Sunday, 5 May 2013

Town or Country? The Rustic Renaissance by Godfrey Blount

Following on from my previous post, Rustic Renaissance, the book (Blount, G., Rustic Renaissance, The Simple Life Series No. 21, A.C. Fifield, London, 1905) begins with a chapter titled 'Town or Country':

"Few prophets of "The Simple Life" will deny that the revival of Handicrafts is an integral factor in the larger Revival of the Future, and must be advocated, if with no anticipation of its becoming an immediate and general means of livelihood, yet as an educational influence of the greatest importance even at a time like the present, when our boasted industrial development has made it almost impossible for the Handworker to compete with the factory in the production of anything useful, and in which the art of every old-fashioned industry threatens to become lost.

A.C. Fifield advert for
The Rustic Renaissance by Godfrey Blount

"We are certainly beginning to realise how deeply our characters must be modified by the conditions under which our work is done, and that no amount of apparent economic advantage, whether to employer, employed, or the public at large, under the regime of the machine, can compensate for the loss of that true dignity and general intelligence which are only possible when the worker is free in the truest sense of the word.  In other words, the question at issue, the question of Hand Labour as opposed to Machinery, does not so much relate to the Labour as to the Labourer, not so much to Capital, which is merely the tool, as to those who handle it.  But few will take so serious a view of the case as myself.  We live in an age in which the most desperate views of life jostle with anticipations of the most triumphant future.  I am of neither party, because I am of both.  I dare to criticise the present because I trust to the future; but I do not forget that the good times coming, for which I hope, must be the fruit of thought and action born of to-day.

"Simple woven border from the lower part of a linen or cotton apron"
from Art Workers' Quarterly, Volume 1, Issue 2, April 1902 p.53

"The Handicraft movement is then to my mind intensely significant.  That organised efforts to popularise handwork should be made in these days of triumphant mechanism is in itself a wonder-worthy paradox; for how could anyone in his senses advocate a return to a practise diametrically opposed to what he honestly believed to be the path of progress, unless he recognised in it the first symptom of a revulsion of feeling which heralds a change in public opinion and conduct?  If the finger of true civilisation pointed unmistakably to the greater elaboration and the more extensive use of machinery, what excuse could be found for childish tinkering with discarded tools?  It is true that the promoters of Handicraft among our Peasantry adduce poor enough arguments to explain their purpose, such as its counteracting attraction to the public-house, the supplementing of exiguous wages, the occupation of winter evenings with the ingenious manufacture of useless knickknacks which it is not worth the machines's while to exploit.  These are some of the inadequate arguments used to defend and explain the first signs of a wave of feeling which is probably all the stronger because it has grown spontaneously out of the nation's instinct for greater social health, and not in answer to a distinct appeal or for an isolated reason.

"Piece of strong tapestry fabric,
designed and produced by Luther Hooper, Haslemere"
from Art Workers' Quarterly, Volume 1, Issue 2, April 1902 p.53
"This way of answering an unvoiced but none the less strong demand has been, it seems to me, characteristic of most great movements.  If we do not, for instance, after nearly 2,000 years, realise the exact want which Christianity supplied, and the exact message it has for us, still we instinctively feel that it did and does supply both, and will do so more and more as we learn to understand its principles, so that my only fear is not that I shall exaggerate, but that I may underrate, the motives of a movement in which we ought all to be deeply interested; not as a new method which one or two here and there can adopt to escape the cruel and vicarious sacrifice of the many for the few, which our civilization demands, but the very solution and conqueror of this un-christian civilisation itself, which, unless we soon solve it, will crush everybody in its indiscriminating grasp.

"Vine Border.  Woven in a Linen Cloth by the Haslemere Weaving Industry,
from Design by Godfrey Blount"
from Art Workers' Quarterly, Volume 1, Issue 2, April 1902 p.53

"I maintain then that the Handicraft movement is much more serious and far-reaching than has yet been guessed, in spite of the amateurishness with which a great deal of it may certainly be charged.  The ordinary conception of Handicraft in a mechanical age like the present involves two ideas: the idea of making things by hand, and the idea of making them pretty.  This appears to me a fairly accurate definition of the movement's quite laudable ambition, and a definition, too, which hides in it more than meets the eye, as I think we shall soon discover."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...