THE LAY FIGURE ON A DEBATE
IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS.
" British legislators—I like to give
them this long name," said the Reviewer, smiling—
"are always attheir bestwhen they prattle about art."
" That irony is overdone," replied the Journalist.
"You might as well say that thieves are always
honest when they steal."
" I spoke quite seriously," replied the Reviewer.
" The endless loquacity of Parliament is now such
an offensive thing, so full of pretentious claptrap,
of mere froth and humbug, that it needs nothing
so much as manly frankness; and British legislators
are always frank and bluff when they venture to
talk on artistic subjects. They don't care for art,
and they say so plainly ; they don't understand its
services to the State, and they are honest enough
to confess their ignorance. That is better than a
"So far, so good," said the Critic. "Yet
statesmen and politicians must be taught to
understand that the commercial well-being of
nations becomes ever the more dependent on the
applied arts. A recognition of this truth would
have prevented a great waste of public money in
England, during those long years in which the
national schools of art did little else but distribute
certificates to drawing-masters, and pretty compli-
'ments to a host of girl painters. Such was the
British way of encouraging good design."
" But that is a blunder of the past," said the
Man with the Briar Pipe. " In this year's National
Competition for art students, there was plenty of
good common sense, and a little pressure from the
general public will cause the Parliamentary Mind
to deviate into the same useful quality."
" Where art is concerned ? " asked the Critic,
sceptically. " How much common sense showed
itself on the 22 nd of July, when the fine arts
in England formed the subject of debate in the
House of Lords? Lord Stanmore then moved for
an address, praying that the King would direct the
appointment of a Royal Commission, similar in
character and object to the one over which the late
Prince Albert presided from 1842 to 1861. This
Commission, which owed both its origin and its
partial success' to Queen Victoria's Consort, had
three aims to work for. First, the general improve-
ment of art in England ; next, the direction and
supervision of the decorative work which was to be
carried out in the new Palace of Westminster;
and, third, the placing of pictures and statues in
the Houses of Parliament, so that great events in
history and distinguished men might not be
forgotten in the turmoil of party warfare. ^4,000
a year was spent by Prince Albert's Commission.
Lord Stanmore, in his speech on July 22, said he
would be content if a new Commission were
granted only half that sum."
" In other words," said the Journalist, " he asked
for less money than the nation invests in machinery
for a gunboat."
"Quite so," the Critic laughed. "Yet the Prime
Minister spoke of Lord Stanmore's extravagance.
It seemed to him that ^2,000 a year would be an
alarming sum for any Chancellor of the Exchequer
to think about in connection with any step favour-
able to advanced art. The Treasury would be
obdurate, and the public would support the
Treasury. For the British people, according to
Lord Salisbury, do not care for art."
"If that be true," cried the Reviewer, "why were
the British people the first to encourage the best
forms of illustrated journalism ? Besides, all who
take delight in flowers and plants, like the Anglo-
Saxons, have in them some of that stuff of which
poets and artists are made. We may be sure of
that. Englishmen certainly have not lost that love
of freshness and colour which the Puritans tried to
extinguish. They are not insensitive to art influ-
ences, as Lord Salisbury would admit were he to
see the clever woik done by children in the free
schools. Indeed, one is almost inclined to think
that the artistic temperament, with its feminine
sensitiveness and alertness, is becoming even too
common in England, for the prevalence of this
temperament has always been hostile to the
maintenance of an Empire."
" However that may be," said the Critic, "it is
impossible not to agree with the excellent sugges-
tion made by the Earl of Rosebery in Lord
Stanmore's debate. After pointing out that the
Government does nothing at all for the National
Portrait Gallery, he suggested that the trustees of
the Gallery should be empowered to apply to the
Treasury once a year for permission to entrust the
execution of a portrait of some great contemporary
to some great artist of whom the nation is justly
proud. If this be not done, he added, we have
no conceivable chance, except through the
patriotism of an individual—and this is not a
quantity on which you can always reckon—of
obtaining portraits of great living contemporaries
for the national collection."
"A point which cannot be insisted upon too
The Lay Figure.