Ah! well! I suppose we have been too long familiar with the unprofitableness of speculation, have surrendered too definitely to action—to the material side of things, retaining for what relaxation our spirits may require, a habit of sentimental aspiration, carefully divorced from things as they are. We seem to have decided that things are not, or, if they are, ought not to be—and what is the good of thinking of things like that? In fact, our national ideal has become the Will to Health, to Material Efficiency, and to it we have sacrificed the Will to Sensibility. It is a point of view. And yet—to the philosophy that craves Perfection, to the spirit that desires the golden mean, and hankers for the serene and balanced seat in the centre of the see-saw, it seems a little pitiful, and constricted; a confession of defeat, a hedging and limitation of the soul. Need we put up with this, must we for ever turn our eyes away from things as they are, stifle our imaginations and our sensibilities, for fear that they should become our masters, and destroy our sanity? This is the eternal question that confronts the artist and the thinker. Because of the inevitable decline after full flowering-point is reached, the inevitable fading of the fire that follows the full flame and glow, are we to recoil from striving to reach the perfect and harmonious climacteric? Better to have loved and lost, I think, than never to have loved at all; better to reach out and grasp the fullest expression of the individual and the national soul, than to keep for ever under the shelter of the wall. I would even think it possible to be sensitive without neurasthenia, to be sympathetic without insanity, to be alive to all the winds that blow without getting influenza. God forbid that our Letters and our Arts should decade into Beardsleyism; but between that and their present “health” there lies full flowering-point, not yet, by a long way, reached.
To flower like that, I suspect, we must see things just a little more—as they are! 1905-1912.
A certain writer, returning one afternoon from rehearsal of his play, sat down in the hall of the hotel where he was staying. “No,” he reflected, “this play of mine will not please the Public; it is gloomy, almost terrible. This very day I read these words in my morning paper: ’No artist can afford to despise his Public, for, whether he confesses it or not, the artist exists to give the Public what it wants.’ I have, then, not only done what I cannot afford to do, but I have been false to the reason of my existence.”