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Tea-table Talk Jerome K. Jerome

Chapter II

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"It is rapidly coming to that," answered the Minor Poet. "Nature, as a well known painter once put it, is not 'creeping up' fast enough to keep pace with our ideals. In advanced Germany they improve the waterfalls and ornament the rocks. In Paris they paint the babies' faces."

"You can hardly lay the blame for that upon civilisation," pleaded the Girton Girl. "The ancient Briton had a pretty taste in woads."

"Man's first feeble steps upon the upward path of Art," assented the Minor Poet, "culminating in the rouge-pot and the hair-dye."

"Come!" laughed the Old Maid, "you are narrow-minded. Civilisation has given us music. Surely you will admit that has been of help to us?"

"My dear lady," replied the Minor Poet, "you speak of the one accomplishment with which Civilisation has had little or nothing to do, the one art that Nature has bestowed upon man in common with the birds and insects, the one intellectual enjoyment we share with the entire animal creation, excepting only the canines; and even the howling of the dog--one cannot be sure--may be an honest, however unsatisfactory, attempt towards a music of his own. I had a fox terrier once who invariably howled in tune. Jubal hampered, not helped us. He it was who stifled music with the curse of professionalism; so that now, like shivering shop-boys paying gate- money to watch games they cannot play, we sit mute in our stalls listening to the paid performer. But for the musician, music might have been universal. The human voice is still the finest instrument that we possess. We have allowed it to rust, the better to hear clever manipulators blow through tubes and twang wires. The musical world might have been a literal expression. Civilisation has contracted it to designate a coterie."

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"By the way," said the Woman of the World, "talking of music, have you heard that last symphony of Grieg's? It came in the last parcel. I have been practising it."

"Oh! do let us hear it," urged the Old Maid. "I love Grieg."

The Woman of the World rose and opened the piano.

"Myself, I have always been of opinion--" I remarked.

"Please don't chatter," said the Minor Poet.

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Tea-table Talk
Jerome K. Jerome

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