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Leighton Buzzard Observer & Linslade Gazette
Tuesday, 31st December 1867

Brief background

News article published in the local newspaper in the issue on the day before the exhibition was due to open. Note: any text enclosed in square bracket are comments by the transcriber relating to possible typos or errors in the original article.

The Article

TUESDAY, DEC. 31, 1867.


In the olden time when a king would give an entertainment on a more than usually sumptuous scale, he sent forth his heralds into every country to invite the bravest and most skilful knights and warriors to hold a tournament in his presence, accompanied by every circumstance of military pomp and splendour. To such high jousts there sometimes came all the world-renowned knights, who had solemnly sworn to uphold the right and succour the oppressed, to try their prowess in the friendly lists. But the ages change and with them the customs. Hence sixteen years ago, when England sent forth her heralds, bearing a challenge to all the world, to attend a great and novel tournament, the challenge was not to the military knights, but to the chevaliers of art, science, commerce, and industry. These most potent warriors, in the cause of Freedom, Enlightenment, and Progress, were summoned from every country under the sun to hold their tournament in the great city, in the presence of a queen upon whose empire the sun never sets. Gladly, eagerly, was the challenge answered. From east, west, north and south, from Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and the furthest isles of the seas they trooped.

  "Anon out of the earth a fabric huge
Rose like an exhalation"

A fabric of glass and iron, such as the world never before saw. A real crystal palace which was never equalled by the most exhuberant ["exuberant"] fancy of eastern story-teller. Here the competitors were to meet, and their skill tested. There came six millions of spectators from every clime - from the fair-headed, blue-eyed Norseman to the swarthy Hindoo ["Hindu"], to witness the trials of strength and skill.

The undertaking was a magnificent success. It was so strikingly novel that it set the whole world agog. Competitors from every land returned to their homes bearing prizes indicative of superiority in some one or more departments. It was the beginning of a new era; and although it failed to bring about all the results prophecied, ["prophesied"] and the Russian war and Indian mutiny followed it instead of the Millenium, ["Millennium"] yet the fruits of that undertaking were most important, and cannot even yet be estimated at their full value. It helped to break down our insular pride and belief in the super-excellence of everything English. It established art and science schools throughout the length and breadth of the land - to encourage that technical and art education in which the great tournament found us so deficient. Of course so good a thing must be repeated. Therefore Paris, Vienna, New York, Dublin, and London again, had their exhibitions. Then came a slight variation in the Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester. The latest development of the same idea is that which the working men of Leighton, under the presidency of Lord Charles Russell, are to open to-morrow morning - namely a Working Men's Industrial Exhibition. To some people, perhaps, the stride from International to Working Men's Exhibitions may seem a long one. In some respects it is. But the same idea and purpose run through both. The latter are more restricted, but their tendency is one with the former. They are useful because they excite emulation in the skilful accomplishment of various branches of industry, and because they bring into a small space all that is best in labour or in art within a given district, and afford facilities for its careful and studious investigation.

Now we would call upon the working men especially to regard the Exhibition which they open to-morrow in this light. Do not let it be looked upon as a mere sight, a place in which to spend an hour or so in cursory glances at things curious or interesting. There is a tendency in these undertakings to degenerate into mere shows or spectacles. We therefore urge the working men, whom it chiefly concerns, to prevent so undesirable a consummation by making the Exhibition a school where they may, if they will, learn much one of the other. Let the ruling principle of their society, which they have hitherto so strenuously upheld, enter in here. Let their Exhibition be a means of mutual improvement. Emulation should there be excited - industry spurred on - new ideas struck out, and taste cultivated. Let the models, machinery, and works of handicraft be carefully scrutinized. Let the why and the wherefore of each object be studied, and the mode of its accomplishment be mastered. There will, doubtless, be many works the result of carrying out the poet's injunction -

  "All who labour, all who toil,
Ye wield a lofty power,
Do with your might, do with your strength,
Fill every golden hour."

We hope such works will say very audibly to the looker on, "Go thou and do likewise."

With respect to the works of art, they, too should be carefully examined. Their tendency should be to cultivate the taste for the true and the beautiful in art. It is a statement too often repeated to need making now, that the English artisan is far behind some of his Continental brethren in this respect. True, we are mending our ways. As we observed just now, the Exhibition of 1851, and the consequent establishment of schools of Art and Design, have done much in furtherance of good taste. But there is room for improvement. And as every careful investigation of a good work of art must familiarise the mind with what is true and beautiful, we have no doubt but that some good may be accomplished in this respect by the Leighton Exhibition.

We would advise special attention to the examples or studies in architectural and other drawing, painting, and designing, sent by the Government Department of Science and Art at South Kensington. In those specimens will be seen the kind of instruction in art given by the schools and classes established in connection with that valuable educational agency. If this Exhibition shall prove the means of establishing any classes in connection with the Kensington Museum, it will have answered one of the great objects to be attained by it. We hope that it may have these educative and progressive tendencies. It remains entirely with the working men whether it shall or not; whether they regard it merely as a show or a school for instruction or improvement. We heartily wish it the success that is so eminently deserves, and cry Good Speed to the Leighton Buzzard Working Men's Industrial Exhibition.

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