A Joy For Ever/Preface to the re-issue of 1880
TO THE RE-ISSUE OF 1880.
The title of this book,—or, more accurately, of its subject;—for no author was ever less likely than I have lately become, to hope for perennial pleasure to his readers from what has cost himself the most pains,—will be, perhaps, recognised by some as the last clause of the line chosen from Keats by the good folks of Manchester, to be written in letters of gold on the cornice, or Holy rood, of the great Exhibition which inaugurated the career of so many,—since organized, by both foreign governments and our own, to encourage the production of works of art, which the producing nations, so far from intending to be their "joy for ever," only hope to sell as soon as possible. Yet the motto was chosen with uncomprehended felicity: for there never was, nor can be, any essential beauty possessed by a work of art, which is not based on the conception of its honoured permanence, and local influence, as a part of appointed and precious furniture, either in the cathedral, the house, or the joyful thoroughfare, of nations which enter their gates with thanksgiving, and their courts with praise.
"Their" courts—or "His" courts;—in the mind of such races, the expressions are synonymous: and the habits of life which recognise the delightfulness, confess also the sacredness, of homes nested round the seat of a worship unshaken by insolent theory: themselves founded on an abiding affection for the past, and care for the future; and approached by paths open only to the activities of honesty, and traversed only by the footsteps of peace.
The exposition of these truths, to which I have given the chief energy of my life, will be found in the following pages first undertaken systematically and in logical sequence; and what I have since written on the political influence of the Arts has been little more than the expansion of these first lectures, in the reprint of which not a sentence is omitted or changed.
The supplementary papers added contain, in briefest form, the aphorisms respecting principles of art-teaching of which the attention I gave to this subject during the continuance of my Professorship at Oxford confirms me in the earnest and contented re-assertion.
April 29th, 1880.