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LESLIE STEPHEN

THE CRITIC

(Speech of Leslie Stephen at the annual banquet of the Royal Academy, London, April 29, 1893, in response to the toast, “ Literature.” Sir Frederic Leighton, President of the Academy, spoke of Literature as “that in which is garnered up the heat that feeds the spiritual life of men.” In the vein of personal compliment he said: “For literature I turn to a distinguished writer whose acute and fearless mind finds a fit vehicle in clear and vigorous English and to me seems winged by that vivid air which plays about the Alpine peaks his feet have in the past so dearly loved to tread—I mean my friend, Mr. Leslie Stephen.")

MR. PRESIDENT, YOUR ROYAL HIGHNESS, MY LORDS, AND GENTLEMEN:—When a poet or a great imaginative writer has to speak in this assembly he speaks as to brethrenin-arms, to persons with congenial tastes and with mutual sympathies, but when, instead of the creative writer, the Academy asks a critic to speak to them, then nothing but your proverbial courtesy can conceal the fact that they must really think they are appealing to a natural enemy. I have the misfortune to be a critic [laughter], but in this assembly I must say I am not an art critic. Friends have made a presumptuous attempt to fathom the depth of my ignorance upon artistic subjects, and they have thought that in some respects I must be admirably qualified for art criticism. [Laughter.]

As a literary critic I have felt, and I could not say I was surprised to find how unanimously critics have been condemned by poets and artists of all generations. I need only quote the words of the greatest authority, Shakespeare, who in one of his most pathetic sonnets reckons up the causes of the weariness of life and speaks of the spectacle of

Art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly (doctor-like), controlling skill.”

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The great poet probably wrote these words after the much misrepresented interview with Lord Bacon in which the Chancellor explained to the poet how “Hamlet” should have been written, and from which it has been inferred that he took credit for having written it himself. (Laughter.] Shakespeare naturally said what every artist must feel; for what is an artist? That is hardly a question to be asked in such an assembly, where I have only to look round to find plenty of people who realize the ideal artist, persons who are simple, unconventional, spontaneous, sweet-natured slaughter), who go through the world influenced by impressions of everything that is beautiful, sublime, and pathetic. Sometimes they seem to take up impressions of a different kind [laughter); but still this is their main purpose—to receive impressions of images, the reproduction of which may make this world a little better for us all. For such people a very essential condition is that they should be spontaneous; that they should look to nothing but telling us what they feel and how they feel it; that they should obey no external rules, and only embody those laws which have become a part of their natural instinct, and that they should think nothing, as of course they do nothing, for money; though they would not be so hard-hearted as to refuse to receive the spontaneous homage of the world, even when it came in that comparatively vulgar form. [Laughter.]

But what is a critic? He is a person who enforces rules upon the artist, like a gardener who snips a tree in order to make it grow into a preconceived form, or grafts upon it until it develops into a monstrosity which he considers beautiful. We have made some advance upon the old savage. The man who went about saying, “This will never do,” has become a thing of the past. The modern critic if he has a fault has become too genial; he seems not to distinguish between the functions of a critic and the founder of a new religious sect. (Laughter.] He erects shrines to his ideals, and he burns upon them good, strong, stupefying incense. This may be less painful to the artist than the old-fashioned style; but it may be doubted whether it is not equally corrupting, and whether it does not stimulate a selfishness equally fatal to spontaneous production; whether it does not in the attempt to encourage originality favor a spurious

type which consists merely in setting at defiance real common sense, and sometimes common decency.

I hope that critics are becoming better, that they have learned what impostors they have been, and that their philosophy has been merely the skilful manipulation of sonorous words, and that on the whole, they must lay aside their magisterial role and cease to suppose they are persons enforcing judicial decisions or experts who can speak with authority about chemical analysis. I hope that critics will learn to lay aside all pretension and to see only things that a critic really can see, and express genuine sympathy with human nature; and when they have succeeded in doing that they will be received as friends in such gatherings as the banquet of the Royal Academy. (Cheers.)

RICHARD SALTER STORRS

THE VICTORY AT YORKTOWN

(Speech of Rev. Dr. Richard S. Storrs at a banquet of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, given November 5, 1881, in New York City, in honor of the guests of the nation, the French diplomatic representatives in America, and members of the families descended from our foreign sympathizers and helpers, General Lafayette, Count de Rochambeau, Count de Grasse, Baron von Steuben and others, who had been present at the centennial celebration of the victory at Yorktown. The chairman, James M. Brown, vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce, proposed the toast to which Dr. Storrs responded, “The Victory at Yorktown: it has rare distinction among victories, that the power which seemed humbled by it looks back to it now without regret, while the peoples who combined to secure it, after the lapse of a century of years, are more devoted than ever to the furtherance of the freedom to which it contributed.")

MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN OF THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE:-It is always pleasant to respond to your invitations and to join with you on these festival occasions. You remember the reply of the English lady (Lady Dufferin] perhaps, when the poet Rogers sent her a note saying: Will

you

do me the favor to breakfast with me to-morrow?" To which she returned the still more laconic autograph, “Won't I?”

“Won't I?” [Laughter.] Perhaps one might as well have that lithographed as his reply to your cordial and not infrequent invitations. [Laughter.] I do not know whether you are aware of it, on this side of the East River-perhaps you don't read the newspapers much-but in that better part of the great metropolis in which it is my privilege to live, we think of showing our appreciation of this Chamber of Commerce by electing for Mayor next week, one of your younger mem

bers, the son of one of your older and most distinguished members, my honored friend, Mr. Low. [Applause.]

It is certainly especially pleasant to be here this evening, Mr. President and gentlemen, when we meet together, men of commerce, men of finance, lawyers, journalists, physicians, clergymen, of whatever occupation, all of us, I am sure, patriotic citizens, to congratulate each other upon what occurred at Yorktown a hundred years ago, on the 19th of October, 1781, and to express our hearty honor and esteem for these distinguished descendants or representatives of the gallant men who then stood with our fathers as their associates and helpers. [Applause.]

It has always seemed to me one of the most significant and memorable things connected with our Revolutionary struggle, that it attracted the attention, elicited the sympathy, inspired the enthusiasm, and drew out the self-sacrificing co-operation of so many noble spirits, loving freedom, in different parts of Western and Central Europe. [Applause.) You remember that Lord Camden testified from his own observation in 1775, about the time of the battle of Concord Bridge, that the merchants, tradesmen, and common people of England were on the side of the Colonists, and that only the landed interest really sustained the Government. So the more distant Poland sent to us Count Pulaski of noble family, who had been a brilliant leader for liberty at home, who fought gallantly in our battles, and who poured out his life in our behalf in the assault upon Savannah. (Cheers.) And it sent another, whose name has been one to conjure with for freedom from that day to this; who planned the works on Bemis Heights, against which Burgoyne in vain hurled his assault; who superintended the works at West Point; who, returning to his own country, fought for Poland as long as there was a Poland to fight for; whom the very Empire against which he had so long and so fiercely contended on behalf of his country, honored and eulogized after his death-Thaddeus Kosciusko. (Cheers.)

Germany sent us Von Steuben; one, but a host, whose services in our war were of immense and continual aid to our troops; who fought gallantly at Yorktown; and who, chose afterwards, to finish his life in the country for which

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