The touch of Phidias was his own, and so inimitable that a few months ago, an American, scanning, with his practiced eye, the galleries of the Louvre, recognized a fragment of the work of Phidias, long separated from the Parthenon frieze which Lord Elgin sent to London. The sculptor's touch could not be mistaken. It was as truly his own as his signature, his autograph. Ruskin, in a lecture on the relation of Art to Morals, calls attention to a note which Durer made on some drawings sent him by Raphael: "These figures Raphael drew and sent to Albert Durer in Nurnberg, to show him his hand, 'sein hand zu weisen."' Ruskin compares this phrase with other contests of hand-craft, Apelles and Protogenes showing their skill by drawing a line; Giotto in striking a circle.
In the household of the Kings of Prussia, there is a custom, if not a law, that every boy shall learn a trade. I believe this is a fact, though I have no certain proof of it. The Emperor Wilhelm is said to be a glazier, the Crown Prince a compositor, and on the Emperor's birthday not long ago his majesty received an engraving by Prince Henry and a, book bound by Prince Waldemar, two younger sons of the Crown Prince. Let me refer to sacred writ; the prophet Isaiah, telling of the golden days which are to come, when the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in the land, nor the voice of crying, when the child shall die an hundred years old, and men shall eat of the fruit of the vineyards they have planted, adds this striking promise, as the culm of all hope, that the elect of the Lord shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
Now, in view of what has been said, my first point is this: We who have to deal with the young, we all who love our fellow-men, we all who desire that our times, our city, our country, should be thrifty, happy, and content, must each in his place and way give high honor to labor. We, especially, who are teachers and parents, should see to it that the young get "hand-craft" while they are getting "rede-craft." How can this be done?
Mothers begin right in the nursery, teaching little fingers to play before the tongue can lisp a sentence. Alas! this natural training has often been stopped at school. Hitherto, until quite lately, in schools both low and high, rede-craft has had the place of honor, hand-craft has had no chance. But a change is coming. In the highest of all schools, universities, for example, work rooms, labor places, "laboratories," are now thought to be as useful as book rooms, reading rooms, libraries.
What mean those buildings which you have seen spring up within a few years past in all the college greens of New England? They are libraries and laboratories. They show that rede-craft and hand-craft are alike held in honor, and that a liberal education means skill in getting and skill in using knowledge; that knowledge comes from searching books and searching nature; that the brain and the hand are in close league. So too, in the lowest school, as far as possible from the university, the kindergarten has won its place and the blocks, and straws, and bands, the chalk, the clay, the scissors, are in use to make young fingers deft. Between the highest and the lowest schools there is a like call for hand-craft. Seeing this need, the authorities in our public schools have begun to project special schools for such training, and are looking for guidance far and near. At this intermediate stage, for boy and girls who are between the age of the kindergarten and the age of the college or the shop, for youth between eight and sixteen, there is much to be done; people are hardly aware how much is needed to secure fit training for the rising generation.
It seems sometimes as if one of the most needed forms of hand-craft would become a lost art, even good handwriting. We cannot give much credit to schools if they send out many who are skilled in algebra, or in Latin, but who cannot write a page of English so that it can be read without effort.
Drawing is another kind of hand-craft, quite too much neglected. I think it should be laid down as a law of the road to knowledge, that everybody must learn to draw as well as to write. The pencil maybe mastered just as readily as the pen. It is a simpler tool. The child draws before he writes, and savages begin their language with pictures; but, we wiseacres of this age of books let our young folks drop their slate pencils and their Fabers, and practice with their Gillotts and their Esterbrooks. Let us say, in every school and in every house, the child must not only learn to read and write, he must learn to draw. We cannot afford to let our young folks grow up without this power. A new French book is just now much talked about, with this droll title, "The Life of a Wise Man, by an Ignoramus." It is the story of the great Pasteur, whose discoveries in respect to life have made him world renowned. I turned to the book, eager to find out the key to such success, and I found the old story--"the child was father of the man." This philosopher, whose eye is so skilled in observing nature, and whose hand is so apt in experiments, is the boy grown up whose pictures were so good that the villagers thought him at thirteen an artist of rank.
Girls should learn the first lesson of hand-craft with the needle; boys may (and they will always prize the knowledge), but girls must. It is wise that our schools are going back to old fashioned ways, and saying that girls must be taught to sew.
Boys should practice their hands upon the knife. John Bull used to laugh at Brother Jonathan for whittling, and Mr. Punch always drew the Yankee with a blade in his fingers; but they found out long ago in Great Britain that whittling in this land led to something, a Boston notion, a wooden clock, a yacht America, a labor-saving machine, a cargo of wooden-ware, a shop full of knick-knacks, an age of inventions. Boys need not be kept back to the hand-craft of the knife. For in-doors there are the type case and printing press, the paint box, the tool box, the lathe; and for out doors, the trowel, the spade, the grafting knife. It matters not how many of the minor arts the youth acquires. The more the merrier. Let each one gain the most he can in all such ways; for arts like these bring no harm in their train; quite otherwise, they lure good fortune to their company.