Page images




and-so was to be seen yesterday test. "What?" he will exnear Stanhope Gate smartly claim with admirably assumed gowned in a grey foulard, and indignation, "Is the busy prohow Lady Seraphina Slyboots, fessional man or the city clerk in a feather boa, was talking to to be deprived of much-needed the Marquis of Carabas, with exercise and recreation many other entrancing items of the one day of the week on a like nature. But I also know which he is able to indulge that at " Church-Parade, SO- in them?" By no called, the company may have consisted principally of Countesses from Clapham, Baronesses from Brixton, and Duchesses from Denmark Hill, but assuredly included no real, "pukka," peeresses. I know, too, that if an anti-Semite had been given a free hand and been let loose among the crowd, its numbers would have suffered a quite appreciable diminution.

Nothing could be more unfashionable than to be a "Sabbatarian," not even to be a "Protestant." Yet at the risk of incurring this fatal reproach, it is impossible to help regretting that so much Sunday work should apparently be indispensable in London. The good old theory of "not giving the servants too much to do on the first day of the week is dying out. Club servants, at all events, are not embraced within its scope; and waiters, who, after all, are human beings, are considered to deserve no consideration. The worst point about the secularisation (if one may make bold to employ so antiquated a phrase) of Sunday is that it adds to the labours of that very class of the community which is least able to protect itself-the class which earns its livelihood by ministering to the luxuries of the rich. Here the "liberal-minded" man will doubtless step in and pro

let the hard-worked man of business please himself in the spending of his one free day. But let it be plainly understood that a large majority of those who play billiards, or cards, or golf, on Sunday, can get quite as much of those amusements as is good for them on the other days of the week. Why any sane human being should want to read a daily paper, or listen to a band, on Sunday, it is difficult to conjecture. Even if six daily papers in the week had not been enough, there were already plenty of Sunday sheets to gratify the most voracious appetite without the officious intervention of two magnates of the week-day press. No doubt a great deal of cant has been talked upon this question, but the cant has not, by any means, been confined to one side, and surely that is a sound instinct which prompts the opposition to seven-day newspapers. It is all very well for their proprietors to explain with great elaboration that the production of the Sunday edition involves next to no labour, and in fact is rather a pleasure than a toil-a sort of little holiday for all concerned. The sound common-sense of the English people will not swallow such sophistries. It realises that much more is at stake than the interests of a handful of

journalists and newspaper compositors. It foresees that the mischief will spread far beyond Fleet Street and Whitefriars. Legislation, indeed, can do nothing to remedy the evil. The steady pressure of public opinion can alone be effectual, and already it has achieved a signal victory. It will be a bad day for the working classes, for all who have to make a living by their own exertions, for the country at large, when the principle of a seven-days' workingweek becomes so familiar as to be accepted without protest.

If, oddly enough, you happen to prefer going to church to reading the stale scandal and tittle-tattle of the past week in an up-to-date journal of mammoth proportions, there are preachers of all sorts and sizes, services of all manners and degrees, to tempt you. Should you be lucky enough to find Canon Gore in the pulpit of the Abbey, you will unquestionably hear something to your advantage, and carry home a good deal to think about. If the Bishop of Stepney is your man, you will get manly, straightforward, plain - sailing oratory; and if you are for a little sensational tub-thumping, why, there are a dozen dissenting chapels ready to supply you, and to throw in a strong infusion of politics as well. But the wise man, who hates the "falsehood of extremes," who detests all aping of Rome on the one hand and all thumping of the drum schismatic on the other, will not trouble to go farther afield than the Temple Church. There he is sure of an admirable discourse

from a divine of ripe learning, refined taste, and true piety. The music is beyond criticism; the order of the book of Common Prayer is duly observed; and there are no freaks, antics, or eccentricities. A visit farther east to St Paul's is not to be recommended in the meantime, for the echoes of a highly animated controversy seem to ring round the dome. Besides, though the worshipper has disciplined his mind into a frame of devotion, he cannot well help seeing the stencilling and the lettering ; and the sight is not conducive to calmness and composure of spirit. One may not be prepared to join in the strong language with which the Dean and Chapter have been assailed for their scheme of decoration. But a certain three column letter in the Times' makes one gravely question whether the choice of the responsible body has fallen upon the right decorator. There is an undercurrent of depreciation of Sir Christopher in that portentous epistle which makes one suspicious— a suggestion of lofty and supercilious patronage, as who should say that this same Wren, poor fellow, did his best, one must allow, but what can you expect from an Englishman who had the bad taste to flourish after the Reformation? it is a fact that of all the architects of whom in modern times this country has had reason to boast, Wren is incomparably the greatest. His London churches, so many of which have been ruthlessly pulled down, ought to be the pride of every true Londoner,



and St Paul's is the finest of them all. Nobody who holds these simple propositions to be true can think with equanimity of Wren's chef-d'œuvre being delivered over to an artist who, be his skill and taste in other matters beyond reproach, would obviously prefer St Paul's to be an Egyptian temple or a Gothic fane something, in short, quite different from what it is. It is some consolation to reflect that no Dean and Chapter will ever venture to cut and carve upon the outside of the splendid pile. For many generations to come, let us hope, cockney and countryman alike will be able to gaze from the end of Fleet Street up Ludgate Hill, and note how

[blocks in formation]

Not the least interesting feature in Sir William Richmond's letter was his frank enunciation of a theory of criticism which, though probably latent in the minds of many artists, authors, and actors, rarely meets with perfectly candid expression. The theory is, indeed, less simple than Dean Gregory's, which measured a man's right to criticise the decoration of St Paul's by the amount of money he had subscribed towards that object, but it may, nevertheless, be very shortly stated. The critics of a work of art, so it runs, are necessarily either (1) amateurs, i.e., persons who do not habitually practise that particular

kind of art, or (2) experts, i.e., persons who do. If they are amateurs, the publication of their unfavourable opinion is a piece of unwarrantable impertinence, for, ex hypothesi, they know nothing about the matter. If, on the other hand, they are experts, the publication of their unfavourable opinion is a gross breach of "professional etiquette." The great beauty of this theory lies in its universal applicability. Nothing lies outside its scope-not even chairs and tables. Either you are a carpenter or you are not a carpenter. If you are not, you can know nothing whatever of the construction of chairs and tables. If you are, you are bound by the inexorable laws of professional etiquette to hold your tongue. It clearly follows that no one dare pronounce a chair or table to be badly made. Sir William is a welcome addition to the supporters of the most vicious and most tenaciously cherished of trade-union principles: the right of every Englishman to do bad work and insist upon getting good pay for it. demicians go on strike (though a lock-out by their employers seems a likelier contingency) we hope to hear Sir William haranguing a velvet-coated gathering in Trafalgar Square, and to see him busy picketing Sir Edward Poynter's studio.

When the Aca

It is with great diffidence that, being only a humble playgoer and not a playwright, one ventures to breathe a word about the drama. The staples of the stage in London at the present time may, roughly speaking, be said to be ro

mantic or historical drama, extravagant farce (English, which means diluted French, or American, which means adapted German), and "musical comedy" (again English or American). Ten minutes of Yvette Guilbert in a song of Aristide Bruant's, or even in "A leetle beet of str-r-r-ing," is worth a week of Musketeers, Belles of New York, and What Happened to Smith's. But the one play in everybody's mouth is "The Gay Lord Quex." The house is crammed every night, and you are lucky if you can get a seat within the next month. It is plain that "Lord Quex" is an immense success. But the success has been won to a great extent upon false pretences. So much is plain from the demeanour of the audience. Recruited chiefly from the suburbs (the mainstay of theatrical enterprise in London), they care nothing for the drama quá drama. They have come to see a play reputed to be "improper," and they are resolved upon having their money's worth. This applies to the stalls as much as to the pit, to the dress-circle as much as to the gallery. People who have paid half-a-guinea or seven-and-sixpence are determined that no phrase or incident susceptible of a foul meaning shall escape the emphasis of their inane laughter. And here is the pity of it-Mr Pinero has deliberately played down to this class of person. He has interjected some business" and a few speeches which are utterly irrelevant, which afford no assistance whatever to the development of plot or

[ocr errors]

character, and of which only a schoolboy of sixteen could deem the significance momentous. By so doing he has deliberately invited his audience not to take the play seriously; he has run the risk of pitching his work in a totally wrong key. Mr Pinero is supposed to pride himself, like one of his predecessors in the English drama, on having never blotted a line. Our answer is, Would he had blotted a thousand! Expunge the words and incidents we have alluded to, and "The Gay Lord Quex" would remain an infinitely more satisfactory and artistic work. As it is, the third act is intensely interesting and dramatic, albeit the fourth is indescribably lame and unconvincing. Superbly acted throughout by Miss Irene Vanbrugh, who here scales heights to which she never before aspired, the part of Sophy Fullgarney is one of the most original and one of the most powerful in latter-day drama. That, perhaps, is not very high praise, but at least it is not intended for disparagement. Mr Pinero is by so much the ablest, as he is the most ambitious, of contemporary British playwrights, that one is jealous of his reputation. "The Princess and the Butterfly" was a vast advance on that very much overrated play, "The Second Mrs Tanqueray." "The Gay Lord Quex," with all its weaknesses, is no less marked an advance on "The Princess and the Butterfly." But if Mr Pinero will only be true to his best instincts, and eschew the wretched trifles which put the public on a wrong and rather nasty scent,

though they help to fill the coffers of the management, he may be destined some day to write a play which will rank as a classic. In the meanwhile, one can but say that, if you wish to remove any disagreeable taste that "The Gay Lord Quex" may have left behind, you cannot do better than try "The Tyranny of Tears," a bright, clever, and withal thoroughly sound little piece, played with consummate skill by a company which includes Miss Mary Moore, Miss Maude Millett, and last, though not least, Mr Charles Wyndham-whom if, in the phrase of "Pendennis," we denominate "that old favourite of the British public," it is in all good faith and sincerity, by way of well-earned compliment, and not in raillery.

Thus-what with dinners and even dances, what with the park and the play, what with the club and the restaurant, what with seeing old friends and making new ones-the allotted time slips insensibly away. The evil moment of departure is projected as far as possible into the dim and distant future. One is loth to leave all this bustle and pageant, all this gaiety and life. Edinburgh, they say, has incomparable beauties, and Prague, with her unique Hradschin, may challenge comparison with Edinburgh. But London in early summer is more wonderful than both. There is no street like Piccadilly; and only in London can you see the Life Guards coming down St James's Street, their cuirasses

glittering in the bright sunshine! But needs must where a certain person drives. With the best will in the world, you cannot stay for the Derby, much less for Ascot. Sloan must pile up his total of winning mounts without your countenance and encouragement. For twelve months you must forego the exciting possibility of being "held up" by "the boys,' and of writing to the press about " 'Roughs on the racecourse." With a rueful visage and an indefinable feeling of regret one resumes one's tweed suit, packs one's portmanteau, pays one's bill, and bids the porter call a hansom. Some day, when one's train puffs out of Paddington, or Waterloo, or Euston, one will have taken one's last trip to town, one will have put on the final layer of polish, one will have had one's last look at London. But, with good luck, one will not know that at the time, which makes all the difference.

Above every melancholy sensation rises, strangely enough, the feeling of gratitude that one's home is not in the greatest of all cities. The bird of passage extracts more poignant emotions from the panorama which the capital presents than does the regular inhabitant. To be a feeble unit in that congested mass of four million creatures-the thought is appalling. And your present contributor, dear Maga,' is not ambitious of ever having it in his power to subscribe himself in any capacity save that of

[ocr errors]


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »