
difficulty in recognizing it. It has a distinction altogether its own;
there is always poetry, humor, charm, in the idea, and always infinite
grace and security in the execution.

As I have intimated, Mr. Abbey never deals with the things and figures
of to-day; his imagination must perform a wide backward journey before
it can take the air. But beyond this modern radius it breathes with
singular freedom and naturalness. At a distance of fifty years it begins
to be at home; it expands and takes possession; it recognizes its own.
With all his ability, with all his tact, it would be impossible to him,
we conceive, to illustrate a novel of contemporary manners; he would
inevitably throw it back to the age of hair-powder and post-chaises.
The coats and trousers, the feminine gear, the chairs and tables of the
current year, the general aspect of things immediate and familiar, say
nothing to his mind, and there are other interpreters to whom he is
quite content to leave them. He shows no great interest even in the
modern face, if there be a modern face apart from a modern setting; I
am not sure what he thinks of its complications and refinements of
expression, but he has certainly little relish for its _banal_, vulgar
mustache, its prosaic, mercantile whisker, surmounting the last new
thing in shirt-collars. Dear to him is the physiognomy of clean-shaven
periods, when cheek and lip and chin, abounding in line and surface,
had the air of soliciting the pencil. Impeccable as he is in drawing,
he likes a whole face, with reason, and likes a whole figure; the
latter not to the exclusion of clothes, in which he delights, but as the
clothes of our great-grandfathers helped it to be seen. No one has ever
understood breeches and stockings better than he, or the human leg, that
delight of the draughtsman, as the costume of the last century permitted
it to be known. The petticoat and bodice of the same period have as
little mystery for him, and his women and girls have altogether the
poetry of a by-gone manner and fashion. They are not modern heroines,
with modern nerves and accomplishments, but figures of remembered song
and story, calling up visions of spinet and harpsichord that have
lost their music today, high-walled gardens that have ceased to
bloom, flowered stuffs that are faded, locks of hair that are lost,
love-letters that are pale. By which I don’t mean that they are vague
and spectral, for Mr. Abbey has in the highest degree the art of
imparting life, and he gives it in particular to his well-made, blooming
maidens. They live in a world in which there is no question of their
passing Harvard or other examinations, but they stand very firmly on
their quaintly-shod feet. They are exhaustively “felt,” and eminently
qualified to attract the opposite sex, which is not the case with
ghosts, who, moreover, do not wear the most palpable petticoats of
quilted satin, nor sport the most delicate fans, nor take generally the
most ingratiating attitudes.

[Illustration: The old house]

The best work that Mr. Abbey has done is to be found in the succession
of illustrations to “She Stoops to Conquer;” here we see his happiest
characteristics and--till he does something still more brilliant--may
take his full measure. No work in black and white in our time has been
more truly artistic, and certainly no success more unqualified. The
artist has given us an evocation of a social state to its smallest
details, and done it with an unsurpassable lightness of touch. The
problem was in itself delightful--the accidents and incidents (granted a
situation _de comédie_) of an old, rambling, wainscoted, out-of-the-way
English country-house, in the age of Goldsmith. Here Mr. Abbey is in
his element--given up equally to unerring observation and still more
infallible divination. The whole place, and the figures that come and
go in it, live again, with their individual look, their peculiarities,
their special signs and oddities. The spirit of the dramatist has passed
completely into the artist’s sense, but the spirit of the historian has
done so almost as much. Tony Lumpkin is, as we say nowadays, a document,
and Miss Hardcastle embodies the results of research. Delightful are the
humor and quaintness and grace of all this, delightful the variety and
the richness of personal characterization, and delightful, above all,
the drawing. It is impossible to represent with such vividness unless,
to begin with, one sees; and it is impossible to see unless one wants
to very much, or unless, in other words, one has a great love. Mr. Abbey
has evidently the tenderest affection for just the old houses and the
old things, the old faces and voices, the whole irrevocable human scene
which the genial hand of Goldsmith has passed over to him, and there
is no inquiry about them that he is not in a position to answer. He is
intimate with the buttons of coats and the buckles of shoes: he knows
not only exactly what his people wore, but exactly how they wore it,
and how they felt when they had it on. He has sat on the old chairs and
sofas, and rubbed against the old wainscots, and leaned over the old
balusters. He knows every mended place in Tony Lumpkin’s stockings, and
exactly how that ingenuous youth leaned back on the spinet, with his
thick, familiar thumb out, when he presented his inimitable countenance,
with a grin, to Mr. Hastings, after he had set his fond mother
a-whimpering. (There is nothing in the whole series, by-the-way,
better indicated than the exquisitely simple, half-bumpkin, half-vulgar
expression of Tony’s countenance and smile in this scene, unless it be
the charming arch yet modest face of Miss Hardcastle, lighted by the
candle she carries, as, still holding the door by which she comes in,
she is challenged by young Mar-low to relieve his bewilderment as to
where he really is and what _she_ really is.) In short, if we have all
seen “She Stoops to Conquer” acted, Mr. Abbey has had the better fortune
of seeing it off the stage; and it is noticeable how happily he has
steered clear of the danger of making his people theatrical types--mere
masqueraders and wearers of properties. This is especially the case with
his women, who have not a hint of the conventional paint and patches,
simpering with their hands in the pockets of aprons, but are taken from
the same originals from which Goldsmith took them.

If it be asked on the occasion of this limited sketch of Mr. Abbey’s
powers where, after all, he did learn to draw so perfectly, I know no
answer but to say that he learned it in the school in which he learned
also to paint (as he has been doing in these latest years, rather
tentatively at first, but with greater and greater success)--the school
of his own personal observation. His drawing is the drawing of direct,
immediate, solicitous study of the particular case, without tricks or
affectations or any sort of cheap subterfuge, and nothing can exceed the
charm of its delicacy, accuracy and elegance, its variety and freedom,
its clear, frank solution of difficulties. If for the artist it be the
foundation of every joy to know exactly what he wants (as I hold it
is indeed), Mr. Abbey is, to all appearance, to be constantly
congratulated. And I apprehend that he would not deny that it is a
good-fortune for him to have been able to arrange his life so that his
eye encounters in abundance the particular cases of which I speak. Two
or three years ago, at the Institute of Painters in Water-colors, in
London, he exhibited an exquisite picture of a peaceful old couple
sitting in the corner of a low, quiet, ancient room, in the waning
afternoon, and listening to their daughter as she stands up in the
middle and plays the harp to them. They are Darby and Joan, with all the
poetry preserved; they sit hand in hand, with bent, approving heads, and
the deep recess of the window looking into the garden (where we may be
sure there are yew-trees clipped into the shape of birds and beasts),
the panelled room, the quaintness of the fireside, the old-time
provincial expression of the scene, all belong to the class of effects
which Mr. Abbey understands supremely well. So does the great russet
wall and high-pitched mottled roof of the rural almshouse which figures
in the admirable water-color picture that he exhibited last spring. A
group of remarkably pretty countrywomen have been arrested in front of
it by the passage of a young soldier--a raw recruit in scarlet tunic and
white ducks, somewhat prematurely conscious of military glory. He gives
them the benefit of the goose-step as he goes; he throws back his head
and distends his fingers, presenting to the ladies a back expressive of
more consciousness of his fine figure than of the lovely mirth that the
artist has depicted in their faces. Lovely is their mirth indeed, and
lovely are they altogether. Mr. Abbey has produced nothing more charming
than this bright knot of handsome, tittering daughters of burghers,
in their primeval pelisses and sprigged frocks. I have, however, left
myself no space to go into the question of his prospective honors as a
painter, to which everything now appears to point, and I have mentioned
the two pictures last exhibited mainly because they illustrate the happy
opportunities with which he has been able to surround himself. The sweet
old corners he appreciates, the russet walls of moss-grown charities,
the lowbrowed nooks of manor, cottage and parsonage, the fresh
complexions that flourish in green, pastoral countries where it rains
not a little--every item in this line that seems conscious of its
pictorial use appeals to Mr. Abbey not in vain. He might have been a
grandson of Washington Irving, which is a proof of what I have already
said, that none of the young American workers in the same field have so
little as he of that imperfectly assimilated foreignness of suggestion
which is sometimes regarded as the strength, but which is also in some
degree the weakness, of the pictorial effort of the United States. His
execution is as sure of itself as if it rested upon infinite Parisian
initiation, but his feeling can best be described by saying that it is
that of our own dear mother-tongue. If the writer speaks when he writes,
and the draughtsman speaks when he draws. Mr. Abbey, in expressing
himself with his pencil, certainly speaks pure English, He reminds us
to a certain extent of Meissonier, especially the Meissonier of the
illustrations to that charming little volume of the _Conies Rémois_,
and the comparison is highly to his advantage in the matter of freedom,
variety, ability to represent movement (Meissonier’s figures are
stock-still), and facial expression--above all, in the handling of
the female personage, so rarely attempted by the French artist. But he
differs from the latter signally in the fact that though he shares his
sympathy as to period and costume, his people are of another race and
tradition, and move in a world locally altogether different. Mr. Abbey
is still young, he is full of ideas and intentions, and the work he
has done may, in view of his time of life, of his opportunities and the
singular completeness of his talent, be regarded really as a kind of
foretaste and prelude. It can hardly fail that he will do better things
still, when everything is so favorable. Life itself is his subject, and
that is always at his door. The only obstacle, therefore, that can be
imagined in Mr. Abbey’s future career is a possible embarrassment as
to what to choose. He has hitherto chosen so well, however, that this
obstacle will probably not be insuperable.



CHARLES S. REINHART

We Americans are accused of making too much ado about our celebrities,
of being demonstratively conscious of each step that we take in the path
of progress; and the accusation has its ground doubtless in this
sense, that it is possible among us to-day to become a celebrity on
unprecedentedly easy terms. This, however, at the present hour is the
case all the world over, and it is difficult to see where the standard
of just renown remains so high that the first stone may be cast. It is
more and more striking that the machinery of publicity is so enormous,
so constantly growing and so obviously destined to make the globe small,
in relation of the objects, famous or obscure, which cover it, that
it procures for the smallest facts and the most casual figures a
reverberation to be expected only in the case of a world-conqueror. The
newspaper and the telegram constitute a huge sounding-board, which has,
every day and every hour, to be made to vibrate, to be fed with items,
and the diffusion of the items takes place on a scale out of any sort of
proportion to their intrinsic importance. The crackle of common things
is transmuted into thunder--a thunder perhaps more resounding in America
than elsewhere for the reason that the sheet of tin shaken by the
Jupiter of the Press has been cut larger. But the difference is only of
degree, not of kind; and if the system we in particular have brought
to perfection would seem to be properly applied only to Alexanders
and Napoleons, it is not striking that these adequate subjects present
themselves even in other countries. The end of it all surely no man can
see, unless it be that collective humanity is destined to perish from a
rupture of its tympanum. That is a theme for a later hour, and meanwhile
perhaps it is well not to be too frightened. Some of the items I just
spoke of are, after all, larger than others; and if, as a general thing,
it is a mistake to pull up our reputations to see how they are growing,
there are some so well grown that they will bear it, and others of
a hardy stock even while they are tender. We may feel, for instance,
comparatively little hesitation in extending an importunate hand towards
the fine young sapling of which Mr. Reinhart is one of the branches.
It is a plant of promise, which has already flowered profusely and the
fragrance of which it would be affectation not to to notice. Let us
notice it, then, with candor, for it has all the air of being destined
to make the future sweeter. The plant in question is of course simply
the art of illustration in black and white, to which American periodical
literature has, lately given such an impetus and which has returned
the good office by conferring a great distinction on our magazines. In
its new phase the undertaking has succeeded; and it is not always that
fortune descends upon so deserving a head. Two or three fine talents in
particular have helped it to succeed, and Mr. Reinhart is not the least
conspicuous of these. It would be idle for a writer in Harper to
pretend to any diffidence of appreciation of his work: for the pages
are studded, from many years back, with the record of his ability. Mr.
Rein-hart took his first steps and made his first hits in Harper, which
owes him properly a portrait in return for so much portraiture. I may
exaggerate the charm and the importance of the modern illustrative form,
may see in it a capacity of which it is not yet itself wholly conscious,
but if I do so Mr. Reinhart is partly responsible for the aberration.
Abundant, intelligent, interpretative work in black and white is, to the
sense of the writer of these lines, one of the pleasantest things of the
time, having only to rise to the occasion to enjoy a great future.
This idea, I confess, is such as to lead one to write not only
sympathetically but pleadingly about the artists to whom one looks for
confirmation of it. If at the same time as we commemorate what they have
done we succeed in enlarging a little the conception of what they
may yet do, we shall be repaid even for having exposed ourselves as
fanatics--fanatics of the general manner, I mean, not of particular
representatives of it.

May not this fanaticism, in a particular case, rest upon a sense of
the resemblance between the general chance, as it may be called, of the
draughtsman in black and white, with contemporary life for his theme,
and the opportunity upon which the literary artist brings another form
to bear? The forms are different, though with analogies; but the field
is the same--the immense field of contemporary life observed for an
artistic purpose. There is nothing so interesting as that, because it is
ourselves; and no artistic problem is so charming as to arrive, either
in a literary or a plastic form, at a close and direct notation of what
we observe. If one has attempted some such exploit in a literary form,
one cannot help having a sense of union and comradeship with those who
have approached the question with the other instrument. This will be
especially the case if we happen to have appreciated that instrument
even to envy. We may as well say it outright, we envy it quite
unspeakably in the hands of Mr. Reinhart and in those of Mr. Abbey.
There is almost no limit to the service to which we can imagine it to be
applied, and we find ourselves wishing that these gentlemen may be made
adequately conscious of all the advantages it represents. We wonder
whether they really _are_ so; we are disposed even to assume that they
are not, in order to join the moral, to insist on the lesson. The master
whom we have mentally in view Mr. Reinhart is a near approach to him
may be, if he will only completely know it, so prompt, so copious,
so universal--so “all there,” as we say nowadays, and indeed so all
everywhere. There is only too much to see, too much to do, and his
process is the one that comes nearest to minimizing the quantity. He can
touch so many things, he can go from one scene to another, he can sound
a whole concert of notes while the painter is setting up his easel. The
painter is majestic, dignified, academic, important, superior, anything
you will; but he is, in the very nature of the case, only occasional.
He is “serious,” but he is comparatively clumsy: he is a terrible time
getting under way, and he has to sacrifice so many subjects while he is
doing one. The illustrator makes one immense sacrifice, of course--that
of color; but with it he purchases a freedom which enables him to attack
ever so many ideas. It is by variety and numerosity that he commends
himself to his age, and it is for these qualities that his age commends
him to the next. The twentieth century, the latter half of it, will, no
doubt, have its troubles, but it will have a great compensatory luxury,
that of seeing the life of a hundred years before much more vividly than
we--even happy we--see the life of a hundred years ago. But for this
our illustrators must do their best, appreciate the endless capacity
of their form. It is to the big picture what the short story is to the
novel.

It is doubtless too much, I hasten to add, to ask Mr. Reinhart, for
instance, to work to please the twentieth century. The end will not
matter if he pursues his present very prosperous course of activity,
for it is assuredly the fruitful vein, the one I express the hope to
see predominant, the portrayal of the manners, types and aspects that
surround us. Mr. Reinhart has reached that happy period of life when
a worker is in full possession of his means, when he has done for his
chosen instrument everything he can do in the way of forming it and
rendering it complete and flexible, and has the fore only to apply
it with freedom, confidence and success. These, to our sense, are the
golden hours of an artist’s life; happier even than the younger time
when the future seemed infinite in the light of the first rays of
glory, the first palpable hits. The very sense that the future is
_not_ unlimited and that opportunity is at its high-water-mark gives
an intensity to the enjoyment of maturity. Then the acquired habit
of “knowing how” must simplify the problem of execution and leave the
artist free to think only of his purpose, as befits a real creator. Mr.
Reinhart is at the enviable stage of knowing in perfection how; he has
arrived at absolute facility and felicity. The machine goes of itself;
it is no longer necessary to keep lifting the cover and pouring in the
oil of fond encouragement: all the attention may go to the idea and the
subject. It may, however, remain very interesting to others to know how
the faculty was trained, the pipe was tuned. The early phases of such
a process have a relative importance even when, at the lime (so gradual
are many beginnings and so obscure man a morrow) they may have appeared
neither delightful nor profitable. They are almost always to be summed
up in the single precious word practice. This word represents, at any
rate, Mr. Reinhart’s youthful history, and the profusion in which,
though no doubt occasionally disguised, the boon was supplied to him in
the offices of Harper’s Magazine. There is nothing so innate that it
has not also to be learned, for the best part of any aptitude is the
capacity to increase it.

Mr. Reinhart’s experience began to accumulate very early, for at
Pittsburgh, where he was born, he was free to draw to his heart’s
content. There was no romantic attempt, as I gather, to nip him in the
bud. On the contrary, he was despatched with almost prosaic punctuality
to Europe, and was even encouraged to make himself at home in Munich.
Munich, in his case, was a _pis-aller_ for Paris, where it would have
been his preference to study when he definitely surrendered, as it
were, to his symptoms. He went to Paris, but Paris seemed blocked and
complicated, and Munich presented advantages which, if not greater, were
at least easier to approach. Mr. Reinhart passe through the mill of the
Bavarian school, and when it had turned him out with its characteristic
polish he came back to America with a very substantial stock to dispose
of. It would take a chapter by itself if we were writing a biography,
this now very usual episode of the return of the young American from the
foreign conditions in which he has learned his professional language,
and his position in face of the community that he addresses in a strange
idiom. There has to be a prompt adjustment between ear and voice, if the
interlocutor is not to seem to himself to be intoning in the void. There
is always an inner history in all this, as well as an outer one--such,
however, as it would take much space to relate. Mr. Reinhart’s more
or less alienated accent fell, by good-fortune, on a comprehending
listener. He had made a satirical drawing, in the nature of the
“cartoon” of a comic journal, on a subject of the hour, and addressed it
to the editor of _Harper’s Weekly_. The drawing was not published--the
satire was perhaps not exactly on the right note--but the draughtsman
was introduced. Thus began, by return of post, as it were, and with
preliminaries so few that they could not well have been less, a
connection of many years. If I were writing a biography another chapter
would come in here--a curious, almost a pathetic one; for the course
of things is so rapid in this country that the years of Mr. Reinhart’s
apprenticeship to pictorial journalism, positively recent as they are,
already are almost prehistoric. To-morrow, at least, the complexion of
that time, its processes, ideas and standards, together with some of
the unsophisticated who carried them out, will belong to old New York.
A certain mollifying dimness rests upon them now, and their superseded
brilliancy gleams through it but faintly. It is a lively span for Mr.
Reinhart to have been at once one of the unsophisticated and one of the
actually modern.

That portion of his very copious work to which, more particularly. I
apply the latter term, has been done for Harper’s Magazine. During these
latter years it has come, like so much of American work to-day, from
beyond the seas. Whether or not that foreign language of which I just
spoke never became, in New York, for this especial possessor of it, a
completely convenient medium of conversation, is more than I can say;
at any rate Mr. Reinhart eventually reverted to Europe and settled in
Paris. Paris had seemed rather inhospitable to him in his youth, but he
has now fitted his key to the lock. It would be satisfactory to be
able to express scientifically the reasons why, as a general thing, the
American artist, as well as his congener of many another land, carries
on his function with less sense of resistance in that city than
elsewhere. He likes Paris best, but that is not scientific. The
difference is that though theoretically the production of pictures is
recognized in America and in England, in Paris it is recognized both
theoretically and practically. And I do not mean by this simply that
pictures are bought--for they are not, predominantly, as it happens--but
that they are more presupposed. The plastic is implied in the French
conception of things, and the studio is as natural a consequence of it
as the post-office is of letter-writing. Vivid representation is the
genius of the French language and the need of the French mind. The
people have invented more aids to it than any other, and as these aids
make up a large part of the artist’s life, he feels his best home to be
in the place where he finds them most. He may begin to quarrel with that
home on the day a complication is introduced by the question of _what_
he shall represent--a totally different consideration from that of
the method; but for Mr. Reinhart this question has not yet offered
insoluble difficulties. He represents everything--he has accepted so
general an order. So long as his countrymen flock to Paris and pass in
a homogeneous procession before his eyes, there is not the smallest
difficulty in representing _them_. When the case requires that they
shall be taken in connection with their native circumstances and seen in
their ambient air, he is prepared to come home and give several months
to the task, as on the occasion of Mr. Dudley Warner’s history of a tour
among the watering-places, to which he furnished so rich and so curious
a pictorial accompaniment. Sketch-book in hand, he betakes himself,
according to need, to Germany, to England, to Italy, to Spain. The
readers of Harper will have forgotten his admirable pictorial notes on
the political world at Berlin, so rich and close in characterization.
To the _Spanish Vistas_ of Mr. G. P. Lathrop he contributed innumerable
designs, delightful notes of an artist’s quest of the sketchable, many
of which are singularly full pictures. The “Soldiers Playing Dominoes”
 at a café is a powerful page of life. Mr. Reinhart has, of course,
interpreted many a fictive scene--he has been repeatedly called upon
to make the novel and the story visible. This he energetically and
patiently does; though of course we are unable to say whether the men
and women he makes us see are the very people whom the authors have
seen. That is a thing that, in any case, one will never know; besides,
the authors who don’t see vaguely are apt to see perversely. The
story-teller has, at any rate, the comfort with Mr. Reinhart that his
drawings are constructive and have the air of the actual. He likes to
represent character--he rejoices in the specifying touch.

The evidence of this is to be found also in his pictures, for I ought
already to have mentioned that, for these many years (they are beginning
to be many), he has indulged in the luxury of color. It is not probable
that he regards himself in the first place as an illustrator, in the
sense to which the term is usually restricted. He is a very vigorous and
various painter, and at the Salon a constant and conspicuous exhibitor.
He is fond of experiments, difficulties and dangers, and I divine that
it would be his preference to be known best by his painting, in which he
handles landscape with equal veracity. It is a pity that the critic
is unable to contend with him on such a point without appearing to
underestimate that work. Mr. Reinhart has so much to show for his
preference that I am conscious of its taking some assurance to say that
I am not sure he is right. This would be the case even if he had nothing
else to show than the admirable picture entitled “Washed Ashore”
 (“Un Epave “) which made such an impression in the Salon of 1887. It
represents the dead body of an unknown man whom the tide has cast up,
lying on his back, feet forward, disfigured, dishonored by the sea. A
small group of villagers are collected near it, divided by the desire
to look and the fear to see. A gendarme, official and responsible, his
uniform contrasting with the mortal disrepair of the victim, takes down
in his note-book the _procès-verbal_ of the incident, and an old sailor,
pointing away with a stiffened arm, gives him the benefit of what _he_
knows about the matter. Plain, pitying, fish-wives, hushed, with
their shawls in their mouths, hang back, as if from a combination too
solemn--the mixture of death and the law. Three or four men seem to be
glad it isn’t they. The thing is a masterpiece of direct representation,
and has wonderfully the air of something seen, found without being
looked for. Excellently composed but not artificial, deeply touching but
not sentimental, large, close and sober, this important work gives the
full measure of Mr. Reinhart’s great talent and constitutes a kind of
pledge. It may be perverse on my part to see in it the big banknote,
as it were, which may be changed into a multitude of gold and silver
pieces. I cannot, however, help doing so. “Washed Ashore” is painted
as only a painter paints, but I irreverently translate it into its
equivalent in “illustrations”--half a hundred little examples, in
black and white, of the same sort of observation. For this observation,
immediate, familiar, sympathetic, human, and not involving a quest of
style for which color is really indispensable, is a mistress at whose
service there is no derogation in placing one’s self. To do little
things instead of big _may_ be a derogation; a great deal will depend
upon the way the little things are done. Besides, no work of art is
absolutely little. I grow bold and even impertinent as I think of the
way Mr. Rein-hart might scatter the smaller coin. At any rate, whatever
proportion his work in this line may bear to the rest, it is to be hoped
that nothing will prevent him from turning out more and more to play
the rare faculty that produces it. His studies of American _moeurs_ in
association with Mr. Warner went so far on the right road that we
would fain see him make all the rest of the journey. They made us ask
straightway for more, and were full of intimations of what was behind.
They showed what there is to see--what there is to guess. Let him carry
the same inquiry further, let him carry it all the way. It would be
serious work and would abound in reality; it would help us, as it were,
to know what we are talking about. In saying this I feel how much I
confirm the great claims I just made for the revival of illustration.



ALFRED PARSONS

It would perhaps be extravagant to pretend, in this embarrassed age,
that Merry England is still intact; but it would be strange if the
words “happy England” should not rise to the lips of the observer of Mr.
Alfred Parsons’ numerous and delightful studies of the gardens, great
and small, of his country. They surely have a representative value in
more than the literal sense, and might easily minister to the quietest
complacency of patriotism. People whose criticism is imaginative will
see in them a kind of compendium of what, in home things, is at once
most typical and most enviable; and, going further, they will almost
wish that such a collection might be carried by slow stages round the
globe, to kindle pangs in the absent and passions in the alien. As
it happens to be a globe the English race has largely peopled, we can
measure the amount of homesickness that would be engendered on the
way. In fact, one doubts whether the sufferer would even need to be of
English strain to attach the vision of home to the essentially lovable
places that Mr. Parsons depicts. They seem to generalize and typify
the idea, so that every one may feel, in every case, that he has a
sentimental property in the scene. The very sweetness of its reality
only helps to give it that story-book quality which persuades us we have
known it in youth.

And yet such scenes may well have been constructed for the despair of
the Colonial; for they remind us, at every glance, of that perfection to
which there is no short cut--not even “unexampled prosperity “--and
to which time is the only guide. Mr. Parsons’ pictures speak of many
complicated things, but (in what they tell us of his subjects) they
speak most of duration. Such happy nooks have grown slowly, such
fortunate corners have had a history; and their fortune has been
precisely that they have had time to have it comfortably, have not been
obliged to try for character without it.

Character is their strong point and the most expensive of all
ingredients. Mr. Parsons’ portraiture seizes every shade of it, seizes
it with unfailing sympathy. He is doubtless clever enough to paint
rawness when he must, but he has an irrepressible sense of ripeness.
Half the ripeness of England--half the religion, one might almost
say--is in its gardens; they are truly pious foundations. It is
doubtless because there are so many of them that the country seems so
finished, and the sort of care they demand is an intenser deliberation,
which passes into the national temper. One must have lived in other
lands to observe fully how large a proportion of this one is walled in
for growing flowers. The English love of flowers is inveterate; it
is the most, unanimous protest against the grayness of some of the
conditions, and it should receive justice from those who accuse the race
of taking its pleasure too sadly. A good garden is an organized revel,
and there is no country in which there are so many.

Mr. Parsons had therefore only to choose, at his leisure, and one might
heartily have envied him the process, scarcely knowing which to prefer
of all the pleasant pilgrimages that would make up such a quest. He had.
fortunately, the knowledge which could easily lead to more, and a career
of discovery behind him. He knew the right times for the right things,
and the right things for the right places. He had innumerable memories
and associations; he had painted up and down the land and looked over
many walls. He had followed the bounty of the year from month to month
and from one profusion to another. To follow it with him, in this
admirable series, is to see that he is master of the subject. There
will be no lack of confidence on the part of those who have already
perceived, in much of Mr. Parsons’ work, a supreme illustration of all
that is widely nature-loving in the English interest in the flower.
No sweeter submission to mastery can be imagined than the way the
daffodils, under his brush (to begin at the beginning), break out
into early April in the lovely drawings of Stourhead. One of the most
charming of these--a corner of an old tumbled-up place in Wiltshire,
where many things have come and gone--represents that moment of
transition in which contrast is so vivid as to make it more dramatic
than many plays--the very youngest throb of spring, with the brown slope
of the foreground coming back to consciousness in pale lemon-colored
patches and, on the top of the hill, against the still cold sky, the
equally delicate forms of the wintry trees. By the time these forms
have thickened, the expanses of daffodil will have become a mass
of bluebells. All the daffodil pictures have a rare loveliness, but
especially those that deal also with the earlier fruit-blossom, the
young plum-trees in Berkshire orchards. Here the air is faintly pink,
and the painter makes us feel the little _blow_ in the thin blue sky.
The spring, fortunately, is everybody’s property and, in the language of
all the arts, the easiest word to conjure with. It is therefore partly
Mr. Parsons’ good-luck that we enjoy so his rendering of these phases;
but on the other hand we look twice when it’s a case of meddling with
the exquisite, and if he inspires us with respect it is because we feel
that he has been deeply initiated. No one knows better the friendly
reasons for our stopping, when chatting natives pronounce the weather
“foine,” at charming casual corners of old villages, where grassy ways
cross each other and timbered houses bulge irregularly and there are
fresh things behind crooked palings; witness the little vision of
Blewbury, in Berkshire, reputedly of ancient British origin, with a
road all round it and only footways within. No one, in the Herefordshire
orchards, masses the white cow-parsley in such profusion under the
apple blossoms; or makes the whitewashed little damson-trees look so
innocently responsible and charming on the edge of the brook over which
the planks are laid for the hens. Delightful, in this picture, is the
sense of the clean spring day, after rain, with the blue of the sky
washed faint. Delightful is the biggish view (one of the less numerous
oil-pictures) of the Somersetshire garden, where that peculiarly English
look of the open-air room is produced by the stretched carpet of the
turf and the firm cushions of the hedges, and a pair of proprietors,
perhaps happier than they know, are putting in an afternoon among their
tulips, under the flushed apple-trees whose stems are so thin and whose
brims so heavy. Are the absorbed couple, at any rate, aware of the
surprising degree to which the clustered ruddy roofs of the next small
town, over the hedge, off at the left, may remind the fanciful
spectator of the way he has seen little dim Italian cities look on their
hill-tops? The whole thing, in this subject, has the particular English
note to which Mr. Parsons repeatedly testifies, the nook quality, the
air of a land and a life so infinitely subdivided that they produce
a thousand pleasant privacies. The painter moves with the months and
finds, after the earliest things, the great bed of pansies in the angle
of the old garden at Sutton, in which, for felicity of position and
perfect pictorial service rendered--to say nothing of its polygonal,
pyramidal roof--the ancient tool-house, or tea-house, is especially to
be commended. Very far descended is such a corner as this, very full of
reference to vanished combinations and uses; and the artist communicates
to us a feeling for it that makes us wish disinterstedly it may be still
as long preserved.

He finds in June, at Blackdown, the blaze of the yellow azalea-bush, or
in another spot the strong pink of the rhododendron, beneath the silver
firs that deepen the blue of the sky. He finds the Vicarage Walk, at
King’s Langley, a smother of old-fashioned flowers--a midsummer vista
for the figures of a happy lady and a lucky dog. He finds the delicious
huddle of the gabled, pigeon-haunted roof of a certain brown old
building at Frame, with poppies and gladiolus and hollyhock crowding the
beautiful foreground. He finds--apparently in the same place--the tangle
of the hardy flowers that come while the roses are still in bloom, with
the tall blue larkspurs standing high among them. He finds the lilies,
white and red, at Broadway, and the poppies, which have dropped most of
their petals--apparently to let the roses, which are just coming out,
give _their_ grand party. Their humility is rewarded by the artist’s
admirable touch in the little bare poppy-heads that nod on their
flexible pins.

But I cannot go on to say everything that such a seeker, such a
discoverer, as Mr. Parsons finds--the less that the purpose of these
limited remarks is to hint at our own _trouvailles_. A view of the
field, at any rate, would be incomplete without such specimens as the
three charming oil-pictures which commemorate Holme Lacey. There are
gardens and gardens, and these represent the sort that are always spoken
of in the plural and most arrogate the title. They form, in England, a
magnificent collection, and if they abound in a quiet assumption of the
grand style it must be owned that they frequently achieve it. There are
people to be found who enjoy them, and it is not, at any rate, when Mr.
Parsons deals with them that we have an opening for strictures. As
we look at the blaze of full summer in the brilliantly conventional
parterres we easily credit the tale of the 40,000 plants it takes to
fill the beds. More than this, we like the long paths of turf that
stretch between splendid borders, recalling the frescoed galleries of a
palace; we like the immense hedges, whose tops are high against the sky.
While we are liking, we like perhaps still better, since they deal with
a very different order, the two water-colors from the dear little garden
at Winchelsea--especially the one in which the lady takes he ease in her
hammock (on a sociable, shady terrace, from which the ground drops),
and looks at red Rye, across the marshes. Another garden where a
contemplative hammock would be in order is the lovely canonical plot
at Salisbury, with the everlasting spire above it tinted in the summer
sky--unless, in the same place, you should choose to hook yourself up by
the grassy bank of the Avon, at the end of the lawn, with the meadows,
the cattle, the distant willows across the river, to look at.

Three admirable water-colors are devoted by Mr. Parsons to the
perceptible dignity of Gravetye, in Sussex, the dignity of very serious
gardens, entitled to ceremonious consideration, Few things in England
can show a greater wealth of bloom than the wide flowery terrace
immediately beneath the gray, gabled house, where tens of thousands of
tea-roses, in predominant possession, have, in one direction, a mass
of high yews for a background. They divide their province with the
carnations and pansies: a wilder ness of tender petals ignorant of
anything rougher than the neighborhood of the big unchanged medley of
tall yuccas and saxifrage, with miscellaneous filling-in, in the picture
which presents the charming house in profile. The artist shows us later,
in September, at Gravetye, the pale violet multitude of the Michaelmas
daisies; another I great bunch, or bank, of which half masks and greatly
beautifies the rather bare yellow cottage at Broadway. This brings us on
to the autumn, if I count as autumnal the admirable large water-color of
a part of a garden at Shiplake, with the second bloom of the roses and
a glimpse of a turn of the Thames. This exquisite picture expresses to
perfection the beginning of the languor of the completed season--with
its look of warm rest, of doing nothing, in the cloudless sky. To the
same or a later moment belongs the straight walk at Fladbury--the old
rectory garden by the Avon, with its Irish yews and the red lady in her
chair; also the charming water-color of young, slim apple-trees, full of
fruit (this must be October), beneath an admirable blue and white sky.
Still later comes the big pear-tree that has turned, among barer boughs,
to flame-color, and, in another picture, the very pale russet of
the thinned cherry-trees, standing, beneath a grayish sky, above a
foreshortened slope. Last of all we have, in oils, December and a hard
frost in a bare apple-orchard, indented with a deep gully which makes
the place somehow a subject and which, in fact, three or four years
ago, made it one for a larger picture by Mr. Parsons, full of truth and
style.

This completes his charming story of the life of the English year, told
in a way that convinces us of his intimate acquaintance with it. Half
the interest of Mr. Parsons’ work is in the fact that he paints from a
full mind and from a store of assimilated knowledge. In every touch of
nature that he communicates to us we feel something of the thrill of the
whole--we feel the innumerable relations, the possible variations of the
particular objects. This makes his manner serious and masculine--rescues
it from the thinness of tricks and the coquetries of _chic_. We walk
with him on a firm earth, we taste the tone of the air and seem to take
nature and the climate and all the complicated conditions by their big
general hand. The painter’s manner, in short, is one with the study of
things--his talent is a part of their truth. In this happy series
we seem to see still more how that talent was formed, how his rich
motherland has been, from the earliest observation, its nurse and
inspirer. He gives back to her all the good she has done him.



JOHN S. SARGENT

I was on the point of beginning this sketch of the work of an artist to
whom distinction has come very early in life by saying, in regard to the
degree to which the subject of it enjoys the attention of the public,
that no American painter has hitherto won himself such recognition from
the expert; but I find myself pausing at the start as on the edge of a
possible solecism. Is Mr. Sargent in very fact an American painter?
The proper answer to such a question is doubtless that we shall be well
advised to pretend it, and the reason of this is simply that we have
an excellent opportunity. Born in Europe, he has also spent his life in
Europe, but none the less the burden of proof would rest with those who
should undertake to show that he is a European. Moreover he has even
on the face of it this great symptom of an American origin, that in the
line of his art he might easily be mistaken for a Frenchman. It sounds
like a paradox, but it is a very simple truth, that when to-day we look
for “American art” we find it mainly in Paris. When we find it out of
Paris, we at least find a great deal of Paris in it. Mr. Sargent came up
to the irresistible city in his twentieth year, from Florence, where in
1856 he had been born of American parents and where his fortunate youth
had been spent. He entered immediately the studio of Caro-lus Duran, and
revealed himself in 1877, at the age of twenty-two, in the portrait of
that master---a fine model in more than one sense of the word. He was
already in possession of a style; and if this style has gained both
in finish and in assurance, it has not otherwise varied. As he saw and
“rendered” ten years ago, so he sees and renders to-day; and I may add
that there is no present symptom of his passing into another manner.

Those who have appreciated his work most up to the present time
articulate no wish for a change, so completely does that work seem to
them, in its kind, the exact translation of his thought, the exact “fit”
 of his artistic temperament. It is difficult to imagine a young painter
less in the dark about his own ideal, more lucid and more responsible
from the first about what he desires. In an altogether exceptional
degree does he give us the sense that the intention and the art of
carrying it out are for him one and the same thing. In the brilliant
portrait of Carolus Duran, which he was speedily and strikingly to
surpass, he gave almost the full measure of this admirable peculiarity,
that perception with him is already by itself a kind of execution. It
is likewise so, of course, with many another genuine painter; but in
Sargent’s case the process by which the object seen resolves itself into
the object pictured is extraordinarily immediate. It is as if painting
were pure tact of vision, a simple manner of feeling.

From the time of his first successes at the Salon he was hailed, I
believe, as a recruit of high value to the camp of the Impressionists,
and to-day he is for many people most conveniently pigeon-holed under
that head. It is not necessary to protest against the classification
if this addition always be made to it, that Mr. Sargent’s impressions
happen to be worthy of record. This is by no means inveterately the case
with those of the ingenuous artists who most rejoice in the title in
question. To render the impression of an object may be a very fruitful
effort, but it is not necessarily so; that will depend upon what, I
won’t say the object, but the impression, may have been. The talents
engaged in this school lie, not unjustly, as it seems to me under
the suspicion of seeking the solution of their problem exclusively in
simplification. If a painter works for other eyes as well as his own he
courts a certain danger in this direction--that of being arrested by the
cry of the spectator: “Ah! but excuse me; I myself take more impressions
than that” We feel a synthesis not to be an injustice only when it is
rich. Mr. Sargent simplifies, I think, but he simplifies with style, and
his impression is the finest form of his energy.

His work has been almost exclusively in portraiture, and it has been his
fortune to paint more women than men; therefore he has had but a limited
opportunity to reproduce that generalized grand air with which his view
of certain figures of gentlemen invests the model, which is conspicuous
in the portrait of Carolus Duran and of which his splendid “Docteur
Pozzi,” the distinguished Paris surgeon (a work not sent to the Salon),
is an admirable example. In each of these cases the model has been of
a gallant pictorial type, one of the types which strike us as made
for portraiture (which is by no means the way of all), as especially
appears, for instance, in the handsome hands and frilled wrists of M.
Carolus, whose cane rests in his fine fingers as if it were the hilt
of a rapier. The most brilliant of all Mr. Sargent’s productions is the
portrait of a young lady, the magnificent picture which he exhibited
in 1881; and if it has mainly been his fortune since to commemorate the
fair faces of women, there is no ground for surprise at this sort of
success on the part of one who had given so signal a proof of possessing
the secret of the particular aspect that the contemporary lady (of any
period) likes to wear in the eyes of posterity. Painted when he was
but four-and-twenty years of age, the picture by which Mr. Sargent was
represented at the Salon of 1881 is a performance which may well have
made any critic of imagination rather anxious about his future. In
common with the superb group of the children of Mr. Edward Boit,
exhibited two years later, it offers the slightly “uncanny” spectacle of
a talent which on the very threshold of its career has nothing more to
learn. It is not simply precocity in the guise of maturity--a phenomenon
we very often meet, which deceives us only for an hour; it is the
freshness of youth combined with the artistic experience, really
felt and assimilated, of generations. My admiration for this deeply
distinguished work is such that I am perhaps in danger of overstating
its merits; but it is worth taking into account that to-day, after
several years’ acquaintance with them, these merits seem to me more and
more to justify enthusiasm. The picture has this sign of productions of
the first order, that its style clearly would save it if everything else
should change--our measure of its value of resemblance, its expression
of character, the fashion of dress, the particular associations it
evokes. It is not only a portrait, but a picture, and it arouses even
in the profane spectator something of the painter’s sense, the joy of
engaging also, by sympathy, in the solution of the artistic problem.
There are works of which it is sometimes said that they are painters’
pictures (this description is apt to be intended invidiously), and the
production of which I speak has the good-fortune at once to belong to
this class and to give the “plain man” the kind of pleasure that the
plain man looks for.

The young lady, dressed in black satin, stands upright, with her right
hand bent back, resting on her waist, while the other, with the arm
somewhat extended, offers to view a single white flower. The dress.
stretched at the hips over a sort of hoop, and ornamented in front,
where it opens on a velvet petticoat with large satin bows, has an
old-fashioned air, as if it had been worn by some demure princess who
might have sat for Velasquez. The hair, of which the arrangement is odd
and charming, is disposed in two or three large curls fastened at one
side over the temple with a comb. Behind the figure is the vague faded
sheen, exquisite in tone, of a silk curtain, light, undefined, and
losing itself at the bottom. The face is young, candid and peculiar. Out
of these few elements the artist has constructed a picture which it is
impossible to forget, of which the most striking characteristic is
its simplicity, and yet which overflows with perfection. Painted with
extraordinary breadth and freedom, so that surface and texture are
interpreted by the lightest hand, it glows with life, character and
distinction, and strikes us as the most complete--with one exception
perhaps--of the author’s productions. I know not why this representation
of a young girl in black, engaged in the casual gesture of holding up
a flower, should make so ineffaceable an impression and tempt one to
become almost lyrical in its praise; but I remember that, encountering
the picture unexpectedly in New York a year or two after it had been
exhibited in Paris, it seemed to me to have acquired an extraordinary
general value, to stand for more artistic truth than it would be easy to
formulate. The language of painting, the tongue in which, exclusively,
Mr. Sargent expresses himself, is a medium into which a considerable
part of the public, for the simple an excellent reason that they don’t
understand it, will doubtless always be reluctant and unable to follow
him.

Two years before he exhibited the young lady in black, in 1879, Mr.
Sargent had spent several months in Spain, and here, even more than he
had already been, the great Velasquez became the god of his idolatry.
No scenes are more delightful to the imagination than those in which
we figure youth and genius confronted with great examples, and if such
matters did not belong to the domain of private life we might entertain
ourselves with reconstructing the episode of the first visit to the
museum of Madrid, the shrine of the painter of Philip IV., of a
young Franco-American worshipper of the highest artistic sensibility,
expecting a supreme revelation and prepared to fall on his knees. It is
evident that Mr. Sargent fell on his knees and that in this attitude he
passed a considerable part of his sojourn in Spain. He is various and
experimental; if I am not mistaken, he sees each work that he produces
in a light of its own, not turning off successive portraits according
to some well-tried receipt which has proved useful in the case of their
predecessors; nevertheless there is one idea that pervades them all, in
a different degree, and gives them a family resemblance--the idea that
it would be inspiring to know just how Velasquez would have treated
the theme. We can fancy that on each occasion Mr. Sargent, as a
solemn preliminary, invokes him as a patron saint. This is not, in my
intention, tantamount to saying that the large canvas representing the
contortions of a dancer in the lamp-lit room of a _posada_, which he
exhibited on his return from Spain, strikes me as having come into the
world under the same star as those compositions of the great Spaniard
which at Madrid alternate with his royal portraits. This singular work,
which has found an appreciative home in Boston, has the stamp of
an extraordinary energy and facility--of an actual scene, with its
accidents and peculiarities caught, as distinguished from a composition
where arrangement and invention have played their part. It looks like
life, but it looks also, to my view, rather like a perversion of life,
and has the quality of an enormous “note” or memorandum, rather than of
a representation. A woman in a voluminous white silk dress and a black
mantilla pirouettes in the middle of a dusky room, to the accompaniment
of her own castanets and that of a row of men and women who sit in straw
chairs against the whitewashed wall and thrum upon guitar and tambourine
or lift other castanets into the air. She appears almost colossal, and
the twisted and inflated folds of her long dress increase her volume.
She simpers, in profile, with a long chin, while she slants back at a
dangerous angle, and the lamplight (it proceeds from below, as if she
were on a big platform) makes a strange play in her large face. In the
background the straight line of black-clad, black-hatted, white-shirted
musicians projects shadows against the wall, on which placards, guitars,
and dirty finger-marks display themselves. The merit of this production
is that the air of reality is given in it with remarkable breadth and
boldness; its defect it is difficult to express save by saying that it
makes the spectator vaguely uneasy and even unhappy--an accident the
more to be regretted as a lithe, inspired female figure, given up to
the emotion of the dance, is not intrinsically a displeasing object.
“El Jaleo” sins, in my opinion, in the direction of ugliness, and,
independently of the fact that the heroine is circling round incommoded
by her petticoats, has a want of serenity.

This is not the defect of the charming, dusky, white-robed person who,
in the Tangerine subject exhibited at the Salon of 1880 (the fruit of
an excursion to the African coast at the time of the artist’s visit to
Spain), stands on a rug, under a great white Moorish arch, and from out
of the shadows of the large drapery, raised pentwise by her hands, which
covers her head, looks down, with painted eyes and brows showing above
a bandaged mouth, at the fumes of a beautiful censer or chafing-dish
placed on the carpet. I know not who this stately Mahometan may be, nor
in what mysterious domestic or religious rite she may be engaged; but
in her muffled contemplation and her pearl-colored robes, under her
plastered arcade which shines in the Eastern light, she transports and
torments us. The picture is exquisite, a radiant effect of white upon
white, of similar but discriminated tones. In dividing the honor that
Mr. Sargent has won by his finest work between the portrait of the young
lady of 1881 and the group of four little girls which was painted in
1882 and exhibited with the success it deserved the following year, I
must be careful to give the latter picture not too small a share. The
artist has done nothing more felicitous and interesting than this view
of a rich dim, rather generalized French interior (the perspective of a
hall with a shining floor, where screens and tall Japanese vases
shimmer and loom), which encloses the life and seems to form the happy
play-world of a family of charming children. The treatment is eminently
unconventional, and there is none of the usual symmetrical balancing of
the figures in the foreground. The place is regarded as a whole; it is
a scene, a comprehensive impression; yet none the less do the little
figures in their white pinafores (when was the pinafore ever painted
with that power and made so poetic?) detach themselves and live with a
personal life. Two of the sisters stand hand in hand at the back, in
the delightful, the almost equal, company of a pair of immensely tall
emblazoned jars, which overtop them and seem also to partake of the life
of the picture; the splendid porcelain and the aprons of the children
shine together, while a mirror in the brown depth behind them catches
the light. Another little girl presents herself, with abundant tresses
and slim legs, her hands behind her, quite to the left; and the
youngest, nearest to the spectator, sits on the floor and plays with her
doll. The naturalness of the composition, the loveliness of the complete
effect, the light, free’ security of the execution, the sense it gives
us as of assimilated secrets and of instinct and knowledge playing
together--all this makes the picture as astonishing a work on the part
of a young man of twenty-six as the portrait of 1881 was astonishing on
the part of a young man of twenty-four.

It is these remarkable encounters that justify us in writing almost
prematurely of a career which is not yet half unfolded. Mr. Sargent is
sometimes accused of a want of “finish,” but if finish means the last
word of expressiveness of touch, “The Hall with the Four Children,” as
we may call it, may-stand as a permanent reference on this point. If the
picture of the Spanish dancer illustrates, as it seems to me to do, the
latent dangers of the Impressionist practice, so this finer performance
shows what victories it may achieve. And in relation to the latter I
must repeat what I said about the young lady with the flower, that this
is the sort of work which, when produced in youth, leads the attentive
spectator to ask unanswerable questions. He finds himself murmuring,
“Yes, but what is left?” and even wondering whether it be an advantage
to an artist to obtain early in life such possession of his means that
the struggle with them, discipline, _tâtonnement_, cease to exist for
him. May not this breed an irresponsibility of cleverness, a wantonness,
an irreverence--what is vulgarly termed a “larkiness”--on the part of
the youthful genius who has, as it were, all his fortune in his pocket?
Such are the possibly superfluous broodings of those who are critical
even in their warmest admirations and who sometimes suspect that it may
be better for an artist to have a certain part of his property invested
in unsolved difficulties. When this is not the case, the question with
regard to his future simplifies itself somewhat portentously. “What will
he do with it?” we ask, meaning by the pronoun the sharp, completely
forged weapon. It becomes more purely a question of responsibility, and
we hold him altogether to a higher account. This is the case with Mr.
Sargent; he knows so much about the art of painting that he perhaps does
not fear emergencies quite enough, and that having knowledge to spare
he may be tempted to play with it and waste it. Various, curious, as we
have called him, he occasionally tries experiments which seem to arise
from the mere high spirits of his brush, and runs risks little courted
by the votaries of the literal, who never expose their necks to escape
from the common. For the literal and the common he has the smallest
taste; when he renders an object into the language of painting his
translation is a generous paraphrase.

As I have intimated, he has painted little but portraits; but he has
painted very many of these, and I shall not attempt in so few pages to
give a catalogue of his works. Every canvas that has come from his hands
has not figured at the Salon; some of them have seen the light at other
exhibitions in Paris; some of them in London (of which city Mr. Sargent
is now an inhabitant), at the Royal Academy and the Grosvenor Gallery.
If he has been mainly represented by portraits there are two or three
little subject-pictures of which I retain a grateful memory. There
stands out in particular, as a pure gem, a small picture exhibited at
the Grosvenor, representing a small group of Venetian girls of the lower
class, sitting in gossip together one summer’s day in the big, dim
hall of a shabby old palazzo. The shutters let in a clink of light; the
scagliola pavement gleams faintly in it; the whole place is bathed in
a kind of transparent shade. The girls are vaguely engaged in some very
humble household work; they are counting turnips or stringing onions,
and these small vegetables, enchantingly painted, look as valuable as
magnified pearls. The figures are extraordinarily natural and vivid;
wonderfully light and fine is the touch by which the painter evokes
the small familiar Venetian realities (he has handled them with a vigor
altogether peculiar in various other studies which I have not space to
enumerate), and keeps the whole thing free from that element of humbug
which has ever attended most attempts to reproduce the idiosyncrasies
of Italy. I am, however, drawing to the end of my remarks without
having mentioned a dozen of those brilliant triumphs in the field of
portraiture with which Mr. Sargent’s name is preponderantly associated.
I jumped from his “Carolus Duran” to the masterpiece of 1881 without
speaking of the charming “Madame Pailleron” of 1879, or the picture of
this lady’s children the following year. Many, or rather most, of Mr.
Sargent’s sitters have been French, and he has studied the physiognomy
of this nation so attentively that a little of it perhaps remains in
the brush with which to-day, more than in his first years, he represents
other types. I have alluded to his superb “Docteur Pozzi,” to whose very
handsome, still youthful head and slightly artificial posture he has
given so fine a French cast that he might be excused if he should, even
on remoter pretexts, find himself reverting to it. This gentleman stands
up in his brilliant red dressing-gown with the _prestance_ of a princely
Vandyck. I should like to commemorate the portrait of a lady of a
certain age and of an equally certain interest of appearance--a lady
in black, with black hair, a black hat and a vast feather, which
was displayed at that entertaining little annual exhibition of the
“Mirlitons,” in the Place Vendôme. With the exquisite modelling of its
face (no one better than Mr. Sargent understands the beauty that resides
in exceeding fineness), this head remains in my mind as a masterly
rendering of the look of experience--such experience as may be
attributed to a woman slightly faded and eminently distinguished.
Subject and treatment in this valuable piece are of an equal interest,
and in the latter there is an element of positive sympathy which is not
always in a high degree the sign of Mr. Sargent’s work. What shall I say
of the remarkable canvas which, on the occasion of the Salon of 1884,
brought the critics about our artist’s ears, the already celebrated
portrait of “Madame G.?” It is an experiment of a highly original kind,
and the painter has had in the case, in regard to what Mr. Ruskin would
call the “rightness” of his attempt, the courage of his opinion. A
contestable beauty, according to Parisian fame, the lady stands upright
beside a table on which her right arm rests, with her body almost
fronting the spectator and her face in complete profile. She wears an
entirely sleeveless dress of black satin, against which her admirable
left arm detaches itself; the line of her harmonious profile has a
sharpness which Mr. Sargent does not always seek, and the crescent of
Diana, an ornament in diamonds, rests on her singular head. This work
had not the good-fortune to please the public at large, and I believe it
even excited a kind of unreasoned scandal--an idea sufficiently amusing
in the light of some of the manifestations of the plastic effort to
which, each year, the Salon stands sponsor. This superb picture, noble
in conception and masterly in line, gives to the figure represented
something of the high relief of the profiled images on great friezes.
It is a work to take or to leave, as the phrase is, and one in regard to
which the question of liking or disliking comes promptly to be settled.
The author has never gone further in being boldly and consistently
himself.

Two of Mr. Sargent’s recent productions have been portraits of American
ladies whom it must have been a delight to paint; I allude to those of
Lady Playfair and Mrs. Henry White, both of which were seen in the Royal
Academy of 1885, and the former subsequently in Boston, where it abides.
These things possess, largely, the quality which makes Mr. Sargent so
happy as a painter of women--a quality which can best be expressed by a
reference to what it is not, to the curiously literal, prosaic, sexless
treatment to which, in the commonplace work that looks down at us from
the walls of almost all exhibitions, delicate feminine elements have
evidently so often been sacrificed. Mr. Sargent handles these elements
with a special feeling for them, and they borrow a kind of noble
intensity from his brush. This intensity is not absent from the two
portraits I just mentioned, that of Lady Playfair and that of Mrs. Henry
White; it looks out at us from the erect head and frank animation of
the one, and the silvery sheen and shimmer of white satin and white lace
which form the setting of the slim tall-ness of the other. In the Royal
Academy of 1886 Mr. Sargent was represented by three important canvases,
all of which reminded the spectator of how much the brilliant effect he
produces in an English exhibition arises from a certain appearance that
he has of looking down from a height, a height of cleverness, a sensible
giddiness of facility, at the artistic problems of the given case.
Sometimes there is even a slight impertinence in it; that, doubtless,
was the impression of many of the people who passed, staring, with an
ejaculation, before the triumphant group of the three Misses V. These
young ladies, seated in a row, with a room much foreshortened for a
background, and treated with a certain familiarity of frankness, excited
in London a chorus of murmurs not dissimilar to that which it had been
the fortune of the portrait exhibited in 1884 to elicit in Paris, and
had the further privilege of drawing forth some prodigies of purblind
criticism. Works of this character are a genuine service; after the
short-lived gibes of the profane have subsided, they are found to have
cleared the air. They remind people that the faculty of taking a direct,
independent, unborrowed impression is not altogether lost.

In this very rapid review I have accompanied Mr. Sargent to a very
recent date. If I have said that observers encumbered with a nervous
temperament may at any moment have been anxious about his future, I have
it on my conscience to add that the day has not yet come for a complete
extinction of this anxiety. Mr. Sargent is so young, in spite of the
place allotted to him in these pages, so often a record of long careers
and uncontested triumphs that, in spite also of the admirable works he
has already produced, his future is the most valuable thing he has
to show. We may still ask ourselves what he will do with it, while we
indulge the hope that he will see fit to give successors to the two
pictures which I have spoken of emphatically as his finest. There is
no greater work of art than a great portrait--a truth to be constantly
taken to heart by a painter holding in his hands the weapon that Mr.
Sargent wields. The gift that he possesses he possesses completely--the
immediate perception of the end and of the means. Putting aside the
question of the subject (and to a great portrait a common sitter will
doubtless not always contribute), the highest result is achieved when
to this element of quick perception a certain faculty of brooding
reflection is added. I use this name for want of a better, and I mean
the quality in the light of which the artist sees deep into his subject,
undergoes it, absorbs it, discovers in it new things that were not
on the surface, becomes patient with it, and almost reverent, and, in
short, enlarges and humanizes the technical problem.



HONORÉ DAUMIER

AS we attempt, at the present day, to write the history of everything,
it would be strange if we had happened to neglect the annals of
caricature; for the very essence of the art of Cruikshank and Gavarni,
of Daumier and Leech, is to be historical; and every one knows how
addicted is this great science to discoursing about itself. Many
industrious seekers, in England and France, have ascended the stream
of time to the source of the modern movement of pictorial satire. The
stream of time is in this case mainly the stream of journalism; for
social and political caricature, as the present century has practised
it, is only journalism made doubly vivid.

The subject indeed is a large one, if we reflect upon it, for many
people would tell us that journalism is the greatest invention of our
age. If this rich affluent has shared the great fortune of the general
torrent, so, on other sides, it touches the fine arts, touches manners,
touches morals. All this helps to account for its inexhaustible
life; journalism is the criticism of the moment _at_ the moment, and
caricature is that criticism at once simplified and intensified by a
plastic form. We know the satiric image as periodical, and above all as
punctual--the characteristics of the printed sheet with which custom has
at last inveterately associated it.

This, by-the-way, makes us wonder considerably at the failure of
caricature to achieve, as yet, a high destiny in America--a failure
which might supply an occasion for much explanatory discourse, much
searching of the relations of things. The newspaper has been taught
to flourish among us as it flourishes nowhere else, and to flourish
moreover on a humorous and irreverent basis; yet it has never taken to
itself this helpful concomitant of an unscrupulous spirit and a quick
periodicity. The explanation is probably that it needs an old society to
produce ripe caricature. The newspaper thrives in the United States, but
journalism languishes; for the lively propagation of news is one thing
and the large interpretation of it is another. A society has to be old
before it becomes critical, and it has to become critical before it can
take pleasure in the reproduction of its incongruities by an instrument
as impertinent as the indefatigable crayon. Irony, scepticism, pessimism
are, in any particular soil, plants of gradual growth, and it is in the
art of caricature that they flower most aggressively. Furthermore they
must be watered by education--I mean by the education of the eye and
hand--all of which things take time. The soil must be rich too, the
incongruities must swarm. It is open to doubt whether a pure democracy
is very liable to make this particular satiric return upon itself; for
which it would seem tha’ certain social complications are indispensable.
These complications are supplied from the moment a democracy becomes,
as we may say, impure from its own point of view; from the moment
variations and heresies, deviations or perhaps simple affirmations
of taste and temper begin to multiply within it. Such things afford a
_point d’appui_; for it is evidently of the essence of caricature to be
reactionary. We hasten to add that its satiric force varies immensely in
kind and in degree according to the race, or to the individual talent,
that takes advantage of it.

I used just now the term pessimism; but that was doubtless in a
great measure because I have been turning over a collection of the
extraordinarily vivid drawings of Honoré Daumier. The same impression
would remain with me, no doubt, if I had been consulting an equal
quantity of the work of Gavarni the wittiest, the most literary and most
acutely profane of all chartered mockers with the pencil. The feeling of
disrespect abides in all these things, the expression of the spirit for
which humanity is definable primarily by its weaknesses. For Daumier
these weaknesses are altogether ugly and grotesque, while for Gavarni
they are either basely graceful or touchingly miserable; but the vision
of them in both cases is close and direct. If, on the other hand, we
look through a dozen volumes of the collection of _Punch_ we get an
equal impression of hilarity, but we by no means get an equal impression
of irony. Certainly the pages of _Punch_ do not reek with pessimism;
their “criticism of life” is gentle and forbearing. Leech is positively
optimistic; there is at any rate nothing infinite in his irreverence;
it touches bottom as soon as it approaches the pretty woman or the nice
girl. It is such an apparition as this that really, in Gavarni, awakes
the scoffer. Du Maurier is as graceful as Gavarni, but his sense of
beauty conjures away almost everything save our minor vices. It is
in the exploration of our major ones that Gavarni makes his principal
discoveries of charm or of absurdity of attitude. None the less, of
course, the general inspiration of both artists is the same: the desire
to try the innumerable different ways in which the human subject may
_not_ be taken seriously.

If this view of that subject, in its plastic manifestations, makes
history of a sort, it will not in general be of a kind to convert those
persons who find history sad reading. The writer of the present lines
remained unconverted, lately, on an occasion on which many cheerful
influences were mingled with his impression. They were of a nature to
which he usually does full justice, even overestimating perhaps their
charm of suggestion; but, at the hour I speak of, the old Parisian quay,
the belittered print-shop, the pleasant afternoon, the glimpse of the
great Louvre on the other side of the Seine, in the interstices of the
sallow _estampes_ suspended in window and doorway--all these elements
of a rich actuality availed only to mitigate, without transmuting, that
general vision of a high, cruel pillory which pieced itself together as
I drew specimen after specimen from musty portfolios. I had been passing
the shop when I noticed in a small _vitrine_, let into the embrasure of
the doorway, half a dozen soiled, striking lithographs, which it took no
more than a first glance to recognize as the work of Daumier. They were
only old pages of the _Charivari_, torn away from the text and rescued
from the injury of time; and they were accompanied with an inscription
to the effect that many similar examples of the artist were to be seen
within. To become aware of this circumstance was to enter the shop and
to find myself promptly surrounded with bulging; _cartons_ and tattered
relics. These relics--crumpled leaves of the old comic journals of the
period from 1830 to 1855--are neither rare nor expensive; but I happened
to have lighted on a particularly copious collection, and I made the
most of my small good-fortune, in order to transmute it, if possible,
into a sort of compensation for my having missed unavoidably, a few
months before, the curious exhibition “de la Caricature Moderne” held
for several weeks just at hand, in the École des Beaux-Arts.

Daumier was said to have appeared there in considerable force; and it
was a loss not to have had that particular opportunity of filling one’s
mind with him.

There was perhaps a perversity in having wished to do so, strange,
indigestible stuff of contemplation as he might appear to be; but the
perversity had had an honorable growth. Daumier’s great days were in the
reign of Louis-Philippe; but in the early years of the Second Empire
he still plied his coarse and formidable pencil. I recalled, from a
juvenile consciousness, the last failing strokes of it. They used to
impress me in Paris, as a child, with their abnormal blackness as well
as with their grotesque, magnifying movement, and there was something in
them that rather scared a very immature admirer. This small personage,
however, was able to perceive later, when he was unfortunately deprived
of the chance of studying them, that there were various things in them
besides the power to excite a vague alarm. Daumier was perhaps a great
artist; at all events unsatisfied curiosity increased in proportion to
that possibility.

The first complete satisfaction of it was really in the long hours that
I spent in the little shop on the quay. There I filled my mind with
him, and there too, at no great cost, I could make a big parcel of these
cheap reproductions of his work. This work had been shown in the Ecole
des Beaux-Arts as it came from his hand; M. Champfleury, his biographer,
his cataloguer and devotee, having poured forth the treasures of a
precious collection, as I suppose they would be called in the case of an
artist of higher flights. It was only as he was seen by the readers of
the comic journals of his day that I could now see him; but I tried to
make up for my want of privilege by prolonged immersion. I was not able
to take home all the portfolios from the shop on the quay, but I took
home what I could, and I went again to turn over the superannuated
piles. I liked looking at them on the spot; I seemed still surrounded by
the artist’s vanished Paris and his extinct Parisians. Indeed no quarter
of the delightful city probably shows, on the whole, fewer changes from
the aspect it wore during the period of Louis-Philippe, the time when
it will ever appear to many of its friends to have been most delightful.
The long line of the quay is unaltered, and the rare charm of the river.
People came and went in the shop: it is a wonder how many, in the course
of an hour, may lift the latch even of an establishment that pretends to
no great business. What was all this small, sociable, contentious
life but the great Daumier’s subject-matter? He was the painter of the
Parisian bourgeois, and the voice of the bourgeois was in the air.

M. Champfleury has given a summary of Daumier’s career in his smart
little _Histoire e la Caricature Moderne_, a record not at all abundant
in personal detail. The biographer has told his story better perhaps in
his careful catalogue of the artist’s productions, the first sketch of
which is to be found in _L’Art_ for 1878. This copious list is Daumier’s
real history; his life cannot have been a very different business from
his work. I read in the interesting publication of M. Grand-Carteret
(_Les Moeurs et la Caricature en France_ 1888) that our artist produced
nearly 4000 lithographs and a thousand drawings on wood, up to the time
when failure of eyesight compelled him to rest. This is not the sort
of activity that leaves a man much time for independent adventures, and
Daumier was essentially of the type, common in France, of the specialist
so immersed in his specialty that he can be painted in only one
attitude--a general circumstance which perhaps helps to account for
the paucity, in that country, of biography, in our English sense of the
word, in proportion to the superabundance of criticism.

Honoré Daumier was born at Marseilles February 26th, 1808; he died
on the 11th of the same month, 1879. His main activity, however,
was confined to the earlier portion of a career of almost exactly
seventy-one years, and I find it affirmed in Vapereau’s _Dictionnaire
des Contemporains_ that he became completely blind between 1850 and
1860. He enjoyed a pension from the State of 2400 francs; but what
relief from misery could mitigate a quarter of a century of darkness
for a man who had looked out at the world with such vivifying eyes? His
father had followed the trade of a glazier, but was otherwise vocal
than in the emission of the rich street-cry with which we used all to be
familiar, and which has vanished with so many other friendly pedestrian
notes. The elder Daumier wrought verses as well as window-panes, and M.
Champfleury has disinterred a small volume published by him in 1823.
The merit of his poetry is not striking; but he was able to transmit the
artistic nature to his son, who, becoming promptly conscious of it, made
the inevitable journey to Paris in search of fortune.

The young draughtsman appeared to have missed at first the way to this
boon; inasmuch as in the year 1832 he found himself condemned to six
months’ imprisonment for a lithograph disrespectful to Louis-Philippe.
This drawing had appeared in the _Caricature_, an organ of pictorial
satire founded in those days by one Philipon, with the aid of a band of
young mockers to whom he gave ideas and a direction, and several others,
of whom Gavarni, Henry Monnier, Decamps, Grandville, were destined to
make themselves a place. M. Eugène Montrosier, in a highly appreciative
article on Daumier in _L’Art_ for 1878, says that this same Philipon
was _le journalisme fait homme_; which did not prevent him--rather
in fact fostered such a result--from being perpetually in delicate
relations with the government. He had had many horses killed under
him, and had led a life of attacks, penalties, suppressions and
resurrections. He subsequently established the _Charivari_ and launched
a publication entitled _L’Association Lithographique Mensuelle_, which
brought to light much of Daumier’s early work. The artist passed
rapidly from seeking his way to finding it, and from an ineffectual to a
vigorous form.

In this limited compass and in the case of such a quantity of production
it is almost impossible to specify--difficult to pick dozens of examples
out of thousands. Daumier became more and more the political spirit of
the _Charivari_, or at least the political pencil, for M. Philipon, the
breath of whose nostrils was opposition--one perceives from here the
little bilious, bristling, ingenious, insistent man--is to be credited
with a suggestive share in any enterprise in which he had a hand. This
pencil played over public life, over the sovereign, the ministers,
the deputies, the peers, the judiciary, the men and the measures,
the reputations and scandals of the moment, with a strange, ugly,
extravagant, but none the less sane and manly vigor. Daumier’s sign is
strength above all, and in turning over his pages to-day there is no
intensity of force that the careful observer will not concede to him. It
is perhaps another matter to assent to the proposition, put forth by
his greatest admirers among his countrymen, that he is the first of
all caricaturists. To the writer of this imperfect sketch he remains
considerably less interesting than Gavarni; and/or a particular reason,
which it is difficult to express otherwise than by saying that he is too
simple. Simplicity was not Gavarni’s fault, and indeed to a large
degree it was Daumier’s merit. The single grossly ridiculous or almost
hauntingly characteristic thing which his figures represent is largely
the reason why they still represent life and an unlucky reality years
after the names attached to them have parted with a vivifying power.
Such vagueness has overtaken them, for the most part, and to such a thin
reverberation have they shrunk, the persons and the affairs which
were then so intensely sketchable. Daumier handled them with a want of
ceremony which would have been brutal were it not for the element of
science in his work, making them immense and unmistakable in their
drollery, or at least in their grotesqueness; for the term drollery
suggests gayety, and Daumier is anything but gay. _Un rude peintre de
moeurs_, M. Champfleury calls him; and the phrase expresses his extreme
breadth of treatment.

Of the victims of his “rudeness” M. Thiers is almost the only one whom
the present generation may recognize without a good deal of reminding,
and indeed his hand is relatively light in delineating this personage
of few inches and many episodes. M. Thiers must have been dear to the
caricaturist, for he belonged to the type that was easy to “do;” it
being well known that these gentlemen appreciate public characters in
direct proportion to their saliency of feature. When faces are reducible
to a few telling strokes their wearers are overwhelmed with the honors
of publicity; with which, on the other hand, nothing is more likely to
interfere than the possession of a countenance neatly classical. Daumier
had only to give M. Thiers the face of a clever owl, and the trick was
played. Of course skill was needed to individualize the symbol, but that
is what caricaturists propose to themselves. Of how well he
succeeded the admirable plate of the lively little minister in a
“new dress”--tricked out in the uniform of a general of the First
Republic--is a sufficient illustration. The bird of night is not an
acute bird, but how the artist has presented the image of a selected
specimen! And with what a life-giving pencil the whole figure is put
on its feet, what intelligent drawing, what a rich, free stroke! The
allusions conveyed in it are to such forgotten things that it is strange
to think the personage was, only the other year, still contemporaneous;
that he might have been met, on a fine day, taking a few firm steps in
a quiet part of the Champs Élysées, with his footman carrying a second
overcoat and looking doubly tall behind him. In whatever attitude
Daumier depicts him, planted as a tiny boxing-master at the feet of the
virtuous colossus in a blouse (whose legs are apart, like those-of the
Rhodian), in whom the artist represents the People, to watch the match
that is about to come off between Ratapoil and M. Berryer, or even in
the act of lifting the “parricidal” club of a new repressive law to
deal a blow at the Press, an effulgent, diligent, sedentary muse (this
picture, by the way, is a perfect specimen of the simple and telling in
political caricature)--however, as I say, he takes M. Thiers, there is
always a rough indulgence in his crayon, as if he were grateful to him
for lending himself so well. He invented Ratapoil as he appropriated
Robert Macaire, and as a caricaturist he never fails to put into
circulation, when he can, a character to whom he may attribute as many
as possible of the affectations or the vices of the day. Robert Macaire,
an imaginative, a romantic rascal, was the hero of a highly successful
melodrama written for Frederick Lemaitre; but Daumier made him the
type of the swindler at large in an age of feverish speculation--the
projector of showy companies, the advertiser of worthless shares. There
is a whole series of drawings descriptive of his exploits, a hundred
masterly plates which, according to M. Champfleury, consecrated
Daumier’s reputation. The subject, the legend, was in most cases, still
according to M. Champfleury, suggested by Philipon. Sometimes it was
very witty; as for instance when Bertrand, the muddled acolyte or
scraping second fiddle of the hero, objects, in relation to a brilliant
scheme which he has just developed, with the part Bertrand is to play,
that there are constables in the country, and he promptly replies,
“Constables? So much the better--they’ll take the shares!” Ratapoil was
an evocation of the same general character, but with a difference of
_nuance_--the ragged political bully, or hand-to-mouth demagogue, with
the smashed tall hat, cocked to one side, the absence of linen, the club
half-way up his sleeve, the swagger and pose of being gallant for the
people. Ratapoil abounds in the promiscuous drawings that I have looked
over, and is always very strong and living, with a considerable element
of the sinister, so often in Daumier an accompaniment of the comic.
There is an admirable page--it brings the idea down to 1851--in which
a sordid but astute peasant, twirling his thumbs on his stomach and
looking askance, allows this political adviser to urge upon him in
a whisper that there is not a minute to lose--to lose for action, of
course--if he wishes to keep his wife, his house, his field, his heifer
and his calf. The canny scepticism in the ugly, half-averted face of the
typical rustic who considerably suspects his counsellor is indicated by
a few masterly strokes.

This is what the student of Daumier recognizes as his science, or, if
the word has a better grace, his art. It is what has kept life in his
work so long after so many of the occasions of it have been swept into
darkness. Indeed, there is no such commentary on renown as the “back
numbers” of a comic journal. They show us that at certain moments
certain people were eminent, only to make us unsuccessfully try to
remember what they were eminent _for_. And the comparative obscurity
(comparative, I mean, to the talent of the caricaturist) overtakes even
the most justly honored names. M. Berryer was a splendid speaker and a
public servant of real distinction and the highest utility; yet the fact
that to-day his name is on few men’s lips seems to be emphasized by this
other fact that we continue to pore over Daumier, in whose plates we
happen to come across him. It reminds one afresh how Art is an embalmer,
a magician, whom we can never speak too fair. People duly impressed with
this truth are sometimes laughed at for their superstitious tone, which
is pronounced, according to the fancy of the critic, mawkish, maudlin or
hysterical. But it is really difficult to see how any reiteration of
the importance of art can overstate the plain facts. It prolongs, it
preserves, it consecrates, it raises from the dead. It conciliates,
charms, bribes posterity; and it murmurs to mortals, as the old French
poet sang to his mistress, “You will be fair only so far as I have said
so.” When it whispers even to the great, “You depend upon me, and I can
do more for you, in the long-run, than any one else,” it is scarcely too
proud. It puts method and power and the strange, real, mingled air
of things into Daumier’s black sketchiness, so full of the technical
_gras_, the “fat” which French critics commend and which we have no
word to express. It puts power above all, and the effect which he
best achieves, that of a certain simplification of the attitude or the
gesture to an almost symbolic generality. His persons represent only one
thing, but they insist tremendously on that, and their expression of it
abides with us, unaccompanied with timid detail. It may really be said
that they represent only one class--the old and ugly; so that there is
proof enough of a special faculty in his having played such a concert,
lugubrious though it be, on a single chord. It has been made a reproach
to him, says M. Grand-Carteret, that “his work is lacking in two capital
elements--_la jeunesse et la femme_;” and the commentator resents his
being made to suffer for the deficiency--“as if an artist could be at
the same time deep, comic, graceful and pretty; as if all those who have
a real value had not created for themselves a form to which they remain
confined and a type which they reproduce in all its variations, as soon
as they have touched the æsthetic ideal that has been their dream.
Assuredly humanity, as this great painter saw it, could not be
beautiful; one asks one’s self what maiden in her teens, a pretty face,
would have done in the midst of these good, plain folk, stunted and
elderly, with faces like wrinkled apples. A simple accessory most of
the time, woman is for him merely a termagant or a blue-stocking who has
turned the corner.”

When the eternal feminine, for Daumier appears in neither of these
forms he sees it in Madame Chaboulard or Madame Fribochon, the old
snuff-taking, gossiping portress, in a nightcap and shuffling _savates_,
relating or drinking in the wonderful and the intimate. One of his
masterpieces represents three of these dames, lighted by a guttering
candle, holding their heads together to discuss the fearful earthquake
at Bordeaux, the consequence of the government’s allowing the surface
of the globe to be unduly dug out in California. The representation of
confidential imbecility could not go further. When a man leaves out so
much of life as Daumier--youth and beauty and the charm of woman and the
loveliness of childhood and the manners of those social groups of
whom it may most be said that they _have_ manners--when he exhibits a
deficiency on this scale it might seem that the question was not to be
so easily disposed of as in the very non-apologetic words I have just
quoted. All the same (and I confess it is singular), we may feel what
Daumier omitted and yet not be in the least shocked by the claim of
predominance made for him. It is impossible to spend a couple of hours
over him without assenting to this claim, even though there may be a
weariness in such a panorama of ugliness and an inevitable reaction
from it. This anomaly, and the challenge to explain it which appears to
proceed from him, render him, to my sense, remarkably interesting. The
artist whose idiosyncrasies, whose limitations, if you will, make
us question and wonder, in the light of his fame, has an element
of fascination not attaching to conciliatory talents. If M. Eugene
Montrosier may say of him without scandalizing us that such and such
of his drawings belong to the very highest art, it is interesting (and
Daumier profits by the interest) to put one’s finger on the reason we
are not scandalized.

I think this reason is that, on the whole he is so peculiarly serious.
This may seem an odd ground of praise for a jocose draughtsman, and of
course what I mean is that his comic force is serious--a very different
thin from the absence of comedy. This essential sign of the caricaturist
may surely be anything it will so long as it is there. Daumier’s figures
are almost always either foolish, fatuous politicians or frightened,
mystified bourgeois; yet they help him to give us a strong sense of
the nature of man. They are some times so serious that they are almost
tragic the look of the particular pretension, combined with inanity, is
carried almost to madness. There is a magnificent drawing of the series
of “Le Public du Salon,” old classicists looking up, horrified and
scandalized, at the new romantic work of 1830, in which the faces have
an appalling gloom of mystification and platitude. We feel that Daumier
reproduces admirably the particular life that he sees, because it is
the very medium in which he moves. He has no wide horizon; the absolute
bourgeois hems him in, and he is a bourgeois himself, without poetic
ironies, to whom a big cracked mirror has been given. His thick, strong,
manly touch stands, in every way, for so much knowledge. He used to make
little images, in clay and in wax (many of them still exist), of
the persons he was in the habit of representing, so that they might
constantly seem to be “sitting” for him. The caricaturist of that day
had not the help of the ubiquitous photograph. Daumier painted actively,
as well, in his habitation, all dedicated to work, on the narrow island
of St. Louis, where the Seine divides and where the monuments of old
Paris stand thick, and the types that were to his purpose pressed close
upon him. He had not far to go to encounter the worthy man, in the
series of “Les Papas,” who is reading the evening paper at the café
with so amiable and placid a credulity, while his unnatural little boy,
opposite to him, finds sufficient entertainment in the much-satirized
_Constitutionnel_. The bland absorption of the papa, the face of the man
who believes everything he sees in the newspaper, is as near as Daumier
often comes to positive gentleness of humor. Of the same family is the
poor gentleman, in “Actualités,” seen, in profile, under a doorway where
he has taken refuge from a torrent of rain, who looks down at his neat
legs with a sort of speculative contrition and says. “To think of
my having just ordered two pairs of white trousers.” The _tout petit
bourgeois_ palpitates in both these sketches.

I must repeat that it is absurd to pick half a dozen at hazard, out of
five thousand; yet a few selections are the only way to call attention
to his strong drawing. This has a virtuosity of its own, for all
its hit-or-miss appearance. Whatever he touches--the nude, in the
swimming-baths on the Seine, the intimations of landscape, when his
_petits rentiers_ go into the suburbs for a Sunday--acquires relief and
character, Docteur Véron, a celebrity of the reign of Louis-Philippe,
a Mæcenas of the hour, a director of the opera, author of the _Mémoires
d’un Bourgeois de Paris_--this temporary “illustration,” who appears to
have been almost indecently ugly, would not be vivid to us to-day had
not Daumier, who was often effective at his expense, happened to have
represented him, in some crisis of his career, as a sort of naked
inconsolable Vitellius. He renders the human body with a cynical
sense of its possible flabbiness and an intimate acquaintance with its
structure. “Une Promenade Conjugale,” in the series of “Tout ce qu’on
voudra,” portrays a hillside, on a summer afternoon, on which a man has
thrown himself on his back to rest, with his arms locked under his head.
His fat, full-bosomed, middle-aged wife, under her parasol, with a bunch
of field-flowers in her hand, looks down at him patiently and seems to
say, “Come, my dear, get up.” There is surely no great point in this;
the only point is life, the glimpse of the little snatch of poetry in
prose. It is a matter of a few broad strokes of the crayon; yet the
pleasant laziness of the man, the idleness of the day, the fragment of
homely, familiar dialogue, the stretch of the field with a couple of
trees merely suggested, have a communicative truth.

I perhaps exaggerate all this, and in insisting upon the merit of
Daumier may appear to make light of the finer accomplishment of several
more modern talents, in England and France, who have greater ingenuity
and subtlety and have carried qualities of execution so, much further.
In looking at this complicated younger work, which has profited so by
experience and comparison, it is inevitable that we should perceive it
to be infinitely more cunning. On the other hand Daumier, moving in his
contracted circle, has an impressive depth. It comes back to his strange
seriousness. He is a draughtsman by race, and if he has not extracted
the same brilliancy from training, or perhaps even from effort and
experiment, as some of his successors, does not his richer satiric and
sympathetic feeling more than make up the difference?

However this question may be answered, some of his drawings belong to
the class of the unforgetable. It may be a perversity of prejudice,
but even the little cut of the “Connoisseurs,” the group of gentlemen
collected round a picture and criticising it in various attitudes
of sapience and sufficiency, appears to me to have the strength that
abides. The criminal in the dock, the flat-headed murderer, bending over
to speak to his advocate, who turns a whiskered, professional, anxious
head to caution and remind him. tells a large, terrible story and awakes
a recurrent shudder. We see the gray court-room, we feel the personal
suspense and the immensity of justice. The “Saltimbanques,” reproduced
in _L’Art_ for 1878, is a page of tragedy, the finest of a cruel
series. M. Eugène Montrosier says of it that “The drawing is masterly,
incomparably firm, the composition superb, the general impression quite
of the first order.” It exhibits a pair of lean, hungry mountebanks, a
clown and a harlequin beating the drum and trying a comic attitude
to attract the crowd, at a fair, to a poor booth in front of which a
painted canvas, offering to view a simpering fat woman, is suspended.
But the crowd doesn’t come, and the battered tumblers, with their
furrowed cheeks, go through their pranks in the void. The whole thing
is symbolic and full of grim-ness, imagination and pity. It is the sense
that we shall find in him, mixed with his homelier extravagances, an
element prolific in indications of this order that draws us back to
Daumier.



AFTER THE PLAY

The play was not over when the curtain fell, four months ago; it
was continued in a supplementary act or epilogue which took place
immediately afterwards. “Come home to tea,” Florentia said to certain
friends who had stopped to speak to her in the lobby of the little
theatre in Soho--they had been present at a day performance by the
company of the Theatre Libre, transferred for a week from Paris; and
three of these--Auberon and Dorriforth, accompanying Amicia--turned up
so expeditiously that the change of scene had the effect of being neatly
executed. The short afterpiece--it was in truth very slight--began with
Amicia’s entrance and her declaration that she would never again go to
an afternoon performance: it was such a horrid relapse into the real to
find it staring at you through the ugly daylight on coming out of the
blessed fictive world.

Dorriforth. Ah, you touch there on one of the minor sorrows of life.
That’s an illustration of the general change that comes to pass in us
as we grow older, if we have ever loved the stage: the fading of the
glamour and the mystery that surround it.

Auberon. Do you call it a minor sorrow? It’s one of the greatest. And
nothing can mitigate it.

Amicia. Wouldn’t it be mitigated a little if the stage were a trifle
better? You must remember how that has changed.

Auberon. Never, never: it’s the same old stage. The change is in
ourselves.

Florentia. Well, I never would have given an evening to what we have
just seen. If one could have put it in between luncheon and tea, well
enough. But one’s evenings are too precious.

Dorriforth. Note that--it’s very important.

Florentia. I mean too precious for that sort of thing.

Auberon. Then you didn’t sit spellbound by the little history of the Due
d’Enghien?

Florentia. I sat yawning. Heavens, what a piece!

Amicia. Upon my word I liked it. The last act made me cry.

Dorriforth. Wasn’t it a curious, interesting specimen of some of the
things that are worth trying: an attempt to sail closer to the real?

Auberon. How much closer? The fiftieth part of a point--it isn’t
calculable.

Florentia. It was just like any other play--I saw no difference. It
had neither a plot, nor a subject, nor dialogue, nor situations, nor
scenery, nor costumes, nor acting.

Amicia. Then it was hardly, as you say, just like any other play.

Auberon. Florentia should have said like any other _bad_‘one. The only
way it differed seemed to be that it was bad in theory as well as in
fact.

Amicia. It’s a _morceau de vie_, as the French say.

Auberon. Oh, don’t begin on the French!

Amicia. It’s a French experiment--_que voulez-vous?_

Auberon. English experiments will do.

Dorriforth. No doubt they would--if there _were_ any. But I don’t see
them.

Amicia. Fortunately: think what some of them might be! Though
Florentia saw nothing I saw many things in this poor little shabby “Due
d’Enghien,” coming over to our roaring London, where the dots have to
be so big on the i’s, with its barely audible note of originality. It
appealed to me, touched me, offered me a poignant suggestion of the way
things happen in life.

Auberon. In life they happen clumsily, stupidly, meanly. One goes to
the theatre just for the refreshment of seeing them happen in another
way--in symmetrical, satisfactory form, with unmistakable effect and
just at the right moment.

Dorriforth. It shows how the same cause may produce the most diverse
consequences. In this truth lies the only hope of art.

Auberon. Oh, art, art--don’t talk about art!

Amicia. Mercy, we must talk about something!

Dorriforth. Auberon hates generalizations. Nevertheless I make bold
to say that we go to the theatre in the same spirit in which we read
a novel, some of us to find one thing and some to find another; and
according as we look for the particular thing we find it.

Auberon. That’s a profound remark.

Florentia. We go to find amusement: that, surely, is what we all go for.

Amicia. There’s such a diversity in our idea of amusement.

Auberon. Don’t you impute to people more ideas than they have?

Dorriforth. Ah, one must do that or one couldn’t talk about them. We
go to be interested; to be absorbed, beguiled and to lose ourselves, to
give ourselves up, in short, to a charm.

Florentia. And the charm is the strange, the extraordinary.

Amicia. Ah, speak for yourself! The charm is the recognition of what we
know, what we feel.

Dorriforth. See already how you differ.

“SO!”

What we surrender ourselves to is the touch of nature, the sense of
life.

Amicia. The first thing is to believe.

Florentia. The first thing, on the contrary, is to _dis_believe.

Auberon. Lord, listen to them!

Dorriforth. The first thing is to folio--to care.

Florentia. I read a novel, I go to the theatre, to forget.

Amicia. To forget what?

Florentia. To forget life; to thro myself into something more beautiful
more exciting: into fable and romance.

Dorriforth. The attraction of fable and romance is that it’s about _us_,
about you and me--or people whose power to suffer and to enjoy is the
same as ours. In other words, we _live_ their experience, for the time,
and that’s hardly escaping from life.

Florentia. I’m not at all particular as to what you call it. Call it an
escape from the common, the prosaic, the immediate.

Dorriforth. You couldn’t put it better. That’s the life that art, with
Auberon’s permission, gives us; that’s the distinction it confers. This
is why the greatest commonness is when our guide turns out a vulgar
fellow--the angel, as we had supposed him, who has taken us by the hand.
Then what becomes of our escape?

Florentia. It’s precisely then that I complain of him. He leads us into
foul and dreary places--into flat and foolish deserts.

Dorriforth. He leads us into his own mind, his own vision of things:
that’s the only place into which the poet _can_ lead us. It’s there that
he finds “As You Like It,” it is there that he finds “Comus,” or “The
Way of the World,” or the Christmas pantomime. It is when he betrays us,
after he has got us in and locked the door, when he can’t keep from us
that we are in a bare little hole and that there are no pictures on the
walls, it is then that the immediate and the foolish overwhelm us.

Amicia. That’s what I liked in the piece we have been looking at. There
was an artistic intention, and the little room wasn’t bare: there was
sociable company in it. The actors were very humble aspirants, they were
common--

Auberon. Ah, when the French give their mind to that--!

Amicia. Nevertheless they struck me as recruits to an interesting cause,
which as yet (the house was so empty) could confer neither money nor
glory. They had the air, poor things, of working for love.

Auberon. For love of what?

Amicia. Of the whole little enterprise--the idea of the Théâtre Libre.

Florentia. Gracious, what you see in things! Don’t you suppose they were
paid?

Amicia. I know nothing about it. I liked their shabbiness--they had
only what was indispensable in the way of dress and scenery. That often
pleases me: the imagination, in certain cases, is more finely persuaded
by the little than by the much.

Dorriforth. I see what Amicia means.

Florentia. I’ll warrant you do, and a great deal more besides.

Dorriforth. When the appointments are meagre and sketchy the
responsibility that rests upon the actors becomes a still more serious
thing, and the spectator’s observation of the way they rise to it a
pleasure more intense. The face and the voice are more to the purpose
than acres of painted canvas, and a touching intonation, a vivid gesture
or two, than an army of supernumeraries.

Auberon. Why not have everything--the face, the voice, the touching
intonations, the vivid gestures, the acres of painted canvas, _and_ the
army of supernumeraries? Why not use bravely and intelligently every
resource of which the stage disposes? What else was Richard Wagner’s
great theory, in producing his operas at Bayreuth?

Dorriforth. Why not, indeed? That would be the ideal. To have the
picture complete at the same time the figures do their part in producing
the particular illusion required--what a perfection and what a joy! I
know no answer to that save the aggressive, objectionable fact. Simply
look at the stage of to-day and observe that these two branches of the
matter never do happen to go together. There is evidently a corrosive
principle in the large command of machinery and decorations--a germ
of perversion and corruption. It gets the upperhand--it becomes the
master. It is so much less easy to get good actors than good scenery
and to represent a situation by the delicacy of personal art than by
“building it in” and having everything real. Surely there is no reality
worth a farthing, on the stage, but what the actor gives, and only when
he has learned his business up to the hilt need he concern himself with
his material accessories. He hasn’t a decent respect for his art unless
he be ready to render his part as if the whole illusion depended on that
alone and the accessories didn’t exist. The acting is everything or it’s
nothing. It ceases to be everything as soon as something else becomes
very important. This is the case, to-day, on the London stage: something
else is very important. The public have been taught to consider it so:
the clever machinery has ended by operating as a bribe and a blind.
Their sense of the rest of the matter has gone to the dogs, as you may
perceive when you hear a couple of occupants of the stalls talking, in a
tone that excites your curiosity, about a performance that’s “splendid.”

Amicia. Do you ever hear the occupants of the stalls talking? Never,
in the _entr’actes_, have I detected, on their lips, a criticism or a
comment.

Dorriforth. Oh, they say “splendid”--distinctly! But a question or
two reveals that their reference is vague: they don’t themselves know
whether they mean the art of the actor or that of the stage-carpenter.

Auberon. Isn’t that confusion a high result of taste? Isn’t it what’s
called a feeling for the _ensemble?_ The artistic effect, as a whole, is
so welded together that you can’t pick out the parts.

Dorriforth. Precisely; that’s what it is in the best cases, and some
examples are wonderfully clever.

Florentia. Then what fault do you find? Dorriforth. Simply this--that
the whole is a pictorial whole, not a dramatic one. There is something
indeed that you can’t pick out, for the very good reason that--in any
serious sense of the word--it isn’t there.

Florentia. The public has taste, then, if it recognizes and delights in
a fine picture.

Dorriforth. I never said it hadn’t, so far as that goes. The public
likes to be amused, and small blame to it. It isn’t very particular
about the means, but it has rather a preference for amusements that I
believes to be “improving,” other things being equal. I don’t think it’s
either very intelligent or at all opinionated, the dear old public it
takes humbly enough what is given it and it doesn’t cry for the moon. It
has an idea that fine scenery is an appeal to its nobler part, and that
it shows a nice critical sense in preferring it to poor. That’s a real
intellectual flight, for the public.

Auberon. Very well, its preference is right, and why isn’t that a
perfectly legitimate state of things?

Dorriforth. Why isn’t it? It distinctly _is!_ Good scenery and poor
acting are better than poor scenery with the same sauce. Only it becomes
then another matter: we are no longer talking about the drama.

Auberon. Very likely that’s the future of the drama, in London--an
immense elaboration of the picture.

Dorriforth. My dear fellow, you take the words out of my mouth.
An immense elaboration of the picture and an immense sacrifice of
everything else: it would take very little more to persuade me that that
will be the only formula for our children. It’s all right, when once we
have buried our dead. I have no doubt that the scenic part of the art,
remarkable as some of its achievements already appear to us, is only in
its infancy, and that we are destined to see wonders done that we now
but faintly conceive. The probable extension of the mechanical arts
is infinite. “Built in,” forsooth! We shall see castles and cities and
mountains and rivers built in. Everything points that way; especially
the constitution of the contemporary multitude. It is huge and
good-natured and common. It likes big, unmistakable, knock-down effects;
it likes to get its money back in palpable, computable change. It’s in
a tremendous hurry, squeezed together, with a sort of generalized gape,
and the last thing it expects of you is that you will spin things fine.
You can’t portray a character, alas, or even, vividly, any sort of human
figure, unless, in some degree, you do that. Therefore the theatre,
inevitably accommodating itself, will be at last a landscape without
figures. I mean, of course, without figures that count. There will
be little illustrations of costume stuck about--dressed manikins; but
they’ll have nothing to say: they won’t even go through the form of
speech.

Amicia. What a hideous prospect!

Dorriforth. Not necessarily, for we shall have grown used to it: we
shall, as I say, have buried our dead. To-day it’s cruel, because our
old ideals are only dying, they are _in extremis_, they are virtually
defunct, but they are above-ground--we trip and stumble on them. We
shall eventually lay them tidily away. This is a bad moment, because
it’s a moment of transition, and we still _miss_ the old superstition,
the bravery of execution, the eloquence of the lips, the interpretation
of character. We miss these things, of course, in proportion as the
ostensible occasion for them is great; we miss them particularly, for
instance, when the curtain rises on Shakespeare. Then we are conscious
of a certain divine dissatisfaction, of a yearning for that which isn’t.
But we shall have got over this discomfort on the day when we have
accepted the ostensible occasion as merely and frankly ostensible, and
the real one as having nothing to do with it.

Florentia. I don’t follow you. As I’m one of the squeezed, gaping
public, I must be dense and vulgar. You do, by-the-way, immense
injustice to that body. They do care for character--care much for it.
Aren’t they perpetually talking about the actor’s conception of it?

Dorriforth. Dear lady, what better proof can there be of their
ineptitude, and that painted canvas and real water are the only things
they understand? The vanity of wasting time over that! Auberon. Over
what? Dorriforth. The actor’s conception of a part. It’s the refuge of
observers who are no observers and critics who are no critics. With what
on earth have we to do save his execution?

Florentia. I don’t in the least agree with you.

Amicia. Are you very sure, my poor Dorriforth?

Auberon. Give him rope and he’ll hang himself.

Dorriforth. It doesn’t need any great license to ask who in the world
holds in his bosom the sacred secret of the right conception. All the
actor can do is to give us his. We must take that one for granted, we
make him a present of it. He must impose his conception upon us--

Auberon (interrupting). I thought you said we accepted it.

Dorriforth. Impose it upon our _attention_. clever Auberon. It is
because we accept his idea that he must repay us by making it vivid, by
showing us how valuable it is. We give him a watch: he must show us what
time it keeps. He winds it up, that is he executes the conception, and
his execution is what we criticise, if we be so moved. Can anything be
more absurd than to hear people discussing the conception of a part of
which the execution doesn’t exist--the idea of a character which never
arrives at form? Think what it is, that form, as an accomplished actor
may give it to us, and admit that we have enough to do to hold him to
this particular honor.

Auberon. Do you mean to say you don’t think some conceptions are better
than some others?

Dorriforth. Most assuredly, some are better: the proof of the pudding
is in the eating. The best are those which yield the most points,
which have the largest face; those, in other words, that are the most
demonstrable, or, in other words still, the most actable. The most
intelligent performer is he who recognizes most surely this “actable”
 and distinguishes in it the more from the less. But we are so far from
being in possession of a subjective pattern to which we have a right to
hold him that he is entitled directly to contradict any such absolute by
presenting us with different versions of the same text, each completely
colored, completely consistent with itself. Every actor in whom the
artistic life is strong must often feel the challenge to do that. I
should never think, for instance, of contesting an actress’s right to
represent Lady Macbeth as a charming, insinuating woman, if she really
sees the figure that way. I may be surprised at such a vision; but so
far from being scandalized, I am positively thankful for the extension
of knowledge, of pleasure, that she is able to open to me.

Auberon. A reading, as they say, either commends itself to one’s sense
of truth or it doesn’t. In the one case--

Dorriforth. In the one case I recognize--even--or especially--when the
presumption may have been against the particular attempt, a consummate
illustration of what art can do. In the other I moralize indulgently
upon human rashness.

Florentia. You have an assurance _à taute épreuve_; but you are
deplorably superficial. There is a whole group of plays and a whole
category of acting to which your generalizations quite fail to apply.
Help me, Auberon.

Auberon. You’re easily exhausted. I suppose she means that it’s far from
true everywhere that the scenery is everything. It may be true--I don’t
say it is!--of two or three good-natured playhouses in London. It isn’t
true--how can it be?--of the provincial theatres or of the others in the
capital. Put it even that they would be all scenery if they could; they
can’t, poor things--so they have to provide acting.

Dorriforth. They have to, fortunately; but what do we hear of it?

Florentia. How do you mean, what do we hear of it?

Dorriforth. In what trumpet of fame does it reach us? They do what they
can, the performers Auberon alludes to, and they are brave souls. But I
am speaking of the conspicuous cases, of the exhibitions that draw.

Florentia. There is good acting that draws; one could give you names and
places.

Dorriforth. I have already guessed those you mean. But when it isn’t
too much a matter of the paraphernalia it is too little a matter of
the play. A play nowadays is a rare bird. I should like to see ¦ one.
Florentia. There are lots of them, all the while--the newspapers talk
about them. People talk about them at dinners.

Dorriforth. What do they say about them?

Florentia. The newspapers?

Dorriforth. No, I don’t care for _them_. The people at dinners.

Florentia. Oh. they don’t say anything in particular.

Dorriforth. Doesn’t that seem to show the effort isn’t very suggestive?

Amicia. The conversation at dinners certainly isn’t.

Dorriforth. I mean our contemporary drama. To begin with, you can’t find
it there’s no text.

Florentia. No text?

Auberon. So much the better!

Dorriforth. So much the better if there is to be no criticism. There
is only a dirt prompter’s book. One can’t put one’s hand upon it; one
doesn’t know what one is discussing. There is no “authority”--nothing is
ever published.

Amicia. The pieces wouldn’t bear that.

Dorriforth. It would be a small ordeal to resist--if there were anything
in them. Look at the novels!

Amicia. The text is the French _brochure_. The “adaptation” is
unprintable.

Dorriforth. That’s where it’s so wrong, It ought at least to be as good
as the original.

Auberon. Aren’t there some “rights” to protect--some risk of the play
being stolen if it’s published?

Dorriforth. There may be--I don’t know. Doesn’t that only prove how
little important we regard the drama as being, and how little seriously
we take it, if we won’t even trouble ourselves to bring about decent
civil conditions for its existence? What have we to do with the French
_brochure?_ how does that help us to represent our own life, our
manners, our customs, our ideas, our English types, our English world?
Such a field for comedy, for tragedy, for portraiture, for satire,
as they all make-such subjects as they would yield! Think of London
alone--what a matchless hunting-ground for the satirist--the most
magnificent that ever was. If the occasion always produced the man
London would have produced an Aristophanes. But somehow it doesn’t.

Florentia. Oh, types and ideas, Aristophanes and satire--!

Dorriforth. I’m too ambitious, you mean? I shall presently show you
that I’m not ambitious at all. Everything makes against that--I am only
reading the signs.

Auberon. The plays are arranged to be as English as possible: they are
altered, they are fitted.

Dorriforth. Fitted? Indeed they are, and to the capacity of infants.
They are in too many cases made vulgar, puerile, barbarous. They are
neither fish nor flesh, and with all the point that’s left out and all
the naïveté that’s put in, they cease to place before us any coherent
appeal or any recognizable society.

Auberon. They often make good plays to act, all the same.

Dorriforth. They may; but they don’t make good plays to see or to hear.
The theatre consists of two things, _que diable_--of the stage and the
drama, and I don’t see how you can have it unless you have both, or how
you can have either unless you have the other. They are the two blades
of a pair of scissors.

Auberon. You are very unfair to native talent. There are lots of
_strictly original_ plays--

Amicia. Yes, they put that expression on the posters.

Auberon. I don’t know what they put on the posters; but the plays are
written and acted--produced with great success.

Dorriforth. Produced--partly. A play isn’t fully produced until it is in
a form in which you can refer to it. We have to talk in the air. I can
refer to my Congreve, but I can’t to my Pinero. {*}

     * Since the above was written several of Mr. Pinero’s plays
       have been published.

Florentia. The authors are not bound to publish them if they don’t wish.

Dorriforth. Certainly not, nor are they in that case bound to insist on
one’s not being a little vague about them. They are perfectly free to
withhold them; they may have very good reasons for it, and I can imagine
some that would be excellent and worthy of all respect. But their
withholding them is one of the signs.

Auberon. What signs?

Dorriforth. Those I just spoke of--those we are trying to read together.
The signs that ambition and desire are folly, that the sun of the drama
has set, that the matter isn’t worth talking about, that it has ceased
to be an interest for serious folk, and that everything--everything, I
mean, that’s anything--is over. The sooner we recognize it the sooner to
sleep, the sooner we get clear of misleading illusions and are purged
of the bad blood that disappointment makes. It’s a pity, because the
theatre--after every allowance is made--_might_ have been a fine thing.
At all events it was a pleasant--it was really almost a noble--dream.
_Requiescat!_

Florentia. I see nothing to confirm your absurd theory. I delight in the
play; more people than ever delight in it with me; more people than ever
go to it, and there are ten theatres in London where there were two of
old.

Dorriforth. Which is what was to demonstrated. Whence do they derive
their nutriment?

Auberon. Why, from the enormous public.

Dorriforth. My dear fellow, I’m not talking of the box-office. What
wealth of dramatic, of histrionic production have we to meet that
enormous demand? There will be twenty theatres ten years hence where
there are ten to-day, and there will be, no doubt, ten times as many
people “delighting in them,” like Florentla. But it won’t alter the fact
that our dream will have been dreamed. Florentia said a word when we
came in which alone speaks volumes.

Florentia. What was my word?

Auberon. You are sovereignly unjust to native talent among the actors--I
leave the dramatists alone. There are many who do excellent, independent
work; strive for perfection, completeness--in short, the things we want.

Dorriforth. I am not in the least unjust to them--I only pity them: they
have so little to put _sous la dent_. It must seem to them at times
that no one will work for them, that they are likely to starve for
parts--forsaken of gods and men.

Florentia. If they work, then, in solitude and sadness, they have the
more honor, and one should recognize more explicitly their great merit.

Dorriforth. Admirably said. Their laudable effort is precisely the one
little loop-hole that I see of escape from the general doom. Certainly
we must try to enlarge it--that small aperture into the blue. We must
fix our eyes on it and make much of it, exaggerate it, do anything with
it tha may contribute to restore a working faith. Precious that must be
to the sincere spirits on the stage who are conscious of all the other
things--formidable things--that rise against them.

Amicia. What other things do you mean?

Dorriforth. Why, for one thing, the grossness and brutality of
London, with its scramble, its pressure, its hustle of engagements, of
preoccupations, its long distances, its late hours, its nightly dinners,
its innumerable demands on the attention, its general congregation of
influences fatal to the isolation, to the punctuality, to the security,
of the dear old playhouse spell. When Florentia said in her charming
way--

Florentia. Here’s my dreadful speech at last.

Dorriforth. When you said that you went to the Théâtre Libre in the
afternoon because you couldn’t spare an evening, I recognized the
death-knell of the drama. _Time_, the very breath of its nostrils,
is lacking. Wagner was clever to go to leisurely Bayreuth among the
hills--the Bayreuth of spacious days, a paradise of “development.”

Talk to a London audience of “development!” The long runs would, if
necessary, put the whole question into a nutshell. Figure to yourself,
for then the question is answered, how an intelligent actor must loathe
them, and what a cruel negation he must find in them of the artistic
life, the life of which the very essence is variety of practice,
freshness of experiment, and to feel that one must do many things in
turn to do any one of them completely.

Auberon. I don’t in the least understand your _acharnement_, in view of
the vagueness of your contention.

Dorriforth. My _acharnement_ is your little joke, and my contention is a
little lesson in philosophy.

Florentia. I prefer a lesson in taste. I had one the other night at the
“Merry Wives.”

Dorriforth. If you come to that, so did I!

Amicia. So she does spare an evening sometimes.

Florentia. It was all extremely quiet and comfortable, and I don’t
in the least recognize Dorriforth’s lurid picture of the dreadful
conditions. There was no scenery--at least not too much; there was just
enough, and it was very pretty, and it was in its place.

Dorriforth. And what else was there?

Florentia. There was very good acting.

Amicia. I also went, and I thought it all, for a sportive, wanton thing,
quite painfully ugly.

Auberon. Uglier than that ridiculous black room, with the invisible
people groping about in it, of your precious “Duc d’Enghien?”

Dorriforth. The black room is doubtless not the last word of art, but it
struck me as a successful application of a happy idea. The contrivance
was perfectly simple--a closer night effect than is usually attempted,
with a few guttering candles, which threw high shadows over the bare
walls, on the table of the court-martial. Out of the gloom came the
voices and tones of the distinguishable figures, and it is perhaps a
fancy of mine that it made them--given the situation, of course--more
impressive and dramatic.

Auberon. You rail against scenery, but what could belong more to the
order of things extraneous to what you perhaps a little priggishly call
the delicacy of personal art than the arrangement you are speaking of?

Dorriforth. I was talking of the abuse of scenery. I never said anything
so idiotic as that the effect isn’t helped by an appeal to the eye and
an adumbration of the whereabouts.

Auberon. But where do you draw the line and fix the limit? What is the
exact dose?

Dorriforth. It’s a question of taste and tact.

Florentia. And did you find taste and tact in that coal-hole of the
Théâtre Libre?

Dorriforth. Coal-hole is again your joke. I found a strong impression
in it--an impression of the hurried, extemporized cross-examination, by
night, of an impatient and mystified prisoner, whose dreadful fate had
been determined in advance, who was to be shot, high-handedly, in
the dismal dawn. The arrangement didn’t worry and distract me: it was
simplifying, intensifying. It gave, what a judicious _mise-en-scène_
should always do, the essence of the matter, and left the embroidery to
the actors.

Florentia. At the “Merry Wives,” where you could see your hand before
your face, I could make out the embroidery.

Dorriforth. Could you, under Falstaff’s pasteboard cheeks and the sad
disfigurement of his mates? There was no excess of scenery, Auberon
says. Why, Falstaff’s very person was nothing _but_ scenery. A false
face, a false figure, false hands, false legs--scarcely a square inch on
which the irrepressible humor of the rogue could break into illustrative
touches. And he is so human, so expressive, of so rich a physiognomy.
One would rather Mr. Beerbohm Tree should have played the part in his
own clever, elegant slimness---that would at least have represented
life. A Falstaff all “make-up” is an opaque substance. This seems to me
an example of what the rest still more suggested, that in dealing with a
production like the “Merry Wives” really the main quality to put
forward is discretion. You must resolve such a production, as a thing
represented, into a tone that the imagination can take an aesthetic
pleasure in. Its grossness must be transposed, as it were, to a fictive
scale, a scale of fainter tints and generalized signs. A filthy,
eruptive, realistic Bardolph and Pistol overlay the romantic with the
literal. Relegate them and blur them, to the eye; let their blotches be
constructive and their raggedness relative.

Amicia. Ah, it was _so_ ugly!

Dorriforth. What a pity then, after all, there wasn’t more painted
canvas to divert you! Ah, decidedly, the theatre of the future must be
that.

Florentia. Please remember your theory that our life’s a scramble, and
suffer me to go and dress for dinner.

1889.





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+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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