20 MARCH 1915, Page 8


ONE wonders what the effect will be on literature after the war of the extraordinary number of pamphlets which are appearing. The explanation of the pamphlet form may be that publishers are willing to publish something but not much. Or it may be that where the almost anivereal aim js to impress certain facts upon a public not greatly given to reading serious books condensation is the only acceptable method of appeal. At all events, the process of condensation is an excellent experience; it was not for nothing that the pamphlet. of the great English age of pamphleteering were generally written in compact and vivid English. Mr. J. W. Slackail's pamphlet on Russia, *Ussia's Gift to the World (Hodder and Stoughton, 2d.), written to make Englishmen better acquainted with a country about which there is a curious ignorance, is a model of what snob a pamphlet should be. It is terse and simple; and behind the simplicity, which would leave nothing obscure to a boy or girl, there is a well- balanced view of life and art and en accurate critical judgment. Mr. Mardrail does not pretend that Russia in her domestic policy and in her treatment of races which are in varying degrees subject to her is exemplary. There is no trace in his pamphlet of the familiar vice of spoiling a good case by overstating it. Ile simply asks us to remember that Russia happens to be a century behind us in political develop- ment. That is a very good and simple test to apply when ne are told by people unfriendly to Russia that she rules despoti- cally, that she oppresses Finns and Jews, and that she bullies the Persians. Imagine a political philosopher observing the British people as they were a hundred or more years ago, and saying that because a Jingo motive often determined British policy abroad and because political rights were withheld from the mass of the people at home, therefore no good could ever come out of such a country as Britain. Milton, Shakespeare, Cromwell would not count! The absurdity of such an ergo- ment would be transparent. Yet some of our political philosophers to-day do not hesitate to argue in that way about Ruasia. The only questions really pertinent and worth asking concern the character and the intellectual capacity of the Russian people. Is their mind capable of grasping essentials, or would it always incompetently defeat itself like the mind of the Turks P Is their character steadfast and patient and capable of an unceasing endeavour to improve. or is it natively reactionary, slatternly, and corrupt? Are their leading men concerned with great literature and great scientific attain- ments, or are they absorbed by things which do not matter? If we can answer these questions favourably, we know enough

to bare the highest hopes for Russia. As education and self- government spread throughout the vast Empire the people will hold to what is right and condemn what is bad and narrow. It will be a proud position for other countries to be associated with a country which has hitched her waggon to a star, and to render her friendly aid in her upward struggle. Germany, of course, answers the questions we have proposed about Russia unfavonrably. - She assumes that the Russians have the mental vices of the East, and can only hinder the progress of the West, She calls them barbarians. Fortunately we know exactly what value to set on the German verdict. We know that Germany has had all the advantages of a culture which she denies to Russia, and that she has grossly abused them. What Russia will do in the days to come we cannot say. It is our very strong belief, however, that she will do exceedingly well. .,It is a certainty that at the worst she could never sin against the light so far as Germany has done. .

But let us turn to Mr. Maekail's answer to the questions we have put. The Russian language, as he says, is spoken (with some varieties of dialect) by more than a hundred million people, and is one of the richest and noblest in the world. It provides a mental discipline as great as any other modern language, and perhaps as great as Greek or Latin. This language has a modern literature not unworthy of it. The founder of this literature was Pushkin, a writer who, like Walter Scott, did not lose in romance his hold upon reality and his love of his country. But Pushkin was succeeded by men greater than himself; by Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy. Turgenev attained a beautiful harmony between thought and expression, and was acknow- ledged by both George Sand and Flaubert as their master. He deplored mach in his country, but he never despaired of her, and it was he who said of the Russian language that he could not but believe that it was to a great people that snob a language had been given. If Turgener represented an older Russia, Dostoyevsky represented the growth; the unrest, and the often sullen and despairing agony of the rising democracy. Through the desperate gloom we see the shining national qualities of long-suffering and humility. Englishmen, who have not lost patience with Tolatoy's eccentric sepia' philo- sophy, know his writings better than anything that Russia has produced. If Turgener was a supreme artist, and Dostoyevsky was too much concerned for human sorrow to be always an artist, Tolstoy could not help being an artist. War and Peace, 27+s Cossacks, Sevastopol, which contains some of the finest war sketches ever written. Anna Harenina, are all on the scale of grandeur. It is, as Mr. Mackail says, as though Nature had taken the pen and written for him.

Music is a natural gift of the Slave, and travellers in Russia are struck by the beauty of the folk-singing heard everywhere. The music is based on a natural scale, and is harmonized, when sung by several voices, by a sort of popular counterpoint. Native music was long hindered by the intolerance of the Church, and when it became a scientiflo study in the eighteenth century the Russian composers were Jed captive by the Italians. The "Italianate" composers gave place to Glinka, through whose genius Russian music, first came into its own. After Glinka, Dargomyzheky worked on the same lines as Wagner, though quite independently. It was Dargomyzhsky who uttered the famous sentence: "I want the note to be the direct equivalent of the word." Tschaikowsky was not distinctively Russian any more than Rubinstein was—even if Rubinstein's music be seriously regarded. The English public is only now becoming generally acquainted with the intimately Russian music of Mussorgsky, Borodin, and Rimaky.lrorankov. The 'music of the present composers is not of the same intimate national type, but the work of such men as Stravinsky and Skryabin is very interesting on its merits, even when its brilliance is too eccentric.

In painting Russia has had no great school comparable with the Italian, Dutch, English, and Flemish schools ; and in architecture she has had no periods like those of the French Gothic and the Italian Renaissance. The continuous tradition of Russian architecture comes from Byzantine sources. The Orthodox Church discouraged sculpture as well as all pictures which did not belong to a rigid convention. Moreover, in the Middle Ages and long afterwards Russia was too poor and too.

much oppressed by.invaders for art to flourish., In popular art, however, Russia is rich. This depends not on a few great artists, but on a widely diffused feeling for art throughout the peoplA No sensible traveller in Russia fails to bring back some specimens of the Russian sense of beauty, applied to simple things such as household articles, woodwork, sad ikons. The art of the woodworker springs from the forest districts, that of the textile worker from the agricultural dis- tricts. For sheer imagination Russian toys are a delight, and nearly everything that is fashioned is marked by glowing and pleasing colour.

As regards the drama, Mr. Maokail writes of the revo. lutionary and formative work of the famous Arta Theatre at Moscow :—

"This enterprise has brought about a revolution in the methods of acting and staging, and what is even more important, it seems to have brought about a revolution in the attitude of the public towards the theatre. It was started by two men, Stanislaysky and Danohenko. Their first achievement was the 'discovery' of Chekhov. His play, The Seagull, had been coldly received at Petrograd. Stanislaysky, bringing his sympathetic understand- ing to bear upon this essentially new thing in drama, restaged it in Moscow.. The combination of his art and Chekhov's, the inter- pretation and creation so brilliantly blended, seem to have achieved at a stroke that perfection which is still the distingunds- ing mark of the Arta Theatre's work. Other theatres hays their own virtues, courage, invention, strength, resource. But IN the acted drama has to work in that most fallible and unaccountable medium, the human actor, the margin of error and failure, eves is the best performances, must be enormous. In the Moscow Art. Theatre this difficulty seems to be conquered. To Stanislaysky rioting is a serious art. He works out its principles; be instructs his company and his pupil., not in its tricks, but in its ethics. He does not try to produce so many plays in the year, or each and such a play by a certain data Work is put into prepara- tion; when he is satisfied with it it is given to the public ; if he ia not satisfied the public never sees it at all. Though there is as particular virtue is taking a long thus over anything if you ens get the same result in a short time, it is a great virtue, and is the unique distinction of this theatre, that the artistic achievement in put first, and, until that has been accomplished, other coruridera- tions nowhere. Chekhov's later and maturer dramatic work, The Three Sisters, Mete Vaisya, and The Cherry Orchard, has all been written for and produced at this theatre. Both the plays end their stage-interpretation are typically Russian, but they supply a model for all theatrical work. When you watch a performance there you hardly ask whether each and such an actor is doing the thing well or not. You accept without question that this is what the man or woman was like, that this is how they lived and breathed, quite unconsciously. Almost as remarkable as the company is the audience. Their manners are perfect ; they seldom applaud, tied if any one attempted to interrupt the play by doing so he would probably be requested to leave. They seem never to arrive late, and if they do they have to stop outside. Nor is there any of that air of the theatre being spier» where disreputable people on sae aide of the curtain are paid to tickle the senses of idle marry- makors on the other. To the Russian publio the theatre takes its place quite simply and sensibly among all the other arta."

In the sciences Russia has done admirable work in the right spirit, and if it is less well known than it deserves to be, it is because the Russians are not advertisers. How many English boys know that it was a Russian, Lobathevsky, who diseovered the non-Euclidean geometry which has revolutionized the science ? Or how many boys who study chemistry remember that it was the speculation of a Russian, Mondeleyev, which changed (by his periodic law of the elements) the whole current of thought among chemical investigators P As for history. Russians have made the Byzantine age their own. No specialist can afford to ignore their reoearohes. It was a Russian again, M. Vinogradov, who inspired F. W. Maitland's history and was the discoverer of Bracton'a Note-book, one of the invaluable documents in English history.

We advise every one who has little knowledge of Russian achievementa to read this pamphlet. At the end of an hour he will feel, if we are not mistaken, that he is a friend of Russia. Russia, as Mr. Mackail says, overflow, with under- standing and sympathy. She is not as a whole what grown-up people call practical Patience and resignation are national traits that almost account to a weakness, but they are a beautiful weakness. There is little in the Russian character that is aggressive, but there is much capacity for heroics suffering. In a world which is suffering miserably from a super.aggressiveness let us back through thick and this a people who know not that fault. Equality and Fraternity are better understood perhaps in Russia than in Britain. It will be an honouring and pleasing task for Englishmen to stand as Russia's friend while she makes her own the other term of the great trinity of French ideals—the Liberty of a democracy.