« AnteriorContinuar »
such sentences as, the Titan was again making giant strides towards Utopia,' or are invited to recognise, in the critic's rough outline' of Wagner, 'the features of a grand immortal countenance, wrought by Nature's own hands, and stamped • by her with the indelible sign of genius; a man whom you must reckon with one way or another; if not, the book of artistic revelation will be for ever sealed against you with seven seals:' a sentence which only wants Mr. Burchell's monosyllabic comment to make it complete. To point out the futility and vulgarity, even from a literary point of view, of this kind of writing, would probably be as useless in regard to those who are content to indulge in it, as it would be superfluous in regard to most of our own readers.
We have no wish, however, to saddle Wagner with all the sins of his admirers, and may admit that the time has not arrived for forming a decisive judgment on the place of his works in the art. We do, however, distinctly decline to contemplate his method and his productions as the vestibule to a higher and more intellectual development of the art of music than has yet been attained; not only for reasons already given, in regard to the union of music with spectacle, but also because the whole genre of his art shows the qualities which have always marked a period of decadence—the preference for impulse and sentiment before form, colour before outline; and the intense selfconsciousness as to method and principle; for, in spite of the sneers with which this argument is greeted by the partisans of Wagner (whose peculiar irritability on this point betrays their consciousness of its significance), the unquestionable fact remains that in no past art, and in no past period, have any of the greatest and most enduring achievements of art-creation arisen out of theories proclaimed with sound of trumpet in the market-place. Theories are the refuge of a genius deficient in spontaneous power. Wagner's first noteworthy opera, 'Rienzi,' is a comparatively weak work, much inferior even to the works of Meyerbeer, of which it was an imitation. Beethoven's two first symphonies, on the contrary, placed him at once nearly on a level with Mozart, as
abilityed by spite selt:
gentlemen who (together with Wagner himself) are perpetually sneering at English musical taste, that the greater artist and man whom Wagner professes to idolise, left no precedent for such a feeling; on the contrary, he seldom mentions the English in his letters without special expressions of respect, and it was one of his chief wishes to spend
some time amongst them in their own country. But Beethoven, like every genius of the highest order, was cosmopolitan in his sympathies,
his we hae of whort of laus plan
his first pianoforte sonatas placed him at once in advance of Mozart. But for his subsequent wonderful development of the art he advanced neither theories nor explanations, nor did he surround himself with a cohort of laudatory scribes. To pronounce on the value of Wagner's works as a form of musical drama is, as we have observed, premature. We may direct attention, however, to deductions to be drawn from a somewhat close analogy between this and what was sometime called the pre-Raffaellite' movement in painting. Both referred in the first instance to early Church art as a model ; both have directed violent and exaggerated condemnation against what they have termed the Pagan' school represented in the one art by Raffaelle, and in the other by Mozart; both have combined a strong feeling as to the morale of art with an indifference to the ordinary elements of beauty and to the higher grade of technical power ; both have been at daggers drawn with all the art of their contemporaries, and have been the centres, each, of a clique of critics, distinguished by the
solidarity' and the bigotry of their opinions and what they call their judgments. It is not unreasonable, perhaps, to infer that the ultimate results of the two movements may be equally similar; and that as the pre-Raffaellite school has exercised a permanent influence on English painting, infusing into it a greater intensity of purpose and aim, and rendering impossible again the acceptance of the flaccid execution and weak sentimentality which distinguished the style immediately preceding it, while the extravagances and uncomelinesses of the new style have insensibly dropped away and been almost forgotten; so it will be ultimately recognised on all hands, that while Wagner has given a new impulse to musical drama, has indicated new possibilities in it for musical effect, and has rendered impossible for the future any recurrence to the weak, gaudy, and (in a sense) almost demoralising tinsel style of modern Italian opera, that nevertheless such a reform is consistent with, if not dependent upon, the abrogation of much of his extravagance both of theory and practice, and that it offers no excusable or logical ground for the combination of a clique of German critics to defame and deface that fair and stately temple of absolute music, which is, or ought to be, the great intellectual pride and glory of their race.
Art. VI.--1. First and Second Reports from the Committee of Public Accounts, together with the Proceedings of the Committee, Minutes of Evidence, and Appendix. Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 9th July, 1873. 2. Seventeenth, Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty
first Reports of the Postmaster-General on the Post Office (1871-6). Presented to both Houses of Parliament by
Command of Her Majesty. 3. An Account of Receipts and Payments by the Postmaster
General in respect of Telegraph Undertakings, Extensions, fc., for Six Months ended the 30th September, 1873; also for Six Months ended 31st March, 1874, together with the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General thereon. Presented pursuant to Act c. 83. Ordered by the House
of Commons to be printed 31st May, 1875. 4. Report of a Committee appointed by the Treasury to Investigate the Causes of the Increased Cost of the Telegraph Service since the Acquisition of the Telegraplis by the State ; with Correspondence thereon. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty, 17th July, 1875. Tr is high time that the public understood the circumstances * attending the acquisition of the Telegraphs by the Post Office and their subsequent management, with the gross irregularities in dealing with many hundred thousand pounds of public money which were withdrawn from their legitimate objects and spent without the authority of Parliament—the more especially, as we shall prove that, notwithstanding the various investigations which have been made, the matter has not even yet been probed to the bottom, a discrepancy of inore than 500,0001. being still unaccounted for! And this discrepancy, as we shall show, points to a solution of the enigma that 80 puzzled the Treasury Committee last summer *—the apparent progressive diminution of the net revenue notwithstanding a rapid increase in the number of telegrams; a solution, too, which seems to nullify the gloomy anticipations of their report. An exposition of this matter is the more called for since it has been subjected to far less investigation and discussion than its great importance demands.
* Report of a Committee, &c., p. 11. VOL. CXLIII. NO. CCXCI.
In January 1869, after the passing of the Act of 1868, which authorised the acquisition of the Telegraphs and settled the terms on which the compensation for them was to be based, but before the measure was irrevocably adopted, * we felt it our duty to exposet the monstrous extravagance of the agreements which had been made with the telegraph and railway companies, and the certainty that they must subject the public to a payment enormously greater than what those bodies were justly entitled to, and manyfold what it would cost to erect the Telegraphs anew. We analysed the thirty-seven agreements which had been signed, and proved to demonstration that they were of a most improvident character—that the twenty years' purchase of profits,f which all had bargained for, were terms such as no business man would dream of giving for what was in effect a commercial concern (not a solid property like a railway or canal), even if the posts, wires, &c. belonged to the seller absolutely; whereas in several instances the selling telegraph company had but a limited term in them
-sometimes of not more than six years unexpired-after which they reverted to the railway companies along whose lines they stood, which reversion these companies had bargained with the Post Office to purchase—a stipulation which has turned out most onerously for that Department. We also showed that most of the telegraph companies had bargained for important items of remuneration in addition to twenty years' purchase of profits, which indeed in some cases amounted to buying the concern several times over. In fact, by a comparison of the covenants in the respective agreements—the extravagant character of many of them, and the presence in some agreements of stipulations which were absent from others where the circumstances were identical-it became evident that each negotiator had obtained from the Post Office whatever he chose to ask for. In the debate in Parliament upon the Bill the exor
* By a clause in that statute the purchase was made contingent on the requisite monies being voted, while it was admitted hat Parliament was not under any obligation, legal or moral, to complete the transaction. Indeed another clause in the Act provided that if Parliament declined to vote the monies, the Companies should be inde mnified for the expense and trouble to which they had been put.
† Ed. Rev., No. cclxiii. p. 154. January 1869.
I The year's profits too, designated as the basis, wer not to be those of a past year—a known quantity-but of the then urrent year -an unknown quantity, and one open to be enhanced by pi ocesses well known to company managers.
bitant stipulations of these agreements were to a considerable extent exposed; yet neither the Government nor the public seems to have understood the business, and thus this most improvident arrangement was confirmed. We are sorry to say that it is but too common a practice with the permanent officials of the Treasury to strain after the most paltry minute economics, and then to throw away millions with reckless indifference.
One dangerous provision of the Act of 1868 which we pointed out was, however, repealed by the Statute of 1869. By the first Act it was provided that the Post Office should have no monopoly of telegraphic messages. Had the purchases been economically managed so as to admit of a sixpenny rate (in Belgium and Switzerland the charge is half a franc only), competition need not have been feared; but it requires no great sagacity to see that, considering the small cost at which telegraphs can be erected (stated to the Committee of 1868 to be 271. to 301. a mile), for a few hundred thousand pounds all the busy towns in the kingdom might be connected, à rate less than a shilling charged, and thus the Post Office be deprived of all the profitable part of the business.
But the upshot of the measure has more than fulfilled our forebodings. The gross extravagance of the terms conceded is proved by the unerring test of the Share List, whence we learn that the 1001. shares of the Electric and International Telegraph Company stood in January 1867 at 132. In October of that year the intention of Government to purchase the telegraphs had oozed out, and consequently in the following January the price of these shares had risen to 153, while in February 1870, just before the completion of the sale, they were quoted at 267, or double the price of 1867. In the same period the shares of the British and Irish Telegraph Company rose from 90 to 190, those of the London and Provincial from 11 to 31, and of Reuter's Company from 17 to 90, while the United Kingdom Company's shares advanced from 11 to 71; and all this during a period when the prices of shares in general were rather falling than rising. In every case the greater part of the rise took place in the three weeks during which the Commons' Committee stood adjourned to enable the Second Secretary of the Post Office to make agreements with the companies. The report of Reuter's Company, which appeared in the “Times' on January 25, 1870, and was afterwards adopted by the shareholders, is a remarkable document. It states that 726,0001. was awarded to the company, the market