26 DECEMBER 1914, Page 11


OUR only complaint against Mr. Lucas's guide-book, A Wanderer in Venice (Methuen and Co., 6s.), is one which we did not in the least expect to have to bring against it. The book is far too conscientious, painstaking, and orderly. We had hoped from Mr. Lucas something nobly dis- cursive, and, lo and behold! our volatile, touch-and-go essayist toiling and grinding at the painting, sculpture, and archi- tectural mill of Venice with the topographical slaves of Baedeker and Murray. Sir Thomas Browne in a passage which has been quoted more than once before in these columns gave to his son the best possible advice for the writing of a wanderer's book. The son had been travelling in Hungary, and proposed to tell the world of his day all about it. The author of Urn Burial was of course delighted, but warned the young man not to trouble about facts and details. He was not to say too much about the way in which the ores of Hungary were converted into metal, or to import into his pages too abundant a crop of useful and edifying information. What, however, he was on no account to miss, bat must give a full and minute account of, was " the tomb of discoloured alabaster in the barber's shop at Pesth."

Here is a parable which we thought it certain that Mr. Lucas would have followed. We expected, speaking para- bolically, a wilderness of alabaster tombs in barbers' shops and other odd places, whether in painting, in literature, or in history. And then we turn Mr. Lucas's pages and find all speciously correct, faultily faultless, and icily regular. His Tintorettos and Titians, his Doges and Dandolos, his Palaces and Patriarchs, are marshalled and regimented like an army of Prussians. Let us take a specific example. The present writer wanted to know Mr. Lucas's idea of Napoleon in Venice as ardently as Pecksniff wanted to see Mrs. Todgers's idea of a wooden leg. Great was his disappointment. The information is perfectly correct, but there is nothing of the "tomb in the barber's shop" about it. Nothing whatever. And yet what an opportunity for matter of this kind I For instance, Mr. Lucas fails to tell us that Napoleon when he took Venice rode up the inclined planes of the Campanile on a mule, like the insolent, short-legged conqueror that he was. An English G.O.C., even if touched in the wind, would have walked up to avoid " swank." Napoleon rode up where no one presumably had ever ridden up before just because it was " swank " to do so. Or may it not have been that he found it was a privilege reserved for the Doge P If it was (on which matter we know nothing for certain), he would, of course, have instantly done it. It was his regular game to out-King the Kings. Next, Mr. Lucas does not mention the wonderful dredger worked by a treadmill wheel, still in use for all we know, on the land side of the Lagoon. Napoleon's prisoners ran up and down in it like squirrels in a cage, and so did convicts only some thirty years ago, as the present writer can testify. Again, we are not told, as we should have been on the barber's shop principle, where Napoleon slept when he was in Venice. Presumably it was at the Doge's Palace, but we never remember to have seen recorded anything of his private life on the Lagoons. If these lines should meet the eye of Mr. Horatio Brown, whose pleasant verses have every now and then delighted the readers of the Spectator, and who knzws everything about Venice and her people, we should be greatly obliged if he could tell us where Napoleon slept and ate, what were the chief sights he visited, what he thought of the special Venetian dishes, and whether any of his trenchant remarks about Venice are recorded. And now we are going to follow Mr. Lucas's reprehensible spirit of correctitude and combat his view as to why the Republic fell so easily before the French invasion. Surely the real reason was that the Venetian oligarchy ignored Bacon's profound maxim that only those nations are fit for Empire who are liberal in the matter of naturalization.

Instead, they followed the Kruger policy of refusing political rights to "outlanders." Hence some nine-tenths of the population of Venice had no political rights whatever, and were mere denizens and not citizens of their city. To the unenfranchised nine-tenths, or maybe nineteen-twentieths, the French Jacobins came as deliverers. The Doge could not appeal to the Venetian people as a whole to keep out the French. And so the State of Venice vanished at the Great Anarch's " uncreating word."—But in writing like this we stand self-condemned, and we apologize humbly to our readers.

We have a great quarrel with Mr. Lucas over his treat- ment of Tiepolo. That noble painter appears to leave him cold. The present writer can only say that to him Tiepolo seems the most magnificent ceiling painter in the world. Even

if he did let his gods and goddesses dangle their legs down from the cornice a little too abundantly, he was a true artist, and the most daring master of aerial perspective known to mankind. Mr. Lucas does not seem to have been to the Palace of Stra. If be had, we feel sure that the ceiling in the great hall would have converted him. And yet we have a cold doubt, for, incredible as it sounds, he does not appear to have noticed the Tiepolo in the Museo Civico. There is to be seen the most audacious painting produced in Italy, or indeed anywhere, in the eighteenth century. What this picture portrays we do not know exactly, because Mr. Brown, to the best of our knowledge, has never told us—his fault, not ours. We imagine that we are looking at Venetian ladies and gentlemen (circa 1770) on the shores of Lido watching the galleys come in. Some anticipatory demons, in the forms-to-be of Mr. Aubrey Beardsley, Mr. Brangvryn, and an anonymous Post-Impres- sionist or two, seem to have appropriated Tiepolo's brushes and palette and made his decadent sightseers look " real wicked." There is an Exquisite handing a lady across a ditch—at least that is bow we remember it—which posi-

tively takes one's breath away by its unimpeachable naughti- ness. It " fascinates and is intolerable " mach more terribly than Michelangelo's Medicean Roman. Had Mr. Lear, we wonder, seen it before he wrote the famous verse

"There was an old person of Cadiz,

Who was always polite to the ladies ; But in handing his daughter He fell into the water, Which drowned that old person of Cadiz "P

The young gentleman in Venice was probably not handing his daughter, but somebody else's wife, for in that bewigged and wicked world the only person you could never by any possibility hand across a ditch was your own wife or your own daughter. In any case, the figures stand as the purest pieces of pictorial devilry ever put on canvas.

Mr. Lucas is always a great hand at quotations, and he has given us some very charming examples in his book. We are selfishly delighted to find, however, that he has missed one well worth making. In talking about the bronze horses of St. Mark he fails to give us this fine piece of bravura work :—

" Proud Racers of the Sun I to fancy's thought Burning with spirit, from his essence caught, No mortal birth ye seem—but form'd to bear Heaven's car of triumph through the realms of airj To range uncurb'd the pathless fields of space, The winds your rivals in the glorious race ;

How many a state, whose pinned strength sublime, Defied the storms of war, the waves of time, Towering o'er earth majestic and alone, Fortress of power—has flourish'd and is gone! And they, from clime to clime by conquest borne, Each fleeting triumph destined to adorn, They, that of powers and kingdoms lost and won, Have seen the noontide and the setting sun, Consummate still in every grace remain, As o'er their heads had ages rolled in vain( Ages, victorious in their ceaseless flight, O'er countless monuments of earthly might While she from fair Byzantium's lost domain, Who bore those treasures to her ocean reign, 'Midst the deep blue, who rear'd her island throne, And called the infinitude of waves her own." Probably Mr. Lucas, who knows all literature, from Cortjat's Crudities to " L. E. L.'s" sentimentalizinga, will instantly

remember the quotation. In case, however, he should fail to do so, we shall remain " mum" and give him the pleasure of hunting it up. If he says the lines are not worth looking for or quoting, we shall of course say " Sour grapes!" after the manner of rival quotationists.

Another quotation which we think he ought to have made

is from Clough's Dipsychus. However, we are not going to cavil any more, for has he not made us once again " walk the watery way of Palaces " ? For that " compensation ample for long days" we duly thank him. If because of that awful portent which flames across the Straits of Dover, and warns us to work not dream, we cannot reach Italy this year, we can at least travel to her in a guide-book, and here is Mr. Lucas offering us tho wherewithal. Like the chief character in that soul-shaking ballad, " The Ship of the Fiend," he addresses MB all :--*

"I'll show you how the lilies grow On the banks of Italy."

One wonders whether the Italians realize what being deprived

of their annual voyage to Italy means to many English people. Some day some analyst of the soul will tell us why it is that Italy specially appeals to the English. Anyway, the fact is a fact and always has been, witness Coryat and the Somerset Manor° written of on Mr. Lucas's fly-leaf. The present writer, like Coryat, was born in the pleasant county of Somerset. Yet he deems Coryat wholly right when he says that he would rather see Venice than have the gift of "four of the richest manors in Somersetshire—wherein I was born." We can truthfully say that if we were told we might be one of the Lords of Mendip if we would promise never to visit Venice again, we should, though not without a pang, refuse that splendid gift. The winds that blow over Mendip are for us "the authentic airs of Paradise"; but we remember the mud-banks of the Lagoon at low tide, with the orb of the " golden, indolent setting sun" reflected from their shining levels. It may not be morally wise to listen to the voice of the strange woman, but Venice is Venice when all is said.

If we run on like this, however, we shall be reminded by our younger readers that we are hopelessly mid-Victorian in our maudlin love of Italy, and so, to make an end, we thank Mr. Lucas kindly for his good book and ask him to forgive our carping. He has, at any rate, sent one old plough-horse " snorting down the flowery meads."