Early this year London was the scene of a kind of séance, with a circle of theatrical mandarins chanting “Money, money, money, MORE MONEY ” This invocation raised the spirit of William Blake, who once snarled, “Where any view of money exists, Art cannot be carried on, but War only.” This did not mean that money was irrelevant to the artist; quite the contrary. Financially hag-ridden himself, Blake knew well enough that the artist works best when he does not have to waste his sap worrying about the metabolic struggle of getting and spending.

This is of course the best justification for subsidizing theater in the Welfare State, but—the British being what they are, in practice it is not so straightforward as that. These pecuniary bellowings occur each midwinter because of what the Times calls a balance of terror among the clients of the Arts Council. It stems from the fact that recipients of State...


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