The Fleshly School Controversy
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The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

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{The Coming Terror 1891}












IN a recent number of a new publication called The Speaker, there is an article on ‘Sentimentalism,’ in which it is contended very justly that the Aberglaube of hysterical emotion is a sham thing by the side of true pathos; but very falsely, that the air of the present day is overcharged with ‘Sentiment.’ The writer thus confounds what is real with what is true—Sentiment with Sentimentalism; and the confusion is one which has been made from time immemorial. Sentiment, I conceive, is the power which generalizes the experience of mankind, the verification of long centuries, concerning the links which unite members of the human family surely and remorsely to one another, and which thus justifies Poetry (in the words of Novalis) as the only Reality. Sentimentalism, on the other hand, is sentiment perverted and overcharged— in other words, become unscientific. While objecting somewhat 290 to his terminology, I cordially agree with the writer of the article I have named in the distinction he draws between true and false pathos in literature. I fail altogether, however, to follow him in his contention that either Sentiment or Sentimentalism are much in the air at present. I believe, rather, that cheap Science and cheap Cynicism are destroying, or trying to destroy, both the sham and the reality. Men nowadays do not feel too much, but far too little. Thanks partly to the influence of the baser portion of the public Press, the era of completed ethical obtusity seems fast approaching.
     The man who endeavours, as I shall endeavour, to treat Sentiment as an exact science, stands at a strange disadvantage in these days of troubled materialism, when the nobler emotions are old-fashioned and unpopular, and even Conscience is likely to suffer from being classed as a complication of brain secretions. I may fairly say, however, that I have never wavered one hair in my doctrine on this subject, from the day when I wrote the ‘Ballad of Judas Iscariot ‘ to the day, only just past, when I dramatized the ‘Clarissa’ of Richardson. The late Lord Houghton said to me many years ago, ‘The English people are practical, they do not care for Sentiment;’ to which I replied by quoting several extraordinary instances of popular success secured entirely by what is conventionally known as Sentiment, and 291 especially the instance of Mr. Gladstone. It was quite clear, however, that Lord Houghton attached the ordinary meaning to the word under discussion, while I attached to it a meaning by no means ordinary. I wish, therefore, to put the question, ‘What is Sentiment?’ Does it mean, as certain scientists and many of the general public contend, a false and distorted, a transcendental and hysterical, conception of the relations of life—a general distribution over thought and feeling of what is known as Sentimentalism; or does it mean, as I have long maintained, the absolute experience of Humanity in the process of reduction to a Science?
     Of one thing we may be quite clear, that there was never a period in the world’s history when the mere word Sentiment awakened in the thoughts of the classes called cultivated a fainter sympathy than now. Luxury on the one hand, and materialism on the other, have done their work so completely that large numbers of men can witness without emotion of any sort even the Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins. The Rome of Juvenal is, as I pointed out years ago, reproduced in the London of to-day. The spirit of a spurious and empirical ‘scientific’ philosophy, adopting as its shibboleth a certain specious jargon of experimental ethics, mental culture coincident with moral degradation, the avarice of the rich and the misery of the poor, just as surely contradict the 292 stern old English type of character as the same phenomena contradicted, in the time of Juvenal, the power, the integrity, and the austerity of ancient Rome.

‘Et quando uberior vitiorum copia? quando
Major avaritiæ patuit sinus?’

The parallel might be pursued down to the smallest detail, but to pursue it is not my purpose. I merely desire to remark, en passant, that the present social crisis is not unprecedented, but has occurred more than once, and once phenomenally, in the Evolution of Mankind. The Gospel of Sentiment shook the world eighteen centuries ago. The Science of Sentiment, verifying the instinct of that gospel, will stir it now.
     The Science of Sentiment, then, adopts as its cardinal principle that the evolution of human ethics has proceeded in direct ratio with the growth or the suppression of the individual capacities of love and sympathy—sympathy seen dimly in the affinities of the lower organisms, shown largely in the lower animals, evolved wonderfully by human aid in the domesticated animals, notably in the dog, and attaining to the power of self-knowledge in the Mind of Man. The law of this Science, the condition on which it exists, is, like that of all other sciences, that of verification. To verify it completely would be beyond my power. I shall therefore confine myself to one position only, which is a paradox—that Love and 293 Hate, attraction and repulsion, in the human creature, are practically equivalent forces, although divergent, and that the object of the Science of Sentiment is to reconcile and assimilate them.
     An illustration comes to my hand in a play from my pen produced at the Vaudeville Theatre. One of my critics has assured me that I stultify my moral teaching by suffering the libertine Lovelace to profane by a touch, even for a moment, in her dying delirium, his victim Clarissa.He has sinned past all pardon, he has isolated himself from all humanity, by a hideous act of violation; and so, indeed, the poor girl tells him, in the supreme Aberglaube of her exaltation. Her last clear words are of eternal renunciation, eternal farewell. He says he will ‘atone.’ ‘You cannot, sir,’ she answers; ‘it were as easy to turn the world upon its course and bring all Eden back.’ This, the critic says, is final. It is so from an unscientific point of view. But the Science of Sentiment instructs us that though individual Man cannot bring back the lost Eden, God can. God, the eternal Law, the loving Force in the heart of physical and moral evolution, completes a miracle of creation in a daily miracle of moral interchange and interaction. Lovelace is lost—that is certain. He is to be saved; but how? By the very act which destroyed him, but made him abject in contrition. The fire which purifies, the punishment which cleanses the conscience of the world, which is irresistible, and 294 the acquired insight of humanity, which is indestructible, leave him linked for ever with the lot of the angel he has wedded in the lurid halls of Hell. There is no escape for him otherwise. Even God cannot save him, except through himself; and thus through her. The moral interchange is thus inevitable.
     Another paradox. Next to the man I have blest, the man I have cursed is nearest to me of all human creatures. So surely as I am bound to the man I love am I bound to the man I hate. He has become a part of me; though all the rest of the world may be a blank to me, I am certain of him. Every struggle I make against my enemy, every blow I strike him in the face, brings him closer into my life. This, indeed, is Sentiment, but it is Law. It is a thought for fools to laugh and scoff at, but it is as scientifically verifiable as any law of Selection based upon the fossils of extinct species. And the closer my enemy clings around me, the more I shudder at what seems to me his moral hideousness, the more terrible grows his power upon me. In my despair I curse him, I curse Humanity, I curse the cruel Law of Life. I struggle upward, and he holds me down; and I find that to rise at all I must take him with me. At last, out of my despair, comes insight. I see that he, too, is struggling, downward perhaps, but struggling inevitably in the throes of Evolution. I see my own sorrows, my     295 own meanness, my own misery, reflected in him; nay, I see my own ‘self,’ as in a mirror, looking out of him. There is no other way—I must take him with me or perish utterly. His life has become a part of mine. Then we cling together, and cry for help, for mercy, for Light! Darkly, dimly, I begin to know that he is helping me, that he, too, feels the piteousness of our repulsion for each other. I save him; I have saved myself. The deadlier the wrong that I have done him, or that he has done me, the more inextricable become our thoughts, our conditions. This is the Law of Sentiment which saved Lovelace. This is the Law of God which made the violated and the victim man and wife. This is the paradox which redeems the world.
     ‘Very foolish, very absurd!’ says the young lady, who, my critic tells me, will not go to a theatre unless she is to laugh, not to cry; in fact, as she adds, ‘very sentimental.’ But the theory is not one developed a priori; it is founded on what Professor Huxley terms ‘grovelling among facts.’ No living man has yet struck a blow which did not injure himself more than its object. I myself am ‘indifferent honest,’ fond of tussles with the enemy, but this same Science of Sentiment has instructed me that I have never had one real enemy except myself. But, the young lady perhaps adds, ‘The idea is so impracticable!’ Well, so is the Christianity which it formularizes, and 296 Christianity, apart from the dogmas which disfigure it, is recognised even by modern philosophy as the highest Ideal of the human mind. Very possibly, and often very certainly, I do not love my enemy! Well, as the Yankees express it, I have got to reckon with him. So long as I fail, says the Law, I shall stand still. And putting bad temper and violent passion aside as really ephemeral, the task of recognising the equivalency of Love and Hate is, to a thinking man in his sane moments, fairly easy, after all.
     It is difficult, it is often impossible, to live up to our ideals; none of us, I fear, do that, and least of all the present  writer. If the issue depended on our own conduct, on our own practical recognition of ethical principles, Sentiment would be vague as the Chimæra. Happily the law of Evolution works independently of human consciousness, and he who thinks all things evil is quite as surely at its mercy as he who thinks all things good. The clearest teaching of this age affirms that the evolution of the race, conditioned universally by the influence of individuals upon each other, is an evolution upward. It is no mere cant of little Bethel, therefore, which tells us that we should love our enemies; we do love them when we most hate them, through the inexorable laws of moral interchange. As the poor fellow said in the story, ‘It all comes reet i’ the end,’ and the transfusion of antagonism into its equivalent affinity, of repulsion 297 into its equivalent attraction, is the moral business of the world. Sentiment, then — the insight which enlarges the area of human syrnpathy, which reconciles the divergences of human character, which equalizes in the long-run the results of all human effort — is nothing if it is not verifiable or scientific; but since all true Science is another word for Religion, Sentiment is spiritually Sacrament—the crowning Sacrament of daily life.





IN May, 1879, there was lying in the county gaol of Lincoln a young girl just respited from a sentence of death. Under what possible delusion the jurymen who convicted her were labouring when they found her guilty of murder in the first degree, I cannot explain; possibly, however, they were bewildered by the summing-up of the Judge, who, according to the reporters, ‘reminded the jury that their verdict must be based, not upon their feelings, but their judgment.’ It seemed to me, at all events, that the verdict was very cruel, rash, and wrong, and that, while exhibiting little feeling, it showed no judgment whatever. The facts were very simple. Emma Wade, a domestic servant and the daughter of a police- constable, contracted an attachment for a jeweller’s assistant in Stamford, 298 was seduced by him, and gave birth to an illegitimate child. At the time of the birth she was residing at home, and the evidence showed that she was gentle, dutiful, and affectionate, both to her parents and to the child. Her father seems to have treated her kindly, with the patience of love, but it was proved that the mother subjected her to just that kind of persecution, seasoned with taunt and insult, which drives a feeble girl to despair.She was daily taunted with her shame, and urged to return to service. On the evening of April 18 her sister, hearing a scream, rushed upstairs, and found Emma in mortal agony. ‘Take the baby,’ she cried; ‘I have poisoned it and myself.’ Medical assistance being called in, the mother was recovered, but the infant died, traces of strychnine, Prussian blue, and wheat flour (elements of a poison called ‘Battle’s Vermin Killer’) being afterwards found in its stomach. Previous to taking the poison the distracted girl wrote to Scarcliff, her lover, a long letter of farewell, which I quote at full length, certain that it forms in itself a stronger appeal for mercy than any words of mine:

         ‘I am sorry to write to you. Dear Harry, I return your portrait with a heavy heart. It’s sadder than I can express to anyone; but I have borne my mother’s treatment 299 till I can’t any longer. Dear Harry, it is all because father won’t turn me out in the streets. The words she uttered about me and the baby—they are too cruel to express to you. Dear Harry, I love my child as I love my life, but I can’t go through the treatment I am going through now; my life is a complete misery, and my child’s too. Dear Harry, I wish to bid you farewell in this world, but I hope to meet you in another, never to part again. I hope the Lord will forgive me and take me to a home of rest. Harry, I have one comfort; and that is I know my child will be happy.So now, dear Harry, you must pass me out of your mind and look for something brighter. Dear  Harry, I wish to tell you it is nothing on your part. Dear Harry, my love is never vanished: I love you now as I loved you at first; you (have) been in my thoughts from morning till night. So now I must bid you farewell for ever.I hope you may enjoy happiness in this world and the next, too. My heart is too full to speak all, so good-bye for ever.


     ‘Respect Mrs. Weatherington. She has been a kind friend to me.I have sent you a piece of baby’s hair. You won’t forget her name—Constance May Scarcliff.’

     It seems to me, taking all the circumstances into 300 consideration, that a more beautiful letter was never written. In its infinite simplicity and pathos, in its gentle dignity and sorrow, it is a wonderful production for the pen of a domestic servant. Note the tenderness of the thought, ‘I have one comfort, and that is I know my child will be happy,’ together with the last piteous words, ‘I have sent you a piece of baby’s hair.’ Yet with this docurnent before them, with the poor heart-broken martyr herself facing them, the jurymen, listening to their ‘judgment,’ not their ‘feelings,’ brought in their verdict of wilful murder.
     I am no apologist for Infanticide. I have no sympathy for the mother, however troubled and distressed, who to save herself from ignominy or inconvenience destroys her helpless child. But for the poor, bewildered, distracted girl, herself almost a child, who loves her babe so passionately that she cannot bear to hear it despised and spoken of with cruel scorn, and who, having no earthly hope, cries to God, ‘Forgive me, take me—take us both—to a home of rest,’ I felt, as every true-hearted man must have done, pity which is too deep for tears. The law of this country, with curious inconsistency, pronounces suicide to be a criminal offence, and at the same time connects with every suicide an exculpatory explanation of ‘temporary insanity.’ The sentiment of this country pronounces that there are a thousand things so hard to bear, so terrible to understand, especially 301 amongst those classes on whom the pinch of life comes sorest, that suicide is sometimes the only escape from a great and seemingly endless difficulty. The poor unfortunate, ‘weary of breath,’ and ‘sick of life’s mystery,’ has the sympathy of every thinking being, whether her story be told by a penny-a-liner in a mere newspaper paragraph or by a great poet in an immortal song. Put the case only altered a very little: If a broken-hearted mother, clutching her child to her heart, were to leap over Waterloo Bridge, and if when they drew her forth still breathing the child were found to be dead, who would not sympathize? and if afterwards the mother were tried for murder and condemned to death, who would not feel his soul rise in passionate protestation? Now, it really makes very little difference, save to a poet treating the subject, whether the means of suicide is found in the Thames by moonlight or in a wretched packet of ‘Battle’s Vermin-Killer.’ The offence, the motive, the moral responsibility, is the same. Emma Wade’s was a case of Suicide pure and simple. The poor girl wished to die, and she loved her baby far too passionately to leave it behind her. In a moment of delirium, she clutched it to her, and sank, as she believed, to slumber, confident in the mercy of God. Her last thought was of her darling babe. ‘I have sent you a piece of baby’s hair. You won’t forget her name—Constance May Scarcliff.’ Her last thought was 302 to give it his name, to lend its poor memory that shelter which she could not legally claim. Picture her agony, her despair, when they drew her back out of the very Shadow of Death, when she awoke, not to God’s mercy, but to man’s judgment; her babe dead upon her breast, her heart broken, her brain still stagnified from its fatal sleep. If ever woman was punished for her sins, if ever woman drank the cup of man’s cruelty to the dregs, that woman was Emma Wade. Tortured back to life, dragged to prison, pitilessly tried, what must she have suffered in those dreadful days, until the hour came when the Judge assumed the black cap, and sentenced her to be hanged by the neck till she was dead!*





ON Tuesday morning, February 25, 1879, at eight o’clock, was performed the last scene of a drama in which the British public had taken an unprecedented interest, which eclipsed in its attractive horrors even the exciting news from the Cape, and made all minor records of the prison or the Divorce Court seem comparatively stale and tame. This drama might be entitled ‘The Life and Death of a Convict; or, The Apotheosis of the Gallows.’ Beginning at Bannercross, in Yorkshire, with about

* Emma Wade was respited.—R.B.

303 as coarse and clumsy a bit of murder as ever awakened ignorant admiration, it passed into a series of episodes of the most every-day brutality, until it glided from utter commonplace into sudden romance under the very shadow of Death. A more uninteresting ruffian than Charles Peace can scarcely be conceived. A less dignified criminal never paid the extreme penalty of the law. There was nothing in him to awaken either attention or admiration, save his courage; and that courage, disintegrated into its component elements, seems to have consisted of unparalleled obtuseness and gigantic self- confidence. Yet of this poor wretch, who has scarcely one trait of redeeming manliness, and whose moral ugliness was without any sort of grandeur, the public Press actually manufactured a Hero. I say the Press advisedly. Save for the elaborate reports in the daily papers and the wild and wondrous inventions of the pictorial weeklies, Charles Peace would have gone out of this world ignored and despised even by that great criminal class to which he belonged. But ever since the memorable occasion when he tried to escape from the railway carriage, he had been consecrated to the penny- a-liner. He had been described in various forms of disguised panegyric as the Admirable Crichton of Housebreakers. Because he could play a little on the fiddle and had brought together one or two musical instruments, he was represented as a perfect Paganini 304 and a splendid amateur collector of violins. Because he had some little cleverness in mechanics and had within him the amateur engineer’s morbid passion for ‘patents,’ it was given out that his gifts of invention amounted to little short of genius. Because he had had one or two dirty liaisons, and in the sanctity of his private life always had a trull at his elbow, he was pictured as a criminal Don Juan, surrounded by Odalisques of splendid infamy. His character fascinated even philosophers. One gentle newspaper, the Spectator, accepted the penny-a-liner’s chronicle, and preached a beautiful homily upon it. There was something beyond measure alluring in the idea of an unclean old man with tremendous intellect and sublime courage, setting all the forces of the Law at defiance, by living all day the life of a respectable elderly gentleman with one arm, and all night the life of a truculent assassin with a fatal weapon. For all these pictures, for all these mercies of the mendacious, we have to thank the penny-a-liner. There was no deity but Peace, and the penny-a-liner was his Prophet. So the great sensation drama throve, though its production on the public scene, with all the advantage of big posters and capital letters, could be regarded as nothing short of a public calamity.
     Now, the entire thing would have been an utter failure but for the introduction, in the last scene, of the Gallows. Till the Shadow of Death was 305 actually upon him, till it became known that he was really to be hanged for his misdeeds, Charles Peace lacked the crowning consecration. I am certain that if he had not received the capital sentence, if he had been simply relegated to his life of penal servitude, the public would have been utterly disgusted with him, as with one who was in some measure an impostor; would have read with more or less weariness the account of his superhuman talents, and would have waited patiently for the advent of some other sort of ideal. But the Apotheosis of the Gallows was to come, and with its coming the wretched man was to be transfigured. To the minds of the criminal classes, and to the minds of large numbers of people who may any day become criminal, the condemned murderer was one of the great Heroes of the earth. His passage from the prison bar to the condemned cell was a triumph, to be envied, to be emulated; his passage from the condemned cell to the Gallows was a splendid transfiguration, to which few human creatures might aspire.In one of the woman Thompson’s letters she talked of her name and that of her paramour living in the ‘History of the Earth’! That was too glorious a forethought, with which few could sympathize; for in the eyes of the criminal classes, a momentary apotheosis, with the white cap over the face, and the chaplain uttering a prayer, is enough. To fear neither man nor God, to have one’s hand against all men, and to 306 ‘die game’—these are the conditions of such fame as the Gallows can give. Fulfilling these conditions, despite the little bit of religious talk at the last (which many of his admirers possibly looked upon as a delicious specimen of ‘Charley’s gammon’), Charles Peace touched the heights of criminal greatness. Anyone passing through the by-ways of London after the execution might have heard the popular expletives at every corner and in every public-house. ‘Poor old Charley!’ ‘Well, he’s gone at last, and he died game.’ ‘He was a   rare-pluck’d one, he was!’‘It’ll be a long time before we see such another!’Not a Bill Sykes in Seven Dials but drew a great breath, and asked himself, ‘Shall I ever cover myself with such glory, and have all the newspapers talking about  me, and all the shops full of my portraits?’ Yes, the last scene was an ovation. The effect of the Gallows in the background was stupendous, and the triumph of the Hero of the Drama was complete.
     If anything could add to Peace’s glory in the eyes of his tumultuous audience, it was his own last confession¯that he had been guilty of another murder, and, with delicious humour, had managed to get another man sentenced to death in his place! Better still, the murdered man was a policeman! True, there was a. little weakness in confessing at all; it would have been more heroic to have died holding his tongue, and leaving the other condemned man to his fate. But, taken 307 altogether, the thing was a rich joke, and a crowning feather in ‘Charley’s’ cap. He might now say, with Shakespeare:

                       ‘If ’twere now to die
’Twere now to be most happy; for, I fear,
My soul hath her content so absolute
That not another comfort like to this
Succeeds in unknown fate.’

Thenceforward immortality was secure; even the penny-a-liner could not make it any safer. The path to the Gallows was ‘roses all the way.’ Nothing more was needed than to ‘die game,’ and the dénouement would approach sublimity.
     It is no part of my present purpose to open up the old discussion concerning capital punishment. My present concern is rather with the state of journalism which renders the apotheosis of the Gallows possible. When nearly every one of our leading dailies devotes more or less of its space to recording the daily sayings and doings of a commonplace criminal; when one penny-a-liner vies with another in piling on the agony, and making what is essentially vulgar and hideous assume the hues of poetry and fascination; when the affairs of the Nation and the state of the Empire sink into insignificance (in the newspaper proprietor’s eyes) by the side of the maunderings of a poor murderer, it is really time to protest. The Fourth Estate has a duty to perform. If it is to be respected as a power in the country, it must learn to respect its readers, not to 308 regale them with the garbage of the ‘Newgate Calendar.’ The conductors of the sensational papers aver that they are bound to give such records because readers demand them, and because they would in any case be given elsewhere. The answer to the first statement is that readers are only too willing to accept whatever is given to them by their journalistic guides; to the second, that readers who love garbage should be left to find it, for themselves, in the literature of the slums. But the truth is that no one gains by the apotheosis of the Gallows save the newspaper proprietor and the penny-a-liner: I regret to say it, but these two worthies are in a conspiracy to prostitute the Press, and to sow crime broadcast, by glorifying the criminal. We cannot now tell what evil seed their latter-day performances bring forth; in the meantime, the character of Journalism is degraded, and no English journalist can remember without a feeling of shame and humiliation the glorification of Charles Peace.





THAT lively old water-drinker of genius, Mr. George Cruikshank, who played ‘Hamlet’ en amateur at fifty, and could dance you a break-down and double-shuffle in his grand climacteric, would have been hotly indignant if he could have lived to become 309 familiar with certain recent aspects of the great Temperance Question. In a picture which combined a maximum of moral truth with a minimum of artistic taste, he tried to drive poor humanity once and for ever away from the Bottle; and he was not much daunted when a wine-loving humorist retaliated with an equally horrible caricature representing the hideous creatures to be seen in a Drop of Water magnified under the microscope. For a considerable period the teetotalers have really been having the best of it. Their wonder of stump orators, Mr. J. B. Gough, having by strictly abstaining from stimulants attained a patriarchal beard and a stentorian power of lung, had made the licensed victualler tremble, from Land’s End to John o’ Groat’s. Following in the wake of this noisy platitudinarian, numberless bad and good physicians have had an epidemic of abstinence. Physicians, like other people, or, rather, more than other people, are subject to periodical crazes. Now it is a craze for bromide of potassium, or some other panacea; again, as recently, it is a craze against all sorts of intoxicating liquors.Happily, the reaction has at last set in, and the leading doctors of the day have banded together to put down that most irrepressible and pernicious of all propagandists, the Total Abstainer. After the remarkable series of articles which appeared in the Contemporary Review—a series which must have done incalculable good, and 310 for which society has reason to be grateful to the able editor—the advocates of Total Abstinence can scarcely have another word to say. When such high living authorities as Sir James Paget, Sir William Gull, Dr. Risdon Barnett, Dr. Radcliffe, and Mr. Brudenell Carter, all spoke more or less in favour of alcohol, the consensus of testimony was overpowering; and it is to be hoped that after this, and at least for a time, we may be spared the familiar legend of the Total Abstainer who died triumphantly in his bed at eighty, after having kept all the commandments, and drunk nothing stronger than toast and water.
     And yet, in reading those remarkable articles, I was struck by nothing so much, at a first glance, as by the overmastering moral influence of that fierce and frenzied being, the Total Abstainer, over even the tolerably impassive medical experts. So potent is enthusiasm, and so great is organization, that the doctors of the day felt strange diffidence and hesitation in giving Total Abstinence the lie direct. Sometimes, conscious of a wild water-drinker’s eye upon them, they became almost timorous, and murmured with Sir William Gull, ‘But though the use of alcohol in moderation may be beneficial’ (he had just asserted roundly, by the way, that it was beneficial), ‘I very much doubt whether there are not some kinds of food which might take its place’; and he adds, vacillating feebly, ‘If I am myself fatigued with overwork, I 311 eat raisins, instead of drinking wine.’ Sometimes, on the other hand, they gathered courage to boldly defy the water- drinker, and cry with Dr. Moxon, and Ecclesiastes, ‘Be not righteous overmuch, neither make thyself overwise.’ But in all the cases under consideration, one perceived how strong, almost intimidating, was the power of the virtuous teetotaler over the respectable medical profession, and how much courage it required to speak the sober truth in the face of such a tremendously black-coated combination. This did not prevent Dr. Moxon asserting roundly that Teetotalers, as a body, are ‘sensitive, good-natured people, of weak constitution!’ For my own part, I rather quarrel with the adjective ‘good- natured.’ Your uncompromising, proselytizing, pugnacious teetotaler is too much of a murmuring and too little of a good fellow. He approaches the collective intelligence of the community as a priest too often approaches the blacks, and arguments failing, is ready at any moment to resort to excommunication.
     It is not to be supposed for a moment that the doctors expressed any doubts of the destructive effects of alcohol in excess. What, for example, can be more terribly true than the following picture of the fate of the inveterate drinker?—

‘When the sot has descended through his chosen course of imbecility, or dropsy, to the dead-house, Morbid Anatomy is ready to receive him—knows him well. At the post-mortem she would say, “Liver hard aud nodulated. Brain dense and small; its covering thick.” And if you would listen to her unattractive 312 but interesting tale, she would trace throughout the sot’s body a series of changes which leave unaltered no part of him worth speaking of. She would tell you that the once delicate, filmy texture which, when he was young, had surrounded like a pure atmosphere every fibre and tube of his mechanism, making him lithe and supple, has now become rather a dense fog than a pure atmosphere:—dense stuff, which, instead of lubricating, has closed in upon and crushed out of existence more and more of the fibres and tubes, especially in the brain and liver: whence the imbecility and the dropsy.’

     The only comment to be made on this, perhaps, is that inveterate tea-drinking might produce quite as lamentable a result; nay, that it might be induced even by too persistent a course of the hot buttered toast so much loved by Mr. Chadband. But Dr. Moxon, the physician to whom we owe that terrible picture, and whose paper, with all its wild and sometimes foolish language, was the finest of the whole series, only dissects the demented sot in order to martyr the delirious teetotaler. He tells us, with sly unction, of the case of the gentleman who, having consulted a ‘great authority,’ and been told to ‘live on fish and wholemeal bread and to drink water,’ had done so for two years, with the result that he looked a compound of water, fish, and wholemeal! He tells us also, with no little ire against the Band of Hope, of the ‘honest working cooper,’ who injured his ankle with one of his tools, whose constitution became involved in fever, and who, when. ordered to take stimulants, refused to touch anything containing alcohol, and died in consequence in a few days. Dr. Moxon is, as I 313 suggested, a wild writer, and his article was verbose and eccentric, but he uttered terrible truths. His picture of the effect of alcohol in ‘weakening common-sense in opposition to individuality’ was masterly. ‘The power of alcohol in this world,’ he affirmed, ‘is due to the fact that it keeps down the oppressive power of others, and of their common-sense, over the individual sense, and so makes a man better company to himself and others.’ He followed out the argument in a style as convincing as it was luminous; and I think his reasoning had more effect on thinking people than many of the pregnant truisms which seemed to form the philosophy of Drs. Paget and Gull.





ON the 25th of January, 1759—that is to say, a little over one hundred and thirty years ago—one of the most free and precious Beings that ever was born to wear the poetic mantle first drew breath in a humble cottage in the near neighbourhood of the Scottish town of Ayr. He himself has recorded the event in one of the most spirited of his songs:

‘Our monarch’s hindmost year but one
 Was five-and-twenty years begun,
’Twas then a blast o’ Janwar win’
   Blew hansel in on Robin.


‘The gossip keekit in his loof,
 Quo’ she, “Wha lives will see the proof,
This waly boy will be nae coof—
   I think we’ll ca’ him Robin.”’

The remainder of the song, with its references to ‘misfortunes great and sma’’ to come, and the love the poet would bear to the female kind, was singularly truthful and characteristic. Robert Burns lived to enjoy a little tawdry personal fame, to be overridden by misfortunes in their most squalid and wretched shape, and to leave to his country a great legacy of noble Song. But one fact I wish particularly to dwell upon, for in it lies the moral of this brief note: Burns was too free and true for his generation, and he died of a broken heart on account of its neglect. Who has not read, and who does not remember, that infinitely pathetic anecdote told by Mr. Lockhart, as told to him by David Macculloch, of how, one summer day, Burns was walking alone on the shady side of a street in Dumfries, while the opposite side was gay with groups of ladies and gentlemen going to a county festivity, not one of whom would recognise him. Macculloch accosted him, and asked him to cross the street; but Burns answered, ‘Nay, nay, my young friend—that’s all over now’; and then quoted in a broken voice the lines of Lady Grizzel Baillie’s ballad:

‘O were we young, as we once hae been,
   We suld hae been galloping down on yon green,
And linking it over the lilywhite lea,
   And—werena my heart light, I wad dee!’

315 Only a little time before the poor Ploughman had been the lion of the hour; but, as he truly said, that was ‘all over.’ The ignorant gentry and drunken squirearchy of the south of Scotland were tired of his splendid manhood, his fearless honesty, and his simple, independent ways.
     Now, Robert Burns was a great man and a great poet, and the influence of his truly tremendous satiric and lyrical genius has been one of the great factors in the disintegration of Scottish superstition. The ‘Unco Guid’ still exist, but his colossal caricature of them has thinned and is thinning their ranks year after year. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine what Scotland, with its gravitation towards the Sabbatarian and the sunless, would have become, without such forces as scatter fire all over the poems and songs of Burns and his pupils. Unfortunately the very strength of this poet, and the very excess of his revolt against convention and other-worldliness, led to some literary performances of doubtful value. Perhaps the least interesting of his poems are those which are purely Bacchanalian. It was quite natural for him to sing defiantly and wildly in praise of ‘guid Scots drink,’ and to pledge openly, in brimming poetic bumpers, the cause of Freedom and Plainspeaking. He was a convivial creature, and his conviviality was that of a fearless and liberal nature, overflowing with love, and honest as the day. But what was to some extent a virtue in him has become, to my mind, a very curious 316 vice in his disciples. The fact is, Scotchmen seem to have granted Burns his apotheosis chiefly on account of its being an excuse for the consumption of Whisky. So they celebrate his Birthday. So they fill their glasses, hiccup ‘Auld Langsyne,’ and cry in chorus:

‘Robin was a rovin’ boy,
     Rantin’ rovin’, rantin’ rovin’;
Robin was a rovin’ boy,
     Rantin’ rovin’ Robin!’

The drunken squirearchy, whose progenitors broke the poet’s heart, and who, if the poet were alive now, would break his heart again, are full of enthusiasm for his memory. Even some of the more liberal-minded ministers of the Gospel join in the acclaim. Farmers and shepherds, factors and ploughmen, all come together on the one great occasion to honour the bard whom everybody can understand, because his synonym is the Whisky Bottle. They weep over his woes; they smack their lips over his satire; they shriek at his denunciations, and they murmur his songs.Burns or Bacchus—it is all one. The chief point is that, now or never, there is an excuse for getting ‘reeling ripe’ or ‘mortal drunk.’ It is poetic, it is literary, it is—hiccup!—honouring the Muses. Any frenzy, however maniacal, is justifiable under the circumstances. ‘Glorious Robin!’ Pledge him again and again, pledge him and bless him; and when you can’t pledge him upright, pledge him prone, as 317 you lie, with your fellow Burns-worshippers, under the table.
     I am sorry to say it, I am sorry to utter one word which might seem to deny the beneficent influence of noble poetry and a surprising poet, but I believe this Burns-worship to be worth —exactly the amount of bottles emptied in its celebration. I will go further, and affirm that Burns himself, were he living, would be the first to launch his fiery satire at such a sham. The sham brotherly-kindness, the sham tears, the sham unction, and the sham sensation of being poetic, mean no more than other forms of tipsiness, and so far from bringing honour to a poet make his apotheosis a farce. I know well that deep in the heart of Scotland there lies a well of pure and abiding gratitude to Robert Burns, but I doubt very much if those who love the poet best and study his works most tenderly are to be found in the ranks of those who stand before his shrine in the public-house. I may be wrong, and if so I speak under correction, but I should fancy that Scotchmen might discover other and better opportunities for exhibiting that queer conviviality which does not abide in them gently, as in other men, but seizes them spasmodically on festive occasions, like a kind of St. Vitus’s Dance. It seems to me that it is just this dram-drinking side of Burns’s genius which they ought to conceal, or at least to forget.No one with any tenderness can 318 think of Burns’s story—of his ghastly fits of conviviality, of his cruel wrongs, of his broken heart—without real tears, not the maudlin tears of semi or complete intoxication. I am scarcely overstepping the mark when I add, what all men know, that the weakness of Burns was his own readiness to yield to the same kind of false enthusiasm which is in vogue among so many of his disciples. He himself sounded the shallows of his own nature well, though he said little of its divine depths, in his own ‘Epitaph’:

‘The poor inhabitant below
 Was quick to learn, and wise to know,
 And keenly felt the freendly glow,
               And softer flame;—
 But thoughtless follies laid him low,
               And stained his name.’

     He too often mistook excitement for inspiration, and rushed into revolt for its own sake; but he would have been the first to perceive the folly and the cruelty of selecting for admiration and imitation only one side, and that side the worst, of a great man’s character. If he could be present in the spirit at a few of the gatherings held annually in his name, and if he could then flit away to some annual gatherings of the ‘unco guid,’ he would be troubled to perceive that both those who love and those who hate him are worshipping the same fetish—a whisky bottle. It is a pity, a very great pity, that so much enthusiasm should be spilt about on a single evening, or on special occasions. Were 319 I a Scotch poet, living or dead, I should prefer a very little sober appreciation to any amount of drunken idolatry; and I should not care to gauge the height of my success by the depth of degradation into which I had plunged my votaries. Be that as it may, the poet who taught, as the flower of his human experience, that ‘prudent, cautious self-control is Wisdom’s root,’ should have some fitter temple than a tavern, and some kindlier consecration than the maudlin applause of maniacs in all stages of alcoholic delirium.





AMID the storm of popular indignation over the horrors of the recent execution by electricity, one curious—and to me most significant—circumstance appears to have been overlooked. Simultaneously with the news of Kemmler’s judicial torture in the interests of Science, we have received from America the news that Count Tolstoi’s ‘ Kreutzer Sonata,’ and other ‘immoral’ books, have been suppressed in the interests of Morality. It has not, possibly, occurred to many that there is any other than an accidental connection between those two recent events; but to my mind they are only

* The two letters under this title are reprinted from the Daily Telegraph, where they appeared immediately after the execution of Kemmler.

320 two aspects of the same social question, two strange results of the same political force which I have on a former occasion called ‘Providence made Easy.’ Both the conduct of life and its duration are regulated, for the time being, by the pragmatic sanction of the Legislator. All other sanctions are temporarily abolished. The reverence for human life, for the human body, has departed with the reverence for the Soul, for Freedom, for individual hope and aspiration; and, under the same cloak of empirical knowledge, Morality and Science shake hands. Was I not justified, then, in asserting that our modern Trades Union of scientists and materialists was merely a survival of the old Calvinism—that Calvinism which, ever since honest John triumphed in the burning of Servetus, has been ‘cruel as the grave’?
     How much further will the appetite for carnal knowledge, the lust for verification, lead the creature who loudly vaunts his descent from the anthropoid ape, and who looks forward to the dawning æon of the new god, Humanity? Everywhere the beneficent Demagogue, who would regulate the growth of individual evolution, who would experimentalize on the living subject, from the beast that crawls to the beast that stands upright, is busily at work, and the voice of the Legislature says, ‘Well done!’ While the cynic in the market-place loudly proclaims the death of all 321 human hope and aspiration, while even the Judge on the bench accepts the destruction of Religion, but utters a pharisaic ‘If we can’t be pious, let us at least be moral,’ the scientific jerry-builder constructs his lordly pleasure-house out of the stones of dead creeds. The ethics of the dissecting-room and the torture-chamber replace the instincts of the human conscience, which conscience, if forced evolution continues to prevail, will soon become a mere register of average human prejudices. Meantime, having disintegrated all laws in succession, we remain at the mercy of the empirical laws of Demogorgon. To talk through the telephone or to talk into the phonograph is to penetrate the mysteries of Nature, and, heedless of the bolts of Zeus and kindred gods, we exult over Mr. Edison’s bottled thunder.
     All this would not matter much if the tyrannical will of the new Science and new Morality would suffer us to breathe in peace, and if the New Journalism, talking the shibboleth of Science and Morality, would leave our personal evolution alone. But we are being legislated for, not only in the Senate, but in the Vestry; not only by the County Councilman, but by the Penny-a-liner.With what result, may I ask? With the result that every day men and women are growing more indifferent and more mechanical, and that a nation of freemen is being transformed into a nation of sanitary prigs. If I may use the expression, we are becoming 322 Teutonized; the peculiarity of the Teuton being that, although free, he forges his own fetters, and voluntarily accepts his slavery as a moral and political machine. For my own part, I find that I cannot procure certain books without police supervision; that I cannot see a play or write one without being guided for my good by a legal supervisor; that I cannot put my hand in my pocket to assist a beggar without being looked at askance by the Commissioners of Lunacy; that I cannot use my own judgment even in a literary contract without being pounced upon and bullied by a trades union of authors; that, in a word, I can do nothing, think nothing, be nothing, without some sort of organized social intervention. As for the right of private judgment, it is rapidly becoming a farce. Men no longer think or judge for themselves; they do it all by machinery. There are cheap manuals, mechanical guides, to classify and regulate even my tastes and likings. Little trade unions innumerable make up the corporate trades union, the State. And the individual member of society, the thinking and seeing man, becomes either a martyr or part of a Machine.
     The apogee of the moon of Dulness, of Mob Rule, of Beneficent Legislation, is reached at last, when the free people of America, in their zeal for the public good, furnish the world with the edifying spectacle of a judicial murder and torture by 323 electricity, and when, in the same breath, they consign the work of a daring thinker to the civic pit for rubbish. Let me say in this connection that I have no personal sympathy whatever with the diseased views of human passion taken by Count Tolstoi. Morality has made the man, as it makes the Council and the Legislature, raving mad. Science, Christian or un-Christian, renders the individual, as it renders the State, insane with the pride of empirical discovery, with the zeal of impious verification. And, after all, we can verify so little! What does it serve the lover to know that his beloved moonlight is made of green cheese or magnesium? How does it help human nature to learn that the beauty it yearns for fattens on corruption? to be told that every happy instinct, every function of the flesh, is dangerous, and to be summarily repressed? The new scientific Calvinism would turn the many-coloured picture of the world into one common black and white; would teach the maiden to analyze her first blush, and the boy to dissect his first love; would turn pure natural impulse into prurient inquiry, and put glass windows into everybody—as in the famous surgical case—to show us the mean processes of the Unconscious. Men who, like myself, were not born ‘moral’—men who refuse to measure themselves by the common standard which regulates social conduct, and who, above all, would secure for their fellows perfect freedom of moral evolution, stand 324 wondering in the darkness of eclipse, while Puritanism and espionage conspire against human nature.
     Now, more than ever, at this crucial point of the world’s history, it behoves all thinking men to cry, with Virchow, Restringamur! Do not permit Empiricism to go too far, either in the destroying of sanctions, or in the formulation of enactments, or in the legalizing of experiments; but let every man who thinks he has a message speak with a free tongue, and let Art, above all—in which may lie the salvation of the world—live a free and natural life. The example of Kemmler should be a warning to everyone of what beneficent legislation may yet do for us in the interests of the State, of Science, and of Morality!





IN view of the reproaches of some correspondents, who contend that they do not quite know what I mean or what I am complaining about, I find it necessary to add a few further words of explanation. I never posed as a Gnostic, as ‘one who knows,’ and if I show scant respect for authoritative opinions, I feel quite as little respect for any opinions of my own. I invariably try, however, to make these opinions clear. Since I appear to have failed in the first instance, let me try again.
325 I am not, to begin with, a Socialist in the ordinary sense of the word, and I distinguish in both the moral and the political world between sympathetic co-operation and arbitrary trades unionism. I will combine with no man, with no body of men, to dictate absolutely to others how they are to think and act.True Socialism I believe to be the self- protection of minorities against the despotism of majorities, the self-protection of individuals against the tyranny of mob- elected legislators, against encroachments on the part of the State, of the Church, of Capital, of the working as well as of the governing classes, and of Society. False Socialism I believe to be the combination of organized classes or communities to limit the free action of the individual, and to force unnatural evolution all along the line. A true Socialist accepts patiently the inevitable limitations put by the community on his personal activity. He is perfectly well aware that government is necessary, and that, if his fellow-men are to be comfortable, he cannot do just as he pleases.If he protests against taxes, it is only when he considers them iniquitous—e.g., taxes for foolish wars, for the support of discredited institutions, of unnecessary offices, of sinecures. He cheerfully contributes to the lighting and draining of cities, to the wages of a necessary police, to the support of the helpless and deserving poor, to the necessary institutions of the State. But there he pauses. Having done 326 his duty as a citizen, he retires on his rights as a man. He complains if he has to support a Church in which he has ceased to believe, and contends that if his neighbours require the services of a clergyman they should not ask him to pay for them. If he seeks entertainment he elects to choose it for himself, without legislative supervision. If he likes statues and pictures of the nude (as I do), he contends that he has a right to enjoy them, despite the fact that they create nasty sensations in ‘moral’ people. So with Books and with the Drama.He claims a free choice in their selection, no matter how many ‘young persons’ may be peeping round the corner. Despite the Priests in Absolution of the New Journalism, he protests against combinations which rnake life hideous—e.g., the inquisitorial Newspaper. But even here he does not interfere; he only smiles, and prays that God may send poor Humanity a better religion and better literature. And so on, and so on, to the end of the chapter.
     I hope this is very simple. Well, in the present condition of affairs, how does the true Socialist—or, in other words, the rational, peace-loving citizen—find himself treated?
     He finds, in the first place, that false Socialism, using the shibboleth of the ‘greatest happiness for the greatest  number,’ is, both here and in Germany, bolstering up the tyrannies of an all-present officialism. He finds that powerful organizations 327 of men are trying to legalize in our cities what is in his sight the abomination of abominations. He finds that the finest course of action a Government can adopt to repress crimes of murder and of violence is to imitate them, or even, as lately in America, to excel their horrors. He finds that, by our marriage laws, men and women are chained like beasts together, and that their very despairing effort to escape from each other is called ‘collusion.’ He finds that everywhere in Society, wherever the Puritanical bias prevails, the simplest and purest natural functions are looked upon as unclean; that Morality despises the body now, as Religion despised it long ago. He is told of the spread of education; he finds that he is being told merely of a spread of half-instructed ignorance. He finds our leading scientists justifying War and Appropriation, as our leading Spiritualists and Churchmen used to justify them. He finds it dangerous, or at least incompatible, to express his real opinion of any existing institution, particularly if that institution is either ‘moral’ or ‘religious.’ He is not led to the stake, but he is ‘boycotted’; he is a discredited and suspected person. He finds, in one word, that at every point of his individual advance he is confronted by the mass of organized cruelty and unintelligence.
     All this, of course, is no new thing. As a child, I saw Robert Owen stoned for saying that Marriages were not always made in Heaven! 328 But at no period of history, except that period when false Christianity was most dominant, have individuals been so much at the mercy of a false Morality. In literature especially the extent of completed ignorance is something scarcely credible—ignorance not only of the uneducated, but of the cultivated and the superfine. To illustrate it I need go no further than a recent number of the Quarterly Review, where conventional Morality speaks out loudly as a trumpet on the subject of the French nation and of French fiction. Even the School Board, it appears, has not killed the insular prejudice that every Frenchman is a sensualist and every French book an outrage on decency. But what is to be said of a writer (the mouthpiece of a large class, or we should not find him in the Quarterly) who lumps Balzac, Flaubert, and Zola together as writers of the same calibre, and actually affirms that ‘Balzac was a materialist, who did not believe in God’? Poor Balzac! who swore by Godhead and the Monarchy, and was so mercilessly roasted for his leaning to these aristocracies. ‘His (Balzac’s) only faith was faith in money; he is the supreme artist who excels in consummating the type of the ignoble, even of the cadaverous. His characters are always intrinsically vicious, and he anticipated the worst things of Zola.’ And this of the writer who gave us ‘Eugénie Grandet,’ and ‘Cousin Pons,’ and ‘Modeste Mignon,’ and a hundred other imperishable 329 types of human beauty and goodness. Is it any wonder that the wretched poor flock to hear the tumult of the Salvation Army, when the rich and cultured combine to support such dismal howling as I have quoted, such utter ignorance of the subject, such spasmodic stumbling, as of the blind leading the blind?
     For myself, I still find in France the centre of the World’s free thought. The mad political craze, the whirl from one system to another, is nothing; the bold and fearless freedom of the great French writers, from Diderot downwards, is everything. No matter if they have now torn open the sewers, as long ago they tore down the superstructures of society. They have taught men to think and feel. Even Zola among the shambles is better than Chadband among the churches, better than the easy English novelist who cloaks up the ulcers of society, better than Mr. Chaos-come-again and his army of howling teetotalers and Sabbatarians.
     But I find I am wandering away into criticism. What I wanted to point out was, that it is not the freedom of individuals we have to fear, but the combinations of classes—the trades unions of well-intentioned political moralists, culminating in the tyrannies of the Legislature. England under the new Radicalism is growing as terrible as Sheffield under Broadhead! We have too much legislation and too little individual responsibility. Men who used to fight for their own hands now cling 330 tremulously to the skirts of officialism, and cry, ‘Help us; instruct us. We are too weak to help and instruct ourselves.’ Small wonder that, in their extremity, they turn from the conscience implanted in them by God to the legerdemain of Providence made Easy. If we want to know whither a large portion of the community is drifting, let us glance for a moment at General Booth’s view of the Millennium, given in a publication called ‘All the World.’ ‘First, we should have Hyde Park roofed in, with towers climbing to the stars, as the world’s great, grand, central temple! . . . And, then, what demonstrations, what processions, what mighty assemblies, what grand reviews, what crowded streets, impassable with the joyful multitudes marching to and fro! . . . Five million hearts would turn to God with voices of thanksgiving and with shouts of praise!’*
     Far be it from me to underrate the good work General Booth is doing in some directions; but take such a proclamation as this, and it is an attempt to turn Humanity into a huge barrel-organ, with an accompaniment of ‘shouting’ performers. And herein, as we are aware, lies the secret of his triumph. Knowing how little is done to amuse the masses, seeing their utter wretchedness and dulness, he shows them how to exercise

* See, further on, the remarks on the Social Aid side of General Booth’s scheme.

331 their bodies and use their lungs by organizing for one universal Shout. Out of this tumult, to which the ‘tom-tom’ of the poor savage is music, peace and salvation are to come.Looming in the near future is the Golden Age, when any individual who refuses to join in the general noise will be regarded as anti-social, as an unsympathetic member of the community. In the face of this and kindred horrors, we are asked to believe that beneficent and philanthropic Organization is everything, and that individual peace and personal freedom are of little or no consequence.





MR. RIDER HAGGARD, whose own work in fiction is at present delighting all who take pleasure in the marvellous, and who possesses in a certain measure the imagination of a poet, has published in the Contemporary Review a diatribe against the novel of the period, the moral of which appears to be: ‘If modern fiction fails to content you, try back to “Robinson Crusoe;” and if home scenery fails to inspire you, go to Africa.’ Now, it is no part of my business to defend our modern novelists from their latest critic, any more than it is to deny the novelty and the charm of Mr. Haggard’s own flights into easy romance; but in this particular instance I looked for a Daniel come to judgment, and I 332 find only a Jeremiah. Leaving out of sight all that my clever contemporaries have done in fiction, work at least equal to the finest ore ever dug out of the Dark Continent, I want seriously to ask if Mr. Haggard, in the heyday of his sudden popularity, is not rather overestimating the prodigy of his own advent; and whether, after all, true Romance has very much to do with those wild fancy-flights which transport the booksellers for a season, but alarm the quiet students of human nature? Romance, if I understand it rightly, is the art of idealizing the splendid facts of life, of seizing human nature at its highest, and presenting it in types of poetic beauty, rather than the art of telling tales for the marines, and disseminating the philosophy of the preposterous.If the hope of the English public lay in Mr. Haggard’s way, we should have to recognise Jules Verne as a fine romancist, and place the fairy taletellers right over the head of Shakespeare; snatch the Bible frorn its shelf and substitute the ‘Arabian Nights;’ and instead of Walter Scott and Charles Reade, Dumas and Victor Hugo, content ourselves with the author of the wonderful adventures of Peter Wilkins. I am not, let it be borne in mind, underrating the author of ‘King Solomon’s Mines,’ although, if I were to pronounce an opinion, I should say that a commonplace, vivid, truthful bit of work like ‘Kidnapped’ was really more imaginative; but even Mr. Louis Stevenson would 333 be the last man to maintain that his work in this direction was a new departure. The point I wish to insist upon is that great fiction, instead of escaping from the realm of common-sense into that of pure fancy, throws the light of imagination over that realm of common-sense in such a way as to make of it a veritable fairyland. Nor is Mr. Haggard in any way justified as a romancist because, in the manner of M. Verne, he puts in the centre of his domain of fancy a few excessively prosy and old-fashioned realistic types, such as the wonderful Englishman with the white legs, the wandering African chief, and the hideous sibyl of innumerable story-tellers. He is quite within his right in escaping human character, but if he were a true romancist he would certainly not escape it; and, again, if he were a new as well as a true romancist, he would leave on the mind a higher and nobler impression than is to be derived from the literature written for, and beloved by, the boys of England. In his story of ‘She,’ he certainly does show imagination; but surely the whole work is marred and spoiled by the inconsistency which blends a good poetical idea, worthy treatment in verse, with the commonplace associations and stereotyped characters so long familiar in books of the modern marvellous written for Paternoster Row, and published with illustrations. The idea of ‘She’ is fine; the treatment, in spite of its cleverness, is not far beyond the method of 334 M. Verne. Instead of truth irradiated by idealism, we have beauty degraded by commonplace; and as a consequence, the tale, in spite of all its clever workmanship, leaves the impression of a large canvas painted to order. This, of course, does not prevent it from being very amusing; only the fact of having written an amusing book does not justify an author in affirming that amusement is to be the prime vocation of the novelist of the future.
     To compare great things with small, Æschylus is a true Romancist. When he deals with the great issues of life, he uses the supernatural only as a background; but his ideas and his pictures would be quite as true, and just as noble, if his supernatural were merely an atmosphere, as it often is. Homer, perhaps, is more to the point; his tales of gods and men have all the strength of early fable, none of the mixture of aricient and modern moods. Dante writes romance in colossal cipher, never mean and never small. But to come down to modern times, Swift is a romancist, and Defoe is a realist; each in his turn is too wise to mix with foreign matter the elements peculiarly his own. Sublime human Romance attained its zenith in Hugo, who accepted Nature as she is, and craved no fable, but found in Nature’s own bosom the god, the godlike man, as well as the monster and the chimera. It is cruel to Mr. Haggard to mention him in connection with these masters, but the man who coolly relegates Zola to 335 the Limbo of the Unclean, and who indirectly indicates his own form of art as higher and purer than that which produced ‘Une Page d’Amour,’ must at least aspire to be a master. And with all that has been done in England even in recent years, Mr. Haggard is discontented. He has no good word to say for any of his elder brethren—for Charles Reade, for Walter Besant, for the author of‘Lorna Doone,’ or even for the author of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ All to him is leather and prunella, except Robinson Crusoe, African cram, and the merry boys of England. Unto this last we are coming, he says, since the good Howells avails us not, and the bad Zola grows more and more insufferable. The romance of the future is to justify, not Shakespeare, not Scott, not Dumas, not Hugo, not Dickens, not Reade, but M. Jules Verne, Mr. R. M. Ballantyne, and Captain Mayne Reid. For five shilling  pot-pourris we are to exchange the oldest school of Idealism and the newest school of Naturalism! The panorama business, the book of travel business, the highly coloured showman business, is to take the place of human nature and human passion; and poetry and prose jumbled together are to supplant the literature of patient imagination. Really Mr. Andrew Lang and the Saturday Review have much to answer for, unless Mr. Rider Haggard, whom their praises have persuaded to this deliverance, is laughing at us in his sleeve.






I HAVE only just read, with feelings of mingled surprise and delight, Professor Huxley’s letter to the Times newspaper on the subject of the Salvation Army and General Booth. It is so sweet to find one’s self a true prophet; and did I not prophesy some little time ago, in a contemporary, that Professor Huxley would soon be converted ‘like another Saul’? The Arch-Sociologist, the denier of the natural freedom and equality of man, the upholder of ‘a statute of limitations in matters of wrong-doing,’ the denouncer of Freedom as laissez-faire, the preacher of Providence made Easy and special Governmental supervision in all departments, now wheels round in the very face of Mr. Spencer, and cries: ‘I said so! Organization is dangerous! the safeguard of society lies in the freedom of the Individual!’And all this because one man of untutored intellect, with limited reasoning powers and miraculous powers of organization, has done in a few short years what all the Churches, including the Church of Pragmatic Science, have utterly failed to do—has awakened the imagination of the British Philistine to the fact that the miseries of the social deposits must be reckoned with, and has, in a measure, pointed

* The first of the following letters appeared in the Times and Daily Chronicle, the second in the Chronicle only.

337 out ‘the way.’ Why, only a while ago the militant Professor was stumping the magazines and advocating the possibility of advancing evolution by force from without and from above; was ‘persecuting’ the faithful who clamoured to be saved or damned in their own fashion; and here he is, already struck down by a Light from Heaven (or some other dwelling-place of the aristocracy) proclaiming that he, too, is of the Faithful, of the poor persecuted remnant which ‘believes’!
     I was severely rebuked when I dared to defend Mr: Herbert Spencer’s doctrine of absolute ethics against the savage attack of Professor Huxley; because I questioned the reasoning powers, while fully admitting the ingenuity, of my opponent. I am now, therefore, on the horns of a dilemma. Either Professor Huxley was always rational, or he was, all along the line, inconsistent. If he was rational, he failed to express his ideas logically; and if he was inconsistent, like most persecutors, he needed, besides logic, fuller light and edification. With what fervour did he argue (in his favourite metaphorical manner) against the fatuity which would place the guidance of a Ship in the hands of the crew, instead of those of the Captain; against the ‘reasoned savagery’ of those who would, it seemed to him, uphold the natural ‘rights’ of even the man-eating tiger! Then we wanted leadership, organization, espionage even, and scientific police; now, all these things are 338 perilous, and General Booth, with his tom-toms and his military orders, is threatening the lives of ‘individual’ men. Yesterday Professor Huxley was championing that Over-legislation which would mean the slavery of all mankind; to-day he is protesting against the strong men, and questioning the would-be legislators. A little while ago he was Mr. Herbert Spencer’s deadliest opponent; just a pirouette, and here he is at Mr. Spencer’s feet. Truly a miraculous conversion! All our fears were vain. The protector of the loaves and fishes, the peripatetic Providence incarnate, will harm us no more. Only a few steps further, and the Saul of the status quo will be the St. Paul of Individualism.
     Frankly, however, I distrust both this Saul and that other of the New Testament as persons possessing neither great logic nor trustworthy insight into human nature. The converted Persecutor is sure to lapse backwards during the very process of edification. And now, to my poor judgment, the Professor Huxley who refuses to disgorge his friend’s thousand pounds, on the ground that he will not countenance any form of social or religious ‘tyranny,’ is fully as suspicious a figure as the Professor Huxley who avowed that ‘the equality of men before God was an equality either of insignificance or imperfection,’ and that there was a strong argument for supposing that Force, reasonably applied, was an indispensable factor of our 339 civilization. Am I wrong in suggesting that, now as always, the pragmatic temperament and the anti- theological bias has far more to do with Professor Huxley’s attitude than any real conversion to the Individualism he has hated so cordially and so long? I may be wronging a true convert, but I cannot help believing that Professor Huxley would be far less shocked by the Salvation Army if it used the shibboleth of Science in lieu of that of Christianity—if it were beating its tom-toms in the name of David Hume instead of that of Jesus of Nazareth. Your scientist will endure a good deal of noise, a great deal of fussy organization, when the object is secular, and not religious.
     It is no part of my purpose to uphold the scheme of General Booth; I have not studied it sufficiently to justify or condemn it. So far as it involves a tyrannous organization, an interference with the right of private judgment, an upholding of effete superstitions, it has no sympathy of mine, and not all the approval of all the Churches would induce me to utter one word on its behalf. But the merest tyro in history must see that Professor Huxley’s attempt to liken it to the schemes of Francis of Assisi and Ignatius Loyola is simply absurd, illogical, and uninstructed—worthy, in fact, of the mind which justified Jacob against Esau on the ground of ‘practical expedience.’ For if one thing is clear, it is that the religion of General Booth, whatever its crude forms and ordinances 340 may be, is at once unsectarian and beneficent, practical as opposed to dogmatic. The use of the Christian vocabulary is a detail. I have nowhere read that the General troubles himself about Christian dogmas. His cry has rather been, ‘A truce to your dogmas, and even to your moralities; let us see if we cannot save the “submerged tenth” by making it conscious of happy responsibility—by enabling it to live.’ The comparison with Mormonism is equally unfortunate; and, in any case, Mormonism is an institution which has existed with few or no crimes; no Wars, no Brothels, and no ‘Hells’—all accredited ornaments of our higher civilization.Say what we may of General Booth—and I myself (horrified by the clamour in the street) have said some hard things—he has struck a chord of beneficence which vibrates round the world; he has cried to the rich and powerful, ‘Lo! these also are your brethren’; he has succeeded in startling the Bishops from their armchairs, and the priests from their confessionals; he has said, ‘What you for eighteen centuries have failed to do—what you have scarcely even cared to do—I, an individual, a man of the people, will at least try to do.’ And in the face of this man, whose hand is open to the outcast and the fallen; who turns his back on no human creature, however base; who knows the world far better than any scientist that was ever born, Professor Huxley buttons up his pockets, purses up his lips, and 341 tries to escape from the imputation of inconsistency, of inhumanity, by avowing his adherence to Principles which he has been opposing all his life.
     But no; Professor Huxley is not inconsistent. He stands where he has always stood, among those who are by temperament deprived of the true philosophic vision and the real enthusiasm of humanity. A genuine scientific student, capable of much careful verification on a low plane of inquiry, he cannot generalize and cannot organize. He has vindicated centuries of wrong-doing; he has upheld the tyrannies of Force and Convention; he has sided with Society against the Individual on the ground of utility, and with the Strong against the Weak on the score of necessity; and so, after all, even this last miraculous conversion—a sham, like all things seemingly miraculous—cannot save him. He is condemned out of his own mouth as the Pharisee who passes by, while General Booth is justified, by his own act, as the Samaritan who at least endeavours to heal and bless.*

* Professor Huxley’s only comment on this was a protest that I utterly misstated his views, and that I was, he believed, merely a writer of ‘works of imagination.’ The good Professor’s contempt for his opponents, for all who dare to question his empirical statements, is notorious. To him, even Mr. Spencer was only ‘an abstract Philosopher.’






     In the Times of December 9, 1890, appeared another letter from Professor Huxley, written in the same vein as his first diatribe, on General Booth’s scheme, and attached to it was the letter from my pen, which was printed in the Daily Chronicle (and the Daily Chronicle only) on the previous day. Now, my letter was issued to the public Press on the previous Sunday, but several of the dailies passed it by without insertion, on the conventional ground that the letter of which it was a criticism ‘had not appeared in their columns.’ The Times, however, with characteristic unfairness, published it a day late, in order that, when my protest was seen and read, Professor Huxley might have another opportunity of raising false issues on the subject. These, as we all know, are the usual tactics of the great organ of British Philistia. It cannot be fair and honest, even in so small a matter as the printing of correspondence. From the day when it fought on the side of Slavery during the American Civil War to the day when it organized the Pigott forgery, and from that day to the present, when it lets loose the quasi-scientific Boanerges to fulminate against the Salvation Army and talk half-instructed twaddle about Simon 343 Magus and the Mendicant Friars, it has been steadily posing as the enemy of human progress and human enlightenment.
     It is not, however, with the Times I have to deal, but with the gentleman in full ‘useful-knowledge canonicals,’ who now, as heretofore, refuses to give General Booth his blessing—for which, I am sure, the General never prayed. By what right of achievement or attainment Professor Huxley assumes to speak authoritatively on social questions I have never been able to discover. Both he and Professor Tyndall, who steps forward to support him, have done very little to justify any faith in either their sympathy or their insight. But both, we have to bear in mind, have one mission in common—to translate the jargon of Carlyle into the easy patter of Cheap Science, so that ‘he who runs may read.’ Professor Huxley, on the grounds of his recent ‘miraculous conversion’ to Spencerian principles, now poses as an Individualist; but we must be careful to distinguish between such individualism as his and the deeply reasoned individualism of the Philosopher he has denounced so often and so long.We must remember that his warning is not philosophical, but empirical; that he has on previous occasions committed himself to a defence of the present social cosmos, or chaos, as opposed to the aspirations of human freedom; that, in a word, he embodies the kind of opinion which would oppose to 344 the Enthusiasm of Humanity the dreary conventionalities of the Pragmatic Sanction.
     For what, after all, has this self-canonized lecturer on useful knowledge to say on the subject at issue? What is his criticism of the Man who, like his great Prototype, has actually descended into Hell, hoping to snatch thence the submerged ‘tenth’ of our population? Firstly, that there are many philanthropies in the world, and that General Booth’s is only one of them. This, surely, we knew already. Secondly, that earlier labourers in the field of Socialism had no army organization, no beating drums, no general fanfaronade, and that such organization belongs rather to the raving mystagogues of the East than to the steady social workers of the West. In this connection, curiously enough, the empirical Professor, always inconsistent in argument, while ever consistent in temperament, sighs for the old-fashioned and quiet ways of the Apostles, about whose ‘quietness,’ by the way, he might have learned something by a few more visits to the British Museum. It is surely news to all the world that the early Christians were peaceful, non-revolutionary, non-organizing persons, in no way troublesome to persons of opposite opinion and lovers of laissez faire. Thirdly and finally, Professor Huxley, while recognising the fact of human misery, asserts that General Booth’s scheme to check it is likely to do ‘more harm than good.’
345 And then he begins to tell us ‘why.’ Then, for the first time, we begin to get at what he really does mean. ‘It is primarily and mainly for the sake of saving the Soul,’ writes General Booth, ‘that I seek the salvation of the Body.’ This means, according to Professor Huxley, that ‘men are to be made sober and industrious mainly that, as washed, shorn, and docile sheep, they may be driven into the narrow theological fold which Mr. Booth patronizes.’ Does it mean anything of the kind? I, for one, have about as much belief as Professor Huxley in any religious dogma or Christian formula, but I have never gathered from General Booth that he bases his scheme on any foundation of abstract theology. But, if he did, surely the man who, with any formula whatever, can make the wretched millions ‘sober and industrious,’ is achieving fully two-thirds of the objects of all human science, of all human regeneration. Here, again, Professor Huxley is illogical; for once make a man ‘sober and industrious’—once make him to some extent a rational creature—and be sure you will not ‘drive’ him very far. You have given eyes to the blind: those eyes will see.
     ‘I have been in the habit of thinking,’ proceeds Professor Huxley, ‘that self-respect and thrift are the rungs of the ladder by which men must surely climb out of the slough of the despond of want, and I have regarded them as perhaps the most eminent of the practical virtues.’ Après? Has 346 General Booth ever denounced self-respect and thrift? No, admits the Professor; but he has said that ‘envy’ is the corner-stone of our competitive system, and that the sufferings of starving men are the consequence of ‘the sins of the capitalist’! Here we get a fine glimpse of the good Professor who defended the Status quo on the score of expediency, and who demanded for the landgrabber and the capitalist, enriched by centuries of wrong-doing, a certain statute of limitations. Does anyone but an empirical scientist, confusing the survival of the socially successful with the natural survival of the fittest, doubt for a moment that ‘envy’ and greed are the crying sins of our generation, and that many men starve because their fellow-men refuse to feel? Read, in this connection, the solemn and beautiful words of Mr. Henry John Atkinson, printed in the very number of the Times which contains the Professor’s grisly diatribe: ‘I cannot sit still in warmth and comfort when I know that many of my countrymen are wandering about London without food or shelter all through these inclement nights, and that General Booth and his corps of workers wish to help them, and cannot get the means. My wife and I will give £300’—while Professor Huxley, who would cheerfully, no doubt, contribute to a scheme for the extension of Vivisection, buttons up his trousers-pockets and keeps his friend’s ‘thousand pounds.’
347 Further on, Professor Huxley pushes his objection further home by citing a case of so-called ‘persecution.’ A girl was ‘seduced twice,’ and applied to the Salvationists, who thereupon ‘hunted up the man, threatened him with exposure, and forced from him the payment to his victim of £60 down, an allowance of £1 a week, and an assurance on his life of £450 in her favour.’ Intimidation with a vengeance, very Jedburgh justice, says the Professor. Let us not be quite sure. Let us not assume too hastily that the case was not fully investigated. Let us reflect at the same time what the precious Law would have done for the victim of this seducer. It would have enabled her to take out a summons, perhaps, and, if there were a child, secure a weekly sum of half a crown while that child was of tender years! Professor Huxley thinks that, in all possibility, it was a mere question of relative moral delinquency between the parties, and that the man, so brought to book, was as much a ‘victim’ as the woman. Excellent Professor! True upholder of masculine law-making and the survival of the culpable fittest! May we not in all seriousness wish Mr. Spencer joy of his last proselyte?
     When all is said and done, all that Professor Huxley can advance against the Salvation Army is that it is ‘noisy’; that it uses the vocabulary of superstition; that it reproaches the rich for the sorrows of the poor; and that, whenever it can, 348 it tries to bring delinquents to justice! Well, admit every one of the indictments, and what is proved? That every beneficent scheme has some little drawbacks, but that every such scheme must be judged by the totality, by the entire moral efficacy, of its influence. What the Salvation Army has done is this—it has, first of all, awakened the sleeping conscience of the world. It has told Dives that he must not sleep so long as Lazarus starves; it has proclaimed that there is hope for every man, even for the basest, if he will try to be ‘honest and industrious’; it has held out hands to the Penitent Thief (as it would hold out hands to the penitent Professor), and it has broken bread with the Magdalen. Then think for a moment what Cheap Science, with its demagogues of the dissecting-room, its peripatetic professors, has done, or tried to do. It has prattled glibly of Natural Law and the Survival of the Fittest; it has cast in its lot with the Times and the governing classes; it has paraded forged documents to enslave the Irish people and discredit a nationality; it has countenanced the ‘unco’ gude’ and joined in the holy horror against the destroyers of national institutions, such as War and Prostitution; it has contented itself with Carlyle’s Gospel according to the Printer’s Devil and the faith which confuses natural Freedom and Equality with ‘reasoned savagery’; and last, and greatest of its achievements, it has instituted the beneficent 349 tortures of Vivisection. Well, if we have to choose between Simon Magus and Professor Huxley, or between General Booth and Professor Ferrier, let us give our vote to those who are the friends of both man and beast—with the workers who are tender to the weak and merciful to the fallen, not with those who turn with complacency to acts of beneficent legislation, and — let the lost go by! As for Professor Huxley, he is only our old friend the Priest in another guise, as unsympathetic, as bigoted, as retrograde as anyone who ever wore soutane or cowl. Even in his new aspect as a convert to Individualism, he will convince no sane man that Folly and Enthusiasm are synonymous terms.

[Note: Professor Huxley’s letters to The Times, to which Buchanan is responding above, are available in the Letters to the Press section.]





WRITING neither as a person having authority, nor as one of the scribes, I wish to put on record, if you will permit me, my complete and absolute sympathy with Mr. Parnell. He may, or may not, be an Adulterer—that, in any case, I consider a detail chiefly interesting to himself; but I contend that his technical and legal guilt is no proof whatever of his moral turpitude. No question involving the relation of the sexes can be absolutely decided in the tainted atmosphere of

* First published just after the divorce suit of O’Shea v. Parnell.—

350 our foul Divorce Court, and the case of ‘O’ Shea v. Parnell’ was established by the unworthiest of all evidence, that of prying chambermaids, prurient lodging-house keepers, and all the miserable human fry who swim in the unclean shallows of the legal puddle. To my mind, Mr. Parnell’s stern and absolute silence, his determination not to be dragged through the obscene mire, is negative evidence in his favour. He has chosen, like a strong man, to let the blow fall on his own shoulders, and the result is that Mrs. O’Shea has been spared and almost forgotten, while all the moral wolves are clamouring for Mr. Parnell’s blood. But even if Mr. Parnell is guilty, no man can tell in what degree. That, as I have said, is a matter chiefly concerning himself. What concerns us, men who stand as simple spectators of a persecution unparalleled in the history of Politics, is the means which are being adopted to hound a great man out of public life.
     It is on record, I believe, or at any rate it has been stated, that immediately after the decision of the Divorce Court a well-known Journalist waited upon Mr. Parnell and informed him that unless full ‘confession’ was made at once, and the leadership of the Irish Party simultaneously resigned, the said journalist would appeal to the Puritans of England to ‘let loose the dogs’ of moral War. Whether threatened or not, the thing has been done, and Mr. Parnell has been hunted down, not 351 by honest public opinion, not by British virtue, not even by the British Matron, but by the Journalism of the Sewers on the one side and the Journalism of the Back-kitchen on the other. For whence chiefly arises this ferocious clamour of prurient Morality, this talk about the sanctity of the household, and the eternal symbolism of the bed-post? Firstly, from the source out of which arose the publication of a scandal so infamous, and described so infamously, that the very air of Nature was polluted as by a cesspool, the stench of which penetrated like poison into every household of the land. Secondly, from the individual who invented the journalism of Paul Pry, who has violated all the privileges of social life, while haunting the back-kitchens of the aristocracy, and counting the candle-ends of the governing classes; and who, finally, proposed not long ago in the House of Commons, to the manifest satisfaction of a crowd of fellow- demagogues, to pollute the ears of his fellow-members by opening up in broad day the sewer of another foul and loathsome scandal.The other attacks on the character of the member for Cork may be set aside as purely political. The attacks to which I draw attention are specifically ‘moral.’ It is the latter to which I wish to confine your attention, while demanding whether we are to substitute for the old and discredited priesthoods, the priesthood of the Journalist in Absolution?
352 No ‘Confessional Unmasked’ has yet, to my mind, furnished so sad an illustration of human prurience as the new Confessional of the Journal. Manifold as are the injuries which Journalism in general has done to Society, to Literature, and to Art, by fostering the uninstruction of the general reader, and parading the ephemeral judgments of the hour, those injuries are small to the crimes committed by the Journalism which masquerades in the guise of Morality, which deals in household garbage, and, in the interests of vulgar curiosity, institutes a Public Confessional. Dismal indeed is the lot of the human being who, like Mr. Parnell, sits in the confession-box, with the Priest of Prurience on one side and the Priest of Scandal on the other. If he refuses, as Mr. Parnell has done, to make any kind of utterance, woe to him and to his generation! The flood-gates of denunciation are opened; the whole army of back-kitchen moralists and scandal-mongers is arrayed against him; the standard of the Cross is raised, and men prepare for the luxury of the auto da fé. Honest citizens bar their doors, and peep from their windows in terror. Everywhere, ushered by the newsboy with his ‘latest edition,’ walk the agents of the Inquisition.
     To most men who would live their lives in peace, Journalism is merely Babbage’s Organ in the Street; they stop their ears, and try to think and work in spite of it. But to all men who 353 value the security of their homes and the right of private judgment, the New Journalism, with its aggression, its tyrannical bias, and its shameless indecency, is the old Priest in Absolution forcing a way into every household. Tartuffe and Melchior live again in the columns of the inquisitorial newspaper, while the Scapin of Politics walks hand-in-hand with the Mawworm of Morality. At this moment, therefore, when a wave of prurient Puritanism is rising higher and higher to destroy all that makes the world sweet and wholesome, it is with no common interest that we who are neither inquisitorial nor ‘moral’ watch the fate of Mr. Parnell. If he stands like a rock, refusing to be doomed by the Divorce Court, and defying the clamour of penny-a-lining Pharisees, there is still hope for Society. If he falls, bestraddled over by the rampant Journalist in Absolution, we who loathe his would-be Confessors may well despair. I shall say nothing here of his public services, of his power and prescience as the one man capable of interpreting the hopes and wishes of the Irish race; nothing of the constitutional bigotry which has led even so honest a man as Mr. Gladstone to join in the cry against him. It should be remembered, nevertheless, that Mr. Parnell retains his position, not because he is privately virtuous, but because he is politically puissant, and that Mr. Gladstone, despite all his noble disinterestedness, is a retrograde moralist, who repudiates Divorce 354 under any circumstances, and founds his repudiation on the diseased ravings of mediæval monks and saints. I for one believe that issues far deeper than any issues merely political will be determined by the ultimate position of Mr. Parnell.I for one refuse to accept the discredited disclosures of the Divorce Court, and the obscene comments of the Journalist in Absolution, as any final test of human life and character.





I HAVE recently read, with no usual interest, a clever and trenchant article on ‘Stage Courtesans.’ To ‘shatter the sentiment,’ as the writer expresses it, of such plays as the ‘Lady of the Camellias,’ is a task which even his able pen is quite unable to accomplish; for that sentiment, I believe, is founded on some of the strongest instincts of human nature. Moreover, the type of Camille is, according to my small experience, quite as common as the type of Cora Pearl; and from the days of the Magdalen to those of De Quincey’s Ann the street-walker, the class named ‘unfortunate’ has claimed, and claimed justly, the sympathy of all mortals except a few supervestal virgins and a large proportion of matchmaking matrons. I am not, however, vindicating in this connection the morbid psychology of the sentimental 355 school of the early Empire. I am simply contending for justice to a type of character which, with all its depravities, is full of irresistible artistic fascinations.
     The ethical question involved in the article I have named is far too involved a one to be discussed in the space of a brief note. All I wish to do is to protest against the Pharisaism which, both in life and literature, describes certain characters and certain subjects as unfit for the treatment of dramatic art. In England, only those situations and characters are held justifiable which have received, or are likely to receive, the sanction of Mr. Gilbert’s young lady of fifteen; and the result is a Drama which, to my thinking, leaves out of sight at least the half of human life, and supplies us with the barest possible profile of human nature. In the field of pure literature the result is dispiriting enough; in the field of dramatic art it is simply stupefying. I believe myself that playgoers would be a healthier race if their morals were less tenderly taken care of; that even morbid psychology is a healthier thing than morbid prudery or ‘Podsnappery’; that before the stage can be a great literary influence, its tongue must be set free and its moral speech unfettered; that, in a word, we want a breezier atmosphere and a saner method if our stagecraft is to grapple at all with the great problems of life and religion.
     The courtesan is the creature of society—pure 356 and noble, as in the case of Aspasia; bold and vicious, as in the case of Nell Gwynne; sad and hectic, as in the case of Marguerite Gautier; or simply carnivorous, as in the case of Nana and Cora Pearl. As long as she exists, either as a worker of that social safety-valve recognised in the execrable ethics of Swedenborg, or as a sad ‘necessity’ created by the evils of modern society, she will have her fit place in literature as well as in life. Those who know the Courtesan best believe that Cora Pearl, who, when her lover destroys himself, simply thinks of the stains on her carpet, is a monstrosity—that is, true to a certain monstrous form of womanhood as Faustine or Messalina. For one creature of this sort there exist a thousand creatures who are not the avenging furies, but the victims and martyrs, of an infamous social law. Far distant be the day when personal purity and chastity is not recognised as the highest quality and prerogative of womanhood—when we forget to desiderate in all noble women the qualities we respect in our mothers and our sisters. Yet, since the Courtesan is what the sensuality of man has made her, let us, if we are in the mood for stone-throwing, aim our missiles, not at her, but at the men who have created her to minister to their appetites. Do not let us, above all, simulate indignation when we see her momentarily transfigured on the page of a poet or behind the footlights of a theatre; but let us 357 remember in connection with her the infinite pathos and tenderness with which she has been surrounded for eighteen hundred years, through the sagacious beneficence of the law-abiding Founder of Christianity.





WHEN Goethe found his sheep’s-head on a common, and proclaimed his discovery of the inter-maxillary bone, he was doing better work for Humanity than when, in his minor poems and romances, he preached the retrograde gospel of Egoismus. Science may possibly have gained something by his anatomical generalizations, but Literature has lost everything by his successful sermonizing. To a belated idealist like myself, the whole work of Goethe is a clumsy pyramid on the world’s highway. By one solitary effort of true imagination the great pagan saved his soul for posterity, and just where he was most primitive, most conventional, least egoistical, did he achieve his poetical success. A commonplace story of seduction, relieved by the cynical asides of a conventional Devil, remains as Goethe’s masterpiece. Meantime his mean and selfish gospel has sunk deep into the souls of little men, emerging from time to time to paralyze sentiment and imagination, 358 and creating literary monsters as hideous as the Frenchman Zola and as crude and unfinished as the Scandinavian Ibsen. That this same gospel of Egoismus appeals to a certain order of intelligence may at once be conceded; it is a fact proved by the vitality of Goethe as a literary influence. Although that influence has been mainly in the region of criticism, and although, in spite of it, the great humanists Balzac and Hugo have emerged triumphant, it is still a force to be reckoned with, more especially as in recent manifestations it combines itself with the inchoate force of Science. It is, however, in its very essence anti-literary—a statement easily proved by a reference to the literary history of this century. Goethe has begotten a whole race of Critics, but not one modern Poet, not one modern writer of genius, has turned to him for paternal inspiration.





‘IF an English school, which heaven forefend! should be moved to attempt a similar pleasantry’ (p. 9). Mr. Archer means to say the reverse of what he writes. In English the sentence would

* Extracts from a book called ‘About the Theatre.’ by William Archer. See ante, ‘The Modern Young Man as Critic.’

359 run: ‘If an English school should be moved (which heaven forefend!) to attempt a similar pleasantry.’
     ‘Which of our countless humiliations was it that broke the camel’s back, and made it morbidly eager to balance matters by splitting its sides?’ (p. 13). How a ‘humiliation’ could ‘break’ anything, how a ‘camel’s back’ could be ‘morbidly eager,’ especially to ‘split its sides,’ I must leave my reader to explain.
     ‘A Lyceum first night has now become a solemn “function,” which peers, millionaires and honourable women “intrigue to see”’ (p. 4). Mr. Archer must indeed be considered superhuman in his insight; he can ‘see’ a ‘function.’
     ‘This genus all’ is Mr. Archer’s elegant translation of hoc genus omne. Yet we are authoritatively informed that Mr. Archer has been to school, in Scotland.
     ‘The audience knows perfectly well he is intended for a bishop, accepts him for one, and (such is their reverence) laughs at him accordingly’ (pp. 147, 148).
     ‘The theatrical critic who desires to write, I do not say a good style, but English of moderate purity, has a hard time of it’ (p. 203). We had always imagined literary style to be a quality of something written. To ‘write a style’ is a phrase as full of meaning as ‘to paint an art’ or ‘to sing a tone.’
     ‘Though the logical difference between this case 360 and that of the “ensemble” may not be apparent, I believe that even the Americans have trusted to their ears rather than their logic, and have accepted the one and rejected the other’! (p. 207). Does Mr. Archer mean by this that the poor Americans have accepted a certain ‘logic’ at the expense of the rejection of their ‘ears’?
     ‘It (the Censorship) is destructive, because it takes out of the people’s hands a power that they alone can wield, and thus deadens their feeling of responsibility for the morals of the stage’ (p. 157). Imagine the ‘feeling of responsibility’ for theatrical morals conceived by the ‘people’s hands’!
     But I hear my readers cry, ‘Hold, enough!’ Mr. Archer’s book is full of flowers such as I have transplanted.












THE paradox of this book, permeating it throughout, is the one stated in the letters entitled 'Are Men born Free and Equal?' to the effect that true Socialism is another name for Individualism. A little reflection, however, may convince us that it is perhaps no paradox at all.
     Personally, I should be grieved and disheartened if any friends of mine should class me with the enemies of the higher Socialism, which has all my sympathy and all my prayers. My contention is in favour of the right of individuals to agitate for purposes of self-protection, to destroy false economics, cruel monopolies, tyrannical interferences with the conduct of life. For example, in the admirable series of economic and historical statements published by the Fabian Society, there is scarcely a word from which I should dissent, if I were allowed to qualify the preposterous conclusions based upon those statements. Rational 364 Socialism has worked wonders for society; but how? By protecting the weak against the strong, the worker against the capitalist, the average man against the organization of hereditary monopolists. But surely such Socialism is only the fruit of the labours performed by temporarily discredited minorities—in a word, by aggressive and self-assertive Individualism? Latter-day agitators are very fond of regarding those who disagree with them, about the extent to which democratic legislation should be carried, as selfish and anarchic faddists—men who would leave the ‘strugglers for life’ to take care of themselves, and who use as mottoes, Laissez faire and Laissez aller. These Socialists base all their hopes of a social cosmos on a system of State organization, worked by a democratic majority, which would gradually average the laws of life for all men, and suppress all individual development.
     Yet it is here, I think, that my friends are themselves paradoxical, for I would be quite content to canvass them on most of the questions discussed in the preceding pages, and abide by the result. They, surely, would contend for the natural freedom and equality of Man, as I understand it; for the emancipation of the weaker sex; for the freedom of art and letters; for the right of private judgment in matters moral and religious; for the repression of scientific or quasi- scientific experiments on the lives of human beings and helpless animals; 365 for the destruction of War and Prostitution. Yet here, as may readily be shown, they are contending with the minority, they are fighting for individual liberties and privileges which the State at present denies them. Their power in the land is already great, and will be greater as time advances. The abstract principles they are preaching will slowly leaven the mass of misery and crime. But why? Not because they are waging a mad crusade against Society as rationally constituted, but because they are organizing, under able individual leaders, to disintegrate the present too common social evils; because, in one word, they are proving that every sane human being is not merely a member of Society, but an individual possessing natural rights, liberties, and privileges.
     This, I say, is the Paradox, the Riddle of the Sphynx: How to preserve the freedom of Humanity while preserving the freedom of individual men?
     On one point there can be no dispute, and has been no dispute. The present system of Society, it is admitted, includes structures honeycombed by centuries of wrong-doing. It is indisputable, nevertheless, that such wrongs as have been redressed already have been redressed less by mob-organization of any kind than by the free and unfettered primary action of martyred individuals. It was the Five Members who, to their own great peril, destroyed the social and political prerogatives of the Right Divine. It was Milton 366 who, in the face of English Puritanism, established the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, the right of men to save or lose their Souls by literature in their own way; and it was the same Milton who vindicated, against the Christian Socialism of his own age, the liberties of Divorce—liberties still denied to us by the advocates of the status quo. It was the pertinacious Lord Shaftesbury, then Lord Ashley, who passed the first Mining Act; it was the unconventional Howard who reformed our prisons; and it was Robert Owen, an unpopular ‘faddist,’ who passed the Cotton Mills Act in 1819. In the eyes of his own generation, each of these men was looked upon as an eccentric Individualist, as an enemy of the social organization. Nay, are not many of our own energetic philanthropists themselves considered, by the majority of their countrymen, as individuals accelerating the period ofabsolute social anarchy? To be called ‘a Socialist,’ even nowadays, is to receive a name of opprobrium, and to be discredited by the great majority of human beings.
     No more extraordinary example of the futility of generalizations can be found than the manner in which many modern Socialists confuse Capitalism with Individualism—a confusion based apparently on the fact that certain individuals have become enormous capitalists! I should have conceived myself, in following the arguments intended to establish so absurd a proposition, that the history 367 of Capital is simply the history of successful attempts to place each individual labourer at the mercy of Capital. Surely Individualism means the moral rights of individuals, not the right of any one individual to steal, to amass money, to do no manner of work but to live on the labour of his fellows? Capitalists themselves are strong only when, like banditti, they league themselves together, and utilize the very machinery advocated by the friends of Trades-unionism. From which point we return to the statement that the true Socialist is an absolute Individualist—one who establishes his own rights by clearly defining the rights of others, by limiting accumulation and oppression in any shape, by asserting, on the plea that each labourer is worthy of his hire, his own plea to possess the results of his personal activity.
     Socialism, again, is not to be confounded with Democracy, or Mob-Rule, and the Rational Socialist, therefore, invariably distrusts the Demagogue; but these facts do not altogether imply that State interference is not desirable within limitations to be determined by the conscience of Individuals. The question may perhaps be stated thus: So long as Socialism is a condition of active revolt, qualifying the conditions of political order, and ameliorating abuses, it is practically beneficent; so soon as it becomes an overpowering State organism, paralyzing individual resistance and asserting a claim to absolute power, it is likely to become 368 tyrannical. Now, as always, the strength and justice of a people lie with the intellectual minority, and that minority at present is, in my sense of the word, individualistic.





INDIVIDUALISM, however, is not to be confounded with unlimited freedom of personal conduct. In exact proportion to the duty Society owes to the Individual, is the duty owed by the Individual to Society.
     The late Thomas Carlyle, in that wild chaos of vague assertions and unreasoned socialistic prejudices which humorists call his ‘philosophy,’ preached, following his master, Goethe, the worship of successful Individuals, men of genius, men of ‘worth,’ but in doing so lost sight of the rights of Humanity in general, and wrote a succession of variations on the glorification of so many Jonathan Wilds. Individualism, like Socialism, protects the weak, and insists that even Genius possesses no privilege entitling it to disregard human responsibilities. The worship of mere intellectual or physical power, the moral carte blanche given to an aristocracy of intellect, the argument which justifies the selfishness of a Goethe, or the sexual hysteria of Goethe’s worst disciples, is essentially as irrational and 369 anarchic—at once as anti-individualist and anti-social—as the worship of our aristocracy or our plutocracy. To say this is not to say that men of genius are to be judged by the sham conventions of Society; but neither are any individuals, however free of genius, to be so judged. It is well to remember that there is, at the present moment, both in literature and art, a great and growing tendency towards sham, as distinguished from true, Individualism—a tendency to represent Society as entirely wicked, and Revolt as of necessity commendable. The modern school of literary reformers has not as yet improved very much on the Weimar standard of ethics, and the result is that revolt has remained self-conscious, self-seeking, and self-conceited. Curiously enough, many of our leading Socialists have distinguished themselves by sympathy with the new births of sham literary Individualism—the intellectual prig, the super-moral female, the selfanalyzing pessimist, et hoc genus omne—a fact which, while it establishes my postulate that Socialism and Individualism are convertible terms, also shows that Socialism hardly understands as yet the meaning or the consequences of its own propaganda. For a moral or intellectual aristocracy is as much to be feared and dreaded as a political one; and the man who conceives he has an intellectual privilege to put himself above or beyond the just standards of conduct is as dangerous as the man who claims a class-privilege 370 to avoid the just standards of natural competition.
     Society is impossible if we have no ethical standards at all; if any given course of conduct is regarded as quite as good as another; and if human Society is considered, as some writers appear to consider it, necessarily false and conventional. The problem is, how to separate what is false and conventional from what is true and necessary; in other words, to learn those laws of common well-being which may fairly be termed absolute. Kant’s categoric imperative may possibly serve us here. No law of conduct should be made compulsory which the individual would consider arbitrary and cruel if applied to his own case; and to define such laws, it is essential that individuals should agree as to certain absolute ethical standards, free of Empiricism on the one hand, and free of Convention on the other.





SINCE the first publication of ‘The Young Man as Critic,’ and of the correspondence which in this book follows it in sequence (‘Is Chivalry still Possible?’), at least two of the persons severely censured have made both my criticism and myself the subject of continual animadversion, or, rather, recrimination. This was only natural, and to be expected. I have 371 now, therefore, to revise my judgment, as every honest writer is bound to do, and to indicate those particulars in which I feel myself to have exaggerated the truth. It appears to me, then, on reflection, that I have been unfair to some of our young men, in so far as I have accused them of a want of any intellectual ideal whatsoever. Further familiarity with their writings convinces me that they have certainly the virtue of sincerity, and that, allowing for the aberrations of personal malice, they are conscientiously endeavouring to criticise literature according to their lights.Their belief is that our literary salvation lies in the direction of absolute and trivial Realism; their conception of a work of Art is that it should be an unimpeachable transcription ‘from the life.’ They have faith, also, like their teacher, Goethe, in the power of Womanhood as a force to disintegrate social convention and moral superstition — a faith, by the way, which (pace! these gentlemen’s reproaches) I have been preaching all my life. On the whole, then, I conceive that the difference between writers of this class and myself is temperamental rather than intellectual; that, different as our methods and our sympathies may be, our conclusions are not always diverse.
     And, further, it appears to me that little or no harm can be done to the literature of Imagination by any hostile critic who is thoroughly in earnest. To find edification in the dreary family anecdotes 372 and dingy back-parlour chronicles which are now called ‘dramas,’ and to conceive life as drab-coloured and lugubrious throughout, is far less harmful than to have no taste for novelty and no zeal for humanity. The present apotheosis of what is mean and trivial and cheaply scientific—the present conception of Art as a series of dingy amateur photographs taken in the scullery during sunless weather—is only the inevitable reaction following the great period of loose and unfettered Ideality through which we have just passed. Presently, no doubt, it will be discovered that there is even more falsehood to Nature in a bad photograph than in a wildly-executed painting; that no amount of truth to outlines and to shadows, no obtrusion of minor details, can compensate for the glow of light, of colour, of imagination. In the meantime, the craving for Photography in Literature may serve some good purpose if it leads men to be zealous for general truth of presentation. There will always be critics who are colour-blind. There will always, on the other hand, be writers who find in Nature not merely one common black and white, but all the radiant colours of the prism.
     It is on ethical grounds, however, that the minor critics of the new photographic creed claim to be finally judged. They claim that Morality should have a foremost place in Art, particularly the art dramatic; and the morality they parade is the anti-social morality of Egoismus. Now, Egoismus, as 373 I conceive it, is Individuality under diseased conditions. Falk and Nora in Ibsen’s dramas, for example, are types of violent moral crudity in revolt against the ‘conventions’ of society. The one is a sulky provincial Byron, who, out of cowardly self-love, refuses his happiness when it is offered to him; the other is a petulant little monster, whose eccentricities are only comprehensible on the score of some obscure epileptic disturbance, and who is equally detestable when sucking lollipops or suggesting syllogisms. The minor criticism applauds these and cognate monstrosities as phenomenally interesting and important to literature; in point of fact, they have neither human interest nor any literary importance, save as indications of the fatal influence that morbid self-analysis has had on thought and on expression.
     Egoismus is a literary complaint first contracted by the men who drank too deeply of the poisoned waters of Weimar. Its signs are feverish dissatisfaction with society, irritation at social trifles, suspicion of all sanctions, and incapacity for honest laughter. In its worst examples it bereaves the literary organism of all colour but black and white, and gives to its victim the complexion either of the negro or the albino.






ALTHOUGH the type I am attempting to describe may be traced far back in history, the chief modern example is Goethe*; not the Goethe of ‘Faust’ and the ‘Divan,’ but the Goethe of ‘Wilhelm Meister’ and the ‘Elective Affinities.’ In spite of all that wise critics have said to the contrary, I have always contended that Goethe, so far from being an ‘Art for Art’ philosopher, was permeated through and through with the self-consciousness of a haunting non-moral Morality. It was he who first among moderns began to analyze and to dissect his own sensations, and to reduce his heart-beats to a science. In his case, however, it was a strong and healthy man condescending to that self-analysis which, in less vigorous natures, develops into anæmia and vainglory. The result was to be found less in the giant himself than in his numerous literary progeny—a tainted and exhausted breed still lingering among us, chiefly in the form of the albino.
     In cases of this kind it is of little consequence whether the personal bias is moral or whether it is what is called ‘immoral.’ The impeccable albino

* See my article, ‘The Character of Goethe,’ in ‘A Look Round Literature.’

375 Mr. Howells is just as much tainted with Egoismus as the nerve-shocking negroesque M. Zola. The self-analyzing and hypercultured young lady of Boston is as disagreeable in her superfinity as the nevrose heroine of ‘La Curée’ is in her sexual mania. In either case Morality has poisoned and perverted Art. Here, as in other developments of the disease, I see in the so-called Gospel of the Ego, not a new revelation, but the last slimy trail of the Goethe system of ethics, shown in productions which, like the forgotten and worthless portion of Goethe’s work, were devoid of imagination and true human sentiment. What is new and immense to the young men of the ferociously ‘moral’ newspapers has been familiar and detestable to me from the first moment I began to think and write. Where they find literary salvation I have found only the last dregs of a Devil’s gospel which has corrupted almost every branch of modern literature, and which, had Heaven not sent the world its literary knights errant in Victor Hugo and Dumas, would have long ago destroyed all poetry in the world. To them the moral of the Ego is novel; to me it is as old as the ‘Elective Affinities’ and Goethe’s self culture, with little new in it, and that little untrue, and delivered without a gleam of consecrating insight.






THE literary character is curiously inconsistent. A little while ago we were being assured on every hand that Art had nothing whatever to do with Ethics, and a large number of intelligent writers, in order to vindicate that theory, were joining together in a wild revel of indecent exposure. The reaction has come. We are now assured with equal vehemence that the functions of Art are ethical or nothing, and an equally large number of intelligent writers are flooding the world with sermons upon questions of Morality.
     Now, the truth lies in the via media—the way between two absurd theories. It makes all the difference whether, in a work of Art, we place edification in the first place or in the second. In reality it exists in all true Literature, but there its place is secondary, and it is subservient, even incidental; it is the perfume, not the body, of the flower. Directly it assumes the first place, as in Goethe’s inferior writings, in the albino or negroesque novelists, in the chamber-dramas of Ibsen and Björnson, and in the recent imitations by English novelists and dramatists, Art becomes diseased and stultified; all its free and vigorous life is gone.
     The tendency of English literature generally, as 377 of the English life and character, has been towards edification. For a long time under the old sanctions this edification was religious; at present, under the new Providence made Easy and the new literature made moral, it is ethical. We have banished all the superior gods, but the Furies and the Eumenides remain, and shriek the new shibboleth of ‘Heredity’ and ‘Evolution.’ The cant-phrase of our most destructive propagandists, the last word of both Atheism and Positivism, is, ‘Since we know Religion to be fiction, let us assure ourselves of the one fact, Morality.’ Hence, in literature, the dreary latter-day treatises of George Eliot; hence, on the stage, St. Ibsen’s Epistle to the Young Men as Critics; hence, over there in France, the vivisection of human nature to verify theories of hereditary moral diseases and of the survival of the morally unfittest; hence, yonder in America, the hyperæsthesia of Moral Cock-Certainty, the nervous exhaustion of the well-conducted Man-Milliner. We are anxious to be ‘good,’ but do not yet know how. We think we can cozen the Devil (in whom we still religiously believe) by a system of self-examination and self-dissection. And in our despair of individual success we turn to Sociology for ‘facts,’ and to practical Politics, the Limbo of the Legislator, for inspiration.
     The outcome of late in literature and in the drama has been a series of stories and plays in which the characters are moral chameleons, who, 378 both in act and deed, shock nature and belie experience, and who are just as like life as the ‘edifying’ creations of the Religious Tract Society. Quite recently, in an egregious drama by Messrs. Henley and Stevenson, acted at the Haymarket, we have had the last ethical flavour of ‘edification’ imported into the story of a beau and roué of half a century ago; and to hear Mr. Beerbohm Tree, in the costume of a Beau Nash, talking the patter of Ibsen, and listening to the reproaches of an Ibsenite young woman in the Dresden China costume of our grandmothers, was a sight for the gods to smile at. If Shakespeare in his tragedy of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ were suddenly to turn Juliet into an oracular Miss Blimber, or in his tragedy of Othello should make Desdemona just before her strangulation lecture Othello on the moral-philosophical disadvantages of marrying a person of colour, we should find Shakespeare doing on occasion what the modern literary moralist does almost invariably. Such feats of psychological legerdemain may please a small section of the public; but why, because those persons like to turn the theatre into a museum of moral monstrosities, should every writer who has tried to give innocent amusement to his countrymen be vilified? Why should I, for example, because I think the ‘Doll’s House’ is a literary crudity, be attacked for upholding ‘Institutions,’ taunted with a belief in the ‘conventionalities’ of personal honour, honest humour, and natural affection?
379 One of my critics has abused me roundly for describing Ibsen as ‘a Zola with a wooden leg.’ Another writer avers that ‘A Doll’s House’ is the only play which has not ‘bored’ him within the last few years, and adds (what is more to the point) that the nightly ‘storm of discussion’ over Ibsen’s ‘ethics’ is a proof of the dramatist’s genius and originality. Now, as a matter of fact, nothing is so easy as to outrage commonsense, and so arouse discussion and opposition; nothing is so difficult as to please, to refine, and to charm. A playgoer witnessing the great masterpieces of dramatic literature does not become polemical; he carries away with him the pathos, the solemnity, and the calm of life itself. He has been to a  theatre, not to a debating-room; he has been enjoying a work of Art, not a feverish and irritating platform controversy. It has ever been the aim of the great dramatists, from Sophocles downwards, to magnify the divine meaning of life, to depict that truth which is beautiful and spiritualizing. The mission of prosaists like Ibsen is the mission of dullards like Zola—to shock and to revolt us with the meannesses of life, and to assume that those meannesses most abound where Religion and Morality are most powerful. My callow critic is not merely disgusted with the modern dramatist; he describes the average home as a ‘harem,’ the domestic affections of average men and women as stupid and  conventional, the religious instincts of average humanity as instincts ‘he grew 380 out of before he was born.’ The same jaded and foolish creature who sees in Ibsen’s Nora a living woman representing Woman in the Abstract, would see in the banalities of ‘La Terre,’ if produced upon the stage, a glorious lesson convincing us of the monkeydom of humanity. We want no such lesson, for we have had it of late years ad nauseam. We have not yet arrived at the point of believing that every institution is vile merely because it is an ‘institution.’ The collective sentiment of Humanity has formulated a religion of Altruism, not of Egoism; it has felt from generation to generation that only by our faithfulness to those who love and depend upon us, our forbearance to those whom we think weak and helpless, our tenderness and compassion, our supreme pity for others, can we save ourselves. In the eyes of rational beings, not infected with the poison of the egoistic gospel, the woman who would save her own soul without first seeking to save those of her little children is, under any circumstances, a monster of selfishness and self-conceit; the man who thinks redemption comes through mere self-culture is a man ignorant of the world and its lessons; the dramatist who represents society as an aggregate of moral ‘prigs’ and self-conscious feminine ‘cads,’ catching from the common sunlight all the colours of the chameleon, is not merely unfamiliar with human nature, but ignorant of the first elements of that art which still keeps Shakespeare a triumphant certainty.






I AM perfectly prepared to meet any charge of inconsistency, made upon the ground that I am at once an advocate of Socialism and an advocate of Individualism. I would destroy false Individualism by the socialistic test, and I would destroy sham Socialism by the test which is converse. One half of this book is devoted to proving, with Mill, that individuals have a natural right to free, unfettered, and even eccentric development; while the argument of the other half is that individual development, being often crass, anarchic, selfish, and harmful to Society, has to be carefully watched and qualified by the corporate conscience.
     There is no more amusing illustration of the silliness of ultra-individualism than the favour shown by a certain portion of the public to that recent gospel of Egoismus to which I have alluded. Modern writers, indignant at the very constitution of Society, and exaggerating its evils, have presented us with innumerable types of character illustrating, unconsciously, the intellectual crudity of self-love. ‘A man has first of all to save his own Soul,’ say these writers, following their master Goethe. How far this precious zeal for spiritual self-preservation may be perverted may now be seen in the sunless 382 pages of numberless saturnine writers. It is needless to say that the true Individualist, despite all his opposition to social and political conventions, is well aware that no man can save his own Soul alone, or without the help of his human environment. ‘We live by admiration, hope, and love,’ says the poet. Liberty and equality do not preclude responsibility or exclude the social sanction; on the contrary, they determine the one and postulate the other.
     There is no doubt that at the present moment the Enthusiasm of Humanity, which has worked so many miracles of love and healing, is just temporarily receding here and there (fortunately not everywhere) like a great tide, and leaving dry and arid shores of dark Reality, over which we are invited to wander, searching for the shells and bones of fact, and examining the shallow pools for living specimens. Moral philosophy, and abstract philosophy of all kinds, is out of  fashion, and Poetry paddles through the mud. Little cynics run about with their toy spades, building up a politics and a literature of slime and sand, and getting very dirty in the process. Nevertheless, the great Ocean still exists, and in a very little while the tide must turn. But in the meantime we may be satisfied that our time is not being absolutely wasted, and that the present interest in morbid psychology and pessimism, like our present faith in State nostrums, will not be without its good fruits. After the reaction we shall be curious and accurate, as well as sympathetic and 383 enthusiastic. Truth will receive more justice, and Beauty more verification. True, the houses of mud and sand will crumble away, and the ephemeral names written on the shore will be effaced. But when all around us has ‘suffered a sea-change,’ whatever is great and imperishable in Thought and Sentiment, as well as in Society, will remain.





HUMANITY, at the present moment, may be compared to a Hypochondriac, to Molière’s own ‘Malade Imaginaire.’
     His chief concern is with his own personal ailments, some of them quite imaginary. With the aid of the microscope, he examines his own secretions; yet he still plucks at the entrails of beasts to consult them as an augury. He swallows all new panaceas indiscriminately; bolts his door against the old charlatans of Religion, but admits by the side-entrance the new charlatans of Useful Knowledge. His firm conviction is that his disease is incurable, that he has soon to die!
And only a little while ago, in the robust faith of his youth and strength, he believed himself immortal! The physicians of Positivism and cognate creeds assure him that he is still immortal, in the abstract; but abstract consolations are of no 384 use in hypochondria! In a fit of disgust at his own body, he becomes super-moral, disgusted at every natural appetite, afraid of every natural function. In a mood of sexual madness, he becomes indecent, and descends to all the banalities of self-exposure. Nothing to him is innocent or clean during these aberrations. He thinks all Society, and every institution, rotten at the root. He has invented the Modern Newspaper, that he may gloat over the obscene details of his own case, over the general diseases of his social organism; and he has fabricated the modern Novel, that he may discover other hazy diseases, never to be classified by Science. With all this, he is not in such a bad way as he imagines. His hypochondria is only at the early stage, and not yet chronic. To cure him, only freedom, good food, and fresh air are necessary. Free exercise of all his functions will put him right—at least, let us hope so. He will cease to contemplate his secretions, to be haunted by thoughts of his own excrement. He will cease to prate about ‘morality’ and ‘immorality.’ He will know how absurd he looks, eternally feeling his own pulse. And then, when he is renovated by free oxygen, he will burn his treatises of domestic medicine, his tractates of empirical knowledge about Morality and other ailments, his illustrated books of disease-germs enlarged by the microscope, his prescriptions of Providence made Easy and of State Socialism, and look heavenward once more for sunlight and consolation. 385 Then the lost Gods may appear again, radiant and beautiful as ever, and the lost Poets will be reborn with the lost Gods.Before this happy change, however, will come the crisis of a real illness, some of the features of which I have tried to foreshadow in these pages. Humanity will sicken almost to death; but after all, the old creed of Youth, and Hope, and Light is a true creed, and Humanity, so far from dying yet, will live to a good old age.









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The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


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Harriett Jay


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