22 NOVEMBER 1930, Page 47

Two Arts

The Art of Dying. Edited by Francis Bissell and F. L. Lucas: (Hogarth Press. ns.) THE compilers of The Art of Dying have not, fortunately, agreed with Dr. Johnson's " No Sir ! Let it alone t It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The art of dying is of importance, it lasts so short a time." The Doctor, pestered by his inquisitive and tiresome little friend, was driven, as often, into inaccuracy ; the art of dying is of importance to the artistic whole. The trouble is that it is usually an art stamped and scrambled through anyhow ; ask any doctor, and he will tell you-that ninety-nine out of a hundred sick people die in coma, and very few realise death with a clear mind. Here those condemned to death at the hands of others have the advantage ; they have an opportunity that they never had in life, for against that dark and catastrophic background their least words, however trivial, however conventional, stand out in bright letters, glittering down the ages ; their jests, perhaps weak in life, acquire in death a heart-breaking wit ; their desires for sack or pork-pie, so ordinary while they lived, appear at once humorous and touching ; in brief; the spot-light plays on them, and they can nothing common do or mean upon that memorable scene. They have the advantage over those not about to die that the star actor has over his audience ; they hold, for this once, the stage. As to deaths in sick-bed, any interesting or character- istic remarks are probably made some time before the final exit, but this does not matter, so long as they are made in view of the door.

Mr. Birrell and Mr. Lucas have made a very attractive and learned compilation of the latter (not necessarily the last) utterances of " les grands hommes qui soot morts en plaisan- taut," and others. They have ranged down a long road, from Jezebel (B.C.- 843) through the classical, mediaeval and modern eras, down to a Mrs. Davidson who was killed by a lorry in 1930. Their field of reading has been spacious, and their selections are delightful. Mr. Lucas contributes a graceful and erudite introduction. In face of it, and of the engaging esprit of most of the eighteenth-century utterances hem quoted, I will not try to prick with the pin of a private scepticism the current faith in the generally high level of the wit of that century-and the low level of its religious orthodoxy, though disturbing doubts have often assailed me on both these points, looking round on the calf-bound volumes of theology, sermons, sentimental and platitudinous fiction, pious morals- ings, conventionally solemn verse, and smug magazine articles, that line the shelves of any old library. I cannot forget that this age of soi- &Sant scepticism and esprit was the age in which Samuel Richardson was held as a god on both sides of the Channel. It was, like other centuries, a mixed kind of a century ; but I believe that Mr. Lucas would find, if he had lived in it, that as many Georgians as Victorians had " departed in a pompous stupor," surrounded by the prayers of filial piety.

However, I am off the point. There are collected here a most agreeable array of good exits chosen from every period. Most of the best death mots must be, I think, included ; though I should have liked Samson's " Strengthen me this once, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes. Let me die with the Philistines," Moncrieff's " Adieu, my friend. To-morrow morning I will return you your books," Raleigh's jest to his friend who was trying for a place near the scaffold at the morrow's ceremony--" I know not what shift you will make, but I am sure to have a place," and—but this is to do the ungracious thing which the prefatory note depre- cates, and complain of omissions. It would be carping to do so, among commissions so various, so well-chosen, so admirably ordered, ranging over such various fields of style, age, feeling and thought, sounding every note of irony, courage, politeness, humour, religion, affection, disappointment, intelligence, curiosity, reluctance, impatience, patriotism, and conceit. (For different manifestations of this last sustaining quality, it is agreeable to compare Addison's " See in what peace a Christian can die," with Gregory VII's " I have loved justice and hated iniquity," and Ramon Narvaez's " My father, I have no enemies. I have shot them all.") A delightful, witty, and very moving collection ; everyone desirous of making a good exit would do well to study it, even though they will themselves probably die in a pompous stupor, or be murdered outright by a motor vehicle, and have no time to utter.

As- to Madame Helena Rubinstein, the art that matters to her is not that of living (which those who follow her precepts will have little time left to pursue) nor that of dying, but that of presenting a handsome appearance while alive. Madame Rubinstein knows how this -is to be done, and reveals it in three hundred pages. It is done by taking thought and using unguents, lotions, and exercises, morning, noon and night ; by never having one off moment from the care of the figure and face, never a thought or fancy which strays from these. One minute's inattention, and all, one gathers, is lost.

This is, in its strange way, an interesting book, for it con- cerns what has been called the third greatest industry in the modern world, and what is certainly the greatest ramp—the beauty-monger's trade. Into that gaping and bottomless pit millions are yearly poured by the credulous, the great army of gulls, who fondly hope that some difference will thereby accrue to their personal appearance. Creams, lotions, massage, diet—and, when all else fails, away to the surgeon and have him hew in pieces the offending face or form, and make it a new shape. But before resorting to this, away, says Madame Rubinstein, to the butcher and the dairyman, and plaster the face alternately wills beef and with egg. Thus adorned, one can sally forth on the day's business, to the masseuse, the hair-dresser, the manicurist and the gymnasium.

The author deprecates accusations of frivolity which may be levelled against those who thus seek beauty. She need not be afraid. Those pursuing such an earnest and single-minded quest could never merit such a charge ; the only danger is that they might be thought by those less arduously engaged a little one-ideaed, a trifle dull. Still, if they really look the handsomer for their pains, one does not gather that they would mind this. The only question (and it is indeed a dark and haunting one) is—do they ? Can it be that all that time, money, thought, and diet, those creams, lotions, slain cattle, and broken eggs, produce no change in the faces and forms of those who suffer them ? I do not know ; I only ask.

As to death, those who thus live should, I think, welcome it, for we are told that death smooths out wrinkles and leaves the face young and smooth. With joy they will give them- selves at last into the hands of the only effective masseur, the one facial surgeon who knows his job and will perform it free