« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
indications, which should stand in every forecast of our future relations with the United States. The Canadian Government Trade Commissioner declares (it will be remembered that transfer of the West Indies to the Canadian Government has been suggested) that the feeling in Jamaica in favour of annexation to the United States has been exaggerated, and no doubt he is right. It was exaggerated by the New York Herald' when that journal announced that for two days recently Jamaica was on the point of open rebellion. In one familiar sense, there is no feeling in the West Indies in favour of annexation to the United States, unless it can be said that men who are forced by hardship to leave their native land have a feeling for exile. That, however, the Canadian Commissioner perceives. "Reciprocity in trade with the United States" (relief from bounties on the one hand or from tariffs on the other) that, says he, "must be obtained if prosperity is to come to Jamaica; but while the people want close trade relations with the Republic, little real annexation feeling exists." Of course not. But men and colonies must live, and, to repeat the question, "Don't we know that in this case political and commercial union must go together?'
Be it remembered also that whatever the drag to union with the great Republic may be, it existed long before the United States became an annexationist proprietor of West India Islands. That is to say,
the impulse existed when as yet there was no thought of a rivalry in Cuba and Porto Rico which would speedily complete the ruin of Barbadoes, Jamaica, and other of the British West Indies: just as the American newspapers are now calculating. How much stronger, then, must be the feeling of compulsion, of outlawry almost, in those grossly neglected islands! And what is the substantial difference between the Canadian Commissioner's account of their prospects and that of the New York Times'? That journal says that if Cuba and Porto Rico get the advantage of pouring their products into the United States under a preferential duty our islands will starve. Starve is not an official word for the event; but the Canadian Commissioner means the same thing when he says that without trade reciprocity with the United States (handicapped as they now are), Jamaica cannot prosper; and he would admit that what is true of that island is equally true of others.
It is clear, therefore, that the fortunes of these islands should no longer be allowed to drift; clear that otherwise we may bid good-bye to England's most ancient colonies. How to deal with them is no doubt a great difficulty. It is hard upon the Government, but what they have to decide is really this: whether they mean to keep the West Indies or to let them go. To many that will seem an extravagant statement of the case: I haven't a doubt of its literal exactitude. The calculations of the American
Indies to be annexed to the
newspaper are correct, and demand of the British West they are working out to their natural conclusion at this moment. If, therefore, the Imperial Government take no measures of prevention soon, the assumption must be that the difficulty is too much for them: they propose to let the British West Indies sink if they kindly will, or else drift away under the American flag as a means of continuing in existence. What measures of prevention are available I do not undertake to say. At present only one has been heard of; but that one is thought by the West Indians themselves to be sufficient. It is to set up on their behalf a scheme of defence and counteraction against the Continental system of bounties. Personally, I think much more than that will be needed in the long-run, and am convinced that most American Imperialists are of the same opinion. That, however, is a branch of the question (for it has two distinct branches, the American acquisitional and the West India filial) that must be left to the future-meanwhile being provided for as well as may be by the general insurance which a mighty fleet affords. But the other will not, cannot endure delay. Those old colonies out there are already starving under vari- "Now this should be a happy ous impositions and disabilities, time for painters, who more while the competition of duty- than others are a cheerful race. free goods from the American The dark days are over when West Indies has yet to begin. no man of them can work. Therefore, “what the British Spring is here, and manifest. Government has to meet is the It is the time of daffodils, of necessity of choosing between budding woods, of new-sprung countervailing the European meadows, of laughing streams, export bounties and facing the of tender lights under Constable
"Sugar, Mr Speaker! I say, sugar!' It is as stirring a word to-day as it was in the mouth of Mr Pitt. But if I repeat it, 'tis only to seize on your attention, because what I would really say must be said in a sighing voice. For it is Painters, Mr Looker-on! Painters!
skies. Even for you and me this is no vain delight; but for these the favourite children of Nature, to whom are given such seeing eyes and such interpreting hands, how much more profitable! And if you touch upon the pocket, between which and the soul there are so many delicate relations, tell me what man lives on more innocent emoluments than the painter. You may name the physician, the writer who speeds moral truths from the printing-press, and perhaps you are right. But were it not for wounding the susceptibilities of persons to whom we are so deeply obliged, considerations might be advanced for bringing the painter to a very near equality with these good men. But whatever the moral superiority of the painter's pursuits, it is his for enjoyment all the year through; whereas my humble meaning was to recall the circumstance that Spring, which renews the round of Nature's sittings to him from her sweet youth onward, is also the season for touching the rhino and taking new commissions. Now begin the picture exhibitions of the year, the talk of them at dinner-tables, the crowding of citizens to view them and perchance to buy-all so good for business when you are really an artist and are known to know how to paint. Little good to others, it is true. The sad endeavour of them that do not know or are not known to know, the hope that is sickness and the disappointment that trenches like a spade through the roots of life-much of that there is
every year, of course. Mr Looker-on (for this is what I have been coming to), much there is of it now for painters of high degree, and such as never dreamed of descending on such days.
"Possibly many exaggerate their ruin. I once knew a 'man of family' who loved to display a Waterbury watch— an early specimen in pewteras a badge of the impecuniosity of younger sons; and yet his death last month, had it happened then, would have been no inconsiderable satisfaction to Sir Michael Hicks-Beach. Matching this gentleman, there are peers so poor that they must needs shut up two great houses out of five; and this may be the sort of poverty of which some painters, born into a lordly generation, do now complain. Yet there is truth in these tears— truth and a bitter surprise for many a good man in velvet. Believe what you hear, and this which should be a particularly happy time for painters is nothing of the kind. The garland that April brings for them again this year is Sorrow's crown of sorrow; and, by little or by much, all of us know what that is. With no rhino to touch, or none worth speaking of, these poor painters sit before uncommissioned canvasses remembering happier times. Was Show Sunday what it used to be? It seems not: since Show Sunday was first heard of, there has never been so little talk of it in the newspapers. Is the Academy exhibition to be a good one? No; but likely to be a show of the general disheartenment. So again they say; to
be contradicted, let us hope, by fewer absences than gossip speaks of.
"This year's shop-experience ought to be useful to a gallant breed of men, who, loving all things beautiful, naturally wish to have many of such things about them and nought that is different. Prosily listening where they speak, I come to this conclusion that by the sales of the year 1899-1900 they may fairly determine whether the full work and the princely prices of a short while since were or were not an unreturning boom.' 'boom.' Forty years they wandered in rose-garden of prosperity; some (these, perhaps, forgetful of their Omar and his Rubaiyat) some taking leases in the same and building stately pleasure - domes. When that great day came to an end, the explanation of the bleak morrow was 'commercial decline.' The sun above the rose-garden was Commerce at its highest and most effulgent. What its lifebestowing beams did first was to multiply exceedingly the number of rich merchants walking on the earth; and these taking to pictures as an outward sign of prosperity, as Mr Pepys took plate, the fine time for painters began. For how did the new-made merchant prince line his walls? Had he Mr Pepys's guiding knowledge as purchaser? Very seldom. Had he time to pick and choose? No, no. A day in the counting-house was more than 20 per cent saved in the tents of the dealer; and were there not highest brands, known names? An hour with a footrule, half-an-hour with Mr
Agnew, an exchange of lists, the writing of a few cheques, and the thing was done; and done (this was the charm of it) on the noble understanding that the bigger the cheque the better the picture, and the more glorious its ownership. Ai! Ai! Such were the days that are no more.
"And commercial depression ended them? That is the question.
For years the answer seemed not doubtful at all, but it is becoming doubtful now. Could Sir Michael's Budget be what it was last year, could it be this year what it is, in a time of commercial depression? There may be great trade and little profit - that we know; fortunes may not be made so often or so quickly nowadays. But the Treasury builds on profits, its greedy officials predict a still increasing income, and, as if to corroborate the forecast, the captains of one or two great industries announce that they have work enough in hand for months and years to come and can take no more. Therefore I say to my friends of the brush, Look to your sales for 1899; and if they fail you again, think no more of bad trade as explaining your lower prices and your idler days, and consider closely what other causes of disappointment there may be. Remember that 1898, a better year for trade than 1897 (all this learning I get from
my newspaper scrapbook), was a worse year for its artists; although 1897 had been unkind to them too. But while in that inclement year the sale of pictures from the
Royal Academy Exhibition- lence? When Baron Ferdinand excluding commissions and private sales, of course-brought about £16,500, in '98 the harvest threshed out to less than £14,000. And read this from last year's reckoning: 'How much the Academy sales have declined during the last decade may be judged by comparing the figures of 1888 with those of 1898. This year 195 pictures and pieces of sculpture have been sold for £13,730, 18s.; while ten years ago as many as 284 works yielded the sum-total of £21,599.'
"Just as there are hundreds of persons nowadays who can write minor poetry every day from ten to four, so do they multiply who paint very pretty pictures without a touch of genius or distinction. The minor poets-do you not feel it in your own breast, and lower? -are surfeiting. If the same thing may be said of painting, the decline of that trade is partly accounted for; but I do not know that it can be said. Possibly, the grateful practice of bringing together Millais collections, Turner collections, Rembrandt collections, and collections of various masters, may have something to do with it: the natural effect of such exhibitions must be to discontent many a new - rich proprietor with his own little gallery. But is it safe to say what I think has most to do with it? Well, then prices, and the mystery of them.
"Now the price of a picture is exactly what can be got for it. Its worth? Who can say what its worth is when it overpasses a certain point of excel
de Rothschild died, and his fastidious and accurate taste was celebrated, this was said of him. There was one picture that he coveted more than any other in the world: one picture which, according to his declaration, he would literally have given any money to possess. In a very appreciable way he did possess it; for it is in the National Gallery, and may be seen for sixpence or for nothing every day in the week. Moreover, it is pictorially—I do not say artistically, in the deep technical sense which is beyond
-one of the least interesting glories of that splendid collection; so that a visitor to the Gallery may count upon having the picture all to himself, except on bank holidays, when its singularities often attract the notice of a rudely humorous mob. The gravity of the gentleman in the fur hat, and something about the lady whose hand he holds, surprises and upsets them. Of oddity it has much, of beauty in the common sense nothing at all; yet this is the little Dutch picture of which Baron Ferdinand said that there was no price that he would not pay for it.
"Nor was this a freakish appraisement; for, whether he knew it or not, his desire rested on a cash foundation. 'Any price' means, of course, a price which to ordinary mortals would seem wildly extravagant; and it happens that for this same picture, bought to the distress of some of the trustees for less than five hundred pounds, an offer came from Berlin that puts the enormous price of the