Where only the Women were frank--The art of the War Artist.
Miss Bloemfontein was not alone in disliking to recognise the presence of the British army. Her mother was not the only person who could not bear to see Englishmen marring the scenery of the pest-ridden little town. Even while the tricky among the people joined in singing "Soldiers of the Queen," one man in the crowd turned to a war correspondent and said, "You English are strutting about very proudly and confidently, and think you own the country, but when you go away from here you will be sniped at from every bush and spruit wherever you show yourself."
I took a little walk up past the English Cathedral one day and saw a woman seated upon her front stoep, sewing. "Good morning," said I, "do you speak English?" She rose and glared at me with scorn in her eyes. "No," said she, "but I hate the English."
A little girl ran out of a doorway a few houses farther along and called to me, "Mister, mister! Please wear the red, white and blue," and she pinned a knot of the British and American colours on my coat lapel.
"What sort of a lady is it who lives in that house?" I asked; "she says she hates the English."
"Oh, she is Dutch," the little girl replied; "almost everybody here hates you."
I turned a corner and went down a side-street. Two young women in a doorway beamed upon me. I was out to study the town and the people, so I halted and engaged them in conversation. One was married, and her husband, who was of English stock, had cleverly managed to be away when the war broke out, after which he found it impossible to return and join a Boer commando as he would have had to do, being only a poor working man.
"We are on the police books as English sympathisers," said one of the women. "We have had to be very careful, as we were warned that if we gave further offence we would be punished. What happened was this: You see the town is full of Germans, who have been most bitter against the English. We went to the railway station when some English prisoners were being sent to Pretoria. As the train moved off we waved our hands to them and wished them better luck. A German saw us do it, and reported us to the authorities, so we were taken up and examined, and had our names put in the 'black-book.'"
A score of the honest people of the town who had been avowedly true to their English blood, which was by no means the case with all the British Uitlanders, told me that they suffered petty persecution all the time until the town was captured. Note what "Miss Uitlander" said in her reply to "Miss Bloemfontein" in THE FRIEND of March 26th:--
The "loving hand" you boast of having extended to us has long since been covered by an iron glove, the weight of which we have daily been made to feel, and to that you must associate the joyful flaunting of our colours in your face. His coming meant freedom--the sweetest thing in the world--to us.
You called our brothers and sisters cowards as they fled your oppression and bitter and openly expressed hatred. You threw white feathers into our carriages as they passed you by. You loudly bemoaned your fate as a woman and longed to don masculine garments to aid your beaux in exterminating the hated English. Could we remember a "loving hand" then?
You were quick to tell us that there would be no room for us to live beside you so soon as Mr. Englishman was driven back to the sea. The hated English had never been wanted, and would not be allowed to stay. And since you continue to make no secret of your hatred, the same remedy is now in your hands. But it will be difficult to find a spot where Mr. Englishman is not en evidence.
Such was Bloemfontein to those who saw into its heart and knew its temper. Some of us conquerors saw a little way behind the garlanded curtain the false-hearted pretenders of friendship drew down before our faces, but for what now seems a long time the Army fed itself upon the honeyed lying of those people who had not the courage or honesty to play the part of open enemies to the last. As for Tommy Atkins, he seemed oblivious of everything but that which he enjoyed--which was simply to walk about the town spending his money, and taking insults and bouquets equally as a matter of course, just as they happened to come.
Let the reader note two things of the first interest, and of great human and historic value. The persons who did not come out and pretend to be our friends were the women. The part of the population that did not join in singing "Soldiers of the Queen" was the feminine part. The only person who openly and plainly espoused the cause of the Boers was Miss Bloemfontein--a woman. The only person who answered her and proudly asserted her loyalty to Great Britain was Miss Uitlander--a woman.
Everywhere in every war it is Lovely Woman who fans the flames, who urges on the fighting, who charges the men to win or die, but never to give up; who nurses the hatreds of the strife to her breast and keeps them hot. Everywhere it is the civilised and the savage woman who does this, and only the half-civilised have made a contrary record, for I am told that in one strife there was an exception. That was "the Mutiny" in India, where the ayahs and other Indian female servants stuck to their posts in the British households, and played no part in the awful affair.
But in the great Civil War in America it was the women who kept the strife in progress fully a year and a half, if not two years, after their husbands and brothers realised it was useless, and that the North must win. "Go, and do not come back while there is a Yankee alive!" they said to sweethearts, sons, and brothers. So has it ever been in times of war. The women, roused from their quiet lives and excited by the animosities which develop war and the horrors which go with it, remain undisturbed by the considerations which cause men, with their wider interests and experiences, to waver in their faith. And among the savage peoples of the earth it is, as a rule, the women who garnish war with its most fearful accessories. The bucks and braves do the fighting, the women follow after them to torture the wounded and mutilate the dead.
Think you that this is a terrible indictment of a sex? Do you see in this nothing but the anger and the cruelty that lie on the surface? Then you are to be pitied, for the moral of these reflections is that in womanhood are treasured the faith which inspires mankind, the convictions that nerve our arms in a world which progresses only through strife, the enthusiasm which not even the hell of war can destroy.
The leader of April 14th was my own, entitled "Mr. Lecky on the War." Again we had a complete newspaper full of the too-often delayed or strangled Reuter despatches, which told us of other wars, in Ashantee and the Philippines, of the Queen's visit to Ireland, of the Prince's narrow escape from an assassin, and of all that was going forward in our own little contention with the Boers.
This number was singular in containing no original verse. It did, however, contain something more full of sentiment, and, if possible, more unexpected and foreign to war; to wit: a notice of a wedding:--
By special license, on the 11th inst., by the Rev. Franklin, at her father's house, Alexandra Cornelia, youngest daughter of W. H. v. B. Van Andel, Orphan Master, to Arthur M. Stone, eldest son of the late T. C. Stone, Esq., from Folkestone, England. No cards.
Orange-blossoms might, possibly, be looked for in the Orange State, but blended with the bandages and laurels of war they seem peculiar. One cynic asked us, when he read the wedding notice, "Is this prophetic of concord, or is it merely strife breaking out in a new place?" He was a soulless man. I am sorry I have quoted or noticed one so deficient in feeling, poetry, humanity, and sentiment.
In furtherance of the knowledge that the Army was tired of being fooled, and growing weary of the upstart behaviour of the too often treacherous negro natives, we published a notice by Assistant Provost-Marshal Burnett-Hitchcock: "No pass is sufficient for a native to pass through the outpost lines unless countersigned by a Staff Officer, and it should state where and whence the native is going." Other rigid restrictions upon the freedom of the negroes are enforced by this order.
The same energetic officer also forbade the selling of any article within the town by hawkers and camp sutlers, under a penalty of fine on conviction. This was in order to protect the local tradesmen from army competition--including those who barricaded their shops when the Boer combatants fled from the town, lest we should loot their stores of goods, who then calmly told us they put up the barricades because "the Boers were such thieving scoundrels," and who, now that they knew our temper only too well, regaled us with accounts of how, while they were in commando, they had fought us at Belmont, Graspan, Modder, and a dozen other places.
We published on this day an article by Mr. H. Owen Scott on "The War Artist of To-day," in which he, a photographer, seriously extolled the work of the camera as compared with that of the genius and training of the true artist. We hoped the real artists thus relegated to a subordinate and vanishing place would enliven our columns by their replies.
(Edited by the War Correspondents with Lord Roberts' Force.)
No. 22] BLOEMFONTEIN, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11, 1900. [Price One Penny.
The Bands of the 12th Brigade will play in the Market Square this evening between the hours of 4 and 6.
THE CIRCULATION OF "THE FRIEND."
The present circulation of THE FRIEND is 4,750 copies daily.
In our modest way as Editors of quite the most extraordinary newspaper on earth, we endeavoured to publish yesterday, with due credit to the Times, for which it was written, Mr. Rudyard Kipling's masterly article "The Sin of Witchcraft." We may as well acknowledge here and now that though THE FRIEND is declared to be edited by a committee of war correspondents, it is, in fact, the daily product of a struggle between the correspondents and their printers, the latter being the more numerous, and, we sometimes fear, the more in earnest in their determination to keep the paper unique. This results in a paper which is often as great a novelty to the Editors as to the public, being like Shakespeare's soldier in "The Seven Stages of Man," "full of strange oaths," and words of which we never heard, as well as ideas to which we never gave birth.
With this by way of preface, will the Times accept our apology for not crediting it with Mr. Kipling's article, will it believe us that we really did write in the "credit" after the article, and will it commission its correspondent with this Army to go to our printing works and reason with our printers from "the devil" upwards?
THE WAR ARTIST OF TO-DAY.
BY H. OWEN SCOTT.
The present campaign has undoubtedly commenced a new era in the history of illustrated journalism, which change has been brought about by a new school of war artists, whose method is camera work, and whose aim is to faithfully produce the actualities demanded by a picture-loving, yet critical public.
The artistic value of this means of illustrating is becoming more and more realised every day, and will prove an effectual factor in crowding out the old-fashioned war artist who draws on his imagination.
The only excuse for artists of any description being at the front is their capacity for reproducing true and vivid impressions of what they have seen.
This is where the importance of the new school is at once apparent, and as long as the men practising this art are honest and do not attempt to foist "faked" work on the public, their efforts are bound to be acceptable and of artistic value.
In speaking of camera work as an art and the individuals adopting it as artists, I do not include the persons who simply press a button and expose yards of film, regardless of subject, but the few who make pictures intelligently and pay as much attention to composition and lighting as a painter would when commencing a fresh canvas. The camera is not going to destroy the painter--and I say painter advisedly--as no black and white artist is any good unless he is a painter, and has a keen appreciation of colour value. Nature is teeming with colour, and unless this is felt how can it be suggested in line?
Why does Rembrandt stand out as the greatest master of etchings? Simply because his etched works suggest colour, and it is this power of suggesting colour that placed Charles Keene head and shoulders above all other black and white men. The power of selection of subject is not developed in all artists to an equal extent, but there is always room for such men as Melton Prior, W. B. Wollen, Lester Ralph, and a few others, whose work will always be looked for as representing actuality.
If the two schools of artists mentioned work with the full knowledge of the limitations of their mediums, there will always be a place for both.
The mechanical draughtsman is dead. He has been killed by the camera.
How would it be possible in Fleet Street or De Aar, quietly sitting in a little room with a north light, to give a true impression of Cronje's surrender, or of that wonderful sight, the approach of the captured army, like a cloud of locusts, over the expanse of veldt at Klip Drift?
If ever the surrender at Paardeberg is painted, it must be done by a man who saw it.
I shall never forget the defeated General's arrival, or the solemnity of it: this giant, broken sulky, his career finished. Everything was shown in the man, and shown in a way no imagination could possibly conceive.
I was privileged to view a sketch of Cronje leaving our camp, the work of Mortimer Menpes. It was a vivid slight impression. True, yet the economy of means--a few lines wonderfully placed--was wonderful, showing the artist a great master of technique. Now, talented as he undoubtedly is, he could not have imparted such a feeling of actuality to his work if he had not been present and studied his subject with the greatest attention. The long-haired, velvet-coated gentleman of Bond Street is not the man to depict the incidents of war, or to put up with the hardships of a great march, and I am perfectly sure that the success of a war artist depends on physique. He is required to tackle his subject quickly and vigorously. Trickery does not help actuality, straightforward manly work being absolutely necessary to the war artist of to-day.
(We are sure that if the men in this Army who are engaged as artists or who feel strongly and lovingly the relation of true art to war, to photography and to the refinement of mankind--if these will take the trouble to answer this letter, we shall have a rich correspondence.--EDITORS, FRIEND.)