Making the Crowd Beautiful


A CROWD civilization produces, as a matter of course, crowd art and art for crowded conditions. This fact is at once the glory and the weakness of the kind of art a democracy is bound to have.

The most natural evidence to turn to first — of the crowd in a crowd age — is such as can be found in its literature, especially in its masterpieces.

The significance of shaking hands with a Senator of the United States is that it is a convenient and labor-saving way of shaking hands with two or three million people. The impressiveness of the Senator’s Washington voice, the voice on the floor of the Senate, consists in the mystical undertone, — the chorus in it, — multitudes in smoking cities, men and women, rich and poor, who are speaking when this man speaks, and who are silent when he is silent, in the government of the United States.

The typical fact that the Senator stands for in modern life has a corresponding typical fact in modern literature. The typical fact in modern literature is the epigram, the senatorial sentence, — the sentence that immeasurably represents what it does not say. The difference between democracy in Washington and democracy in Athens may be said to be that in Washington we have an epigram government, a government in which seventy million people are crowded into two rooms to consider what to do, and in which seventy million people are made to sit in one chair to see that it is done. In Athens every man represented himself.

It may be said to be a good working distinction between modern and classic art that in modern art words and colors and sounds stand for things, and in classic art they said them. In the art of the Greek, things were what they seemed, and they were all there. Hence simplicity. It is a quality of the art of to-day that things are not what they seem in it. If they were, we should not call it art at all. Everything stands not only for itself and for what it says, but for an immeasurable something that cannot be said. Every sound in music is the senator of a thousand sounds, thoughts, and associations, and in literature every word that is allowed to appear is the representative in three syllables of three pages of a dictionary. The whistle of the locomotive, and the ring of the telephone, and the still, swift rush of the elevator are making themselves felt in the ideal world. They are proclaiming to the ideal world that the real world is outstripping it. The twelve thousand horse power steamer does not find itself accurately expressed in iambics on the leisurely fleet of Ulysses. It is seeking new expression. The command has gone forth over all the beauty and over all the art of the present world, crowded for time and crowded for space. “ Telegraph ! ” To the nine Muses the order flies. One can hear it on every side. “ Telegraph! ” The result is symbolism, the Morse alphabet of art and “ types,” the epigrams of human nature, crowding us all into ten or twelve people. The epic is telescoped into the sonnet, and the sonnet is compressed into quatrains or Tabbs of poetry, and couplets are signed as masterpieces. The novel has come into being, — several hundred pages of crowded people in crowded sentences, jostling each other to oblivion ; and now the novel, jostled into oblivion by the next novel, is becoming the short story. Kipling’s short stories sum the situation up. So far as skeleton or plot is concerned, they are built up out of a bit of nothing put with an infinity of Kipling; so far as meat is concerned, they are the Liebig Beef Extract of fiction. A single jar of Kipling contains a whole herd of old-time novels lowing on a hundred hills.

The classic of any given world is a work of art that has passed through the same process in being a work of art that that world has passed through in being a world. Mr. Kipling represents a crowd age, because he is crowded with it ; because, above all others, he is the man who produces art in the way the age he lives in is producing everything else.

This is no mere circumstance of democracy. It is its manifest destiny that it shall produce art for crowded conditions, that it shall have crowd art. The kind of beauty that can be indefinitely multiplied is the kind of beauty in which, in the nature of things, we have made our most characteristic and most important progress. Our most considerable success in pictures could not be otherwise than in black and white. Blackand-white art is printing-press art, and art that can be produced in endless copies, that can be subscribed for by crowds, finds an extraordinary demand, and artists have applied themselves to supplying it. All the improvements, — moving on through the use of wood and steel and copper, and the process of etching, to the photogravure, the lithograph, and the latest photograph in color, — whatever else may be said of them from the point of view of Titian or Michael Angelo, constitute a most amazing and triumphant advance from the point of view of making art a democracy, of making the rare and the beautiful minister day and night to crowds. The fact that the mechanical arts are so prominent in their relation to the fine arts may not seem to argue a high ideal amongst us; but as the mechanical arts are the body of beauty, and the fine arts are the soul of it, it is a necessary part of the ideal to keep body and soul together until we can do better. Mourning with Ruskin is not so much to the point as going to work with William Morris. If we have deeper feelings about wall papers than we have about other things, it is going to the root of the matter to begin with wall papers, — to make machinery say something as beautiful as possible, inasmuch as it is bound to have, for a long time at least, about all the say there is. The photograph does not go about the world doing Murillos everywhere by pressing a button, but the camera habit is doing more in the way of steady daily hydraulic lifting of great masses of men to where they enjoy beauty in the world than Leonardo da Vinci would have dared to dream in his far-off day ; and Leonardo’s pictures —thanks to the same photograph — and everybody’s pictures, films of paper, countless spirits of themselves, pass around the world to every home in Christendom. The printing press made literature a democracy, and machinery is making all the arts democracies. The symphony piano, an invention for making vast numbers of people who can play only a few very poor things play very poorly a great many good ones, is a consummate instance both of the limitation and the value of our contemporary tendency in the arts. The pipe organ, though on a much higher plane, is an equally characteristic contrivance, making it possible for a man to be a complete orchestra and a conductor all by himself, playing on a crowd of instruments, to a crowd of people, with two hands and one pair of feet. It is a crowd invention. The orchestra — a most distinctively modern institution, a kind of republic of sound, the unseen spirit of the many in one — is the sublimest expression yet attained of the crowd music, which is, and must be, the supreme music of this modern day, the symphony. Richard Wagner comes to his triumph because his music is the voice of multitudes. The opera — a crowd of sounds accompanied by a crowd of sights, presented by one crowd of people on the stage to another crowd of people in the galleries — stands for the same tendency in art that the syndicate stands for in commerce. It is syndicate music; and in proportion as a musical composition in this present day is an aggregation of multitudinous moods, in proportion as it is suggestive, complex, paradoxical, the way a crowd is complex, suggestive, and paradoxical, — provided it be wrought at the same time into some vast and splendid unity, — just in this proportion is it modern music. It gives itself to the counterpoints of the spirit, the passion of variety in modern life. The legacy of all the ages, is it not descended upon us ? — the spirit of a thousand nations ? All our arts are thousand-nation arts, shadows and echoes of dead worlds playing upon our own. Italian music, out of its feudal kingdoms, comes to us as essentially solo music, — melody ; and the civilization of Greece, being a civilization of heroes, individuals, comes to us in its noble array with its solo arts, its striding heroes everywhere in front of all, and with nothing nearer to the people in it than the Greek Chorus, which, out of limbo, pale and featureless across all ages, sounds to us as the first far faint coming of the crowd to the arts of this groping world. Modern art, inheriting each of these and each of all things, is revealed to us as the struggle to express all things at once. Democracy is democracy for this very reason, and for no other: that all things may be expressed at once in it, and that all things may be given a chance to be expressed at once in it. Being a race of hero worshipers, the Greeks said the best, perhaps, that could be said in sculpture ; but the marbles and bronzes of a democracy, having average men for subjects, and being done by average men, are average marbles and bronzes. We express what we have. We are in a transition stage. It is not without its significance, however, that we have perfected the plaster cast, — the establishment of democracy among statues, — and mobs of Greek gods mingling with the people can be seen almost any day in every considerable city of the world. The same principle is working itself out in our architecture. It is idle to contend against the principle. The way out is the way through. However eagerly we gaze at Parthenons on their ruined hills, if twenty-one-story blocks are in our souls, twenty-one-story blocks will be our masterpieces, whether we like it or not. They will be our masterpieces because they tell the truth about us ; and while truth may not be beautiful, it is the thing that must be told first before beauty can begin. The beauty we are to have shall only be worked out from the truth we have. Living as we do in a new era, not to see that the twenty-one-story block is the expression of a new truth is to turn ourselves away from the one way that beauty can ever be found by men, whether in this era or in any other.

What is it that the twenty-one-story block is trying to say about us ? The twenty-one-story block is the masterpiece of mass, of immensity, of numbers ; with its 1425 windows and its 497 offices, and its crowds of lives piled upon lives, it is expressing the one supreme and characteristic thing that is taking place in the era in which we live. The city is the main fact that modern civilization stands for, and crowding is the logical architectural form of the city idea. The twenty-one-story block is the statue of a crowd. It stands for a spiritual fact, and it will never be beautiful until that fact is beautiful. The only way to make the twenty - one - story block beautiful (the crowd expressed by the crowd) is to make the crowd beautiful. The most artistic, the only artistic thing the world can do next is to make the crowd beautiful.

The typical city blocks, with their garrets in the lower stories of the sky, were not possible in the ancient world, because steel had not been invented; and the invention of steel, which is not the least of our triumphs in the mechanical arts, is in many ways the most characteristic. Steel is republican for stone. Putting whole quarries into a single girder, it makes room for crowds ; and what is more significant than this, inasmuch as the steel pillar is an invention that makes it possible to put floors up first, and build the walls around the floors, instead of putting the walls up first, and supporting the floors upon the walls, as in the ancient world, it has come to pass that the modern world being the ancient world turned upside down, modern architecture is ancient architecture turned inside out, a symbol of many things. The ancient world was a wall of individuals, supporting floor after floor and stage after stage of society, from the lowest to the highest; and it is a typical fact in this modern democratic world that it grows from the inside, and that it supports itself from the inside. When the mass in the centre has been finished, an ornamental stone facing of great individuals will be built around it and supported by it, and the work will be considered done.

The modern spirit has much to boast of in its mechanical arts, and in its fine arts almost nothing at all, because the mechanical arts are studying what men are needing to-day, and the fine arts are studying what the Greeks needed three thousand years ago. To be a real classic is, first, to be a contemporary of one’s own time ; second, to be a contemporary of one’s own time so deeply and widely as to be a contemporary of all time. The true Greek is a man who is doing with his own age what the Greeks did with theirs, — bringing all ages to bear upon it, interpreting it. As long as the fine arts miss the fundamental principle of this present age, — the crowd principle, — and the mechanical arts do not, the mechanical arts are bound to have their way with us. And it were vastly better that they should. Sincere and straightforward mechanical arts are not only more beautiful than affected fine ones, but they are more to the point; they are the one sure sign we have of where we are going to be beautiful next. It is impossible to love the fine arts in the year 1901 without studying the mechanical ones ; without finding one’s self looking for artistic material in the things that people are using, and that they are obliged to use. The determining law of a thing of beauty being, in the nature of things, what it is for, the very essence of the classic attitude in a utilitarian age is to make the beautiful follow the useful and inspire the useful with its spirit. The fine art of the next one thousand years shall be the transfiguring of the mechanical arts. The modern hotel, having been made necessary by great natural forces in modern life, and having been made possible by new mechanical arts, now puts itself forward as the next great opportunity of the fine arts. One of the characteristic achievements of the immediate future shall be the twentieth-century Parthenon, — a Parthenon not of the great and of the few and of the gods, but of the great many, where, through mighty corridors, day and night, democracy wanders and sleeps and chatters and is sad, and lives and dies, the streets rumbling below. The hotel, — the crowd fireside, — being more than any other one thing, perhaps, the thing that this civilization is about, the token of what it loves and of how it lives, is bound to be a masterpiece sooner or later that shall express democracy. The hotel rotunda, the parlor for multitudes, is bound to be made beautiful in ways we do not guess. Why should we guess ? Multitudes have never wanted parlors before. The idea of a parlor has been to get out of a multitude. All the inevitable problems that come of having a whole city of families live in one house have yet to be solved by the fine arts as well as by the mechanical ones. We have barely begun. The time is bound to come when the radiator, the crowd’s fireplace-in-a-pipe, shall be made beautiful; and when the electric light shall be taught the secret of the candle; and when the especial problem of modern life, of how to make two rooms as good as twelve, shall be mastered aesthetically as well as mathematically ; and when even the piano - folding - bed - bookcase-toiletstand-writing-desk— a crowd invention for living in a crowd — shall either take beauty to itself, or lead to beauty that serves the same end.

While for the time being it seems to be true that the fine arts are looking to the past, the mechanical arts are producing conditions in the future that will bring the fine arts to terms, whether they want to be brought to terms or not. The mechanical arts hold the situation in their hands. It is decreed that people who cannot begin by making the things they use beautiful shall be allowed no beauty in other things. We may wish that Parthenons and cathedrals were within our souls; but what the cathedral said of an age that had the cathedral mood, that had a cathedral civilization and thrones and popes in it, we are bound to say in some stupendous fashion of our own, — something which, when it is built at last, will be left worshiping upon the ground beneath the sky when we are dead, as a memorial that we too have lived. The great cathedrals, with the feet of the huddled and dreary poor upon their floors, and saints and heroes shining on their pillars, and priests behind the chancel with God to themselves, and the vast and vacant nave, symbol of the heaven glimmering above that few could reach, — it is not to these that we shall look to get ourselves said to the nations that are now unborn; rather, though it be strange to say it, we shall look to something like the ocean steamship — cathedral of this huge unresting modern world — under the wide heaven, on the infinite seas, with spars for towers and the empty nave reversed filled with human beings, souls, — the cathedral of crowds hurrying to crowds. There are hundreds of them throbbing and gleaming in the night, — this very moment, — lonely cities in the hollow of the stars, bringing together the nations of the earth.

When the spirit of a thing, the idea of it, the fact that it stands for, has found its way at last into the minds of artists, masterpieces shall come to us out of every great and living activity in our lives. Art shall tell the things these lives are about. When this fact is once realized in America as it was in Greece, the fine arts shall cover the other arts as the waters cover the sea. The Brooklyn Bridge, swinging its web for immortal souls across sky and sea, comes nearer to being a work of art than almost anything we possess to-day, because it tells the truth, because it is the material form of a spiritual idea, because it is a sublime and beautiful expression of New York in the way that the Acropolis was a sublime and beautiful expression of Athens. The Acropolis was beautiful because it was the abode of heroes, of great individuals ; and the Brooklyn Bridge, because it expresses the bringing together of millions of men. It is the architecture of crowds, — this Brooklyn Bridge, — with winds and sunsets and the dark and the tides of souls upon it; it is the type and symbol of the kind of thing that our modern genius is bound to make beautiful and immortal before it dies. The very word “ bridge ” is the symbol of the future of art and of everything else, the bringing together of things that are apart, — democracy. The bridge, which makes land across the water, and the boat, which makes land on the water, and the cable, which makes land and water alike, — these are the physical forms of the spirit of modern life, the democracy of matter. But the spirit has countless forms. They are all new, and they are all waiting to be made beautiful. The dumb crowd waits in them. We have electricity,—the life current of the republican idea, — characteristically our foremost invention, because it takes all power that belongs to individual places and puts it on a wire and carries it to all places. We have the telephone, an invention which makes it possible for a man to live on a back street and be a next-door neighbor to boulevards ; and we have the trolley, the modern reduction of the private carriage to its lowest terms, so that any man for five cents can have as much carriage power as Napoleon with all his chariots. We have the phonograph, an invention which gives a man a thousand voices ; which sets him to singing a thousand songs at the same time to a thousand crowds ; which makes it possible for the commonest man to hear the whisper of Bismarck or Gladstone, to unwind crowds of great men by the firelight of his own house. We have the elevator, an invention for making the many as well off as the few, an approximate arrangement for giving first floors to everybody, and putting all men on a level at the same price, — one more of a thousand instances of the extraordinary manner in which the mechanical arts have devoted themselves from first to last to the Constitution of the United States. While it cannot be said of many of these tools of existence that they are beautiful now, it is enough to affirm that when they are perfected they will be beautiful; and that if we cannot make beautiful the things that we need, we cannot expect to make beautiful the things that we merely want. When the beauty of these things is at last brought out, we shall have attained the most characteristic and original and expressive and beautiful art that is in our power. It will be unprecedented, because it will tell unprecedented truths. It was the mission of ancient art to express states of being and individuals, and it may be said to be in a general way the mission of our modern art to express the beautiful in endless change, the movement of masses, coming to its sublimity and immortality at last by revealing the beauty of the things that move and that have to do with motion, the bringing of all things and of all souls together on the earth.

The fulfillment of the word that has been written, “Your valleys shall be exalted, and your mountains shall be made low,” is by no means a beautiful process. Democracy is the grading principle of the beautiful. The natural tendency the arts have had from the first to rise from the level of the world, to make themselves into Switzerlands in it, is finding itself confronted with the Constitution of the United States, — a Constitution which, whatever it may be said to mean in the years to come, has placed itself on record up to the present time, at least, as standing for the table-land.

The very least that can be granted to this Constitution is that it is so consummate apolitical document that it has made itself the creed of our theology, philosophy, and sociology ; the principle of our commerce and industry; the law of production, education, and journalism; the method of our life ; the controlling characteristic and the significant force in our literature ; and the thing our religion and our arts are about.


If it is true, as events now seem to point out, that whatever is accomplished in a crowd civilization — that is, a modern civilization — is being accomplished by the crowd for the crowd, we are brought face to face with what must soon be recognized as the great challenge of modern life. Nothing beautiful can be accomplished in a crowd civilization, by the crowd for the crowd, unless the crowd is beautiful. No man who is engaged in looking under the lives about him, who wishes to face the facts of these lives as they are lived to-day, will find himself able to avoid this last and most important fact in the history of the world, — the fact that, whatever it may mean, or whether it is for better or worse, the world has staked all that it is and has been, and all that it is capable of being, on the one supreme issue, “How can the crowd be made beautiful ? ”

The answer to this question involves two difficulties: (1.) A crowd cannot make itself beautiful. (2.) A crowd will not let any one else make it beautiful.

The men who have been on the whole the most eager democrats of history, — the real-idealists, that is, — the men who love the crowd and the beautiful too, and who can have no honest or human pleasure in either of them except as they are being drawn together, are obliged to admit that living in a democratic country, a country where politics and aesthetics can no longer be kept apart, is an ordeal that can only be faced a large part of the time with heavy hearts. We are obliged to admit that it is a country where paintings have little but the Constitution of the United States wrought into them ; where sculpture is voted and paid for by the common people; where music is composed for majorities; where poetry is sung to a circulation ; where literature itself is scaled to subscription lists; where all the creators of the True and the Beautiful and the Good may be seen almost any day, tramping the table-land of the average man, fed by the average man, allowed to live by the average man, plodding along with weary and dusty steps to the average man’s forgetfulness. And indeed, it is no least trait of this same average man that he forgets, that he is forgotten, that all his slaves are forgotten ; that the world remembers only those who have been his masters.

On the other hand, the literature of finding fault with the average man (which is what the larger part of our more ambitious literature really is) is not a kind of literature that can do anything to mend matters. The art of finding fault with the average man, with the fact that the world is made convenient for him, is inferior art because it is helpless art. The world is made convenient for the average man because it has to be, to get him to live in it; and if the world were not made convenient for him, the man of genius would find living with him a great deal more uncomfortable than he does. He would not even be allowed the comfort of saying how uncomfortable. The world belongs to the average man, and, excepting the stars and other things that are too big to belong to him, the moment the average man deserves anything better in it or more beautiful in it than he is getting, some man of genius rises by his side, in spite of him, and claims it for him. Then he slowly claims it for himself. The last thing to do, to make the world a good place for the average man, would be to make it a world with nothing but average men in it. If it is the ideal of democracy that there shall be a slow massive lifting, a grading up of all things at once ; that whatever is highest in the True and the Beautiful, and whatever is lowest in it, shall be graded down and graded up to the middle height of human life, where the greatest numbers shall make their home and live upon it; if the ideal of democracy is table-land, — that is, mountains for everybody, — a few mountains must be kept on hand to make table-land out of.

Two solutions, then, of a crowd civilization — having the extraordinary men crowded out of it as a convenience to the average ones, and having the average men crowded out of it as a convenience to the extraordinary ones — are equally impracticable.

This brings us to the horns of our dilemma. If the crowd cannot be made beautiful by itself, and if the crowd will not allow itself to be made beautiful by any one else, the crowd can only be made beautiful by a man who lives so great a life in it that he can make a crowd beautiful whether it allows him to or not.

When this man is born to us and looks out on the conditions around him, he will find that to be born in a crowd civilization is to be born in a civilization, first, in which every man can do as he pleases ; second, in which nobody does. Every man is given by the government absolute freedom; and when it has given him absolute freedom, the government says to him, “ Now, if you can get enough other men, with their absolute freedom, to put their absolute freedom with your absolute freedom, you can use your absolute freedom in any way you want.” Democracy, seeking to free a man from being a slave to one master, has simply increased the number of masters a man shall have.

He is hemmed in with crowds of masters. He cannot see his master’s huge amorphous face. He cannot go to his master and reason with him. He cannot even plead with him. You can cry your heart out to one of these modern ballot boxes. You have but one ballot. They will not count tears. The ultimate question in a crowd civilization becomes, not “ What does a thing mean ? ” or “ What is it worth?” but “How much is there of it ? ” “ If thou art a great man,” says Civilization, “ get thou a crowd for thy greatness. Then come with thy crowd, and we will deal with thee. It shall be even as thou wilt.” The pressure has become so great, as is obvious on every side, that men who are of small or ordinary calibre can only be more pressed by it. They are pressed smaller and smaller, — the more they are civilized, the smaller they are pressed; and we are being daily brought face to face with the fact that the one solution a crowd civilization can have for the evil of being a crowd civilization is the man in the crowd who can withstand the pressure of the crowd ; that is to say, the one solution of a crowd civilization is the greatman solution, — a solution which is none the less true because by name, at least, it leaves most of us out, or because it is so familiar that we have forgotten it. The one method by which a crowd can be freed and can be made to realize itself is the great-man method, — the method of crucifying and worshiping great men, until by crucifying and worshiping great men enough, inch by inch and era by era, it is lifted to greatness itself.

Not very many years ago, certain great and good men, who at the cost of infinite pains were standing at the time on a safe and lofty rock, protected from the fury of their kind by the fury of the sea, contrived to say to the older nations of the earth, “All men are created equal.” It is a thing to be borne in mind, that if these men, who declared that all men were created equal, had not been some several hundred per cent better men than the men they said they were created equal to, it would not have made any difference to us or to any one else whether they had said that all men were created equal or not, or whether the Republic had ever been started or not, in which every man, for hundreds of years, should look up to these men and worship them, as the kind of men that every man in America was free to try to equal. A civilization by numbers, a crowd civilization, if it had not been started by heroes, could never have been started at all ; and on whether or not this civilization shall attempt to live by the crowd principle, without men in it who are living by the hero principle, depends the question whether this civilization, with all its crowds, shall stand or fall among the civilizations of the earth. The main difference between the heroes of Plymouth Rock, the heroes who proclaimed freedom in 1776, and the heroes who must contrive to proclaim freedom now is that tyranny now is crowding around the Rock, and climbing up on the Rock, seventy-five million strong, and that tyranny then was a half - idiot king three thousand miles away.


Bearing in mind the extraordinary and almost impossible terms the crowd civilization makes with the Individual, the question arises, “ If the crowd is to be made beautiful by the Individual, — by the great man in it, — what kind of a great man is it going to be necessary for a man to be, and what kind of a life shall he live ? ” Looking at the matter from the historical point of view, whatever else this man may be, he will he an artist (using the word in the heroic and more generous sense), and he will live the life of the artist.

A crowd can only be made beautiful by a man who defies it and delights in it at once. A crowd can only be defied by a man who has resources outside the crowd, and it cannot be delighted in or helped except by a man who has resources inside the crowd, who is identified with it. The man who masters the crowd enough to serve it can only do it by attacking it from the outside and the inside at the same time, by putting his inside and outside resources together. He must be a man who has the spirit of the artist, who is a sharer and spectator at once ; living above the crowd enough to lift it, and living in the midst of the crowd enough to be loved by it, so that it will let him lift it. The man who lives in two worlds, — the world the crowd has, and the world it ought to have ; who insists on keeping up a complete establishment in each of them ; who moves from one to the other as his work demands, avoiding the disadvantages of both worlds, and claiming the advantages of both, is the only man who can be free and independent enough to accumulate the strength, the material, and the method — either in matter or in spirit — that world-lifting calls for. It is impossible for a man to become interested in world-lifting — to feel, as many men do, that it is the only exercise that has joy enough in it to be worth while — without coming to the conclusion very soon that the only way to move anything as large as a world is to get hold of another world to move it with, one that is at least one size larger than this one. The world that is one size larger than this one is the ideal world. By this is not meant the one our ditties are about (mainly remarkable for being one size smaller than this one), but the ideal world which is the to-morrow of this one, — of this one as it actually is, — the real-ideal world, unashamed of nature, based upon an apocalypse of facts. The men who most habitually demand the freedom of two worlds to do their living in are found to be, as a matter of fact, almost without exception in every generation, the artists of that generation. Artists may be defined as the men in all classes of society and in every walk of life who are preeminent for seeing things for themselves, and who are engaged in making over the things that they see for themselves into things that others can see. They may differ as regards the substances they are dealing with, and the spirit they are expressing in the substances, or they may differ in degree in their power of seeing what they see and embodying it, but they all have the same class of power in them, and they can differ only in their degree of power. When a man sees with such vividness that vision overflows from him on all the lives around him, and he lights all men up to themselves; when he sees so deeply and clearly that he has merely to say the thing that he sees, to make other men do it, he is an artist of the first degree of power, like Ralph Waldo Emerson or the upper Ruskin. The artist of the second degree sees the thing he sees clearly enough to do it himself, like William Morris or Thomas Edison, — two men who have lived their lives on the opposite sides of Wonder, both artists with it, as far around it as they could see, but who, like most artists of the second degree, are scarcely on speaking terms with each other.

Laying all matters of degree aside, however, the important fact remains, that whether it is a great commercial enterprise, a new-dreamed loom, or dynamo, or telephone, or water color, or symphony, any man who is a seer in matter and spirit is an artist; and all artists may be said to belong to the same class, — that is, the master class. They are all two-world men, engaged in making an ideal something in the world within them over into a real something in the world outside them. It is these men who have made the world, and the history of their lives is the history of the world. Nations that have not spelled themselves out in men like these are as if they had never been, to us. They have but rearranged Dust on the edge of the globe. They blow like an empty wind on it, and vanish. Nations do things. Ages are full of achievements. They pile and unpile, and die; but at last, in the great dim gallery of the years, the nation that has lived and struggled and died, and piled and unpiled, shall be but the sound of a Voice to us, or a bit of color, or a vision to light a world with, or a few beautiful words. It shall be what some artist did with it. It shall say in clay and spirit what he made it say ; and if he cannot make it say anything, if it is a world that will not let him make it say anything, men shall not know that world. They shall not even know that it is silent. We are not making too large a claim for the artist. Men who are masters of the world two thousand years after they are dead were the real masters of it when they lived, whether any one knew it or not. And it is the men who are the most like these, the two-world men, the artists, who are the real masters of it now.


If the only way that our modern civilization can be made beautiful is to make the crowd beautiful; and if the crowd will not make itself beautiful, and will not let any one else make it beautiful ; and if it can only be made beautiful by the great man in it delighting in it and defying it; and if the only way a man can be a great man in a crowd civilization is to be a two-world man, an artist, the next question that confronts us is, considering the trend of a crowd civilization, “ What kind of an artist will he be ? ”

He will be a novelist. Whatever his art form may be called, and whether he literally writes novels or not, he will have the equipment, the spiritual habit, and the temperament of the great novelist.

The crowd can only be made beautiful in proportion as every man in the crowd is interpreted to every other man in the crowd. The reason that the crowd is not beautiful now is that interpretation has not taken place. Every man in the crowd is spending his time in struggling against every other man instead of in understanding him. The more time such men spend in doing “ practical things,” — that is, in struggling against one another’s lives to get a living, — the less they understand one another’s lives. The man who is going to be able to make every man, living in his pigeonhole in the crowd, understand every other man will be a man who spends a great deal of time in understanding every man in the crowd; that is, in watching all of the crowd’s pigeonholes instead of merely struggling inside one of them. The man who comes nearest to doing this is the artist. He will be a great artist, in conditions like these, in proportion as he is a novelist. The great artist of the modern age cannot help being a novelist. The novel is what the modern age is for. It tells what every man in it is for. The only artist who can either get or hold the attention of men who are living in a modern age is the artist who will tell these men what they are for, and who will tell them what other men are for. The artist who shall be able to put himself in the place of the most men shall be the greatest artist a modern age can produce, because he will be the most practical man in it, — the man who is most to the point in it. He may make his point by being a novelist who writes poems, as Browning did ; or by being a novelist in oils, like Sargent or Millet; or a novelist with an orchestra, like Wagner; but in proportion as he is a powerful artist in this modern world he will be an interpreter of persons.

To say that the power to do this is a beautiful or graceful accomplishment, that it ought to be held in honor by a practical world, is not enough. The power of putting one’s self in the place of other men is the most direct and practical and lasting force of human history. It is the primal energy of it. It is what the ages and nations are for. Every government that has lived has lived because it could put itself in the place of more men than the governments before it, and it has died because it could not put itself in the place of men enough.

A man’s ability to put himself in the place of others is religion and economics, literature and art, theology, sociology, and politics, all in one. The typical man who has this ability is the artist, and the typical artist who has it is the novelist. This truth is so true that, like all reaching-under truths, it applies to all men. Every man in modern life may be said to be a force in it, a maker of the crowd beautiful, in proportion as he is his own novelist, goes up and down in it, living his life with the instincts of the novelist. The man we call great in history is a great or less great man according to the repertoire of the men he might have been, the different kinds of lives he might have lived. The preeminence of Shakespeare is that he might have been almost any one else, that he had a many-peopled typically modern mind. As far as he went, Shakespeare (like most men of genius) may be characterized as a pagan who had the abilities of Christ; and the one ability Christ had, that included all the others, was his ability to be all men in one, — the comprehensiveness of his temperament. His supreme doctrine was his ability, and it was his abilities rather than his doctrines that he sought to convey to others. The degree of a man’s Christianity in any age may be exactly measured and counted off by the number of the kinds of men he can put himself in the place of. The Golden Rule was offered to the world as an ability, and not as a precept. This ability, by whatever theological name it is called, is the typical ability of the artist; and it is the one ability that can ever draw the crowd together, that can ever make the crowd beautiful. The man who spends his days in weaving light and energy into the inner essence of every life about him, whether he does it with his hands or with his lips, or by holding up a light to it (which men call art), fulfills the supreme office of history. His work, whatever its art form or life form may be, is at once the spirit and the fibre of progress and the method of it. Acts of the legislature, park grants, and eight-hour laws are but symptoms that the method is working, that men are seeing and living in one another’s lives.

The crowd is not beautiful because the men who live in it are deceived by appearances. They cannot understand one another’s lives as they would like to live them. So they do not let one another live them. The only men in the crowd who can be said to be doing any real living in it (so far as they go) are those whose lives are so small that the crowd can comprehend them, or so convenient that the crowd can use them without needing to comprehend them. Inasmuch as the majority even of the commonest people are hard to comprehend, the more people there are in a crowd, the fewer people there are living in it. It is this not being able to live which the average man calls life. He calls it life with a sad shake of the head ; but the shake of the head is as far as he gets with it. Reduced to its last analysis, this not being able to live, called life, consists in being afraid to live. Being afraid to live, the man in the crowd says, i’s hard, but it is not so hard as living. The few men he knows in the crowd who really are living — who are living their own lives in it — are paying, so far as he has observed, a great deal more for their lives than their lives are worth. The crowd cuts itself off from them. As long as the crowd is deceived by appearances, persecutes men for living, and honors men for looking as if they were living, it cannot be free, and therefore it cannot be beautiful.

So it comes to pass that the solution of the crowd civilization is not going to be a mere great-man solution, — a museum of heroes on pedestals, as Carlyle would have it; nor is it going to be an endless row of pleasant and proper persons, as the average church would have it; nor is it going to be infinite soup kitchens, parks with benches and fountains in them, and acts of the legislature, as philanthropists would have it; nor is it going to be a kind of immeasurable man-machine, a huge, happy world windlass, hauling all men up to a prairie heaven of bliss, in a kind of colossal clattering belt of buckets, as the socialist would have it. The solution of the crowd civilization is going to be the man who shall have it in him to be a crowdin-spirit. The man who is the crowd spirit, when the crowd finds out that he is its spirit, shall be the crowd’s hero ; and being the crowd’s hero, like all heroes he shall draw it together. The character of Christ is not merely the greatest spectacle in history. It is the greatest energy in history because it is the greatest spectacle. History is made by seeing things so clearly that they cannot help being done ; by conceiving a great human life so clearly that it has to be lived. When the spectacle of a human life with all men’s lives in it is before the world, all lives draw together in it, — great ones and little ones, — as the flowers and seas and mountains troop to the sun. The man who understands everybody brings all men together. Their understanding him and wanting to understand him brings them together. They cannot understand him — all of him — except they are together. “ I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me,” was not the assertion of a heroic egoism. It was the assertion of a world process, — the one process by which a world can be lifted, and by which every man can help in lifting it. The more religion and economics, literature and art, are looked in the face, the more we see that the difficulties in all of them are due to small individuals in all of them, — men who separate. No solution is, or has been, or can be lasting, in any one of them, except through producing comprehensive individuals, — men who bring together. It is the law of democracy that little men, being born in the world, must be served in it, and it is the gospel of democracy that they shall be served by great ones. When we have enough small democracies, enough great men who are democracies all by themselves, there will be a great democracy. Human society, swinging its thousands of years from ballot box to dynasty, and from dynasty to ballot box again, faces the true secret of government, namely, that the type of the ideal democrat is the true king, the man who represents everybody. In his own life he shall prove that the crowd can be beautiful, and the crowd shall look in his face and know that it can be beautiful. By looking in his face it shall become beautiful.

This civilization is a crowd civilization. The only beauty of art or life that such a civilization can produce must be produced by making the crowd beautiful. The crowd can only be made beautiful by the great man in it. A man can only be great in it by being a two-world man, an artist. He can only be a great artist by possessing and expressing the New Testament temperament, the temperament of the great novelist, making the crowd beautiful by being a crowd in himself. In its last analysis, the solution of the crowd is the most practical man in it; that is, the diviner, the interpreter of persons. He sees so much that he makes us all see. He is the lifter of the horizons in which we live our lives. He is the man whose seeing is so deep a seeing that it is a kind of colossal doing, — who goes about amongst us, world-making with his eyes. He gazes on each of us through the world’s heart. He is the eye of a thousand years. It takes a thousand years for the world to make him ; and when he is made, he makes the world for a thousand years. Men shall be born, troops of generations of them, and go through their days and die, that the visions of a man like this may be lived upon the platform of the earth. History is the long slow pantomime acted by all of us — now in sorrow, and now in joy — of the dreams of a man like this. We cannot escape him. He is universal. Only by being out of the universe can we escape him. The stars are his footlights. We are born in the cast of his dreams. He is the playwright over us all.

He shall master the crowd and make it beautiful by glorying in all of its lives. His soul shall go up and down in it, crying : “ What a miracle is Man, that I should call him Brother, that I should commune with his spirit ! The globe is his gate. The sea is flashed through with his thought. He warms himself with the hearts of mountains, and his hand is upon the poles of the earth, — four thousand headlights boring the night for him, the trail of their glimmering trains — hands of his hands, feet of his feet — flying and plying fate for him ; while he lies in his bed and sleeps, dreams that he sleeps, dreams that he dreams, his will is on a thousand hills. Four thousand ships with their flocks of smoke, shut in with space by day, spirits of light by night, signal his soul on the roofs of skies beneath the boundaries of the earth.”

When a man like this — the Maker of the Crowd-Beautiful — shall come to us, there will be No One to take him away. He shall haunt all life. To stand in the hurrying great highway shall be to be crowded and jostled by him. The ceaseless pouring of The Face of the Street — the long, hot, hissing wave of it — on our souls, its awful current of pain and joy, shall be as the sweep of his heart upon us, flowing over us, gliding on with us. . . . Whatever his singing may be, whether he prints it, or paints it, or builds it, the rhythm of the pavements shall be in it, and the footfall of the crowd. His soul shall be the boundless book of the street.

In the roar of the street, as in some vast transcendent shell on the shore of the Day and the Night, we shall hear the songs of ages and nations, and of Death and Life, and, across spaces we cannot go and years that are not, the low, far singing of God.

Gerald Stanley Lee.