A CHAPTER IN JESTHETICAL ECONOMY.
APPETITE must be created before taste. What is called taste, is no other than the discrimination between different impressions, and the selection of the best means for cultivating and producing the best of those impressions. But practice is necessary to enable the taste to discriminate; it must be exercised on quantity before it can have data to discriminate in quality. Of course, a right direc- tion will enable it to discriminate the sooner, that is with practice upon less quantity : but some amount of practice it must have. In order, however, to be exercised on quantity, there must be the mo- tive to exercise ; that is, there must be the desire or appetite for the thing which is to be the object of taste. But appetite mostly grows with what it feeds on : appetite must have food if it is to exist at all. And, in point of fact, it will be found in most coun- tries, that, by an obvious reaction, appetite and taste are in propor- tion to the abundance of the food for both. Take an example in Greece, where PHID1AS and PRA XITELES exercised their eyes on armies of statues ; or in Italy, where music is everywhere, used on all occasions, and having a home in every mouth. It would be pre- sumptuous to deny that a Phidias might have birth in a country where statues are infrequent ; but then, he would be an exile to the land where they are frequent, or he must have some special idio- syncracy, which makes him an alien in the land of his birth. And as to the bulk of the people, if they are to have Phidian tastes, they must meet with Phidian works at every turn. To take an example nearer home : much as the mechanical style of the English school of design has been abused, it is impossible not to perceive, that the reduplication of works of art, even of an inferior grade, has caused a vast improvement in the taste of the people. Time was when the majority of the gentry at a county ball would have concurred with their servants and tradespeople in voting the Phidian Jupiter "an ugly old fright," because he wears an amount of beard not in use among their friends and relations : now, the prints from the Annuals and Scrap-books, the casts of the Italian image-men, and railroad and steam-boat trips to Metro- politan exhibitions modern and antique, have familiarized the senses of our country cousins to stranger sights than a Titan beard; a habit of broader comparison has been acquired ; and even a nur- sery-maid would hesitate before she condemned the great sculptor. The popular taste has advanced from Dresden-china Negro boys
and pug-dogs, beyond shepherds and shepherdesses and Spanish bull-fighters, to C &NOVA'S dancing-girls and the Apollo Belvidere; with a reverence even for the bearded Jupiter or broken-nosed Theseus in the British Museum.
It is the same with music. Though the barrel-organ, with its monotony of key, weather-beaten tune, and slack-handed time, may be despised by ears polite, yet it was the pioneer of the Moats and Bonuses, the Glum and LABLACH ES, whom railroads have dispersed through the country' and the pan-pipe and flageolet-man, with " Polly put the kettle on," have been driven out of the village- green by cheap versions of " Nume benefico" or " Vi Ravviso"; and no irreverent fool, who had the means of getting into the Operahouse, would now laugh at the priestly Sarastro for a Jew in a night-gown, merely because his apprehension was baffled by the costume and undirected by the oracular music.
If it is desirable, therefore, further to encourage the popular taste, it is requisite to give every encouragement to the growth of food for taste; and a fortiori it is advisable to remove every re- striction upon the supply. Popular taste is the last thing which it would be proper to tax ; since the very fact of taxation would go to destroy the thing to be taxed. The annals of the Customhouse afford several instances of the kind. A tax has been put upon some foreign manufacture, (the silk-trade exhibits more than one case,) because it was more prized than the home manufacture on account of the taste which it displayed—and the power to imitate the thing prized, instead of being fostered by the " protection," was destroyed; the restriction was removed, the foreign article was free to enter—and the native taste, strengthened in the struggle, was enabled successfully to compete with the foreign skill. The " protection " of the Customhouse is not unlike the " protection " which Russia professes to bestow on some neighbouring states; it resembles that species of maternal care called overlaying.
But a case more directly in point is afforded by the evidence be- fore the Select Committee on Import-Duties. Among the wit- nesses, was a musical-instrument-maker of the name of HANLEY, who gave some very interesting testimony to the importance of free trade in national resthetics. In order to make a people musical, they must not be drawn to the theatre to obtain decent music ; it must be carried into their own houses. One of the most conve- nient modes of doing so is in the shape of the pianoforte, which constitutes a sort of parlour-orchestra. English pianofortes how- ever, are very dear ; and foreign musical instruments are burdened with a heavy duty, which is nugatory in every respect, both as a protection to trade and a fiscal resource. Hear what Mr. HANLEY says as to the practicability and effect of introducing foreign piano- fortes duty-free-
" Are you able to state the relative prices of pianofortes manufactured abroad and here ?"—" Yes; looking at the manufacture abroad in pianofortes, we find that square instruments, of a class such as we charge in this country from 40/. to 50/. for, are sold in Vienna at from 10/. to 12/. English money."
"Do you consider a duty of 20 per cent, or any duty, requisite to protect the English manufacturer, if the price is so different?"—" Certainly none: we have a superiority in the manufacture itself, which they have never attained, and I question whether they ever will." "Row does this additional duty operate ?"--" It is not the duty that pro- tects our manufactures; in these cases they protect themselves, being superior, and of more lasting stamina, if I may so call it ; the structure is better through- out, more firm, more solid, more enduring : and we have this evidenced by the practice of private families resident in those very countries, who come here and always buy English instruments, though the prices are so very different." "The duty, then, is nugatory ?"—" Yes, decidedly so."
"Does not the duty enable the English manufacturer to keep up the price against the consumer? "—" It may appear so, but in fact it is not so ; it is not the duty that does it, but the superiority of our work: if the duty were taken off, I certainly think that we should manufacture more pianofortes than we do, because the foreign instruments, such as we import, would come in and form a class by themselves, and get spread abroad among a snore numerous body of consumers; and they having such instruments in use, in the same way as we now find with cheap second-hand pianofortes, those foreign instru- ments, when brought here are sold to private families, and introduced into their houses at prices cheaper than the English pianofortes could be purchased tinder existing circumstances, would create a taste and demand for the English pianofortes over and above what at present exists. The second-band piano- fortes now get among a class of persons who, in the first instance, cannot afford to buy better : they answer their purpose for a time as regards price ; and having acquired a certain proficiency upon them, they are enabled to buy better instruments, or rather, it creates a desire to have better instru- ments; and that, I think, would be still more the case if there was no duty on foreign pianofortes. * • • There would be more foreign pianofortes im- ported, which would go among a class at present who have not any instru- ments, and that would be a large class of persons."
Mr. HANLEY discloses a curious ingredient in the high price of pianofortes : purchasers may not generally be aware, that when they give a handsome price for a good instrument, a quarter of the money goes to the "professor "who recommends it. Mr. Hermny says that such is the practice of the trade ; and that the maker who may happen to sell direct to a purchaser without the intervention of .a "professor," will not usually reduce the price by the amount of said professor's premium, lest that worthy should go to other houses, add because it would be considered "rather mean." • Mr. HANLEY proposes a small commission, openly given, in place of this secret bribe; and he thinks the professor as well as the trade gene- rally would gain by the enlargement of the popular taste and of the demand for music and teaching. What with the commission and duty and practice of making chiefly dear instruments here, the
i number of pianofortes in use n England is as one to two compared with Germany. All parties would gain.
"Do not the duty and the practice which you have stated tend to prevent the spread of the knowledge and use of music in this country, as compared with what it is on the Continent ? "—" That is, in my opinion, one of the principal reasons why the knowledge of music is not so spread: it is not that the Eng- lish are not capable of receiving as much musical education as foreigners, and also of acquiring practice and skill, but that the high price of instruments, and the monopoly existing under the circumstances such as I have spoken of, pre- vent that diffusion which would otherwise take place." "Are you of opinion that the practice and use of music, which you know is very general in Germany and in France, would be much increased in England if that duty was taken off and that practice of paying professors put an end to? "—" That is my opinion ; that by taking off the duty we should have more instruments imported : they would be cheaper, and would be more generally used among a class of persons who do not touch them at present : those per- sons, after having gone to the extent of the foreign instruments, would require better, and they must look to the English instruments to satisfy that want."
"It would extend the home trade in instruments ?"—" Yes; it would double it shortly." "The price to the consumer would be less, but would not the profit to the manufacturer be also less ? "—" On the individual instrument the profit would be less; but, taking into consideration the large number they would sell under the change I suppose, I think their profits on the aggregate would be larger than at present.'
"Would not the number of hands employed in the manufacture of RIRSiCia instruments in England be also greatly increased ? "—" Decidedly so."
Another minor instance of fiscal restriction on music is furnished by the article of harp-strings. A high duty is charged on foreign strings ; but a few are imported for colourable purposes, and "to enable certain parties who import them to sell many over the counter as foreign, the public not being able to distinguish between them." English strings are accordingly sold at the price of the duty-burdened foreign .strings. Here is an immediate gain ; but most probably the trade loses in the long run. Mr. HANLEY says-
" It frequently has happened to myself, being a harp-manufacturer, where those strings are most required, that parties have expressed a wish to have an instrument, but have alleged that the cost of keeping it in order was too great : I have told them that for a guinea a year I would keep the instrument in strings; and as soon as they have seen that they could for that moderate sum have strings for one year, they have bought the instrument; but before they would not, because they thought they should have to pay from five to six guineas a year for strings."
The Muses have an especial right to call upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to explain, why, instead of offering a sacrifice, he imposes a tax upon them.
Mr. HANLEY'S evidence, however' suggests another question: why should it be necessary to wait for that long, if not hopeless, process of convincing a Chancellor of the Exchequer? why should not instruments at once be made of a cheap kind ? In the plainest Pianoforte now sold, much needless expense is bestowed on the case; the musical instrument, enclosed within, benefiting nothing by the display. Would it be impossible for a manufacturer to create a large trade in an instrument like a pianoforte, but smaller, of less compass and of no show—in a case of stained wood perhaps—for purely
compass, use ?
There is another point too : the price of musical publications is exorbitant. Hitherto, we believe, the trade have set their faces against carrying the "twopenny trash" system into music. Have i
they been wise n doing so ? would not the spread of cheap music literature create an enormous extension of the trade, similar to the difference between the trade in books now and the trade some hundred years back ?—the sale even of dear publications being augmented by the great increase of the general demand. These are economical questions which, though the professor and trader and dilettante may think them out of " their line," affect them more nearly than might have been supposed. The moralist is notoriously concerned deeply in economies; and so is the man of taste; if, indeed, the distinction is to be made.