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them together. The supremacy of the Théâtre Français is an inheritance from the past. It was established by royal influence, when royal influence was all-powerful, and there were few dramatic companies. Such a headship could not be established among the thirty-three theatres of Paris now, if it had not descended from an earlier time. The most unshakable conviction in the paramount importance of a national theatre in this country, the most indomitable energy, could not give a new institution the necessary stamp of authority among the hardly less numerous theatres of London. We might as soon try to change a ganglionic animal into a vertebrate.
For good or for evil, our theatrical system is established on the free-trade principle, and it would require very strong proof that this system had failed to produce a general feeling in favor of trying to improve the drama by subsidies. The endowment of a national theatre would practically mean giving a bounty to some one kind of entertainment. If a knot of superior persons, dissatisfied with everything now to be seen at our numerous theatres, choose to subscribe to support a kind of entertainment which the public will not support-we may assume that, in the keen competition among theatres, managers do not need to be bribed into producing anything that people in sufficient numbers would pay to see-there is no reason in the world why they should not do so. But if they claimed for their venture that it was "national," they would make themselves a laughing-stock. Before they had any right to call their theatre a national theatre, they would have to gather round them a representative company, consisting of the acknowledged leaders of "the profession" in all its walks. The incomes which these leaders make are so enormous, by comparison, for example, with what can be made by an associate of the Théâtre Français, that any management which aimed at including them all would have to provide itself with a very long purse. Everything would have to be done by the power of the purse in the proposed national theatre; it could not pay its members, as a long-established and venerable institution might do, in distinction. And supposing it were possible to bring all the acknowledged stars of our theatrical world together under one management, where is a national theatre to find an authority capable of reconciling conflicting pretensions in the apportionment of parts? Remarks have often been made upon the difficulty of keeping the Liberal party together, but that would be nothing compared with the difficulty of managing a national company of actors. There would be wigs upon the green in a national theatre before many months of its existence were
Do we, after all, fare so badly under our private enterprise system that there ought to be any vehement desire for a change? The only want, we believe, really felt is a commodity of good plays, and that, we may depend upon it, is felt quite as much by theatrical managers as by the public for whom they cater. The great advantage of our present system is that it is so sensitive to the demand of the play-going public; managers are all keenly on the outlook to anticipate, or at the least keep pace with the wishes of play-goers. If people imagine that a national theatre would satisfy the public appetite for something new, they have only to look to France, where it has for some time been a prevailing complaint, among the writers of new plays, that the Théâtre Français devotes itself too much to the reproduction of old masterpieces, and looks for novelties to play-makers of established reputation.
As regards costumes, furniture, and scenery, our private adventure theatres will compare favorably with the state supported institutions of our neighbors. All that an endowed theatre could do would be to secure the very best artistic and the very best archæological talent. For many years this has been done in England by private adventurers. Macready could not have taken greater pains than he did to be accurate in every detail. If he was not so accurate as he might have been, the fault was to be attributed not to him, but to the condition of archæological knowledge in his time. We doubt whether the Théâtre Français was more accurate than Macready in his generation. Since that time, the study of the antique and the medieval has made great strides, and our stage has kept pace with it. The stage all along has been in the most intimate relations with the artistic world, and has grown with its growth. To take the most recent instance. The play of "Coriolanus" is to be produced under Mr. Irving's management at the Lyceum, and Mr. Alma-Tadema has been engaged to sketch the scenes for the scene-painter. Could the managers of a national theatre have done better? And, if we cast our vision over a wider range, over the last ten or fifteen years, can it be said that the managers of our leading theatres have stood still in the old grooves, while new ideas stood clamoring at their doors for admission? No national theatre could have secured more enlightened talent for the production of scrupulously accurate scenic accessories than Mr. and Mrs. Bancroft employed at the Prince of Wales's. Mr. Hare's management of the Court Theatre, an offshoot from this, can not be said to have been more careless about accuracy of scenic detail. No endowed management could have taken greater pains in this respect than they have done.
It may, we think, be taken for granted that no amount of endowment would insure greater attention to the arts by which the stage produces its illusion of reality than has been shown by individual enterprise single-handed. It is the natural tendency of competition under our present system that the projectors of novelties should have a fair hearing. Supposing that a genius should arise with the capacity for revolutionizing scenic representation-say by abolishing footlights and applying electric lighting to stage purposes, or by developing hidden properties in the illuminating power of wax-candles-he would be much more likely to get an opportunity of trying his experiment from a private manager than from the manager of a national theatre. The utility of endowment begins only when perfection has been reached, and the potentialities of invention have been exhausted. Even with a view to the maintaining of advances already made, to the conservation of progress, the private enterprise system is not altogether ineffective. We are not to suppose that when a new line has been struck out, a new light seized and successfully flourished, it serves its day unremarked by the purveyor for the future. There are keen eyes at work to see that nothing with which play-goers are pleased be allowed to die.
Managers do not need to be encouraged by bounties to pay attention to scenic accessories. It pays them directly to do so. They have their reward in well-filled theatres. There really is only one respect in which subsidies might enable them to raise stage representations above their present level, that, namely, which was indicated by Mr. Hare when he showed apropos of Mrs. Pfeiffer's proposal that a national theatre was impracticable. The education of actors for their profession might be endowed. There might be a national school of acting.
Actors at present have few facilities for learning their art, and the result is only too apparent upon the stage. Self-teaching succeeds only with the very finest instincts, and such a multitude of performers are required for a stage representation that we can not expect all of them to have those requisite gifts of nature without which self-culture means loutishness and harsh eccentricity. Much of the crudeness which offends a cultivated audience in our attempts to deal with the poetic drama is referable to want of rudimentary training. Managers at present often have no choice but to engage incapable performers, performers whom they know to be incapable, and whose tones and movements inflict agony upon them. No amount of training would in all cases develop histrionic ambition into histrionic faculty, but a properly organized school would in
all probability have the effect of producing a sufficient supply of competent players for the smaller parts. They might be cured of ungainly gestures, and they might be taught to speak blank verse with good accent and good discretion. If they had not the making of decent players in them, they might be stopped at the threshold.
Nor would the mediocre actors alone benefit by a dramatic school, conducted by accomplished professors. The few men and women of genius would be saved much of the painful drudgery, the weary process of trial and failure, by which they now slowly build up the mastery of their craft. The knowledge which, under the present system of self-teaching, reaches them by accidental hints and discoveries, they might start with from the beginning, and their genius would be left free and unwasted to search out new means of triumph.
It is at this point that public or private endowment might advantageously come to the assistance of private enterprise in theatrical matters. But we should deprecate any idea of patronizing a great profession like that of acting. If a school of acting is, as we believe it is, a desirable thing, the initiative in establishing it ought to come from actors themselves. They are perhaps more keenly alive to the need of it than any outsiders. Why should they not combine and organize a society of the members of their profession, as men of science have done, and painters? We have no doubt that if they did so, and projected a college for the training of actors, they would not appeal in vain for public help in setting the institution upon its legs. Such an institution might also become a central depository for the knowledge which each generation contributes to the craft and mystery of representing plays. New Quarterly Magazine.
A MODEL ART-CRITICISM.
[The "Athenæum" recently described a new picture by Rossetti-"The Lady at the Window "— "a profoundly pathetic exposition of the motive of a passage in Dante's 'Vita Nuova,'" and permitted itself to indulge in a strain of comment of which the following sentences afford a good example: “The profundity of the pity which is marked so distinctly in the eyes and lips is in keeping with the deep sympathy of that womanhood which, although it has ripened, is incomplete. This incompleteness, or rather this physical and mental expectancy and insufficiency of self, is impressed by nature on the sumptuous loveliness of the lady, and appears in the suppressed languor of her broad eyelids, in the potentialities of passion rendered plain in the morbidezza
of her marble-like cheeks, which have been refined in form and blanched in tint by the urgency of unperfected love." This effusive outburst led the "Pall Mall Gazette" to print the subjoined amus ing burlesque :]
ANOTHER IMMORTAL PICTURE.
Of the central figure in this great work-of the mighty minstrel whose strains have sounded to such wondrous issue-it may suffice to say that Mr. Priggins has reported of him with his usual resolute and unshrinking veracity. The theme is not one to which belongs in any measure the quality of loveliness; but whatever charm of forthright craftsmanship, whatever force of downright utterance can inform and innerve the conception of the artist, is truly here. The viol-player stands almost, but not quite, erect, swayed to and fro, as it should seem, by the immitigable might of Pan-a reed shaken by the passion-wind of creative minstrelsy. He grasps the finger-board of his instrument with I know not what of frenzied intensity; the bow is raised in act to fall upon the vibrant strings. The sacred fury of inspiration is visible in the contorted limbs of the musician, and in the parted lips (from which we can almost hear issuing the night-shriek of his race), no less than in the green lambency of the flaming eye. Above him a weird wan moon plunges through a rack of haggard clouds-itself bestridden for a moment by an awful flying figure, set down for us with a wholly lurid fidelity. Yet even here it should be noted that in the very storm and stress of his embodiment of these wild imaginings Mr. Priggins's artistic composure has never for a moment failed him; that he can still turn aside to cull and bind for us whatever flowers of color-fancy may have sprung up beneath his brush-still incline a purged ear to all the subtile hue-harmonies that press for utterance upon his canvas. So that the moon of this portent and the figure that oversoars it, and the clouds and sky that engirdle and embathe it, do more than simply recite their narrative, content if it be recounted without error or prevarication. They have a decorative value as well; they chant their message in epic rhapsodies of color, not rehearse it in mere pedestrian discourse of line and stroke. But with what bold and far-resonant chords of brown and dun and purple in the cloud-mass, with what tender modulations of sky-surface, with what exquisite appoggiature of moon-smitten mist-flakes, it were hopeless to describe in words. I must dwell no longer upon this portion of the artist's work; nor yet upon that strange but utterly credible and convincing presentment of the mocking cynic whose sardonic laugh reechoes from the middle distance. On these things and the glam
our of these it were good to linger long; but I must hasten on to the chief glory of the work, the pledge (I write it in all seriousness) of its immortality-the two flying figures in the foreground. Of these, however, I hardly dare trust myself to speak. No impatient lover in flight with willing or unwilling maiden, no dark-browed Pluto bearing his Proserpine from flowery Enna, no tauriform Zeus aswim in the strait-waters with Europa on his back, no centaur Nessus exulting in the capture of a Dejanira, has been treated by the greatest of ancient masters as Mr. Priggins has treated the same subject in this noble picture. Conception and execution, line and color, attitude and movement, all are perfect. The delicate curves of the rapt one's form, recalling in some mysterious wise the contours of the minstrel's viol; the sober sheen, as of tarnished silver, of her robe; the sweeping curve of her lover's figure, the fantastic blue-and-white arabesque, propounded with such assured exquisiteness of tracery in his dress-these are but a few of the outward beauties which enthrall the most carelessly alighting eye. Its deeper magic yields itself only to a longer and more reverent study. But, as for that, it is no part of the critic's duty to wait the leisure of a preoccupied public. It is better to speak the truth at once, and to say that we have in Mr. Symphony Priggins a master as great as the greatest; and in this picture the masterpiece of a master; and in this episode of this picture the master-stroke of a master's masterpiece. The sublimity of Buonarotti, the poetic fervor of Raffaelle, the tremulous intensity of Sandro Botticelli, the correggiosity of Correggio, have never raised these masters to higher heights than our own Priggins has attained in this transcendent rendering of the Dish running away with the Spoon.
The artist, like some others of his craft, is, as is known, a poet of no mean pretensions; and he has set forth the inner meaning of his picture in the following lines, which form the motto on its frame:
A BALLAD OF HIGH ENDEAVOR.
Ah, night! blind germ of days to be, Ah me! ah me!
(Sweet Venus, mother!) What wail of smitten strings hear we? Ah me! ah me! Hey diddle dee!
Ravished by clouds our lady moon, (Ah me! ah me!)
Sweet Venus, mother! Sinks swooning in a lady-swoon. Ah me! ah me!
Dum diddle dee!
N a recent essay Mr. Froude utters the following: "A state of things in which the action of government is restricted to the prevention of crime and statutable fraud, and where beyond these things all men are left to go their own way to be honest or dishonest, pure or profligate, wise or ignorant, to lead what lives they please and preach what doctrines they please—may have been a necessary step in the evolution of humanity; but, as surely, if no other principle had ever been heard of or acted on, civilization would have stood still, hardly above the level of barbarism."
Art thou not greater who art less?
This passage permits two distinctly different interpretations. It is quite true that a society in which "no other principle had ever been heard of" than that of the "prevention of crime and statutable fraud," where men were "honest or dishonest, pure or profligate, wise or ignorant," as they pleased, "would have stood still, hardly above the level of barbarism." But if this means that no community can rise above the level of barbarism in which the government is actuated by no other principle than that of the prevention of crime and statutable fraud, then the argument is false through and through, from the foundation upward, and is false with such a curious inversion as to afford a remarkable illustration of how completely the records of the race can be misread.
Sweet Venus, mother!
have been commonly intensely indifferent to the
GOVERNMENT AS A FORCE IN CIVILI- honesty or dishonesty, the purity or the profligacy, ZATION. the wisdom or the ignorance, of the people; but they have been very zealous in behalf of favorite ecclesiasticisms, and have endeavored with all their might to maintain certain forms of religious belief. Their zeal in this direction, however, has been solely as a means of wielding power, or as a result of some blind superstition. They have concerned themselves a good deal about dogma, but very little about morals; they haven't cared a straw about the purity or profligacy of the community, but have looked well to see that the people have paid their tithes, and acknowledged the supremacy of the established church. In pursuance of these purposes they have at various times constituted a good many statutable offenses which in equity were not offenses, and these fictitious crimes have been punished with abundant energy. At times when highways swarmed with banditti, when no one could venture abroad without means of defense, when robbery and violence abounded, when neither life nor property was safe because of the gross neglect and indifference of the state, men and women were zealously burned, and whipped, and imprisoned for some defection in the way of belief. At times when roads were so neglected that travel was laborious and difficult, and rivers were without bridges; when on all sides was needed energetic administration in directions that would advance the practical welfare of the people, governments always exhibited zeal enough and found resources enough to build grand cathedrals and fine palaces. The whole history of government is a record of meddlesome and oppressive things done and necessary things left undone. The state has always taxed trade, handicapped industry, vexatiously embarrassed commerce, suppressed opinion, retarded the growth of knowledge, hindered intellectual activity, and proved itself in a hundred things a common nuisance. It has always so retarded civilization, either by its interferences or its neglects, that advance has been rendered possible only by controlling and subordinating it, by virtually
Now, it is true that no community can advance in civilization unless there are powerful moral and intellectual forces at work; but it so happens that the governments of the past, even the most paternal and the most illustrious, have commonly obstructed rather than aided those forces. Governments have very much neglected the prevention of crime, and have rarely efficiently punished statutable frauds; nor have they adequately performed in any way their legitimate and proper functions. They
No one, we imagine, would have been dull enough to have missed the allegory of Mr. Priggins's great picture even without such exposition; but many perhaps will only fully feel it after this its setting-forth in "perfect music matched with noble words."
dethroning it, by compelling it to keep within or nearly within its proper province. Rulers have never understood that, by simply limiting the function of government to the preservation of order, they would more effectually than by any other means bring all the forces of society into full and free activity. In view of the wretched mistakes and appalling crimes governments have thus committed, it is amazing to see a man like Mr. Froude confound things in the way he does-wholly confusing the forces that underlie government with the restrictions that operate in the name of government. The more we study the past the more it becomes evident that, while government is indispensable up to a certain point, our civilization has advanced in despite of it rather than by its aid. Governments have created more disorders than they have suppressed; they have made dangerous classes by their oppression and injustice; and, while we are not yet far enough advanced to do without them altogether, we may yet keep them closely to their proper work. Let them preserve order and keep the peace. Art and letters and industrial energy will carry on civilization triumphantly without their aid or interference.
But governments can never cease to be threatening and troublesome so long as people adhere to antiquated notions in regard to their importance. The time was when people seemed to think that the King regulated everything and conferred everything, and the old fallacy still leavens the ideas of to-day. Mr. Thurlow Weed, for instance, has recently deplored the weakness of our Government. "It does not," he says, 64 seem strong enough to assert itself. Our population is increasing very rapidly; the expansion and development are wonderful and amazing, and under such circumstances a government needs to be and ought to be increasing in strength. Nevertheless, I see every day, and with more and more dismay, our assimilation to English habits, English ideas, and even English_costume.” This is certainly very puzzling. How does Mr. Weed expect the strength of the Government to operate in arresting this alarming condition of things? Must the Government be strong enough to put an embargo on English habits and ideas? Must it be invested with authority to regulate styles of dress? Strength of government! How wearisome and senseless is this persistent clamor! It has been well said, and by a London critic of Mr. Weed, that "during the colossal civil war in his own country, of which he was a witness, his Government, which now seems to him to be too weak to assert itself, manifested a strength and vigor which might have awakened envy in the heart of the great Napoleon when at the zenith of his power, and which at this moment the Autocrat of all the Russias would not dare to emulate." This is a little extravagant, but certainly it is idle to talk of a government being weak that in a great emergency could display the power that ours did. It is declared to be weak, however, because it does not carry out the notions of those fussy old women who imagine that the strength of government lies in its disposition to exercise a meddlesome au
thority in all the affairs of life. The strength which the United States Government exhibited in the late war was the only kind of strength that any government should rightly possess—the strength that comes of a zealous coöperation of the people. The Government was strong in that emergency because the people were with it. Let us never have a government that possesses strength independent of the people, for such a strength would in the end be sure to be turned against them. Despotic governments are strong in their power to keep their hands on the throat of the public: this is not the strength we ought to desire in the United States, however much it may be admired by American worshipers of foreign autocracies. Unless a government is weak enough to stand always in wholesome fear of the people, it is not a government to be desired.
ARTISTS AND INARTISTIC DRESS.
A WRITER in the last "Nineteenth Century," in deploring the "present conditions of art," has something to say about the ugliness of the dress of the day. He declares that a well-dressed gentleman ready for dinner or attired for any ceremony is a pitiable example of ugliness. "His vesture is nearly formless and quite foldless; his legs misshapen props, his shirt-front a void, his dress-coat an unspeakable piece of ignobleness. The human form, the noblest and most interesting study for the artist, is distorted in the case of men's dress by monstrous garments, and in the case of women's dress by extravagant arrangements which impede all simple nobility and refined grace of movement." The writer thinks that to an ancient Greek, "accustomed to see the human form and understand its beauty, an Eton boy would be a thing to wonder at." To admiring mammas the absurd get-up is "perfectly lovely," and the boy himself values it beyond measure. The traditions of the boy unfortunately stick to the man, and, "accustomed to the ignoble arrangement which has been a glory in his eyes since he was old enough to envy his elder brother, he can not know how far he has departed from a sense of the natural; it is pure perversion of taste for which convenience can not be pleaded." What can be expected, the writer asks, from such habits of mind in matters of taste? "The Eton boy grows into the man, dispensing judgments and influencing events; he will perpetuate the pothat and the shapeless costume his second nature has taught him to believe in, and all that is unusual or the least grateful to the eye in color or shape will be regarded as 'bad form.' Yet it is from him as an educated gentleman that encouragement to art should be expected. Under such conditions taste must suffer, and no great art can have a natural spring."
This all sounds very well. But a question naturally arises that if ignoble garments have this unfortunate effect upon the taste of the wearer, how is it that our artists have never made any attempt to reform the evil? The pot-hat is commonly looked upon by artists as an abomination; but we are not