It’s better to be fooled than to be suspicious,’ ran Mr Schlegel’s maxim in E. M. Forster’s Howards End. It expressed his idea of ‘Rent to the ideal, to his own faith in human nature… that the confidence trick is the work of man, but the want-of-confidence-trick is the work of the devil.’
Close readers of this column will remember my encounter last week with a bogus window cleaner who left my wallet lighter by the weight of several £20 notes. I don’t want to bang on about it, but Mr Schlegel’s wisdom has been a great solace.
It could also have an application to the visit I made to Tate Britain, just round the corner from us, at the weekend. I had gone with my eldest son William to buy a book for a school project. Walking into the galleries looking for Hogarth, we found, instead, an artist barber, cutting visitors’ hair. One of the 18th-century rooms had been arranged as a tableau vivant, featuring a Regency fop with a cane and a woman in flounces; you could try your skills with a sketchpad.
No time to join the audience of an instant theatre group, making up mini dramas about recent news, but I liked the fact it was happening. Art? Remember, it’s better to be fooled than suspicious.
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