Page images
PDF
EPUB

him still be our model. Like him, after long and faithful public services, let us cheerfully perform the social duties of private life. Oh! he was mild and gentle. In him there was no offence; no guile. His generous hand and heart were open to all.

Gentlemen of the bar—you have lost your brightest ornament. Cherish and imitate his example. While, like him, with justifiable and with laudable zeal, you pursue the interests of your clients, remember, like him, the eternal principle of justice.

Fellow citizens—you have long witnessed his professional conduct, and felt his unrivaled eloquence. You know how well he performed the duties of a citizen-you know that he never courted your favor by adulation or the sacrifice of his own judgment. You have seen him contending against you, and saving your dearest interests, as it were, in spite of yourselves. And you now feel and enjoy the benefits resulting from the firm energy of his conduct. Bear this testimony to the memory of my departed friend. I charge you to protect his fame. It is all he has left-all that these poor orphan children will inherit from their father. But, my countrymen, that fame may be a rich treasure to you also. Let it be the test by which to examine those who solicit your favor. Disregarding professions, view their conduct, and on a doubtful occasion ask, Would Hamilton have done this thing?

You all know how he perished. On this last scene I cannot, I must not dwell. It might excite emotions too strong for your better judgment. Suffer not your indignation to lead to any act which might again offend the insulted majesty of the laws. On his part, as from his lips, though with my voice-for his voice you will hear no more-let me entreat you to respect yourselves.

And now, ye ministers of the everlasting God, perform your holy office, and commit these ashes of our departed brother to the bosom of the grave.

WILLIAM MORRIS

ART AND THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH

(Address by William Morris, poet, printer, and writer on socialism (born at Walthamstow, Essex, near London, March 24, 1834; died in Hammersmith, October 3, 1896), delivered at Burslem Town-Hall, October 13, 1881.)

We are here in the midst of a population busied about a craft which may be called the most ancient in the world, a craft which I look upon with the greatest interest, as I well may, since, except perhaps the noble craft of housebuilding, it is second to none other. And in the midst of this industrious population, engaged in making goods of such importance to our households, I am speaking to a School of Art, one of the bodies that were founded all over the country at a time when it was felt there was something wrong as between the two elements that go to make anything which can be correctly described as a work of industrial art, namely, the utilitarian and the artistic elements. I hope nothing I may say to-night will make you think that I undervalue the importance of these places of instruction; on the contrary, I believe them to be necessary to us, unless we are prepared to give up all attempt to unite these two elements of use and beauty.

Now, though no man can be more impressed with the importance of the art of pottery than I am, and though I have not, I hope, neglected the study of it from the artistic or historico-artistic side, I do not think myself bound to follow up the subject of your especial art; not so much because I know no more of the technical side of it than I have thought enough to enable me to understand it from the above said historico-artistic side ; but rather because

I feel it almost impossible to dissociate one of the ornamental arts from the others, as things go now-a-days. Neither do I think I should interest you much, still less instruct you, if I were to recapitulate the general rules that ought to guide a designer for the industrial arts; at the very first foundation of these schools the instructors in them formulated those rules clearly and satisfactorily, and I think they have since been accepted generally, at least in theory. What I do really feel myself bound to do is to speak to you of certain things that are never absent from my thoughts, certain considerations on the condition and prospects of the arts in general, the neglect of which conditions would drive us in time into a strange state of things indeed; a state of things under which no potter would put any decoration on his pots, and indeed, if a man of strict logical mind, would never know of what shape to make a pot, unless the actual use it was to be put to drove him in one direction or another. What I have to say on these matters will not, I fear, be very new to you, and perhaps it may more or less offend you; but I will beg you to believe that I feel deeply the honor you have done me in asking me to address you. I cannot doubt you have asked me to do so that you might hear what I may chance to think on the subject of the arts, and it seems to me, therefore, that I should ill repay you for that honor, and be treating you unworthily, if I were to stand here and tell you at great length what I do not think. So I will ask your leave and license to speak plainly, as I promise I will not speak lightly.

Yet I would not have you think I underrate the difficulty of the art of plain speaking, an art as difficult, perhaps, as that of pottery, and not nearly so much of it done in the world; so what I will ask you to forgive me if I wound your feelings in any way will not be my downright meaning, my audacious and rash thought, but rather my clumsy way of expressing it; and in truth I expect to have your forgiveness, since in my heart I believe that a plain word spoken because it must be said, free from malice or self-seeking, can be no lasting offence to any one, whereas, what end is there to the wrong and damage that come of half-hearted speech, of words spoken in vagueness, hypocrisy, and cowardice?

You who in these parts make such hard, smooth, wellcompacted, and enduring pottery understand well that you must give it other qualities besides those which make it fit for ordinary use. You must profess to make it beautiful as well as useful, and if you did not you would certainly lose your market. That has been the view the world has taken of your art, and of all the industrial arts since the beginning of history, and, as I said, is held to this day, whether from the force of habit or otherwise.

Nevertheless, so different is the position of art in our daily lives from what it used to be that it seems to me (and I am not alone in my thought), that the world is hesitating as to whether it shall take art home to it or cast it out.

I feel that I am bound to explain what may seem a very startling as it is assuredly a very serious statement. I will do so in as few words as I can. I do not know whether a sense of the great change which has befallen the arts in modern times has come home to most, or indeed to many, of you; a change which has only culminated in quite recent times within the lives of many of you present. It may seem to you that there has been no break in the chain of art, at all events since it began to struggle out of the confusion and barbarism of the early middle ages; you may think that there has been gradual change in it, growth, improvement (not always perhaps readily recognized at first, that latter), but that all this has taken place without violence or breakdown, and that the growth and improvement are still going on.

And this seems a very reasonable view to take of it, and is analogous beyond doubt to what has happened on other sides of human progress; nay, it is on this ground that your pleasure in art is founded, and your hopes for its future.

That foundation for hope lias failed some of us; on what our hopes are founded to-day I may be able to tell you partly this evening, but I will now give you a glimpse of the abyss into which our earlier hope tumbled.

Let us look back a little to the early middle ages, the days of barbarism and confusion. As you follow the pages of the keen-eyed, cool-headed Gibbon, you may well think that the genius of the great historian has been wasted over the mean squabbles, the bald self-seeking,

the ignoble superstition, the pomp and the cruelty of the kings and scoundrels who are the chief persons named in the story; yet also you cannot fail to know, when you come to think of it, that the story has not been fully told; nay scarce told at all, only a chance hint given, here and there. The palace and the camp were but a small part of their world surely; and outside them you may be sure that faith and heroism and love were at work, or what birth could there have been from those days? For the visible tokens of that birth you must seek in the art that grew up and flourished amid that barbarism and confusion, and you know who wrought it. The tyrants, and pedants, and bullies of the time paid dog's wages for it, and bribed their gods with it, but they were too busy over other things to make it; the nameless people wrought it; for no names of its makers are left, not one. Their work only is left, and all that came of it, and all that is to come of it.

What came of it first was the complete freedom of art in the midst of a society that had at least begun to free itself from religious and political fetters. Art was no longer now, as in Egypt of olden time, kept rigidly within certain prescribed bounds that no fancy might play with, no imagination overpass, lest the majesty of the beautiful symbols might be clouded and the memory of the awful mysteries they symbolized become dim in the hearts of men. Nor was it any longer as in the Greece of Pericles, wherein no thought might be expressed that could not be expressed in perfect form. Art was free. Whatever a man thought of, that he might bring to light by the labor of his hands, to be praised and wondered at by his fellows. Whatever man had thought in him of any kind, and skill in him of any kind to express it, he was deemed good enough to be used for his own pleasure and the pleasure of his fellows; in this art nothing and nobody was wasted; all people east of the Atlantic felt this art; from Bokhara to Galway, from Iceland to Madras, all the world glittered with its brightness and quivered with its vigor. It cast down the partitions of race and religion also. Christian and Mussulman were made joyful by it; Kelt, Teuton, and Latin raised it up together; Persian, Tartar, and Arab gave and took its gifts from one another. Considering how old the world is it was not

« PreviousContinue »