The Dusk of the Gods: A Conversation on Art With George Moore

THE fall of an apple called Newton’s attention to the law of gravitation, and my discovery that Art is extinct was quite as accidental. I had intended a journey of some miles to the fireside of a great financier, to ask him how much longer the international poker game can continue, the players having emptied their pockets of cash, checked away their bank balances, and commenced to buy more stacks of chips with little pieces of paper bearing the last three vowels of the alphabet and a signature. But the drizzle and fog of a London winter night made the long trip distasteful, so I went instead to a hospitable Chelsea studio near my lodgings.

George Moore was there, and to make small talk, with no intimation of the revelation about to be vouchsafed, I asked the author of Evelyn Innes, ‘ What effect will the war have on Art? ’

‘None whatever,’ he replied. ‘Art is dead. There is no more art being produced, and it is as plain as a signpost that we have entered a period as barren of Painting, Literature, and Music as were the Dark Ages.’

‘Really?' I said, suppressing a desire to demand, ‘What is, or was, Art? When was it born and when did it die? Who or what killed it, and for what reason? And if Art is dead now, will there ever be any more? And if old Europe, mother of masterpieces, has become barren, may not the young continents in their turn beget worthy children?’

These questions were to be answered later, for I extracted an invitation to call at Mr. Moore’s home in Ebury Street and discuss the fatality. For the moment, I confined myself to the remark that the demise of Art would be felt most deeply in America, where our thoughts and hopes dwell on the future because we have no glorious past centuries to boast.

‘ Only one great artist is necessary to save the self-respect of a nation,’ said Mr. Moore, ‘and you Americans have produced two. That is enough. One was a painter, one of the greatest who ever lived: Whistler. The other was a poet. You have written well in America; you write better than we do, because you are further away from the French language, which debases English style. Hawthorne has moulded the English language into beautiful and musical rhythms, and I should grieve to think that America could forget him. Edgar Poe was a fine artist, much greater than Tennyson, though his lyre was small. But if the works of all your men of letters except one must be burned, if the writers and critics now living were called together and asked to choose what single American writer should be saved, it would be unpardonable to hesitate, even though the hesitation endured but for a moment. The best of Whitman’s poems are among the grandest ever written. Hawthorne, Poe, and your lesser men — Emerson, Longfellow, Lowell,—must all take their hats off to Whitman.’

A few days later we held an exhaustive inquest in Ebury Street. I found the great novelist clutching an American magazine. ‘ What about these vast preparations for war that America plans to make?’ he demanded. ‘I suppose you are getting ready to fight Germany in the future, alone, for that you should fight us seems as impossible as anything can be in this world where the impossible is always taking place. Why do you not come in now and help us make this war a failure for Germany, while there is yet time? It would certainly be simpler and less costly than to fight Germany single-handed, which seems to be the fate America is spinning for herself.’

Masterpieces of the Impressionist painters looked from the walls reproachfully during an opening conversation which, I thought, many superior persons for whom ‘ every stroke of George Moore’s pen has a hieratic significance’ would regard as vulgarly commonplace. We analyzed the latest communiqués, and Mr. Moore lamented that this French word has crept into our language, displacing without warrant or reason the English synonyms, ‘communication’ and ‘bulletin.’

‘And now,’ I asked, ‘will you begin by defining Art?’

‘That is something men have been trying to do since the beginning of time,’ Mr. Moore said. ‘I suppose it has come my turn to try; I’ll do my best, and my theory of the nature of Art will make it clear why there can be no Art under present conditions. All Art springs from the attempt of man to imitate Nature; but man, being an imitative animal, will imitate instead, if he gets the chance, the efforts of his fellow man to imitate Nature. If he does n’t, — that is, if nations live apart and don’t see each other, — he will go on imitating Nature indefinitely, and thus continue to produce Art ad infinitum, for the number of ways of viewing Nature is inexhaustible.’

‘But men are not hermits,’ I objected. ‘They don’t live apart, and they always do see and imitate each other.’

‘There is no harm in a man imitating his neighbors,’ said Mr. Moore, ‘for then he is creating a National Art. It is the communities that must not mingle together. Of course the seed must come from somewhere, but it must come accidentally, and not in large quantities. Before the days of locomotion, nations, speaking broadly, knew nothing of one another. Greek Art was ultimately derived from the Egyptian, but it was a long trip, a trip which few men made, from Memphis to Athens, and the seed from the Nile produced in Greece a new and more splendid fruit.

‘Japan, before the steamboats came, was far removed from China, and although the seed was brought from China, the Japanese developed Art in their own way, and the Chinese formula was more realistic, the Japanese more decorative. But if a shipload of Elgin marbles had been landed at Yokohama in the seventeenth century, there would have been no more Japanese Art. They would have said, “This is the thing to do,” and they would have done it — badly.

‘ When European Art did come to Japan, it killed the Japanese formula. The Japanese now go to Paris to paint, and a pretty mess they make of it; or they stay at home and try to imitate their own handicraft of two hundred years ago; but the inward vision has vanished from Japan, just as the Renaissance tradition, on which we have been living for four hundred years past, has vanished from France and England. The Renaissance tradition grew out of a revival of Art in an entirely new style. Why? Because men did not know the Greek style. The Greek tradition died in the fourth century, and seven hundred years afterwards men began to build cathedrals in Gothic.

‘ But in the fourteenth century Greece was rediscovered, and the Renaissance has been described as a combination of Classic and Gothic, although the Renaissance people did not draw inspiration from the Gothic: their one desire was to get away from the Gothic. Greek Art arose out of the temple; Gothic Art is the art of the cathedral; the Renaissance Art is the art of the palace. In Holland in the seventeenth century the homely and comfort-loving lives of the Dutch people created the art of the house. The Dutch were inspired now and again by Italy, but the Art of the Netherlands is original as it could not have been if constant communication had existed between the two countries. As this brief mention of the genesis of the great artistic movements shows, what is important in Art is not knowledge, but ignorance. If original vision is to be attained, we must have segregation. Now we have discovered locomotion, which is another word for civilization, and civilization is a foe to ignorance.’

‘So the death of Art —’ I began.

‘Can be summed up in one word,’ Mr. Moore took me up. ‘Locomotion! The steamboat and the railroad debauched the Muse and she died strangled in telegraph wires; the telephone chants her requiem. I cannot repeat too often that the masterpieces of Art are produced by segregation. The result of universal travel, universal exchange of ideas through the transportation everywhere of pictures, books, and musical scores, is the growth of the illusion that one way of imitating Nature is better than another, and in painting the way selected at the moment is the Boulevard Montparnasse way. In mathematics two and two do make four and it is wrong to say that they make five; but in Art there is no right and wrong. Art cannot be taught, but we may learn, which is not quite the same thing; nor can Art be encouraged or repressed. To spend money on art schools and museums is absurd, and, when public funds are used, an outrage on the taxpayers.

‘ If it were only possible to suppress all art schools what an inestimable benefit would be conferred upon Art! The moment you set up a museum, whatever art there is in the locality is ruined at once. The Persians made the finest carpets in the world, but they simply worked away at a family industry and never dreamed they were creating art; and if any one should desire to destroy the beautiful carpet-weaving of Persia, he can do so by setting up school, to teach the Persians design, unless indeed this has already been accomplished by the introduction of machinery. Since there is no wrong or right way in Art, how pitiful are these young people from Japan and Paraguay and the United States who go to Paris and walk up and down the Boulevard Montparnasse and learn to paint like the French: especially since painting is dead in Paris — as dead as sculpture in Athens. People might as well go to Athens to learn sculpture because Phidias worked there, as go to Paris to paint because great artists once painted in Paris. All they study is the commercial art produced for purposes of exportation, which is in every way inferior to photography. It is impossible to tell an American from an English photograph — and who would now undertake to decide whether a picture was painted in Lima or in Christiania?’

‘At least students do not travel to learn how to write,’ I suggested.

‘Literature is played out as well as painting,’ said Mr. Moore, decidedly. ‘Literary Art has become internationalized, and a modern novel reminds me of the international dinner, which consists of — I will not draw up a bill of fare and disturb any one’s appetite. Russian books just now have more flavor than those of other countries, because Russia is more isolated; there are not so many railways. But the country soon will be developed and there will be an end of Russian writing. This fatal germ of internationalization even reaches communities as yet not connected physically with the outside world; there are villages in China where a hundred years ago everything that was made was beautiful, and now all things made there are inferior, although the people are still cut off from civilization. In some mysterious way their spiritual segregation has come to an end. Literature is past saving; the doubtful thing to me is whether any language worth speaking can survive.’

‘Will you develop that point?’ I asked.

‘It is a digression in one sense,’ Mr. Moore replied, ‘ but the debasement of languages is caused by the factors that have destroyed Art. We still have the different languages, to be sure: the waiters who serve the international dinner in every hotel in the world speak all languages with equal facility and with equal incorrectness. Men have been trying to invent the international language, and they have all failed, but it is being formed naturally; the present international war is helping to this end, and hundreds of French words, which people use because they think they look nice, have crept into the English language from the battlefields.

‘ William de Morgan is one of those writers who like to sprinkle their pages with French, and I asked him the other day, “Why do you scatter French phrases through your work?” “Don’t you like French words, Mr. Moore?” he asked; and I said, “I avoid them.” He was surprised, and said, “I always like to put four or five French words on a page.” William de Morgan, you know, did not publish his first novel until he was on towards seventy, so I answered, “Yes, Mr. de Morgan, but you came late into literature!”

‘People who use French in English writing are always those who don’t know French very well. They use badinage for ‘ banter,’ and think there is a shade of difference—or, I suppose I should say, a nuance of meaning. Then they write résumé, which they think more refined than ‘summary,’ and in society every woman is très raffinée, I met an author who had written “small and petite,” and I asked him why he did it. He said petite can mean dainty as well as small, and I said, “It cannot; it means nothing but small; but, in any case, if you wanted to say dainty, why did n’t you say dainty?”

‘In my newspaper yesterday I met with an example of this tendency. True, it was in the newspaper, but what appears in the newspaper will appear later in our speech, and then it will have to be written. A dispatch read something like this: “The Germans have been asked to give up their gold ornaments and watches to be melted down into coin, unless they are souvenirs.” A man must be without any æsthetic sense whatever who writes souvenir when he might have written ‘keepsake’; it has associations, that word keepsake; it lives, breathes, runs, jumps, flies; but souvenir in English is a corpse. The person who wrote souvenir when he meant ‘ keepsake ’ thinks, I suppose, with the man who wrote petite and with Mr. de Morgan, that a little French relieves the tedium of English and improves style; but if these people knew enough French to read a French book understandingly and found English words on every other page, they would see that the use of those words destroys the beauty of the French style, and, reasoning by analogy, they might infer that the use of French takes the smack off the English language.

‘The international language that is arising will be almost without grammar, because grammar is difficult. English at present can hardly be said to have a verbal system. When verbs are not conjugated a language has lost a great deal of its beauty. When the adjective no longer agrees with the noun the loss of beauty is certain. Translate the title of my book, Memoirs of my Dead Life, and you get, “Mémoires de ma vie morte,” which is obviously much prettier. I have a cousin in a convent at Lourdes. She has been there twenty years, but I suppose she has not troubled to learn French, and so missed a neat phrase, for I wrote to her, “Nous sommes les deux rêveurs d’une famille peu rêveuse.” It is impossible to translate that into English, because our language is not sufficiently grammatical; and yet even French is losing its grammar. I fear that English will become more and more commercialized. The unity of the Empire demands that we provide in our future language for the Indian tribesmen, and the Africans, and such aborigines as we may annex in German colonies, so you see there is not much hope for progress.

‘ If there be a future for the English language, which I doubt, it is in America. A great deal of your speech is Elizabethan, and what is not you have invented. You are still inventing a language, while we have stopped; we take what additions foreigners and our savage subjects supply us, but that is all. Perhaps in America another language will arise, adopted to literary usage, out of your patois — Ah, yes, I see you smiling. Out of your slang, your dialects; English words both, and just as good. You might have done better, when you went over the Atlantic, to adopt the Sioux language. Which possesses the more complex and subtle grammar, English or Sioux, I do not know. Probably the Sioux. Decidedly, you had better have adopted the Sioux, particularly if the Sioux was not a written language, because uneducated people, especially when they cannot read at all, are always more literary than the educated. If I had the privilege of learning English again, I should learn it from the peasants and be a better writer. Peasants use in their speech images inspired by what they look at; they never use abstract terms, and I’m sure that the Sioux spoke far more beautifully than any Englishman. If I ask my parlormaid to find something I have lost, she will say, “I’ll have a look around.” If I ask you, you will say, “ I ’ll try to find it.” Which phrase conveys the image?

' You may think I have wandered far from our topic, but in a discussion of literary art the question of language is of supreme importance, because literature exists in language, not in ideas. There is nothing so common in the world as ideas. An idea amuses one for a week or a month, then gets into the press and is dragged about until it becomes a platitude, and one loathes the very thought of it. A good phrase can never become a platitude. “The rosy fingers of the Dawn” is beautiful today, though it may have been hackneyed when Homer put it in the Iliad.’

‘What will happen, in our new Dark Ages, to the Art of the past?’ I asked.

‘The future of Art will be in museums, as the future of the dead is in cemeteries,’ Mr. Moore answered. ‘As I have said, after the art of the temple, the cathedral, and the palace, came the art of the house, which was the last phase; for now the art of the house is dead, since people no longer five in houses. They are all moving into bungalows, or, which is the same thing, into apartments — and in a bungalow there is no room for art. We have futile attempts at art for the bungalow, as we shall have pretended art for the Pullman car, for the motor, for the aeroplane. The great pictures of the past, having hung in houses for centuries, are passing into the museums, not only because people are moving out of houses, but because new social ideas are destroying the great estates and making it impossible to keep valuable art works from one generation to another. In England now three death duties will break up the greatest estate in the kingdom. You say you still have houses in America and millionaires with money enough to buy pictures? Ah, but think of what they buy! It takes a lifetime to learn to recognize a good picture, and how can a man who has spent his best years making a fortune expect to know a masterpiece when he sees it? When I was in Paris forty years ago, your rich Americans were buying trash!’

Mr. Moore’s gaze rested lovingly upon some of his own acquisitions of the period, — works of Manet, Monet, Ingres, Degas, Morissot, Daubigny, — and he added, ‘Now they, or their sons, ask, “Why did n’t we put our money in Manet?” But if a newer Manet were to arise he would be passed over — the commonplace is always preferred by the “connoisseur,” who thinks about Art when he is not engaged with more serious matters. Art, as Whistler says, is on the town; everybody thinks he can buy himself the right to chuck the Muse under the chin. He says “ I know what I like”; but the taste of the moment is disastrous. We should buy what we shall like in ten years’ time, and for that we should seek advice before we buy pictures as we do before we buy yachts or race-horses.’

A brown book on Mr. Moore’s table had attracted my eye. It was Whistler’s The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, and upon the introduction of Whistler’s name I picked it up, remarking, ‘Does not Whistler in his “Ten o’Clock” lecture advance a theory of Art which would make all you have said, to put it mildly, untenable? If I remember rightly he contends that there was no such thing as an artistic period; that the artist is a man apart from and uninfluenced by his fellows, and hence denies by implication that segregation, locomotion, or any external conditions affecting the mob can have any influence whatever upon Art, since Art is the artist.’

‘I had that question of an artistic period out with Whistler in Paris,’ said Mr. Moore. ‘He had discovered that his theory was more or less shaky. It became still more shaky when I said, “At least you cannot well hold that there have been no inartistic periods; there were isolated artists in the Dark Ages, but if generalities ever mean anything it can be said that there was no art for seven hundred years. After all, an artistic period only means a time in which there are more good artists than at another time, and you’ll surely not deny that there were more good artists in Florence in the sixteenth century than in the tenth. Michael Angelo, Donatello, Andrea del Sarto, and Leonardo lived in Florence, a town half as big as Chelsea, and were contemporaries. We have agreed to call such a fortuitous concourse of atoms an artistic period.”

‘Whistler, in his amusing fashion, began to argue the point. He was always difficult to follow, because he very often did not finish his sentences. I remember Whistler telling me that some little figures about six inches high made by a sculptor named Story were very like the Elgin marbles; and, as I was at that time entirely subjugated by Whistler, I did n’t think of contesting the matter with him; but I could never keep the question out of my head, “Why are Story’s figures like the Elgin marbles?” and I was pursued by an uncontrollable desire to find an occasion to ask Whistler to explain. One day, in the Grosvenor Gallery, there were a dozen of Story’s figures on a tray, and as I stood before them pondering the problem, I saw Whistler coming down the gallery. “Now or never,” I said to myself, “is my chance to find out,” and I caught Whistler by the arm and said, “Tell me — you say these things of Story’s are like the Elgin marbles — why?” ’

Here Mr. Moore began an imitation of the great painter’s gruff voice, jerking out phrases, or fragments of them, with perceptible pauses between, which I indicate by dashes, and lowering and lifting a China inkwell before him to illustrate Whistler’s handling of one of Story’s statuettes.

‘ “Well, you see,” Whistler said, “you know — well, you know — you can take it up — you can put it down — and then you — look at it — you take it up — you put it down — you look at it again — and — that which is — then of course the relation of Art to Nature — which is the prerogative of the Artist — Art which is not Nature because it is Art — Art which is Nature because it is not Art — Nature which is not Art because it is Nature — Nature which is — Art which is not — the spontaneous creation — Oh, come along, my dear fellow — come along — lunch, bunch—lunch, bunch, — lunch, bunch — lunch, bunch — ” ’

During the concluding portion of an extraordinary mimicry, which unfortunately I cannot reproduce, Mr. Moore had marched round the table, seized my arm and dragged me to the other end of the room, where he dropped the impersonation with a hearty burst of laughter. ' Story had given evidence for Whistler in his suit against Ruskin,’ he said, when sobriety had been restored, ‘and to compare Story’s work to the Elgin marbles was Whistler’s notion of gratitude.’

‘How do you answer Whistler’s contention, which, if admitted, seems to me fatal to your theory that the artist is not influenced by his surroundings?’ I asked.

’I can do better than answer it; I can explain it,’ Mr. Moore replied. ‘Another anecdote will do that. Whistler was walking with me, and he said, “ Ugly boots — boots pointed toes — how can you?” They were new and rather expensive boots, and I asked in great surprise what was wrong with them. “Pointed toes —pointed toes — dreadful — dreadful-looking things! ” Whistler went on. “Are they really very ugly?” I asked, and Jimmie rapped out, “Ugly? — well, of course — how can you, Moore?” I had not thought pointed toes ugly, but I supposed of course Whistler must be right, and I determined not to wear out that pair of pointed toes. Then, a little later, meeting Mrs. Whistler, I happened to say something about her husband’s views on pointed toes, and she said, “Of course Jimmie has to wear square toes! He has a deformed foot.”

‘In everything Whistler’s extraordinary egoism was manifested. Because of his foot, you see, he evolved a theory that square toes were beautiful and pointed toes ugly, and tried to make other people accept it. He wished to be regarded, not as a product of Nature, but as a spiritual essence — a miracle; he acknowledged no masters; he always insisted on being an American because America had produced no painter excepting himself. It was disagreeable to him to think that great artists come in bunches, and he wished to be associated with no school, although he learned his painting in Paris during one of the great periods of Art — the middle of the nineteenth century. He conceived himself as coming into the world fullfledged, uninfluenced by predecessors or contemporaries, and he believed that this was so as sincerely as he devoutly believed in the ugliness of my boots.’

As Mr. Moore talked I opened Whistler’s book, and on the fly-leaf found the inscription, above the artist’s wellknown monogram, ‘To George Moore — for furtive reading.’ I looked up inquiringly, and Mr. Moore chuckled as he saw my discovery. ‘That’s like him, is n’t it?’ he asked, and chuckled some more. ‘You see Whistler read my Modern Painting and decided that I knew something about Art, and since he labored under the impression that nobody excepting himself had any ideas on the subject, it followed that I must have plagiarized from him. Hence the inscription: he asked me if I would mind if he wrote something nasty, and I begged him to do so. — What an absurd fetish it is that one should avoid plagiarizing! Everybody does it, has done it, will do it. I think I shall ask my parlormaid to read Tchekoff and tell me his plots, and then I shall write them my way. Once Zola discussed an idea with me, and I said, “ Zola, I shall write that.” “Very well, Moore,” he said, “we’ll both write it.” We both did, and curiously enough, whether through a strange sense of modesty or not I do not know, I never read what Zola had written. And I am quite sure he did not read what I had written. But the two stories were entirely unlike; I am certain no one could have guessed the common origin.’

Suddenly Mr. Moore reached over and took The Gentle Art from my hands. ‘All theories aside,’ he said with kindling enthusiasm, ‘“Ten o’Clock” is one of the finest bits of prose in the English language. It is the last thing written to which one need pay attention. Let me read you a passage as fine as any one has ever done.’ And he read: —

‘ “That Nature is always right, is an assertion, artistically, as untrue, as it is one whose truth is universally taken for granted. Nature is very rarely right; to such an extent even, that it might almost be said that Nature is usually wrong: that is to say, the condition of things that shall bring about the perfection of harmony worthy a picture is rare, and not common at all.

‘ “This would seem, to even the most intelligent, a doctrine almost blasphemous. So incorporated with our education has the supposed aphorism become, that its belief is held to be part of our moral being, and the words themselves have, in our ear, the ring of religion. Still, seldom does Nature succeed in producing a picture.

‘“The sun blares, the wind blows from the east, the sky is bereft of cloud, and without, all is of iron. The windows of the Crystal Palace are seen from all points of London. The holiday-maker rejoices in the glorious day, and the painter turns aside to shut his eyes.

“‘How little this is understood, and how dutifully the casual in Nature is accepted as sublime, may be gathered from the unlimited admiration daily produced by a very foolish sunset.

“‘The dignity of the snow-capped mountain is lost in distinctness, but the joy of the tourist is to recognize the traveller on the top. The desire to see, for the sake of seeing, is, with the mass, alone the one to be gratified, hence the delight in detail.

‘ “ And when the evening mist clothes the riverside with poetry, as with a veil, and the poor buildings lose themselves in the dim sky, and the tall chimneys become campanili, and the warehouses palaces in the night, and the whole city hangs in the heavens, and fairyland is before us — then the wayfarer hastens home; the workingman and the cultured one, the wise man and the one of pleasure, cease to understand, as they have ceased to see, and Nature, who, for once, has sung in tune, sings her exquisite song to the artist alone, her son and her master — her son in that he loves her, her master in that he knows her.

‘“To him her secrets are unfolded, to him her lessons have become gradually clear. . . .

‘“Through his brain, as through the last alembic, is distilled the refined essence of that thought which began with the Gods, and which they left him to carry out.

‘“Set apart by them to complete their works, he produces that wondrous thing called the masterpiece, which surpasses in perfection all that they have contrived in what is called Nature; and the Gods stand by and marvel, and perceive how far away more beautiful is the Venus of Melos than was their own Eve.” ’

Mr. Moore closed the book and sat silent a moment gazing into the fire. ‘I shall read that again to-night,’ he said. ‘It is so beautiful it brings tears to the eyes.’ I murmured a conventional phrase, and he said, ‘Would you like to hear it again?’ I said I would, and he read it again, and more, remarking as he finished, ‘How I wish I could write like that! Who of the younger generation knows Whistler as a writer? Ruskin never wrote half so well about Art, and how curious it is that Ruskin’s name comes down as a great critic, while people have forgotten the “Ten o’Clock” and remember Whistler only as a painter! Ruskin’s drawings are excellent, as even Whistler would admit — much better than his English style. I cannot understand how reputations are made. Some silly fellow attaches a tag to a man, and by that tag it seems he is over afterwards appraised. People used to tell me that my ideas and the construction of my novels were good, but that I could not write. Then somebody called me a great stylist, and now they tell me I can write very well but have no ideas. I don’t believe that there is anything in these tags.’

After the Whistler interlude, I suggested that most of our conversation had dealt with painting and literature, but that the extinction of music and the minor arts was apparently included in the sweeping thesis under discussion.

‘ The spirit of the age is indeed hostile to all manifestations of Art,’ said Mr. Moore. ‘No practical illustration of this could be more clear than the fate that every one knows has come upon handicraft. We are living in a handless world, a world of machinery. Men lost the use of their hands when they learned to invent mechanical substitutes. They cannot make furniture today, so we all live with old furniture, for to live with the new would be quite impossible, and what people will do when all the old furniture is broken I cannot imagine. Go across to the South Kensington Museum and look at Greek coins, and then at the medals of the Renaissance, which are not quite so good; and in every century from that time to this observe how the medals and coins have become coarser, until to-day they are appalling. Even photography, a creation of the nineteenth century, was better done when it was invented than to-day. The old daguerreotypes were beautiful, but photography soon became commercialized, and commercialized photography is very like commercialized painting, than which I could enter no more damning judgment. Painting of the eighteenth century is shallow and superficial, but the workmanship, which we are now discussing, is better than that of the succeeding age, while in any craft you like, — printing, bookbinding, — the further back you go the better you find the work done.’

‘When did Art die?’ I asked, adding, ‘You have fastened the murder upon locomotion, but my journalistic instinct calls for the exact date of the crime.’

I did not expect an answer, but I got one.

‘About 1880,’ Mr. Moore replied. ‘The afterglow of painting lasted into the early nineties. The last new vision achieved was that of the Impressionists. Manet and Monet were among the greatest of artists, as was Whistler, and although most English painting has been derivative, the Pre-Raphaelite painters did original work. Literature? That was practically finished in the latter part of the last century. We have, as you said, neglected music, but no interview could be stretched to include a comprehensive discussion of all the arts. Music, which developed after its sister arts, attained the heights later, but came to perfection and death in Richard Wagner, no new vision being possible without segregation. Strauss is potted Wagner; Debussy did invent a new method of expression, but he wrote only one opera, and the most talented of modern musicians seem to create only one work.’

‘Your reasoning,’ I said, ‘is intensely depressing. It seems we and our descendents to the last generation must live in a world without Art, for the conditions of segregation which you say are necessary for original vision can never return. There are no more barbarians to break up our civilization and bring about segregation again, as happened 1500 years ago; modern transportation we shall have with us always.’

‘No,’ said Mr. Moore, ‘let us end on a note of hope. I believe Art will come again, after an interval perhaps of many centuries. The coal-mines of the world will be worked out in a hundred years, more or less, and then locomotion will stop, all modern civilization will come to an end, and, who knows, men may go back to bows and arrows. I would like to live until that happens, and see the beginnings of Art, for there will be rude strivings in the right direction in the first generation after communication between communities ceases and segregation is restored.’

‘Do you think science will remain dependent upon coal?’ I objected. ‘By the time the mines are worked out they will have harnessed the power of the sun — these men who cannot use their hands.’

‘Ah, let us not think of that possibility. If that be true, this is indeed the Dusk of the Gods.’

One point, a delicate one, remained. I hesitated. My questions about Art were answered, but I wanted to raise a very personal one about Mr. Moore. The man whom an American critic has called ‘the greatest literary artist who has struck the chords of English since the death of Thackeray ’ smiled benevolently as he sat in front of the fire stroking his black cat, which purred upon that Aubusson carpet so well known to the literary public.

‘Some people,’ I began, ‘will call you an old fogy. They will say that you are the great writer of the previous age who has throughout all literary history pooh-poohed the achievements of the younger generation springing up about him. Art, they will say, goes on as before, but George Moore does n’t know it. Your theory that Art is dead will be ascribed to your psychological inability, as a Victorian, to appreciate at your present age new movements in art —the Post-Impressionists, Cubists, Vorticists, for example — or the art of the motion picture — ’

Mr. Moore had not lost his smile of kindly tolerance, but here he waved his hand impatiently. ‘ People who use the name of Art in conjunction with any form of photography,’ he said, ‘have no conception of the nature of Art. Art cannot be a mechanism, because a mechanism cannot read Man’s own feeling into Nature. As for the drab schools of brushmen you mention, they are not a subject for art criticism, since all Art is an attempt to represent Nature, and they seek to imitate not Nature but ideas. Their achievements are notable, but they belong not to Art but to pathology.’

‘And how,’ I asked, ‘do you answer in advance the other criticism which I have anticipated ? ’

There was silence for some little time, and then Mr. Moore said with a smile, —

‘Am I then so old? There is no answer to be made to what you have said. And there is no answer to be made to my thesis. Art was born in parochialism and cosmopolitanism has killed it. The life of Art depends on the discovery of new ways of seeing Nature, on fresh vision, new formulæ. Every formula man has discovered for the interpretation of Nature tells something more than any other formula. The Japanese vision contains more than exists in Constable, though not all that Constable saw; and in Manet there are truths that the Japanese vision, and that of Constable, did not perceive. But as has been shown in our talk, the opportunity for a new formula no longer exists. Locomotion has brought Art to a full stop. Art, until bows and arrows come again, is extinct. I have been thinking for years about what I have told you to-day. I do not know why I have never written it.’