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Of late years, owing to circumstances and conditions of life and tenure and law, the number of houses which are built by those who have to dwell in them is comparatively small, and we find as a result that, not merely are houses thrown up, so to speak, in our industrial districts suddenly and without much thought for anything except a quick return or a big dividend, but that now even in our agricultural and peasant districts the person who has to live in the home is seldom or ever the builder of his own house. It may be that this is inevitable, and that we have to make the best of it, but at any rate I think it is only well to face the fact that some of our greatest teachers say that we can never hope to have beautiful fitting homes so long as they are built, not by those who have to live in them, but by others, who have only some material or cash interest in them. Ruskin some wheresays, I think it is in The Eagle's Nest: "If cottages are ever to be wisely built again, the peasant must enjoy his cottage and be himself its architect, as a bird is. Shall cock robins and yellow-hammers have wit enough to make themselves comfortable, and bullfinches pick a Gothic tracery out of decayed clematis, and your English (and he might add your Welsh) yeoman be fitted by his landlord with four dead walls and a drainpipe? Is this the result of your spending £300,000 a year at South Kensington in science and art ?" Without entering either into the question of the tenure of houses and land in Wales, or into that most interesting question of the future of South Kensington, I think it is interesting at any rate, and perhaps right, that we should mark and ponder over this dictum of Ruskin ; for I must admit that, much as bustling generations and the multitude of the Philistines in this country have laughed from time to time during the last fifty years at the teaching and the dicta of the Master, yet time con
stantly brings him its revenges, and dicta, which thirty or forty or fifty years ago and even to-day, are scoffed at by busy, prosperous, pushing men, have a curious knack of being recognised as permanent and solid truths by the more thoughtful men and women of our time. I must admit that I do feel a certain sense of void as I think of the modern buildings, the farmhouses and cottages of Wales, their want of character, their want of anything like attractiveness of form, and certainly their want of anything like personal individuality. I repeat, I feel a certain void when, as I sometimes have the pleasure of doing, I pass through Swiss or Tyrolese villages and glens, and observe how the Swiss and the Tyrolese peasants can and do build themselves a home, fittingly proportioned, daintily carved with scrolls or inscriptions, with variations of line, and form, and colour, which give an individuality to each dwelling. I hope that, whatever may be the laws which govern the tenure of houses or of land in Wales, we shall do, as I am glad to find the committees of our Eisteddfodau do, our very utmost to impress upon the workmen and the handicraftsmen of Wales the dignity and the value and the possibilities of their every-day work.
I am not to-night going to appreciate or examine the work, precious pioneer work, which the Committee of the Newport Eisteddfod, and, in a more modest way, of the Festiniog Eisteddfod, are doing for art and handicraft in Wales. I believe that a perusal of the published programme of Newport and a perusal also of the manuscript programme of Festiniog gives one some sense of joy that the Eisteddfodau, not content with instilling a love for and helping the practice of excellence in music, in literature, and in poetry, are doing something, and, I believe, something substantial, to encourage those who build houses in Wales, those who own them, and those who work upon
them, whether carpenters, or joiners, or blacksmiths, or furniture makers, to put thought, and heart, and brain into the construction of homes, places of worship, houses of business, halls of council, which in themselves, in their furniture and in their surroundings, imperceptibly but very surely exercise a far-reaching influence upon all those, old and young, whose eyes rest on them, and who dwell in their midst.
Whatever may be our possessions or our want of possessions, our opportunities and institutions, or our lack of them, this at any rate is true, that there is in Wales a respect for and a love for books. Our countrymen probably draw as much joy and comfort and strength from books as the common people of any country. Some people, I think quite a number of people, believe that any paper, or any type, or any cover, is good enough for a book; they say that all they want in the book is the actual word. From my point of view, to treat a book in that way, and to say that any paper, or type, or cover, is good enough for it, is a form of sacrilege. It is a betrayal of one's best friend; it is shabby treatment of a man's greatest comforter. For what after all is a good book? It represents the most precious heritage of the ages, it contains the highest thoughts about God, Nature, and human things. It represents what mankind, by a curious but very sure instinct, looks upon as a permanent and imperishable treasure. Nevertheless, some would say that it is good enough for this precious heritage to be huddled anyhow into a tawdry or rubbishy cover or shoddy binding, with careless and blurred type, on cheap and nasty paper. Can we not in Wales give a nobler place, take a righter view of the value of a book, as a friend, as a comforter, as a strength to us? So far, what we have done with our books, as a rule, is to leave them in the
British Museum or let them be kept, too many of them, in manuscripts at the caprice of individuals, and subject to the ravages of time and the ordinary accidents of circumstance. Happily, more and more of our books, of our permanent treasures, are being published. Can we not show a further appreciation of the value to the individual and the active life of our people of our books? Can we not, for instance, more and more encourage those who place the great thoughts of the world to do so, not on miserable paper with bad type and characterless binding, without any illustration except perhaps a cheap reproduction of a photograph or a rough-and-ready engraving? Can we not in one way or another, either individually or collectively, encourage these beautiful arts, of printing well, of illustrating well, and of binding well? If individually we do this and encourage this, I believe we shall give an enormous impetus to one of the noblest forms of decorative art in Wales, and is it not high time that we should in this way treat the Mabinogion, Dafydd ab Gwilym, Ceiriog's Myfanwy and Alun Mabon, and even the Pennillion Telyn and the Tribanau. These are racy of the soil of Wales, in one and all of these you feel, as you read them, the very pulses of the life of Wales, and yet we seem satisfied if we can get them in any commonplace, unlovely form. Cannot we hope that our artists may find their inspiration-as English artists do in Chaucer and in the great masterpieces of English literature-in, for instance, the Mabinogion, and in illustrating what I may call the home and domestic poetry of the Welsh people? Cannot we also hope that there may be set up Welsh printing presses whose owners shall take real trouble and incur expense in securing not the cheapest but the best type, and shall we not also do our utmost, individually and collectively, to encourage what I cannot
but consider one of the most serviceable and highest forms of handcraft, namely, the binding of books? I do think that a beautifully bound book is a joy in itself now and for ever to its possessor, and there is no reason whatever why in this matter much steady and speedy improvement should not be secured in Wales. There is no need for us to go through any great agitation. We have only, one and all, to do our duty towards our best friends, the favourite books of childhood, of youth, and of age.
I might easily mention other forms of activity and of craftsmanship where decoration and beauty of design and honesty of workmanship come in, for instance, pottery, tapestry, even posters. I think that one of the many joys, or, if you will, compensations of living in London is the enormous improvement in the posters of this great town. I feel a considerable interest whenever I go through a town in the various features of its life, in its houses, its churches, its schools, and in the faces and dresses of its people, but I must admit that advertisement hoardings in every town have almost as much attraction for me as anything. I can see there a miniature of the life of the town. I can see what the real activity and interest of the town is. I consider that they form a very fair indication of the life and the taste and the promise of a town. I remember that after visiting one town I came away with a feeling of thankfulness for one poster I saw pasted up on a hoarding in it. The town was that sink of iniquity, Port Said, which commands the entrance to the Suez Canal. The human rubbish and vice of the world seem to have been carted into a heap in this town. think I have never seen a town with so many glaring proofs of the hideousness of its moral life. But the
morning before I sailed down the Canal, I came across one poster which extorted my admiration. It was beauti