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IN THE DOCTOR'S DEN.
LET us,” said Harry, with the air of disdainful world had not yet been one solving a problem that had baffled
found worthy. the wisdom of ages, “ let us go and
Sculptors like Phidias, knock up the Doctor.” And they said,
Raphaels in shoals, “ Let us,” and went.
Poets like Shakespeare, – The Doctor's destined visitors that
Beautiful souls ! night were Harry Starkie, Tom Thorn- They all came there to pour out their ton, and Richard Mordle; three young hopes and their grievances, their gentlemen of much the same age, triumphs and their reverses ; to smoke tastes, and fortune. They all dabbled the Doctor's tobacco, drink his whiskey, a little in the arts: Tom and Dick laugh at his whims, and listen to, if were to be great painters, while Harry, not always profit by, his wisdom. whose bent was to literature, was to “ Come in,” roared the Doctor, as carry on the torch of criticism when they rapped at the outer door, which, the tale of Præterita should be told. however, stood open as its custom He and Dick were vowed to the highest always was of an evening; and they art; but Tom, they sometimes whis- went in. pered to each other, was a bit of a “He is an ass; they are all asses,” Philistine. Their dabblings had not vociferated the host, who was striding as yet made any great splash; but about the room puffing vigorously at they were still young-lucky dogs! a long clay pipe, the form in which he
The Doctor (who had about as much liked best to take his tobacco. The to do with the Pharaohs with recipient of this information pharmacy) was always at home to his stretched at full length on the sofa, friends, and liked to see young folk lazily consuming a toothpick. Walter round him. And they were glad to Merton was known to the new arrivals go, for though he had his whims, and slightly-perhaps no one knew him was apt to be somewhat violently in- very intimately, though he went often tolerant of certain modern fancies and to the Den and was a great favourite fashions, he was a kindly old gentle- of its owner; there were others who man, merry and wise, fond of all objected to his tongue, which was sharp wholesome fun, ready to join in any on occasions. “They are all asses,” the laugh against himself from those he Doctor was saying, or rather shoutallowed to laugh; withal, abundant in ing, as the three entered. common sense, and a most patient clear. “Who are?” asked Harry, who headed counsellor in all matters need- always prided himself on going, as ing right reason and articulate speech. he said, straight to the root of the Generous he was, too, as the sun, and matter. many a struggling lad owed much “ We've been talking over this onmore to the Doctor than counsel. So slaught on the Royal Academy," said there were few evenings in the week Merton, lazily nodding a greeting from when the Den (as his queer little the sofa : “and it has rather upset our rooms, a veritable “twopenny trea- good friend.” sury,” were affectionately called) was “Why, Doctor," said Harry, turnempty. It was a rare meeting place ing to the cloud-compelling old gentlefor the young geniuses of whom the man, “you aren't surely going to
desert us now that the moment for
High Art be action has come ! How often have I “Hanged," put in Merton. “My heard you thunder against Burlington dear Doctor, don't you see that's preHouse and all its works."
cisely what our friends here complain * Who are us?” was the answer, the Academy won't do ? And so, like “and what is the action ?”
wise fellows who know that if you Tom chuckled ; he liked, as he said, want a thing done you must do it to see Harry catch it from the Doctor. yourself, they intend to establish a-But the opportune entry of a small what is it they call it 2-a really brat (known to frequenters of the Den National Academy of Art where as Flibbertigibbet), with tumblers everybody's pictures shall be hung
, and other things convenient for re- except those of members of the Royal freshment, saved Harry for the moment Academy"from an answer which the Doctor was “That's not quite true, Merton," just then too busy to press. As soon,
broke in Dick. however, as all present wants had been "Well," said Merton affably. satisfied, and Flibbertigibbet had been Perhaps it is not. But if I'm instructed concerning oysters in the wrong the fault lies with your friends, not too distant future, Merton from the not with me. I take my facts from the sofa gave signal to renew the combat. paper which, always, like Mr. Eccles,
“ That's pretty much what I have foremost in the cause of the poor and been trying to find out, Starkie,” he oppressed, has made itself the mouthsaid:
“what has inspired this sudden piece of despised and rejected Art. change of front. But I can't keep the It was so very amusing that I took Doctor to the point.”
a few notes as the discussion went on, “What is the point ? ” pleaded the so I really don't think I'm very far Doctor, whose wrath had vanished in wrong in my definition of the views of the smoke of a fresh pipe.
the—what shall I call you? Re" And who are the asses?" insisted formers? Destroyers ? Regenerators ? Tom.
Mind you, I don't profess to an opinion. “ Well," said Merton,
we won't be I leave that to you fellows who underparticular to a name; but as far as I stand it all, which, of course, I don't, could gather, we had just reached that neither being a painter nor a critic, stage of the argument when you came nor doing anything else that is of use in-no, hardly an argument, was it, to labouring humanity. But, after all, Doctor ļ ubi tu pulsas, ego vapulo I can read if I can't write, and as I tantum—we had reached, let us say, have certainly read that the Academy that familiar stage in the proceedings has “neglected the interests of outside of this House of Assembly where the artists ”—is an inside artist a painter Doctor, like a famous tribune of the of what are called interiors ? You, my people, was inclined to damn every- dear Starkie, will know, for you are body. Both sides, all sides, he thought an art-critic and understand the were equally wrong."
tongue of those angels) : that under “No, no," laughed the Doctor; their management the National Ex“ that's not quite fair.
Say rather hibition (just previously declared, by that, like Goldsmith's friend, I owned the way, to be in no sense of the word there was much to be said on both National) has become “a monument sides."
of feebleness, frivolity and melo“You certainly said a good deal of drama": that not only have they done both sides,” answered Merton.
nothing “ to form, raise, and encour“Well, Doctor," began Dick re- age an adequate standard of English proachfully, as one who felt his last painting," but have both "openly and
“ article of faith was vanishing, “ I did tacitly discouraged all the best art, think the cause of High Art—" poetic, religious, and historic": hav
ing, I say, read all this, and having said much yet, no doubt you've been also read that the only remedy for this thinking a good deal. Suppose you shameful state of things lies in the give us your views." establishment of a really National But Tom shook his head.
“No, no, Exhibition, I (not unreasonably, as I Doctor; these big questions are too still venture to think) supposed that much for me. I don't understand it it was intended to exclude from this all. I know enough of the business Paradise all members of that body to see there are some painters writing whose crass ignorance, negligence, sel- R.A. after their names who ain't what fishness, &c., &c., &c. (including, it was I should call quite the Raphael; but not darkly hinted, envy, hatred, I can also see that there are some malice and all uncharitableness) have uncommon bad ones who haven't that rendered this æsthetic crusade impera- privilege, and it strikes my limited tive.”
intelligence that we should be wiser to “Did a painter write all that?” bear the evils we have than fly to asked Tom.
others we know not of, as the chap in “A painter !” answered Merton. the play says. Besides, you know they Oh, no.
The painters have no time wouldn't have anything to say to my for writing. Besides, they don't like masterpiece this year, so I ain't quite entering the lists as combatants and an impartial witness.' controversialists. They think, like the “Well, that's honest, Tom, at any sensible fellows they are, that such rate,” said the Doctor, “ besides being work is not in keeping with an artis. sensible.” tic life. So they leave all this—we “Lucky for the newspapers our mustn't call it dirty work, I suppose ? friend's brothers in art ain't all quite —to the art-critics, who understand so honest," laughed Merton. all the chiaroscuro of the Academy, “ Tom, you're an ass,” said Dick. all its light and shade, as they do Very like," replied the imperturbeverything else,—though, to be sure, able Tom, filling his pipe again, " very they don't allow it much light:” like ; and having no Balaam for
Come, come, Master Walter, don't master I don't see that I'm called on you be so hard on the critics,” said
to speak.” the Doctor, who foresaw a breeze. Well, Dick, if Tom's an ass, let's “They're not half bad fellows, and hear what you are," and the Doctor know their business a vast deal better also re-charged his clay. “You've not, than they get credit for. Besides, I think, his reasons for silence.” you're out of your reckoning, my lad. “No," said Dick rather shortly ; Where did you get all that nonsense “I sent nothing in this year. But I about the painters preferring to keep don't know that I've got much to add clear of controversy? Why, 'twas they to what has been already said pretty who fired the first shot and have been completely by men whom I at least hard at it ever since.”
am proud to see on our side. You'll “I got it, my dear Doctor, from the agree, I suppose, that this last year's letter of a painter, that I read in the exhibition at Burlington House was a paper aforesaid.
But indeed I have pretty bad one. They say the receipts no wish to be hard upon anybody. As are short by some thousands of what I said before, I have no opinions on they were last year.” either side. I only repeat what “You credit the public with more I hear, or read: I am no critic-only judgment than they generally get laid a reporter. Now, we have a critic to their charge,” laughed Merton, “ if here, and two painters; let us hear you take that as due solely to the them.”
badness of the show. You forget the “ Well, Tom,” said the Doctor, hard times, and the Election, and then turning to Thornton, “as you haven't the overpowering number of galleries
there are all over London. Why, buy. So that if a fellow wants to get every street almost has one now, like his picture hung at Burlington House its pillar-box and lamp-post. Each he must paint down to that standard one, you know, takes its proportion -prostitute his genius, Sir, to the
, of shillings out of the Academy's standard of the Royal Academy of pocket. John Bull hasn't quite so English Art!” many of them now as he had-I mean “That's very sad," said the Doctor, shillings.”
puffing meditatively at his pipe. “ Well, that's as may be,” replied “Then, as the number of rejected Dick. “ At any rate you'll own it pictures is, I am given to understand,
a bad show, and some of the some three or four times the number worst things in it were by Academi- of those accepted, it follows that there cians."
must be an uncommon lot of geniuses “I'm not quite so sure that we're blushing unseen somewhere about all with you, there,” broke in the England. For allowing that a certain
, Doctor; “but, Dick, my boy, I don't number are sent back for the simple see your line of argument. Granted but sufficient reason that there really that the show was not a very good is not room for them (for you must one this year; grant, as I will if remember, my boy, that space cannot you press me, that it has not been be annihilated even to make one quite first-rate for some seasons past; painter happy), still there must remain how do you put that to the fault of a sad proportion whose only fault is the Academy? They can't make you that they are too good.” fellows paint well, you know. And “That's it," said Dick complacently. say some of them aren't themselves “ You know it?" asked the Doctor. quite all they should be, still I don't “Certainly." see your game. Is it their bad Might I ask how?”. here put in example you're driving at? But Merton, very suavely, from the sofa. you're none of you compelled even by
6. How ?
Why - oh, everybody Academical law to imitate the bad knows it. Look at poor Tom here, for ones. I suppose you'll allow there instance. He was rejec—” are one or two who can paint a bit “Oh, never mind me," laughed Tom. among the lot; why not imitate “I'm all right. Old Forth gave me them?”
five and twenty pounds for my “Good work don't pay," was Dick's picture, and deuced glad I was to get answer.
it. I've no quarrel with the Acathat?” asked the demy." Doctor.
“Take care, Tom," laughed the 'Oh, those fellows won't hang it. Doctor; “ you remember what the They'll only hang stuff that will sell; painters said of Ruskin? Confound they're tradesmen, not painters." him, why doesn't he back his friends?
“Well, but my dear fellow, you But I beg your pardon, Dick, you were sell your pictures, when you can, don't going to say ? you? I don't remember that you had “Oh, I can do well enough without many qualms about becoming a trades- Tom,” went on Dick. “There's Charlie man when your friend in Chelsea Oker, and Bob McGillup, and Bill bought your fancy portrait of what Madderley, and Jack Stipple.” (“For
— did you call her? Fragoletta in a fit tisque Gyas, fortisque Cloanthus," came was it 1-for-"
a murmur from the sofa.)
" You “Ah, that's not what I mean," ask them; they were all rejected. interrupted Dick hurriedly. “What Bill had three rejected last year, and the Academy wants is what the two this. And then look at the picture-buyers, the art-patrons as they papers. They're full every day of like to hear themselves called, will letters from fellows who have been
“ Who says
* you don't
treated in the same brutal way, crying out for reform."
“But, my dear Dick, my dear fellow,” said the Doctor, seriously mean to say that the Academy is utterly vile because a round dozen or so, or a few hundreds, if
you like, who can't get their pictures hung, write letters to the papers to say so. If that's your train of reasoning, I don't think it would be hard to find a tolerable number of witnesses on the other side. How about the men who are hung?”
"Evidently they should be drawn and quartered, too," said Merton. “ But, my dear Mordle, you made use of the word Reform just now. I thought that, as a certain Scotch member of Parliament is reported to have once said of the Decalogue, you were for Total Abolition."
“No," replied Dick graciously, “I'd try Reform first, at any rate."
“ And how would you set about that?” asked Merton.
By a Royal Commission.” "A Royal Commission, eh? And what would that do ?” " That would make 'em sit
up, tell you! Everybody says so. There was a fellow wrote to the papers the other day, a Master of Arts of Cambridge, who said he remembered the Universities Commission and was sure the plan would answer.” H’m,”
,” said the Doctor, “I don't quite see the analogy, and I'm not sure that I like the security. But what do you say, Harry? Are you on the side of Repentance and Reform with Dick, or would you sweep the encumbrance off the face of the earth?"
“I would have given them a chance to set their house in order," answered Harry, "though I doubt it's possible. But they don't seem inclined to take any notice of the public feeling ; silence-now, as it always has beenis their only answer ; question, appeal, remonstrance, accusation, all are met with the same contemptuous reply of silence. What is one to do?”
Ah," said Merton, sympathizingly, " that same silence is a terribly unanswerable argument, is it not? You can't go on calling a man names who takes no notice of you.”
Harry looked as though he should very much like to call his interrupter some names ; but he went on,
“So I give my voice now for action -instant and drastic. What our Art demands, and what it must have, is a truly National Exhibition on the really broad basis of a Universal Artistic Suffrage.”
“That sounds very fine," said the Doctor, “but what does it all mean?”
“It means that the pictures should be chosen by a jury selected from all the competent artists in the kingdom."
Excluding, of course, the Academicians?"
No; not necessarily; not all of them.”
“ And who are to choose the jury?”
“The artists; it is to be a sort of artistic plébiscite."
“There'll be Wigs on the Green at that election, I should say," observed Tom with a chuckle.
" And who are to be the artists ?”
6. The artists ? Why--the artists, you know; the painters.”
“What, every one who has ever painted a picture in his life !” exclaimed the Doctor. “That will be rather a long business, will it not? And do you feel quite sure of the result? Remember, there are many schools of Painting, and I don't think they love each other much more now than the schools of Philosophy used."
“Art is long," replied Harry; "and in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”
“ T'hat depends a good deal on the counsellors, I take it," observed
“You see,” went on Harry, with the air of one about to drive the nail home once and for all : “ You see, it's just this; the root of the matter, though so few people see it—"
"Ah, Harry, Harry," said the Doctor, setting his back to the mantel