Hopes and Fears for Art
William Morris

Part 3 out of 3

to town-dwellers for their loss of field, and river, and mountain.

Well, it seems to me that these two kinds of buildings are all we
have really to think of, together with whatsoever outhouses,
workshops, and the like may be necessary. Surely the rest may
quietly drop to pieces for aught we care--unless it should be
thought good in the interest of history to keep one standing in each
big town to show posterity what strange, ugly, uncomfortable houses
rich men dwelt in once upon a time.

Meantime now, when rich men won't have art, and poor men can't,
there is, nevertheless, some unthinking craving for it, some
restless feeling in men's minds of something lacking somewhere,
which has made many benevolent people seek for the possibility of
cheap art.

What do they mean by that? One art for the rich and another for the
poor? No, it won't do. Art is not so accommodating as the justice
or religion of society, and she won't have it.

What then? there has been cheap art at some times certainly, at the
expense of the starvation of the craftsmen. But people can't mean
that; and if they did, would, happily, no longer have the same
chance of getting it that they once had. Still they think art can
be got round some way or other--jockeyed, so to say. I rather think
in this fashion: that a highly gifted and carefully educated man
shall, like Mr. Pecksniff, squint at a sheet of paper, and that the
results of that squint shall set a vast number of well-fed,
contented operatives (they are ashamed to call them workmen) turning
crank handles for ten hours a-day, bidding them keep what gifts and
education they may have been born with for their--I was going to say
leisure hours, but I don't know how to, for if I were to work ten
hours a-day at work I despised and hated, I should spend my leisure
I hope in political agitation, but I fear--in drinking. So let us
say that the aforesaid operatives will have to keep their inborn
gifts and education for their dreams. Well, from this system are to
come threefold blessings--food and clothing, poorish lodgings and a
little leisure to the operatives, enormous riches to the capitalists
that rent them, together with moderate riches to the squinter on the
paper; and lastly, very decidedly lastly, abundance of cheap art for
the operatives or crank turners to buy--in their dreams.

Well, there have been many other benevolent and economical schemes
for keeping your cake after you have eaten it, for skinning a flint,
and boiling a flea down for its tallow and glue, and this one of
cheap art may just go its way with the others.

Yet to my mind real art is cheap, even at the price that must be
paid for it. That price is, in short, the providing of a
handicraftsman who shall put his own individual intelligence and
enthusiasm into the goods he fashions. So far from his labour being
'divided,' which is the technical phrase for his always doing one
minute piece of work, and never being allowed to think of any other;
so far from that, he must know all about the ware he is making and
its relation to similar wares; he must have a natural aptitude for
his work so strong, that no education can force him away from his
special bent. He must be allowed to think of what he is doing, and
to vary his work as the circumstances of it vary, and his own moods.
He must be for ever striving to make the piece he is at work at
better than the last. He must refuse at anybody's bidding to turn
out, I won't say a bad, but even an indifferent piece of work,
whatever the public want, or think they want. He must have a voice,
and a voice worth listening to in the whole affair.

Such a man I should call, not an operative, but a workman. You may
call him an artist if you will, for I have been describing the
qualities of artists as I know them; but a capitalist will be apt to
call him a 'troublesome fellow,' a radical of radicals, and, in
fact, he will be troublesome--mere grit and friction in the wheels
of the money-grinding machine.

Yes, such a man will stop the machine perhaps; but it is only
through him that you can have art, i.e. civilisation unmaimed, if
you really want it; so consider, if you do want it, and will pay the
price and give the workman his due.

What is his due? that is, what can he take from you, and be the man
that you want? Money enough to keep him from fear of want or
degradation for him and his; leisure enough from bread-earning work
(even though it be pleasant to him) to give him time to read and
think, and connect his own life with the life of the great world;
work enough of the kind aforesaid, and praise of it, and
encouragement enough to make him feel good friends with his fellows;
and lastly (not least, for 'tis verily part of the bargain), his own
due share of art, the chief part of which will be a dwelling that
does not lack the beauty which Nature would freely allow it, if our
own perversity did not turn Nature out of doors.

That is the bargain to be struck, such work and such wages; and I
believe that if the world wants the work and is willing to pay the
wages, the workmen will not long be wanting.

On the other hand, if it be certain that the world--that is, modern
civilised society--will nevermore ask for such workmen, then I am as
sure as that I stand here breathing, that art is dying: that the
spark still smouldering is not to be quickened into life, but damped
into death. And indeed, often, in my fear of that, I think, 'Would
that I could see what is to take the place of art!' For, whether
modern civilised society CAN make that bargain aforesaid, who shall
say? I know well--who could fail to know it?--that the difficulties
are great.

Too apt has the world ever been, 'for the sake of life to cast away
the reasons for living,' and perhaps is more and more apt to it as
the conditions of life get more intricate, as the race to avoid
ruin, which seems always imminent and overwhelming, gets swifter and
more terrible. Yet how would it be if we were to lay aside fear and
turn in the face of all that, and stand by our claim to have, one
and all of us, reasons for living. Mayhap the heavens would not
fall on us if we did.

Anyhow, let us make up our minds which we want, art, or the absence
of art, and be prepared if we want art, to give up many things, and
in many ways to change the conditions of life. Perhaps there are
those who will understand me when I say that that necessary change
may make life poorer for the rich, rougher for the refined, and, it
may be, duller for the gifted--for a while; that it may even take
such forms that not the best or wisest of us shall always be able to
know it for a friend, but may at whiles fight against it as a foe.
Yet, when the day comes that gives us visible token of art rising
like the sun from below--when it is no longer a justly despised whim
of the rich, or a lazy habit of the so-called educated, but a thing
that labour begins to crave as a necessity, even as labour is a
necessity for all men--in that day how shall all trouble be
forgotten, all folly forgiven--even our own!

Little by little it must come, I know. Patience and prudence must
not be lacking to us, but courage still less. Let us be a Gideon's
band. 'Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return, and depart
early from Mount Gilead.' And among that band let there be no
delusions; let the last encouraging lie have been told, the last
after-dinner humbug spoken, for surely, though the days seem dark,
we may remember that men longed for freedom while yet they were
slaves; that it was in times when swords were reddened every day
that men began to think of peace and order, and to strive to win

We who think, and can enjoy the feast that Nature has spread for us,
is it not both our right and our duty to rebel against that slavery
of the waste of life's joys, which people thoughtless and joyless,
by no fault of their own, have wrapped the world in? From our own
selves we can tell that there is hope of victory in our rebellion,
since we have art enough in our lives, not to content us, but to
make us long for more, and that longing drives us into trying to
spread art and the longing for art; and as it is with us so it will
be with those that we win over: little by little, we may well hope,
will do its work, till at last a great many men will have enough of
art to see how little they have, and how much they might better
their lives, if every man had his due share of art--that is, just so
much as he could use if a fair chance were given him.

Is that, indeed, too extravagant a hope? Have you not heard how it
has gone with many a cause before now? First few men heed it; next
most men contemn it; lastly, all men accept it--and the cause is


'--the horrible doctrine that this universe is a Cockney Nightmare--
which no creature ought for a moment to believe or listen to.'--

The word Architecture has, I suppose, to most of you the meaning of
the art of building nobly and ornamentally. Now I believe the
practice of this art to be one of the most important things which
man can turn his hand to, and the consideration of it to be worth
the attention of serious people, not for an hour only, but for a
good part of their lives, even though they may not have to do with
it professionally.

But, noble as that art is by itself, and though it is specially the
art of civilisation, it neither ever has existed nor never can exist
alive and progressive by itself, but must cherish and be cherished
by all the crafts whereby men make the things which they intend
shall be beautiful, and shall last somewhat beyond the passing day.

It is this union of the arts, mutually helpful and harmoniously
subordinated one to another, which I have learned to think of as
Architecture, and when I use the word to-night, that is what I shall
mean by it and nothing narrower.

A great subject truly, for it embraces the consideration of the
whole external surroundings of the life of man; we cannot escape
from it if we would so long as we are part of civilisation, for it
means the moulding and altering to human needs of the very face of
the earth itself, except in the outermost desert.

Neither can we hand over our interests in it to a little band of
learned men, and bid them seek and discover, and fashion, that we
may at last stand by and wonder at the work, and learn a little of
how 'twas all done: 'tis we ourselves, each one of us, who must
keep watch and ward over the fairness of the earth, and each with
his own soul and hand do his due share therein, lest we deliver to
our sons a lesser treasure than our fathers left to us. Nor, again,
is there time enough and to spare that we may leave this matter
alone till our latter days or let our sons deal with it: for so
busy and eager is mankind, that the desire of to-day makes us
utterly forget the desire of yesterday and the gain it brought; and
whensoever in any object of pursuit we cease to long for perfection,
corruption sure and speedy leads from life to death and all is soon
over and forgotten: time enough there may be for many things: for
peopling the desert; for breaking down the walls between nation and
nation; for learning the innermost secrets of the fashion of our
souls and bodies, the air we breathe, and the earth we tread on:
time enough for subduing all the forces of nature to our material
wants: but no time to spare before we turn our eyes and our longing
to the fairness of the earth; lest the wave of human need sweep over
it and make it not a hopeful desert as it once was, but a hopeless
prison; lest man should find at last that he has toiled and striven,
and conquered, and set all things on the earth under his feet, that
he might live thereon himself unhappy.

Most true it is that when any spot of earth's surface has been
marred by the haste or carelessness of civilisation, it is heavy
work to seek a remedy, nay a work scarce conceivable; for the desire
to live on any terms which nature has implanted in us, and the
terrible swift multiplication of the race which is the result of it,
thrusts out of men's minds all thought of other hopes, and bars the
way before us as with a wall of iron: no force but a force equal to
that which marred can ever mend, or give back those ruined places to
hope and civilisation.

Therefore I entreat you to turn your minds to thinking of what is to
come of Architecture, that is to say, the fairness of the earth
amidst the habitations of men: for the hope and the fear of it will
follow us though we try to escape it; it concerns us all, and needs
the help of all; and what we do herein must be done at once, since
every day of our neglect adds to the heap of troubles a blind force
is making for us; till it may come to this if we do not look to it,
that we shall one day have to call, not on peace and prosperity, but
on violence and ruin to rid us of them.

In making this appeal to you, I will not suppose that I am speaking
to any who refuse to admit that we who are part of civilisation are
responsible to posterity for what may befall the fairness of the
earth in our own days, for what we have done, in other words,
towards the progress of Architecture;--if any such exists among
cultivated people, I need not trouble myself about them; for they
would not listen to me, nor should I know what to say to them.

On the other hand, there may be some here who have a knowledge of
their responsibility in this matter, but to whom the duty that it
involves seems an easy one, since they are fairly satisfied with the
state of Architecture as it now is: I do not suppose that they fail
to note the strange contrast which exists between the beauty that
still clings to some habitations of men and the ugliness which is
the rule in others, but it seems to them natural and inevitable, and
therefore does not trouble them: and they fulfil their duties to
civilisation and the arts by sometimes going to see the beautiful
places, and gathering together a few matters to remind them of these
for the adornment of the ugly dwellings in which their homes are
enshrined: for the rest they have no doubt that it is natural and
not wrong that while all ancient towns, I mean towns whose houses
are largely ancient, should be beautiful and romantic, all modern
ones should be ugly and commonplace: it does not seem to them that
this contrast is of any import to civilisation, or that it expresses
anything save that one town IS ancient as to its buildings and the
other modern. If their thoughts carry them into looking any farther
into the contrasts between ancient art and modern, they are not
dissatisfied with the result: they may see things to reform here
and there, but they suppose, or, let me say, take for granted, that
art is alive and healthy, is on the right road, and that following
that road, it will go on living for ever, much as it is now.

It is not unfair to say that this languid complacency is the general
attitude of cultivated people towards the arts: of course if they
were ever to think seriously of them, they would be startled into
discomfort by the thought that civilisation as it now is brings
inevitable ugliness with it: surely if they thought this, they
would begin to think that this was not natural and right; they would
see that this was not what civilisation aimed at in its struggling
days: but they do not think seriously of the arts because they have
been hitherto defended by a law of nature which forbids men to see
evils which they are not ready to redress.

Hitherto: but there are not wanting signs that that defence may
fail them one day, and it has become the duty of all true artists,
and all men who love life though it be troublous better than death
though it be peaceful, to strive to pierce that defence and sting
the world, cultivated and uncultivated, into discontent and

Therefore I will say that the contrast between past art and present,
the universal beauty of men's habitations as they WERE fashioned,
and the universal ugliness of them as they ARE fashioned, is of the
utmost import to civilisation, and that it expresses much; it
expresses no less than a blind brutality which will destroy art at
least, whatever else it may leave alive: art is not healthy, it
even scarcely lives; it is on the wrong road, and if it follow that
road will speedily meet its death on it.

Now perhaps you will say that by asserting that the general attitude
of cultivated people towards the arts is a languid complacency with
this unhealthy state of things, I am admitting that cultivated
people generally do not care about the arts, and that therefore this
threatened death of them will not frighten people much, even if the
threat be founded on truth: so that those are but beating the air
who strive to rouse people into discontent and struggle.

Well, I will run the risk of offending you by speaking plainly, and
saying, that to me it seems over true that cultivated people in
general do NOT care about the arts: nevertheless I will answer any
possible challenge as to the usefulness of trying to rouse them to
thought about the matter, by saying that they do not care about the
arts because they do not know what they mean, or what they lose in
lacking them: cultivated, that is rich, as they are, they are also
under that harrow of hard necessity which is driven onward so
remorselessly by the competitive commerce of the latter days; a
system which is drawing near now I hope to its perfection, and
therefore to its death and change: the many millions of
civilisation, as labour is now organised, can scarce think seriously
of anything but the means of earning their daily bread; they do not
know of art, it does not touch their lives at all: the few
thousands of cultivated people whom Fate, not always as kind to them
as she looks, has placed above the material necessity for this hard
struggle, are nevertheless bound by it in spirit: the reflex of the
grinding trouble of those who toil to live that they may live to
toil weighs upon them also, and forbids them to look upon art as a
matter of importance: they know it but as a toy, not as a serious
help to life: as they know it, it can no more lift the burden from
the conscience of the rich, than it can from the weariness of the
poor. They do not know what art means: as I have said, they think
that as labour is now organised art can go indefinitely as it is now
organised, practised by a few for a few, adding a little interest, a
little refinement to the lives of those who have come to look upon
intellectual interest and spiritual refinement as their birthright.

No, no, it can never be: believe me, if it were otherwise possible
that it should be an enduring condition of humanity that there must
be one class utterly refined and another utterly brutal, art would
bar the way and forbid the monstrosity to exist:- such refinement
would have to do as well as it might without the aid of Art: it may
be she will die, but it cannot be that she will live the slave of
the rich, and the token of the enduring slavery of the poor. If the
life of the world is to be brutalised by her death, the rich must
share that brutalisation with the poor.

I know that there are people of good-will now, as there have been in
all ages, who have conceived of art as going hand in hand with
luxury, nay, as being much the same thing; but it is an idea false
from the root up, and most hurtful to art, as I could demonstrate to
you by many examples if I had time, lacking which I will only meet
it with one, which I hope will be enough.

We are here in the richest city of the richest country of the
richest age of the world: no luxury of time past can compare with
our luxury; and yet if you could clear your eyes from habitual
blindness you would have to confess that there is no crime against
art, no ugliness, no vulgarity which is not shared with perfect
fairness and equality between the modern hovels of Bethnal Green and
the modern palaces of the West End: and then if you looked at the
matter deeply and seriously you would not regret it, but rejoice at
it, and as you went past some notable example of the aforesaid
palaces you would exult indeed as you said, 'So that is all that
luxury and money can do for refinement.'

For the rest, if of late there has been any change for the better in
the prospects of the arts; if there has been a struggle both to
throw off the chains of dead and powerless tradition, and to
understand the thoughts and aspirations of those among whom those
traditions were once alive powerful and beneficent; if there has
been abroad any spirit of resistance to the flood of sordid ugliness
that modern civilisation has created to make modern civilisation
miserable: in a word, if any of us have had the courage to be
discontented that art seems dying, and to hope for her new birth, it
is because others have been discontented and hopeful in other
matters than the arts; I believe most sincerely that the steady
progress of those whom the stupidity of language forces me to call
the lower classes in material, political, and social condition, has
been our real help in all that we have been able to do or to hope,
although both the helpers and the helped have been mostly
unconscious of it.

It is indeed in this belief, the belief in the beneficent progress
of civilisation, that I venture to face you and to entreat you to
strive to enter into the real meaning of the arts, which are surely
the expression of reverence for nature, and the crown of nature, the
life of man upon the earth.

With this intent in view I may, I think, hope to move you, I do not
say to agree to all I urge upon you, yet at least to think the
matter worth thinking about; and if you once do that, I believe I
shall have won you. Maybe indeed that many things which I think
beautiful you will deem of small account; nay, that even some things
I think base and ugly will not vex your eyes or your minds: but one
thing I know you will none of you like to plead guilty to; blindness
to the natural beauty of the earth; and of that beauty art is the
only possible guardian.

No one of you can fail to know what neglect of art has done to this
great treasure of mankind: the earth which was beautiful before man
lived on it, which for many ages grew in beauty as men grew in
numbers and power, is now growing uglier day by day, and there the
swiftest where civilisation is the mightiest: this is quite
certain; no one can deny it: are you contented that it should be

Surely there must be few of us to whom this degrading change has not
been brought home personally. I think you will most of you
understand me but too well when I ask you to remember the pang of
dismay that comes on us when we revisit some spot of country which
has been specially sympathetic to us in times past; which has
refreshed us after toil, or soothed us after trouble; but where now
as we turn the corner of the road or crown the hill's brow we can
see first the inevitable blue slate roof, and then the blotched mud-
coloured stucco, or ill-built wall of ill-made bricks of the new
buildings; then as we come nearer and see the arid and pretentious
little gardens, and cast-iron horrors of railings, and miseries of
squalid out-houses breaking through the sweet meadows and abundant
hedge-rows of our old quiet hamlet, do not our hearts sink within
us, and are we not troubled with a perplexity not altogether
selfish, when we think what a little bit of carelessness it takes to
destroy a world of pleasure and delight, which now whatever happens
can never be recovered?

Well may we feel the perplexity and sickness of heart, which some
day the whole world shall feel to find its hopes disappointed, if we
do not look to it; for this is not what civilisation looked for: a
new house added to the old village, where is the harm of that?
Should it not have been a gain and not a loss; a sign of growth and
prosperity which should have rejoiced the eye of an old friend? a
new family come in health and hope to share the modest pleasures and
labours of the place we loved; that should have been no grief, but a
fresh pleasure to us.

Yes, and time was that it would have been so; the new house indeed
would have taken away a little piece of the flowery green sward, a
few yards of the teeming hedge-row; but a new order, a new beauty
would have taken the place of the old: the very flowers of the
field would have but given place to flowers fashioned by man's hand
and mind: the hedge-row oak would have blossomed into fresh beauty
in roof-tree and lintel and door-post: and though the new house
would have looked young and trim beside the older houses and the
ancient church; ancient even in those days; yet it would have a
piece of history for the time to come, and its dear and dainty
cream-white walls would have been a genuine link among the
numberless links of that long chain, whose beginnings we know not
of, but on whose mighty length even the many-pillared garth of
Pallas, and the stately dome of the Eternal Wisdom, are but single
links, wondrous and resplendent though they be.

Such I say can a new house be, such it has been: for 'tis no ideal
house I am thinking of: no rare marvel of art, of which but few can
ever be vouchsafed to the best times and countries; no palace
either, not even a manor-house, but a yeoman's steading at grandest,
or even his shepherd's cottage: there they stand at this day,
dozens of them yet, in some parts of England: such an one, and of
the smallest, is before my eyes as I speak to you, standing by the
roadside on one of the western slopes of the Cotswolds: the tops of
the great trees near it can see a long way off the mountains of the
Welsh border, and between a great county of hill, and waving
woodland, and meadow and plain where lies hidden many a famous
battlefield of our stout forefathers: there to the right a wavering
patch of blue is the smoke of Worcester town, but Evesham smoke,
though near, is unseen, so small it is: then a long line of haze
just traceable shows where the Avon wends its way thence towards
Severn, till Bredon Hill hides the sight both of it and Tewkesbury
smoke: just below on either side the Broadway lie the grey houses
of the village street ending with a lovely house of the fourteenth
century; above the road winds serpentine up the steep hill-side,
whose crest looking westward sees the glorious map I have been
telling of spread before it, but eastward strains to look on
Oxfordshire, and thence all waters run towards Thames: all about
lie the sunny slopes, lovely of outline, flowery and sweetly
grassed, dotted with the best-grown and most graceful of trees:
'tis a beautiful countryside indeed, not undignified, not
unromantic, but most familiar.

And there stands the little house that was new once, a labourer's
cottage built of the Cotswold limestone, and grown now, walls and
roof, a lovely warm grey, though it was creamy white in its earliest
day; no line of it could ever have marred the Cotswold beauty;
everything about it is solid and well wrought: it is skilfully
planned and well proportioned: there is a little sharp and delicate
carving about its arched doorway, and every part of it is well cared
for: 'tis in fact beautiful, a work of art and a piece of nature--
no less: there is no man who could have done it better considering
its use and its place.

Who built it then? No strange race of men, but just the mason of
Broadway village: even such a man as is now running up down yonder
three or four cottages of the wretched type we know too well: nor
did he get an architect from London, or even Worcester, to design
it: I believe 'tis but two hundred years old, and at that time,
though beauty still lingered among the peasants' houses, your
learned architects were building houses for the high gentry that
were ugly enough, though solid and well built; nor are its materials
far-fetched; from the neighbouring field came its walling stones;
and at the top of the hill they are quarrying now as good freestone
as ever.

No, there was no effort or wonder about it when it was built, though
its beauty makes it strange now.

And are you contented that we should lose all this; this simple,
harmless beauty that was no hindrance or trouble to any man, and
that added to the natural beauty of the earth instead of marring it?

You cannot be contented with it; all you can do is to try to forget
it, and to say that such things are the necessary and inevitable
consequences of civilisation. Is it so indeed? The loss of
suchlike beauty is an undoubted evil: but civilisation cannot mean
at heart to produce evils for mankind: such losses therefore must
be accidents of civilisation, produced by its carelessness, not its
malice; and we, if we be men and not machines, must try to amend
them: or civilisation itself will be undone.

But, now let us leave the sunny slopes of the Cotswolds, and their
little grey houses, lest we fall a-dreaming over past time, and let
us think about the suburbs of London, neither dull nor unpleasant
once, where surely we ought to have some power to do something: let
me remind you how it fares with the beauty of the earth when some
big house near our dwelling-place, which has passed through many
vicissitudes of rich merchant's dwelling, school, hospital, or what
not, is at last to be turned into ready money, and is sold to A, who
lets it to B, who is going to build houses on it which he will sell
to C, who will let them to D, and the other letters of the alphabet:
well, the old house comes down; that was to be looked for, and
perhaps you don't much mind it; it was never a work of art, was
stupid and unimaginative enough, though creditably built, and
without pretence; but even while it is being pulled down, you hear
the axe falling on the trees of its generous garden, which it was
such a pleasure even to pass by, and where man and nature together
have worked so long and patiently for the blessing of the
neighbours: so you see the boys dragging about the streets great
boughs of the flowering may-trees covered with blossom, and you know
what is going to happen. Next morning when you get up you look
towards that great plane-tree which has been such a friend to you so
long through sun and rain and wind, which was a world in itself of
incident and beauty: but now there is a gap and no plane-tree; next
morning 'tis the turn of the great sweeping layers of darkness that
the ancient cedars thrust out from them, very treasures of
loveliness and romance; they are gone too: you may have a faint
hope left that the thick bank of lilac next your house may be
spared, since the newcomers may like lilac; but 'tis gone in the
afternoon, and the next day when you look in with a sore heart, you
see that once fair great garden turned into a petty miserable clay-
trampled yard, and everything is ready for the latest development of
Victorian architecture--which in due time (two months) arises from
the wreck.

Do you like it? You I mean, who have not studied art and do not
think you care about it?

Look at the houses (there are plenty to choose from)! I will not
say, are they beautiful, for you say you don't care whether they are
or not: but just look at the wretched pennyworths of material, of
accommodation, of ornament doled out to you! if there were one touch
of generosity, of honest pride, of wish to please about them, I
would forgive them in the lump. But there is none--not one.

It is for this that you have sacrificed your cedars and planes and
may-trees, which I do believe you really liked--are you satisfied?

Indeed you cannot be: all you can do is to go to your business,
converse with your family, eat, drink, and sleep, and try to forget
it, but whenever you think of it, you will admit that a loss without
compensation has befallen you and your neighbours.

Once more neglect of art has done it; for though it is conceivable
that the loss of your neighbouring open space might in any case have
been a loss to you, still the building of a new quarter of a town
ought not to be an unmixed calamity to the neighbours: nor would it
have been once: for first, the builder doesn't now murder the trees
(at any rate not all of them) for the trifling sum of money their
corpses will bring him, but because it will take him too much
trouble to fit them into the planning of his houses: so to begin
with you would have saved the more part of your trees; and I say
your trees, advisedly, for they were at least as much your trees,
who loved them and would have saved them, as they were the trees of
the man who neglected and murdered them. And next, for any space
you would have lost, and for any unavoidable destruction of natural
growth, you would in the times of art have been compensated by
orderly beauty, by visible signs of the ingenuity of man and his
delight both in the works of nature and the works of his own hands.

Yes indeed, if we had lived in Venice in early days, as islet after
islet was built upon, we should have grudged it but little, I think,
though we had been merchants and rich men, that the Greek shafted
work, and the carving of the Lombards was drawn nearer and nearer to
us and blocked us out a little from the sight of the blue Euganean
hills or the Northern mountains. Nay, to come nearer home, much as
I know I should have loved the willowy meadows between the network
of the streams of Thames and Cherwell; yet I should not have been
ill content as Oxford crept northward from its early home of Oseney,
and Rewley, and the Castle, as townsman's house, and scholar's hall,
and the great College and the noble church hid year by year more and
more of the grass and flowers of Oxfordshire. {12}

That was the natural course of things then; men could do no
otherwise when they built than give some gift of beauty to the
world: but all is turned inside out now, and when men build they
cannot but take away some gift of beauty, which nature or their own
forefathers have given to the world.

Wonderful it is indeed, and perplexing, that the course of
civilisation towards perfection should have brought this about: so
perplexing, that to some it seems as if civilisation were eating her
own children, and the arts first of all.

I will not say that; time is big with so many a change; surely there
must be some remedy, and whether there be or no, at least it is
better to die seeking one, than to leave it alone and do nothing.

I have said, are you satisfied? and assumed that you are not, though
to many you may seem to be at least helpless: yet indeed it is
something or even a great deal that I can reasonably assume that you
are discontented: fifty years ago, thirty years ago, nay perhaps
twenty years ago, it would have been useless to have asked such a
question, it could only have been answered in one way: We are
perfectly satisfied: whereas now we may at least hope that
discontent will grow till some remedy will be sought for.

And if sought for, should it not, in England at least, be as good as
found already, and acted upon? At first sight it seems so truly;
for I may say without fear of contradiction that we of the English
middle classes are the most powerful body of men that the world has
yet seen, and that anything we have set our heart upon we will have:
and yet when we come to look the matter in the face, we cannot fail
to see that even for us with all our strength it will be a hard
matter to bring about that birth of the new art: for between us and
that which is to be, if art is not to perish utterly, there is
something alive and devouring; something as it were a river of fire
that will put all that tries to swim across to a hard proof indeed,
and scare from the plunge every soul that is not made fearless by
desire of truth and insight of the happy days to come beyond.

That fire is the hurry of life bred by the gradual perfection of
competitive commerce which we, the English middle classes, when we
had won our political liberty, set ourselves to further with an
energy, an eagerness, a single-heartedness that has no parallel in
history; we would suffer none to bar the way to us, we called on
none to help us, we thought of that one thing and forgot all else,
and so attained to our desire, and fashioned a terrible thing indeed
from the very hearts of the strongest of mankind.

Indeed I don't suppose that the feeble discontent with our own
creation that I have noted before can deal with such a force as
this--not yet--not till it swells to very strong discontent:
nevertheless as we were blind to its destructive power, and have not
even yet learned all about that, so we may well be blind to what it
has of constructive force in it, and that one day may give us a
chance to deal with it again and turn it toward accomplishing our
new and worthier desire: in that day at least when we have at last
learned what we want, let us work no less strenuously and
fearlessly, I will not say to quench it, but to force it to burn
itself out, as we once did to quicken and sustain it.

Meantime if we could but get ourselves ready by casting off certain
old prejudices and delusions in this matter of the arts, we should
the sooner reach the pitch of discontent which would drive us into
action: such a one I mean as the aforesaid idea that luxury fosters
art, and especially the Architectural arts; or its companion one,
that the arts flourish best in a rich country, i.e. a country where
the contrast between rich and poor is greatest; or this, the worst
because the most plausible, the assertion of the hierarchy of
intellect in the arts: an old foe with a new face indeed: born out
of the times that gave the death-blow to the political and social
hierarchies, and waxing as they waned, it proclaimed from a new side
the divinity of the few and the subjugation of the many, and cries
out, like they did, that it is expedient, not that one man should
die for the people, but that the people should die for one man.

Now perhaps these three things, though they have different forms,
are in fact but one thing; tyranny to wit: but however that may be,
they are to be met by one answer, and there is no other: if art
which is now sick is to live and not die, it must in the future be
of the people for the people, and by the people; it must understand
all and be understood by all: equality must be the answer to
tyranny: if that be not attained, art will die.

The past art of what has grown to be civilised Europe from the time
of the decline of the ancient classical peoples, was the outcome of
instinct working on an unbroken chain of tradition: it was fed not
by knowledge but by hope, and though many a strange and wild
illusion mingled with that hope, yet was it human and fruitful ever:
many a man it solaced, many a slave in body it freed in soul;
boundless pleasure it gave to those who wrought it and those who
used it: long and long it lived, passing that torch of hope from
hand to hand, while it kept but little record of its best and
noblest; for least of all things could it abide to make for itself
kings and tyrants: every man's hand and soul it used, the lowest as
the highest, and in its bosom at least were all men free: it did
its work, not creating an art more perfect than itself, but rather
other things than art, freedom of thought and speech, and the
longing for light and knowledge and the coming days that should slay
it: and so at last it died in the hour of its highest hope, almost
before the greatest men that came of it had passed away from the
world. It is dead now; no longing will bring it back to us; no echo
of it is left among the peoples whom it once made happy.

Of the art that is to come who may prophesy? But this at least
seems to follow from comparing that past with the confusion in which
we are now struggling and the light which glimmers through it; that
that art will no longer be an art of instinct, of ignorance which is
hopeful to learn and strives to see; since ignorance is now no
longer hopeful. In this and in many other ways it may differ from
the past art, but in one thing it must needs be like it; it will not
be an esoteric mystery shared by a little band of superior beings;
it will be no more hierarchical than the art of past time was, but
like it will be a gift of the people to the people, a thing which
everybody can understand, and every one surround with love; it will
be a part of every life, and a hindrance to none.

For this is the essence of art, and the thing that is eternal to it,
whatever else may be passing and accidental.

Here it is, you see, wherein the art of to-day is so far astray,
would that I could say wherein it HAS BEEN astray; it has been sick
because of this packing and peeling with tyranny, and now with what
of life it has it must struggle back towards equality.

There is the hard business for us! to get all simple people to care
about art, to get them to insist on making it part of their lives,
whatever becomes of systems of commerce and labour held perfect by
some of us.

This is henceforward for a long time to come the real business of
art: and--yes I will say it since I think it--of civilisation too
for that matter: but how shall we set to work about it? How shall
we give people without traditions of art eyes with which to see the
works we do to move them? How shall we give them leisure from toil,
and truce with anxiety, so that they may have time to brood over the
longing for beauty which men are born with, as 'tis said, even in
London streets? And chiefly, for this will breed the others swiftly
and certainly, how shall we give them hope and pleasure in their
daily work?

How shall we give them this soul of art without which men are worse
than savages? If they would but drive us to it! But what and where
are the forces that shall drive them to drive us? Where is the
lever and the standpoint?

Hard questions indeed! but unless we are prepared to seek an answer
for them, our art is a mere toy, which may amuse us for a little,
but which will not sustain us at our need: the cultivated classes,
as they are called, will feel it slipping away from under them:
till some of them will but mock it as a worthless thing; and some
will stand by and look at it as a curious exercise of the intellect,
useless when done, though amusing to watch a-doing. How long will
art live on those terms? Yet such were even now the state of art
were it not for that hope which I am here to set forth to you, the
hope of an art that shall express the soul of the people.

Therefore, I say, that in these days we men of civilisation have to
choose if we will cast art aside or not; if we choose to do so I
have no more to say, save that we MAY find something to take its
place for the solace and joy of mankind, but I scarce think we
shall: but if we refuse to cast art aside, then must we seek an
answer for those hard questions aforesaid, of which this is the

How shall we set about giving people without traditions of art eyes
with which to see works of art? It will doubtless take many years
of striving and success, before we can think of answering that
question fully: and if we strive to do our duty herein, long before
it is answered fully there will be some kind of a popular art
abiding among us: but meantime, and setting aside the answer which
every artist must make to his own share of the question, there is
one duty obvious to us all; it is that we should set ourselves, each
one of us, to doing our best to guard the natural beauty of the
earth: we ought to look upon it as a crime, an injury to our
fellows, only excusable because of ignorance, to mar the natural
beauty, which is the property of all men; and scarce less than a
crime to look on and do nothing while others are marring it, if we
can no longer plead this ignorance.

Now this duty, as it is the most obvious to us, and the first and
readiest way of giving people back their eyes, so happily it is the
easiest to set about; up to a certain point you will have all people
of good will to the public good on your side: nay, small as the
beginning is, something has actually been begun in this direction,
and we may well say, considering how hopeless things looked twenty
years ago, that it is marvellous in our eyes! Yet if we ever get
out of the troubles that we are now wallowing in, it will seem
perhaps more marvellous still to those that come after us that the
dwellers in the richest city in the world were at one time rather
proud that the members of a small, humble, and rather obscure,
though I will say it, a beneficent society, should have felt it
their duty to shut their eyes to the apparent hopelessness of
attacking with their feeble means the stupendous evils they had
become alive to, so that they might be able to make some small
beginnings towards awakening the general public to a due sense of
those evils.

I say, that though I ask your earnest support for such associations
as the Kyrle and the Commons Preservation Societies, and though I
feel sure that they have begun at the right end, since neither gods
nor governments will help those who don't help themselves; though we
are bound to wait for nobody's help than our own in dealing with the
devouring hideousness and squalor of our great towns, and especially
of London, for which the whole country is responsible; yet it would
be idle not to acknowledge that the difficulties in our way are far
too huge and wide-spreading to be grappled by private or semi-
private efforts only.

All we can do in this way we must look on not as palliatives of an
unendurable state of things, but as tokens of what we desire; which
is in short the giving back to our country of the natural beauty of
the earth, which we are so ashamed of having taken away from it:
and our chief duty herein will be to quicken this shame and the pain
that comes from it in the hearts of our fellows: this I say is one
of the chief duties of all those who have any right to the title of
cultivated men: and I believe that if we are faithful to it, we may
help to further a great impulse towards beauty among us, which will
be so irresistible that it will fashion for itself a national
machinery which will sweep away all difficulties between us and a
decent life, though they may have increased a thousand-fold
meantime, as is only too like to be the case.

Surely that light will arise, though neither we nor our children's
children see it, though civilisation may have to go down into dark
places enough meantime: surely one day making will be thought more
honourable, more worthy the majesty of a great nation than

It is strange indeed, it is woeful, it is scarcely comprehensible,
if we come to think of it as men, and not as machines, that, after
all the progress of civilisation, it should be so easy for a little
official talk, a few lines on a sheet of paper, to set a terrible
engine to work, which without any trouble on our part will slay us
ten thousand men, and ruin who can say how many thousand of
families; and it lies light enough on the conscience of ALL of us;
while, if it is a question of striking a blow at grievous and
crushing evils which lie at our own doors, evils which every
thoughtful man feels and laments, and for which we alone are
responsible, not only is there no national machinery for dealing
with them, though they grow ranker and ranker every year, but any
hint that such a thing may be possible is received with laughter or
with terror, or with severe and heavy blame. The rights of
property, the necessities of morality, the interests of religion--
these are the sacramental words of cowardice that silence us!

Sirs, I have spoken of thoughtful men who feel these evils: but
think of all the millions of men whom our civilisation has bred, who
are not thoughtful, and have had no chance of being so; how can you
fail then to acknowledge the duty of defending the fairness of the
Earth? and what is the use of our cultivation if it is to cultivate
us into cowards? Let us answer those feeble counsels of despair and
say, We also have a property which your tyranny of squalor cheats us
of; we also have a morality which its baseness crushes; we also have
a religion which its injustice makes a mock of.

Well, whatever lesser helps there may be to our endeavour of giving
people back the eyes we have robbed them of, we may pass them by at
present, for they are chiefly of use to people who are beginning to
get their eyesight again; to people who, though they have no
traditions of art, can study those mighty impulses that once led
nations and races: it is to such that museums and art education are
of service; but it is clear they cannot get at the great mass of
people, who will at present stare at them in unintelligent wonder.

Until our streets are decent and orderly, and our town gardens break
the bricks and mortar every here and there, and are open to all
people; until our meadows even near our towns become fair and sweet,
and are unspoiled by patches of hideousness: until we have clear
sky above our heads and green grass beneath our feet; until the
great drama of the seasons can touch our workmen with other feelings
than the misery of winter and the weariness of summer; till all this
happens our museums and art schools will be but amusements of the
rich; and they will soon cease to be of any use to them also, unless
they make up their minds that they will do their best to give us
back the fairness of the Earth.

In what I have been saying on this last point I have been thinking
of our own special duties as cultivated people; but in our
endeavours towards this end, as in all others, cultivated people
cannot stand alone; nor can we do much to open people's eyes till
they cry out to us to have them opened. Now I cannot doubt that the
longing to attack and overcome the sordidness of the city life of
to-day still dwells in the minds of workmen, as well as in ours, but
it can scarcely be otherwise than vague and lacking guidance with
men who have so little leisure, and are so hemmed in with
hideousness as they are. So this brings us to our second question.
How shall people in general get leisure enough from toil, and truce
enough with anxiety to give scope to their inborn longing for

Now the part of this question that is not involved in the next one,
How shall they get proper work to do? is I think in a fair way to be

The mighty change which the success of competitive commerce has
wrought in the world, whatever it may have destroyed, has at least
unwittingly made one thing,--from out of it has been born the
increasing power of the working-class. The determination which this
power has bred in it to raise their class as a class will I doubt
not make way and prosper with our goodwill, or even in spite of it;
but it seems to me that both to the working-class and especially to
ourselves it is important that it should have our abundant goodwill,
and also what help we may be able otherwise to give it, by our
determination to deal fairly with workmen, even when that justice
may seem to involve our own loss. The time of unreasonable and
blind outcry against the Trades Unions is, I am happy to think, gone
by; and has given place to the hope of a time when these great
Associations, well organised, well served, and earnestly supported,
as I KNOW them to be, will find other work before them than the
temporary support of their members and the adjustment of due wages
for their crafts: when that hope begins to be realised, and they
find they can make use of the help of us scattered units of the
cultivated classes, I feel sure that the claims of art, as we and
they will then understand the word, will by no means be disregarded
by them.

Meantime with us who are called artists, since most unhappily that
word means at present another thing than artisan: with us who
either practise the arts with our own hands, or who love them so
wholly that we can enter into the inmost feelings of those who do,--
with us it lies to deal with our last question, to stir up others to
think of answering this: How shall we give people in general hope
and pleasure in their daily work in such a way that in those days to
come the word art SHALL be rightly understood?

Of all that I have to say to you this seems to me the most
important, that our daily and necessary work, which we could not
escape if we would, which we would not forego if we could, should be
human, serious, and pleasurable, not machine-like, trivial, or
grievous. I call this not only the very foundation of Architecture
in all senses of the word, but of happiness also in all conditions
of life.

Let me say before I go further, that though I am nowise ashamed of
repeating the words of men who have been before me in both senses,
of time and insight, I mean, I should be ashamed of letting you
think that I forget their labours on which mine are founded. I know
that the pith of what I am saying on this subject was set forth
years ago, and for the first time by Mr. Ruskin in that chapter of
the Stones of Venice, which is entitled, 'On the Nature of Gothic,'
in words more clear and eloquent than any man else now living could
use. So important do they seem to me, that to my mind they should
have been posted up in every school of art throughout the country;
nay, in every association of English-speaking people which professes
in any way to further the culture of mankind. But I am sorry to
have to say it, my excuse for doing little more now than repeating
those words is that they have been less heeded than most things
which Mr. Ruskin has said: I suppose because people have been
afraid of them, lest they should find the truth they express
sticking so fast in their minds that it would either compel them to
act on it or confess themselves slothful and cowardly.

Nor can I pretend to wonder at that: for if people were once to
accept it as true, that it is nothing but just and fair that every
man's work should have some hope and pleasure always present in it,
they must try to bring the change about that would make it so: and
all history tells of no greater change in man's life than that would

Nevertheless, great as the change may be, Architecture has no
prospects in civilisation unless the change be brought about: and
'tis my business to-day, I will not say to convince you of this, but
to send some of you away uneasy lest perhaps it may be true; if I
can manage that I shall have spoken to some purpose.

Let us see however in what light cultivated people, men not without
serious thoughts about life, look to this matter, lest perchance we
may seem to be beating the air only: when I have given you an
example of this way of thinking, I will answer it to the best of my
power in the hopes of making some of you uneasy, discontented, and

Some few months ago I read in a paper the report of a speech made to
the assembled work-people of a famous firm of manufacturers (as they
are called). The speech was a very humane and thoughtful one,
spoken by one of the leaders of modern thought: the firm to whose
people it was addressed was and is famous not only for successful
commerce, but also for the consideration and goodwill with which it
treats its work-people, men and women. No wonder, therefore, that
the speech was pleasant reading; for the tone of it was that of a
man speaking to his friends who could well understand him and from
whom he need hide nothing; but towards the end of it I came across a
sentence, which set me a-thinking so hard, that I forgot all that
had gone before. It was to this effect, and I think nearly in these
very words, 'Since no man would work if it were not that he hoped by
working to earn leisure:' and the context showed that this was
assumed as a self-evident truth.

Well, for many years I have had my mind fixed on what I in my turn
regarded as an axiom which may be worded thus: No work which cannot
be done without pleasure in the doing is worth doing; so you may
think I was much disturbed at a grave and learned man taking such a
completely different view of it with such calmness of certainty.
What a little way, I thought, has all Ruskin's fire and eloquence
made in driving into people so great a truth, a truth so fertile of

Then I turned the intrusive sentence over again in my mind: 'No man
would work unless he hoped by working to earn leisure:' and I saw
that this was another way of putting it: first, all the work of the
world is done against the grain: second, what a man does in his
'leisure' is not work.

A poor bribe the hope of such leisure to supplement the other
inducement to toil, which I take to be the fear of death by
starvation: a poor bribe; for the most of men, like those Yorkshire
weavers and spinners (and the more part far worse than they), work
for such a very small share of leisure that, one must needs say that
if all their hope be in that, they are pretty much beguiled of their

So I thought, and this next, that if it were indeed true and beyond
remedy, that no man would work unless he hoped by working to earn
leisure, the hell of theologians was but little needed; for a
thickly populated civilised country, where, you know, after all
people must work at something, would serve their turn well enough.
Yet again I knew that this theory of the general and necessary
hatefulness of work was indeed the common one, and that all sorts of
people held it, who without being monsters of insensibility grew fat
and jolly nevertheless.

So to explain this puzzle, I fell to thinking of the one life of
which I knew something--my own to wit--and out tumbled the bottom of
the theory.

For I tried to think what would happen to me if I were forbidden my
ordinary daily work; and I knew that I should die of despair and
weariness, unless I could straightway take to something else which I
could make my daily work: and it was clear to me that I worked not
in the least in the world for the sake of earning leisure by it, but
partly driven by the fear of starvation or disgrace, and partly, and
even a very great deal, because I love the work itself: and as for
my leisure: well I had to confess that part of it I do indeed spend
as a dog does--in contemplation, let us say; and like it well
enough: but part of it also I spend in work: which work gives me
just as much pleasure as my bread-earning work--neither more nor
less; and therefore could be no bribe or hope for my work-a-day

Then next I turned my thought to my friends: mere artists, and
therefore, you know, lazy people by prescriptive right: I found
that the one thing they enjoyed was their work, and that their only
idea of happy leisure was other work, just as valuable to the world
as their work-a-day work: they only differed from me in liking the
dog-like leisure less and the man-like labour more than I do.

I got no further when I turned from mere artists, to important men--
public men: I could see no signs of their working merely to earn
leisure: they all worked for the work and the deeds' sake. Do rich
gentlemen sit up all night in the House of Commons for the sake of
earning leisure? if so, 'tis a sad waste of labour. Or Mr.
Gladstone? he doesn't seem to have succeeded in winning much leisure
by tolerably strenuous work; what he does get he might have got on
much easier terms, I am sure.

Does it then come to this, that there are men, say a class of men,
whose daily work, though maybe they cannot escape from doing it, is
chiefly pleasure to them; and other classes of men whose daily work
is wholly irksome to them, and only endurable because they hope
while they are about it to earn thereby a little leisure at the
day's end?

If that were wholly true the contrast between the two kinds of lives
would be greater than the contrast between the utmost delicacy of
life and the utmost hardship could show, or between the utmost calm
and utmost trouble. The difference would be literally immeasurable.

But I dare not, if I would, in so serious a matter overstate the
evils I call on you to attack: it is not wholly true that such
immeasurable difference exists between the lives of divers classes
of men, or the world would scarce have got through to past the
middle of this century: misery, grudging, and tyranny would have
destroyed us all.

The inequality even at the worst is not really so great as that:
any employment in which a thing can be done better or worse has some
pleasure in it, for all men more or less like doing what they can do
well: even mechanical labour is pleasant to some people (to me
amongst others) if it be not too mechanical.

Nevertheless though it be not wholly true that the daily work of
some men is merely pleasant and of others merely grievous; yet it is
over true both that things are not very far short of this, and also
that if people do not open their eyes in time they will speedily
worsen. Some work, nay, almost all the work done by artisans IS too
mechanical; and those that work at it must either abstract their
thoughts from it altogether, in which case they are but machines
while they are at work; or else they must suffer such dreadful
weariness in getting through it, as one can scarcely bear to think
of. Nature desires that we shall at least live, but seldom, I
suppose, allows this latter misery to happen; and the workmen who do
purely mechanical work do as a rule become mere machines as far as
their work is concerned. Now as I am quite sure that no art, not
even the feeblest, rudest, or least intelligent, can come of such
work, so also I am sure that such work makes the workman less than a
man and degrades him grievously and unjustly, and that nothing can
compensate him or us for such degradation: and I want you specially
to note that this was instinctively felt in the very earliest days
of what are called the industrial arts.

When a man turned the wheel, or threw the shuttle, or hammered the
iron, he was expected to make something more than a water-pot, a
cloth, or a knife: he was expected to make a work of art also: he
could scarcely altogether fail in this, he might attain to making a
work of the greatest beauty: this was felt to be positively
necessary to the peace of mind both of the maker and the user; and
this is it which I have called Architecture: the turning of
necessary articles of daily use into works of art.

Certainly, when we come to think of it thus, there does seem to be
little less than that immeasurable contrast above mentioned between
such work and mechanical work: and most assuredly do I believe that
the crafts which fashion our familiar wares need this enlightenment
of happiness no less now than they did in the days of the early
Pharaohs: but we have forgotten this necessity, and in consequence
have reduced handicraft to such degradation, that a learned,
thoughtful, and humane man can set forth as an axiom that no man
will work except to earn leisure thereby.

But now let us forget any conventional ways of looking at the labour
which produces the matters of our daily life, which ways come partly
from the wretched state of the arts in modern times, and partly I
suppose from that repulsion to handicraft which seems to have beset
some minds in all ages: let us forget this, and try to think how it
really fares with the divers ways of work in handicrafts.

I think one may divide the work with which Architecture is
conversant into three classes: first there is the purely
mechanical: those who do this are machines only, and the less they
think of what they are doing the better for the purpose, supposing
they are properly drilled: the purpose of this work, to speak
plainly, is not the making of wares of any kind, but what on the one
hand is called employment, on the other what is called money-making:
that is to say, in other words, the multiplication of the species of
the mechanical workman, and the increase of the riches of the man
who sets him to work, called in our modern jargon by a strange
perversion of language, a manufacturer: {13} Let us call this kind
of work Mechanical Toil.

The second kind is more or less mechanical as the case may be; but
it can always be done better or worse: if it is to be well done, it
claims attention from the workman, and he must leave on it signs of
his individuality: there will be more or less of art in it, over
which the workman has at least some control; and he will work on it
partly to earn his bread in not too toilsome or disgusting a way,
but in a way which makes even his work-hours pass pleasantly to him,
and partly to make wares, which when made will be a distinct gain to
the world; things that will be praised and delighted in. This work
I would call Intelligent Work.

The third kind of work has but little if anything mechanical about
it; it is altogether individual; that is to say, that what any man
does by means of it could never have been done by any other man.
Properly speaking, this work is all pleasure: true, there are pains
and perplexities and weariness in it, but they are like the troubles
of a beautiful life; the dark places that make the bright ones
brighter: they are the romance of the work and do but elevate the
workman, not depress him: I would call this Imaginative Work.

Now I can fancy that at first sight it may seem to you as if there
were more difference between this last and Intelligent Work, than
between Intelligent Work and Mechanical Toil: but 'tis not so. The
difference between these two is the difference between light and
darkness, between Ormuzd and Ahriman: whereas the difference
between Intelligent work and what for want of a better word I am
calling Imaginative work, is a matter of degree only; and in times
when art is abundant and noble there is no break in the chain from
the humblest of the lower to the greatest of the higher class; from
the poor weaver's who chuckles as the bright colour comes round
again, to the great painter anxious and doubtful if he can give to
the world the whole of his thought or only nine-tenths of it, they
are all artists--that is men; while the mechanical workman, who does
not note the difference between bright and dull in his colours, but
only knows them by numbers, is, while he is at his work, no man, but
a machine. Indeed when Intelligent work coexists with Imaginative,
there is no hard and fast line between them; in the very best and
happiest times of art, there is scarce any Intelligent work which is
not Imaginative also; and there is but little of effort or doubt, or
sign of unexpressed desires even in the highest of the Imaginative
work: the blessing of Equality elevates the lesser, and calms the
greater, art.

Now further, Mechanical Toil is bred of that hurry and
thoughtfulness of civilisation of which, as aforesaid, the middle
classes of this country have been such powerful furtherers: on the
face of it it is hostile to civilisation, a curse that civilisation
has made for itself and can no longer think of abolishing or
controlling: such it seems, I say; but since it bears with it
change and tremendous change, it may well be that there is something
more than mere loss in it: it will full surely destroy art as we
know art, unless art newborn destroy it: yet belike at the worst it
will destroy other things beside which are the poison of art, and in
the long run itself also, and thus make way for the new art, of
whose form we know nothing.

Intelligent work is the child of struggling, hopeful, progressive
civilisation: and its office is to add fresh interest to simple and
uneventful lives, to soothe discontent with innocent pleasure
fertile of deeds gainful to mankind; to bless the many toiling
millions with hope daily recurring, and which it will by no means

Imaginative work is the very blossom of civilisation triumphant and
hopeful; it would fain lead men to aspire towards perfection: each
hope that it fulfils gives birth to yet another hope: it bears in
its bosom the worth and the meaning of life and the counsel to
strive to understand everything; to fear nothing and to hate
nothing: in a word, 'tis the symbol and sacrament of the Courage of
the World.

Now thus it stands to-day with these three kinds of work; Mechanical
Toil has swallowed Intelligent Work and all the lower part of
Imaginative Work, and the enormous mass of the very worst now
confronts the slender but still bright array of the very best: what
is left of art is rallied to its citadel of the highest intellectual
art, and stands at bay there.

At first sight its hope of victory is slender indeed: yet to us now
living it seems as if man had not yet lost all that part of his soul
which longs for beauty: nay we cannot but hope that it is not yet
dying. If we are not deceived in that hope, if the art of to-day
has really come alive out of the slough of despond which we call the
eighteenth century, it will surely grow and gather strength and draw
to it other forms of intellect and hope that now scarcely know it;
and then, whatever changes it may go through, it will at the last be
victorious, and bring abundant content to mankind. On the other
hand, if, as some think, it be but the reflection and feeble ghost
of that glorious autumn which ended the good days of the mighty art
of the Middle Ages, it will take but little killing: Mechanical
Toil will sweep over all the handiwork of man, and art will be gone.

I myself am too busy a man to trouble myself much as to what may
happen after that: I can only say that if you do not like the
thought of that dull blank, even if you know or care little for art,
do not cast the thought of it aside, but think of it again and
again, and cherish the trouble it breeds till such a future seems
unendurable to you; and then make up your minds that you will not
bear it; and even if you distrust the artists that now are, set
yourself to clear the way for the artists that are to come. We
shall not count you among our enemies then, however hardly you deal
with us.

I have spoken of one most important part of that task; I have prayed
you to set yourselves earnestly to protecting what is left, and
recovering what is lost of the Natural Fairness of the Earth: no
less I pray you to do what you may to raise up some firm ground amid
the great flood of mechanical toil, to make an effort to win human
and hopeful work for yourselves and your fellows.

But if our first task of guarding the beauty of the Earth was hard,
this is far harder, nor can I pretend to think that we can attack
our enemy directly; yet indirectly surely something may be done, or
at least the foundations laid for something.

For Art breeds Art, and every worthy work done and delighted in by
maker and user begets a longing for more: and since art cannot be
fashioned by mechanical toil, the demand for real art will mean a
demand for intelligent work, which if persisted in will in time
create its due supply--at least I hope so.

I believe that what I am now saying will be well understood by those
who really care about art, but to speak plainly I know that these
are rarely to be found even among the cultivated classes: it must
be confessed that the middle classes of our civilisation have
embraced luxury instead of art, and that we are even so blindly base
as to hug ourselves on it, and to insult the memory of valiant
people of past times and to mock at them because they were not
encumbered with the nuisances that foolish habit has made us look on
as necessaries. Be sure that we are not beginning to prepare for
the art that is to be, till we have swept all that out of our minds,
and are setting to work to rid ourselves of all the useless luxuries
(by some called comforts) that make our stuffy art-stifling houses
more truly savage than a Zulu's kraal or an East Greenlander's snow

I feel sure that many a man is longing to set his hand to this if he
only durst; I believe that there are simple people who think that
they are dull to art, and who are really only perplexed and wearied
by finery and rubbish: if not from these, 'tis at least from the
children of these that we may look for the beginnings of the
building up of the art that is to be.

Meanwhile, I say, till the beginning of new construction is obvious,
let us be at least destructive of the sham art: it is full surely
one of the curses of modern life, that if people have not time and
eyes to discern or money to buy the real object of their desire,
they must needs have its mechanical substitute. On this lazy and
cowardly habit feeds and grows and flourishes mechanical toil and
all the slavery of mind and body it brings with it: from this
stupidity are born the itch of the public to over-reach the
tradesmen they deal with, the determination (usually successful) of
the tradesmen to over-reach them, and all the mockery and flouting
that has been cast of late (not without reason) on the British
tradesman and the British workman,--men just as honest as ourselves,
if we would not compel them to cheat us, and reward them for doing

Now if the public knew anything of art, that is excellence in things
made by man, they would not abide the shams of it; and if the real
thing were not to be had, they would learn to do without, nor think
their gentility injured by the forbearance.

Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very
foundation of refinement: a sanded floor and whitewashed walls, and
the green trees, and flowery meads, and living waters outside; or a
grimy palace amid the smoke with a regiment of housemaids always
working to smear the dirt together so that it may be unnoticed;
which, think you, is the most refined, the most fit for a gentleman
of those two dwellings?

So I say, if you cannot learn to love real art, at least learn to
hate sham art and reject it. It is not so much because the wretched
thing is so ugly and silly and useless that I ask you to cast it
from you; it is much more because these are but the outward symbols
of the poison that lies within them: look through them and see all
that has gone to their fashioning, and you will see how vain labour,
and sorrow, and disgrace have been their companions from the first,-
-and all this for trifles that no man really needs!

Learn to do without; there is virtue in those words; a force that
rightly used would choke both demand and supply of Mechanical Toil:
would make it stick to its last: the making of machines.

And then from simplicity of life would rise up the longing for
beauty, which cannot yet be dead in men's souls, and we know that
nothing can satisfy that demand but Intelligent work rising
gradually into Imaginative work; which will turn all 'operatives'
into workmen, into artists, into men.

Now, I have been trying to show you how the hurry of modern
Civilisation, accompanied by the tyrannous Organisation of labour
which was a necessity to the full development of Competitive
Commerce, has taken from the people at large, gentle and simple, the
eyes to discern and the hands to fashion that popular art which was
once the chief solace and joy of the world: I have asked you to
think of that as no light matter, but a grievous mishap: I have
prayed you to strive to remedy this evil: first by guarding
jealously what is left, and by trying earnestly to win back what is
lost of the Fairness of the Earth; and next by rejecting luxury,
that you may embrace art, if you can, or if indeed you in your short
lives cannot learn what art means, that you may at least live a
simple life fit for men.

And in all I have been saying, what I have been really urging on you
is this--Reverence for the life of Man upon the Earth: let the past
be past, every whit of it that is not still living in us: let the
dead bury their dead, but let us turn to the living, and with
boundless courage and what hope we may, refuse to let the Earth be
joyless in the days to come.

What lies before us of hope or fear for this? Well, let us remember
that those past days whose art was so worthy, did nevertheless
forget much of what was due to the Life of Man upon the Earth; and
so belike it was to revenge this neglect that art was delivered to
our hands for maiming: to us, who were blinded by our eager chase
of those things which our forefathers had neglected, and by the
chase of other things which seemed revealed to us on our hurried
way, not seldom, it may be for our beguiling.

And of that to which we were blinded, not all was unworthy: nay the
most of it was deep-rooted in men's souls, and was a necessary part
of their Life upon the Earth, and claims our reverence still: let
us add this knowledge to our other knowledge: and there will still
be a future for the arts. Let us remember this, and amid simplicity
of life turn our eyes to real beauty that can be shared by all: and
then though the days worsen, and no rag of the elder art be left for
our teaching, yet the new art may yet arise among us, and even if it
have the hands of a child together with the heart of a troubled man,
still it may bear on for us to better times the tokens of our
reverence for the Life of Man upon the Earth. For we indeed freed
from the bondage of foolish habit and dulling luxury might at last
have eyes wherewith to see: and should have to babble to one
another many things of our joy in the life around us: the faces of
people in the streets bearing the tokens of mirth and sorrow and
hope, and all the tale of their lives: the scraps of nature the
busiest of us would come across; birds and beasts and the little
worlds they live in; and even in the very town the sky above us and
the drift of the clouds across it; the wind's hand on the slim
trees, and its voice amid their branches, and all the ever-recurring
deeds of nature; nor would the road or the river winding past our
homes fail to tell us stories of the country-side, and men's doings
in field and fell. And whiles we should fall to muse on the times
when all the ways of nature were mere wonders to men, yet so well
beloved of them that they called them by men's names and gave them
deeds of men to do; and many a time there would come before us
memories of the deed of past times, and of the aspirations of those
mighty peoples whose deaths have made our lives, and their sorrows
our joys.

How could we keep silence of all this? and what voice could tell it
but the voice of art: and what audience for such a tale would
content us but all men living on the Earth?

This is what Architecture hopes to be: it will have this life, or
else death; and it is for us now living between the past and the
future to say whether it shall live or die.


{1} Delivered before the Trades' Guild of Learning, December 4,

{2} Delivered before the Birmingham Society of Arts and School of
Design, February 19, 1879.

{3} Now incorporated in the Handbook of Indian Art, by Dr. (now Sir
George) Birdwood, published by the Science and Art Department.

{4} These were originally published in Fun.

{5} Delivered before the Birmingham Society of Arts and School of
Design, February 19, 1880.

{6} As I corrected these sheets for the press, the case of two such
pieces of destruction is forced upon me: first, the remains of the
Refectory of Westminster Abbey, with the adjacent Ashburnham House,
a beautiful work, probably by Inigo Jones; and second, Magdalen
Bridge at Oxford. Certainly this seems to mock my hope of the
influence of education on the Beauty of Life; since the first scheme
of destruction is eagerly pressed forward by the authorities of
Westminster School, the second scarcely opposed by the resident
members of the University of Oxford.

{7} Since perhaps some people may read these words who are not of
Birmingham, I ought to say that it was authoritatively explained at
the meeting to which I addressed these words, that in Birmingham the
law is strictly enforced.

{8} Not QUITE always: in the little colony at Bedford Park,
Chiswick, as many trees have been left as possible, to the boundless
advantage of its quaint and pretty architecture.

{9} A Paper read before tile Trades' Guild of Learning and the
Birmingham Society of Artists.

{10} I know that well-designed hammered iron trellises and gates
have been used happily enough, though chiefly in rather grandiose
gardens, and so they might be again--one of these days--but I fear
not yet awhile.

{11} Delivered at the London Institution, March 10, 1880.

{12} Indeed it is a new world now, when the new Cowley dog-holes
must needs slay Magdalen Bridge!--Nov. 1881.

{13} Or, to put it plainer still, the unlimited breeding of
mechanical workmen as MECHANICAL WORKMEN, not as MEN.


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