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boy felt) to the last gasp and the last drop of blood. Other sides of his character might take hold of and influence boys here and there, but it was this thoroughness and undaunted courage which more than anything else won his way to the hearts of the great mass of those on whom he left his mark, and made them believe first in him, and then in his Master.
THE RIGHT STANDARD. From “Shadows of the Stage," second series. Copyright, 1893, by Macmillan & Company. (Reprinted with permission.) By WILLIAM WINTER.
RITICISM is neither hostility nor scorn. The
motive that impels a thoughtful observer to condemn much that is accepted by the multitude is not the wish merely to injure or to contemptuously deride or dismiss the popular mediocrity, but the desire ihat the age shall excel in all kinds of worth, and that the people shall both be the best and have the best. The poet Pope asserted the comfortable doctrine that "whatever is is right." Mr. Chalcote, the brewer, in Robertson's comedy of "Ours," announced the freer though less agreeable conclusion, that “whatever is is wrong." There are writers who celebrate the glories of the present age, and who continually minister to vanity by informing the people that they are but little lower than the angels. Such writers are not the source of strength and help. The world does not prosper through being flattered. Too much is heard about the rights of man; too little about his duties. The moralists who frankly tell a people the truth, when that people, as often happens, is doing wrong and going wrong, are better friends of mankind than the flatterers of the popular mood and conduct.
Man is a brotherhood. In Roman days it was a say. ing with the aristocrats of mind and of rank, “The common people like to be deceived; deceived let them be.” That saying was the essence of selfishnessma selfishness that the better part of the intellectual world has outgrown. There cannot be one law for ns of superior mental endowment and another law for the
rest. Knowledge avails nothing unless it be communicated. Blessings are but half blessings if you keep them to yourself. Those who have clear vision and stalwart strength of mind should guide the rest of the world. The advancement of all human beings concerns every individual. The safety and comfort of the top of the pyramid depend on the security of the base. The enlightened philosopher knows that it is both selfinterest and benevolence to keep the multitude in the right path—to civilise, to refine, to lead upward the masses of mankind, so that their eyes may be opened to beauty, their minds to truth, and their hearts to gentleness and aspiration. The guidance of the people is the duty of the thinker, and if he performs that duty he will sometimes speak in terms of censure, and he will make the censure positive enough to be felt and to be productive of good results.
Observation, with extended view, perceives that people in general are more deeply interested in what they call amusements than in serious occupations. You must study popular amusements, therefore, if you wish to understand the mental condition and tendency of the people. Those matters engross much attention, and it is through the discussion and guidance of their amusements that the people are most easily and directly reached and affected. Two methods of that discussion and guidance, both long in vogue, are sharply contrasted in contemporary practice—that of universal laudation, and that of objection and remonstrance. The former largely predominates, and it has wrought evil by making bad matters worse. Within recent years—although noble and beautiful works have been shown, and important steps have been taken-an
avalanche of trash has been cast upon the stage, and the people have accepted it and have, practically, approved it,--while scarcely a voice among public censors has been raised against that flagrant abuse of the theatre. On the contrary, the public has been told to accept it, has been praised for accepting it, and has been prompted to encourage the extension of it. “We are a hard-working, nervous, tired community"---SO runs the stream of mischievous counsel—"and we need recreation. When we go to the theatre we want to be amused. We do not want to think. Let us have something light!” Thus cajoled, and thus cajoling itself, the popular intelligence surrenders to folly, and the average theatrical manager brings forth Rag Babies and Parlor Matches, and complacently remarks, "I must give them what they want.”
The writers and the managers who reason in that way do not reason well. It is unfortunate that the custom of viewing the stage as an “amusement" ever prevailed; for the stage is an institution higher and finer than any amusement, and it possesses an influ. ence upon society second only to that of the hearthstone. But, even viewing it as one of the amusements, no man has a right to degrade its character or impair its usefulness. If we overwork ourselves, as a community, let us quit that injurious and useless custom. Half of the activity that people commonly call “work" consists of parade and pother. The actual work of the world is done silently, by the minority, and usually it does not occupy all the time or exhaust all the strength. Let us economise our energies and stop the snorting and the waste. If we are “tired” and “nery. ous" we can, surely, rest and refresh the nerves with.
out turning the stage into a playground for idiots and making the theatre a hospital for victims of dyspepsia. Sick persons are in no fit condition to comprehend the drama, and, even if they were, the actor is not an apothecary. The time for going to the play is when you are well and refreshed and can appreciate what you see and hear; when your mind and soul are receptive and you are not concerned with the state of your stomach and the ills of your system. There are influences in the dramatic art which can ennoble and help you, even though they do not foster the lower instincts or elicit vacant laughter. The men and women who devote their lives to the study and practice of acting are not frivolous mountebanks, emulous to make you laugh by cutting a caper; nor are you yourself such a poor creature as you appear to be when you prattle about your lassitude and allege your preference for theatrical rubbish.
It is not meant that the stage is in a decline. Ever since the theatre existed it has been subject to fluctuations, accordant with the moods and caprices of public taste. There never has been a time in its history when trash was not striving to submerge it, and when base and sordid views of its province did not kind specious advocates and ignoble ministers. But it is meant that trash has been more than usually rampant in recent years, and that it is habitually viewed with a mischievous lenience and toleration. There is more than common need of wholesome censure, as well of the public taste as of the pernicious doctrine that it is the province and policy of thinkers, writers, and managers to follow the people instead of leading them.