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    Shorter Prose Pieces

    by Oscar Wilde
    • Rate it:
    Launch Reading Mode
    Contents:

    Phrases And Philosophies for the Use of The Young
    Mrs. Langtry as Hester Grazebrook
    Slaves of Fashion
    Woman's Dress
    More Radical Ideas upon Dress Reform
    Costume
    The American Invasion
    Sermons in Stones at Bloomsbury
    L'Envoi

    PHRASES AND PHILOSOPHIES FOR THE USE OF THE YOUNG

    The first duty in life is to be as artificial as possible. What
    the second duty is no one has as yet discovered.

    Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the
    curious attractiveness of others.

    If the poor only had profiles there would be no difficulty in
    solving the problem of poverty.

    Those who see any difference between soul and body have neither.

    A really well-made buttonhole is the only link between Art and
    Nature.

    Religions die when they are proved to be true. Science is the
    record of dead religions.

    The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict
    themselves.

    Nothing that actually occurs is of the smallest importance.

    Dulness is the coming of age of seriousness.

    In all unimportant matters, style, not sincerity, is the essential.
    In all important matters, style, not sincerity, is the essential.

    If one tells the truth one is sure, sooner or later, to be found
    out.

    Pleasure is the only thing one should live for. Nothing ages like
    happiness.

    It is only by not paying one's bills that one can hope to live in
    the memory of the commercial classes.

    No crime is vulgar, but all vulgarity is crime. Vulgarity is the
    conduct of others.

    Only the shallow know themselves.

    Time is waste of money.

    One should always be a little improbable.

    There is a fatality about all good resolutions. They are
    invariably made too soon.

    The only way to atone for being occasionally a little overdressed
    is by being always absolutely overeducated.

    To be premature is to be perfect.

    Any preoccupation with ideas of what is right or wrong in conduct
    shows an arrested intellectual development.

    Ambition is the last refuge of the failure.

    A truth ceases to be true when more than one person believes in it.

    In examinations the foolish ask questions that the wise cannot
    answer.

    Greek dress was in its essence inartistic. Nothing should reveal
    the body but the body.

    One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.

    It is only the superficial qualities that last. Man's deeper
    nature is soon found out.

    Industry is the root of all ugliness.

    The ages live in history through their anachronisms.

    It is only the gods who taste of death. Apollo has passed away,
    but Hyacinth, whom men say he slew, lives on. Nero and Narcissus
    are always with us.

    The old believe everything: the middle-aged suspect everything;
    the young know everything.

    The condition of perfection is idleness: the aim of perfection is
    youth.

    Only the great masters of style ever succeeded in being obscure.

    There is something tragic about the enormous number of young men
    there are in England at the present moment who start life with
    perfect profiles, and end by adopting some useful profession.

    To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.

    MRS. LANGTRY AS HESTER GRAZEBROOK

    It is only in the best Greek gems, on the silver coins of Syracuse,
    or among the marble figures of the Parthenon frieze, that one can
    find the ideal representation of the marvellous beauty of that face
    which laughed through the leaves last night as Hester Grazebrook.

    Pure Greek it is, with the grave low forehead, the exquisitely
    arched brow; the noble chiselling of the mouth, shaped as if it
    were the mouthpiece of an instrument of music; the supreme and
    splendid curve of the cheek; the augustly pillared throat which
    bears it all: it is Greek, because the lines which compose it are
    so definite and so strong, and yet so exquisitely harmonized that
    the effect is one of simple loveliness purely: Greek, because its
    essence and its quality, as is the quality of music and of
    architecture, is that of beauty based on absolutely mathematical
    laws.

    But while art remains dumb and immobile in its passionless
    serenity, with the beauty of this face it is different: the grey
    eyes lighten into blue or deepen into violet as fancy succeeds
    fancy; the lips become flower-like in laughter or, tremulous as a
    bird's wing, mould themselves at last into the strong and bitter
    moulds of pain or scorn. And then motion comes, and the statue
    wakes into life. But the life is not the ordinary life of common
    days; it is life with a new value given to it, the value of art:
    and the charm to me of Hester Grazebrook's acting in the first
    scene of the play last night was that mingling of classic grace
    with absolute reality which is the secret of all beautiful art, of
    the plastic work of the Greeks and of the pictures of Jean Francois
    Millet equally.

    I do not think that the sovereignty and empire of women's beauty
    has at all passed away, though we may no longer go to war for them
    as the Greeks did for the daughter of Leda. The greatest empire
    still remains for them--the empire of art. And, indeed, this
    wonderful face, seen last night for the first time in America, has
    filled and permeated with the pervading image of its type the whole
    of our modern art in England. Last century it was the romantic
    type which dominated in art, the type loved by Reynolds and
    Gainsborough, of wonderful contrasts of colour, of exquisite and
    varying charm of expression, but without that definite plastic
    feeling which divides classic from romantic work. This type
    degenerated into mere facile prettiness in the hands of lesser
    masters, and, in protest against it, was created by the hands of
    the Pre-Raphaelites a new type, with its rare combination of Greek
    form with Florentine mysticism. But this mysticism becomes over-
    strained and a burden, rather than an aid to expression, and a
    desire for the pure Hellenic joy and serenity came in its place;
    and in all our modern work, in the paintings of such men as Albert
    Moore and Leighton and Whistler, we can trace the influence of this
    single face giving fresh life and inspiration in the form of a new
    artistic ideal.

    SLAVES OF FASHION

    Miss Leffler-Arnim's statement, in a lecture delivered recently at
    St. Saviour's Hospital, that "she had heard of instances where
    ladies were so determined not to exceed the fashionable measurement
    that they had actually held on to a cross-bar while their maids
    fastened the fifteen-inch corset," has excited a good deal of
    incredulity, but there is nothing really improbable in it. From
    the sixteenth century to our own day there is hardly any form of
    torture that has not been inflicted on girls, and endured by women,
    in obedience to the dictates of an unreasonable and monstrous
    Fashion. "In order to obtain a real Spanish figure," says
    Montaigne, "what a Gehenna of suffering will not women endure,
    drawn in and compressed by great coches entering the flesh; nay,
    sometimes they even die thereof!" "A few days after my arrival at
    school," Mrs. Somerville tells us in her memoirs, "although
    perfectly straight and well made, I was enclosed in stiff stays,
    with a steel busk in front; while above my frock, bands drew my
    shoulders back till the shoulder-blades met. Then a steel rod with
    a semi-circle, which went under my chin, was clasped to the steel
    busk in my stays. In this constrained state I and most of the
    younger girls had to prepare our lessons"; and in the life of Miss
    Edgeworth we read that, being sent to a certain fashionable
    establishment, "she underwent all the usual tortures of back-
    boards, iron collars and dumbs, and also (because she was a very
    tiny person) the unusual one of being hung by the neck to draw out
    the muscles and increase the growth," a signal failure in her case.
    Indeed, instances of absolute mutilation and misery are so common
    in the past that it is unnecessary to multiply them; but it is
    really sad to think that in our own day a civilized woman can hang
    on to a cross-bar while her maid laces her waist into a fifteen-
    inch circle. To begin with, the waist is not a circle at all, but
    an oval; nor can there be any greater error than to imagine that an
    unnaturally small waist gives an air of grace, or even of
    slightness, to the whole figure. Its effect, as a rule, is simply
    to exaggerate the width of the shoulders and the hips; and those
    whose figures possess that stateliness which is called stoutness by
    the vulgar, convert what is a quality into a defect by yielding to
    the silly edicts of Fashion on the subject of tight-lacing. The
    fashionable English waist, also, is not merely far too small, and
    consequently quite out of proportion to the rest of the figure, but
    it is worn far too low down. I use the expression "worn"
    advisedly, for a waist nowadays seems to be regarded as an article
    of apparel to be put on when and where one likes. A long waist
    always implies shortness of the lower limbs, and, from the artistic
    point of view, has the effect of diminishing the height; and I am
    glad to see that many of the most charming women in Paris are
    returning to the idea of the Directoire style of dress. This style
    is not by any means perfect, but at least it has the merit of
    indicating the proper position of the waist. I feel quite sure
    that all English women of culture and position will set their faces
    against such stupid and dangerous practices as are related by Miss
    Leffler-Arnim. Fashion's motto is: Il faut souffrir pour etre
    belle; but the motto of art and of common-sense is: Il faut etre
    bete pour souffrir.

    Talking of Fashion, a critic in the Pall Mall Gazelle expresses his
    surprise that I should have allowed an illustration of a hat,
    covered with "the bodies of dead birds," to appear in the first
    number of the Woman's World; and as I have received many letters on
    the subject, it is only right that I should state my exact position
    in the matter. Fashion is such an essential part of the mundus
    muliebris of our day, that it seems to me absolutely necessary that
    its growth, development, and phases should be duly chronicled; and
    the historical and practical value of such a record depends
    entirely upon its perfect fidelity to fact. Besides, it is quite
    easy for the children of light to adapt almost any fashionable form
    of dress to the requirements of utility and the demands of good
    taste. The Sarah Bernhardt tea-gown, for instance, figured in the
    present issue, has many good points about it, and the gigantic
    dress-improver does not appear to me to be really essential to the
    mode; and though the Postillion costume of the fancy dress ball is
    absolutely detestable in its silliness and vulgarity, the so-called
    Late Georgian costume in the same plate is rather pleasing. I
    must, however, protest against the idea that to chronicle the
    development of Fashion implies any approval of the particular forms
    that Fashion may adopt.

    WOMAN'S DRESS

    The "Girl Graduate" must of course have precedence, not merely for
    her sex but for her sanity: her letter is extremely sensible. She
    makes two points: that high heels are a necessity for any lady who
    wishes to keep her dress clean from the Stygian mud of our streets,
    and that without a tight corset the ordinary number of petticoats
    and etceteras' cannot be properly or conveniently held up. Now, it
    is quite true that as long as the lower garments are suspended from
    the hips a corset is an absolute necessity; the mistake lies in not
    suspending all apparel from the shoulders. In the latter case a
    corset becomes useless, the body is left free and unconfined for
    respiration and motion, there is more health, and consequently more
    beauty. Indeed all the most ungainly and uncomfortable articles of
    dress that fashion has ever in her folly prescribed, not the tight
    corset merely, but the farthingale, the vertugadin, the hoop, the
    crinoline, and that modern monstrosity the so-called "dress
    improver" also, all of them have owed their origin to the same
    error, the error of not seeing that it is from the shoulders, and
    from the shoulders only, that all garments should be hung.

    And as regards high heels, I quite admit that some additional
    height to the shoe or boot is necessary if long gowns are to be
    worn in the street; but what I object to is that the height should
    be given to the heel only, and not to the sole of the foot also.
    The modern high-heeled boot is, in fact, merely the clog of the
    time of Henry VI., with the front prop left out, and its inevitable
    effect is to throw the body forward, to shorten the steps, and
    consequently to produce that want of grace which always follows
    want of freedom.

    Why should clogs be despised? Much art has been expended on clogs.
    They have been made of lovely woods, and delicately inlaid with
    ivory, and with mother-of-pearl. A clog might be a dream of
    beauty, and, if not too high or too heavy, most comfortable also.
    But if there be any who do not like clogs, let them try some
    adaptation of the trouser of the Turkish lady, which is loose round
    the limb and tight at the ankle.

    The "Girl Graduate," with a pathos to which I am not insensible,
    entreats me not to apotheosize "that awful, befringed, beflounced,
    and bekilted divided skirt." Well, I will acknowledge that the
    fringes, the flounces, and the kilting do certainly defeat the
    whole object of the dress, which is that of ease and liberty; but I
    regard these things as mere wicked superfluities, tragic proofs
    that the divided skirt is ashamed of its own division. The
    principle of the dress is good, and, though it is not by any means
    perfection, it is a step towards it.

    Here I leave the "Girl Graduate," with much regret, for Mr.
    Wentworth Huyshe. Mr. Huyshe makes the old criticism that Greek
    dress is unsuited to our climate, and, to me the somewhat new
    assertion, that the men's dress of a hundred years ago was
    preferable to that of the second part of the seventeenth century,
    which I consider to have been the exquisite period of English
    costume.

    Now, as regards the first of these two statements, I will say, to
    begin with, that the warmth of apparel does not depend really on
    the number of garments worn, but on the material of which they are
    made. One of the chief faults of modern dress is that it is
    composed of far too many articles of clothing, most of which are of
    the wrong substance; but over a substratum of pure wool, such as is
    supplied by Dr. Jaeger under the modern German system, some
    modification of Greek costume is perfectly applicable to our
    climate, our country and our century. This important fact has
    already been pointed out by Mr. E. W. Godwin in his excellent,
    though too brief handbook on Dress, contributed to the Health
    Exhibition. I call it an important fact because it makes almost
    any form of lovely costume perfectly practicable in our cold
    climate. Mr. Godwin, it is true, points out that the English
    ladies of the thirteenth century abandoned after some time the
    flowing garments of the early Renaissance in favour of a tighter
    mode, such as Northern Europe seems to demand. This I quite admit,
    and its significance; but what I contend, and what I am sure Mr.
    Godwin would agree with me in, is that the principles, the laws of
    Greek dress may be perfectly realized, even in a moderately tight
    gown with sleeves: I mean the principle of suspending all apparel
    from the shoulders, and of relying for beauty of effect not on the
    stiff ready-made ornaments of the modern milliner--the bows where
    there should be no bows, and the flounces where there should be no
    flounces--but on the exquisite play of light and line that one gets
    from rich and rippling folds. I am not proposing any antiquarian
    revival of an ancient costume, but trying merely to point out the
    right laws of dress, laws which are dictated by art and not by
    archaeology, by science and not by fashion; and just as the best
    work of art in our days is that which combines classic grace with
    absolute reality, so from a continuation of the Greek principles of
    beauty with the German principles of health will come, I feel
    certain, the costume of the future.

    And now to the question of men's dress, or rather to Mr. Huyshe's
    claim of the superiority, in point of costume, of the last quarter
    of the eighteenth century over the second quarter of the
    seventeenth. The broad-brimmed hat of 1640 kept the rain of winter
    and the glare of summer from the face; the same cannot be said of
    the hat of one hundred years ago, which, with its comparatively
    narrow brim and high crown, was the precursor of the modern
    "chimney-pot": a wide turned-down collar is a healthier thing than
    a strangling stock, and a short cloak much more comfortable than a
    sleeved overcoat, even though the latter may have had "three
    capes"; a cloak is easier to put on and off, lies lightly on the
    shoulder in summer, and wrapped round one in winter keeps one
    perfectly warm. A doublet, again, is simpler than a coat and
    waistcoat; instead of two garments one has one; by not being open
    also it protects the chest better.

    Short loose trousers are in every way to be preferred to the tight
    knee-breeches which often impede the proper circulation of the
    blood; and finally, the soft leather boots which could be worn
    above or below the knee, are more supple, and give consequently
    more freedom, than the stiff Hessian which Mr. Huyshe so praises.
    I say nothing about the question of grace and picturesqueness, for
    I suppose that no one, not even Mr. Huyshe, would prefer a
    maccaroni to a cavalier, a Lawrence to a Vandyke, or the third
    George to the first Charles; but for ease, warmth and comfort this
    seventeenth-century dress is infinitely superior to anything that
    came after it, and I do not think it is excelled by any preceding
    form of costume. I sincerely trust that we may soon see in England
    some national revival of it.

    MORE RADICAL IDEAS UPON DRESS REFORM

    I have been much interested at reading the large amount of
    correspondence that has been called forth by my recent lecture on
    Dress. It shows me that the subject of dress reform is one that is
    occupying many wise and charming people, who have at heart the
    principles of health, freedom, and beauty in costume, and I hope
    that "H. B. T." and "Materfamilias" will have all the real
    influence which their letters--excellent letters both of them--
    certainly deserve.

    I turn first to Mr. Huyshe's second letter, and the drawing that
    accompanies it; but before entering into any examination of the
    theory contained in each, I think I should state at once that I
    have absolutely no idea whether this gentleman wears his hair long
    or short, or his cuffs back or forward, or indeed what he is like
    at all. I hope he consults his own comfort and wishes in
    everything which has to do with his dress, and is allowed to enjoy
    that individualism in apparel which he so eloquently claims for
    himself, and so foolishly tries to deny to others; but I really
    could not take Mr. Wentworth Huyshe's personal appearance as any
    intellectual basis for an investigation of the principles which
    should guide the costume of a nation. I am not denying the force,
    or even the popularity, of the "'Eave arf a brick" school of
    criticism, but I acknowledge it does not interest me. The gamin in
    the gutter may be a necessity, but the gamin in discussion is a
    nuisance. So I will proceed at once to the real point at issue,
    the value of the late eighteenth-century costume over that worn in
    the second quarter of the seventeenth: the relative merits, that
    is, of the principles contained in each. Now, as regards the
    eighteenth-century costume, Mr. Wentworth Huyshe acknowledges that
    he has had no practical experience of it at all; in fact he makes a
    pathetic appeal to his friends to corroborate him in his assertion,
    which I do not question for a moment, that he has never been
    "guilty of the eccentricity" of wearing himself the dress which he
    proposes for general adoption by others. There is something so
    naive and so amusing about this last passage in Mr. Huyshe's letter
    that I am really in doubt whether I am not doing him a wrong in
    regarding him as having any serious, or sincere, views on the
    question of a possible reform in dress; still, as irrespective of
    any attitude of Mr. Huyshe's in the matter, the subject is in
    itself an interesting one, I think it is worth continuing,
    particularly as I have myself worn this late eighteenth-century
    dress many times, both in public and in private, and so may claim
    to have a very positive right to speak on its comfort and
    suitability. The particular form of the dress I wore was very
    similar to that given in Mr. Godwin's handbook, from a print of
    Northcote's, and had a certain elegance and grace about it which
    was very charming; still, I gave it up for these reasons:- After a
    further consideration of the laws of dress I saw that a doublet is
    a far simpler and easier garment than a coat and waistcoat, and, if
    buttoned from the shoulder, far warmer also, and that tails have no
    place in costume, except on some Darwinian theory of heredity; from
    absolute experience in the matter I found that the excessive
    tightness of knee-breeches is not really comfortable if one wears
    them constantly; and, in fact, I satisfied myself that the dress is
    not one founded on any real principles. The broad-brimmed hat and
    loose cloak, which, as my object was not, of course, historical
    accuracy but modern ease, I had always worn with the costume in
    question, I have still retained, and find them most comfortable.

    Well, although Mr. Huyshe has no real experience of the dress he
    proposes, he gives us a drawing of it, which he labels, somewhat
    prematurely, "An ideal dress." An ideal dress of course it is not;
    "passably picturesque," he says I may possibly think it; well,
    passably picturesque it may be, but not beautiful, certainly,
    simply because it is not founded on right principles, or, indeed,
    on any principles at all. Picturesqueness one may get in a variety
    of ways; ugly things that are strange, or unfamiliar to us, for
    instance, may be picturesque, such as a late sixteenth-century
    costume, or a Georgian house. Ruins, again, may be picturesque,
    but beautiful they never can be, because their lines are
    meaningless. Beauty, in fact, is to be got only from the
    perfection of principles; and in "the ideal dress" of Mr. Huyshe
    there are no ideas or principles at all, much less the perfection
    of either. Let us examine it, and see its faults; they are obvious
    to any one who desires more than a "Fancy-dress ball" basis for
    costume. To begin with, the hat and boots are all wrong. Whatever
    one wears on the extremities, such as the feet and head, should,
    for the sake of comfort, be made of a soft material, and for the
    sake of freedom should take its shape from the way one chooses to
    wear it, and not from any stiff, stereotyped design of hat or boot
    maker. In a hat made on right principles one should be able to
    turn the brim up or down according as the day is dark or fair, dry
    or wet; but the hat brim of Mr. Huyshe's drawing is perfectly
    stiff, and does not give much protection to the face, or the
    possibility of any at all to the back of the head or the ears, in
    case of a cold east wind; whereas the bycocket, a hat made in
    accordance with the right laws, can be turned down behind and at
    the sides, and so give the same warmth as a hood. The crown,
    again, of Mr. Huyshe's hat is far too high; a high crown diminishes
    the stature of a small person, and in the case of any one who is
    tall is a great inconvenience when one is getting in and out of
    hansoms and railway carriages, or passing under a street awning:
    in no case is it of any value whatsoever, and being useless it is
    of course against the principles of dress.

    As regards the boots, they are not quite so ugly or so
    uncomfortable as the hat; still they are evidently made of stiff
    leather, as otherwise they would fall down to the ankle, whereas
    the boot should be made of soft leather always, and if worn high at
    all must be either laced up the front or carried well over the
    knee: in the latter case one combines perfect freedom for walking
    together with perfect protection against rain, neither of which
    advantages a short stiff boot will ever give one, and when one is
    resting in the house the long soft boot can be turned down as the
    boot of 1640 was. Then there is the overcoat: now, what are the
    right principles of an overcoat? To begin with, it should be
    capable of being easily put on or off, and worn over any kind of
    dress; consequently it should never have narrow sleeves, such as
    are shown in Mr. Huyshe's drawing. If an opening or slit for the
    arm is required it should be made quite wide, and may be protected
    by a flap, as in that excellent overall the modern Inverness cape;
    secondly, it should not be too tight, as otherwise all freedom of
    walking is impeded. If the young gentleman in the drawing buttons
    his overcoat he may succeed in being statuesque, though that I
    doubt very strongly, but he will never succeed in being swift; his
    super-totus is made for him on no principle whatsoever; a super-
    totus, or overall, should be capable of being worn long or short,
    quite loose or moderately tight, just as the wearer wishes; he
    should be able to have one arm free and one arm covered or both
    arms free or both arms covered, just as he chooses for his
    convenience in riding, walking, or driving; an overall again should
    never be heavy, and should always be warm: lastly, it should be
    capable of being easily carried if one wants to take it off; in
    fact, its principles are those of freedom and comfort, and a cloak
    realizes them all, just as much as an overcoat of the pattern
    suggested by Mr. Huyshe violates them.

    The knee-breeches are of course far too tight; any one who has worn
    them for any length of time--any one, in fact, whose views on the
    subject are not purely theoretical--will agree with me there; like
    everything else in the dress, they are a great mistake. The
    substitution of the jacket for the coat and waistcoat of the period
    is a step in the right direction, which I am glad to see; it is,
    however, far too tight over the hips for any possible comfort.
    Whenever a jacket or doublet comes below the waist it should be
    slit at each side. In the seventeenth century the skirt of the
    jacket was sometimes laced on by points and tags, so that it could
    be removed at will, sometimes it was merely left open at the sides:
    in each case it exemplified what are always the true principles of
    dress, I mean freedom and adaptability to circumstances.

    Finally, as regards drawings of this kind, I would point out that
    there is absolutely no limit at all to the amount of "passably
    picturesque" costumes which can be either revived or invented for
    us; but that unless a costume is founded on principles and
    exemplified laws, it never can be of any real value to us in the
    reform of dress. This particular drawing of Mr. Huyshe's, for
    instance, proves absolutely nothing, except that our grandfathers
    did not understand the proper laws of dress. There is not a single
    rule of right costume which is not violated in it, for it gives us
    stiffness, tightness and discomfort instead of comfort, freedom and
    ease.

    Now here, on the other hand, is a dress which, being founded on
    principles, can serve us as an excellent guide and model; it has
    been drawn for me, most kindly, by Mr. Godwin from the Duke of
    Newcastle's delightful book on horsemanship, a book which is one of
    our best authorities on our best era of costume. I do not of
    course propose it necessarily for absolute imitation; that is not
    the way in which one should regard it; it is not, I mean, a revival
    of a dead costume, but a realization of living laws. I give it as
    an example of a particular application of principles which are
    universally right. This rationally dressed young man can turn his
    hat brim down if it rains, and his loose trousers and boots down if
    he is tired--that is, he can adapt his costume to circumstances;
    then he enjoys perfect freedom, the arms and legs are not made
    awkward or uncomfortable by the excessive tightness of narrow
    sleeves and knee-breeches, and the hips are left quite
    untrammelled, always an important point; and as regards comfort,
    his jacket is not too loose for warmth, nor too close for
    respiration; his neck is well protected without being strangled,
    and even his ostrich feathers, if any Philistine should object to
    them, are not merely dandyism, but fan him very pleasantly, I am
    sure, in summer, and when the weather is bad they are no doubt left
    at home, and his cloak taken out. THE VALUE OF THE DRESS IS SIMPLY
    THAT EVERY SEPARATE ARTICLE OF IT EXPRESSES A LAW. My young man is
    consequently apparelled with ideas, while Mr. Huyshe's young man is
    stiffened with facts; the latter teaches one nothing; from the
    former one learns everything. I need hardly say that this dress is
    good, not because it is seventeenth century, but because it is
    constructed on the true principles of costume, just as a square
    lintel or pointed arch is good, not because one may be Greek and
    the other Gothic, but because each of them is the best method of
    spanning a certain-sized opening, or resisting a certain weight.
    The fact, however, that this dress was generally worn in England
    two centuries and a half ago shows at least this, that the right
    laws of dress have been understood and realized in our country, and
    so in our country may be realized and understood again. As regards
    the absolute beauty of this dress and its meaning, I should like to
    say a few words more. Mr. Wentworth Huyshe solemnly announces that
    "he and those who think with him" cannot permit this question of
    beauty to be imported into the question of dress; that he and those
    who think with him take "practical views on the subject," and so
    on. Well, I will not enter here into a discussion as to how far
    any one who does not take beauty and the value of beauty into
    account can claim to be practical at all. The word practical is
    nearly always the last refuge of the uncivilized. Of all misused
    words it is the most evilly treated. But what I want to point out
    is that beauty is essentially organic; that is, it comes, not from
    without, but from within, not from any added prettiness, but from
    the perfection of its own being; and that consequently, as the body
    is beautiful, so all apparel that rightly clothes it must be
    beautiful also in its construction and in its lines.

    I have no more desire to define ugliness than I have daring to
    define beauty; but still I would like to remind those who mock at
    beauty as being an unpractical thing of this fact, that an ugly
    thing is merely a thing that is badly made, or a thing that does
    not serve it purpose; that ugliness is want of fitness; that
    ugliness is failure; that ugliness is uselessness, such as ornament
    in the wrong place, while beauty, as some one finely said, is the
    purgation of all superfluities. There is a divine economy about
    beauty; it gives us just what is needful and no more, whereas
    ugliness is always extravagant; ugliness is a spendthrift and
    wastes its material; in fine, ugliness--and I would commend this
    remark to Mr. Wentworth Huyshe--ugliness, as much in costume as in
    anything else, is always the sign that somebody has been
    unpractical. So the costume of the future in England, if it is
    founded on the true laws of freedom, comfort, and adaptability to
    circumstances, cannot fail to be most beautiful also, because
    beauty is the sign always of the rightness of principles, the
    mystical seal that is set upon what is perfect, and upon what is
    perfect only.

    As for your other correspondent, the first principle of dress that
    all garments should be hung from the shoulders and not from the
    waist seems to me to be generally approved of, although an "Old
    Sailor" declares that no sailors or athletes ever suspend their
    clothes from the shoulders, but always from the hips. My own
    recollection of the river and running ground at Oxford--those two
    homes of Hellenism in our little Gothic town--is that the best
    runners and rowers (and my own college turned out many) wore always
    a tight jersey, with short drawers attached to it, the whole
    costume being woven in one piece. As for sailors, it is true, I
    admit, and the bad custom seems to involve that constant "hitching
    up" of the lower garments which, however popular in transpontine
    dramas, cannot, I think, but be considered an extremely awkward
    habit; and as all awkwardness comes from discomfort of some kind, I
    trust that this point in our sailor's dress will be looked to in
    the coming reform of our navy, for, in spite of all protests, I
    hope we are about to reform everything, from torpedoes to top-hats,
    and from crinolettes to cruises.

    Then as regards clogs, my suggestion of them seems to have aroused
    a great deal of terror. Fashion in her high-heeled boots has
    screamed, and the dreadful word "anachronism" has been used. Now,
    whatever is useful cannot be an anachronism. Such a word is
    applicable only to the revival of some folly; and, besides, in the
    England of our own day clogs are still worn in many of our
    manufacturing towns, such as Oldham. I fear that in Oldham they
    may not be dreams of beauty; in Oldham the art of inlaying them
    with ivory and with pearl may possibly be unknown; yet in Oldham
    they serve their purpose. Nor is it so long since they were worn
    by the upper classes of this country generally. Only a few days
    ago I had the pleasure of talking to a lady who remembered with
    affectionate regret the clogs of her girlhood; they were, according
    to her, not too high nor too heavy, and were provided, besides,
    with some kind of spring in the sole so as to make them the more
    supple for the foot in walking. Personally, I object to all
    additional height being given to a boot or shoe; it is really
    against the proper principles of dress, although, if any such
    height is to be given it should be by means of two props; not one;
    but what I should prefer to see is some adaptation of the divided
    skirt or long and moderately loose knickerbockers. If, however,
    the divided skirt is to be of any positive value, it must give up
    all idea of "being identical in appearance with an ordinary skirt";
    it must diminish the moderate width of each of its divisions, and
    sacrifice its foolish frills and flounces; the moment it imitates a
    dress it is lost; but let it visibly announce itself as what it
    actually is, and it will go far towards solving a real difficulty.
    I feel sure that there will be found many graceful and charming
    girls ready to adopt a costume founded on these principles, in
    spite of Mr. Wentworth Huyshe's terrible threat that he will not
    propose to them as long as they wear it, for all charges of a want
    of womanly character in these forms of dress are really
    meaningless; every right article of apparel belongs equally to both
    sexes, and there is absolutely no such thing as a definitely
    feminine garment. One word of warning I should like to be allowed
    to give: The over-tunic should be made full and moderately loose;
    it may, if desired, be shaped more or less to the figure, but in no
    case should it be confined at the waist by any straight band or
    belt; on the contrary, it should fall from the shoulder to the
    knee, or below it, in fine curves and vertical lines, giving more
    freedom and consequently more grace. Few garments are so
    absolutely unbecoming as a belted tunic that reaches to the knees,
    a fact which I wish some of our Rosalinds would consider when they
    don doublet and hose; indeed, to the disregard of this artistic
    principle is due the ugliness, the want of proportion, in the
    Bloomer costume, a costume which in other respects is sensible.

    COSTUME

    Are we not all weary of him, that venerable impostor fresh from the
    steps of the Piazza di Spagna, who, in the leisure moments that he
    can spare from his customary organ, makes the round of the studios
    and is waited for in Holland Park? Do we not all recognize him,
    when, with the gay insouciance of his nation, he reappears on the
    walls of our summer exhibitions as everything that he is not, and
    as nothing that he is, glaring at us here as a patriarch of Canaan,
    here beaming as a brigand from the Abruzzi? Popular is he, this
    poor peripatetic professor of posing, with those whose joy it is to
    paint the posthumous portrait of the last philanthropist who in his
    lifetime had neglected to be photographed,--yet he is the sign of
    the decadence, the symbol of decay.

    For all costumes are caricatures. The basis of Art is not the
    Fancy Ball. Where there is loveliness of dress, there is no
    dressing up. And so, were our national attire delightful in
    colour, and in construction simple and sincere; were dress the
    expression of the loveliness that it shields and of the swiftness
    and motion that it does not impede; did its lines break from the
    shoulder instead of bulging from the waist; did the inverted
    wineglass cease to be the ideal of form; were these things brought
    about, as brought about they will be, then would painting be no
    longer an artificial reaction against the ugliness of life, but
    become, as it should be, the natural expression of life's beauty.
    Nor would painting merely, but all the other arts also, be the
    gainers by a change such as that which I propose; the gainers, I
    mean, through the increased atmosphere of Beauty by which the
    artists would be surrounded and in which they would grow up. For
    Art is not to be taught in Academies. It is what one looks at, not
    what one listens to, that makes the artist. The real schools
    should be the streets. There is not, for instance, a single
    delicate line, or delightful proportion, in the dress of the
    Greeks, which is not echoed exquisitely in their architecture. A
    nation arrayed in stove-pipe hats and dress-improvers might have
    built the Pantechnichon possibly, but the Parthenon never. And
    finally, there is this to be said: Art, it is true, can never have
    any other claim but her own perfection, and it may be that the
    artist, desiring merely to contemplate and to create, is wise in
    not busying himself about change in others: yet wisdom is not
    always the best; there are times when she sinks to the level of
    common-sense; and from the passionate folly of those--and there are
    many--who desire that Beauty shall be confined no longer to the
    bric-a-brac of the collector and the dust of the museum, but shall
    be, as it should be, the natural and national inheritance of all,--
    from this noble unwisdom, I say, who knows what new loveliness
    shall be given to life, and, under these more exquisite conditions,
    what perfect artist born? Le milieu se renouvelant, l'art se
    renouvelle.

    THE AMERICAN INVASION

    A terrible danger is hanging over the Americans in London. Their
    future and their reputation this season depend entirely on the
    success of Buffalo Bill and Mrs. Brown-Potter. The former is
    certain to draw; for English people are far more interested in
    American barbarism than they are in American civilization. When
    they sight Sandy Hook they look to their rifles and ammunition;
    and, after dining once at Delmonico's, start off for Colorado or
    California, for Montana or the Yellow Stone Park. Rocky Mountains
    charm them more than riotous millionaires; they have been known to
    prefer buffaloes to Boston. Why should they not? The cities of
    America are inexpressibly tedious. The Bostonians take their
    learning too sadly; culture with them is an accomplishment rather
    than an atmosphere; their "Hub," as they call it, is the paradise
    of prigs. Chicago is a sort of monster-shop, full of bustle and
    bores. Political life at Washington is like political life in a
    suburban vestry. Baltimore is amusing for a week, but Philadelphia
    is dreadfully provincial; and though one can dine in New York one
    could not dwell there. Better the Far West with its grizzly bears
    and its untamed cowboys, its free open-air life and its free open-
    air manners, its boundless prairie and its boundless mendacity!
    This is what Buffalo Bill is going to bring to London; and we have
    no doubt that London will fully appreciate his show.

    With regard to Mrs. Brown-Potter, as acting is no longer considered
    absolutely essential for success on the English stage, there is
    really no reason why the pretty bright-eyed lady who charmed us all
    last June by her merry laugh and her nonchalant ways, should not--
    to borrow an expression from her native language--make a big boom
    and paint the town red. We sincerely hope she will; for, on the
    whole, the American invasion has done English society a great deal
    of good. American women are bright, clever, and wonderfully
    cosmopolitan. Their patriotic feelings are limited to an
    admiration for Niagara and a regret for the Elevated Railway; and,
    unlike the men, they never bore us with Bunkers Hill. They take
    their dresses from Paris and their manners from Piccadilly, and
    wear both charmingly. They have a quaint pertness, a delightful
    conceit, a native self-assertion. They insist on being paid
    compliments and have almost succeeded in making Englishmen
    eloquent. For our aristocracy they have an ardent admiration; they
    adore titles and are a permanent blow to Republican principles. In
    the art of amusing men they are adepts, both by nature and
    education, and can actually tell a story without forgetting the
    point--an accomplishment that is extremely rare among the women of
    other countries. It is true that they lack repose and that their
    voices are somewhat harsh and strident when they land first at
    Liverpool; but after a time one gets to love those pretty
    whirlwinds in petticoats that sweep so recklessly through society
    and are so agitating to all duchesses who have daughters. There is
    something fascinating in their funny, exaggerated gestures and
    their petulant way of tossing the head. Their eyes have no magic
    nor mystery in them, but they challenge us for combat; and when we
    engage we are always worsted. Their lips seem made for laughter
    and yet they never grimace. As for their voices they soon get them
    into tune. Some of them have been known to acquire a fashionable
    drawl in two seasons; and after they have been presented to Royalty
    they all roll their R's as vigorously as a young equerry or an old
    lady-in-waiting. Still, they never really lose their accent; it
    keeps peeping out here and there, and when they chatter together
    they are like a bevy of peacocks. Nothing is more amusing than to
    watch two American girls greeting each other in a drawing-room or
    in the Row. They are like children with their shrill staccato
    cries of wonder, their odd little exclamations. Their conversation
    sounds like a series of exploding crackers; they are exquisitely
    incoherent and use a sort of primitive, emotional language. After
    five minutes they are left beautifully breathless and look at each
    other half in amusement and half in affection. If a stolid young
    Englishman is fortunate enough to be introduced to them he is
    amazed at their extraordinary vivacity, their electric quickness of
    repartee, their inexhaustible store of curious catchwords. He
    never really understands them, for their thoughts flutter about
    with the sweet irresponsibility of butterflies; but he is pleased
    and amused and feels as if he were in an aviary. On the whole,
    American girls have a wonderful charm and, perhaps, the chief
    secret of their charm is that they never talk seriously except
    about amusements. They have, however, one grave fault--their
    mothers. Dreary as were those old Pilgrim Fathers who left our
    shores more than two centuries ago to found a New England beyond
    the seas, the Pilgrim Mothers who have returned to us in the
    nineteenth century are drearier still.

    Here and there, of course, there are exceptions, but as a class
    they are either dull, dowdy or dyspeptic. It is only fair to the
    rising generation of America to state that they are not to blame
    for this. Indeed, they spare no pains at all to bring up their
    parents properly and to give them a suitable, if somewhat late,
    education. From its earliest years every American child spends
    most of its time in correcting the faults of its father and mother;
    and no one who has had the opportunity of watching an American
    family on the deck of an Atlantic steamer, or in the refined
    seclusion of a New York boarding-house, can fail to have been
    struck by this characteristic of their civilization. In America
    the young are always ready to give to those who are older than
    themselves the full benefits of their inexperience. A boy of only
    eleven or twelve years of age will firmly but kindly point out to
    his father his defects of manner or temper; will never weary of
    warning him against extravagance, idleness, late hours,
    unpunctuality, and the other temptations to which the aged are so
    particularly exposed; and sometimes, should he fancy that he is
    monopolizing too much of the conversation at dinner, will remind
    him, across the table, of the new child's adage, "Parents should be
    seen, not heard." Nor does any mistaken idea of kindness prevent
    the little American girl from censuring her mother whenever it is
    necessary. Often, indeed, feeling that a rebuke conveyed in the
    presence of others is more truly efficacious than one merely
    whispered in the quiet of the nursery, she will call the attention
    of perfect strangers to her mother's general untidiness, her want
    of intellectual Boston conversation, immoderate love of iced water
    and green corn, stinginess in the matter of candy, ignorance of the
    usages of the best Baltimore Society, bodily ailments, and the
    like. In fact, it may be truly said that no American child is ever
    blind to the deficiencies of its parents, no matter how much it may
    love them.

    Yet, somehow, this educational system has not been so successful as
    it deserved. In many cases, no doubt, the material with which the
    children had to deal was crude and incapable of real development;
    but the fact remains that the American mother is a tedious person.
    The American father is better, for he is never seen in London. He
    passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his
    family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher. The mother,
    however, is always with us, and, lacking the quick imitative
    faculty of the younger generation, remains uninteresting and
    provincial to the last. In spite of her, however, the American
    girl is always welcome. She brightens our dull dinner parties for
    us and makes life go pleasantly by for a season. In the race for
    coronets she often carries off the prize; but, once she has gained
    the victory, she is generous and forgives her English rivals
    everything, even their beauty.

    Warned by the example of her mother that American women do not grow
    old gracefully, she tries not to grow old at all and often
    succeeds. She has exquisite feet and hands, is always bien
    chaussee et bien gantee and can talk brilliantly upon any subject,
    provided that she knows nothing about it.

    Her sense of humour keeps her from the tragedy of a grande passion,
    and, as there is neither romance nor humility in her love, she
    makes an excellent wife. What her ultimate influence on English
    life will be it is difficult to estimate at present; but there can
    be no doubt that, of all the factors that have contributed to the
    social revolution of London, there are few more important, and none
    more delightful, than the American Invasion.

    SERMONS IN STONES AT BLOOMSBURY
    THE NEW SCULPTURE ROOM AT THE BRITISH MUSEUM

    Through the exertions of Sir Charles Newton, to whom every student
    of classic art should be grateful, some of the wonderful treasures
    so long immured in the grimy vaults of the British Museum have at
    last been brought to light, and the new Sculpture Room now opened
    to the public will amply repay the trouble of a visit, even from
    those to whom art is a stumbling-block and a rock of offence. For
    setting aside the mere beauty of form, outline and mass, the grace
    and loveliness of design and the delicacy of technical treatment,
    here we have shown to us what the Greeks and Romans thought about
    death; and the philosopher, the preacher, the practical man of the
    world, and even the Philistine himself, cannot fail to be touched
    by these "sermons in stones," with their deep significance, their
    fertile suggestion, their plain humanity. Common tombstones they
    are, most of them, the work not of famous artists but of simple
    handicraftsmen, only they were wrought in days when every
    handicraft was an art. The finest specimens, from the purely
    artistic point of view, are undoubtedly the two stelai found at
    Athens. They are both the tombstones of young Greek athletes. In
    one the athlete is represented handing his strigil to his slave, in
    the other the athlete stands alone, strigil in hand. They do not
    belong to the greatest period of Greek art, they have not the grand
    style of the Phidian age, but they are beautiful for all that, and
    it is impossible not to be fascinated by their exquisite grace and
    by the treatment which is so simple in its means, so subtle in its
    effect. All the tombstones, however, are full of interest. Here
    is one of two ladies of Smyrna who were so remarkable in their day
    that the city voted them honorary crowns; here is a Greek doctor
    examining a little boy who is suffering from indigestion; here is
    the memorial of Xanthippus who, probably, was a martyr to gout, as
    he is holding in his hand the model of a foot, intended, no doubt,
    as a votive offering to some god. A lovely stele from Rhodes gives
    us a family group. The husband is on horseback and is bidding
    farewell to his wife, who seems as if she would follow him but is
    being held back by a little child. The pathos of parting from
    those we love is the central motive of Greek funeral art. It is
    repeated in every possible form, and each mute marble stone seems
    to murmur [Greek text]. Roman art is different. It introduces
    vigorous and realistic portraiture and deals with pure family life
    far more frequently than Greek art does. They are very ugly, those
    stern-looking Roman men and women whose portraits are exhibited on
    their tombs, but they seem to have been loved and respected by
    their children and their servants. Here is the monument of
    Aphrodisius and Atilia, a Roman gentleman and his wife, who died in
    Britain many centuries ago, and whose tombstone was found in the
    Thames; and close by it stands a stele from Rome with the busts of
    an old married couple who are certainly marvellously ill-favoured.
    The contrast between the abstract Greek treatment of the idea of
    death and the Roman concrete realization of the individuals who
    have died is extremely curious.

    Besides the tombstones, the new Sculpture Room contains some most
    fascinating examples of Roman decorative art under the Emperors.
    The most wonderful of all, and this alone is worth a trip to
    Bloomsbury, is a bas-relief representing a marriage scene, Juno
    Pronuba is joining the hands of a handsome young noble and a very
    stately lady. There is all the grace of Perugino in this marble,
    all the grace of Raphael even. The date of it is uncertain, but
    the particular cut of the bridegroom's beard seems to point to the
    time of the Emperor Hadrian. It is clearly the work of Greek
    artists and is one of the most beautiful bas-reliefs in the whole
    Museum. There is something in it which reminds one of the music
    and the sweetness of Propertian verse. Then we have delightful
    friezes of children. One representing children playing on musical
    instruments might have suggested much of the plastic art of
    Florence. Indeed, as we view these marbles it is not difficult to
    see whence the Renaissance sprang and to what we owe the various
    forms of Renaissance art. The frieze of the Muses, each of whom
    wears in her hair a feather plucked from the wings of the
    vanquished sirens, is extremely fine; there is a lovely little bas-
    relief of two cupids racing in chariots; and the frieze of
    recumbent Amazons has some splendid qualities of design. A frieze
    of children playing with the armour of the god Mars should also be
    mentioned. It is full of fancy and delicate humour.

    We hope that some more of the hidden treasures will shortly be
    catalogued and shown. In the vaults at present there is a very
    remarkable bas-relief of the marriage of Cupid and Psyche, and
    another representing the professional mourners weeping over the
    body of the dead. The fine cast of the Lion of Chaeronea should
    also be brought up, and so should the stele with the marvellous
    portrait of the Roman slave. Economy is an excellent public
    virtue, but the parsimony that allows valuable works of art to
    remain in the grim and gloom of a damp cellar is little short of a
    detestable public vice.

    L'ENVOI

    Amongst the many young men in England who are seeking along with me
    to continue and to perfect the English Renaissance--jeunes
    guerriers du drapeau romantique, as Gautier would have called us--
    there is none whose love of art is more flawless and fervent, whose
    artistic sense of beauty is more subtle and more delicate--none,
    indeed, who is dearer to myself--than the young poet whose verses I
    have brought with me to America; verses full of sweet sadness, and
    yet full of joy; for the most joyous poet is not he who sows the
    desolate highways of this world with the barren seed of laughter,
    but he who makes his sorrow most musical, this indeed being the
    meaning of joy in art--that incommunicable element of artistic
    delight which, in poetry, for instance, comes from what Keats
    called "sensuous life of verse," the element of song in the
    singing, made so pleasurable to us by that wonder of motion which
    often has its origin in mere musical impulse, and in painting is to
    be sought for, from the subject never, but from the pictorial charm
    only--the scheme and symphony of the colour, the satisfying beauty
    of the design: so that the ultimate expression of our artistic
    movement in painting has been, not in the spiritual vision of the
    Pre-Raphaelites, for all their marvel of Greek legend and their
    mystery of Italian song, but in the work of such men as Whistler
    and Albert Moore, who have raised design and colour to the ideal
    level of poetry and music. For the quality of their exquisite
    painting comes from the mere inventive and creative handling of
    line and colour, from a certain form and choice of beautiful
    workmanship, which, rejecting all literary reminiscence and all
    metaphysical idea, is in itself entirely satisfying to the
    aesthetic sense--is, as the Greeks would say, an end in itself; the
    effect of their work being like the effect given to us by music;
    for music is the art in which form and matter are always one--the
    art whose subject cannot be separated from the method of its
    expression; the art which most completely realizes for us the
    artistic ideal, and is the condition to which all the other arts
    are constantly aspiring.

    Now, this increased sense of the absolutely satisfying value of
    beautiful workmanship, this recognition of the primary importance
    of the sensuous element in art, this love of art for art's sake, is
    the point in which we of the younger school have made a departure
    from the teaching of Mr. Ruskin,--a departure definite and
    different and decisive.

    Master indeed of the knowledge of all noble living and of the
    wisdom of all spiritual things will he be to us ever, seeing that
    it was he who by the magic of his presence and the music of his
    lips taught us at Oxford that enthusiasm for beauty which is the
    secret of Hellenism, and that desire for creation which is the
    secret of life, and filled some of us, at least, with the lofty and
    passionate ambition to go forth into far and fair lands with some
    message for the nations and some mission for the world, and yet in
    his art criticism, his estimate of the joyous element of art, his
    whole method of approaching art, we are no longer with him; for the
    keystone to his aesthetic system is ethical always. He would judge
    of a picture by the amount of noble moral ideas it expresses; but
    to us the channels by which all noble work in painting can touch,
    and does touch, the soul are not those of truths of life or
    metaphysical truths. To him perfection of workmanship seems but
    the symbol of pride, and incompleteness of technical resource the
    image of an imagination too limitless to find within the limits of
    form its complete expression, or of love too simple not to stammer
    in its tale. But to us the rule of art is not the rule of morals.
    In an ethical system, indeed, of any gentle mercy good intentions
    will, one is fain to fancy, have their recognition; but of those
    that would enter the serene House of Beauty the question that we
    ask is not what they had ever meant to do, but what they have done.
    Their pathetic intentions are of no value to us, but their realized
    creations only. Pour moi je prefere les poetes qui font des vers,
    les medecins qui sachent guerir, les peintres qui sanchent peindre.

    Nor, in looking at a work of art, should we be dreaming of what it
    symbolises, but rather loving it for what it is. Indeed, the
    transcendental spirit is alien to the spirit of art. The
    metaphysical mind of Asia may create for itself the monstrous and
    many-breasted idol, but to the Greek, pure artist, that work is
    most instinct with spiritual life which conforms most closely to
    the perfect facts of physical life also. Nor, in its primary
    aspect, has a painting, for instance, any more spiritual message or
    meaning for us than a blue tile from the wall of Damascus, or a
    Hitzen vase. It is a beautifully coloured surface, nothing more,
    and affects us by no suggestion stolen from philosophy, no pathos
    pilfered from literature, no feeling filched from a poet, but by
    its own incommunicable artistic essence--by that selection of truth
    which we call style, and that relation of values which is the
    draughtsmanship of painting, by the whole quality of the
    workmanship, the arabesque of the design, the splendour of the
    colour, for these things are enough to stir the most divine and
    remote of the chords which make music in our soul, and colour,
    indeed, is of itself a mystical presence on things, and tone a kind
    of sentiment . . . all these poems aim, as I said, at producing a
    purely artistic effect, and have the rare and exquisite quality
    that belongs to work of that kind; and I feel that the entire
    subordination in our aesthetic movement of all merely emotional and
    intellectual motives to the vital informing poetic principle is the
    surest sign of our strength.

    But it is not enough that a work of art should conform to the
    aesthetic demands of the age: there should be also about it, if it
    is to give us any permanent delight, the impress of a distinct
    individuality. Whatever work we have in the nineteenth century
    must rest on the two poles of personality and perfection. And so
    in this little volume, by separating the earlier and more simple
    work from the work that is later and stronger and possesses
    increased technical power and more artistic vision, one might weave
    these disconnected poems, these stray and scattered threads, into
    one fiery-coloured strand of life, noting first a boy's mere
    gladness of being young, with all its simple joy in field and
    flower, in sunlight and in song, and then the bitterness of sudden
    sorrow at the ending by Death of one of the brief and beautiful
    friendships of one's youth, with all those unanswered lodgings and
    questionings unsatisfied by which we vex, so uselessly, the marble
    face of death; the artistic contrast between the discontented
    incompleteness of the spirit and the complete perfection of the
    style that expresses it forming the chief element of the aesthetic
    charm of these particular poems;--and then the birth of Love, and
    all the wonder and the fear and the perilous delight of one on
    whose boyish brows the little wings of love have beaten for the
    first time; and the love-songs, so dainty and delicate, little
    swallow-flights of music, and full of such fragrance and freedom
    that they might all be sung in the open air and across moving
    water; and then autumn, coming with its choirless woods and odorous
    decay and ruined loveliness, Love lying dead; and the sense of the
    mere pity of it.

    One might stop there, for from a young poet one should ask for no
    deeper chords of life than those that love and friendship make
    eternal for us; and the best poems in the volume belong clearly to
    a later time, a time when these real experiences become absorbed
    and gathered up into a form which seems from such real experiences
    to be the most alien and the most remote; when the simple
    expression of joy or sorrow suffices no longer, and lives rather in
    the stateliness of the cadenced metre, in the music and colour of
    the linked words, than in any direct utterance; lives, one might
    say, in the perfection of the form more than in the pathos of the
    feeling. And yet, after the broken music of love and the burial of
    love in the autumn woods, we can trace that wandering among strange
    people, and in lands unknown to us, by which we try so pathetically
    to heal the hurts of the life we know, and that pure and passionate
    devotion to Art which one gets when the harsh reality of life has
    too suddenly wounded one, and is with discontent or sorrow marring
    one's youth, just as often, I think, as one gets it from any
    natural joy of living; and that curious intensity of vision by
    which, in moments of overmastering sadness and despair
    ungovernable, artistic things will live in one's memory with a
    vivid realism caught from the life which they help one to forget--
    an old grey tomb in Flanders with a strange legend on it, making
    one think how, perhaps, passion does live on after death; a
    necklace of blue and amber beads and a broken mirror found in a
    girl's grave at Rome, a marble image of a boy habited like Eros,
    and with the pathetic tradition of a great king's sorrow lingering
    about it like a purple shadow,--over all these the tired spirit
    broods with that calm and certain joy that one gets when one has
    found something that the ages never dull and the world cannot harm;
    and with it comes that desire of Greek things which is often an
    artistic method of expressing one's desire for perfection; and that
    longing for the old dead days which is so modern, so incomplete, so
    touching, being, in a way, the inverted torch of Hope, which burns
    the hand it should guide; and for many things a little sadness, and
    for all things a great love; and lastly, in the pinewood by the
    sea, once more the quick and vital pulse of joyous youth leaping
    and laughing in every line, the frank and fearless freedom of wave
    and wind waking into fire life's burnt-out ashes and into song the
    silent lips of pain,--how clearly one seems to see it all, the long
    colonnade of pines with sea and sky peeping in here and there like
    a flitting of silver; the open place in the green, deep heart of
    the wood with the little moss-grown altar to the old Italian god in
    it; and the flowers all about, cyclamen in the shadowy places, and
    the stars of the white narcissus lying like snow-flakes over the
    grass, where the quick, bright-eyed lizard starts by the stone, and
    the snake lies coiled lazily in the sun on the hot sand, and
    overhead the gossamer floats from the branches like thin, tremulous
    threads of gold,--the scene is so perfect for its motive, for
    surely here, if anywhere, the real gladness of life might be
    revealed to one's youth--the gladness that comes, not from the
    rejection, but from the absorption, of all passion, and is like
    that serene calm that dwells in the faces of the Greek statues, and
    which despair and sorrow cannot touch, but intensify only.

    In some such way as this we could gather up these strewn and
    scattered petals of song into one perfect rose of life, and yet,
    perhaps, in so doing, we might be missing the true quality of the
    poems; one's real life is so often the life that one does not lead;
    and beautiful poems, like threads of beautiful silks, may be woven
    into many patterns and to suit many designs, all wonderful and all
    different: and romantic poetry, too, is essentially the poetry of
    impressions, being like that latest school of painting, the school
    of Whistler and Albert Moore, in its choice of situation as opposed
    to subject; in its dealing with the exceptions rather than with the
    types of life; in its brief intensity; in what one might call its
    fiery-coloured momentariness, it being indeed the momentary
    situations of life, the momentary aspects of nature, which poetry
    and painting new seek to render for us. Sincerity and constancy
    will the artist, indeed, have always; but sincerity in art is
    merely that plastic perfection of execution without which a poem or
    a painting, however noble its sentiment or human its origin, is but
    wasted and unreal work, and the constancy of the artist cannot be
    to any definite rule or system of living, but to that principle of
    beauty only through which the inconstant shadows of his life are in
    their most fleeting moment arrested and made permanent. He will
    not, for instance, in intellectual matters acquiesce in that facile
    orthodoxy of our day which is so reasonable and so artistically
    uninteresting, nor yet will he desire that fiery faith of the
    antique time which, while it intensified, yet limited the vision;
    still less will he allow the calm of his culture to be marred by
    the discordant despair of doubt or the sadness of a sterile
    scepticism; for the Valley Perilous, where ignorant armies clash by
    night, is no resting-place meet for her to whom the gods have
    assigned the clear upland, the serene height, and the sunlit air,--
    rather will he be always curiously testing new forms of belief,
    tinging his nature with the sentiment that still lingers about some
    beautiful creeds, and searching for experience itself, and not for
    the fruits of experience; when he has got its secret, he will leave
    without regret much that was once very precious to him. "I am
    always insincere," says Emerson somewhere, "as knowing that there
    are other moods": "Les emotions," wrote Theophile Gautier once in
    a review of Arsene Houssaye, "Les emotions, ne se ressemblent pas,
    mais etre emu--voila l'important."

    Now, this is the secret of the art of the modern romantic school,
    and gives one the right keynote for its apprehension; but the real
    quality of all work which, like Mr. Rodd's, aims, as I said, at a
    purely artistic effect, cannot be described in terms of
    intellectual criticism; it is too intangible for that. One can
    perhaps convey it best in terms of the other arts, and by reference
    to them; and, indeed, some of these poems are as iridescent and as
    exquisite as a lovely fragment of Venetian glass; others as
    delicate in perfect workmanship and as single in natural motive as
    an etching by Whistler is, or one of those beautiful little Greek
    figures which in the olive woods round Tanagra men can still find,
    with the faint gilding and the fading crimson not yet fled from
    hair and lips and raiment; and many of them seem like one of
    Corot's twilights just passing into music; for not merely in
    visible colour, but in sentiment also--which is the colour of
    poetry--may there be a kind of tone.

    But I think that the best likeness to the quality of this young
    poet's work I ever saw was in the landscape by the Loire. We were
    staying once, he and I, at Amboise, that little village with its
    grey slate roofs and steep streets and gaunt, grim gateway, where
    the quiet cottages nestle like white pigeons into the sombre clefts
    of the great bastioned rock, and the stately Renaissance houses
    stand silent and apart--very desolate now, but with some memory of
    the old days still lingering about the delicately-twisted pillars,
    and the carved doorways, with their grotesque animals, and laughing
    masks, and quaint heraldic devices, all reminding one of a people
    who could not think life real till they had made it fantastic. And
    above the village, and beyond the bend of the river, we used to go
    in the afternoon, and sketch from one of the big barges that bring
    the wine in autumn and the wood in winter down to the sea, or lie
    in the long grass and make plans pour la gloire, et pour ennuyer
    les Philistins, or wander along the low, sedgy banks, "matching our
    reeds in sportive rivalry," as comrades used in the old Sicilian
    days; and the land was an ordinary land enough, and bare, too, when
    one thought of Italy, and how the oleanders were robing the
    hillsides by Genoa in scarlet, and the cyclamen filling with its
    purple every valley from Florence to Rome; for there was not much
    real beauty, perhaps, in it, only long, white dusty roads and
    straight rows of formal poplars; but, now and then, some little
    breaking gleam of broken light would lend to the grey field and the
    silent barn a secret and a mystery that were hardly their own,
    would transfigure for one exquisite moment the peasants passing
    down through the vineyard, or the shepherd watching on the hill,
    would tip the willows with silver and touch the river into gold;
    and the wonder of the effect, with the strange simplicity of the
    material, always seemed to me to be a little like the quality of
    these the verses of my friend.
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