Menu Close

From the Spectator “‘The Pageant,’ And Two Other Miscellanies”: Review of the Evergreen, Vol. 2, and The Pageant, Vol. 1

The Pageant is a rightly conceived mixture of literature and
graphic art.  Instead of illustrations furnished by some
indifferent hack to story or essay, and wordy description
written round pictures, we have here drawings, verses, prose,
appealing each on their own merits. The exceptions are of
the kind that justify themselves.  Verlaine’s reverie upon
Rossetti’s Monna Rosa is called forth by a real personal
sympathy, and the same attraction to·a kindred spirit in
another art is evinced by Mr. Ricketts’s illustrative work, as
it was by Rossetti in his drawings for Tennyson.
    We may take the graphic art first, for the newer contribu-
tors on this side are stronger than the writers.  It is needless
to speak of the admirable work by acknowledged masters,
Rossetti, Watts, Whistler, Millais, Burne-Jones.  The newer
men do no discredit to this company.  The leading spirits are
Messrs. Ricketts and Shannon.  The Oedipus of the first
displays the remarkable blending in its author of classical
taste and knowledge with a delight in romantic intricacy and
suggestion.  In the Psyche the balance has turned perhaps
a little too far in the direction of pattern lines, instead of
expressive lines ; but it is the work of the only possible pre-
tender in the younger generation to the heritage of tbe
Rossetti of 1857.  Of Mr. Shannon’s two drawings, one suffers
in reproduction ; but both prove, like all his work, a spirit of
real imaginative delicacy.  The same is true of Mr. Charles
Conder‘s “Blue Bird” of good luck, flitting above a company
of gallants and ladies in a garden.  Mr. Reginald Savage and
Mr. Laurence Housman, if we cannot at present put them on
so bigh a level, have a distinct talent ; the former expresses
himself something in the fashion of Madox Brown, the latter
has a turn for grotesque design and amazing minuteness of
execution.  Mr. Rothenstein‘s lithograph of Mr. Swinburne
is strongly characterised in the head.
    The literature includes a lovely variant by Maeterlinck on
one of Ophelia’s songs, beginning:—
                         “’Et s’il revenait un jour
                         Que faut-il lui dire?
                         ‘Dites-lui qu’on l’attendit
                         Jusqu’à s’en mourir.’”
The dramatic piece, Tintagiles, reveals too much of the
author’s machinery of images for thrills.  It is not to
be reckoned with L’Intrus.  A like overemphasis of the
machinery of phrase hurts Mr. Swinburne’s sunset picture of
“Theleme.”  A tender lyric by Mr. Henley, and two poems
by Mr. Robert Bridges, are the only other remarkable verses.
Of less-known writers, the most interesting is Mr. John
Gray.  A criticism by Mr. York Powell, in which something,
for a wonder, is said on the author of Sidonia, and a glimpse
into the imaginative history of the Moors, by Mr. Cunning-
hame Graham, appeal to us most among the remaining pieces.
It is a pleasure to find a book put together with so much
taste in the choice of its contents, the arrangement of its
type, and the design of·its cover.  A miscellany like this at
six shillings is cheap indeed.
    A London Garland is a collection of illustrations by members
of the Illustrators’ Society, upon occasion furnished by Mr.
Henley’s selection of poems dealing with London.  The
Society of Illustrators is a body formed with the excellent
idea of guarding the commercial interests of the members
against the rapacity of publishers and editors of the baser
sort, or their own ignorance and carelessness.  In fact, it is
intended to do for the illustrator what the Authors’ Society
has taken in hand for the writer.  Such a body is not of
course formed on an artistic but on a professional basis, and
must include men of all degrees of merit.  It is therefore ill-
framed to carry out consistently an artistic project, and a
miscellany of contributions from its members must exhibit
too great an inequality, as well as too great a variety of
styles, to make it possible to admire the book as a whole.
The work, in fact, ranges down to some striking examples of
inaptness and wash-drawing of the common type.  But on
the other hand, besides pictures or drawings of repute not
executed expressly for the book, there are several good
numbers among the illustrations; we may name, in parti-
cular, the drawings of Messrs. Abbey, W. W. Russell, Edgar
Wilson, A. S. Hartrick, H. Tonks, Raven Hill, W. Hatherell,
Paul Renouard, Aubrey Beardsley, and the Fog of Mr.
Pennell.  The book, indeed, is a fair epitome of the run of
illustration of the day,—good, middling, and bad.
    Mr. Henley bas made the best of a difficult business in
selecting the poems, for to take “London” as the peg for an
anthology is to proceed on a very accidental principle.  Mr.
Henley’s own poems are among the few centrally inspired by
the idea of London.  Wordsworth’s sonnet is another case;
Mr. Whistler’s Nocturne a third.  It is with an uncomfortable
jerk that we attempt to bring London to the front in reading
many of these poems.  The prose of Charles Lamb, De Quincey,
and others strikes the more conscious attitude required.  But
we need not take Mr. Henley’s part in the project more gravely
than he does him5elf.  The main idea, after all, was to furnish
pretexts for illustrations, and for some superstitious reason the
makers of books are still loath to say to their draughtsman,
‘Go and make London drawings without troubling to find a
warrant in a poem.’ A word must be said for the well-designed
end-papers by Mr. Gleeson White.
    For the good intentions and some of the ideas of the pro-
ducers of The Evergreen we have sympathy ; but they appear
to us to confuse the ardent desire for the presence of art with
the power to produce it.  The essence of their movement for a
“Scots Renascence” would appear to be a kind of social settle-
ment including University teachers and students, and they are
anxious to add culture and an artistic creation to their study
of science and aspiration after social good-fellowship.  But
these things do not come only by wishing and taking thought
and trying.  Talent too is nooessary, and is not to be had to
order.  These two numbers of the “Seasonal” are marked
by an anxious self-consciousness, an effort to have style that
defeats itself.  The type has so much of this style that it is
ugly and unreadable.  Style stands like a grille before the
articles, and hits one in the eye from the drawings. We find,
however, some feeling and talent in the writing of Miss Fiona
MacLeod, and in Mr. Charles Mackie’s Hide and Seek.

MLA citation:

“‘THE PAGEANT,’ AND TWO OTHER MISCELLANIES.” Review of The Evergreen: A Northern Seasonal, vol.2, Autumn 1985, and The Pagent, 1896, The Spectator, 29 Aug 1895, pp. 274. Yellow Nineties 2.0, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.