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by his older compeer of the Lake Dwelling or Northern Barrow. He will even transport us further back to remote. geological epochs, and point out to us that there were already artists among the cave dwellers of Western Europe at a time when the shaggy Mammoth roamed over the plains not long denuded of their ice. Spirited contemporary sketches of that and other extinct beasts exist for proof of this (Fig. 1), while as a specimen of decorative art the
carvcd dagger-hilt of reindeer-horn, shown in Fig. 2, exhibits an artistic tact in the adaptation of natural forms to ornament that puts most modern efforts to shame. Such
remains carry back the beginnings of art to epochs far beyond the reach of actual investigation, and they have already all the special qualities of the work of art, in its distinction
from the mere work of necessity or use. The drawing of the Mammoth reveals a purely disinterested care for the beast, which is not to the designer a danger he must defend himself against or a prey to be slain for food, but something attractive for its outward form and characteristics, that must be perpetuated by some sort of counterfeit presentment and shown as such to homekeeping wife and child. A practical dagger-handle could have been more easily made without troubling about moulding it to the shape of a beast -—the beast form is delighted in for other reasons, though these the carver himself could certainly not have explained.
§5. To find the beginnings of Art we must find the beginnings of free activity, or ‘play.’
We cannot, accordingly, by any investigation discover the actual concrete beginnings of art, and it will be advisable now to widen somewhat the inquiry, and, instead of asking merely how art begins, to take up the more general idea of this ‘free and spontaneous activity7 of which the various forms of art are only the outcome. Art is only one manifestation of this activity, and by understanding the wider idea we shall necessarily comprehend all that is included under it.
In examining the nature and conditions of this free movement of the being, which for shortness’ sake we may call ‘flay,’ we soon pass the border line between man and the higher animals, and find that the latter exercise activities of this kind after much the same fashion as men, while to reach an organised creature wholly bound up in its material surroundings and wholly a slave to need, we must descend pretty low in the scale of the animal creation. Mr. Herbert Spencer discusses this subject both in itself and in its relation to art, in the concluding chapter of the
cHAP. r T he Play-impulse 7
later editions of his Prz'ncz'plzs of Psychology, entitled ‘lEsthetic Sentiments,’ and we may be allowed here to borrow his words. He tells us that the inferior kinds of animals ‘ have in common the trait that all their forces are expended in fulfilling functions essential to the maintenance of life’; while ‘as we ascend to animals of high types, having faculties more efiicient and more numerous, we begin to find that time and strength are not wholly absorbed in providing for immediate needs. Better nutrition, gained by superiority, occasionally yields a surplus of vigour. . . . Thus it happens that in the more-evolved creatures there often recurs an energy somewhat in excess of immediate needs.’1
§ 6. The Play-impulse as described by Mr. Herbert Spencer.
Here at last in this free energy, this ‘surplus of vigour,1 resulting as we shall see in different forms of ‘ play,’ we find the absolute beginnings, the root-fibres of art, which are thus seen to strike deep down into the physical nature that man shares with the brutes. Mr. Spencer, who adopts the view first enunciated by Schiller in the ‘ Letters’ already quoted, that the aesthetic sentiments originate from the Play-impulse (der Spieltrieb), gives an analysis of ‘play’ based on the physiology of the nervous system. He shows how, through habitual use in the necessary actions of life, the animal powers become developed so as to be always ready to answer to the accustomed strain, as muscular fibres grow through exercise. But the habitual use produces also a sort of expectation of and even impatience for the strain, and if the demand be not made there is an accumulation of superfluous energy which is ready to respond to the slightest stimulus. When there is no real stimulus at
1 Principles of Psychnlogy, 3d ed. Lond. 1881, ii. ch. ix. p. 628.
hand—none of the serious business on which the activities of the particular power generally depend—then ‘a simulation of those activities is easily fallen into, when circumstances ofi'er it in place of the real activities.’ . . . . ‘Observe’ continues Mr. Spencer, ‘how this holds from the simplest faculties upwards. . . . . A cat, with claws and appended muscles adjusted to daily action in catching prey, but now leading a life that is but in a small degree predatory, has a craving to exercise these parts; and may be seen to satisfy the craving by stretching out her legs, protruding her claws, and pulling at some such surface as the covering of a chair or the bark of a tree. . . . . This useless activity of unused organs, which in these cases hardly rises to what we call play, passes into play ordinarily so called when there is a more manifest union of feeling with the action. Play is equally an artificial exercise of powers which, in default of their natural exercise, become so ready to discharge that they relieve themselves by simulated actions in place of real actions. For dogs and other predatory creatures show us unmistakably that their play consists of mimic chase and mimic fighting—they pursue one another, they try to overthrow one another, they bite one another as much as they dare. . . . . It is the same with human beings. The plays of children—nursing dolls, giving tea-parties, and so on, are dramatisings of adult activities. The sports of boys, chasing one another, wrestling, making prisoners, obviously gratify in a partial way the predatory instincts.” Nor are these appearances confined, Mr. Spencer shows in conclusion, to the bodily powers or self-regarding instincts alone, but occur in every department of our being. ‘ The higher but less essential powers, as well as the lower but more essential powers, thus come to have activities that are carried on for the sake of the
immediate gratifications derived, without reference to ulterior benefits; and to such higher powers, aesthetic products yield those substituted activities, as games yield them to various lower powers.’l In conclusion, we may sum up the matter by saying that on every grade qf his being man parser”: an ideal self-determined life, en's-ting side by side with, but apart from, his life as conditioned by material needs. T his life expresses itself in, and is nourished by, various forms :9" ‘free and spontaneous expression and action’ whieh 0n the lbwer grades of being may be termed simply ‘play,’ but on the higher grade: take the shape of that rational and significant ‘ play ’ resulting in art.
§ 7. The relation of ‘ play ’ to Art.
In what relation, it must now be asked, does ‘ play’ of this kind stand to art? ‘Play’ is a feature of the life both of men and- of the higher animals. Does it naturally result in every case in some form of art? or is there an element in art in virtue of which it only appears under special conditions? or is art finally a distinctively human product? Let us take the simplest available instances- to begin with. There is the exercise of ‘free and spontaneous activity,’ the working-off of stored up vigour, in the energetic muscular movements of the youth and of his dog when they take their morning run together, and in the hearty ring of their voices in the shout and the bark, with which they answer each other through the frosty air. Again, examine any collection of savage implements in an Ethnographical Museum. Some will show attempts at ornamentation composed of half-aimless grooves and notches, such as we may imagine carved in hours of enforced leisure by a hand
1 Principles of Prychalagy, ibid. p. 630 ff. Compare also Darwin, The Dunn! ofMan, Lond. 1888, ii. p. 60.