Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/428

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temporary puts it, "The printed matter of some of them has for a good while been doing all that printed matter can to reduce the popular intelligence to that early stage which makes the life of nursery goveRnesses and mistresses of kindergartens so hard, in which all the resources of pedagogy have to be exhausted to keep the child's attention fixed on anything." In a later article the Nation remarks that, for the purpose for which they are now employed, the "cuts" do not in the least need to be accurate. Their whole and sole purpose is to give a grown-up child something to look at, and whether or not they represent correctly the things or persons they are supposed to represent has simply "nothing to do with the case." The mind exhausted by the perusal of a dozen lines of letterpress finds refreshment and repose in gazing at a picture of any object, however common, connected in any way, however insignificant, with any incident, however trivial that may form part of the gossip of the day. As the Nation sarcastically observes: "The great question of cabmen's beards might have been discussed indefinitely without the thorough elucidation given by a picture of a cabman with a beard, a cabman without a beard, and two or three cabmen prominent in the agitation."

Our contemporary fears that the end is not yet, that there is perhaps some lower depth of mental degradation to be sounded. A silly letter press prepared the way for yet sillier pictures, and the question now is wh; t these are likely to bring forth as an ulterior result. If it is any comfort, we may reflect that the complaint of a growing childishness of the public mind is a somewhat ancient one. Without going further back, we recall Cowper's lines published in 1782:

"Habits of close attention, thinking beads,
Become more rare as dissipation spreads;
Till authors hear at length one general cry,
'Tickle and entertain us, or we die'"

Nearly fifty years ago we find the poet Wordsworth inveighing against "illustrated books and newspapers" in a sonnet which, judging by later developments, does not appear to have had much effect, but which seems to express our contemporary's views exactly:

"Discourse was deemed Man's noblest attribute,
And written words the glory of his hand;
Then followed Printing, with enlarged command
For thought—dominion vast and absolute
For spreading truth, and making love expand.
Now prose and verse, sunk into disrepute,
Must lacquey a dumb Art that best can suit
The taste of this once intellectual land.
A backward movement surely we have here,
For manhood—back to childhood; for the age—
Back towards caverned life's first rude carreer.
Avaunt this vile abuse of pictured page!
Must eyes be all in all, the tongue and ear
Nothing? Heaven keep us from a lower stage!"

If the poet found so much to object to in the scanty attempts at so-called illustration made at the date at which this sonnet was penned (1846), what would he say to the present day development of the illustration business? He could have seen, had he lived to the present t me, a picture, in a leading English paper, of the hide taken off the cow that ran down Mr. Gladstone; the cow itself was unfortunately killed and cut up before her likeness had been taken, but why that should have prevented the image of some other cow, of any cow, being offered to an intelligent public in her stead, or why the joints into which she was dissected should not have been severally photographed, and so exhibited as well as the hide, we have never quite understood.

It was a dictum of Auguste Corate, delivered about the time that Wordsworth was uttering his unavailing and, we must say, too undiscriminating protest against "illustrated books and newspapers," that the specific weakness of