Pictures and Books 99
to the next best, and so on downwards, never eating a worse
grape while a better one remains uneaten.
Personally, I think that, as the painter cannot go the
whole way, the sooner he makes it clear that he has no inten-
tion of trying to do so the better. When we look at a very
highly finished picture (so called), unless we are in the hands
of one who has attended successfully to the considerations
insisted on above, we feel as though we were with a trouble-
some cicerone who will not let us look at things with our
own eyes but keeps intruding himself at every touch and
turn and trying to exercise that undue influence upon us
which generally proves to have been the accompaniment of
concealment and fraud. This is exactly what we feel with
Van Mieris and, though in a less degree, with Gerard Dow ;
whereas with Jean Van Eyck and Metsu, no matter how far
they may have gone, we find them essentially as impressionist
as Rembrandt or Velasquez.
For impressionism only means that due attention has been
paid to the relative importances of the impressions made by
the various characteristics of a given subject, and that they
have been presented to us in order of precedence.
Eating Grapes Downwards
Always eat grapes downwards—that is, always eat the
best grape first; in this way there will be none better left
on the bunch, and each grape will seem good down to the
last. If you eat the other way, you will not have a good
grape in the lot. Besides, you will be tempting Providence
to kill you before you come to the best. This is why autumn
seems better than spring : in the autumn we are eating our
days downwards, in the spring each day still seems " very
bad." People should live on this principle more than they
do, but they do live on it a good deal; from the age of, say,
fifty we eat our days downwards.
In New Zealand for a long time I had to do the washing-up
after each meal. I used to do the knives first, for it might
please God to take me before I came to the forks, and then
what a sell it would have been to have done the forks rather
than the knives!