The conviction that you know nothing is always a hopeful, if a depressing sign. When the painter feels that his finished picture is a wretched daub, when the writer knows that his last romance is but a thing of shreds and patches, it is a proof that he is still growing, that he has a stronger note to strike, and that his end is not yet.
One of our leading novelists says that his stories are to him like those tapestries wrought by the workman from behind, of which the weaver sees only the wrong side, the knots and ends of the worsted, the seams of the foundation, so that when the public views his finished work with delight, recognizing its sincerity and dramatic truth, the satisfaction of his readers is to him a wonder, since from his own Point of view he knows not whether he has wrought well or ill.
All great sucesses, I fancy, must be surprises to the men who make them, for the discontent of the artist with his painting, of the poet with his verse, of the playwright with his play, is a penalty exacted by the ideal for which men strive, and which all the more surely eludes the greatest, whose imagination is the most far-reaching. When a man is satisfied with what he has done he has reached his limit; from that point he goes down-hill, imperceptibly it may be at first, but none the less surely.
Our own discontent with our landscape-gardening convinces me that we have a future before us for a good while to come. Our picture will bear a lot of working on for many years yet, and in the mean time we have room for a succession of despairs, which will serve to keep us properly humble.
But that we have on the north of our house, a landscape to evolve that is a true picture, no one can deny who looks out upon the ever-changing meadow from the bowery veranda from which we view it with never-failing joy. Not a far-reaching view, but such a one as Englishmen like to paint, a distant hill, a few clustering cottages, a level stretch of meadow with a winding stream; some Willows near at hand. So far, so good; but the foreground is the puzzle. It is a muddle at present, being a sacrifice to the utilities, and is more or less disfigured with fruit-trees and vegetables, and piles of sand that have been dumped upon the marsh. A good deal veiled it is, fortunately, by the bending boughs of Pear and Apple trees laden with fruit, which is their plea for life, and when one is seated the balustrade of the veranda is an efficient screen, so that one can freely enjoy the pleasing prospect.
The French talk of the St. Martin des femmes, which comes to them after the beaute du diable has long gone by; and our meadow, too, has its fleeting glory of youth in early spring, with Apple-bloom flush, and delicious verdancy to match, and then, after a commonplace summer of good looks, it comes to its Martinmas, and burns, and glows, and smiles, with a richness and warmth that are the precursor of the: