THE great moment is when, after an ocean, frontiers, and inexorable Paris landlords, you arrive, disembarrassed of everything, on the inner terrace of the Trocadéro palace. You hold yourself open to the impressions that may naturally be expected to seize upon you. There is a school of “ impressionist ” painters here, who give, as it were, the first broad flash of anything, immediately turned away from, and not looked back at or reflected about. Flash! some rapid patches of pink, of white, scattering blue, a ground tone of tawny yellow, — a young woman with a parasol walking in a wheat-field. Let us try that. Flash! a blue sky; four large shining spots, colossal golden animals, close in front. They are a horse, an ox, an elephant, and a rhinoceros, rearing defiantly around a basin of numerous streams, with rainbows in them. The mailed rhinoceros is particularly picturesque. Long bars of orange and the yellow of new oak, on both sides of the river, for pavilions of navigation and railway supplies and the pavilion of forestry; bars of Venetian red above them for their roofs of earthen tiles; pale striped greens for the café of Morocco, the French restaurant on the right, the Spanish — balancing it — on the left; dusty greens for the grass-plots, with enameled borders; drab and pink for the Egyptian temple; slate and scarlet for the Chinese pagoda; delicious white amid embowering foliage for the mosque of Algiers, with a bit of the river reflecting the sky behind it. In the distance, the palace of the Champ de Mars extends its sections of glass a little mistily between the strong patches of cream color which are the solid supports of the domes at the ends and in the centre. Projecting spires and small points everywhere, indicating a complication of objects hidden in the shrubbery. A staring tone of gravel for the highways and paths, needlessly vast and sterile, as it seems, fills all the central portion. Then, flags of all nations, gay marquees, kiosks of terra cotta, canary of regimented chairs and white of marble - topped tables at the restaurants, scattered into all the interstices, to make up the Joseph’s coat of many colors spread upon the astonished ground, — this poor ground, when it thinks what a commonplace territory it was so recently!
Around the whole, Paris, a mosaic of gray patches laid one against another, vanishing to the horizon. St. Sulpice, the Pantheon, and Notre Dame rise distantly out of it. The gilded dome of the Invalides— not so imposing as that of the Boston State House — rises nearer, and does not keep its place, but insists upon coming forward, by reason of its holiday attire, and joining the revelry in front.
This may pass for an “ impression.” An impression is as much as the general view is worth. The interest lies more and more in the details. Conceive that the locality is an oblong strip, of more than a mile, cut by the river. One quarter of it, sloping rapidly, is on this side. It is crowned by a singular building, — to remain, — which contains the concert hall for five thousand persons, and museums of retrospective art. I cannot think of a bulky central edifice anywhere else, like an Italian baptistery or the royal Albert Hall, with long curving wings. It is something entirely new. They are really wings, bent inward, as if beating the air. A rude diagram shows it better than explanations.
It makes too startling a profession of its originality, it seems to me. The sweeping wings are weak, and do not get clutch enough on the ground. There is something disagreeable, too,—you get it from the lithographs as well, — in the conflict of the curves of the rotunda which rise, as they come out towards you, with the others which fall. The façade first visible on coming down the Avenue Roi de Rome, on which lives the uncomely queen of Spain behind a gilded grating, is really railroad-station-like.
It is a mammoth structure in its scale.
Its two yellow campaniles, forty feet higher than Notre Dame, signal to all Paris the merry-making in progress within, and, coming nearer, you find that the profuse ornamentation which seemed to be merely the vacant device of “ rustication” is bands of alternate light and dark; that the Palazzo Vecchio campaniles are daintily gilded and have polished marble angle-shafts; and that the material in general is of the most expensive. Still, it is not going to be such a reminiscence of the Exhibition of 1878 as was left by that of 1854 in the present Palais de I'lndustrie, in which our Philadelphia art gallery found its motive. In its original state the Trocadéro was a park, and the Champ de Mars a parade-ground, as all the world knows, and the bridge of Jena connects them. It was but a minor feat of the costly enterprise partly to raise the ground and partly sink the level of the streets crossing them, so that the tide of ordinary traffic surges through between high walls that give only such enticing suggestions of the interior as are contained in the bracketed roofs and flying banners showing above.
We have been looking out from the frame of a bay of the curving cloisters, and over the edge of a basin in violent ebullition, which seems to drop, but does not, directly into the basin of the golden beasts below. It is only a matter of going down to find that it reaches it by a series of steps, with plume-like jets spouting beside them, which go to make up the grandes eaux at a cost of nearly a million dollars for themselves alone. There are golden figures about this upper basin, too, — Europe, Asia, America, gazing massively at the fervid panorama, with their wheat sheaves, their stylets, their wheels of industry, disposed about them. It is a great day for Allegory. I know not to what enormous total the admissions for some one date would rise could her representatives in the grounds be added. They spring lightly from domes; they point this way and that; they suspend wreaths of victory and undying fame. Two splendid bronze geniuses cross hands over the arch of the main portal of the Champ de Mars; two others upon each pier guard the emblazoned shield of a nation, with a long pennant above them. The most singular of all is the section of Bartholdi’s Liberty, which is not here a hand, but an enormous head. It is the only thing on a scale with the Exposition. Casting a far-looking, level glance over the whole from its deep-set eyes, it has in its knitted brows a strangely troubled expression, as though it bore the entire burden of responsibility. One is ready to ask, “ Why did you ever try to hold it? ”
An allegory with a political significance is the statue of the Republic, in the position of honor on the terrace in front of the industrial palace. The artist has conceived a very mature, substantial republic, a sort of rule-Britannia figure, in a helmet, sitting, and holding a sword. There is nothing to allude to its comparative youth but the virgin newness and whiteness of the material. A Bonapartist caricature represents that it is a crafty republican leader inside of the statue, thinly plastered over. But it is an up-hill task to produce a conviction like that. On the contrary, I see a number of indications every day, an AngloSaxon style of things, that makes me think that the republic covers not a few only, but a great number of people, and is likely, this time, to be an institution of permanence.
A row of colossal figures of nations, rough-cast in terra cotta, — they must be eighteen feet high, —against the piers of the façade, have, in spite of their dimensions, a pronounced individual character. You could expect the regal Spain, the stalwart, peasant Norway, the charming Japan, with the texture of the silk sash and gown given even in the bold work, to step down from their pedestals and be really intelligent and amiable.
Is the almost monopoly of woman here, I wonder, anything of an offset to her partial exclusion from the trades and professions? And why is it that allegory has so little use for man in its symbolizations? He has more or less to do, in his way, with the subject matter of them.
It is the habit of expositions to have a main building. In it more of their essential character inheres than anywhere else. They are not of extraordinary occurrence now. They are becoming a regular industry, with three of the greatest in five years. What is the progressive sense as to imposing effect? as to the most convenient means of display of the prodigious quantities of goods poured together into their laps? It is not easy to find as yet points of agreement in the more general and important particulars. At Paris, in ’67, it was an ellipse, with a central garden that held the main volume of matters; at Vienna, in ’73, an interminable nave, with transepts; at Philadelphia, a moderate parallelogram, with three great classes, machinery, agriculture, and art, dismissed to separate edifices; at Paris, at the present time, an enormous parallelogram.
There is not a more pronounced unanimity, as this indeed is closely connected with the form, upon the classification of articles, or upon the precise objects which it is desirable to subserve. Thus at Paris in ’67 it was thought useful — and I do not see how there can be more than one opinion on this point — to have a double classification, so that nations could be inspected as a whole, and at the same time whoever was interested in a special line of products might be able to follow it easily from one to the other through them all. To secure this, seven groups of products were distributed in seven concentric corridors, and the nations cut them, according to their requirements of space, in sectors. If you followed a radius, you traversed, say, Spain only. If you followed the sixth corridor, say, you passed from the machinery of Belgium to that of Prussia, then to that of South Germany, then to that of Austria.
At Vienna nothing of this was attempted, nor at Philadelphia, except in the special detached buildings. We occupied an end and one half of the righthand side, it will be remembered, while foreign nations had strips opening both ways from a fine central aisle seventy feet high and a hundred and twenty wide, of which they made much for characteristic entrances. On the present occasion, it is returned to in good part; an orderly comparative arrangement can be followed in lines through all of the foreign sections, while the same system prevails in the French exhibit, to which, on account of its naturally greater size, one half of the building is allotted. To traverse any department takes two lengths of the building, —little short of a mile in a straight line, —one for the French, and one for the foreigners; but it can be done. If I should have the laying out of an international exhibition at some time, I think I should propose the flat-iron plan, the shape of the New York post-office. The entertaining nation would occupy the wide portion. The aisles would converge to the small end, where the minor nations would find proper accommodation according to their diminishing exhibits. The ellipse of ’67 being deemed unadvisable for repetition, expensive by reason of the endless curvature of all the joinery, unsalable when taken down, and hardly capable of anything more than a huge circus-tent effect, I do not see why this would not pretty well meet the requirements. It is cheerfully submitted, without demand for remuneration, to any whom it may concern.
It was the opinion of General Banks, apropos of the moderate appropriation required to give us a representation there, that the classification of ’67 was the most sublime category of human products ever drawn out in order. If so it is a commendation that still applies, since the present classification follows very closely that of ’67. In the mean time that of Philadelphia appears to me more clear-cut and logical. Seven departments: one for things under the ground, mining and metallurgy; another for those on the surface, agriculture, including the life of the woods and the sea as well; manufactures, the shapes into which the primary materials from these are wrought by human ingenuity; machinery, the apparatus by which it is done; education, the training of the directing intelligence; art, the flower of beauty that comes to solace and give a character of rejoicing to the whole. There it was the earth principally which served as the point of departure. Here it is more directly man: one department for his food, another for clothing, another for furniture. At Vienna, this system was developed to twenty-six different groups.
We have in ’78 nine groups, while in ’67 there were ten. This tenth group was arranged by Napoleon III., with a special view to the working classes. It was for objects “ ameliorating the moral and physical condition of populations.” It included, among other things, food, clothing, and furniture distinguished for useful qualities combined with cheapness, and examples of work showing peculiar individualism, such as have most resisted the influence of machinery. An American commissioner thought that the institution of this group alone was sufficient to place the name of the emperor “on the roll of permanent history in letters of light.” There is less tenderness for the workingmen at present, and these articles have been distributed under such heads as convenience dictated. Two main groups of agriculture, which consist largely of changing exhibitions of live stock, and horticulture are naturally either out-of-doors or housed in pavilions. Seven in-door groups are to be provided for. It is done by ranging them in parallel sheds (as they may be called without an intention to be derogatory) down the thickly built parallelogram. The nations cut across their half at right angles, and face upon a central breathing strip, which holds also the continuous pavilions of the fine arts, as well as an individual display of especial elegance by the city of Paris.
They have made a charming place of it, this street of nations, except for its narrowness. One is drawn to many a well-pleased promenade there, — issuing out at the hour of closing, and postponing his fatigue to follow, with an enduring interest, the complexity of turrets, arcades, belfries, broken roofs, and gable ends retiring down the fantastic line. Spain has a Moorish façade; Portugal, the luxuriant carvings of Belem; Russia and the Scandinavians, fronts in massive varnished wood ; and Belgium, a civic palace, at six hundred thousand francs, like some of the best of those which ornament the modern streets of that favored country, surprisingly skilled, tasteful, and prosperous in all of its appointments. Switzerland recalls her Genevas and Neufchatels with an arching belfry, in which a man in armor strikes the hours stiffly with a hammer.
As to the matter of exterior effect in international exposition main buildings, the first of the two of Paris did not much try for it. The long, low range of Vienna, with its painted plaster decoration, is spoken of as tame; Philadelphia strove for a monumental air as well as it could, pinched by a severe economy. It has been reserved for the present industrial palace to do something really brilliant. It does not strike you as vast, — except perhaps from a point up or down the river, where two sides of it can be seen. The whole extent of the space under cover is not visible, because the sheds are surrounded by the high outer galleries, which are the palace as far as the spectator is concerned. The matter of vastness is not the thing here, either, it is with us. It has too much to contend with. What extent could there be to draw more than a moderate astonishment from populations used to the London houses of Parliament, and the grandiose, solid court of the Louvre?
It is of iron and glass, and avows itself ephemeral, and the narrow end is that which is principally seen. It throws itself upon the charm of an original design, gay and pleasing color, and above all of valuable materials. You like it better the nearer you approach. You recognize with growing surprise not only that it is not going to be cheap, but that it is impressively expensive. It is a remark that applies to the Exposition throughout. The panel of decoration on the pilasters, for instance, which seemed to be a stenciled pattern, is found to be a lovely mosaic tiling in high relief. The iron frame is zinc color; the doors are the red of wine-lees; the interiors of the lofty entrance half-domes, bronze gilt; the windows, traced a little with patterns of blue and amber. It impresses you like a magnified specimen of one of those cheerful tankards in the department of Bohemian glass, which are ornamented with arabesques, mottoes, and touches of gold. There are charming views through the clear glass: either within, at the lapis-lazuli vases and heaped-up treasures, or without, at the profusely landscape-gardened prospect and the moving people. The sky shows through the edifice from a proper distance, and adds to its bluish tint. The clouds pile up behind it at sunset, and once I have seen, in a sultry atmosphere, a yellow moon, the size of a cart-wheel, rise out of the very midst of it, with a ravishing effect.
Though ephemeral, it has a certain seriousness too. It is not of the bubblelike order. The great frames of glass and most of the other shapes are squareheaded. This is sincere, now that I think of it; iron has no need to be arched. Conceive, then, that it stands upon a long terrace, — the stately feature of which, with the quille, we have not learned yet to make use of in America, — with flower beds about it, and palms in blue and white porcelain tubs on the ramps of the steps.
The spectacular aspect of expositions is, after as much argument as may be expended, their principal aspect. There is no doubt about the number of things for reflection; but it is not the handful of earnest students pursuing these, inspectors with no language but their own, preparing reports among yawning shop boys retained for police duty, for oblivion in government printing-offices, or even parties of personally-conducted British workmen arrived for eight days, for whom they are given. It is for the great five millions, eight millions, ten millions, who come to pay their franc for once or twice, pass through in a daze at the illimitability of things, and take back a description of a swimming doll to their friends in the country. I doubt, too, about those British workmen, whether they are going to give all of the eight days to the strict line of mechanics in which lies their profession in life. Expositions are the best of advertising mediums for articles whose points catch the attention easily, and there is no doubt about their containing the best thing of its kind in any particular line. The views they give of foreign lands cannot be relied upon to take the place of actual visits. What you find is too much a matter of hazard. It does not follow that the public instruction of Spain is better than that of England because the latter is represented by but a single, pushing, private boarding-school; nor that a country is the strongest as a whole in some respect which may make a remarkable showing from a particular locality. I would rather take what I could learn of a country, reading its newspapers at breakfast, while taking my coffee, for a week in its capital, than the selected and ticketed facts of a number of expositions. There is talk of one at Rome presently. They will no doubt go on, since numerous important powers are still to be heard from. If commerce finds, as it does, its interest in them, there is no reason why they should stop from any considerations of ennui and a general resemblance, — the main constituency every time. It was the United States that sent most of the ten millions of admissions to Philadelphia, and it will be Italy, Germany, or Russia that will send the necessary millions next to Rome, Berlin, or St. Petersburg, as the case may be.
I am not sure, therefore, that an apology is not demanded for passing by at first the most obvious spectacular attractions, the strange peoples and their hamlets clustered about the grounds. A droning music issues from an Arab café, as though the wake of a mummy might be in progress. An ancient Gaul, in granite, one of four at the angles of the bridge, having dismounted, is reining back his fiery steed, and may have come to attend. But let us plunge in, nevertheless, among the improving contents of the industrial palace.
The names of the groups of goods we are to find are over the arches of the interior promenades: fine arts, liberal arts, furniture, raiment, products (primary and manufactured), machinery, aliment. It is so managed that some of the most perfect specimens of each — the Sèvres porcelain; the Gobelin and Beauvais tapestries; Thebaut’s trophy of metals, with the splendid Charlemagne on top; the Russian malachites; the treasures brought by the Prince of Wales from India — come out at the ends into the transverse galleries, where they can hold the most brilliant court. The groups are cut up into appropriate classes. To each its jury, ninety in all. They are liberal juries. Three men out of five of the fifty thousand exhibitors will go away with something for their trouble. Little short of thirty thousand medals and diplomas will be hung in various parts of the world, and will serve to convey the impression that each and every spectator paused before the article in question, after a rigid examination of all the others, and unhesitatingly declared, “Yes, it is the best.”
These liberal arts include, a little at random it seems, education, photography, stationery, surgical and musical instruments, and the calculating machine, just as you find fire-arms and traveling apparatus attached to the department of clothing. The minister of public instruction makes first a display of the results of French scientific explorations. The French have been more active than one would think, now that their colonial period is so nearly over. The educational progress of the citizen is next traced from the bottom to the top.
If he be of humble circumstances, it begins with the crêche. It is increasingly difficult in an old civilization for the labor of one person to be the maintenance of two. Both parents work. The infant is left at the crêche in the morning, to toddle in a central ring with his compatriots, as if a board of superannuated stock-brokers; or to lie in an extremely neat crib, with an inscription showing that it was founded by Madame la Marquise Montjoie St. Denis, and to be called for at night. At the age of two and a half it is eligible for the asile, attached to the primary schools. He is amused here all day with kindergarten exercises, and called for in the same way. I have seen him, by some legerdemain of a new process, spelling threesyllable words at sight. The ambition of decorations begins to be inspired in him already. He wears, for this and that, on the breast of his small blouse a red ribbon with a sparkling cross that leaves little for the Legion of Honor to do. I find very interesting the provision which is made to usher him into life as a self-sustaining and contented member of society after his education. There are schools of apprenticeship, and societies of patronage to aid to places and to keep an oversight of the young mechanic who has learned his trade in them. Large industrial establishments, such as those of the silk weavers at Lyons, and the great printing-house of Chaix, have technical schools for the training of hands for their work. It is not a system peculiar to France. To take only one instance, Owtchinnihow, the Moscow jeweler, whose napkins in filigree of silver pleased us so much at Philadelphia, maintains for one hundred pupils a school of primary instruction, design, sculpture, singing, and gymnastics. There is a close connection between these European states. What one has, the others are not long in adopting.
Then there are the systems of prévoyance, economy, and provision for old age, upon which an interesting congress has just been held here. It is the practice in forty establishments of Paris to set aside weekly a sum, added to the regular wages of the laborer, or reserved from them, for the caisse de retraite, a retiring pension. The foreign workman has not the horizon of the American. More is done, therefore, to make his condition tolerable. The chance with us that it is to be something only quite temporary is taken as reason enough for letting it be as it happens. It is not the boy alone; the girl also is an object of forethought. Here are beautiful sewing and embroidery from a primary school of Lucca, and here a programme of similar works and domestic economy from the primary system of the Canton de Vaud.
For upper female instruction an immense portfolio of lead - pencil copies after lithographs, from the Royal College of Verona, need cause no discouragement at Wellesley or Vassar. On the other hand, the portfolio of life studies in oil from the female college of Cracow, Austrian Poland, is calculated to arouse the warmest enthusiasm. A Portuguese pedagogue has had the good idea of affixing the photographs of his scholars to their exercises, so that we can see the precise snubby features and shaven heads of the calm young intellectual victors whose superior arithmetic is posed for our inspection. It is but a glance we can take here and there. A fly-leaf blown back discloses the composition of Léveadie Duval, age fourteen: “ Mon futur métier [my future profession in life]. What shall it be? Certes, you ask a formidable question. I have thought— But in fine I think it would be the best of all to engage in the tuition of the young, to follow [one suspects a sly flattery here] in the footsteps of my devoted instructresses.” It is quaint, this, in the midst of the two million three hundred thousand square feet of space roofed over. It gives one a sense of the way in which every minute part of it is quivering with life.
Japan has the most charming schoolhouses, though I know well they would never do to imitate; Russia, a museum of pedagogy, the most complete collection of appliances. The history of itself which the University of Saragossa has caused to be written expressly for the Exposition does not at all compare with the elegant Harvard book, which is here also. Models of every kind, planispheres, maps in high relief, abound with a profusion which is possible in quarters where the technical skill to construct them is not rare. Seeing them, you feel that you did not have a fair chance in your time. There is no telling what you might have arrived at with all the motions and shapes of things so clearly presented, instead of having to revolve them dimly in your head. It is possible that we can teach the French something in the ordering of the discipline of primary schools. They have a respect for us educationally, I know. On the other hand, we can learn immensely of them in the way of making the superior instruction interesting by utilizing in it real scholarship and current research.
To pursue the liberal arts: if the English astronomical and photographic apparatus be the best, France and Switzerland divide the honors of the array of smaller instruments of precision, and Russia and Austria have the most satisfactory photographs, of a straightforward kind, without too much retrenching, though this is a department in which scarcely any participant is weak. We excel in false teeth. It is strange, is it not, that prominence in this particular branch should fall to us? I wonder, in passing the intensely respectable cases of red and whit , and gold plate and ominous steel drills, if it be connected with our fondness for sweet things, which the Old World does not share.
Our book-binding, it is pleasant to find, — one does not inquire the prices too sedulously, — is less over-florid in the cheaper sorts, and as simply elegant in the better as that of any competitors. There are some peculiar felicities of tree calf, and plain calf in colors, and the reliure d'amateur, — of red morocco back and corners and paper sides, after the French, — that leave nothing to desire. I wish we could add to the repertory, for cheap, strong bindings, the plain gray linen of the French scholar libraries. It is refreshing enough almost to make one read through an algebra for pleasure. For the interiors of books, it is only in the corner of the Paris publishers that you find the exquisite small classics, the Paul and Virginia, the poesies of Béranger and De Musset, on vellum-like paper with red lettering, and with small etchings between the leaves. There, too, you may bend for half a day over the Bible of Bida, with its tender sentiment and faithful portraiture of the unchanging life of the East, and cast off forever allegiance to Doré’s.
The furniture of England, which she presents, for the inspection of different effects, in complete apartments, rather more than any other, is of the kind which has most taken the fancy of our expositors of household art at home, and has been a good deal shown to us. It is open to the general remark of being too slight, and wanting in dignity, compared to that about it. It is “niggled,” in fact, and you are surprised at the English. They have a character for being steady-going. It is allied to the ephemeral things of the Chinese. The vogue of the Gothic style of solid oak and bolted hinges, like a camp chest of Harold Hardrada, is quite over. A liberal deckload would crush the tables; and then everything must be cut up into interminable niches, bracketed shelves, imitation arcades, and small railings, for the accommodation in each of an article of bricabrac. One sees in the solid, carved cabinets of the Spaniards, Italians, Hungarians, the habit of more simple and complete effects, the taste for a stately instead of a purely comfortable luxury. The goods is left more untroubled in the piece. The ornamentation is always some variety of Renaissance scrolls and columns. If there is not real tapestry for the walls and upholstery, its place is taken by a printed tapestry, which is becoming an important industry. The English attempts evince a warm personal interest, however, while the others seem more the easy doings of formal decorators.
There is an apartment got up by the painter Whistler, — in what tones, think you? Gold, buff, ochre, but mainly tones of mustard yellow. It is not glaring, either, but harmonized with a very superior talent, — art. There is a highwainscoted Queen Anne room, with a bust of Pope, the peculiar poet of the period, over the mantel, and views from the Rape of the Lock on the walls. It is surpassed in the direction I have indicated by a quite similar Belgian apartment. Against the Queen Anne house, with wainscots in wood stained claret color, hangings in softened sulphur yellow, and flowered muslin curtains drawn on rods across the long, low windows, I cannot invent a word of fault-finding. The vastest and most Sybaritic easychair is Russian. A Hungarian maker bends wood, without regard to the size of the stick, into extraordinary curves for light furniture. An example of almost incredible luxury is a French bedchamber, in which the gilded couch, with mattresses of pink, and coverlids and a light canopy of pearl satin, all richly embroidered with flowers, lies under another lofty canopy of velvet, depending triangularly from the centre of the apartment like the drapery of a royal throne. To keep in countenance this principal piece, a few of the objects are a golden figure on a low column, a lion skin, a silver table, and a lemon-tree growing in a tub of Mexican onyx.
In ceramics, the French potters have the air of pursuing a steady course, without revivals and sudden spasms of interest. They have long been accustomed to supplying a demand which required the graceful as a matter of course. Most of their wares are comfortably for use. You are not required to strike an attitude before the charming plates with the horn-of-plenty patterns, the blue and dull red flowers traced over them, because there are more in the shop-windows. The designs derived so long ago from Persian fabrics, and domesticated at Rouen and Nevers, persist. Newer establishments like Gien and Quimper seem almost to excel the old, by a greater liveliness of fancy in the same general style, though none are remarkably new. There are from Quim per violins and even a violoncello in faience, the making of which was represented not long since as something fabulous. The bold Limoges faïence of the Havilands, painted in thick, creamy pastes of itself, is a sharply distinguished branch. It is satisfactory to find that we are sent the very best examples of it for our Broadway shop-windows.
I have a prejudice, which I am almost afraid to state, against views of persons and scenery on porcelain. What is the most agreeable is a decoration that takes hold with a real grip. You would like it if the different colored pastes went through and through. An excessively finished elegance, too, is capable of exciting a sort of malice. For this reason I can walk away from Sèvres and its imitators and Dresden and its imitators everywhere, and enjoy myself with probably quite a shameful indifference among the majolicas, the stone-wares, and the earthen-wares a long way down. A collection has been made of the potteries actually in use among the Italian peasants. Nothing is more naïve than the rude ornamentation. It is almost the only place where there is a surprise in the forms. The corresponding utensils of Spain and Portugal are akin to this. When you go into the departments of Tunis and Morocco you find that it is an ancient Arabian influence still prevailing in them both. It is an influence that has been improved upon. The derivative shapes are not so extravagant as the original, and the decoration never stops at smears and dots of vermilion paint alone.
The Japanese influence, elsewhere, seems to have been made over, for its own good, in somewhat the same way. It is used in the silver work of Christofle and Tiffany, the crystal of Baccarat, the royal Worcester porcelain, — there are exquisite specimens of the latter resembling carvings in ivory, — with a certain temperance which it does not always preserve at home. With its normal profusion wholly turned on, the Orient is almost too overwhelming.
A Swiss ware, of red and green figures on cream and black grounds, made brilliant by a tin enamel, is an original spot, like the English Doulton. For the simple potiches and the rest, of the usual patterns in blue and white, or with the crimson flowers of old Delft added, there is nothing, even from Delft, — very meagrely represented, and eclipsed by Maestricht, — so nice as those from Louviéres, of Belgium. Happy country, that can present in every line, if not the best, something so very near to it!
The lovely porcelain stoves, of which every section has some examples to present! It is only because I am not sure enough about their working in winter that I do not enter upon an instant propaganda of porcelain stoves. It is the point in our decorative reconstruction that has been fatally neglected. Will there not yet arise some prophet of wrath — not to be appeased by the sight of nickel - plated grates — against the cast-iron stove, with its inane attempts at ornament, who will go on to show that the most conspicuous piece of furniture in the room for eight months in the year can be not only improved to the point of toleration, but can be made an extremely beautiful object?
For textile fabrics, in the spinning of cottons the English excel, and in the heavier weaving, but it is only the French for light tissues like those of St. Quentin. These are exposed here unbleached. The bleaching is done by the middle-men, according to their trade. It appears that there is a nicety in this matter. Each department has a preference of its own as to the more or less bluing and the surface it requires on its cottons. Our own familiar-looking sheetings and prints, the Wamsuttas and Washington Mills, and I may add our silks as well, are spoken of with high favor by connoisseurs for certain honest and solid qualities, — it is not what we are allowed usually to pride ourselves upon. In textile fabrics it is the highest and the lowest that have an interest for the non-professional spectator. A tameness runs through the provision for the middle class in this respect as in so many others. We pause before the gorgeous tapestries and carpets, the shawls of the Compagnie des Indes, the cases of Lyons velvets, the faint amber-hued chamber of laces; and then the bright kerchiefs of Southern field hands, the patterns for the women of Frisia, the stuffs from Manchester and Glasgow for South Africa, the rouennerie for Algiers. In the last especially there are attractive things enough to make a little museum. There is then a whole order of pleasing coarse stuffs, perhaps of Spanish origin, extending through Southern Europe and to the South American republics. The horse-cloth of the Biscayan muleteers, in bright bars profusely bordered with ball tassels, is a type.
Whoever has seen more international expositions than one will appreciate the facilities of the nation which is at home and the difficulties of the others in putting their goods in evidence, and will distrust a little the local assumptions of leading the world in this or that with flippant ease. The catalogue of this exhibition alone comprises five volumes of encyclopædia size, and the United States, for instance, occupies but a few pages of one of them. Follow for two days — it can hardly be done in less, glancing with moderate haste to the right and the left — the two vast humming parades of machinery, local and foreign; and then there remain annexes that seem to dwarf them both. Here are ribbon saws that enable small blocks, cut into unmeaning sinuosities, to be offered at a franc apiece, as they were at Philadelphia. Here are tongue-and-groove machines; the Marinori press, which turns off twenty-five thousand copies of a newspaper an hour, folded for delivery; brick and tile machines; stills; pumps; a sort of steam Sam Weller that takes boots on one arm and polishes them with the other; a magnificent compact locomotive for the steep gradients around Lille; one for steeper gradients still, — the railway that climbs the Righi. Spain sends a ninety horse-power horizontal engine, claiming to be the most economical of fuel known to the present time; Palermo, an enormous derrick; Milan, jointed ladders to shoot up to a dizzy height for burning buildings; Moscow, a great array of agricultural machinery.
I do not maintain that these tongueand-groove machines; this winder, clucking sedately as it lifts and drops its multifarious cut-offs; this beetler, moving by a line of eccentrics, like a Brobdignagian steel caterpillar; this screwcutter, which rests and deliberates in its various parts in turn to deliver perfected from the hopper the material it has taken in formless at the other end, are the ultimate perfection of their kind. Like some millions of my fellow-travelers who give too little attention to the wonders of the machine-shops of their native towns, and would hardly know of them except for such occasions as this, I am capable of being astonished by quite an inferior tongue-and-groove machine. The point is that they exist. I should not wish to say, without at least the opportunities of a special juryman, which nation leads the world in machinery with a nonchalant superiority.
Still there is no telling how much of all this has been taken from the extraordinary American mechanical movement for the last forty years. The sewingmachines everywhere are frankly American ; the agricultural machines only thinly disguised imitations. Inscriptions like the J. W. Lamb machines à tricoter have a familiar American sound. Three of the most splendid engines in the Exposition are on the Corliss principle, of variable and reversible cut-offs,—one built at Rouen, one at St. Ouen, another in Belgium. There are English names among the thickest of the French makers. I should not wonder if it could be shown that the real inventive germ is Anglo-Saxon, and the mission of the French in this, as in the other matters in which Guizot claimed it for them, is to centralize and give the idea its most perfect form.
It is in the groups of products and alimentation that South America and the colonies rise to prominence, — the countries of raw materials par excellence. Hardly a European state is so poor that it has not a section of the Indies or a tropical island. The programme of the gourmand is no doubt to wander continuously in these comfortable galleries of aliments, to obtain permits for the pavilion of degustation and the Swiss cave of cheeses, and then to seek samples of as much as possible of the rest in the polyglot restaurants. The most spiritual artist need not altogether keep away. There is a taste in the stout jars and bottles that allies them to genuin, ceramics, and a feast of color in the cordials, the white double beer of Bruges, the spice bread, the pièces montés of the confectioners, the sausages of Bologna with the silver paper half unwrapped, not to be overlooked.
For our part, we show cottons, tobaccos, packed meats, specimens from the Bonanza mines, — the universally respected products we so easily get together. There is no excuse for a façade like one of the poorest of the state headquarters at the Centennial, since if we have no national style we have designers of ability; but one comes at last to being reconciled to our narrow strip of exhibit, which was at first disappointing, and taking quite an interest in it. It is compact in things of solid usefulness, while some others resolve themselves finally into taking curtains and ingenuities of wine bottles.
This must do for the main building, apart from the pictures, which I have purposely omitted. The illumination in the great interior, from above, sifted through canvas screens, is agreeable. The floors are kept clean and cool with watering-pots. Sometimes, in remote alcoves, you are alone, except for a leisurely attendant who emerges from behind a case with a dust-brush. A piano tinkles, as if playing a delicate accompaniment to your acquirement of information. But it is the indefatigable passage of feet, and their grind, grind, grind, upon the gravel all day long, that is the normal accompaniment. You think that intelligence is kindled by this laborious friction, as the gas may be lighted after sufficient shuffling round over a thick-piled carpet.