Essays by Alice Meynell
By Alice Meynell

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The Honours of Mortality

The brilliant talent which has quite lately and quite suddenly arisen, to devote itself to the use of the day or of the week, in illustrated papers–the enormous production of art in black and white–is assuredly a confession that the Honours of Mortality are worth working for. Fifty years ago, men worked for the honours of immortality; these were the commonplace of their ambition; they declined to attend to the beauty of things of use that were destined to be broken and worn out, and they looked forward to surviving themselves by painting bad pictures; so that what to do with their bad pictures in addition to our own has become the problem of the nation and of the householder alike. To-day men have began to learn that their sons will be grateful to them for few bequests. Art consents at last to work upon the tissue and the china that are doomed to the natural and necessary end–destruction; and art shows a most dignified alacrity to do her best, daily, for the “process," and for oblivion.

Doubtless this abandonment of hopes so large at once and so cheap costs the artist something; nay, it implies an acceptance of the inevitable that is not less than heroic. And the reward has been in the singular and manifest increase of vitality in this work which is done for so short a life. Fittingly indeed does life reward the acceptance of death, inasmuch as to die is to have been alive. There is a real circulation of blood-quick use, brief beauty, abolition, recreation. The honour of the day is for ever the honour of that day. It goes into the treasury of things that are honestly and–completely ended and done with. And when can so happy a thing be said of a lifeless oil-painting? Who of the wise would hesitate? To be honourable for one day–one named and dated day, separate from all other days of the ages–or to be for an unlimited time tedious?


Ceres’ Runaway  •  Wells  •  Rain  •  The Tow Path  •  The Tethered Constellations  •  Rushes and Reeds  •  A Northern Fancy  •  Pathos  •  Anima Pellegrina!  •  A Point of Biography  •  The Honours of Mortality  •  Composure  •  The Little Language  •  A Counterchange  •  Harlequin Mercutio  •  Laughter  •  The Rhythm of Life  •  Domus Angusta  •  Innocence and Experience  •  The Hours of Sleep  •  Solitude  •  Decivilized  •  The Spirit of Place  •  Popular Burlesque  •  Have Patience, Little Saint  •  At Monastery Gates  •  The Sea Wall  •  Tithonus  •  Symmetry and Incident  •  The Plaid  •  The Flower  •  Unstable Equilibrium  •  Victorian Caricature  •  The Point of Honour  •  The Colour of Life  •  The Horizon  •  In July  •  Cloud  •  Shadows  •  The Seventeenth Century  •  Mrs. Dingley  •  Prue  •  Mrs. Johnson  •  Madame Roland  •  Fellow Travellers With a Bird  •  The Child of Tumult  •  The Child of Subsiding Tumult  •  The Unready  •  That Pretty Person  •  Under the Early Stars  •  The Illusion of Historic Time  •  Footnotes

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The Essays of Alice Meynell (Centenary Edition)
By Sir Francis Meynell
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