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ing of modern times. In his case, as in that of There is now a halo of glory about the head of Mathews, the life which the actor lived, outside the successful actor, which obtains for him so of and beyond the strictly professional part of ready a welcome and so exaggerated a tribute of it, was intimately concerned with his qualities as homage, that he is in greater danger from flatan actor. The two men were radically unlike. tery and the eulogiums of unwise friends, than Save that they were both actors and managers, ever he was of old from the respectable world's and fought strenuously in their respective ways neglect. Things will right themselves in time, against money difficulties, they had scarcely a but in the mean while the successful actor has point in common. But they both pursued their many insidious foes about his path. The remeideal, different as those ideals were, with zeal dy for this state of things lies, as we have said, in and consistency; and both served as a link be- a more natural association among artists of all tween many and divers forms of art. It is to kinds, and between artists and the wholesome, them in great part that we owe the encouraging ordinary, commonplace, friendly intercourse of circumstance that the poet, the musician, the daily society. Artists of all kinds have to beware painter, and the man of letters are coming more of the demoralizing effects of mutual admiration. and more to welcome the “poor player" to the It fosters vanity and it fosters jealousy, the two ranks of a brother artist, and to recognize that prevailing foibles of artists, and preēminently of he may be a fellow worker with them on equal actors. In the actor's profession, what needs terms.
toning down is the personal element. Of too And this brings us to the last word which it many of them in all time it must be admittedseems good to say on the lesson of these me- we are sure that the best among them will be moirs, as they bear upon the prospects of the the readiest to admit the truth that their besetEnglish stage. The success of Mathews, as we ting temptation is that expressed in the Laureate's have tried to show, was largely due to the fact linesthat he was something more than an actor. If he was lacking in versatility as an actor, he was “It's always ringing in your ears, eminently versatile as a man. He was allied by • They call this man as good as me'!” sympathy, as well as in actual accomplishments, with half a dozen other arts; but he was also
Hitherto there has been some excuse, or at allied by sympathy with all sorts of other men, least explanation of this in the gulf which has and with many and varied phases of common separated the actor from ordinary society. His life. If, during the hard-working years of his personal supremacy became his compensation career as actor and manager, he was necessarily for other things that were denied him and his thrown most with that profession, he had still defense against the educated world's contempt thirty years of a very different life on which to for his profession. But as the dignity of that look back, and from which to draw refreshment. profession rises, and with it the social position He had reminiscences, if not surroundings, on of the actor, the desire for personal supremacy which to feed his talent. We are persuaded ought to yield to, or at least be tempered by, other that the gradual elevation of the average of abil- gains. Pride in the profession, and a sense of its ity, and of tone, in the actor's profession depends worthiness and the worthiness of the work it is doupon the degree to which the conditions of that ing, ought to take the place in some degree of less profession enable him to take his place on equal ennobling aims. But, among other reforms, there terms with his brethren in other walks of art, is one which in any case ought to be early introand with the general current of educated Eng- duced. An actor should not have to play every lish society. There was a time when the very night; or, if a continuous "run" of a certain piece name of actor, save in a few rare personalities, is necessary, it should be followed by a period of placed its possessor in a class by himself, and comparative repose, or at least of alternations of was all but a disqualification for entrance into leisure evenings. It is only so that the actor can the common life of the upper classes in England. fill his place in some measure in ordinary socieThe very hours during which his art was prac- ty, and obtain the benefit of taking friendly and ticed being those devoted elsewhere to social in- wholesome part in the common interests of the tercourse, proved of itself a very complete barrier world, among which, after all, are fostered the between the two classes. But now, as has been best and most healthy development of human lately pointed out with great truth (if we are not character, and therefore the conditions which go mistaken, by the able dramatic critic of the “Athe- to make art also wholesome and fructifying. næum"), an obstacle in the actor's path, of a totally opposite kind, is what he has most to fear.
edly a task which, if well fulfilled, leads to a are in the habit of calling vulgar. If we were to considerable increase in the happiness of the meet a poor girl tidily, cleanly, and quietly dressed, hours we spend at home. And this increase of we might remark her as a person whom we would happiness is of that most subtile kind which be glad to take into our own service, or perhaps winds itself among all our pleasures, and makes attend to our own children. We should feel it them deeper and more refined. We all feel this probable that she would do her work diligently, to a certain extent. We all love a warm room, and, above all, honestly. We should feel it proba cheery fire, a comfortable arm-chair, cleanliness able that our children's characters would be safe and brightness. These are the grosser parts of in her hands; that she was possessed of a natuhousehold comfort which all can enjoy. And we ral refinement which would prevent her doing or cherish and grow fond of the things that have saying anything which we should fear might have ministered to our material wants of the chair a bad influence on the tone of their minds. If, we are accustomed to repose in after our day's on the other hand, we were to meet a girl of the work, of the fire that casts a ruddy light round same class gaudily dressed, with false jewelry our room as we sit and warm ourselves after we and a flowery bonnet, we should probably be have been chilled through in the cold outside, exactly as much prejudiced against her as we when the sleet and the snow are beating against were in favor of the tidy girl. Our judgments in the windows, and the wind is wailing drearily each case might be false; but they would be inround the corners of the house. But these com- stinctive, that is to say, founded on our universal forts, or rather luxuries, are not among the re- experience. And the difference between the two finements of domestic life. They belong to la- girls would be the difference between refinement borers' cottages as much as to stately houses, and vulgarity. Few will disagree with me on or perhaps more.
this point. Now let us try to find out from this There is, indeed, a charm of homeliness about instance of it what we mean by the term vulgarthe poor man's cottage which the rich man in his ily, or at least some of its characteristics, as appalace might often envy. But many of us do not plied to things that are seen. live in cottages, and do attempt to surround our- The first that strikes us is the love of show. selves with things not purely utilitarian. We But it is the love of show for its own sake that is ornament our walls with paper and paint, our vulgar here. It is not the beauty of the thing doors with moldings, our ceilings and cornices shown, but the desire to create a sensation; and with plaster-work, our floors with carpets, our this becomes at times such a passion that it is fireplaces with marbles, our chairs with chintzes, blinding to all discrimination between beauty and and most things with vulgarity. And the conse- ugliness. To show a beautiful thing because it quence of all this is, that we spend a good deal is beautiful, there is no vulgarity in that; but to of money in making ourselves less comfortable show anything, whether beautiful or ugly, for the than we should have been if we had spent very sake of show—that is vulgar. This, then, is the little. I believe the motive of this outlay usually first characteristic of vulgarity. The second is to be a desire to obtain cheap magnificence, to subordinate to, and depends on, the first. It imitate with our little what our richer neighbors consists in the falseness of the thing shown, a have bought with their plenty. And we certain- falseness that takes in no one but the creature ly succeed in imitating their gaudiness. Only we who produces the sham, and only deceives her in forget one of the essential principles of all good this sense, that she believes she is deceiving othart, that if a thing is conspicuous it should be ers. Her passion for show is so great that she able to bear close examination. How much bet- prefers the pretense of richness to the reality of ter it would be if, instead of trying to produce neatness, and the exhibition of tawdriness to the cheap imitations of things which properly belong comfort of quietness. Now, there are few men only to long suites of reception-rooms and stately or women who would not consider that cheap galleries, we could contrive to form a style of gaudiness in dress, with all its accompaniments decoration which should be in keeping with the of false jewelry and what is called " loudness," houses in which we live, and with our manner of was to the last degree vulgar. But the strange life! But perhaps it is a new light to many of thing is, that these very men and women, who my readers that they are living surrounded by are really in many ways cultured and refined, do vulgar furniture and in vulgar rooms. Let us, not see that they themselves commit the very same faults in the decoration of their drawing- rors as usually placed is the unpleasant way in rooms that they blame with such severity in the which we catch sight of ourselves reflected in dressing of their maid-servants.
them. This, of course, is a pure matter of taste, It would be impossible, within the limits of but I believe that most people share this dislike the present paper, to discuss, on the one hand, of having their own personality suddenly brought all the vulgarities of ordinary furnishing, or to under their notice. describe, on the other hand, more desirable re- The use of gilding requires very great care. finements in it; but a few instances we may deal Gold-leaf in the hands of an artist may be emwith. We will suppose that we are in a draw- ployed with wonderful effect. It may be made ing-room about twenty feet square (the size of to give lightness or heaviness, brightness or shadan ordinary drawing-room in a moderately sized ow. It may be made to harmonize a system of house). The first object that strikes us as we coloring that would be crude without it, and it enter, perhaps, is a gigantic looking-glass, about may produce a marvelous richness; but exactly four feet wide and six feet high, placed over the in proportion as it may be used to adorn, in that mantel-piece. It is surrounded with a rather proportion it may be used to destroy beauty, and elaborate and very coarse gilt molding. Such a to draw attention to ugliness. And it must be mirror is the first thing that is thought of to deco- admitted that the way in which gilding is generrate the walls, and to prevent the room looking ally used displays an extraordinary ignorance of bare. If we ask why a large mirror over the its artistic properties. In the first place it makes chimney-piece (or anywhere else) is thought de- the objects it covers more conspicuous. There sirable, we probably hear that “it gives size to are some things (some carvings, for instance) the room ” or that “ it brightens it up.” When which are very good, both in design and workwe are told that it gives size to the room, I sup- manship, but which require some of their parts pose we are to understand that it makes us be- to be emphasized and made to stand out against lieve that there is a second room over the chim- other parts. In these cases we may gild either ney-piece just like the first. Of course, we are of the parts and so produce the desired contrast. never thus taken in by ordinarily arranged mir- As a rule, it will be found best to gild those inrors; and, if we were, it would be very unpleas- tended to catch the light. It will be found in ant. So that the first reason given in defense of almost all cases that the use of gold should in them falls to the ground. With respect to the decoration be reserved for the accentuation of second excuse for their existence, we must ob- form. This is of course only a general rule, and serve that they undoubtedly do to a certain extent is liable to many exceptions under peculiar cirreflect, and therefore do increase the amount of cumstances. But how is gold generally used ? light in the room, but that they diminish the Let us look round the room and see. It is to be amount of light that there appears to be by re- seen on the frames of the mirrors above menflecting the darker parts of the room only to the tioned; the cornices above the valances of the spectator owing to their positions. And it is the curtains look as if they had been dipped into it, amount of light that there appears to be, not the the pattern of the wall-paper is drawn out with amount of light that there is, in a room that is it, and the moldings of the doors are covered important. So much for the supposed advan- with it. We shall discuss the nature of these tages and beauties of mirrors. Now let us con- carvings and moldings presently; meanwhile, let sider the objections to them. We have seen that us suppose that they are of good design and caregloominess is one. Another is the appearance fully wrought. Consider those of the panels of of smallness in rooms which they invariably pro- the doors. The beauty of good plain moldings duce. It is almost always possible to increase consists in the contrast of light and shade that the apparent size of a small room in a legitimate exists between its members, and of the relative way by avoiding large objects. A large statue proportions of those members. On moldings of or a large picture makes a small room look small- this kind gilding might be employed with great er still, not so much by filling it up as by destroy- effect, not by covering over the whole, but by so ing its scale. The eye naturally compares one carefully choosing those members that the conthing with another, and measures one thing by trasts of light and shade between them shall be another. As a rule, a big pattern on a wall pa- increased, and the proportions of them mainper, a large door, a large sheet of plate-glass in a tained or improved. The same rules will apply window, all tend to make a room look smaller. to all moldings and carvings whatsoever that Thus the vulgarity of cheap magnificence defeats have to be gilt. As a matter of fact, however, its own object, and the effort to avoid supposed in most houses the moldings are very far from meanness succeeds only in making evident the being either well designed or carefully executed. very thing it is most anxious to hide. Another They are, on the contrary, poor in form and serious objection that may be made to large mir- lumpy and coarse in workmanship. In such cases gilding usually merely serves to attract attention color in paint, paper, or distemper; patterns in to what should be carefully left as subdued as paper, textile fabrics, or paint; and paneling. possible.
If the first method be employed, all the interest But, indeed, as we look round, we see that of the wall-surfaces is made to depend upon discord prevails. What can be more harsh than color. There can be no objection to this; a plain the white
marble chimney-piece surrounding the surface of color is a beautiful thing provided it cold steel grate? It is in the nature of the Brit- be beautiful and adapted for its purpose. But, ish mind to love open grates. To preserve them unfortunately, it is in rare exceptions only that we we sacrifice warmth, cleanliness, and even econ- find walls of beautiful or suitable tones. Those omy; so dearly do we love the sight of the red- most usually employed are pale green and yellowhot coals and the dancing flames! They are ish drab. It will be said that these are harmless; more beautiful in our eyes than the red rays of a and, to a certain extent, this defense is true. But precious ruby. And yet if we had such a ruby it must be borne in mind that the harmless is not should we not surround it with a setting suitable a very high ideal to aspire to, and that it is this to its beauty? Why not so, then, with the fire ? inability in most of us to make our walls better If we chose to give a large sum of money for a than harmless that drives us to seek relief in marble chimney-piece, we could procure one vast-sized mirrors or other coarse decorations to which, with the help of delicate sculpture, might give some life to our rooms. If we are fortunate have been made beautiful ; but this is no reason enough to possess good pictures the problem is why we should spend on bare and repulsive pol- simple. All we have to do is to paint, paper, or ished marble much more than would be neces- distemper the walls with such a tint as shall form sary to carry out a beautiful design in wood, such a good background to, without interfering with, as can often be met with in houses about a hun- the pictures. A rich brownish green will be dred years old. But, not content with putting found one of the best for this purpose. If, howup white marble, we double the effect of its cold- ever, we have no pictures, or very few, we must ness by contrasting it with black iron or steel. depend on the beauty of our wall-decorations There is really no excuse for this. Steel requires themselves. Now, if we call to mind the colors much cleaning to keep off rust, and iron requires that we have seen on the walls in our friends' the application of black-lead daily. A certain houses, is there any one among them that ever amount of iron, of course, there must be, as it is gave us an even momentary feeling of interest or required to stand the heat, but the heavy mold- pleasure ? Some, as we said before, are harmings and flat surfaces, which seem made on pur- less, that is to say, entirely uninteresting; but for pose to give work to housemaids, are quite un- the most part they are actually aggressive by necessary. Grates can be easily procured calcu- their extreme crudeness. There is one, for inlated to give a large amount of heat for the fuel stance, very much like that of lavender kid gloves, consumed, with a very small edge of iron round that is used often in distemper and paint, and a square opening in front, delicately molded. If mixed with pure white or white and gold in pathis be surrounded above and on each side with pers. The effect is one of astonishing repulsivetiles about six or eight inches square of good ness. It possesses no brilliancy, no depth, no color and design, and the whole be inclosed with warmth, no interest or beauty of any kind. It is a good bold molding of painted deal or oak, the unsuitable for pictures, and clashes with almost result is most effective, and the cost is slight. every tint that is brought near to it. One or more shelves may be erected above on It is impossible, without the help of illustrabrackets or otherwise. All the beauty will de- tion, to say much about color that will be of pend on the proper choice of tiles, grate, and much practical value; nor, indeed, have we space moldings. In this arrangement, if the hearth be to refer to all the thousands of harsh tints, single covered with tiles as well as the sides, the only and mixed, which may be seen disfiguring the thing that requires any labor to clean is the grate walls of houses. The only thing that can be itself, and this should be made as little conspicu- done in this matter is to appeal to every one's ous as possible. Any amount of play of design own taste as far as possible, and to try and make may be given to the wooden surroundings. They him exercise his judgment. Do not let us be may be ornamented with pilasters or brackets or content, on the one hand, with gloominess and shelves or panels, carried up to the ceiling or left dullness; let us avoid with horror, on the other three or four feet high ; and all this may be done hand, all crudeness and mere showiness. Let us both more effectively for Scotch and English be careful that the color chosen shall be one not houses, as well as much more cheaply, in wood merely beautiful in small quantities, as, for inthan in marble.
stance, scarlet or bright blue, but suitable to There are three methods commonly adopted covering large spaces, and sufficiently quiet to be for covering and decorating wall-spaces-plain a permanent rest to the eyes.
When wall-papers printed in patterns are of arrangement in the subordinate parts more used, there are further considerations which conspicuous by contrast with the formality of the should guide our choice. It should be borne in main features. I have seen, for instance, a patmind, however, that although in these cases more tern made of little bunches of flowers, red and than one color is employed, yet there is always a blue and yellow (just as they might have been general effect of harmonious blending of tone to- had they been copied directly after they had been gether which should be sought after, an effect picked, only very badly done), at the angles of a best seen at such a distance that the pattern diamond-shaped trellis-work of gilt lines. Here, ceases to be very distinct. This general effect is it is true, the flowers which compose the bunch analogous to, and should be considered in the are natural, but not the bunch itself, nor the same light as, one tint. Many papers, when placing of bunches at regular intervals. It is, in viewed from certain distances, give undue promi- fact, absurd to talk of naturalism on a wall-paper nence to one particular feature, owing to its color at all; at best we can only produce but a feeble not being in proper harmony with those of the parody of it. What we can do, however, is to other features of the design; and the constant make use of certain forms suggested to us by repetition of the pattern over the wall-surface nature, which will be really suitable to the posioften causes the prominent features to be ar- tions they have to occupy, which will be pliable, ranged in lines and figures in themselves un- that is to say, capable of being worked up into a pleasing, though all the lines and figures of the continuous, evenly-distributed, and well-arranged design unrepeated may be faultless. Before a design, and which will be besides all this very wall-paper is chosen, therefore, care should be beautiful in themselves. Such idealizations from taken that two or three breadths are placed side nature are the honeysuckle pattern of the Asby side in order to detect this secondary pattern, syrians and Greeks; all the wonderful stone if it exists. Exactly the same effect may be pro- carvings which fill our mediæval churches, so duced without prominence in color by the un- renowned for the appreciation they bear evidence equal distribution of the design. Supposing, for to of the most subtle forms of birds, beasts, and instance, it is printed light on a dark ground, and flowers; all the Persian designs for ceilings, texowing to this fault the pattern is thicker in some tile fabrics, pottery, and paintings, unrivaled for places than in others, then the thick parts, viewed intricacy of form without confusion, grace of line from a short distance, will make little masses of without weakness, and brilliancy of color without light, and the thin parts little masses of dark gaudiness; all the flowing friezes of Renaissance color, which may make, on a large surface, a times, so faultless in their curves. It is not besecondary pattern of unpleasing appearance. cause we love Nature more, but because we un
But besides the production of general effect derstand her less, that we have ceased to follow at such a distance that the primary design can a precedent that has been hitherto universal. not be distinctly seen, we have to consider the There is another class of papers in which the latter itself, the curves of its lines, and the beauty main part of the pattern is geometrical. Papers of its elementary features. It is, of course, im- of this kind are often very satisfactory, but do possible to discuss all the infinite variety of forms not usually possess as much interest as those that wall-paper patterns have assumed, but there involving free curves. They are, however, often are certain classes of them about which some- very suitable to passages and halls, and may be thing may be said. The first of these classes is used with advantage in places where something that in which natural objects, flowers, leaves, a little less monotonous than a plain surface of birds, etc., are used in what is called an uncon- color is required. The geometrical patterns ventional manner, that is, drawn on the paper as should always be small, never more than a few the artist would draw them were he simply mak- inches square, and should be simple also. Their ing studies from nature. Now, even supposing want of interest tends to make them coarse and that it were possible, at a considerable cost, to vulgar if used on a large scale. As a rule, it will reproduce exactly the illustrations of a first-rate be found that where figures involving squares are work on botany or ornithology, such a design employed, it will be much better to place them would be eminently unsuited to its place. This, with their sides vertical and horizontal, than with I suppose, no one will venture to deny. Not their corners at their highest and lowest points, only, however, would it be unsuitable, it would like the diamond-shaped panes of glass in churchbe intrinsically bad; it would lack the first ele- windows. ment of artistic design, arrangement. But it may The difficulties of decoration are very much be said that, in all patterns that repeat them- increased in many cases by the thorough badness selves, in the way in which wall-papers of neces- of the groundwork on which it has to be placed, sity must, there must be some arrangement. and by the thorough badness of the thing that This is true; but the fact only makes the want has to be decorated. So that often all that can