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The Database of Ornament

IT was in the autumn of last year, that, at the request of
Mr. Smithers, I undertook to form and edit a new magazine.
As this magazine was to contain not only literature but
illustration, I immediately went to Mr. Beardsley, whom I
looked upon as the most individual and expressive draughts-
man of our time, and secured his cordial co-operation. I
then got together some of the writers, especially the younger writers, whose
work seemed to me most personal and accomplished ; deliberately choosing
them from as many “schools” as possible. Out of the immense quantity of
unsolicited material which came to me, very little was of any value ; a few
manuscripts and drawings, however, I was able to make us of. I wish here to
return thanks, most gratefully, to all those writers and artists who have helped
me, with such invariable kindness, and with such invaluable assistance.

Many things that I had hoped to do I have not done ; I have done a few
things that I did not intend to do. For these failures I blame partly myself,
partly circumstances. It is not given to anyone in this world to achieve
anything entirely to his satisfaction ; or only to those who aim low. I
aimed high.

Yes, I admit it, all those intentions which were expressed in my first
editorial note, and which the newspapers made so merry over, were precisely
my intentions ; and I have come as close to them as I could. It is a little
difficult now to remember the horrified outcry—the outcry for no reason in
the world but the human necessity of making a noise—with which we were
first greeted. I look at those old press notices sometimes, in my publisher’s
scrap-book, and then at the kindly and temperate notices which the same
papers are giving us now ; and I find the comparison very amusing. For we
have not changed in the least ; we have simply gone on our own way ; and
now that everyone is telling us that we have ” ome to stay,” that we are a
“welcome addition,” etc., we are obliged to retire from existence, on account

92                              THE SAVOY

of the too meagre support of our friends. Our first mistake was in giving so
much for so little money ; our second, in abandoning a quarterly for a
monthly issue. The action of Messrs. Smith and Son in refusing to place
“The Savoy” on their bookstalls, on account of the reproduction of a
drawing by Blake, was another misfortune. And then, worst of all, we
assumed that there were very many people in the world who really cared
for art, and really for art’s sake.

The more I consider it, the more I realize that this is not the case.
Comparatively very few people care for art at all, and most of these
care for it because they mistake it for something else. A street-singer, with
the remains of a beautiful voice, has just been assuring me that “if you
care for art you don’t get rich.” No, it is for their faults that any really
artistic productions become popular : art cannot appeal to the multitude.
It is wise when it does not attempt to ; when it goes contentedly along a
narrow path, knowing, and caring only to know, in what direction it is

Well, we were unwise in hoping, for a moment, that the happy accident
of popularity was going to befall us. It was never in my original scheme to
allow for such an accident. I return to the discretion of first thoughts ; after
an experiment, certainly, which has been full of instruction, full also of
entertainment, to ourselves. And so, in saying the last words in connection
with “The Savoy,” which now ends its year’s existence, I have the pleasure to
announce that in our next venture we are going to make no attempt to be
popular. We shall make our appearance twice only in the year ; our volumes
will be larger in size, better produced, and they will cost more. In this way
we shall be able to appeal to that limited public which cares for the things we
care for ; which cares for art, really for art’s sake. We shall hope for no big
success ; we shall be confident of enough support to enable us to go on doing
what seems to us worth doing. And, relieved as we shall be from the hurry of
monthly publication, we shall have the leisure to do what seems to us worth
doing, more nearly as it seems to us it should be done.

                                                                                    ARTHUR SYMONS.

MLA citation:

Symons, Arthur. “A Literary Causerie: By Way of Epilogue.” The Savoy vol. 8, December 1896, pp. 91-92. Savoy Digital Edition, edited by Christopher Keep and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2018-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.