Dr. Adam is to be congratulated on having completed just before the outbreak of war--as may be deduced from his useful list of references--a compact and readable manual which in war-time is bound to prove a godsend to those of us who would devote their spare moments to the contemplation of the constructive, rather than the destructive, energies of the human race. True, the book deals solely with primitive man, in the double sense of old and old- fashioned. But at present nobody can be feeling particularly proud of being civilised. Indeed, it is even possible to be somewhat envious of the world's simpler peoples, more concerned as they are to make friends with Nature than to seek to overcome their fellow-man. Nor has the artist himself any special reason to rejoice in civilisation in its most recent phase; for nowadays private persons have too little money, and public bodies too little taste, to provide him with a living wage.
Fine art, however, is by no means bound up with any one type of human culture. It is, on the contrary, a hardy plant that blossoms in all climates and at all seasons. The evolutionist is, in fact, greatly puzzled by a constitutional tendency of ours that throughout its long history shows little sign of changing either for better or for worse. Whether one chooses to label it primitive or advanced, the cult of beauty in one or another of its myriad manifestations is ever there to cheer humanity on its way. In all ages the talented few achieve certain masterpieces, while a wider public shows itself in varying degree susceptible to their charm. For such amenities of existence it may be hard to find any utilitarian justification, whether we seek to apply the biological test of survival-value, or are content to think more loosely in terms of relative wealth or political power. Yet, like a glint of sun on a dull day, a vision of perfect form, however momentary, enlarges the promise of life, by helping to establish its higher and more enduring . . .