Abstract

Of all Victorian writers, H.R. Haweis arguably showed the most sustained love of music. He had a passionate interest in everything connected to the art. From the perspective of Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy founded by Eli Siegel—which states that “the resolution of conflict in self is like the making one of opposites in art — the popularity of Haweis indicates that the Victorian Era, far from being stoic and impassive, was a period in which people actively were searching, including through music, for adventure: adventure

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ike every other period in human history, the Victorian era was contradictory. Its society was not easy to understand; and many writers, especially in the ensuing Edwardian years, unable to take on these contradictions and make sense of them, tended to be unjust. They created one-sided caricatures, the most frequent of which was this: Victorians were narrow; complacent; repressed.

Fortunately a much needed reconsideration took place, and over the last halfcentury the Victorians gradually have emerged from the fog of ridicule to look very much like ourselves: individuals who can’t — and shouldn’t — be summed up. In 1951, in The Victorian Temper, the literary historian Jerome Hamilton Buckley presented a catalogue (really quite funny) of the incoherent ways in which the Victorians earlier had been depicted — by persons determined to see “the half-truth, and nothing but the half-truth.” On the one hand, writes Buckley:

We are told [the Victorians] were “a poor, blind, complacent people”; yet [they] were torn by doubt, spiritually bewildered, lost in a troubled universe. They were crass materialists, wholly absorbed in the present, quite unconcerned “with abstract verities and eternal values”; but they were also excessively religious, lamentably idealistic, nostalgic for the past, and ready to forgo present delights for the vision of a world beyond. [2]

Buckley goes on this way for nearly two pages, usefully skewering a good deal of imbalanced scholarship in the process. Perhaps the sharpest of his ironic paradoxes is the following: “they [the Victorians] were iconoclasts who worshiped the idols of authority” (2).

Yet a question still remains: can we say anything definite about the Victorian mind and what it was seeking? Or are we simply left affirming interesting, but not very specific paradoxes? I think we can say something definite, and it is through the use of a methodology which honors these very contradictions.

Aesthetic Realism and Cultural Historiography

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n the 1940s the American critic and philosopher Eli Siegel began to teach Aesthetic Realism,3 one of whose core principles is this: “The resolution of conflict in self is like the making one of opposites in art” (cited Baird v). For cultural historians, and for musicologists aware of the value of framing the understanding of music by placing that music in its historical context, this principle has a clear methodological implication: through looking technically at the art of any era, as well as at what that particular society hoped to get — in terms of emotional value — from their art, we can gain solid insight into the questions that most engaged the people of that time: what conflicts they most keenly hoped to resolve. The reverse, naturally, is equally true; as we understand the central concerns of an culture at a particular historical juncture, we are also in a better position to grasp why the music they created functions as it does, and why it is shaped as it is.

As Eli Siegel saw it, the need to make a one of opposites is a universal impulsion: the very energy and substance of the human unconscious.5 At the same time, every culture — and, for that matter, every individual — goes after that reconciliation of opposites in a unique manner.6 The job of an historical critic concerned with delineating the characteristic features of any given epoch is thus to relate the universal aesthetic energy of humanity to its particular manifestation at a given time and place.7

It is never a question of “binary opposition” — as if one period whole-heartedly embraced a certain quality of mind and the period following, with equal fervor, its contrary; as if people had bodies in one century and minds in another; as if one decade arrogated to itself a monopoly on energy and its successor on thoughtfulness; as if, for one era, fear and contempt were the exclusive substance of humanity ’s emotional life and then, in the next, hope and respect were to reign unquestioned.

Left to right: (a) Portrait of Hugh Reginald Haweis from his Travel and Talk and the book's title-page, both from the Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. [Click on these images for larger pictures.]

It is never that simple, for the primal and enduring opposites in the human mind are everywhere and at all times co-present, and in dramatic interchange. Yet this does not mean that all these primal pairs are equally salient, equally in the foreground of human concern, at all points in history. What cultural historiography needs, therefore, is a methodology which rules out the severing of opposites but is keenly alert to the question: which opposites, at a particular moment in time, were people grappling with most prominently? And a great key towards answering this in relation to the Victorian epoch, I am suggesting, is to look probingly at the musical writings of the Reverend Hugh Reginald Haweis (1838-1901). The popularity of these writings are a touchstone, as we ask: where were the Victorians most concerned to find beauty? — and therefore, the symbolic resolution of their conflicts.

The Popularity of H.R. Haweis

To place Haweis and his usefulness in the understanding the Victorian mind, let us first remind ourselves that there were several 19th century British aestheticians who eagerly asserted that it is in the nature of beauty for opposites to be reconciled. Most prominent among these were Coleridge, in the Biographia Literaria (1817), and Hay, in The Science of Beauty as Developed in Nature and Applied in Art (1856).8

The focus of these seminal books, however, was not music; respectively it was poetry and the visual arts. And so we reach the Reverend Hugh Reginald Haweis, for it is he, among all nineteenth-century British thinkers, who saw most clearly the crucial meaning (and ethical import) of the opposites in music.9 We need to keep this in mind as we remember that on the subject of music he was, without doubt, the most popular author of the Victorian age. His 1871 book, Music and Morals, for example, went through an astonishing ten editions in twelve years, and nine more before the century was over — a full 19 editions during his lifetime.

As an aside: his lifetime was an almost exact match for Victoria’s reign. She took the throne in 1837; he was born in 1838. She died in 1901; he just days later — shortly, in fact, after delivering a sermon in her memory.

To highlight further this matter of Haweis’ popularity with the music-loving public of his time, let’s consider the circulation of what, in academic circles, is now most often looked upon as the most significant book on music by a Victorian: Edmund Gurney’s The Power of Sound. Its initial edition (1880) sold poorly — and it was not until 1966 that a second appeared. The comparison is illuminating; there simply was no other musical writer of his era as widely-read as Haweis.

Left to right: the title-pages of (a) Music and Morals and My Music Life, the first from the Internet Archive version of a copy in the Stanford University of Library, the second from the University of California Library. [Click on these images for larger pictures.]

Nor was Haweis a “one-book” wonder. My Musical Life (1884) also swiftly went through many editions. Like Music and Morals, it is a large book — nearly 700 pages — and only a fifth is strictly autobiographical; the remainder includes a sustained philosophic study of the relation of music and emotion; a 200-page portrait of Wagner, and one of nearly 100 on Liszt, as well a substantial biography of Paganini. A separate book on the history of the violin — an instrument upon which Haweis was highly skilled, having studied with Oury, a proteŽgŽé of Baillot and Kreutzer — appeared in 1898, and is still highly regarded by scholars.

In the May, 1901 issue of The Westminster Review, the obituary of Haweis makes special note of the width of his mind. “His horizon was wider than most men’s,” it says simply.10 So it seems right to mention that he also wrote a very popular book on the American Humorists, as well as dozens of magazine articles for several of Britain’s leading cultural journals. Poetry and theology were frequent subjects, yet Haweis ranged widely: from world affairs — “The coming crisis in Morocco,” to supernaturalism — “Ghosts and their photos.”11 (Like his younger contemporary, Arthur Conan Doyle, Haweis kept an open mind towards the possibility of non-material existence.) And Haweis was selected by the Anglican Church to be their representative at the World Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago in 1893.12

Returning to our key consideration: we are looking, through Haweis, for evidence that can shed light on the nature of the Victorian mind. For if he steadily gained, and steadily kept, his readership — and he did — it follows that the questions that most engaged that readership, he was engaging; and the resolutions to the questions that burned most keenly for them were, at least in some outline manner, presented by him.

The Oneness of Intensity and Restraint

As I have studied his writings, including the theological writings, which are even more numerous than the musical, this fact emerges: Haweis constantly deals with a very specific conflict of opposites: the desire for intensity of experience — for intellectual and emotional adventure, and also for the concurrent and equally powerful desire for restraint and proportion.13 He honored, through vivid prose the sheer emotional force of music and made people feel proud to yield to that emotional force; at the same time, he insisted all successful music embodied a disciplining of emotion. In fact, he argued, music embodied ethics.14

For Haweis, the central truth about music is its emotional power. And the first mistake people make about emotion, he explains in Music and Morals, is to separate it from thought. “Emotion is the very life blood of thought,” he writes, and “What few people realize is that emotion is actually coextensive with consciousness” (14, 11 and 12). He then closely considers — in a way that predates by decades the Phenomenology of Edmund Husserl — the experience of emotion: what it feels like to have emotion; and finds that five properties are at work: 1st, elation and depression; 2nd, a sense of velocity; 3rd, intensity; and 4th, variety — since various emotions may co-mingle. All this results, 5th, in a sense of form: the shape emotion takes over time.16

And these elements are paralleled in how musical sound is experienced. “If we find that Sound contains exactly the same properties as emotion,” he argues:

we shall not only have established points of resemblance between the two, but we shall have actually reached the common ground, or kind of border-land, upon which the internal emotion becomes wedded to external sound, and realizes for itself that kind of concrete existence which it is the proper function and glory of art to bestow upon human thought and feeling. [19]

As a preacher, Haweis knew the value of employing tangible illustration to make graspable a complex intellectual point. According to an obituary in the April 18th 1901 Contemporary Literature he “often played the violin, from his pulpit, “for the purpose of making religious worship more attractive or popular, or to illustrate points in his sermons” (469).

Now the relation of emotion to logic, of abstract art to the very concrete experiences of ordinary human life, certainly qualifies as a complex matter. So in this text (Music and Morals) he asks his readers to imagine a man “suffering from intense thirst in a sandy desert,” and then — as he tells about a series of emotions had by that man — he gives a linear diagram which he presents a visible representation of the abstract structure of that man’s inner life as it changes over a given period of time.19

From a low ebb of energy, his sprits rise upon finding a pool of water. This is followed by bitter depression as the water proves too salty; then, intense satisfaction as his need is finally met by a traveler who comes by with a water-skin; finally by a complex counterpoint of emotions: contentment, gratitude, as well as a sympathetic ”joy” at seeing the pleasure had by the person who helped him. All this, says Haweis, can be substantially paralleled by musical sound.

Though quite consciously using “popular language,” Haweis is, in fact, offering a sophisticated theory of musical meaning — and, in particular, of the logic of program music.20 What is important, he feels, is that whatever verbal or pictorial meaning one brings to music be congruent with it, and exact. “The events,” he writes, “must in every case be similar in tone and run parallel.21

So while he encourages his readers to be able to follow music on abstract grounds — in terms of what his noted Austrian contemporary Eduard Hanslick would call “forms of sound in time”, he in no way scorns them for listening (as, in truth, most people do) with a kind of spontaneous synaesthesia. People do make up stories and see pictures as they listen to music. According to Haweis, this is evidence for his central point — that music is not isolated from life and from reality, but parallels them and reflects their structure.22

The logic Haweis applies here is one he was deeply trained in as theologian: the time-honored logic of Allegory (see Urban). If a comparison between two independent lines-of-meaning can be sustained over time, with one line of meaning “immediate” and the other “hidden,” one tangible, the other more intangible, then we have the essence of Allegory.24 For Haweis our sensory, sonic experience is the immediate source of meaning — and we are justified in searching for other meaning, given the strict proviso that an unbroken parallelism can be discerned.

Temporarily leaving the world of music, in order to press his point more clearly, Haweis gives these parallel storylines as an example of how inner emotion and external reality can parallel each other:

I) Man losing his temper I) Sea ruffled with wind
II) Man lost his temper II) Sea convulsed
III) Smashes the furniture III) Thunder and lightning
IV) Is appeased by wife IV) Blue sky, wind drops
V) All is forgiven and forgotten V) Sun breaks out, sea calms.

And a piece of music, he argues, could — on its own terms — provide yet another parallel.

In fact, at this point — (I am here considering a passage from My Musical Life) — Haweis gives a measure-by-measure analysis of the emotional content of the fourth song from Book II of Mendelssohn’s Lieder Ohne Wörter. The complete analysis is lengthy, so I quote only the opening sentences and then follow with that portion of the musical score to which these sentences pertain:

[Click on image to enlarge it.]


With the first bars of rapid semi-quavers, increasing from p to sf, we are thrown into a state of restless emotion, dashed (bars 4, 5, 6) with suspense, as when one heaves and holds his breath at a passing thought of some agitating possibility; (7, 8, 9, 10), the flash of suspense passes off, lowering back the tone of mind to its first state; that state, instead of subsiding as before, passes into a reflex sort of reasoning upon itself, as though one said (15, 16, 17, 1/2 18), “But why should I disquiet myself in vain?” (1/2 18, 19, 20). ”I will resist, I will shake it off (21); I will be free (22); the cloud has passed (23); I see my joy (24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30). O ecstatic vision! I lose myself in this splendid revelation, I float out upon the tide of triumph. Now I rest, bathed in tranquil peace and perfect satisfaction (31, 32, 1/2 33); I prolong the dream. [78]

I mentioned Husserl and Phenomenology earlier; and while Haweis was by no means a professional philosopher, it is noteworthy how often he presages ideas that, while percolating in the Victorian era, came to clear definition only in the next century. There is also, for example, his adumbration of certain aspects of Aesthetic Realism. In his constant desire to show the parallels between musical form, the emotions had by people, and the way objects are in nature — such as the varying motions of the sea: now turbulent, now calm — Haweis was investigating philosophic territory which was only given solid foundation in our own time by Eli Siegel, for the central principle of Aesthetic Realism is this: “The world, art and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.” (Kranz 1)

As Haweis implies, and Siegel stated explicitly in many of his writings, we cannot be proud of ourselves, and our emotions, while they are narrow.28 If it is true that music, while felt with great inward intensity by an individual, also embodies the structure of the wide world, then the emotions music makes for have a dimension, a size and depth of meaning, to which we can respect ourselves for yielding.

“Music Covers the Whole of Life”

As I indicated earlier, we are here approaching the very core of Haweis’ appeal, and also, therefore, some solid insight into the Victorian mind. For his readers met in him, more than in any other writer of the time, a sense of music not as some disembodied spiritual realm removed from everyday reality, but as vividly embodying the bustling, tangible world; related to it on all fronts, even as he affirmed its more all-embracing philosophic, even theological, significance

If the Victorian public were — as Lytton Strachey, the Bloomsbury crowd, and many others seemed impelled to portray them — people who were repressed, restrained, and looking complacently for ego-soothing notions that wouldn’t challenge or expand their world-view, then it would be hard to account for the popularity of Haweis. For reading him is a constant intellectual and emotional adventure: as much a journey into far-flung, and often untravelled lands, as were (more obviously) the journeys of Stanley and Livingstone.

Haweis is as likely to write about the artistry of an anonymous street musician of London who “produces singularly beautiful effects by using two balls of india-rubber to set in vibration a perfectly tuned system of musical glasses” as about Wagner’s Parsifal. There are pages explaining the relation of the auditory nerve to the “nervus pneumogastric” and the vagus nerve — all for the purpose of showing how sound affects the entire body; and shortly later, detailed accounts of old Belgian carillons and their foundries. He considers, with insight perhaps gained from his pastoral work, the psychology of Handel’s relation to his father; and then, with his keen ear, reports on the acoustics of the Crystal Palace: how in this vast space — through a process he names “sound filtering” — the proportions of tone and noise are altered, relative to the experience of music in more moderately-sized rooms. He writes about the newest scientific theories of Helmholtz, and then reports positively on the impact of American Negro melody on England.

And it is not just the present world he honors; as with Tennyson, Mill, and many other Victorians, there was a vivid sense of the world to come. So, in visionary mode, he predicts the establishment of a science of healing through music — what we would now call Music Therapy; and also the birth of a new art based on abstract patterns of color varying in time, to parallel the way music varies sound over time. Alexander Scriabin, the composer who first put something like this concept into practice, was born in 1872; Music and Morals appeared the year before!29

The energy of Haweis was, as I implied, keenly intellectual; but it was not merely that: he also enjoyed physical adventure, traveling extensively, including to the United States and Ceylon — and documented those journeys in his Travels and Talk of 1896: a substantial work in two volumes. Keeping this vitality in mind, one is not surprised to learn that as a young man, straight from Cambridge, he disobeyed a parental order to avoid Italy on his first continental trip — a wise precaution, one would have thought, since the land was embroiled in insurrectionary warfare. But Haweis, once on the continent, headed directly to those regions most torn by battle, and was with Garibaldi at the Siege of Capua.

If, as W.J. Reader says in Life in Victorian England, “Energy was the key quality of the Victorians” (1), then Haweis was as Victorian as they come! And having suffered an almost fatal disease of the hip, which rendered him partially crippled from age 12 onward, both his energy and his love of life appear all the more remarkable. And, as I argued earlier, it was not just his energy that made Haweis so Victorian; it was the fact that he constantly grappled with the dialectic of energy and restraint: of life as something to be, at once, a thing of adventure and precision.

Gurney took issue with Haweis, writing of the Reverend’s “disastrous and unmeaning premise that “Music covers the whole of life’”.31 And yet, for all of Gurney’s subtle and sophisticated reasoning, I think we can see here exactly why he failed to catch the interest of his contemporaries; at least, came nowhere near Haweis. For Haweis met a profound need in the Victorian mind: a need to feel that all of life should be engaged, and that somehow all of it could be encompassed by beauty.

The Neglect of Haweis: A Theory

Here we can also begin to address a question raised earlier: why Haweis, in the decades after his death, was so shunted to the side. The reason principally appears to be this: the 20th century was one which, due to its destructive and agonized history, seemed to forbid any notion of aesthetics which argued seriously that the reality had anything like an enduring principle of beauty, or that the human mind did. Thus Gurney’s reasoning — that music was, at core, a realm apart — was more in keeping with the prevailing canons of “Modernism.”

However much “Post-Modernism” has critiqued its predecessor, it shares with Modernism a disbelief in the possibility of a truly universal notion of aesthetics: one which technically integrates the structure of artistic work with the depths of human psychology,32 and sees both as reflective of a world which, itself, is founded on aesthetic principles.

Yet this was the clear direction of Haweis’ thought. In fact, we see it not only in his musical, but also in his theological writings. For example, the idea of God as a “working artist,” Himself concerned with the drama and conflict of opposites, and achieving the triumph of “Good” only through their interaction, is in a sermon he gave in March 1890 entitled “John Stuart Mill’s Religion.”33

Thus it is ironic that even among recent authors on the philosophy of music who are attempting, incrementally, to re-establish the links between “the world, art, and self” — authors who, braving the anti-metaphysical currents of contemporary academic thought, are in search of music’s enduring significance — there is substantial awareness of Gurney (who largely denied these links) and seeming oblivion concerning Haweis, who affirmed them. For example, Aaron Ridley, of the University of Southampton, in Music, Value and the Passions looks at Gurney’s ideas, but is silent about Haweis. Anthony Storr valuably engages the question of how, and to what degree, music may be “A Justification of Existence” and an embodiment of “The Innermost Nature of the World.” (the titles respectively of his eighth and seventh chapters) Yet there is no mention of Haweis.

What a pity! For a key notion of Post-Modern thought is that all concepts are contextual — situated on, and nourished by, a very specific cultural soil. There is no need to deny the truth of this point. But it begs the question: are all these varied contexts themselves situated in a larger context? And this is exactly what metaphysically- oriented musicologists are eager to affirm. Reality precedes any instance of it, and informs any instance of it. Haweis knew this.

Yet leaving philosophic issues aside, we can see the neglect of Haweis strictly in terms of accurate historical reporting. In 2003, for example, Catherine Dale published an excellent survey entitled Music Analysis in Britain in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries. Haweis is mentioned ever so briefly near its opening as representative of the “Platonic concept of music as a moralizing influence,” which most certainly he was. But there is no mention that he also had presented the outline of a technical argument for how musical meaning is produced and conveyed. Gurney, on the contrary, is given an entire chapter.

Nor is this simply a “British” phenomenon. Carl Dahlhaus, in his celebrated Esthetics of Music, includes Gurney in his bibliography, but not Haweis. Edward Lippman, in his magisterial A History of Western Musical Aesthetics Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1992., treats Gurney ’s ideas at length, and is utterly silent about Haweis. And Peter Kivy — likely the most celebrated living philosopher of music, a man who has been deeply interested in the power of music to represent human feeling and external reality — discusses Gurney’s ideas in his writings but not, at least to my knowledge, those of Haweis which, paradoxically, are more in keeping with Kivy’s.

Examples could be multiplied and multiplied for what might be called the ”premature burial” of the Reverend Haweis. As I said, he rarely shows up in scholarly texts dealing with Victorian culture. There is, for example, no mention of him in such key books as Buckley’s The Victorian Temper, Houghton’s The Victorian Frame of Mind, or Young’s Victorian England. Even in the field where one might most reasonably imagine he would be remembered, musicology, he is — as I just indicated — deeply neglected. Though he seems to have retained his popularity in the early years of the twentieth-century century (yet more editions of his books were printed), he seems, in effect, to have been an intellectual casualty of the First World War — for he is hardly ever mentioned after 1920. To this day there is no biography.40

Haweis simply did not fit comfortably into the prevailing twentieth-century century academic notions concerning either Victorianism as a whole or the philosophy of music. And, once put into the shadow, it was almost inevitable that decades of further scholarly neglect would follow.

This essay is perhaps the first attempt to argue unapologetically for the living relevance of Haweis.41 For not only is the study of Haweis a pre-eminently efficient way to grasp Victorian musical culture and its philosophic sympathies, emerging from that study is the figure of a man who, quite rightly, can appeal equally to to our own time. For example, Gurney was “Victorian” in the “restrictive, complacent ” sense of the word as Haweis was not. Haweis relished music in all its dimensions. In Gurney, there is nary a trace of approbation for much of anything past Beethoven. And Haweis will also appeal to any person interested in the enduring question: what is the relation of Music to Reality?

Haweis, the Opposites, and the “Realism” of Music

In a 1951 lecture Eli Siegel argued that a true musicology would begin by engaging this issue: are “all the things we see in reality in generalÉin music, and are [they] in music as things made beautiful?” To which he answered: “Aesthetic Realism says definitely, yes,” and continued by drawing out the ethical implications of that idea: “there is not one thing music does which does not say something about how a person should organize himself, too.”42

Haweis felt, too, the inevitable tie-up between the nature of reality, the nature of beauty in music, and the sincere expression of a human being — with ethics being understood as that which brought forth one’s full expression. “That art is best which expresses most,” he said in My Musical Life (148) — and this was voiced in defense of Wagnerism. Thus Haweis warmly welcomed the new in music, insofar as it might show even more richly of what humanity is by expressing aspects of emotion not previously given musical form.

And yet, even as Haweis was at ease with the most up-to-date “Music of the Future,” he had none of the superciliousness of a certain kind of “avant-garde” mind. He thought it ridiculous for people to feel that in order to like Wagner they needed to disdain Mendelssohn. Words he once used to describe his vision of an ideal Theology seem to apply with equal justice to his notion of an ideal Musicology — that it be, at once, “Comprehensive, Radical, Conservative.”

The one thing he couldn’t stand was what he called “sentimental” music. “Between the spirit of the musical Sentimentalist and the musical Realist,” Haweis writes, “there is eternal war.” (My Musical Life 54). And what is “sentimental music?” It is that which encourages “false emotion — abused emotion — frivolous emotion.” It is a music which restricts itself to the expression of one emotion at the expense of its necessary complement. True feeling, Haweis says, is always “disciplined feeling.” And discipline means the regulation of one thing by means of its opposite.

Thus, for Haweis, discipline does not, in any way, mean repression. Rather, he argues that art should take in “all of life,” “all of reality,” only do so in a balanced way: a way that tempers opposites. A way, in other words, that is beautiful.

The kinship of thought here to that of his great contemporary John Ruskin, is apparent.45 Each believed that Reality should be embraced in all its possibilities, including the thorny, difficult, painful ones. “Great art accepts Nature as it is,” wrote Ruskin, “but directs the eyes and thoughts to what is most perfect in her; false art saves itself the trouble of direction by removing or altering whatever it thinks objectionable.”46

The truth about the human soul, and the outer world, is thus not to be smoothed over. The key to art and to ethical, healthy emotion, both these authors imply, is not to distance oneself from “Realism” through a complacent one-sidedness, but instead to keep accurate proportion among contrary principles.

If the equation of Realism with the co-presence of opposites is often just implicit in Ruskin, it is, arguably, just as often explicit in Haweis. And not only did he view Aesthetics as Dialectics, he also had no doubt that the conjunction of Aesthetics and Ethics would be grasped by later generations in a way the vast majority of his contemporaries, he felt, did not.

With a focus on the opposites of incitement and soothingness — (not unrelated to the primary pair we are considering, intensity and restraint) — Haweis writes:

Music will some day become a powerful and acknowledged therapeutic. Can we doubt the power of music to break upÉstagnation? Or, again, can we doubt its power to soothe?...Music is a mind regulator. The great educational function of music remains almost to be discovered. The future mission of music for the million is the Discipline of Emotion. [My Musical Life 71]

And making his point as sharp as he can, he gives this short Catechism:

What is the ruin of art? Ill-regulated emotion.
What is the ruin of life? Again, ill-regulated emotionÉ [Music and Morals 74]

Concluding, two pages later:

Music, in short, is bound, when properly used and understood, to train us in the exercise of our emotions. [76]

The Victorian Urge for Self-Criticism

I end this article by using Haweis, and his popularity, to shed some light on the frequently-to-be-met idea that the Victorians were complacent. Well, of course — being human, they were. “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone!” But what is often forgotten, is that they also sought out criticism, and honored those among them who questioned their ethics. Dickens, after all, and Carlyle, and Mill were very popular writers of the day.50 As Jerome Buckley noted in “The Victorian Temper Revisited”, “despite their Edwardian and Georgian reputation for complacency, [the Victorians] had an enviable capacity for self-criticism” (69).

Haweis, too, is a critic — and he doesn’t flatter his readers. He takes the public to task for their desire to feel morally superior to people who work in the performing arts — arguing the contrary: that the character of an average musician generally exceeds that of his audience. He chides concert-goers for their greed in demanding exhausting encores even after a performer has given his all in an evening — and he relates that greed to the cold-hearted exploitive ways of manufacturers. He plainly indicates that when it comes to the battle between false and true emotion — between ”Sentimental” and “Realistic” music — nearly all his readers choose wrongly.

What can we conclude from all this? That in welcoming Haweis so warmly, in creating that astounding popularity he had, the Victorian music-loving public was showing its own desire for intellectual and emotional adventure; and its own desire for ethical criticism.

Haweis loved music. And when one loves, one doesn’t bargain. One doesn’t say: “I’m interested in 17%, or 39% of whom or what you are”. Love, whether of a person or a thing, shows its sincerity by having no artificial constraints. And Haweis was, in his wide-range of subjects, in his futuristic speculations, in his passionate response to the emotional power of music, a person who hated the idea of music being limited in its meaning, or in its power.

And thus, it speaks very well of the Victorians that they cared so much for the Reverend H.R. Haweis.


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last modified 28 May 2013