“Yes, there is something in that,” said Father Payne. “Of course that is always the difficulty about the artist, that he appears to live selfishly in joy—but it applies to most things. The best you can do for the world is often to turn your back upon it. Philanthropy is a beautiful thing in its way, but it must be done by people who like it—it is useless if it is done in a grim and self-penalising way. If a man is really big enough to follow art, he had better follow it. I do not believe very much in the doctrine that service to be useful must be painful. No one doubts that Wordsworth gave more joy to humanity by living his own life than if he had been a country doctor. Of course the sad part of it is when a man follows art and does not succeed in giving pleasure. But you must risk that—and a real devotion to a thing gives the best chance of happiness to a man, and is perhaps, too, his best chance of giving something to others. There is no reason to think that Shakespeare was a philanthropist.”
“But does that apply to things like horse-racing or golf?” said Rose.
“No, you must not pursue comfort,” said Father Payne; “but I don’t believe in the theory that we have all got to set out to help other people. That implies that a man is aware of valuable things which he has to give away. Make friends if you can, love people if you can, but don’t do it with a sense of duty. Do what is natural and beautiful and attractive to do. Make the little circle which surrounds you happy by sympathy and interest. Don’t deal in advice. The only advice people take is that with which they agree. And have your own work. I think we are—many of us—afraid of enjoying work; but in any case, if we can show other people how to perceive and enjoy beauty, we have done a very great thing. The sense of beauty is growing in the world. Many people are desiring it, and religion doesn’t cater for it, nor does duty cater for it. But it is the only way to make progress—and religion has got to find out how to include beauty in its programme, or it will be left stranded. Nothing but beauty ever lifted people higher—the unsensuous, inexplicable charm, which makes them ashamed of dull, ugly, greedy, quarrelsome ways. It is only by virtue of beauty that the world climbs higher—and if the world does climb higher by something which isn’t obviously beautiful, it is only that we do not recognise it as beautiful. Sin and evil are signals from the unknown, of course; but they are danger signals, and we follow them with terror—but beauty is a signal too, and it is the signal made by peace and happiness and joy.”
The talk one evening turned on War; Lestrange said that he believed it was good for a nation to have a war: “It unites them with the sense of a common purpose, it evokes self-sacrifice, it makes them turn to God.”