« PreviousContinue »
Mary A. Stark, South Danvers, what-not,
$1 50 cts.
For the Committee.
In examining and passing upon the articles shown in this department, your Committee have met with no small share of perplexity. We are well aware that the partisans of strict utility might think it a matter of too little importance for a committee to consume two or three hours over, but in fact, the proper awarding of the sum of twenty-five dollars among one hundred and tweny-five competitors, and this on the score of simple merit alone, is not unattended with embarrassments, whether it be in an exhibition of dahlias or some matter of much greater significance. These difficulties are two-fold ; for in part they arise by the excessive number of entries, and in part by the very limited amount at the disposal of the judges ; making it necessary to exclude all but the very best articles from consideration, and again, to give to these such gratuities as are often unsatisfactory, and in fact, seem entirely trivial.
This illustrates the position of your Committee in the present instance. The evil of needlessly dividing lots of articles for the sake of entering them under different names, and thus obtaining more tickets of admission, was fully exemplified on
this occasion. Not only so, but never before do we remember to have seen so many articles exhibited which no prudent judge would recognize as meritorious. We attribute this also to the cause above assigned, for we cannot but think that many of those whose flowers we found on the tables, knew perfectly well that their chance of a prize was, and ought to be, extremely slender. Still, the very fair and democratic practice of the Society in giving tickets, is as available in the case of a meagre, ill-formed boquet, as in that of the best collection; and of course, to use a common phrase, the exhibitor of the former makes it pay far better than the other.
It was due, probably, to such causes as these, that your Committee, on commencing their work, found their tables loaded with floral contributions to a degree alike undesired and unexpected. The proper space allotted to the department was speedily filled, vases and boquet-holders were not to be had, and while many flowers of pretentious look were unavoidably left to “waste their sweetness on the desert air,” (desert, at least, by the good old definition “where no water is,”) a multitude of others, by a shade better of fortune, were deployed upon duty on the fruit tables, there to add what they might of lustre to a department that, unlike ours, was nowise troubled with repletion.
Having by this expedient evoked something like order from confusion, we addressed ourselves to our duty, and with how much of success will better appear in the sequel. At this point, we take leave to say one or two things that occur to us, perhaps at the risk of being chargeable as malcontents, or perhaps liable only to the tenderer reputation of innovators.
In the first place, we cannot see what good can result to the Society, or through the Society, to the public, by permitting the entry, at these exhibitions, of flowers and boquets that any one can see possess no merit whatever. Not that we advocate the establishment of caste or favoritism in such matters; but it has already come to the point, where the Committees are compelled to declare a large proportion of what they examine
wholly unworthy of premium, and this they are likely to have to do from year to year. Now why not, by a simple expedient, at once relieve the Committee of this duty, and the tables of an abundant, but extremely unproductive, display? Why not empower the proper officer, with whom the entries are made, to exercise a just discrimination, and decline receiving such articles as can, evidently, stand no chance of favorable regard in the critical examination ? Many reasons might be assigned, we believe, why such an officer might better discharge this duty than the Committee ; while no person fit to receive the entries in any way, could be deemed incompetent for this, at least so far as the rejecting of many specimens brought under our eye at the last exhibition. If it be urged that no one should be debarred from making an entry of his or her contribution, then we say no one should be debarred from a proportional gratuity, and the amount in the Committee's gift should have been five times greater than it was. If it be said that the Society designs to encourage those who are learning to grow flowers or make boquets, and all such should be allowed to show their efforts and results, we wish to know if the Society can afford to give their tickets to all who are glad to show a poor contribution, and say they are learning to produce a better one. Or is it not, rather, the true policy of the Institution to reward those who have learned, and who prove the fact by works worthy of exhibition? We cannot see that it is any greater discouragement to reject an article when first presented, than to receive it and give it up to inevitable neglect and obscurity afterward.
Not intending to task your forbearance, we wish to allude to another matter in this connection, to wit,—the plan of awards in this department of the exhibition. We know that our predecessors on this Committee have drawn some attention to the point, but we do not find any consequent alteration in practice. Now we beg to say that, with very much deference to the wisdom of the Society, we think the mode of gratuities the very worst possible for all concerned. It is bad for the Society, for
the entries will be numerous, and having but a small appropriation for this department, they unavoidably earn the reputation of caring little to encourage the showing of flowers, which we think unjust. It is bad for the exhibitor, for it narrows down his chances to the getting of nothing at all on one hand, or on the other, a sum next to nothing, which shows mere recognition of merit without at all rewarding it. Lastly, it is bad for the Committee, for it loads them with the united responsibilities of criticism and award, exposing them to the censure of disappointed exhibitors, with no defence for what may have been a conscientious disregard, save what such exhibitors would call caprice, or arrogance, or incapacity. Now these are real evils; and as we desire the good of the institution and its shows of flowers, so we would see them corrected. We believe it has been objected to the idea of fixed prizes, or premiums, that this is not a Horticultural, but an Agricultural Society, and the giving of such premiums for flowers would be foreign to its genius and purposes. No doubt this is well enough in theory, but how much nearer the genius of the institution is a system of gratuities? If it be foreign to its purpose to encourage the growing and management of flowers, then it is surely an error to award anything for their exhibition, if it be not so to allow that exhibition at all ;—if it be not thus foreign, then the award should not only be made, but made in the way to accomplish the best results. If it be really true that the distinction is so broad between Horticulture and Agriculture that the Society cannot feel free to take the best method in spending a little money upon its floral shows, then we respectfully submit that it would be better to omit that part of the affair altogether.
But we do not design to press these considerations any further than to say that in this thing, as in the matter of accepting or rejecting articles, the Committee were compelled to take into their own hands, and do, what ought, it seemed to them, to have been done already to their hands. To have entered into a just comparison of the qualities of all the articles
entered, would have cost a day's severe labor; to bring the articles so under view as to admit of it, would have been impossible, so extremely scanty were the accommodations. Rejecting, then, from our care all contributions not really meritorious, we proceeded to form a system of premiums ourselves, in which form, with the after addition of a few gratuities, we proceeded to dispense the bounty of the Society as we judged most fit. If any competitor has felt aggrieved by this course of action, we see no help for it, for were we in the same position again, we could adopt no other in justice to all concerned, unless such an amount were at our disposal as would bear dividing into at least one hundred and twenty-five respectable parcels.
Perhaps we are earning the name of fault-finders ; but if so, we are finding fault in a good cause and with honest hearts. We were sorry to see so little diversity in the display. There were but two stands of Dahlias that stood simply as such, and we remember but two stands of miscellaneous cut flowers that could be distinguished from other articles. A single stand of Asters appeared where there should, we thought, have been more ; and the Gladiolus, that Queen of Autumn, was only met in one or two places. By dint of searching, a few Phloxes were discovered. Where were the representatives of this fine, this truly American flower, that should have attested the culture it really has with us?
But while these were unpleasantly absent, there were many others that poorly replaced them. Fashion seemed to have gained sway here, as in other things; or else some epidemic impulse had turned the heads of the florists all one way. Boquets, dishes, baskets, vases, one succeeded another in a routine almost unvaried, or broken only by a redeeming pot plant here and there, and then we went on among boquets, dishes and baskets, as before. We could not help stopping with the frequent query, “Why is there so little variety in a show that is so good, as a whole?” And the thought would arise as often, that less of this difficulty would be found under