Confessions and Criticisms
Julian Hawthorne

Part 3 out of 3

bring them about; they cease when that effort is discontinued; they abound
in indications of being produced by independent intelligencies; they are
inexplicable upon any recognized theory of physics; and, therefore, there
is nothing for it but to regard them as spiritual. And what then? Then, of
course, there must be spirits, and a life after the death of the body; and
the great question of Immortality is answered in the affirmative!

Let us, for the sake of argument, concede that the manifestations upon
which the Spiritists found their claims are genuine: that they are or can
be produced without fraud; and let us then enquire in what respect our
means for the conversion of the sceptic are improved. In the first place
we find that all the manifestations--be their cause what it may--can occur
only on the physical plane. However much the origin of the phenomena may
perplex us, the phenomena themselves must be purely material, in so far as
they are perceptible at all. "Raps" are audible according to the same laws
of vibration as other sounds: the tilting table is simply a material body
displaced by an adequate agency; the materialized hand or face is nothing
but physical substance assuming form. Plainly, therefore, we have as much
right to ascribe a spiritual source to such phenomena as we have to
ascribe a spiritual source to the ordinary phenomena of nature, such as a
tree or a man's body,--just as much right--and no more! Consequently, we
are no nearer converting our sceptic than we were at the outset. He admits
the physical manifestation: there is no intrinsic novelty about that: but
when we proceed to argue that the manifestations are wrought by spirits,
he points out to us that this is sheer assumption on our part. "I have not
seen a spirit," he says: "I have not heard one; I have not felt one; nor
is it possible that my bodily senses should perceive anything that is not
at least as physical as they are. I have witnessed certain transactions
effected by means unknown to me--possibly by the action of a natural law
not yet fully expounded by science. If there was anything spiritual in the
affair, it has not been manifest to my apprehension: and I must decline to
lend my countenance to any such pretensions."

That would be the reply of the sceptic who was equal to the emergency. But
let us suppose that he is not equal to it: that he is a weak-kneed,
impressionable person, with a tendency to jump at conclusions; and that he
is scared or mystified into believing that "spirits" may be at the bottom
of it. What, then, will be the character of the faith which the Positive
Revelation has furnished him? He has discovered that existence continues,
in some fashion, after the death of the body. He has learned that there
may be such a thing as--not immortality exactly, but--postmortem
consciousness. He has been saddled with the conviction that the other
world is full of restless ghosts, who come shuddering back from their cold
emptiness, and try to warm themselves in the borrowed flesh and blood, and
with the purblind selfishness and curiosity of us who still remain here.
"Have faith: be not impatient: the conditions are unfavorable: but we are
working for you!"--such is the constant burden of the communications. But,
if there be a God, why must our relations with him be complicated by the
interference of such forlorn prevaricators and amateur Paracletes as
these? we do not wish to be "worked for,"--to be carried heavenward on
some one else's shoulders: but to climb thither by God's help and our own
will, or to stay where we are. Moreover, by what touchstone shall we test
the veracity of the self-appointed purveyors of this Positive Revelation?
Are we to believe what they say, because they have lost their bodies? If
life teaches us anything, it is that God does above all things respect the
spiritual freedom of his creatures. He does not terrify and bully us into
acknowledging Him by ghostly juggleries in darkened rooms, and by vapid
exhibitions addressed to our outward senses. He approaches each man in the
innermost sacred audience-chamber of his heart, and there shows him good
and evil, truth and falsehood, and bids him choose. And that choice, if
made aright, becomes a genuine and undying belief, because it was made in
freedom, unbiassed by external threats and cajoleries.

Such belief is, itself, immortality,--something as distinct from post-
mortem consciousness as wisdom is distinct from mere animal intelligence.
On the whole, therefore, there seems to be little real worth in Spiritism,
even accepting it at its own valuation. The nourishment it yields the soul
is too meagre; and--save on that one bare point of life beyond the grave,
which might just as easily prove an infinite curse as an infinite
blessing--it affords no trustworthy news whatever.

But these objections do not apply to magic proper. Magic seems to consist
mainly in the control which mind may exceptionally exercise over matter.
In hypnotism, the subject abjectly believes and obeys the operator. If he
be told that he cannot step across a chalk mark on the floor, he cannot
step across it. He dissolves in tears or explodes with laughter, according
as the operator tells him he has cause for merriment or tears: and if he
be assured that the water he drinks is Madeira wine or Java coffee, he has
no misgiving that such is not the case.

To say that this state of things is brought about by the exercise of the
operator's will, is not to explain the phenomenon, but to put it in
different terms. What is the will, and how does it produce such a result?
Here is a man who believes, at the word of command, that the thing which
all the rest of the world calls a chair is a horse. How is such
misapprehension on his part possible? our senses are our sole means of
knowing external objects: and this man's senses seem to confirm--at least
they by no means correct--his persuasion that a given object is something
very different. Could we solve this puzzle, we should have done something
towards gaining an insight into the philosophy of magic.

We observe, in the first place, that the _rationale_ of hypnotism, and of
trance in general, is distinct from that of memory and of imagination, and
even from that of dreams. It resembles these only in so far as it involves
a quasi-perception of something not actually present or existent. But
memory and imagination never mislead us into mistaking their suggestions
for realities: while in dreams, the dreamer's fancy alone is active; the
bodily faculties are not in action. In trance, however, the subject may
appear to be, to all intents and purposes, awake. Yet this state, unlike
the others, is abnormal. The brain seems to be in a passive, or, at any
rate, in a detached condition; it cannot carry out or originate ideas, nor
can it examine an idea as to its truth or falsehood. Furthermore, it
cannot receive or interpret the reports of its own bodily senses. In
short, its relations with the external world are suspended: and since the
body is a part of the external world, the brain can no longer control the
body's movements.

Bodily movements are, however, to some extent, automatic. Given a certain
stimulus in the brain or nerve-centres, and certain corresponding muscular
contractions follow: and this whether or not the stimulus be applied in a
normal manner. Although, therefore, the entranced brain cannot
spontaneously control the body, yet if we can apply an independent
stimulus to it, the body will make a fitting and apparently intelligent
response. The reader has doubtless seen those ingenious pieces of
mechanism which are set in motion by dropping into an orifice a coin or
pellet. Now, could we drop into the passive brain of an entranced person
the idea that a chair is a horse, for instance,--the person would give
every sensible indication of having adopted that figment as a fact.

But how (since he can no longer communicate with the world by means of his
senses) is this idea to be insinuated? The man is magnetized--that is to
say, insulated; how can we have intercourse with him?

Experiments show that this can be effected only through the magnetizer.
Asleep towards the rest of the world, towards him the entranced person is
awake. Not awake, however, as to the bodily senses; neither the magnetizer
nor any one else can approach by that route. It is true that, if the
magnetizer speaks to him, he knows what is said: but he does not hear
physically; because he perceives the unspoken thought just as readily. But
since whatever does not belong to his body must belong to his soul (or
mind, if that term be preferable), it follows that the magnetizer must
communicate with the magnetized on the mental or spiritual plane; that is,
immediately, or without the intervention of the body.

Let us review the position we have reached:--We have an entranced or
magnetized person,--a person whose mind, or spirit, has, by a certain
process, been so far withdrawn from conscious communion with his own
bodily senses as to disable him from receiving through them any tidings
from the external world. He is not, however, wholly withdrawn from his
body, for, in that case, the body would be dead; whereas, in fact, its
organic or animal life continues almost unimpaired. He is therefore
neither out of the body nor in it, but in an anomalous region midway
between the two,--a state in which he can receive no sensuous impressions
from the physical world, nor be put in conscious communication with the
spiritual world through any channel--save one.

This one exception is, as we have seen, the person who magnetized him. The
magnetizer is, then, the one and only medium through which the person
magnetized can obtain impressions: and these impressions are conveyed
directly from the mind, or spirit, of the magnetizer to that of the
magnetized. Let us note, further, that the former is not, like the latter,
in a semi-disembodied state, but is in the normal exercise of his bodily
functions and faculties. He possesses, consequently, his normal ability to
originate ideas and to impart them: and whatever ideas he chooses to
impart to the magnetized person, the latter is fain passively and
implicitly to accept. And having so received them, they descend naturally
into the automatic mechanism of the body, and are by it mechanically
interpreted or enacted.

So far, the theory is good: but something seems amiss in the working. We
find that a certain process frequently issues in a certain effect: but we
do not yet know why this should be the case. Some fundamental link is
wanting; and this link is manifestly a knowledge of the true relations
between mind and matter: of the laws to which the mental or spiritual
world is subject: of what nature itself is: and of what Creation means.
Let us cast a glance at these fundamental subjects; for they are the key
without which the secrets of magic must remain locked and hidden.

In common speech we call the realm of the material universe, Creation; but
philosophy denies its claim to that title. Man alone is Creation:
everything else is appearance. The universe appears, because man exists:
he implies the universe, but is not implied by it. We may assist our
metaphysics, here, by a physical illustration. Take a glass prism and hold
in the sunlight before a white surface. Let the prism represent man: the
sun, man's Creator: and the seven-hued ray cast by the prism, nature, or
the material universe. Now, if we remove the light, the ray vanishes: it
vanishes, also, if we take away the prism: but so long as the sun and the
prism--God and man--remain in their mutual relation, so long must the
rainbow nature appear. Nature, in short, is not God; neither is it man;
but it is the inevitable concomitant or expression of the creative
attitude of God towards man. It is the shadow of the elements of which
humanity or human nature is composed: or, shall we say, it is the
apparition in sense of the spiritual being of mankind,--not, be it
observed, of the being of any individual or of any aggregation of
individuals; but of humanity as a whole. For this reason, also, is nature
orderly, complete, and permanent,--that it is conditioned not upon our
frail and faulty personalities, but upon our impersonal, universal human
nature, in which is transacted the miracle of God's incarnation, and
through which He forever shines.

Besides Creator and creature, nothing else can be; and whatever else seems
to be, must be only a seeming. Nature, therefore, is the shadow of a
shade, but it serves an indispensable use. For since there can be no
direct communication between finite and Infinite--God and man--a medium or
common ground is needed, where they may meet; and nature, the shadow which
the Infinite causes the finite to project, is just that medium. Man,
looking upon this shadow, mistakes it for real substance, serving him for
foothold and background, and assisting him to attain self-consciousness.
God, on the other hand, finds in nature the means of revealing Himself to
His creature without compromising the creature's freedom. Man supposes the
universe to be a physical structure made by God in space and time, and in
some region of which He resides, at a safe distance from us His creatures:
whereas, in truth, God is distant from us only so far as we remove
ourselves from our own inmost intuitions of truth and good.

But what is that substance or quality which underlies and gives
homogeneity to the varying forms of nature, so that they seem to us to own
a common origin?--what is that logical abstraction upon which we have
bestowed the name of matter? scientific analysis finds matter only as
forms, never as itself: until, in despair, it invents an atomic theory,
and lets it go at that. But if, discarding the scientific method, we
question matter from the philosophical standpoint, we shall find it less

Man, considered as a mind or spirit, consists of volition and
intelligence; or, what is the same, of emotion or affection, and of the
thoughts which are created by this affection. Nothing can be affirmed of
man as a spirit which does not fall under one or other of these two parts.
Now, a creature consisting solely of affections and thoughts must, of
course, have something to love and to think about. Man's final destiny is
no doubt to love and consider his Creator; but that can only be after a
reactionary or regenerative process has begun in him. Meanwhile, he must
love and consider the only other available object--that is, himself.
Manifestly, however, in order to bestow this attention upon himself, he
must first be made aware of his own existence. In order to effect this,
something must be added to man as spirit, enabling him to discriminate
between the subject thinking and loving, and the object loved and thought
of. This additional something, again, in order to fulfill its purpose,
must be so devised as not to appear an addition: it must seem even more
truly the man than the man himself. It must, therefore, perfectly
represent or correspond to the spiritual form and constitution; so that
the thoughts and affections of the spirit may enter into it as into their
natural home and continent.

This continent or vehicle of the mind is the human body. The body has two
aspects,--substance and form, answering to the two aspects of the mind,--
affection and thought: and affection finds its incarnation or
correspondence in substance; and thought, in form. The mind, in short,
realizes itself in terms of its reflection in the body, much as the body
realizes itself in terms of its reflection in the looking-glass: but it
does more than this, for it identifies itself with this its image. And how
is this identification made possible?

It is brought about by the deception of sense, which is the medium of
communication between the spiritual and the material man. Until this
miraculous medium is put in action, there can be no conscious relation
between these two planes, admirably as they are adapted to each other.
Sense is spiritual on one side and material on the other: but it is only
on the material side that it gathers its reports: on the spiritual side it
only delivers them. Every one of the five messengers whereby we are
apprised of external existence brings us an earthly message only. And
since these messengers act spontaneously, and since the mind's only other
source of knowledge is intuition, which cannot be sensuously confirmed,--
it is little wonder if man has inclined to the persuasion that what is
highest in him is but an attribute of what is lowest, and that when the
body dies, the soul must follow it into nothingness.

Creative energy, being infinite, passes through the world of causes to the
world of effects--through the spiritual to the physical plane. Matter is
therefore the symbol of the ultimate of creative activity; it is the
negative of God. As God is infinite, matter is finite; as He is life, it
is death; as He is real, it is unreal; as He reveals, matter veils. And as
the relation of God to man's spirit is constant and eternal, so is the
physical quality of matter fixed and permanent. Now, in order to arrive at
a comprehension of what matter is in itself, let us descend from the
general to the specific, and investigate the philosophical elements of a
pebble, for instance. A pebble is two things: it is a mineral: and it is a
particular concrete example of mineral. In its mineral aspect, it is out
of space and time, and is--not a fact, but--a truth; a perception of the
mind. In so far as it is mineral, therefore, it has no relation to sense,
but only to thought: and on the other hand, in so far as it is a
particular concrete pebble, it is cognizable by sense but not by thought;
for what is in sense is out of thought: the one supersedes the other. But
if sense thus absorbs matter, so as to be philosophically
indistinguishable from it, we are constrained to identify matter with our
sensuous perception of it: and if our exemplary pebble had nothing but its
material quality to depend upon, it would cease to exist not only to
thought, but to sense likewise. Its metaphysical aspect, in short, is the
only reality appertaining to it. Matter, then, may be defined as the
impact upon sense of that prismatic ray which we have called nature.

To apply this discussion to the subject in hand: Magic is a sort of parody
of reality. And when we recognize that Creation proceeds from within
outwards, or endogenously; and that matter is not the objective but the
subjective side of the universe, we are in a position to perceive that in
order magically to control matter, we must apply our efforts not to matter
itself, but to our own minds. The natural world affects us from without
inwards: the magical world affects us from within outwards: instead of
objects suggesting ideas, ideas are made to suggest objects. And as, in
the former case, when the object is removed the idea vanishes; so in the
latter case, when the idea is removed, the object vanishes. Both objects
are illusions; but the illusion in the first instance is the normal
illusion of sense, whereas in the second instance it is the abnormal
illusion of mind.

The above argument can at best serve only as a hint to such as incline
seriously to investigate the subject, and perhaps as a touchstone for
testing the validity of a large and noisy mass of pretensions which engage
the student at the outset of his enquiry. Many of these pretensions are
the result of ignorance; many of deliberate intent to deceive; some,
again, of erroneous philosophical theories. The Tibetan adepts seem to
belong either to the second or to the last of these categories,--or,
perhaps, to an impartial mingling of all three. They import a cumbrous
machinery of auras, astral bodies, and elemental spirits; they divide man
into seven principles, nature into seven kingdoms; they regard spirit as a
refined form of matter, and matter as the one absolute fact of the
universe,--the alpha and omega of all things. They deny a supreme Deity,
but hold out hopes of a practical deityship for the majority of the human
race. In short, their philosophy appeals to the most evil instincts of the
soul, and has the air of being ex-post-facto; whenever they run foul of a
prodigy, they invent arbitrarily a fanciful explanation of it. But it will
be found, I think, that the various phases of hypnotism, and a
systematized use of spiritism, will amply account for every miracle they
actually bring to pass.

Upon the whole, a certain vulgarity is inseparable from even the most
respectable forms of magic,--an atmosphere of tinsel, of ostentation, of
big cry and little wool. A child might have told us that matter is not
almighty, that minds are sometimes transparent to one another, that love
and faith can work wonders. And we also know that, in this mortal life,
our means are exquisitely adapted to our ends; and that we can gain no
solid comfort or advantage by striving to elbow our way a few inches
further into the region of the occult and abnormal. Magic, however
specious its achievements, is only a mockery of the Creative power, and
exposes its unlikeness to it. "It is the attribute of natural existence,"
a profound writer has said, "to be a form of use to something higher than
itself, so that whatever does not, either potentially or actually, possess
within it this soul of use, does not honestly belong to nature, but is a
sensational effect produced upon the individual intelligence." [Footnote:
Henry James, in "Society the Redeemed Form of Man."]

No one can overstep the order and modesty of general existence without
bringing himself into perilous proximity to subjects more profound and
sacred than the occasion warrants. Life need not be barren of mystery and
miracle to any one of us; but they shall be such tender mysteries and
instructive miracles as the devotion of motherhood, and the blooming of
spring. We are too close to Infinite love and wisdom to play pranks before
it, and provoke comparison between our paltry juggleries and its
omnipotence and majesty.



The hunter and the sportsman are two very different persons. The hunter
pursues animals because he loves them and sympathizes with them, and kills
them as the champions of chivalry used to slay one another--courteously,
fairly, and with admiration and respect. To stalk and shoot the elk and
the grizzly bear is to him what wooing and winning a beloved maiden would
be to another man. Far from being the foe or exterminator of the game he
follows, he, more than any one else, is their friend, vindicator, and
confidant. A strange mutual ardor and understanding unites him with his
quarry. He loves the mountain sheep and the antelope, because they can
escape him; the panther and the bear, because they can destroy him. His
relations with them are clean, generous, and manly. And on the other hand,
the wild animals whose wildness can never be tamed, whose inmost principle
of existence it is to be apart and unapproachable,--those creatures who
may be said to cease to be when they cease to be intractable,--seem, after
they have eluded their pursuer to the utmost, or fought him to the death,
to yield themselves to him with a sort of wild contentment--as if they
were glad to admit the sovereignty of man, though death come with the
admission. The hunter, in short, asks for his happiness only to be alone
with what he hunts; the sportsman, after his day's sport, must needs
hasten home to publish the size of the "bag," and to wring from his
fellow-men the glory and applause which he has not the strength and
simplicity to find in the game itself.

But if the true hunter is rare, the union of the hunter and the artist is
rarer still. It demands not only the close familiarity, the loving
observation, and the sympathy, but also the faculty of creation--the eye
which selects what is constructive and beautiful, and passes over what is
superfluous and inharmonious, and the hand skilful to carry out what the
imagination conceives. In the man whose work I am about to consider, these
qualities are developed in a remarkable degree, though it was not until he
was a man grown, and had fought with distinction through the civil war,
that he himself became aware of the artistic power that was in him. The
events of his life, could they be rehearsed here, would form a tale of
adventure and vicissitude more varied and stirring than is often found in
fiction. He has spent by himself days and weeks in the vast solitudes of
our western prairies and southern morasses. He has been the companion of
trappers and frontiersmen, the friend and comrade of Indians, sleeping
side by side with them in their wigwams, running the rapids in their
canoes, and riding with them in the hunt. He has met and overcome the
panther and the grizzly single-handed, and has pursued the flying cimmaron
to the snowy summits of the Rocky Mountains, and brought back its crescent
horns as a trophy. He has fought and slain the gray wolf with no other
weapons than his hands and teeth; and at night he has lain concealed by
lonely tarns, where the wild coyote came to patter and bark and howl at
the midnight moon. His name and achievements are familiar to the dwellers
in those savage regions, whose estimate of a man is based, not upon his
social and financial advantages, but upon what he is and can do. Yet he is
not one who wears his merit outwardly. His appearance, indeed, is
striking; tall and athletic, broad-shouldered and stout-limbed, with the
long, elastic step of the moccasined Indian, and something of the Indian's
reticence and simplicity. But he can with difficulty be brought to allude
to his adventures, and is reserved almost to the point of ingenuity on all
that concerns himself or redounds to his credit. It is only in familiar
converse with friends that the humor, the cultivation, the knowledge, and
the social charm of the man appear, and his marvellous gift of vivid and
picturesque narration discloses itself. But, in addition to all this, or
above it all, he is the only great animal sculptor of his time, the
successor of the French Barye, and (as any one may satisfy himself who
will take the trouble to compare their works) the equal of that famous
artist in scope and treatment of animal subjects, and his superior in
knowledge and in truth and power of conception. It would be a poor
compliment to call Edward Kemeys the American Barye; but Barye is the only
man whose animal sculptures can bear comparison with Mr. Kemeys's.

Of Mr. Kemeys's productions, a few are to be seen at his studio, 133 West
Fifty-third Street, New York city. These are the models, in clay or
plaster, as they came fresh from the artist's hand. From this condition
they can either be enlarged to life or colossal size, for parks or public
buildings, or cast in bronze in their present dimensions for the
enrichment of private houses. Though this collection includes scarce a
tithe of what the artist has produced, it forms a series of groups and
figures which, for truth to nature, artistic excellence, and originality,
are actually unique. So unique are they, indeed, that the uneducated eye
does not at first realize their really immense value. Nothing like this
little sculpture gallery has been seen before, and it is very improbable
that there will ever again be a meeting of conditions and qualities
adequate to reproducing such an exhibition. For we see here not merely,
nor chiefly, the accurate representation of the animal's external aspect,
but--what is vastly more difficult to seize and portray--the essential
animal character or temperament which controls and actuates the animal's
movements and behavior. Each one of Mr. Kemeys's figures gives not only
the form and proportions of the animal, according to the nicest anatomical
studies and measurements, but it is the speaking embodiment of profound
insight into that animal's nature and knowledge of its habits. The
spectator cannot long examine it without feeling that he has learned much
more of its characteristics and genius than if he had been standing in
front of the same animal's cage at the Zoological Gardens; for here is an
artist who understands how to translate pose into meaning, and action into
utterance, and to select those poses and actions which convey the broadest
and most comprehensive idea of the subject's prevailing traits. He not
only knows what posture or movement the anatomical structure of the animal
renders possible, but he knows precisely in what degree such posture or
movement is modified by the animal's physical needs and instincts. In
other words, he always respects the modesty of nature, and never yields to
the temptation to be dramatic and impressive at the expense of truth. Here
is none of Barye's exaggeration, or of Landseer's sentimental effort to
humanize animal nature. Mr. Kemeys has rightly perceived that animal
nature is not a mere contraction of human nature; but that each animal, so
far as it owns any relation to man at all, represents the unimpeded
development of some particular element of man's nature. Accordingly,
animals must be studied and portrayed solely upon their own basis and
within their own limits; and he who approaches them with this
understanding will find, possibly to his surprise, that the theatre thus
afforded is wide and varied enough for the exercise of his best ingenuity
and capacities. At first, no doubt, the simple animal appears too simple
to be made artistically interesting, apart from this or that conventional
or imaginative addition. The lion must be presented, not as he is, but as
vulgar anticipation expects him to be; not with the savageness and terror
which are native to him, but with the savageness and terror which those
who have trembled and fled at the echo of his roar invest him with,--which
are quite another matter. Zoological gardens and museums have their uses,
but they cannot introduce us to wild animals as they really are; and the
reports of those who have caught terrified or ignorant glimpses of them in
their native regions will mislead us no less in another direction. Nature
reveals her secrets only to those who have faithfully and rigorously
submitted to the initiation; but to them she shows herself marvellous and
inexhaustible. The "simple animal" avouches his ability to transcend any
imaginative conception of him. The stern economy of his structure and
character, the sureness and sufficiency of his every manifestation, the
instinct and capacity which inform all his proceedings,--these are things
which are concealed from a hasty glance by the very perfection of their
state. Once seen and comprehended, however, they work upon the mind of the
observer with an ever increasing power; they lead him into a new, strange,
and fascinating world, and generously recompense him for any effort he may
have made to penetrate thither. Of that strange and fascinating world Mr.
Kemeys is the true and worthy interpreter, and, so far as appears, the
only one. Through difficulty and discouragement of all kinds, he has kept
to the simple truth, and the truth has rewarded him. He has done a service
of incalculable value to his country, not only in vindicating American
art, but in preserving to us, in a permanent and beautiful form, the vivid
and veracious figures of a wild fauna which, in the inevitable progress of
colonization and civilization, is destined within a few years to vanish
altogether. The American bear and bison, the cimmaron and the elk, the
wolf and the 'coon--where will they be a generation hence? Nowhere, save
in the possession of those persons who have to-day the opportunity and the
intelligence to decorate their rooms and parks with Mr. Kemeys's
inimitable bronzes. The opportunity is great--much greater, I should
think, than the intelligence necessary for availing ourselves of it; and
it is a unique opportunity. In other words, it lies within the power of
every cultivated family in the United States to enrich itself with a work
of art which is entirely American; which, as art, fulfils every
requirement; which is of permanent and increasing interest and value from
an ornamental point of view; and which is embodied in the most enduring of
artistic materials.

The studio in which Mr. Kemeys works--a spacious apartment--is, in
appearance, a cross between a barn-loft and a wigwam. Round the walls are
suspended the hides, the heads, and the horns of the animals which the
hunter has shot; and below are groups, single figures, and busts, modelled
by the artist, in plaster, terracotta, or clay. The colossal design of the
"Still Hunt"--an American panther crouching before its spring--was
modelled here, before being cast in bronze and removed to its present site
in Central Park. It is a monument of which New York and America may be
proud; for no such powerful and veracious conception of a wild animal has
ever before found artistic embodiment. The great cat crouches with head
low, extended throat, and ears erect. The shoulders are drawn far back,
the fore paws huddled beneath the jaws. The long, lithe back rises in an
arch in the middle, sinking thence to the haunches, while the angry tail
makes a strong curve along the ground to the right. The whole figure is
tense and compact with restrained and waiting power; the expression is
stealthy, pitiless, and terrible; it at once fascinates and astounds the
beholder. While Mr. Kemeys was modelling this animal, an incident occurred
which he has told me in something like the following words. The artist
does not encourage the intrusion of idle persons while he is at work,
though no one welcomes intelligent inspection and criticism more cordially
than he. On this occasion he was alone in the studio with his Irish
factotum, Tom, and the outer door, owing to the heat of the weather, had
been left ajar. All of a sudden the artist was aware of the presence of a
stranger in the room. "He was a tall, hulking fellow, shabbily dressed,
like a tramp, and looked as if he might make trouble if he had a mind to.
However, he stood quite still in front of the statue, staring at it, and
not saying anything. So I let him alone for a while; I thought it would be
time enough to attend to him when he began to beg or make a row. But after
some time, as he still hadn't stirred, Tom came to the conclusion that a
hint had better be given him to move on; so he took a broom and began
sweeping the floor, and the dust went all over the fellow; but he didn't
pay the least attention. I began to think there would probably be a fight;
but I thought I'd wait a little longer before doing anything. At last I
said to him, 'Will you move aside, please? You're in my way.' He stepped
over a little to the right, but still didn't open his mouth, and kept his
eyes fixed on the panther. Presently I said to Tom, 'Well, Tom, the cheek
of some people passes belief!' Tom replied with more clouds of dust; but
the stranger never made a sign. At last I got tired, so I stepped up to
the fellow and said to him: 'Look here, my friend, when I asked you to
move aside, I meant you should move the other side of the door.' He roused
up then, and gave himself a shake, and took a last look at the panther,
and said he, 'That's all right, boss; I know all about the door; but--what
a spring she's going to make!' Then," added Kemeys, self-reproachfully, "I
could have wept!"

But although this superb figure no longer dominates the studio, there is
no lack of models as valuable and as interesting, though not of heroic
size. Most interesting of all to the general observer are, perhaps, the
two figures of the grizzly bear. These were designed from a grizzly which
Mr. Kemeys fought and killed in the autumn of 1881 in the Rocky Mountains,
and the mounted head of which grins upon the wall overhead, a grisly
trophy indeed. The impression of enormous strength, massive yet elastic,
ponderous yet alert, impregnable for defence as irresistible in attack; a
strength which knows no obstacles, and which never meets its match,--this
impression is as fully conveyed in these figures, which are not over a
foot in height, as if the animal were before us in its natural size. You
see the vast limbs, crooked with power, bound about with huge ropes and
plates of muscle, and clothed in shaggy depths of fur; the vast breadth of
the head, with its thick, low ears, dull, small eyes, and long up-curving
snout; the roll and lunge of the gait, like the motion of a vessel
plunging forward before the wind; the rounded immensity of the trunk, and
the huge bluntness of the posteriors; and all these features are combined
with such masterly unity of conception and plastic vigor, that the
diminutive model insensibly grows mighty beneath your gaze, until you
realize the monster as if he stood stupendous and grim before you. In the
first of the figures the bear has paused in his great stride to paw over
and snuff at the horned head of a mountain sheep, half buried in the soil.
The action of the right arm and shoulder, and the burly slouch of the
arrested stride, are of themselves worth a gallery of pseudo-classic
Venuses and Roman senators. The other bear is lolling back on his
haunches, with all four paws in the air, munching some grapes from a vine
which he has torn from its support. The contrast between the savage
character of the beast and his absurdly peaceful employment gives a touch
of terrific comedy to this design. After studying these figures, one
cannot help thinking what a noble embellishment either of them would be,
put in bronze, of colossal size, in the public grounds of one of our great
Western cities. And inasmuch as the rich citizens of the West not only
know what a grizzly bear is, but are more fearless and independent, and
therefore often more correct in their artistic opinion than the somewhat
sophisticated critics of the East, there is some cause for hoping that
this thing may be brought to pass.

Beside the grizzly stands the mountain sheep, or cimmaron, the most
difficult to capture of all four-footed animals, whose gigantic curved
horns are the best trophy of skill and enterprise that a hunter can bring
home with him. The sculptor has here caught him in one of his most
characteristic attitudes--just alighted from some dizzy leap on the
headlong slope of a rocky mountainside. On such a spot nothing but the
cimmaron could retain its footing; yet there he stands, firm and secure as
the rock itself, his fore feet planted close together, the fore legs rigid
and straight as the shaft of a lance, while the hind legs pose easily in
attendance upon them. "The cimmaron always strikes plumb-centre, and he
never makes a mistake," is Mr. Kemeys's laconic comment; and we can
recognize the truth of the observation in this image. Perfectly at home
and comfortable on its almost impossible perch, the cimmaron curves its
great neck and turns its head upward, gazing aloft toward the height
whence it has descended. "It's the golden eagle he hears," says the
sculptor; "they give him warning of danger." It is a magnificent animal, a
model of tireless vigor in all its parts; a creature made to hurl itself
head-foremost down appalling gulfs of space, and poise itself at the
bottom as jauntily as if gravitation were but a bugbear of timid
imaginations. I find myself unconsciously speaking about these plaster
models as if they were the living animals which they represent; but the
more one studies Mr. Kemeys's works, the more instinct with redundant and
breathing life do they appear.

It would be impossible even to catalogue the contents of this studio, the
greater part of which is as well worth describing as those examples which
have already been touched upon; nor could a more graphic pen than mine
convey an adequate impression of their excellence. But there is here a
figure of the 'coon, which, as it is the only one ever modelled, ought not
to be passed over in silence. In appearance this animal is a curious
medley of the fox, the wolf, and the bear, besides I-know-not-what (as the
lady in "Punch" would say) that belongs to none of those beasts. As may be
imagined, therefore, its right portrayal involves peculiar difficulties,
and Mr. Kemeys's genius is nowhere better shown than in the manner in
which these have been surmounted. Compact, plump, and active in figure,
quick and subtle in its movements, the 'coon crouches in a flattened
position along the limb of a tree, its broad, shallow head and pointed
snout a little lifted, as it gazes alertly outward and downward. It
sustains itself by the clutch of its slender-clawed toes on the branch,
the fore legs being spread apart, while the left hind leg is withdrawn
inward, and enters smoothly into the contour of the furred side; the
bushy, fox-like tail, ringed with dark and light bands, curving to the
left. Thus posed and modelled in high relief on a tile-shaped plaque, Mr.
Kemeys's coon forms a most desirable ornament for some wise man's
sideboard or mantle-piece, where it may one day be pointed out as the only
surviving representative of its species.

The two most elaborate groups here have already attained some measure of
publicity; the "Bison and Wolves" having been exhibited in the Paris Salon
in 1878, and the "Deer and Panther" having been purchased in bronze by Mr.
Winans during the sculptor's sojourn in England. Each group represents one
of those deadly combats between wild beasts which are among the most
terrific and at the same time most natural incidents of animal existence;
and they are of especial interest as showing the artist's power of
concentrated and graphic composition. A complicated story is told in both
these instances with a masterly economy of material and balance of
proportion; so that the spectator's eye takes in the whole subject at a
glance, and yet finds inexhaustible interest in the examination of
details, all of which contribute to the central effect without distracting
the attention. A companion piece to the "Deer and Panther" shows the same
animals as they have fallen, locked together in death after the combat is
over. In the former group, the panther, in springing upon the deer, had
impaled its neck on the deer's right antler, and had then swung round
under the latter's body, burying the claws of its right fore foot in the
ruminant's throat. In order truthfully to represent the second stage of
the encounter, therefore, it was necessary not merely to model a second
group, but to retain the elements and construction of the first group
under totally changed conditions. This is a feat of such peculiar
difficulty that I think few artists in any branch of art would venture to
attempt it; nevertheless, Mr. Kemeys has accomplished it; and the more the
two groups are studied in connection with each other, the more complete
will his success be found to have been. The man who can do this may surely
be admitted a master, whose works are open only to affirmative criticism.
For his works the most trying of all tests is their comparison with one
another; and the result of such comparison is not merely to confirm their
merit, but to illustrate and enhance it.

For my own part, my introduction to Mr. Kemeys's studio was the opening to
me of a new world, where it has been my good fortune to spend many days of
delightful and enlightening study. How far the subject of this writing may
have been already familiar to the readers of it, I have no means of
knowing; but I conceive it to be no less than my duty, as a countryman of
Mr. Kemeys's and a lover of all that is true and original in art, to pay
the tribute of my appreciation to what he has done. There is no danger of
his getting more recognition than he deserves, and he is not one whom
recognition can injure. He reverences his art too highly to magnify his
own exposition of it; and when he reads what I have set down here, he will
smile and shake his head, and mutter that I have divined the perfect idea
in the imperfect embodiment. Unless I greatly err, however, no one but
himself is competent to take that exception. The genuine artist is never
satisfied with his work; he perceives where it falls short of his
conception. But to others it will not be incomplete; for the achievements
of real art are always invested with an atmosphere and aroma--a spiritual
quality perhaps--proceeding from the artist's mind and affecting that of
the beholder. And thus it happens that the story or the poem, the picture
or the sculpture, receives even in its material form that last indefinable
grace, that magic light that never was on sea or land, which no pen or
brush or graving-tool has skill to seize. Matter can never rise to the
height of spirit; but spirit informs it when it has done its best, and
ennobles it with the charm that the artist sought and the world desired.

*** Since the above was written, Mr. Kemeys has removed his studio to
Perth Amboy, N. J.


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