« AnteriorContinua »
" Great Room” of a certain great house in the Strand :-the world cannot detect one beauty more in Stanfield's pictures since he became one of the “ elect” than it observed before ; and his talent would have ranked equally high in general estimation, had he remained for ever excluded.
The public are wise enough to see that works of art are not to be regarded simply as the mere sources of a fleeting pleasure-pretty things to tickle the eye for a while, and be then forgotten. The human mind is fashioned and created in proportion to its connexion with the external world through the agency of the senses; and the accurate representation of objects which shall convey to it any new set of impressions, is a noble substitute for absent reality. Every new impression is an item in the amount of man's knowledge; and according as that impression is made from objects that, in their kind, most approach to perfection, by so much does mental power become extended and improved. The pursuit after perfection is not simply the surest test of a well-regulated mind, but it is a grand means by which the social relations of life become elevated and improved. Those, therefore, who, by the cultivation of their own powers, are enabled to exhibit nature in her purest an
most perfect form, and to stimulate others to a contemplation of its varied and multiplied beauties, achieve a great moral good to the many, while they surely erect a lasting monument to their own individual fame, and assert a resistless claim upon the public for their gratitude and support.
The public are prepared to remunerate true excellence wherever it may be found. It may have been a little tardy in its adjudications, times gone by; but, blessings upon the sc!oolmaster! discerning philosophers are now as common as blackberries, and merit is sure to receive its due, and that promptly too. Flowers need no “ longer blush unseen, nor waste their fragrance on the desert - air,” unless they like. Genius is sure to be detected in these publishing days; and if cultivated to useful purposes, is sure to secure honour, and the golden opinions of all sorts of men. It is not by works of mediocrity that patronage can be secured ; excellence and perfection (as nearly as it can be approached) are the objects of public pursuit ; and all inferior claims stand the risk of being wholly unheeded.
Our advice, then, to the new Society is this: Seek not the lukewarm, doubtful succour of those who are running the same race with yourselves. Waste not your time in soliciting uncertain assistance; neither paralyze your powers by acts of useless repining. Depend not upon others, but upon yourselves alone. Look to yourselves as the only sure source whence success will flow, and employ all your energies to com. mand it. Strive,-earnestly, resolutely, strive,—to attain, by your own efforts, that eminence which has secured to your rivals the patronage you now seek to participate in. Paint, paint away, like Trojans ; and be not cast down. Practice makes perfect, and perseverance will accomplish wonders. Study, severely, intensely ; select the best models and the best masters ; fix your right eye upon nature and the other upon art, and fear not the issue. Talent, like water, is sure to find its level ; and though it may not be this year or the next, depend upon it that, if you are true to yourselves, you will become no contemptible rivals to those whom you now look so angrily upon. You may not all be Copley Fieldings to the full, perhaps : but-and remember this; ponder well upon it;—it is easier for you to approach the present excellence of that delightful artist, than it is for him to exceed it! While those who have risen to eminence are standing comparatively still, you will be in the full activity of advancement, and the race will not be spiritless.
STATE OF THE COUNTRY.
In the brief limits to which an Article in a Monthly Periodical must be confined, we cannot do more than glance very cursorily at the more important features of the subject to which we now address ourselves. Even such a cursory glance may not, at the present time, be without use. We are arrived at a crisis, at which it becomes the duty of every intelligent member of the community to make himself at least generally acquainted with the circumstances in which the country is placed ; that he may, in his own sphere, however circumscribed, lend his influence to the promotion of such of the many measures that must speedily occupy public attention, as he may think good, and may aid in opposing such as he may think evil. The measures already under discussion in Parliament, or that must soon be agitated there, bear too strongly upon the prosperity or adversity of the empire, and upon the social state of every member of the community, not to deserve an attention which the people have not been in use to pay to public affairs. Too much has been, in times past, left to the discretion of those, whom accident or party intrigue has placed in the seats of power. That the consequence has been disastrous, all know, and most feel. It now behoves every man to understand and take an interest in public matters, for his own particular sake, as well as for the sake of his country. Selfishness and patriotism bere dictate the same course.
The course we propose to pursue, in our inquiry into the state of the country, is to advert, in the first instance, to the present condition of the three great classes of the community, the UPPER RANKS, the Middle CLASSES, and the OPERATIVES. We shall next devote our attention to the state of the nation considered as a whole, pointing out the difficulties in which the nation is involved ; and conclude, by endeavouring to show how those difficulties ought to be encountered. We shall have to touch upon matters of extreme delicacy. But the times require plain dealing, and forbid our turning away our eyes from any part of the prospect before us. Conscious of none but honest intentions, we shall not conceal any part of the truth. It is the part of a fool to shun the investigation of his own embarrassed affairs. A wise man looks his difficulties boldly in the face, and resolutely sets himself to overcome them.
First, perhaps, in order, although certainly last in importance, comes the inquiry into the state of the Upper Ranks, in which we include the nobility, proprietors of large landed estates, and all persons of large income not derived from personal exertion. Even this class is by no means exempted from the consequences of the general distress which prevails in the country; although their wealth, and the comparatively small portion of their income abstracted by our monstrously absurd and partial system of taxation, make them feel the pressure of the general distress, to an extent, small indeed, when compared to the abridgment of comforts, and even the necessaries of life, borne by the other classes. Their rents are reduced, to be sure, very considerably ; in many cases to the extent of a third ; their interest on loans abated one or two per cent.; but that reduction of rents, or interest of money, is not to be named with the sufferings of the other classes. Besides, money has become more valuable since the pressure of calamity on the industrious classes. The same nominal amount of income will now exchange for more commodities than before. Still the upper classes do suffer. Be.
sides the curtailment of their incomes, it must be confessed that there is something to be taken into account for a certain degree of insecurity of property, caused not by the Reform Bill and the Revolutionary Ministry, as the Tory part of the Aristocracy choose to designate Lord Grey and his colleagues, but by the base and irritating opposition offered to the Reform Bill, and the avowed hostility of that faction to all those measures to which the Bill was intended to lead. We wish not to create any undue alarm ; but we will not attempt to conceal our opinion, that until every one of the great measures of Reform, on which the people have set their hearts, be obtained ; until every man shall be allowed to reap the fruit of his honest industry, free from restrictions at once impolitic and unjust ; until the people have cheap and good govern. ment,--property in this country will not be perfectly safe. But there are other abridgments of their income, from causes which, although only prospective have a present effect. The apprehended Reform, perhaps abolition, of the English and Irish Church Establishments ; the reduction of the Army and Navy; the abolition of pensions and sinecures, and discontinuance of the deadweight, or our system of maintaining an army of officers on half pay, besides the regular army on whole ; the reduction of salaries, and a near approach to the abolition of patronage and improper influences ; will go far to throw on the Aristocracy the burden of establishing in the world their younger children out of their own private fortunes, instead of out of the public purse, and grievous hardship to them, as they will, no doubt, think. Then, the abolition of the Corn Laws, which is as certain to take place as that justice, and strength, and intelligence, are more than a match for injustice, weakness, and ignorance, will cause some diminution of the incomes of the landed Aristocracy, although not so great as they apprehend. The consequence of all this is, that, besides the defalcation of rents already experienced, there is such a prospect of more, and such an abatement of the value of the unjust privileges heretofore inseparable from extensive property in land, that estates cannot be sold except at what are regarded by the owners as inadequate prices. There is such a stagnation in the market for landed property at present as was never known.
As yet, we have spoken only of those persons of the Aristocratic class, who have large incomes free from debt. That numerous portion of the Aristocracy, who have large debts, as well as large incomes, have suffered far more severely than their unincumbered brethren. While their rents have fallen 20 or 30 per cent., or even more, the jointures, the provisions to younger children, payable out of their estates, have not fallen at all; and the interest of their mortgages only one or two per cent. Many landed proprietors are thus reduced to less than one-half of their former free incomes.
We now come to a class, with whose sufferings we sympathize more than with those of the Aristocracy,—the Middle Class, including all persons above the rank of Operatives, who live by their own exertions, and those whose incomes, although arising from property of some kind, without personal exertion, are too small to give them a place among the Aristocracy. It is more difficult to ascertain the present condition of this class, than that of either the higher or the lower order. The poor man, when times of distress come on, having no accumulated savings to fall back on, cannot conceal his poverty. The rich man, again, knowing that his income, although reduced, is still great, and that he is only suffering in conimon with the rest of his class, does not care for concealment of the reduction, even were concealment practicable; which, in his case, for obvious reasons, it seldom is. But the incomes of manufacturers, ship owners, merchants, shopkeepers, and farmers, are often carefully kept from the knowledge of even their own clerks, managers, and nearest connexions, as far as possible ; always from the knowledge of the world. The quantity of business they do is also concealed ; likewise the loans and accommodations they require, and every thing which tends to throw light on the state of their business and finances. There, consequently, must be much uncertainty in any conjecture we make as to the present condition of the Middle Classes. We shall, however, make the best use of the indications of their prosperity or adversity that we can perceive.
Two things of importance will at once be admitted. First, that there is a general impression throughout the country, that the Middle Classes, generally, are struggling with diminished business, and still more dimi. nished profits ; that, in short, much commercial distress exists among them, much gloom and depression of spirit. Secondly, that not one of the several divisions of the middle class is even supposed to be reaping large gains, and enjoying a high state of prosperity. In an average state of the country, there should, from the natural fluctuations of trade, always be some division of this class in an extra flourishing condition, as well as some other division suffering more than its proper share of adversity, from temporary causes. But at present, while all the divi. sions are suffering so much, that it is difficult to say which is suffering most, there, undeniably, is not one division rejoicing in the sunshine of extraordinary prosperity. The manufacturers, with greatly increased and improved machinery, and wages reduced to the lowest pittance which can keep the miserable creatures which tend their machines alive, should, from these causes, make large profits. Yet, such is not the case. Their profits are small; the prices they can obtain for their goods scarcely remunerating. A large part of what they manufacture is done more because, having capital embarked in mills, an establishment to keep up, and a connexion in trade to maintain, they must keep manufacturing, than on account of any profit they can hope to realise from their manufacture. About the condition of the merchants, we do not profess to know more than others ; and shall only advert to the general understanding, that they, too, are reaping inadequate gains, and suffering heavy losses ; in short, that they are in anything but a prosperous state. The shipowners have long been complaining ; even more loudly than other classes ; and their complaints were, not without apparent reason, disregarded, as long as they kept building new ships to carry on the trade they proclaimed so miserably unproductive. But of late there has been a decrease in the amount of tonnage employed in foreign trade; and we are now disposed to believe their complaints of unproductive employment, for some time back, too well founded. That their profits have been small since the peace of 1815, we never doubted. We only ascribed the unwonted loudness of their outcry to the rapid fall from the enormous profits the ship-owners were making before the peace, to the same diminished, and steadily diminishing, profits realised by other classes. With the present state of that numerous division of the middle class, which consists of shopkeepers, we are better acquainted than with the condition of the manufacturers, merchants, and ship-owners; and shall, therefore, dwell longer on the state of this class than we have done on the condition of the other classes of the middle ranks. Much of what we have to say of them will probably be recognized by the other classes of the middle rank as applicable to their own condition.
The numerous, and important class of shop-keepers, then, we scruple not to say, we know to be in a state of unexampled suffering. Their business is diminished; their profits reduced ; and their losses, from bad debts and unsaleable stock, increased. Their prosperity depends on that of the other classes, as they are the mere instruments of exchange between the manufacturers, merchants, ship-owners, and corn-growers, on the one hand, and the consumers, on the other.
If the part of these classes suffer any diminution of trade ; if they manufacture less ; exchange with foreign countries less, or produce less than in times of prosperity; the shop-keepers have less employment in their trade of distribution ; that is, a lesser quantity of goods to supply their customers with, in exchange for money. And if the profits of the manufacturers, merchants, ship-owners, and corn-growers are diminished, especially when their expenses are not diminished in the same proportion, and their losses increased; these classes, who, of course, are all consumers, and customers of the shop-keeper, as well as manufacturers, producers, &c., cannot take their wonted quantities of commodities from the shopkeepers. · Farther, if the rents of the proprietors of lands, houses, and shops are reduced ; if the interest of the monied capitalist is lessened, these wealthy classes, on whom the higher class of shop-keepers and tradesmen chiefly depend, contract the extent of their orders; or, going abroad, to economise and escape the heavy burdens and high prices of their own country, carry their custom to the shop-keepers of Paris or Brussels. Then, the far more numerous class of shop-keepers and tradesmen who depend for their livelihood on the expenditure of the working classes, and of each other, suffer by the depreciated state of the operatives, to an extent only surpassed by that of the poor operatives themselves.
It must not be thought, that because both the upper ranks and the middle classes are suffering at the same time, that there is any approach to equality in their respective extents of suffering. By suffering we mean, at the present moment, pecuniary loss; mental suffering in consequence of that loss, we shall advert to by and bye. The extent of the rich man's suffering from the distress of the times is easily measured. His rents from lands, houses, or shops, is reduced perhaps 20, 30, or 40 per cent. ; a heavy reduction no doubt ; but, if he is not burdened with debts, jointures, or provisions to younger children, he has a large and certain income still; and, as has been already remarked, the reduction of the nominal amount of his income is partly compensated by the greater quantity of commodities that the present increased value of money, or fall in prices, enables him to purchase with the same sum which, before, could only purchase a lesser quantity. It is very different with the shop-keeper. If his business is reduced 20 or 30 per cent., (and it is often reduced more,) he seldom can reduce his expenses of business in the same proportion. If the diminution of business causes, as is often the case, an additional scramble for what still is to be had, keener com. petition, and a reduced rate of prices,-his gross profits on the business retained, are reduced to a rate compatible only with a greatly enlarged, instead of diminished amount of business. If, besides the operation of those causes, his losses from bad debts, and reduction in the value of his stock, are greater than usual, his gross profits are gone; he loses annu. ally instead of gaining by his business ; carries it on merely in the hope