ePub 版

highly imaginative painter is a painter such as Mr. Watts in England, M. Henri Martin in France. The most that can be said of Millais is that in his best moments he was highly sensitive,* while in his worst moments he was very much the reverse. And in a strange way the two elements poetry and vulgarity, for we can only name them so-often fought or joined hands together in the same picture. Ophelia’ is without a hint of vulgarity. We cannot say the same of ihe · Vale of Rest,' though here the poetry predominates. There is a touch of theatricality, however, in it, in the chapel at the side, in the crudeness of the greenery and of the sky. This sky seems to foreshadow all the operatic décor of the Evil One Sowing Tares. Yet even this picture—'The Sower of Tares '—has qualities of imagination. It is interesting as the last of Millais' pictures in which he seems to aim at poetic creation. With its good qualities and bad it probably reflects the mind of the painter, under the influence of his individual inspiration, as does no other of his works. Some might wish to count • Victory, O Lord !' also among the number of Millais' imaginative pictures. But it is in truth only an illustration. For throughout the greater part of his productions in this genre, Millais shows himself content to be merely an illustrator. It satisfied him to do excellently well what the public taste in art cried most loudly for, what, perhaps, it still cries for most loudly. In the judgement of the mass of the people, Art should content herself with being the handmaiden to Literature; just as, in the judgement of the same public, Literature should be the servant of practical life. Painting, therefore, is relegated to a third place, and to a double servitude. Millais was willing to work on these terms, just because he did not realise that art could be understood differently. We even-it has been said--so long as we are looking at Millais' pictures, look with his eyes, and content ourselves to judge them by their execution only. When we turn away from Millais' pictures and compare his inspiration with that of, say, the French peasant painters, with Millet or with Bastien, we see how differently art and

* This is, we imagine, Mr. Spielmann's opinion likewise. Of Mariana ' he says that it is an example of the artist's dependence for his inventive imagination upon others, his artistic receptivity being at the same time more keenly sensitive to the emotional class of our nobler written poetry than, perhaps, any painter of his eminence who ever appeared in England.' Millais and his Works' by M. H. Spielmann, 1898, p. 28.

inspiration were understood by them. Then it becomes a wonder to us that a man who could see so wonderfully could understand so little, and so ill.

Wherefore, after all, though Millais seemed at first sight so simple, so pellucid a personality, he turns out in the end to be something of an enigma. It may be that the instinotive sense that this was so, that as an artist at least Millais is something abnormal, phenomenal, has saved him from imitators. And perhaps in the history of our art he is destined to stand very much alone; alone in the immensity and variety of his productions, alone also in the curious limitations of his mind. It will require the lapse of something like a century before another can come among us gifted as he was with all the physical attributes of the greatest painters. When such a one does come, art will have flowed into far different channels from any that Millais knew; and his example will serve neither to encourage nor to warn the voyager.

ART. X.-The English Radicals: an Historical Sketch. By

C. B. ROYLANCE KENT. London : 1899. WHA HAT is a Radical ? A would-be root-and-branch re

former of the constitution--a politician who advocates measures which are considered 'extreme;' that is, which go far beyond the desires of the average political opinion of the day.

It is impossible for practical purposes to define the word * Radical'except with reference to this ever-changing sentiment. Household Suffrage, the Ballot, the Abolition of the Property Qualification for members of Parliament, State Education, and much else that is now upheld as useful and even fundamental in our national system were formerly considered the extravagant aims of a few 'advanced 'politicians. Now, since in this country great reforms are seldom carried into effect till they have ceased to seem extreme in the eyes of large numbers of ordinary citizens, it follows that by the time any reform is ‘ripe' it has largely lost its Radical character. What once was a Radical - fad' comes gradually within the scope of practical politics.' It rises to the dignity of a Liberal or Whig or Conservative “reform,' and its final passage into law is made the boast of one or the other great parties in the State and of the statesmen who have had the wit to see not merely the merits of the measures proposed, but that the hour for giving them effect has come. Thus it has often happened that the true pioneers of reform--the men who have fought the battle when it was an uphill one-have received far less credit than they deserved.

It is not, of course, every Radical nostrum that ripens or ever will ripen into practical reform. Many of the aspirations and of the violently demanded measures of the Radicals of former days are now completely forgotten-sometimes because what was advocated was utterly unsound in principle, and has been shown to be so; sometimes because the changed circumstances of the time evidently no longer demand the remedies for which Radicals once clamoured. Who is now found to denounce the institution of a standing army or to shout himself hoarse in favour of annual Parliaments? The bold thinkers, writers, politicians whose names are the ornaments of historic Radicalism, were certainly not always right, but no one can question the value of the work they did for modern England. Mr. Kent is not inspired with any excess

of admiration for the Radical creed in any of its developments; yet no impartial reader will rise from his interesting account of The English Radicals' without a renewed sense of the great debt that our country owes them for their fear. less adherence to their political principles and for the ability with which they set them forth.

We have in this volume a sketch of English Radicals, not a history of the Radical party. Indeed, the Radicals have never constituted a party' in the sense which belongs to the word when applied to Whigs or Tories, Liberals or Conservatives. In the past Radicals in Parliament have been but a section or a wing of the Whig or Liberal party-sometimes more important, sometimes less important its importance depending upon the influence it could bring to bear upon the joint counsels and actions of the whole. So far as Radicals in the House of Commons have ever formed a separate group of members, it may be said without paradox that the weight of Radical opinion in the counsels of the party has varied inversely with the importance of the group below the gangway.' The inore Radical the composition of the ministry the less power to unofficial and independent Radicalism outside it. A thoroughly Radical ministry-that is, a ministry mainly composed of Radicals and bent on objects considered in general opinion extravagantly in excess of the requirements of the day—this country has not yet seen. In short, Radicals have had of necessity to influence politics and legislation, not so much by the numerical strength of their own party or group—which, parliamentarily speaking, has always been small-as by the gradual conversion to their own way of thinking of the statesmen and leading members of the great party in the State of which they themselves were merely an advance wing.

Mr. Kent accepts as approximately true the statement of Mr. Lecky that the year 1769 saw the birth of English Radicalism and the first attempts to control Parliament from the outside, making its members habitually subservient to their constituents.* Parliament had been the great assertor of the public liberties against arbitrary authority; but times were changed, and Radicals began to recognise that the true obstacle to a system of government which reflected the will of the people did not lie in the prerogative of the monarch or the privileges of the aristocracy, but in the unreal character of popular repre

* The English Radicals, p. 17.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

sentation in the House of Commons. In the first of the three periods into which Mr. Kent divides his history, viz. from 1766 to 1789, the great battles fought by the Radicals were fought against what was in theory the popular branch of the Legislature. In this period, as throughout his whole volume, the author finds the greatest difficulty in tracing the action of the Radicals,' apart from that of statesmen and politicians who have never been accounted Radical. If Wilkes, Horne Tooke, and Beckford are typical Radicals, they did not fight the great battles of the rights of the electorate against the so-called privileges of the House of Commons by themselves; nor were they the only men who sought a sweeping change in its constitution. Chatham had often declared for reform, had described the small boroughs as 'the rotten parts of the Constitution, and would have liked to see a large addition made to the county representation,

which he thought the purest portion of the system. The language even of Burke---as, for instance, when he spoke of the people as masters,' and declared he liked a clamour

where there was an abuse '-had something of the Radical ring. The younger Pitt, in the period we are considering, favoured what was, having regard to the time, a very farreaching reform indeed. In the fierce agitation which sprang out of the Middlesex election, and the contests as to the printing of House of Commons debates, typical Whigs such as Rockingham and Sarile put themselves at the head of the movement. But if often their immediate ends were the same, a very fundamental difference existed between the Whig and the Radical theory of politics. The latter held that the right to the suffrage was a natural and personal right; that a parliamentary representative was a delegate or mouthpiece of those who elected him; and that therefore the House of Commons itself was nothing more than the machinery by which the will of the public outside could be automatically carried out. Mr. Kent, in his search for some kind of root principles by which Radicals are always to be distinguished from other reformers, thinks he finds them in this basing of the theory of the suffrage upon the natural rights of man, and in the theory of delegation by the electors to members of parliament of the duty of acting for them in the character of mere attorneys or agents. Wilkes was amongst the first, as Mr. Kent truly observes,

to show that the House of Commons might be no less ini. 'mical than the Crown to the liberties of the people,' and that parliamentary privilege might be turned into an engine of VOL. CXCI. NO. CCCXCI.



« 上一頁繼續 »