"For example," he continued, "other nations have almost entirely neglected the value of cultural toys. They have been content, even where they have given any thought at all to the subject, to devise toys which gave a little more opportunity for ingenuity, but their object has been mainly to amuse; they have had no clear conception of the ultimate purpose of toys in a complete cultural scheme. Now we have a carefully thought-out scheme, and although it does not come under my department, but under Section Ai, it affords a good illustration of the basis of our system. All our toys are classified in fifteen stages. We began with only five stages, but the number has gradually increased, for the system necessarily becomes more complex as it becomes more perfect. Stage I. is represented by simple objects which a baby can grasp and recognise before the age of eighteen months. Stage II. is represented by balls and cubes and objects of that order. Stage III. by dolls and images. Stage IV. by objects which can be grouped so as to afford a basis for the teaching of number. Stage V. by simple mechanical toys and simple tools. Stage VI. by constructive blocks of various kinds...."
Here, I am afraid, I became confused, but I remember that Stage XIII. was represented by toys which formed an introduction to chemistry, and that the toys of Stage XIV. could only be worked by boys whose mathematical knowledge was far in advance of what I should have thought possible. He explained that visits were paid by the domestic Inspectors of Child-Life to see that the parents made proper use of the system of cultural toys. There had been great difficulty at first, but the parents were now properly instructed; and in a short time there would be no need to instruct them, as they would have grown up in familiarity with the system.
"Other experiments equally valuable have been conducted in order to discover what forms of amusement are most profitable from the cultural point of view; these include experiments designed to improve production.
"For example, in our schools for the children of the Seventh Class, we find we have to allow a considerable time for non-intellectual pursuits. It would be sheer waste to allow all this time to be given to mere amusement. Children who cannot give more than three hours a day to study, can be very usefully employed in making simple articles. We have a number of simple machines which can be worked by quite small children. You would be surprised to learn, perhaps, that goods worth a million are exported annually which are all the product of the semi-recreative work of these children. On the other hand, any boys of the Second Class who cannot profitably be kept at intellectual pursuits for more than a few hours a day, are trained to be active and bold and selfreliant in preparation for their military career.
"The same principle applies not only to children at school but to people of all ages. For example, we discovered, through our Time Department again, that thousands of men were wasting precious hours upon games such as chess. We have introduced mathematical exercises of an interesting kind as a substitute, with most beneficial results. Others were addicted to aimless walks and rambles in the country. We began by offering prizes for botanical, entomological and other specimens, and for essays upon scientific subjects. We have, in fact, almost eliminated aimless amusement from the life of our common people. In the Fifth Class, which is a highly intelligent class, we encourage the pursuit of science by promoting those who pass certain examinations, which include a thesis, to the first grade of their class, and in a few cases we are able to promote exceptionally promising young men to the Fourth Class."
"In what way does this bear upon the drama?" I said in a pause in Dr. Dodderer's discourse.
"I have been trying to show you the basis of our system of public amusement. With us, amusement is never an end in itself. We find a certain crude kind of interest in the drama, or shall I say in the theatre, in almost all peoples, and some of the greatest poets have utilised that interest in order to reach the minds of their hearers. The greatest poets are those who have conceded least to the mere instinct for amusement. We have followed the same principle. But we could not carry out this scheme of dramatic culture without first getting control over the theatre. Prince Mechow, with his usual insight, saw that it was useless to control and direct the Press, if he did not at the same time control and direct the Theatre. First of all he made the censorship a reality. Then he took all the most popular playwrights into the State service. Then he was able to weed out those who were incapable of entering into his purpose. Gradually all the theatres became cultural institutions of the State. All this took time, of course. Even now there are a few popular theatres where only the lower kinds of dramatic varieties are performed. Attendance at these is not compulsory."
"I do not yet understand," I said, "why it should be necessary to make attendance compulsory when the drama is so popular."
"For the majority of the people," replied Dr. Dodderer, "compulsion is quite unnecessary; but it is just those who are most in need of the culture that can be given through the medium of the drama who would be lax in their attendance. The whole subject has been investigated," he continued, "by the aid of the Time Department, and we are satisfied that we get the best results through our present system."
"Since your playwrights became Civil servants has there been no decline in the quality of your dramatic productions?" I asked.
"On the contrary," replied Dr. Dodderer. "Our modern plays are on a much higher level. There are several reasons for this. In the first place, in the old days the uninstructed public were hardly fit judges of dramatic or literary excellence. They often preferred plays of little cultural value. Consequently, the men who could write really good plays often found it impossible to get them produced. Our Board of Dramatic Criticism is now able to decide the merits of all plays, and the dramatists are quite independent of the caprice of the public. Also, we can carry specialisation to a point undreamt of in former times."
"Specialisation?" I said; "that is quite a new idea to me."
"Naturally, there are writers who have plenty of ingenuity in devising plots, but who are lacking in literary style; others who write excellent Meccanian, both prose and verse, but who are weak in the dramatic instinct. It is, in fact, very seldom that a modern Meccanian drama is the sole work of any single author. Moreover, the drama as developed by us lends itself particularly to specialisation. For example, most of our classical plays are presented in four phases. The simplest phase comes first. The subject is presented in chronological-dramatic form, somewhat resembling the dramas of other days and other countries. Next comes the analytical phase, and after that the synthetic. The last phase or act is a complete philosophical symposium in which the whole subject is presented in its highest and most abstract form."
"When you speak of the subject of a play, what do you mean exactly?" I asked.
"The old plays had often no real subject; they had titles, it is true, but these titles were mere names of persons, or mere names of places or incidents. What, for instance, can you make of a title such as Julius Ccesar? or The Emperor of the East? or Catherine? or The Tyrant of Genoa? or The Crime of Boniface? If you are acquainted with the development of the drama, you will know that about ninety years ago a great advance was made by means of what was then called' The Problem Play.' Some of these plays had a real subject. We have gone much further, of course. Take the subjects of some of our best-known plays: Efficiency, Inefficiency, National Self-Consciousness. These are all by our Chief Dramatic-Composer Grubber. His latest play, Uric Acid, is in my opinion even better than these."
"Uric Acid!" I exclaimed; "what an extraordinary subject!"
"It is one of a series of medical plays," explained Dr. Dodderer, quite undisturbed. "The subject lends itself splendidly to the methods of Meccanian Art. The part played by uric acid in the life of the individual, the family, the State, treated physiologically, pathologically, sociologically, ethically and philosophically, is almost infinite in its possibilities, and Grubber has made the most of them."
"And do the public enjoy these medical plays?"
"You appear to be obsessed, if I may say so," replied Dr. Dodderer, "with the idea of enjoyment. You must bear in mind our standpoint, which I have already explained. But certainly the public take great interest in the medical plays. Sub-Dramatist Smellie wrote a series, Phthisis, Nephritis and Meningitis, which are almost equal to Grubber's Uric Acid, but he fails a little in the higher aspects of the subject, and consequently his fourth acts fall short of the highest philosophical perfection. I remember reading the proofs of his first play, Gall Stones. It was excellent until he came to the philosophical phase. It reminded me of an older play produced in the transition period, some fifty years ago, called The Blind and the Deaf. It had a considerable vogue for several years, but you see from its title that the conception was not fully developed."
"These medical plays," I said, "are not the most typical productions of the dramatic genius of modern Meccania, I suppose?"
"In some ways they are," replied Dr. Dodderer. "That is to say, they are almost peculiar to our country. But one of our younger playwrights has developed the subject of economics in a way almost equally unique. His Significance of Food, and his Insurance, and Distribution, are a mere introduction to his masterpiece, Value. A very slight work on Inaccuracy, which was almost a farce, first attracted the attention of the Board of Criticism. They refused to produce Inaccuracy in its original form, and he embodied it in a more mature work, Production, which was the first of his genuine economic plays."
"I suppose, then, you have historical or at least political plays?"
"Historical plays are mostly performed in the juvenile theatres," he said. "I have very little to do with them. They fall under Section A, and, as you know, I am the Sub-Controller of Section B," replied Dodderer. "But," he continued, "we have a certain number of more advanced historical plays for adults. For instance, The Evolution of Society, with its sequel, The Triumph of Meccania, are excellent historical plays. Political plays have become almost obsolete, but there are still a few produced occasionally. The Principle of Monarchy is still quite a classic in its way, and The Futility of Democracy is one of the most brilliant pieces of Meccanian satire. Obedience is another classic."
"It seems to me a very remarkable fact that your Sixth and Seventh Classes should be able to appreciate such plays as those you have been describing," I said, "especially in parts of the country which cannot be so far advanced as the capital."
"I do not say that they appreciate the drama in the same degree as the more educated classes; but you must remember they have gone through a long course of training. You perhaps now appreciate our wisdom in making attendance compulsory. Without regularity in attendance we could not arrange for a proper sequence of plays.
Also, I must admit that on the days when the Sixth and Seventh Classes are due to attend, we put on the less advanced plays as a rule."
"What happens," I asked, "to the old plays which were written, say, a hundred years ago; are they never performed?"
"Oh dear, yes," replied Dr. Dodderer; "the performance of such plays forms a regular part of the literature course at all our Universities and Colleges. We also utilise quite a number of them in the courses of plays for the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Classes; but the form in which they are written is so simple and childish, such a contrast to the ripe perfection of the fully developed Meccanian drama."
"It must be a difficult matter," I remarked, "to arrange for progressive courses of plays for so many people as you have in Me ceo."
"On the contrary, the larger the city the easier it is. Members of the Third Class and, of course, of higher classes, are considered capable of appreciating all kinds of plays. Class Four consists of four grades, and the two higher grades, all the members of which are over thirty, are likewise eligible to attend any plays. We have a very simple plan of classifying all the others. At the age of eighteen they are all at liberty to attend plays which are classed as Stage I.; then after six months any one is at liberty to apply for a certificate entitling him to attend plays in Stage II. After another year they can obtain a certificate for Stage III.; and so on. We seldom refuse an application, and in fact we rather encourage our people to advance, otherwise many people would be content to remain in Stage II., or Stage III., all their lives. Then, at the beginning of each season, we know how many to provide for in each class, and at each stage; and the greater the number of theatres the easier it is to arrange the plays accordingly."
"What about the actors?" I asked. "In most countries the leading actors are very much sought after, and can make large fortunes. I should imagine your system does not allow of that kind of career for a successful actor."
"All our actors," replied Dr. Dodderer, "are trained in the Imperial Meccanian Dramatic College. The lower grades belong to the Fifth Class, the higher grades to the Fourth. The technique of acting has been brought to such perfection that the' star' as he used to be called, has entirely disappeared. There is no room for him in our system. The' star' was a mere product of popular enthusiasm."
"How do you judge, then, of the popularity of any particular actor?"
"We take no account of it at all," replied Dr. Dodderer. "Our expert Board of Dramatic Criticism determines the standing of each actor. We have, of course, expert psychologists, who are able to test the particular psychological effect both of each phase of the play and of the impression made by individual actors. Their experiments are of great value both to our dramatic managers and to the writers of plays."
At this point Dr. Dodderer announced that the hour he had reserved for me was at an end.
MORE CULTURE IN MECCO.
I RETURNED to Conductor Prigge and my daily grind. But as most of this first period was spent in visiting systematically a number of institutions similar to those I had seen in Bridgetown, but on a larger scale, it is hardly necessary to describe them here. For instance, the arrangements for receiving and distributing food are on the same principle: the markets are managed in the same way. The general system of shopping is the same, except that, as the city is much larger, there is very much more' shopping by post.' As the shops are not permitted to display anything in shop windows, nor to advertise except in the trade gazettes and catalogues, there is not much incentive to spend time in desultory shopping. The great Stores are more like warehouses than shops. I had gathered from my conversations with Sheep that the State seemed to place obstacles in the way of personal expenditure, and yet at the same time production was encouraged. Sheep's explanations had not seemed to me entirely satisfactory, so I decided to question Prigge on this interesting point. As his services were charged for at double the rate of Sheep's, I thought I ought to get more complete information from him. So one day I said to him > "How is it that in Meccania, as far as I can judge, you have brought production to such a pitch of perfection--I mean as regards the enormous quantities manufactured--whilst at the same time you seem to restrict expenditure or consumption in so many ways?"
Prigge tilted back his head and put on his professorial air.
"Such a question would be better dealt with when you come to make a definite study of our National Economy, but as it is really quite an elementary question--a commonplace of all our textbooks-- I do not mind explaining it briefly now. Your first error is in supposing that the State encourages production indiscriminately. We produce what we require and no more, but we are able to measure our requirements better than other nations. In other countries people are allowed to buy a lot of things they do not require; this causes unnecessary production, of course. Unregulated consumption gives rise to unregulated production."
I still felt puzzled as to what became of the wealth produced by the wonderfully efficient system of wholesale production, for, as far as I could tell, the people seemed less luxurious in their habits than those of countries far less advanced in machine production. But I felt I should be getting on dangerous ground, and forbore.
The commercial quarter, in which we spent a whole day, was remarkably small for so large a city, especially considering that the city is not commercially self-contained. But I learnt that Mecco is not really the commercial centre of Meccania. The merchants are little more than the agents for the distribution of goods. The quantities are largely fixed by the Department of Industry and Commerce, consequently there is not much room for enterprise, except in effecting economies in distribution, in bargaining with the Government as to the kinds of goods to be produced, and in discussing with manufacturers matters of detail as to patterns and styles. For example, the Schools of Art produce every year designs for cloth for women's dress. The merchants select from these the patterns to be manufactured. There is little excitement in a merchant's career. Most of the clerks seem to be occupied in the preparation and revision of catalogues, which are the substitute for advertisements. No new article can be produced until it has been approved by the Improvements Section of the Department of Industry and Commerce.
All this side of the life of Mecco was very tame and stereotyped. Prigge discoursed at length on the merits of the Post Office and all its works, but the only remarkable thing I noticed about it, besides the censorship of letters, and the enormous number of people employed, was the ingenious arrangement whereby a conversation carried on in any part of Meccania could be overheard at the Central Office.
The absence of life and bustle in the streets was as striking as in Bridgetown. Most of the people in the Government offices belonged to the Fourth Class, and as these all lived in the two quarters running north and south of the central ring, they could reach their offices in a very short time. The midday meal was taken in a canteen within the office. The few inferior employees, messengers, porters, cleaners, etc., who belonged to the Fifth or Sixth Class, lived almost as near. The higher Civil servants of the Third Class, who of course were less numerous, did not make a crowd in the street. The green uniforms of the Fourth Class were the most conspicuous object everywhere. The industrial classes, living as they do on the side nearest the industrial town, are transported by an ingenious system of trams and underground and overhead railways, so that in half an hour they can all get from their homes to their work, where they remain all day. All goods arriving from the industrial town for distribution to the Stores are carried by a regular service of motor-vans. The distribution of goods to houses is so systematised as to require comparatively few vehicles. For instance, certain kinds of goods can be delivered only once a month for each household, others only once a week. Consequently one sees a perfectly regular stream of traffic, which is never very dense and never congested. All this might have been very interesting to a student of municipal socialism and mechanical organisation, but my chief interests lay in other directions, and it was not until we came to the cultural institutions that I found things so remarkable, at any rate from my own point of view, that I shall make no apology for describing them with some fullness here, even at the risk of being tedious to those who think more of locomotion than of liberty, or who regard the Post Office as the highest symbol of civilisation.
I had looked forward with some curiosity to my first visit to a Meccanian Art Gallery, for, as I had not been into any private houses, and as there are no shop windows, I had seen hardly any signs of Meccanian Art Culture, except in Architecture. The decorative work in the public buildings did not impress me favourably. It was Patriotic Art, executed by the students of the Imperial Meccanian Academy.
Prigge announced that, as he had been promoted to a higher grade in the Police Service, he would no longer be available to conduct me. By way of consoling me for the deprivation he said that in any case I should have to be handed over to various specialist conductors, as I had almost completed the general part of my tour and had reached the stage when I should have to begin the study of definite branches of Meccanian culture. He had consequently arranged for me to spend the first three days in the Great Meccanian Gallery under the guidance of Specialist Art Section Sub-Conductor Musch.
Sub-Conductor Musch met me at the appointed time at the hotel. He was a very different type from Prigge. He was much less of the drillsergeant; in fact he looked rather' decadent,' if a Meccanian can be decadent. He spoke in a soft voice, which was quite a contrast to the leathery voices of most officials I had encountered previously. He began by saying that before we actually began our inspection of the pictures there were certain preliminaries.
The Great Meccanian Gallery, he said, was the temple of all that was sacred in the aesthetic world. I must be properly prepared for it, so that I could concentrate my attention upon what I saw and not be distracted by having to ask questions about extraneous matters. If I would pay careful attention he would describe the general arrangements.
"The Great Meccanian Gallery," he said, "is one of the four galleries in Mecco; the other three are subsidiary. The first gallery is devoted to the old historical collections that existed before the time of Prince Mechow, and contains only foreign pictures. The second gallery contains Meccanian pictures of a date previous to the foundation of the Great Meccanian Gallery by Prince Mechow. The fourth gallery contains foreign pictures contemporary with those in the Great Meccanian Gallery. And now we come to the Great Meccanian Gallery itself.
"Every picture in that gallery is an expression of the Meccanian spirit; otherwise it is not admitted. Its technique must also satisfy the Board of Art of the Department of Culture. Consequently, as soon as you enter you are in the atmosphere of pure Meccanian Art. Previous to the creation of this gallery, the influence of Art was rather de-nationalising. The aesthetic sense was cultivated in total ignorance of the possibility of marrying it to the Meccanian spirit. The Meccanian spirit is the active, creative male; the aesthetic sense is receptive, conceptive, essentially female. Of the two, Meccanian Art is born."
He went on in this style for several minutes until I thought I had better get something more definite from him for my' guidance.' So I said, "How does one tell whether a picture is an expression of the Meccanian spirit?"
"To the true Meccanian, all things truly Meccanian are sacred, and by the inward cultivation of the sense of reverence for what is most characteristically Meccanian he arrives at a certainty which is incommunicable to others."
"But suppose opinion is divided. Suppose, for example, one man says, here is a picture which is full of the Meccanian spirit, and another man says the contrary."
Musch smiled in a sad, superior way, by which I saw that after all, in spite of his 'decadence,' he was a true Meccanian. "You are evidently not well acquainted with either Meccanian history or philosophy," he said. "Even our early philosophers taught that the Meccanian spirit must embody itself in institutions or it would evaporate. The Imperial Meccanian Academy is the visible embodiment of the highest manifestation of the Meccanian aesthetic spirit. All Meccanian artists are trained under the influence of the Academy. Its judgment, as expressed by the Central Board, is infallible. None of its decisions has ever been reversed. I do not think you realise how completely the influence of the Academy has moulded the Meccanian appreciation of Art during the last generation," he went on in his slow, soft speech. "You have heard something from my friend Dr. Dodderer of the care taken by our all-beneficent Super-State in the cultivation of the appreciation of the Drama, and you have probably heard something too of our musical culture. Other forms of Art are equally sacred, since they are all Meccanian. Every person in the Fourth and higher classes goes through a course of art appreciation, which extends over several years. No person is admitted beyond the fifth stage of the Great Meccanian Gallery unless he has passed the advanced test. Attendance at the gallery is compulsory, once a fortnight, for all persons of the Fourth and Third Classes between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five. The Fifth Class are not admitted to rooms beyond Stage III, except by special permission on four days in the year. For them we have a few local galleries, as we have for the Sixth Class also, containing pictures which are soundly Meccanian in spirit but which do not come up to the standard of the Great Gallery."
Presently we proceeded to the gallery containing the old historical collection. Musch said that we should see what we wanted of this in an hour, in fact it was rather a formality to visit it, but the Regulations for Foreign Observers made it necessary that I should see this first. It turned out to be really a fine collection, such as I had seen in many others parts of Europe; but I almost gasped at the strange freak which had inspired the curators in arranging the pictures. They were arranged strictly according to subject. All the "Nativities "were together in one room, all the "Madonnas "together in another, all the "Adam and Eves "together, all the "Deluges," all the "Susannas," all the "Prodigal Sons," all the "Venuses," all the "Bacchuses "; whatever the subject, every picture relating to that subject was placed together as if the gallery were a collection of butterflies.
Musch took no interest in this collection. It was all dead, he said, obsolete, pre-Meccanian, untouched by the spirit. When we came to the second gallery containing the older Meccanian pictures he showed more interest. Some painted three centuries ago I thought very fine, but Musch said they were lacking in self -consciousness. The Meccanian spirit was overlaid by false foreign culture. Only when we came to some weird and powerful but almost revolting pictures, dating from the beginning of the century, did he grow enthusiastic. These, he said, were the genuine precursors and pioneers of Meccanian Art.
It was afternoon when we entered the first section or stage of the Great Meccanian Gallery. This was the first stage for young persons, and was divided into a section containing' elementarygeneral' pictures, and another containing historical pictures. The general pictures were mostly scenes of places of interest in various parts of Meccania, or national customs and public ceremonies. The technique was distinctly good. The historical pictures mostly represented wars against foreign enemies. I noticed that the Meccanians were represented as heroes, and their enemies as brutalised hordes of semi-lunatics. Others represented Meccanians discovering all the arts of peace and war. I spent a dreary day and more, working painfully through Stages I., II. and III., up to XIX., until, on the third day, we came to the most advanced specimens. These reminded me of Dr. Dodderer's account of the Meccanian drama. There was a number of allegorical subjects--"The Birth of the Meccanian Spirit," "The Victory of Time over Space," "The Festival of Chemistry," "The Nuptials of Science and Force," "The Conquests of Culture." Others were more mystical-- "War the Servant of Culture," "The Deity instructing Monarchy," "The Eternal Principle of Meccanian Monarchy," "The Wisdom of the Super-State," "The Unity of the Seven Classes."
Some of these were immense canvases forty feet long, full of life-size figures drawn with microscopic exactness. The artists had certainly managed to catch and even accentuate the Meccanian features of every face. I felt the Meccanian atmosphere, but I still could not understand why such careful cultivation should have been required to produce this extraordinary collection. I would gladly have given the whole gallery for a few masterpieces from the old collection.
I could not imagine that any effect produced on the mind even of patriotic Meccanians could be worth all the trouble spent upon either the creation of the gallery itself or the organisation of artistic culture that centred round it. I was therefore curious to see what sort of effect the sight of the pictures had upon other visitors. In one of the lower rooms I had seen some groups of schoolgirls accompanied by a teacher. They all had their notebooks, and were taking down notes in shorthand. Musch explained enthusiastically that these girls would spend a whole afternoon on half a dozen pictures, and that by the time they were twenty years of age they would have studied every picture up to Stage XIX. in the gallery. What I overheard from the teacher's lecture was something like this: "Now let us analyse the colour scheme. By the aid of the colour divider you perceive at once the proportions in which the colours are distributed. Now notice that red, which occupies only 7 per cent of the canvas, is more conspicuous than green, which occupies more than 25 per cent." I did not catch the next passage, but presently I heard: "All the pictures by the same artist have the same distribution of colour. Consequently it would be possible to determine by an analysis of the colour scheme the authenticity of any picture by this artist. Next notice the method of the brush strokes. Under the microscope "(here the microscope came into play) "you will see the characteristic quality of the brush stroke. It has been already ascertained that in this picture there are 5232 down-strokes of an average length of 3 millimetres, 1079 strokes from right to left of an average length of 1 1 millimetre, only 490 from left to right, and 72 upward strokes. The same proportion of strokes has been discovered in several other pictures by the same artist, according to the size of the picture. This picture was painted in exactly 125 hours. The quantity of paint used must have been almost exactly three-quarters of a litre, so you can make a calculation to ascertain the number of brush strokes to the litre."
In another gallery I noticed some superior young men of the Fourth Class in their green uniforms, discussing the merits of a popular artist. One of them was saying, "And I maintain that his morality is pre-Meccanian; he lacks super-masculinity." In another room a few stolid citizens of middle age were slowly making a pilgrimage. I wondered why they did not move faster and get it over, until I discovered there was a rule that, at each visit, non-students were not allowed to spend less than half an hour in one room, or more than threequarters of an hour. This regulation did not apply to me so long as I was under the charge of Musch, who had access to the whole gallery.
I found Musch a less desirable acquaintance than Prigge. I suspected him of being addicted to drugs, and wondered how far his enthusiasm for the Meccanian spirit was an official pose; for, after completing my visit to the Great Gallery, I was asking him whether all artists were employed by the State, and whether there were not other types of pictures produced, besides those represented in the Great Gallery, when he began to tell me of another phase of art.
"All artists," he said, "who in the seventh year of their training are accepted by the Academy are employed permanently by the State; the others are found other employment according to their capacity, but are not permitted to produce pictures."
"I suppose," I said, "the artists who are taken into the service of the State are controlled in some way. What happens, for instance, if they turn out to be idlers?"
"They are certainly controlled. The Board selects the subjects for the year, for each artist, according to his capacity. Of course he may suggest subjects too, but until they are approved he is not allowed to proceed. He must also submit a plan or sketch of his proposed treatment."
"And is a painter not allowed even in his own leisure to paint subjects of his own choice?"
"Ah, there you touch upon an interesting subject," replied Musch, with something like a leer. "The Board are naturally desirous of preserving the Meccanian spirit in all its purity, but the effort to rise to the sublime heights of emotion which that demands, produces a reaction, and many of our artists find an outlet for this, so that beside the pure stream of Meccanian Art there flows, as it were, another stream."
"In other words," I suggested, "they carry on an illicit production of works of a lower ethical quality, which can only be disposed of by being sold to the rich."
"Your intuition is remarkable," he replied.
"Not in the least," I said. "One only requires a little knowledge of human nature to see what must happen. But how does this practice escape the attention of the Super-State?" I said.
"There are many patrons of Art among the higher official class," replied Musch significantly.
This was the first time I had learnt from any person that the State had any chinks in its armour.
"Perhaps you can tell me," I said, "something which has puzzled me ever since I came here, and that is--Why your Super-State occupies itself so meticulously with such things as Music, and the Drama, and Art. Such interests seem rather foreign to the main purpose for which, as I understand it, the great statesmen who have made Meccania what it is, designed it."
"I have often wondered the same thing myself," replied Musch. "I can only say that if all this side of life were left unregulated, the life of the State would be incomplete. Sooner or later the consciousness of the State must embrace all things."
I said no more, and this was the last I saw of poor Musch, for next day he was ill, and I was taken by another Sub-Conductor, whose name was Grovel, to see the Mechow Memorial Museum. Almost everything in Mecco is a sort of memorial or reminder of Prince Mechow. Mechow Street, Mechow Square, the Mechow Monument, Mechow Park, the Mechow Palace, Mechow Hotels meet one at every turn. There are even Mechow whiskers, of a pattern seldom seen outside Meccania, but immensely popular among middle-aged officials of the Third and Fourth Classes. Curiously enough, I learnt that the higher officials rather resent the wearing of this style of whisker by subordinate officials, but as it is a sort of symbol of loyalty it is not considered proper to repress it.
The Museum is near the square and is the largest biographical museum in existence. It contains a model of the house Prince Mechow was born in, with all his clothes and toys, all the schoolbooks he used, and models of all the rooms he lived in, including his bedrooms. One room contains all the letters he wrote, all the letters written to him, all the minutes he wrote as a Civil servant, the very pens he used, the office furniture, etc. etc. The library contains not only the books he read, and the few he wrote, but an enormous number of books and pamphlets written about him personally and about all his work.
Besides his printed speeches, which run into many volumes, there are phonographic records of them, which are 'performed' daily in a special hall, to youths and girls from the High Schools.
One large room contains models of all the towns in Meccania, as they were before his reforms and as they are now. Another room is devoted to the great Monument. It contains the original plans and models, as well as a model of all the copies erected in various towns. Adjoining this room is a large collection of photographs of Prince Mechow, casts of his face and waxwork models of him as he appeared on several great historical occasions. One case in the library struck me as very characteristic. It was a series of volumes in folio, sumptuously bound. The first was entitled Prince Mechow as Statesman; and there were at least thirty others with such titles as Prince Mechow as Subject, Prince Mechow as Conservative, Prince Mechow as Reformer, Prince Mechow as Student, Prince Mechow as Author, Prince Mechow as Orator, Prince Mechow as Philosopher, Prince Mechow as Husband and Father, Prince Mechow as Agriculturist, Prince Mechow's Taste in Art, Prince Mechow's Taste in Music, Prince Mechow's Taste in Literature, Prince Mechow's Taste in Nature, Prince Mechow's Loyalty, Prince Mechow's Generosity, Prince Mechow's Pets, Prince Mechow's Religion.
A MECCANIAN APOSTLE.
IT was a week or two after my visit to the Mechow Museum that I made the acquaintance of one of the Foreign Observers who was staying at the hotel. A day or two before, I had been sent for by the Hotel Manager, and had been presented with a small certificate authorising me to take my meals in the common dining-room, and to converse with other foreigners whose names I was instructed to enter in my diary. I had previously noticed a certain gentleman from Luniland whose face seemed familiar to me. On this particular evening he came across to my table and introduced himself as Mr. Johnson, a friend of Mr. Yorke, in whose house I had stayed and where he had met me. We soon fell into conversation, and when dinner was over we retired for a long chat to a corner of the smoke-room. It appeared that he had been in Mecco over a year, and had travelled also in various parts of the country. In fact, this was his second visit, he said, his first having been made a few years before. He was a man of about forty-five, tall and slim, with a rather large bony nose and a grave but kindly expression. His manner was quiet and dignified, and at first he spoke with a certain obvious restraint; but afterwards he became more genial and was rather humorous, after the manner of many of his countrymen.
"I should rather like to ask what you think of this country, but it would hardly be fair, because the chances are that every word we say here is overheard. I always suspect they have one of those beastly contrivances fixed in the walls, to enable the manager or somebody representing the Authorities to listen to everything that goes on. I don't much mind if they turn me out of their precious country, but I wouldn't like to get you into trouble. Anyhow, I believe if we were to begin talking in my language, which I remember you speak very well, we should presently have somebody round reminding us that it is against the rules."
"Yet you have spent quite a long time in the country apparently," I remarked. "I have really been wondering whether to stay here much longer, and perhaps you could give me some tips if I decide to stay."
"Well," he replied, "it's just a matter of taste whether you like the country. I shouldn't be able to stand it but for one thing."
"And what is that?" I asked.
"It enables me to thank God every hour that I am not a Meccanian."
"Yes," I said, "there's something in that. I myself object to some of the inconveniences that these numerous regulations about everything entail, but they are nothing, I suppose, compared with what it would feel like if one expected to spend one's life here."
"It's just possible they really like it. But what sort of' tips' were you thinking of? Perhaps I know the ropes a little better than you, if you have been here only a month or two."
"Well, there are two things I would like to know," I replied. "I am rather tired of being 'conducted' about everywhere. That's the first. And I want to get to know individual people as I did in Luniland. Here, so far, I have met only officials, always on duty. It seems impossible to get into contact with real live people. Until lately, as you know, I was forbidden to talk to the people staying in the hotel; but now that I have got over that difficulty, although, no doubt, I can pick up a certain amount of information from my fellow Foreign Observers and enjoy their conversation, I am no nearer getting to know the Meccanian private citizens themselves."
"And do you particularly want to know them?" asked Mr. Johnson.
"One naturally wants to know what the people of any country are like, and unless one has some fairly intimate intercourse of a social kind with people of different ranks and types, one might almost as well stay at home and read the matter up in books," I replied.
"I see. You are a genuine Foreign Observer. Well, to tell the truth, so am I," he said more confidentially. "I am not here because I like it. I detest the whole lot of them. I came here for the first time five or six years ago. I had heard a lot about the country and its wonderful organisation. Organisation! Blessed word! I had also heard some rather tall stories, and thought the accounts had been exaggerated. I came with an open mind. I rather prided myself on being an impartial observer. I was prepared to allow a lot for the natural differences of taste between one nation and another. At first I was so keenly interested that I didn't mind the little restrictions, but when the novelty had worn off, and I began to realise what it all meant, I determined to make a more thorough study of the country than I had at first thought would be worth while. So I am here now studying Meccanian education. Now the only way, so far as I know, of getting rid of your everlasting' conductors' is to get permission to study some special subject. I went through just the same experience. I was what they call merely a' general' observer. The Authorities don't exactly like the 'general' observer. They can't find it in their hearts to let him alone. As they regulate their own people they must keep as close a watch on the foreigner. As he doesn't fit into their system, they have to invent a system for him. It is troublesome to them, and not very pleasant for the foreigner; but Meccanian principles make it necessary. However, if you can satisfy them that you are a bona fide student of some special subject aai it doesn't matter what it is, you may choose anything from the parasites in the intestines of a beetle to the philosophy of the Absolute--they will treat you quite decently, according to their lights."
"How do you account for this difference?" I asked.
"They are immensely flattered by the notion that if you come here to study anything, it must be because their knowledge is so superior to what can be found elsewhere. However, if you want to get rid of the daily worry of a' conductor,' that is what you must do. But you must be a specialist of some sort, or they won't admit you to the privilege."
"But there is no special subject I want to study," I said. "I am just a 'general' observer, and if I undertake to study a special subject I shall miss seeing what I most want to see."