Изображения страниц

painting in this country. I have of late been doing a great deal of light travelling in behalf of the respectable firm which I represent [laughter), and I beg at once to give notice, in the hearing of the noble marquis who is more to your left [Lord Salisbury), that I now nail to the counter any proposal to call me a political bagman as wanting in originality and wit. (Laughter.]

But I have been doing a certain amount of light travelling in behalf of our excellent and creditable firm. The other day, on returning from Manchester, I was deeply and hideously impressed with the fact that all along that line of railway which we traversed, the whole of a pleasing landscape was entirely ruined by appeals to the public to save their constitutions but ruin their æsthetic senses by a constant application of a particular form of pill. (Laughter and cheers.]

Now, Sir Frederic, I view that prospect with the gravest misgiving. What is to become of our English landscape if it is to be simply a sanitary or advertising appliance? [Laughter.] I appeal to my right honorable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy [James Bryce], who sits opposite to me. His whole heart is bound up in a proposition for obtaining free access to the mountains of the Highlands. But what advantage will it be to him, or to those whose case he so justly and eloquently espouses, if at the top of Schiehallion, or any other mountain which you may have in your mind's eye, the bewildered climber can only find an advertisement of some remedy of the description of which I have mentioned (cheers), an advertisement of a kind common, I am sorry to say, in the United States—and I speak with reverence in the presence of the ambassador of that great community—but it would be in the Highlands distressing to the deer and infinitely perplexing even to the British tourist. [Laughter and cheers.]

But I turned my eyes mentally from the land, and I said that, after all, the great painter of the present may turn to the sea, and there at least he is safe. There are effects on the ocean which no one can ruin, which not even a pill can impair. [Laughter.] But I was informed in confidenceit caused me some distress—that the same enterprising firm which has placarded our rural recesses, has offered a mainsail free of expense to every ship that will accept it, on condition that it bears the same hideous legend upon it to which I have referred. [Laughter.] Think, Mr. President, of the feelings of the illustrious Turner if he returned to life to see the luggers and the coasting ships which he has made so glorious in his paintings, converted into a simple vehicle for the advertisement of a quack medicine—although I will not say “quack,” because that is actionable [laughter]—I will say of a medicine of which I do not know the properties. [Laughter.]

But I turned my eyes beyond the land and ocean, and I turned them to the heavens, and I said, “There, at any rate, we are safe.” The painter of the present may turn his eye from the land and ocean, but in the skies he can always find some great effect which cannot be polluted. At this moment I looked from the railway-carriage window, and I saw the skeleton of a gigantic tower arising. It had apparently been abandoned at a lofty stage, possibly in consequence of the workmen having found that they spoke different languages at the height at which they had arrived. (Laughter.] I made inquiries, and I found that it was the enterprise of a great speculator, who resides himself on a mountain, and who is equally prepared to bore under the ocean or ascend into the heavens. I was given to understand that this admirable erection comprised all the delights of a celestial occupation without any detachment from terrestrial pursuits. [Laughter.] But I am bound to say that if buildings of that kind are to cover this country, and if they are to be joined to the advertising efforts to which I have alluded, neither earth, nor sea, nor sky in Great Britain will be fit subject for any painter. (Cheers.]

What, then, is the part of Her Majesty's Government in this critical and difficult circumstance? We have—no, I will not say we have, because there would be a protest on the left-but different governments have added allotments to the attractions of rural neighborhoods. I venture to think that an allotment is not an unpicturesque thing. Certainly, small holdings are more picturesque than large holdings, but I do not say that from the point of view in which Sydney Smith said that the difference between the picturesque and the beautiful was that the rector's horse was beautiful, and that the curate's horse was picturesque. [Laughter.] I simply mean that a small holding is more picturesque than a large holding, and I think we may hope that the parish councils, if they meet, as they did in primeval times, under the shade of some large spreading oak, and not in the public house which we so much fear, as their headquarters, may yet add a picturesque feature to the rural landscape of Great Britain.

But there is one feature at which a government can always aim as adding to the landscape of Great Britain. In a very famous but too little read novel, “ Pelham,” by the late Lord Lytton, there is a passage which always struck me greatly. It is where Pelham goes to see an uncle from whom he is to inherit a great estate, and he asks what the uncle has done to beautify that exquisite spot. The uncle says that he has done nothing but added the most beautiful feature of landscape, which is happy faces. Well, the Government in its immediate neighborhood has little to do with making happy faces. [Laughter.] It certainly does not make its opponents happy, except on rare occasions when it leaves office, and it is not always so fortunate as to make its supporters happy. [Laughter.] But I believe that in this country all governments do aim in their various ways and methods at making a happy population around them; and in that respect, in adding happy faces to the landscape, whether we fail or whether we succeed, we have a goodwill in the work, and I am quite sure we have the hearty encouragement of the great and brilliant assembly which I address. [Loud cheers.]



(Speech of George Augustus Sala at a banquet given in his honor by the Lotos Club, January 10, 1885. The President, Whitelaw Reid, sat at the centre table, having on his right hand the guest of the evening. He said, in welcoming Mr. Sala: “ The last time we met here it was my pleasant duty to give your welcome to an old friend. Now you make it my duty-still a pleasant one-to give your welcome to an old enemy. [“ Hear! Hear!”] Yes; an old enemy! We shall get on better with the facts by admitting them at the outset. Our guest was more or less against us in the great struggle twenty years ago in which everybody now wishes to be thought to have been with us. He did not believe this nation would down the slaveholders' rebellion and he did not want it to; and he wrote frankly as he believed and wished. (Laughter.) He never made any disguise about it then or since; and for that, at least, we think the better of him! (Applause.) He came of a slaveholding family; many personal and social influences drew him toward those of our countrymen who were on the wrong side; and now that it is all over, we bear no malice! (Applause.) More than that; we are heartily glad to see him. The statute of limitations runs in his favor; and his old opinions are outlawed. He revisited the country lons after the war—and he changed his mind about it. He thought a great deal better of us; and we in turn found his letters a great deal pleasanter reading. We like a man who can change his mind (applause]; and if a bit of international frankness may be permitted in the good-fellowship of this board, perhaps I may venture to add that we particularly like to discover that trait in an Englishman! [Applause and laughter.) We've changed our minds—at least about some things. We've not only forgiven our countrymen; whom our guest used to sympathize with; but we have put-and are getting ready to put-the most of them into office! What we are most anxious about just now is, whether they are going to forgive us! Seriously, gentlemen, we are very glad to see Mr. Sala here again. He was a veteran in the profession in which so many of you are interested, worthily wearing the laurels won in many fields, and enjoying the association, esteem, and trust of a great master whose fame the world holds precious, when the most of us were fledglings. We all know him as a wit, a man of letters, and a man of the world. Some of us have known him also in that pleasanter character of all clubmen described in the old phrase,

'a jolly good fellow.' On the other side of the Atlantic the grasp he gives an American hand is a warm one; and we do not mean that in New York he shall feel away from home. I give you, gentlemen, 'The health and prosperity of George Augustus Sala.'”]

MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN OF THE Lotos CLUB: I am under the deepest feeling of gratitude to Mr. White. law Reid for having torn the mask from the face of the stealthy conspirator, for having exposed the wily plotter and insidious libeller, and defied the malignant Copperhead. [Applause.] I thought that I had long ago been choked with that venom; but no, it rises still and poisons all that belongs to his otherwise happy condition. Gentlemen, I am indeed an enemy of the United States. I am he who has come here to requite your hospitalities with unfounded calumny and to bite the hand that has fed me. Unfortunately there are so many hands that have fed me that it will take me from this time until to-morrow morning to bite all the friendly hands.

With regard to events that took place twenty years ago and of which I was an interested spectator, I may say that albeit I was mistaken; but the mistake was partaken of by many hundred thousands of my fellow-countrymen, who had not the courage subsequently to avow that they had been mistaken, but yet set to curry favor with the North by saying that they had always been their friends. The only apology—if apology I should choose to make-would be this: that that which I had to say against you I said while I was in your midst, when I was living at the Brevoort House; and when my letters came weekly back from England; and when it was quite in your power to have ridden me out on a rail or to have inflicted on me any of the ordinary visitations which a malignant Copperhead was supposed to deserve. But you did not do so, and I remember that when I left New York, I had quite as many good, kind, cordial friends on the Union League side as I had on the Democratic side. I would say further that when I came to publish my letters I found that there were many statements which I had made, which seemed to me to have been hasty and inconsiderate, and I did my best to modify them; and I did not wait until I got home to malign the people from whom I had received hospitality.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »