io8 On the Making of Music,
The Gauntlet of Youth
Everything that is to age well must have run the gauntlet
of its youth. Hardly ever does a work of art hold its own
against time if it was not treated somewhat savagely at first—
I should say " artist " rather than " work of art."
Greatness in Art
If a work of art—music, literature or painting—is for all
time, it must be independent of the conventions, dialects,
costumes and fashions of any time; if not great without
help from such unessential accessories, no help from them
can greaten it. A man must wear the dress of his own time,
but no dressing can make a strong man of a weak one.
They say the test of this is whether a man can write an
inscription. I say " Can he name a kitten ? " And by this
test I ana condemned, for I cannot.
Subject and Treatment
It is often said that treatment is more important than
subject, but no treatment can make a repulsive subject not
repulsive. It can make a trivial, or even a stupid, subject
interesting, but a really bad flaw in a subject cannot be
treated out. Happily the man who has sense enough to
treat a subject well will generally have sense enough to choose
a good one, so that the case of a really repulsive subject
treated in a masterly manner does not often arise. It is
often said to have arisen, but in nine cases out of ten the
treatment will be found to have been overpraised.
People say how strong it is ; and indeed it is strong while it
is in its prime. In its childhood and old age it is as weak as
any other organism. I try to make my own work belong to
the youth of a public opinion. The history of the world is