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ton drank a cup of tea in his father's highly desirable for all allegorical house, the lawyer opened the window paintings. Such a straightforward and tossed the contaminated cup into course would prevent awkward misthe street; but Sir Walter secured and takes which do undoubtedly occur now cherished the symbolic saucer. Later and then, and are hard to explain on, when the Prince Regent visited away afterwards. When we have Scotland, the Wizard of the North taken a pictorial lesson to heart and begged to be allowed to keep the wine- hear later on that it teaches something glass used by his Royal Highness; but else, we are as much annoyed as was putting it in his pocket he unfortunate. Artemus Ward when he visited the ly sat down on it, and could only add churchyard of Stratford-on-Avon and the pieces to the saucer. These broken was told that he had been weeping remnants of crockery must have been at the wrong grave. The following is abstractly symbolic to him of treach- a case in point. ery and loyalty, for he could have had One of our London art-galleries exlittle respect for the personal charac- hibited some years ago a mysterious. ters of either Mr. Murray or Prince looking picture of which it was felt George.
the average visitor to the exhibition The worst case of wilful abuse of would be able to make nothing, and symbols must be looked for in the the catalogue therefore told us it realm of what is known as Symbolic represented Samuel and the Witch of Art. According to some this is the Endor. Such a printed declaration is highest possible form of art because usually accepted as final by the mait does not please, but only edifies and jority of those who pay their shilling instructs. Without quarrelling with at the door; but this time it happened this singular definition of the purpose not to be true, though the public would of art, it is possible to express a regret have been none the wiser if another that, like the productions of the Realis- description had been given, the mean. tic school, the masterpieces of Allegori- ing of the picture remaining equally cal art throw such a heavy burden on obscure after consulting the catalogue. the imagination. We often gaze in In the exact centre of the canvas the blank bewilderment at symbolic pic- head of a handsome man of sad and tures which on the face of them neither austere aspect (the ostensible Samuel) tell their story nor teach their lesson was shown surrounded by rays of light in any intelligible language. The extending to the frame, and close to catalogue usually comes to our aid and this face, in the very incandescence of explains the recondite meaning in a the rays of light, appeared the someneat or poetical paragraph; but it what shadowy face of a woman. That would be more satisfactory, where the is actually all there was of Samuel and mystery has to be explained at all, if of the witch; all the rest was flame and the painter would do it himself in a frame. Looking from the picture to the corner of the canvas. Serious objec- catalogue, and back again, left the tions to this sensible plan are not ob- matter very much where it was; the vious, and there are precedents for it. call on our imagination was very Holbein and his contemporaries fre- severe and the moral or intellectual quently painted the name and the age lesson, which is the only conceivable of the sitter on the backgrounds of reason of symbolic art, was as good their portraits,-a practice superfluous as wasted. We took it as a matter of in the case of Holbein but not neces- course that the painter, a distinguished sarily so for some other portraits, and artist of some repute in his country, could just as easily have painted the out of the question; he may not have said Samuel complete, as a prophet or known anything of this double-baras a Bedouin, and represented the relled explanation. It cannot be both witch also complete in all the repul- Samuel and St. Anthony at one and the siveness of Oriental squalor and old same time; the subjects, needless to age. As he had not done so, but de- say, are entirely different and as far liberately chose the subject, limiting as the poles asunder; the human mohimself to two handsome heads shining tives or passions cannot in any way together like a double star, it is plain be made to fit into an identical symthat we were in the presence of a bolic treatment. problem, of a lesson which pictorially This extreme case may be dismissed could only be put before us in this as one not likely, with a little care, to way, otherwise there is no sense, no happen again; but it proves how very rhyme or reason in symbolic painting. little is the value of allegorical paintWith the solution obligingly put in our ing, for what can be the practical use hands by the catalogue we did not like of a symbol which can be so absurdly to acknowledge ourselves beaten, and misunderstood? The suspicion cannot tried hard to work out the problem to be altogether ignored that pictorial our satisfaction. It rather shocked our symbols are sometimes after-thoughts. preconceived notions when we discov- Many a study of the head of a model ered the celebrated witch to have been indifferently moral has perhaps done an exceedingly pretty woman, but this duty for Purity, or the happy thought part of the symbol, though historically of a nimbus may have turned it into it may be incorrect, had no difficulties a Saint. The introduction of some for the Philistine of our party, who de musical instrument has before now, clared the symbol to be as plain as a such is the power of a symbol, made pikestaff. “Samuel,” he said, “tries to a St. Cecilia of a woman who did not read the future in the eyes of a pretty know the treble from the bass. woman; many of us have tried to do After making due allowance for these the same, and we must take warning." and similar mistakes and abuses, we
Should we? Was it a warning or have to admit that the importance and an example? The catalogue was value of symbols cannot easily be oversilent, and for once the painter himself estimated. We cannot grasp the widecould not have assisted us, because, as spread complications of many questions a disconcerting matter of fact, a few of public interest, unless we form them years earlier in its history this picture into one generally understood sign or was not Samuel at all. Incredible as formula. The various duties of citi. it may appear to believers in mystic zenship and the benefits we derive art, an illustrated art-journal, dated a from a well-ordered State and governfew years before, revealed when we ment, together with our pride in the came home the singular and uncom country in which we happen to be fortable fact that once upon a time this born, are all included and implied in same picture represented the Tempta- the national flag. The essence of tion of St. Anthony, and was then de- nearly every religion has been, 80 to scribed as an illustration of Flaubert's speak, concentrated and symbolized in novel of that name; the engraving of a certain sign or emblem (In hoc signo the picture removes all doubt on the vinces), which has been held sacred, subject and is a wonderful revelation and for which men have suffered and lesson in emblematical art. The martyrdom who would have hopelessly artist's original intention must be left lost themselves in the intricacies of the
dogmas it represents. Even the Ma.
The British Lion is an emblem too well known to require explanation; it has a firmer hold on the imagination than the Cock of France or the double Eagle of Austria. The endeavor to represent a nationality by a personal emblem has never been successful; with the greatest goodwill one has to admit that John Bull and Brother Jonathan
are very much lacking in dignity. But men have fought and died for the Lilies of the Bourbons as well as for the Eagle of the Napoleons; they glory in the Stars and Stripes and mourn for the Harp that once in Tara's balls, -in short there are thousands of signs or emblems in which men have seen reflected their hopes, their pride, or their ambition; and we may well say that he is but a poor specimen of manhood who has no symbol which he cherishes above all things, some ereation of the mind in which he has faith even though a restricted vocabulary does not allow him to explain it. Many a man who does not know that his own name is only a symbol without which he could not be distinguished from the rest of mankind, dimly understands that it is his pride and duty to carry it through life with honor and unstained.
GOVERNMENT FROM THE DINNER TABLE. "Our Ministerial system may almost and government has become more be said to have been born at the dinner plutocratic than aristocratic. “The table. The first regular private meet- English working man, in the five-andings of the Cabinet were Harley's thirty years after the Act of 1867, folfamous Saturday dinners, at which the lowed in the footsteps of his predecesinner group of Queen Anne's Council sor in political predominance, the small could get together and discuss affairs, shopkeeper of the five-and-thirty years without the presence either of the that succeeded the Act of 1832. He Queen or of unconvinced colleagues.” remained faithful to the tradition This remark, which occurs in Mr. Sid- which has prevailed through all Engney Low's admirable volume (The lish history, that the conduct of public Governance of England, by Sidney Low. affairs should properly be entrusted 78. 60. Fisher Unwin), would serve as to those who enjoy the advantages of a text for a good part of what he birth, breeding, and affluence.” The says on our political system. For, as country is still governed by the men he shows, the successive vicissitudes of and women who have the right and the politics and parties have not substan- means to give each other dinner tially affected the oligarchical charac- parties. ter of our Government. Reform Bills Mr. Low makes some interesting rehave not pushed wealth and rank from flections on the consequences of giving their old predominance, though wealth this great preponderant power to the and rank have, perhaps, changed places rich and aristocratic classes. He argues that one result is that we es other consequences besides that recape the waste of talent that other corded by Mr. Low. One is that it ex. nations suffer, because their clever men cludes other men from their share in come into politics late in life and their government. From one point of view political careers are liable to interrup- this is an economy, for it means that tions, whereas we have a kind of per the country is governed by men who manent supply of rich and leisured need not do anything else. From anmen able to begin their training in other it may mean most extravagant politics in their youth and to devote waste, for the men who are excluded or themselves to public life without the who remain in retirement because cares and distractions that divide the there are others who have leisure to energies of ordinary men. He argues govern, may perhaps be far more comthat another result is the good humor petent than the men of leisure. The of politics. If a Minister loses office fortunate class on which we come to his fate is not very dreadful. He is rely may give us a hundred incapables not exiled to the obscurity and the dis- for one genius; but it is the genius who tresses of a private and laborious is apt to be quoted as the illustration career. He is still a member of the of the working of this social law, just governing class, enjoying a good deal as it is men like Pitt and Burke rather of power and a great deal of considera- than George Selwyn or Duddington tion. Office was one of the occupations whom one often associates with the of his comfortable life, and it will one system of rotten boroughs. Another day come his way again. To this Mr. consequence is that the habit of callLow attributes that state of things ing on this class for the work of which is often dwelt on with satisfac- government has grown into a habit of tion as the distinction of our political calling on them for all work of distinclife, the private friendships that live tion and eminence. The class that and flourish amid political hostilities. gave us our rulers comes to give our The prizes of our public life are not for- railways their directors, our British feited by failure. When failure meant Associations their presidents, our learnthe risk of impeachment politics was a ed and artistic societies their leaders. savage game. In America and France Thus this kind of predestined specialfailure means for many a politician a ism in politics leads to a kind of scat. relapse from eminence and splendor to tered amateurishness in other things. the anonymous routine of the life of Because certain men are supposed to the crowd. Our statesmen have no inherit particular gifts and opportusuch prospective penalties to stimulate nities for public work of one kind, they or embitter their energies, and they live are supposed also to be the right men in consequence a less eager and fero- to put at the head of movements and cious life. Nobody, we think, will enterprises that are by their nature requestion the accuracy of Mr. Low's lated to special arts and aptitudes. analysis of these consequences, an All our institutions, whether they are analysis that is made sine ira aut concerned with learning, art, philanstudio. But it is worth while to con- thropy, or anything else, come to take tinue his analysis a little further. The their color from this political habit and existence of a class that can be called to consider that for them too their on from its youth to undertake the natural leaders are the leaders of work of government, and a class that politics and society. The Primrose Englishmen have persisted in summon- League tends to become their model. ing to that task, leads at least to two The social relationships of politics are in a sense one aspect of the un- in their place. In an article in the reality and irrelevance produced by this Independent Review, adorned with some state of things. Nobody wants to see more of his living translations of politics made into a life-and-death Euripides, Mr. Gilbert Murray traces struggle between persons, but there the meaning of the “Troades” and dewas a certain wholesome instinct scribes how Athens, fresh from the underlying Mr. Pickwick's horror sack of Melos, had to gaze on that overwhen he saw his counsel engaged in powering picture of the things women amicable conversation with Mrs. Bar- suffer at the hands of conquerors. dell's counsel. Much the same feeling Could modern England, if it were in was in the mind of Morris when he such circumstances, endure such a made one of his Utopians express con- poignant contact with the real facts? tempt for the mutual amenities of Mr. Low is far more concerned to politicians who, if they believed what analyze than to vindicate the modern they professed to believe, ought to conditions of politics. His book, we have treated each other in a very dif- hasten to add, travels, of course, over ferent spirit. In one sense, indeed, a great many tracts that we have not high society represents to-day more touched on, for it is a singularly comcompletely than it did a century ago plete study of all the main institutions the social concentration of politics. If and methods of government. But the England was governed in the eigh- particular discussion on which we have teenth century by the great houses and dwelt has a special interest, because the fashionable clubs, they were rival Mr. Low evidently thinks this state of houses and rival clubs. Brooks's and things will not last. The movements White's waged war on each other, that threaten its life come from varithough fortunately it was only rarely ous quarters. One is an attempt, with a war in the streets. To-day the inner pitfalls and dangers of its own, it is cabinet of fashion knows no distinc- true, to found a party that will spring tions of politics. Leading statesmen of from sources as remote as possible both parties affect the same social from these influences. Another is the group and frequent the same salons. automatic pressure of the difficulties They draw their inspirations from the and embarrassments of government, a same source. The modern representa pressure that has broken down the tives of Brooks's and White's would be confidence of Mr. Sidney Low, as it did found spending their week-end under that of Mr. Bernard Holland, in the one roof and round one bridge table endurance of the existing Unionist ceninstead of composing Rolliads and Anti- tralization. When this form of governJacobins from rival gambling rooms. ment ceases we shall lose the advanAn amiable spectacle, but its effect on tages that Mr. Low traces to it, but we politics goes far. For one thing it is shall also be released from disadvaneasier for a conspiring influence to tages that we have alluded to. Above penetrate and dominate both parties. all, we shall gain the power and vigor For another, this air of unreality means and vision of democracy, for the chief that in public discussion there tends to objection to government by a very be a truce on topics that would wound limited and comfortable class is not this spirit of comfortable convention. that it governs for its own interests, We like to be shocked, but only by but that it sees the interests of the naparadoxes or things that do not strike tion through the medium of its own us very intimately. Realities are kept habits. The Speaker.