THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS
Mr. Clarkson, of the Education Office, was coming back from a Garden Suburb, where the conversation had turned upon Eugenics. Photographs of the most beautiful Greek statues had stood displayed along the overmantel; Walter Pater’s praise of the Parthenon frieze had been read; and a discussion had arisen upon the comparative merits of masculine and feminine beauty, during which Mr. Clarkson maintained a modest silence. He did, however, support the contention of his hostess that the human form was the most beautiful of created things, and he shared her regret that it is so seldom seen in London to full advantage. He also agreed with the general conclusion that, in the continuance of the race, quality was the first thing to be considered, and that the chief aim of civilisation should be to restore Hellenic beauty by selecting parentage for the future generation.
Meditating over the course of the discussion, and regretting, as he always did, that he had not played a distinguished part in it, Mr. Clarkson became conscious of a certain dissatisfaction. “Should not one question,” he asked himself, “the possibility of creating beauty by preconcerted design? Conscious and deliberate endeavours to manipulate the course of Nature often frustrate their own purpose, and the action of cultivated intelligence might conduce to a delicate peculiarity rather than a beauty widely diffused. Such a sense for form as pervaded Greece must spring, unconscious as a flower, from a passion for the beautiful implanted in the heart of the populace themselves.”
His motor-’bus was passing through a region unknown to him—one of those regions where raw vegetables and meat, varied with crockery and old books, exuberate into booths and stalls along the pavement, and salesmen shout to the heedless passer-by prophetic warnings of opportunities eternally lost. Contemplating the scene with a sensitive loathing against which his better nature struggled in vain, Mr. Clarkson had his gaze suddenly arrested by a flaunting placard which announced:
TO-NIGHT AT 10.30!
OUR BEAUTY SHOW!!!
UNEQUALLED IN THE WORLD!
PRIZES OF UNPRECEDENTED VALUE!!
ENCOURAGE HOME LOVELINESS!!!
“The very thing!” thought Mr. Clarkson, rapidly descending from his seat. “Sometimes one is almost compelled to believe in a Divinity that shapes our criticism of life.”
“Shillin’,” said the box-office man, when Mr. Clarkson asked for a stall. “Evenin’ dress hoptional” And Mr. Clarkson entered the vast theatre.
It was crammed throughout. Every seat was taken, and excited crowds of straw-hatted youths, elderly men, and sweltering women stood thick at the back of the pit and down the sides of the stalls. “’Not here, O Apollo,’” quoted Mr. Clarkson sadly, as he squeezed on to the end of a seat beside a big man who had spread himself over two. “But still, even in the lower middle, beauty may have its place.”