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would seem utterly hopeless to expect anything like competence in this branch of journalism, if such gross and inexcusable ignorance is allowed to go unchallenged! Yes, and hopeless it will remain, until writers on art shall strive to educate themselves. We know everybody cannot do this; there must be some natural tendencies towards, and love for, the subject. The soil must be congenial, or no amount of labour or manure will make it produce such a flowering shrub as it would be worth our while to cull from.
Some of the rarest natural qualities are as essential for a full appreciation of painting, as for its thoroughly successful practice. A perfect feeling for colour is undoubtedly the chief of these, almost everything else in connection with art can be learned to some extent, but this There are a few unfortunate individuals upon whom music has no pleasurable effect, but for one of these, we have fifty, to whom colour is a sealed book, which nothing can open.
Thus, it must be obvious, that first-rate critics will be nearly as rare as first-rate artists, but this is no excuse for the short-comings we complain of. If a newspaper is not fortunate enough to obtain the services of a competent person, its proprietors should confine their notices of art to a simple description of the pictures. Let them state what there is to be seen, abstaining from all comment, and then we should not be told in the same breath (as we have been quite lately, by a leading journal) that it is a great pity Mr. Frith had discarded subjects of the present day, because by going back a couple of centuries for his theme, he had achieved his greatest artistic triumph! In a word, we should escape the cant, trash, and rubbish, which passes amongst the multitude, not for the opinion of one or two individuals, as it really is, but for the verdict of the constituted authorities! Let, therefore, the gentlemen whom these things concern, lay them well to heart, and by degrees, perhaps, the tone of art criticism may improve; but at present, it is not too much to say, that not one in a thousand of our picture reviewers, or indeed of our educated classes generally, on entering upon the business or pleasure of life, have anything but the most meagre acquaintance with a subject, a complete familiarity with which, can only be acquired by years of study and diligent application.
How we Inaugurated Ensign M'Nish.
BY CAPTAIN LAURENCE LOCKHART.
In a certain ancient town, north of the Tweed, there was stationed, now many years ago, a four-company detachment of a distinguished Scottish regiment-the Strathbungo Highlanders.
The officer in command of the detachment, which was remote from head-quarters, happened to be a young captain afflicted neither with a fear of responsibility nor with a sense of his official importance, and in these days general officers in charge of districts had not acquired the satanic propensity of going to and fro on the face of the earth, and paying sudden visits of inquisition to the different outlying stations in their command; so the life of the detachment was an easy and a jolly life, and the gay youngsters did as they listed, with no one to make them afraid.
It was the custom at this time to send ensigns on appointment direct to this detachment for instruction in drill, and they were not transferred to head-quarters until the labours of the drill-sergeant and adjutant had qualified them to take part efficiently in the movements of the battalion.
This arrangement had given rise to an amusement very popular among the officers of the detachment, which was called "inaugurating an ensign."
In this amusement there were none of those cruel and even brutal elements which, unfortunately, at one time entered occasionally into the composition of "a practical joke" in the army.
The fun of the "Strathbungos" was free from any ruffianism of that description. The scheme of the "inaugurations" was simply this- that every young officer on his first arrival should, by various cunning devices, find himself plunged into a new world, and living in the midst of a military extravaganza-a new world peopled with a very peculiar people, and a drama in which action and actors were alike unexpected and extraordinary. No commonplace incident was suffered to disturb the illusion, or dissipate, by unconscious comparison, the glamour that was cast over the mind of the patient. He was hurried from one startling conception to another, before his reason had time to settle on any salient point for recovery, till he invariably ended in
accepting as everyday and probable incidents in military life the most daring and extravagant absurdities.
In this game of mystification the newly-joined ensign saw his future comrades, or a part of them, disguised, and in characters as unlike their own as possible. He met general officers and grave divines, municipal dignitaries, and uncouth Highland lairds, foreign notabilities, and even ladies fair, without suspecting that, but for the arts of the costumier and their own dramatic talents, they were subalterns and "Strathbungos" even as he.
The master of these dramatic revels, who was our commanding officer, Captain M'Diarmid, and his two main confederates, Lieutenants Grant and M'Donald, were all about to leave the detachment, and longed eagerly, before going, to have another "inauguration," which should outshine all their previous exploits, and be, as they said, 66 monumental."
Nor had we long to wait; for the "Gazette" shortly announced the appointment of "Dugald Eric M'Nish, gent.," to an ensigncy in the corps.
The plot for his benefit was immediately arranged, and it was as follows to bring together on the evening of his arrival a number of most incongruous characters, whose vagaries and performances should outdo any previous performance, and would necessarily either plunge M'Nish into abysses of gulldom hitherto unfathomed, or lead him to believe that he had unawares fallen among Bedlamites.
The "incongruous persons" were of course to be personated by adepts among ourselves-to my lot, in compliment to the absence of the "pluma sperata," fell the role of an officer's bride-but of that The anxiously-looked-for day arrived, and brought Ensign M'Nish. His name had caused great uneasiness, for if the victim proved to be Scotch, the inaugurators were, in a great measure, disarmed; the manners and customs of a terra incognita being their grand mystifying capital. All fears were, however, dispelled on M'Nish's arrival. He proved to be a colonial youth of Scottish extraction only, his family having been settled for two generations in Demerara, from which Elysium he had not previously wandered. He was all we could desire for our purpose-a conclusion which was rapidly telegraphed, in looks of triumphant congratulation among the conspirators.
He received, of course, a most cordial welcome; he little dreamed of the ovation he was receiving in the hearts of his welcomers.
Much practice had undoubtedly made the corps dramatique very