REGINALD ON THE ACADEMY

“One goes to the Academy in self-defence,” said

Reginald. “It is the one topic one has in common with the

Country Cousins.”

“It is almost a religious observance with them,” said

the Other. “A kind of artistic Mecca, and when the good

ones die they go—”

“To the Chantrey Bequest. The mystery is what they

find to talk about in the country.”

“There are two subjects of conversation in the country:

Servants, and Can fowls be made to pay? The first, I

believe, is compulsory, the second optional.”

“As a function,” resumed Reginald, “the Academy is a

failure.”

“You think it would be tolerable without the pictures?”

“The pictures are all right, in their way; after all, one

can always look at them if one is bored with one’s

surroundings, or wants to avoid an imminent acquaintance.”

“Even that doesn’t always save one. There is the

inevitable female whom you met once in Devonshire, or the

Matoppo Hills, or somewhere, who charges up to you with the

remark that it’s funny how one always meets people one knows

at the Academy. Personally, I don’t think it funny.”

“I suffered in that way just now,” said Reginald

plaintively, “from a woman whose word I had to take that

she had met me last summer in Brittany.”

“I hope you were not too brutal?”

“I merely told her with engaging simplicity that the art

of life was the avoidance of the unattainable.”

“Did she try and work it out on the back of her catalogue?”

“Not there and then. She murmured something about being

`so clever.’ Fancy coming to the Academy to be clever!”

“To be clever in the afternoon argues that one is dining

nowhere in the evening.”

“Which reminds me that I can’t remember whether I

accepted an invitation from you to dine at Kettner’s

tonight.”

“On the other hand, I can remember with startling

distinctness not having asked you to.”

“So much certainty is unbecoming in the young; so we’ll

consider that settled. What were you talking about? Oh,

pictures. Personally, I rather like them; they are so

refreshingly real and probable, they take one away from the

unrealities of life.”

“One likes to escape from oneself occasionally.”

“That is the disadvantage of a portrait; as a rule, one’s

bitterest friends can find nothing more to ask than the

faithful unlikeness that goes down to posterity as oneself.

I hate posterity—it’s so fond of having the last word. Of

course, as regards portraits, there are exceptions.”

“For instance?”

“To die before being painted by Sargent is to go to

heaven prematurely.”

“With the necessary care and impatience, you may avoid

that catastrophe.”

“If you’re going to be rude,” said Reginald, “I shall

dine with you tomorrow night as well. The chief vice of the

Academy,” he continued, “is its nomenclature. Why, for

instance, should an obvious trout-stream with a palpable

rabbit sitting in the foreground be called `an evening dream

of unbeclouded peace,’ or something of that sort?”

“You think,” said the Other, “that a name should

economize description rather than stimulate imagination?”

“Properly chosen, it should do both. There is my lady

kitten at home, for instance; I’ve called it Derry.”

“Suggests nothing to my imagination but protracted sieges

and religious animosities. of course, I don’t know your

kitten—”

“Oh, you’re silly. It’s a sweet name, and it answers to

it—when it wants to. Then, if there are any unseemly

noises in the night, they can be explained succinctly: Derry

and Toms.”

“You might almost charge for the advertisement. But as

applied to pictures, don’t you think your system would be

too subtle, say, for the Country Cousins?”

“Every reformation must have its victims. You can’t

expect the fatted calf to share the enthusiasm of the angels

over the prodigals return. Another darling weakness of the

Academy is that none of its luminaries must `arrive’ in a

hurry. You can see them coming for years, like a Balkan

trouble or a street improvement, and by the time they have

painted a thousand or so square yards of canvas, their work

begins to be recognized.”

“Some one who Must Not be Contradicted said that a man

must be a success by the time he’s thirty, or never.”

“To have reached thirty,” said Reginald, “is to have

failed in life.”