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fair to dictate to a man what he shall or shall not do with his property, therefore no law shall be passed to prevent works of art leaving the country.
Secondly Democratic legislation has decreed that it is not fair that a man shall accumulate vast wealth and leave it all to one who has had no share in the making of it, and therefore the State should profit by it.
Thirdly Though a man may sell his most exquisite work of art to provide these death dues, there is no money available for the Nation to buy it from him, seeing that Art has no place in the annual Budget prepared by constitutional Ministers. It might even be reasonable to suppose that a part of these same taxes should be set aside to buy in the picture that will otherwise leave the country in order to assist the heirs of the dead collector to pay them. This sounds something of 'The House that Jack built' order, though it is in truth quite logical. Only, if commonsense and national finance bore any relation to one another, where would be the genius required for the framing of a Budget, and where the reputation of many a Chancellor of the Exchequer?
Thus, when some great picture goes a-begging that has been unselfishly loaned to the Nation for so long that we feel aggrieved when it is withdrawn, there is a mighty pother against everyone concerned; and then the owner, the millionaire who commands the market, the public that would like to buy it and has not allowed a margin for it, all run up the price to a fabulous and prohibitive figure, and the picture is sent abroad, unless by some fortunate accident a wealthy benefactor helps to purchase it for the people.
Italy has solved such puzzles long ago. Most of her legislative common-sense is still pure Code Napoleon '-fine, simple laws framed under that hero of autocrats. I picture to myself that despot calling to his side a few capable, clear-headed men of his time and bidding them frame a code of laws, with the warning that it shall be framed so that he can read it between two battles, understand it quickly, and that before he rides into action. No clauses, cackle, and closure, if you please, but closeness and clearness. And it has endured through many decades in countries that he had set his seal on, endured long after the vanquished conqueror had passed away and was known no more-from the North Sea to the Adriatic, one code that has stood the test of many tongues and many nationalities. What an argument in favour of the absolute monarch! Not neglecting the Arts eitherwith a leaning towards the Classical. He calls to his side sculptors, architects, painters, and designers. He wants something that will stamp his era as a thing to be remembered. Strong,
unwavering lines borrowed from the early Greeks, made gracious with reminiscences of picturesque, unhappy Marie Antoinette : her wreaths and garlands winding round the sterner pillars of the Parthenon. A distinctive, decorative style uniting the Graces and the Gods; easily recognised as Empire '--something to be recalled otherwise than by mere ugliness of line, as when we say ‘Victorian.'
To what shall we ascribe that heavy materialism of decorative art during the great Queen's reign? Far-fetched as it would appear, it seems to me due largely to the increasing constitutionalism of the Sovereign. When Queen Victoria came to the throne, her Majesty, being but a child and inexperienced, with rare good sense allowed herself to be guided by her Ministers. Thus sovereignty became less personal and more symbolic. Beyond the special acknowledgment of such artists and literary men of whose private character she approved, there was no recognition or impetus to Art given by the Court of St. James's. In France, the Emperor Napoleon the Third and his beautiful Spanish wife received and even singled out men of achievement in literature and Art, but it was counted an adventurous Court, a little Bohemian and not quite correct. The more constitutional a monarch, the less personal becomes his relation to Art, and the less encouragement is given to artists; hence it is that when every other country has a Minister of Fine Arts, England is still left without one-a sign that Art has no place in the history of the Nation.
It is possible that the national Art Galleries and Museums to a certain extent come under the Department of Works; but is it not surprising that so vast, so all-embracing a subject as the Arts should have no Minister, no trained staff of its own? Hardly credible in a country that everywhere else takes two, if not three, men to do the work of one. The Arts, then, have to knock about and rough it, to get a hearing as best they can and to survive if fit. To say that they have not suffered by this would be absurd, seeing that we do not know how much more they would have prospered had they been carefully tended. I question whether the beautiful buildings that I see being destroyed daily in London-(the latest to go are the houses in Lincoln's Inn Fields built by Inigo Jones himself)-would not have been preserved and repaired in a suitable manner had there been a Ministry of Fine Arts. At present, if they are conserved at all, it is only individual generosity that has to be thanked! It appears to be no part of the programme of the First Commissioner of Works and Public Buildings to take a walk between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street, let us say, and note the fine survivals of old London that are marked down for destruction. The picturesque
VOL. LXXI-No. 421
houses in Carlisle Street, Soho, the historical houses in Lincoln's Inn Fields, the quaint passages between Soho Square and Golden Square, can nothing be done to make them sanitary and fit for habitation, while keeping the original character of the building? Supposing that there were a Ministry of Fine Arts, assuredly there would be a department for the preservation of such landmarks. Let us say that tucked away in some of the Storey's Gate buildings there already is such an organisation in being, what account can it give of its stewardship? It dwells in my mind that I had a practical instance of how much of such a stewardship exists, when I called there once while the Little Theatre was being erected, and wanted to buy for it some pillars and fine old chimneys and fanlights that were being carried away during the demolition of the charming ancient dwellinghouses in Great George Street, by order of the Board of Works, so as to make room for modern Government offices. referred to the house-breaker, as they were his perquisites! you imagine such a thing occurring under a properly equipped Ministry of Fine Arts? By the time I traced the firm, somewhere in the south-east of London, no one knew what had become of the things I asked about. I can only hope that some scente' architect has bought them for his clients. The argument will be, of course, that the Public Works has no available funds for the preservation of old monuments, yet this is exactly what could not happen if there were a Ministry of Fine Arts. It would have a knowledge of its requirements and a place in the Budget.
That all over Great Britain there are magnificent historical manors, mansions, and castles still extant is due to the fact that these have been inhabited by private families. When it is a matter of castles that have belonged at some period of history to the Crown, it is more often the case that they are either in ruins or in a state of dilapidation; Richmond and Middleham and Ludlow may afford beautiful themes to the imaginative painter, but they are national monuments-of decay!
The sum-total of it all is that but for the individual there would hardly be an ancient edifice left. This we may say also of the pictures, sculpture, and other objets de vertu. Art has no place in the Constitution, and perhaps for want of a well considered plan by which it could be taken over, of some carefully deliberated scheme, it is better for England that it should be so; for in the one instance in which the enfant terrible or black sheep of the Arts is legislated for, the dramatic Art, it has been in leading-strings for upwards of two hundred years, and is, as we know, not only still in a Reformatory, but of late has had to submit to an even sterner correctional régime than it has ever been exposed to since 1649. But the spectacle of a
punishment largely in excess of the crime has defeated its own ends. The crime itself is the not very heinous one of writing plays calculated to interest the public-it is worthy of note that only those authors are penalised who write with the serious intention of interesting the public; and the astounding comedy of the Lord Chamberlain, his Permanent Secretary, his Reader and his Advisory Board being unable to cope with a situation that they themselves have created, for their own relief, has raised such a laugh that in less than five weeks the work of nearly two centuries has been undone, and it is presumable that the Censorship, in consequence of the Lord Chamberlain's action, will soon become a dead-letter.
Was there ever anything more 'opéra comique' than what recently occurred? W. S. Gilbert, with his topsy-turvy world of fun, could alone have done justice to it. A Censorship has been established, ostensibly for the benefit of the theatre. We have heard that view expounded by several of our leading theatrical managers. Unless, they argued, they received a licence from the Lord Chamberlain to perform a play, the theatre would be at the mercy of the common informer. The manager, after having expended much time and capital on his production, might find himself dragged into a police court by anyone who, objecting to the play performed, might lodge an information against him— compelled to shut down his theatre, to throw his staff out of work, and to forfeit all his previous outlay in production. To save the manager from this loss, the Lord Chamberlain undertakes to read the play and give or withhold his sanction. The Act of 184 reads that seven days' notice must be given, and after that time if no answer has been received the management produces it at its own risk. The last few weeks have produced exactly the situation the Censor is presumed by his supporters to have prevented. Plays that have been sent to the Lord Chamberlain's Office fully ten days before the day named for production have not received their licence until within a few hours of taking up the curtain, and in cases where no licence has been given the initial expenses are not reimbursed to the management. By the Censor's own action his bulwark of defence for the theatre is broken down; and there is no appeal. The Lord Chamberlain is the King's servant and no action is possible against the Crown.
Justice for every man, for every trade, for every calling in this constitutional country of freedom, save for the unfortunate exponents of the drama. This is what calls for the Ministry of Fine Arts. I am not myself for any restriction of free speech in the playhouse, and view with horror the recent suggestion of a Censorship for literature. I deprecate more than I can say the
action of some booksellers who veto certain books that have been written by earnest literary men of reputation, and well reviewed by accredited critics of reproachless record. It is an insult to the riper judgments of men whose lives have been passed in the mastering of their work, achieved with toil and suffering, and I bitterly resent the pruriency of mind that sees evil where none is meant. Yet if, as I am told, managers and players are liable to be dragged into the ignominy of a police court by any nastyminded common informer in the absence of a Censor of Plays, then by all means let the theatre have a department of its own, a conscientiously conceived and well-administered office in the Ministry of Fine Arts. Here we should find, I do not doubt, under some enlightened Chief-chosen on account of his knowledge of artistic qualifications-a trained staff fully adequate to deal with any questions that may arise in the theatre. All matters concerning theatres, music-halls, exhibitions, and places of entertainment generally, should be taken over and be under the control of a 'Public Amusements' department in the new Ministerial centre.
Obedience to many masters, as things stand now, leads only to tyranny on the part of each. At present, after the Committee of Public Safety, the Head of the Fire Brigade and the County Council have recommended the Lord Chamberlain to grant the theatrical manager his licence, it might be supposed that, having satisfied all the not too reasonable demands of all three, the licensee could expect, for some time at all events, some freedom from interference; but for the wretched manager his troubles have only begun. The theatre, once open to the public, is infested with overseers whose zeal exceeds their discretion. Gangways and doors are permitted in some old theatres that in others are condemned. In one very large theatre I know the stage has been built out to within a very small limit of the front row of stalls, and with only two doors of exit from the stalls. In another very small theatre, where it would be a matter of immense gain to have a foot more of space on the stage itself, a wide passage between stage and stalls is insisted upon and three doors of exit are considered imperative. These visits of inspection may take place, without notice, at any time during the day or night, and it is rare that the inspector does not ask for some alteration (which, of course, invariably means fresh expenditure) in things that are rarely of vital importance and are usually points that have been under the inspector's observation since the commencement, when they might have been easily altered or remedied.
In an elective body, it is in human nature that the newly elected candidate should display to his supporters how energetic