IT is unfortunate for the interests of Art at the present time that in civilised countries it has come to be regarded as the result of theories utterly remote from the question of general taste, totally-distinct from those principles which influence manufacture and structural science, and independent of any standard of excellence which we might expect to be derived from common sense. Let us suppose, for instance, a man of good education, accustomed to associate with well-bred people from his youth, but who had never chanced to reckon a painter among his intimate friends, and had acquired no more knowledge of pictures than what it is possible to gather from books and newspapers, taken for the first time in his life to a second-rate modern exhibition, and afterwards to the collection of old masters which now forms our National Gallery. Can anyone doubt for a moment that he would prefer the most ordinary representations of contemporary life to the ideal and frequently conventional treatment of the classic schools ? He would see little or no merit in the glowing colours of Titian, the flowing draperies of Veronese, the broad handling of Velasquez, the careful detail of Van Eyck. But the cheapest form of sentiment embodied in a modern picture, so long as it seemed to realise scenes, incidents, and action which he was accustomed to see about him, would at once appeal to his imagination and interest his eye.

This commonplace taste is not confined to pictorial art. If we are to believe those who have given their attention to the subject of technical design, it pervades and infects the judgment by which we are accustomed to select and approve the objects of everyday use which we see around us. It crosses our path in the Brussels carpet of our drawing-rooms; it is about our bed in the shape of gaudy chintz; it compels us to rest on chairs and to sit at tables which are designed in accordance with the worst principles of construction and invested with shapes confessedly unpicturesque. It sends us metal-work from Birmingham which is as vulgar in form as it is flimsy in execution. It decorates the finest possible porcelain with the most objectionable character of ornament. It lines our walls with silly representations of vegetable life, or with a mass of uninteresting diaper. It bids us, in short, furnish our houses after the same fashion as we dress ourselves, and that is with no more sense of real beauty than if art were a dead letter. It is hardly necessary to say that this is not the opinion of the general public. In the eyes of Materfamilias, there is no upholstery which could possibly surpass that which the most fashionable upholsterer supplies. She believes in the elegance of window-curtains, of which so many dozen yards were sent to the Duchess of--, and concludes that the dinner-service must be perfect which is described as 'quite a novelty.' When did people first adopt the monstrous notion that the 'last pattern out' must be the best ? Is good taste so rapidly progressive that every mug which leaves the potter's hands surpasses in shape the last which he moulded ? In that case, how superior our modern crockery would be to that of the Middle Ages, and mediaeval majolica to the vases of ancient Greece ! But it is to be feared that, instead of progressing, we have, for some ages at least, gone hopelessly backward in the arts of manufacture. And this is true not only with respect to the character of design, but often in regard to the actual quality of material employed. It is generally admitted by every housewife who has attained a matronly age that linen, silk, and other articles of textile fabric, though less expensive than formerly, are far inferior to what was made in the days of our grandfathers. Metal-workers tell us that it is almost impossible to procure for the purpose of their trade, brass such as appears to have been in common use a century ago. Joinery is neither so sound nor so artistic as it was in the early Georgian era. A cheap and easy method of workmanship - an endeavour to produce a show of finish with the least possible labour, and, above all, an unhealthy spirit of competition in regard to price, such as was unknown to previous generations - have combined to deteriorate the value of our ordinary mechanics' work.

Now although in the field of art, as well as in the researches of science, it is not always easy for the uninitiated to determine of two collateral phenomena, which may be referred to cause and which to effect, it must be evident to all who have thought earnestly on the subject, that there is an intimate connection between this falling-off in the excellence of our manufactures and the tame vapid character which distinguished even our best painters' work in the early part of the present Victorian age. Doubtless in this particular epoch there have been individual instances of men who, like Turner, created a new impulse in some special branch of their profession - just as Wedgwood distinguished himself by his strenuous efforts to throw fresh life and vigour into the system of ceramic design; but these are solitary cases, and can be hardly quoted as indicative of a generally advancing taste. National art is not a thing which we may inclose in a gilt frame and hang upon our walls, or which can be locked up in the cabinet of a collector. To be genuine and permanent, it ought to animate with the same spirit the blacksmith's forge and the sculptor's atelier, the painter's studio and the haberdasher's shop. In the great ages of art it was so. Francia, a carpenter's son, was brought up as a niello engraver. He became a great painter, but he was not for that reason ashamed to work at decorating jewellery. He loved to sign his pictures 'Aurifex,' and on his trinkets he inscribed the word 'Pictor.' The most liberal salary which Messrs. Hunt and Roskell might be prepared to pay would not secure such assistance now. Modern jewellers, as a rule, know nothing of pictorial art; painters, it is to be feared, have but little taste in jewellery. Every branch of manufacture is inclosed within its own limits - has its own particular style. Our china, which once imitated Oriental ware, not long ago promised to assume, through Minton's influence, a quasi-mediaeval character. The goldsmiths who once produced nothing but rococo ornaments now do their best to imitate Etruscan necklaces and armlets. We have French mirrors and Persian rugs, Greek vases and Gothic candlesticks - designs of every age and country but our own; or if by some chance we can point to any special instance of a genuine English design, it is generally mean and uninteresting.