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PAGE 2

The Romance Of The Clash Of Races
by [?]

Who can be surprised that amid this seething turmoil of colours, instincts, creeds, and languages, art should have fastened upon the race-problems as her great theme for the moment? And she has fastened upon them everywhere. France herself has not been able to avoid the contagion. Pierre Loti is the most typical French representative of this vagabond spirit; and the question of the peoples naturally envisages itself to his mind in true Gallic fashion in the “Mariage de Loti” and in “Madame Chrysantheme.” He sees it through a halo of vague sexual sentimentalism. In England, it was Rider Haggard from the Cape who first set the mode visibly; and nothing is more noteworthy in all his work than the fact that the interest mainly centres in the picturesque juxtaposition and contrast of civilisation and savagery. Once the cue was given, what more natural than that young Rudyard Kipling, fresh home from India, brimming over with genius and with knowledge of two concurrent streams of life that flow on side by side yet never mingle, should take up his parable in due course, and storm us all by assault with his light field artillery? Then Robert Louis Stevenson, born a wandering Scot, with roving Scandinavian and fiery Celtic blood in his veins, must needs settle down, like a Viking that he is, in far Samoa, there to charm and thrill us by turns with the romance of Polynesia. The example was catching. Almost without knowing it, other writers have turned for subjects to similar fields. “Dr. Isaacs,” “Paul Patoff,” “By Proxy,” were upon us. Even Hall Caine himself, in some ways a most insular type of genius, was forced in “The Scapegoat” to carry us off from Cumberland and Man to Morocco. Sir Edwin Arnold inflicts upon us the tragedies of Japan. I have been watching this tendency long myself with the interested eye of a dealer engaged in the trade, and therefore anxious to keep pace with every changing breath of popular favour: and I notice a constant increase from year to year in the number of short stories in magazines and newspapers dealing with the romance of the inferior races. I notice, also, that such stories are increasingly successful with the public. This shows that, whether the public knows it or not itself, the question of race is interesting it more and more. It is gradually growing to understand the magnitude of the change that has come over civilisation by the inclusion of Asia, Africa, and Australasia within its circle. Even the Queen is learning Hindustani.

There is a famous passage in Green’s “Short History of the English People” which describes in part that strange outburst of national expansion under Elizabeth, when Raleigh, Drake, and Frobisher scoured the distant seas, and when at home “England became a nest of singing birds,” with Shakespeare, Spenser, Fletcher, and Marlow. “The old sober notions of thrift,” says the picturesque historian, “melted before the strange revolutions of fortune wrought by the New World. Gallants gambled away a fortune at a sitting, and sailed off to make a fresh one in the Indies.” (Read rather to-day at Kimberley, Johannesburg, Vancouver.) “Visions of galleons loaded to the brim with pearls and diamonds and ingots of silver, dreams of El Dorados where all was of gold, threw a haze of prodigality and profusion over the imagination of the meanest seaman. The wonders, too, of the New World kindled a burst of extravagant fancy in the Old. The strange medley of past and present which distinguishes its masques and feastings only reflected the medley of men’s thoughts…. A ‘wild man’ from the Indies chanted the Queen’s praises at Kenilworth, and Echo answered him. Elizabeth turned from the greetings of sibyls and giants to deliver the enchanted lady from her tyrant, ‘Sans Pitie.’ Shepherdesses welcomed her with carols of the spring, while Ceres and Bacchus poured their corn and grapes at her feet.” Oh, gilded youth of the Gaiety, mutato nomine de te Fabula narratur. Yours, yours is this glory!

For our own age, too, is a second Elizabethan. It blossoms out daily into such flowers of fancy as never bloomed before, save then, on British soil. When men tell you nowadays we have “no great writers left,” believe not the silly parrot cry. Nay, rather, laugh it down for them. We move in the midst of one of the mightiest epochs earth has ever seen, an epoch which will live in history hereafter side by side with the Athens of Pericles, the Rome of Augustus, the Florence of Lorenzo, the England of Elizabeth. Don’t throw away your birthright by ignoring the fact. Live up to your privileges. Gaze around you and know. Be a conscious partaker in one of the great ages of humanity.