Ethnological explorers in Southern France have recently come to the conclusion that man has had some trace of an aesthetic sense for at least $5,000 years. This he has misused in every conceivable way--but he has had it. In some past centuries it has been almost totally hidden, and in most it has been restricted to merely a few--who have been known as the "cultured", or the "intelligentsia," At the present moment, even, there are many writers very pessimistic over man's present aesthetic sense, or, more narrowly, his ability to appreciate good literature and art. No less a writer than Mr. Hamlen Garland, in "the Bookman", sums up the bill board-movie-magazine peril in discouraging terms. His only consolation for the state in which frenzied fiction finds itself, is the doubtful one that time may change affairs, and that another century, may bring to the surface more of the latent "aesthetic sense" in the human race than is now present.
Mr. Hamlen Garland is one of America's best authors. He is, as he says, one who has most suffered by the "best-seller" evil. His work is of the literary non emotional, gentle type. Hence his pessimism. But throughout the country -- and it is America that he especially attacks--there are appearing signs of improvement. Not the least of these in the promise which a popular movement has drawn from the most prominent roadside advertising companies--to stop, gradually, the bill-board method of advertising. The better magazines are tending to print better stories, and to leave the rest to the "Snappy Story" type of weekly. But the tendency is, of courts, very gradual.
The reason for this rise of standard, many perhaps be that the public the great, Democratic, American public--is gradually absorbing a little "education." The excuse, (If excuse is needed), for the tremendous recent increase in attendance at American colleges, may lie in this. The teaching of literature and the so-called "liberal arts", will perhaps lead eventually to a permanent development of the much-discussed, 25,000-year-old "aesthetic sense" in man. If they accomplish only this, American colleges will have more than fulfilled their duty in the country.