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Full text of "The Harvard Classics eboxed Set"

HARVARD 
CLASSICS 

iHEFIVE-FCOT 
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AMERICAN 



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THE HARVARD CLASSICS 



The Five-Foot Shelf of Books 



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THE HARVARD CLASSICS 
EDITED BY CHARLES W. ELIOT, LL.D. 



Essays 
English and American 

W//^ Introductions and Notes 
Volume 28 




P. F. Collier & Son Corporation 



NEW YORK 



Copyright, 1910 
By p. F. Collier & Son 

Copyright, 1886 
By James Russell Lowell 

By arrangement with 
Houghton Mifflin Company 

Copyright, 1889 

By The Travelers Insurance Company 

of Hartford, Conn. 

Copyright, 1891 and 1899 
By The Travelers Insurance Company 

manufacturkd in u. s. a. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

JONATHAN SWIFT 7 

William Makepeace Thackeray 

THE IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY 

I. WHAT IS A UNIVERSITY? 31 

II. SITE OF A UNIVERSITY 40 

III. UNIVERSITY LIFE AT ATHENS 51 

John Henry Newman 

THE STUDY OF POETRY 65 

Matthew Arnold 

SESAME AND LILIES 
LECTURE I.— SESAME: OF KINGS' TREASURIES ... 93 
LECTURE II.— LILIES: OF QUEENS' GARDENS . . .135 
John Ruskin 

JOHN MILTON 165 

Walter Bagehot 

SCIENCE AND CULTURE 209 

Thomas Henry Huxley 

RACE AND LANGUAGE 227 

Edward Augustus Freeman 

TRUTH OF INTERCOURSE 277 

SAMUEL PEPYS 285 

Robert Louis Stevenson 

ON THE ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES . .311 
William Ellery Channing 



2 CONTENTS 

PACE 

THE POETIC PRINCIPLE 371 

Edgar Allan Poe 

WALKING 395 

Henry David Thoreau 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN -429 

DEMOCRACY 451 

James Russell Lowell 



JONATHAN SWIFT 

BY 
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

William Makepeace Thackeray, one of the greatest of English novel- 
ists, was born at Calcutta, India, on July i8, 1811, where his father held 
an administrative position. He was sent to England at six for his educa- 
tion, which he received at the Charterhouse and Cambridge, after which 
he began, but did not prosecute, the study of law. Having lost his means, 
in part by gambling, he made up his mind to earn his living as an artist, 
and went to Paris to study. He had some natural gift for drawing, 
which he had already employed in caricature, but, though he made 
interesting and amusing illustrations for his books, he never acquired any 
marked technical skill. 

He now turned to literature, and, on the strength of an appointment 
as Paris correspondent of a short-lived radical newspaper, he married. 
On the failure of the newspaper he took to miscellaneous journalism and 
the reviewing of books and pictures, his most important work appearing 
in Fraser's Magazine and Punch. In 1840 his wife's mind became clouded, 
and, though she never recovered, she lived on till 1894. 

Success came to Thackeray very slowly. "Catherine," "The Great 
Hoggarty Diamond," "Barry Lyndon," and several volumes of travel 
had failed to gain much attention before the "Snob Papers," issued in 
Punch in 1846, brought him fame. In the January of the next year 
"Vanity Fair" began to appear in monthly numbers, and by the time it 
was finished Thackeray had taken his place in the front rank of his profes- 
sion. "Pendennis" followed in 1850, and sustained the prestige he had 
won. 

The next year he began lecturing, and delivered in London the lectures 
on "The English Humourists," which he repeated the following winter 
in America with much success. "Esmond" had appeared on the eve of 
his setting sail, and revealed his style at its highest point of perfection, 
and a tenderer if less powerful touch than "Vanity Fair" had displayed. 
In 1855 "The Newcomes" appeared, and was followed by a second 
trip to America, when he lectured on "The Four Georges." After an 
unsuccessful attempt to enter Parliament, the novelist resumed his writ- 
ing with "The Virginians" (1857-59), '^^ which he availed himself of 
his American experiences. 

In January of i860 the Cornhill Magazine was founded, with Thack- 
eray as first editor, and launched on a distinguished career. Most of his 
later work was published in its pages, but "Lovel the Widower" and 



6 INTRODUCTION 

the "Adventures of Philip" have not taken a place beside his greater 
work. In the essays constituting the "Roundabout Papers," however, he 
appeared at his easiest and most charming. After a litde more than two 
years he resigned the editorship; and on December 23, 1863, he died. 

Thackeray's greatest distinction is, of course, as a novelist, and an 
estimate of his work in this field is not in place here. But as an essayist 
he is also great. The lectures on "The English Humourists," of which 
the following paper on "Swift" was the first, were the fruit of an intimate 
knowledge of the time of Queen Anne, and a warm sympathy with its 
spirit. And here, as in all his mature work, Thackeray is the master of 
a style that for ease, suppleness, and range of effect has seldom been 
equaled in English. 



JONATHAN SWIFT^ 

By William Makepeace Thackeray 

IN treating of the English humourists of the past age, it is of the 
men and of their Hves, rather than of their books, that I ask 
permission to speak to you; and in doing so, you are aware 
that I cannot hope to entertain you with a merely humorous or 
facetious story. Harlequin without his mask is known to present 
a very sober countenance, and was himself, the story goes, the 
melancholy patient whom the Doctor advised to go and see Harle- 
quin — a man full of cares and perplexities like the rest of us, whose 
Self must always be serious to him, under whatever mask or dis- 
guise or uniform he presents it to the public. And as all of you 
here must needs be grave when you think of your own past and 
present, you will not look to find, in the histories of those whose 
lives and feelings I am going to try and describe to you, a story 
that is otherwise than serious, and often very sad. If Humour 
only meant laughter, you would scarcely feel more interest about 
humorous writers than about the private life of poor Harlequin 
just mentioned, who possesses in common with these the power 
of making you laugh. But the men regarding whose lives and 
stories your kind presence here shows that you have curiosity and 
sympathy, appeal to a great number of our other faculties, besides 
our mere sense of ridicule. The humorous writer professes to awaken 
and direct your love, your pity, your kindness — your scorn for 
untruth, pretension, imposture — your tenderness for the weak, the 
poor, the oppressed, the unhappy. To the best of his means and 
ability he comments on all the ordinary actions and passions of life 
almost. He takes upon himself to be the week-day preacher, so to 
speak. Accordingly, as he finds, and speaks, and feels the truth best 
we regard him, esteem him — sometimes love him. And, as his 

' From "The English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century." 
7 



8 THACKERAY 

business is to mark other people's lives and peculiarities, we moralize 
upon his life when he is gone — and yesterday's preacher becomes the 
text for to-day's sermon. 

Of English parents, and of a good English family of clergymen, 
Swift was born in Dublin in 1667, seven months after the death of 
his father, who had come to practise there as a lawyer. The boy 
went to school at Kilkenny, and afterwards to Trinity College, 
Dublin, where he got a degree with difficulty, and was wild, and 
witty, and poor. In 1688, by the recommendation of his mother. 
Swift was received into the family of Sir William Temple, who had 
known Mrs. Swift in Ireland. He left his patron in 1694, and the 
next year took orders in Dublin. But he threw up the small Irish 
preferment which he got and returned to Temple, in whose family 
he remained until Sir William's death in 1699. His hopes of 
advancement in England failing. Swift returned to Ireland, and 
took the living of Laracor. Hither he invited Hester Johnson, 
Temple's natural daughter, with whom he had contracted a tender 
friendship, while they were both dependants of Temple's. And 
with an occasional visit to England, Swift now passed nine years 
at home. 

In 1709 he came to England, and, with a brief visit to Ireland, dur- 
ing which he took possession of his deanery of St. Patrick, he now 
passed five years in England, taking the most distinguished part in 
the political transactions which terminated with the death of Queen 
Anne. After her death, his party disgraced, and his hopes of ambition 
over, Swift returned to Dublin, where he remained twelve years. 
In this time he wrote the famous "Drapier's Letters" and "Gulliver's 
Travels." He married Hester Johnson, Stella, and buried Esther 
Vanhomrigh, Vanessa, who had followed him to Ireland from Lon- 
don, where she had contracted a violent passion for him. In 1726 
and 1727 Swift was in England, which he quitted for the last time 
on hearing of his wife's illness. Stella died in January, 1728, and 
Swift not until 1745, having passed the last five of the seventy-eight 
years of his life with an impaired intellect and keepers to watch him. 

You know, of course, that Swift has had many biographers; his 
life has been told by the kindest and most good-natured of men, 
Scott, who admires but can't bring himself to love him; and by stout 



SWIFT 9 

old Johnson, who, forced to admit him into the company of poets, 
receives the famous Irishman, and takes off his hat to him with a 
bow of surly recognition, scans him from head to foot, and passes 
over to the other side of the street. Dr. Wilde of Dublin, who has 
written a most interesting volume on the closing years of Swift's 
life, calls Johnson "the most malignant of his biographers": it is 
not easy for an English critic to please Irishmen — ^perhaps to try and 
please them. And yet Johnson truly admires Swift: Johnson does 
not quarrel with Swift's change of politics, or doubt his sincerity of 
religion: about the famous Stella and Vanessa controversy the 
Doctor does not bear very hardly on Swift. But he could not give 
the Dean that honest hand of his; the stout old man puts it into 
his breast, and moves off from him. 

Would we have liked to live with him ? That is a question which, 
in dealing with these people's works, and thinking of their lives and 
peculiarities, every reader of biographies must put to himself. Would 
you have liked to be a friend of the great Dean? I should like to 
have been Shakspeare's shoeblack — just to have lived in his house, 
just to have worshipped him — to have run on his errands, and seen 
that sweet serene face. I should like, as a young man, to have lived 
on Fielding's staircase in the Temple, and after helping him up to 
bed perhaps, and opening his door with his latch-key, to have shaken 
hands with him in the morning, and heard him talk and crack 
jokes over his breakfast and his mug of small beer. Who would not 
give something to pass a night at the club with Johnson, and Gold- 
smith, and James Boswell, Esq., of Auchinleck? The charm of 
Addison's companionship and conversation has passed to us by 
fond tradition — but Swift? If you had been his inferior in parts 
(and that, with a great respect for all persons present, I fear is only 
very likely), his equal in mere social station, he would have bullied, 
scorned, and insulted you; if, undeterred by his great reputation, you 
had met him like a man, he would have quailed before you, and not 
had the pluck to reply, and gone home, and years after written a 
foul epigram about you — watched for you in a sewer, and come out 
to assail you with a coward's blow and a dirty bludgeon. If you had 
been a lord with a blue riband, who flattered his vanity, or could help 
his ambition, he would have been the most delightful company in the 



10 THACKERAY 

world. He would have been so manly, so sarcastic, so bright, odd, 
and original, that you might think he had no object in view but the 
indulgence of his humour and that he was the most reckless, simple 
creature in the world. How he would have torn your enemies to 
pieces for you! and made fun of the Opposition! His servility was 
so boisterous that it looked like independence; he would have done 
your errands, but with the air of patronizing you, and after fighting 
your battles, masked, in the street or the press, would have kept 
on his hat before your wife and daughters in the drawing-room, 
content to take that sort of pay for his tremendous services as a bravo. 

He says as much himself in one of his letters to Bolingbroke : — "All 
my endeavours to distinguish myself were only for want of a great 
title and fortune, that I might be used like a lord by those who have 
an opinion of my parts; whether right or wrong is no great matter. 
And so the reputation of wit and great learning does the office of a 
blue riband or a coach and six." 

Could there be a greater candour? It is an outlaw, who says, 
"These are my brains; with these I'll win titles and compete with 
fortune. These are my bullets; these I'll turn into gold"; and he 
hears the sound of coaches and six, takes the road like Macheath, 
and makes society stand and deliver. They are all on their knees 
before him. Down go my lord bishop's apron, and his Grace's blue 
riband, and my lady's brocade petticoat in the mud. He eases the 
one of a living, the other of a patent place, the third of a little snug 
post about the Court, and gives them over to followers of his own. 
The great prize has not come yet. The coach with the mitre and 
crosier in it, which he intends to have for his share, has been delayed 
on the way from St. James's; and he waits and waits until nightfall, 
when his runners come and tell him that the coach has taken a dif- 
ferent road, and escaped him. So he fires his pistols into the air with 
a curse, and rides away into his own country. 

Swift's seems to me to be as good a name to point a moral or adorn 
a tale of ambition, as any hero's that ever lived and failed. But we 
must remember that the morality was lax — that other gentlemen 
besides himself took the road in his day — that public society was in a 
strange disordered condition, and the State was ravaged by other 
condottieri. The Boyne was being fought and won, and lost — the 



SWIFT II 

bells rung in William's victory, in the very same tone with which 
they would have pealed for James's. Men were loose upon politics, 
and had to shift for themselves. They, as well as old beliefs and 
institutions, had lost their moorings and gone adrift in the storm. 
As in the South Sea Bubble, almost everybody gambled; as in the 
Railway mania — not many centuries ago — almost every one took his 
unlucky share: a man of that time, of the vast talents and ambition 
of Swift, could scarce do otherwise than grasp at his prize, and make 
his spring at his opportunity. His bitterness, his scorn, his rage, his 
subsequent misanthropy, are ascribed by some panegyrists to a 
deliberate conviction of mankind's unworthiness, and a desire to 
amend them by castigating. His youth was bitter, as that of a great 
genius bound down by ignoble ties, and powerless in a mean 
dependence; his age was bitter, like that of a great genius that had 
fought the battle and nearly won it, and lost it, and thought of it 
afterwards writhing in a lonely exile. A man may attribute to the 
gods, if he likes, what is caused by his own fury, or disappointment, 
or self-will. What public man — what statesman projecting a coup — 
what king determined on an invasion of his neighbour — what satirist 
meditating an onslaught on society or an individual, can't give a 
pretext for his move? There was a French general the other day 
who proposed to march into this country and put it to sack and 
pillage, in revenge for humanity outraged by our conduct at Copen- 
hagen: there is always some excuse for men of the aggressive turn. 
They are of their nature warlike, predatory, eager for fight, plunder, 
dominion. 

As fierce a beak and talon as ever struck — as strong a wing as ever 
beat, belonged to Swift. I am glad, for one, that fate wrested the 
prey out of his claws, and cut his wings and chained him. One can 
gaze, and not without awe and pity, at the lonely eagle chained 
behind the bars. 

That Swift was born at No. 7, Hoey's Court, Dublin, on the 30th 
November, 1667, is a certain fact, of which nobody will deny the 
sister island the honour and glory; but, it seems to me, he was no 
more an Irishman than a man born of English parents at Calcutta 
is a Hindoo. Goldsmith was an Irishman, and always an Irishman: 
Steele was an Irishman, and always an Irishman: Swift's heart was 



12 THACKERAY 

English and in England, his habits English, his logic eminently 
English; his statement is elaborately simple; he shuns tropes and 
metaphors, and uses his ideas and words with a wise thrift and 
economy, as he used his money: with which he could be generous 
and splendid upon great occasions, but which he husbanded when 
there was no need to spend it. He never indulges in needless extrava- 
gance of rhetoric, lavish epithets, profuse imagery. He lays his 
opinion before you with a grave simplicity and a perfect neatness. 
Dreading ridicule too, as a man of his humour — above all an Eng- 
lishman of his humour — certainly would, he is afraid to use the 
poetical power which he really possessed; one often fancies in reading 
him that he dares not be eloquent when he might; that he does not 
speak above his voice, as it were, and the tone of society. 

His initiation into politics, his knowledge of business, his knowl- 
edge of polite life, his acquaintance with literature even, which he 
could not have pursued very sedulously during that reckless career 
at Dublin, Swift got under the roof of Sir William Temple. He was 
fond of telling in after life what quantities of books he devoured 
there, and how King William taught him to cut asparagus in the 
Dutch fashion. It was at Shene and at Moor Park, with a salary of 
twenty pounds and a dinner at the upper servants' table, that this 
great and lonely Swift passed a ten years' apprenticeship — wore a 
cassock that was only not a livery — bent down a knee as proud as 
Lucifer's to supplicate my lady's good graces, or run on his honour's 
errands. It was here, as he was writing at Temple's table, or follow- 
ing his patron's walk, that he saw and heard the men who had 
governed the great world — measured himself with them, looking 
up from his silent corner, gauged their brains, weighed their wits, 
turned them, and tried them, and marked them. Ah! what platitudes 
he must have heard! what feeble jokes' what pompous common- 
places! what small men they must have seemed under those enor- 
mous periwigs, to the swarthy, uncouth, silent Irish secretary. I 
wonder whether it ever struck Temple, that that Irishman was his 
master? I suppose that dismal conviction did not present itself 
under the ambrosial wig, or Temple could never have lived with 



SWIFT 13 

Swift. Swift sickened, rebelled, left the service — ate humble pie 
and came back again; and so for ten years went on, gathering learn- 
ing, swallowing scorn, and submitting with a stealthy rage to his 
fortune. 

Temple's style is the perfection o£ practised and easy good- 
breeding. If he does not penetrate very deeply into a subject, he 
professes a very gentlemanly acquaintance with it; if he makes 
rather a parade of Latin, it was the custom of his day, as it was the 
custom for a gentleman to envelope his head in a periwig and his 
hands in lace ruffles. If he wears buckles and square-toed shoes, he 
steps in them with a consummate grace, and you never hear their 
creak, or find them treading upon any lady's train or any rival's 
heels in the Court crowd. When that grows too hot or too agitated 
for him, he politely leaves it. He retires to his retreat of Shene or 
Moor Park; and lets the King's party and the Prince of Orange's 
party battle it out among themselves. He reveres the Sovereign (and 
no man perhaps ever testified to his loyalty by so elegant a bow) ; 
he admires the Prince of Orange; but there is one person whose 
ease and comfort he loves more than all the princes in Christendom, 
and that valuable member of society is himself, Gulielmus Temple, 
Baronettus. One sees him in his retreat; between his study-chair and 
his tulip-beds, clipping his apricots and pruning his essays, — the 
statesman, the ambassador no more; but the philosopher, the Epi- 
curean, the fine gentleman and courtier at St. James's as at Shene; 
where in place of kings and fair ladies, he pays his court to the 
Ciceronian majesty; or walks a minuet with the Epic Muse; or 
dallies by the south wall with the ruddy nymph of gardens. 

Temple seems to have received and exacted a prodigious deal of 
veneration from his household, and to have been coaxed, and 
warmed, and cuddled by the people round about him, as delicately 
as any of the plants which he loved. When he fell ill in 1693, the 
household was aghast at his indisposition: mild Dorothea, his wife, 
the best companion of the best of men — 

"Mild Dorothea, peaceful, wise, and great, 
Trembling beheld the doubtful hand of fate." 



14 THACKERAY 

As for Dorinda, his sister, — 

"Those who would grief describe, might come and trace 
Its watery footsteps in Dorinda's face. 
To see her weep, joy every face forsook, 
And grief flung sables on each menial look. 
The humble tribe mourned for the quickening soul, 
That furnished spirit and motion through the whole." 

Isn't that line in which grief is described as putting the menials into 
a mourning livery, a fine image.'' One of the menials wrote it, who 
did not like that Temple livery nor those twenty-pound wages. 
Cannot one fancy the uncouth young servitor, with downcast eyes, 
books and papers in hand, following at his honour's heels in the 
garden walk; or taking his honour's orders as he stands by the great 
chair, where Sir William has the gout, and his feet all blistered with 
moxa-f" When Sir William has the gout or scolds it must be hard 
work at the second table; the Irish secretary owned as much after- 
wards: and when he came to dinner, how he must have lashed and 
growled and torn the household with his gibes and scorn! What 
would the steward say about the pride of them Irish schollards — 
and this one had got no great credit even at his Irish college, if the 
truth were known — and what a contempt his Excellency's own 
gentleman must have had for Parson Teague from Dublin. (The 
valets and chaplains were always at war. It is hard to say which 
Swift thought the more contemptible.) And what must have been 
the sadness, the sadness and terror, of the housekeeper's little daugh- 
ter with the curling black ringlets and the sweet smiling face, when 
the secretary who teaches her to read and write, and whom she 
loves and reverences above all things — above mother, above mild 
Dorothea, above that tremendous Sir William in his square-toes 
and periwig, — when Mr. Swift comes down from his master with 
rage in his heart, and has not a kind word even for little Hester 
Johnson .'' 

Perhaps, for the Irish secretary, his Excellency's condescension was 
even more cruel than his frowns. Sir William would perpetually 
quote Latin and the ancient classics apropos of his gardens and his 
Dutch statues and plates-bandes, and talk about Epicurus and 
Diogenes Laertius, Julius Caesar, Semiramis, and the gardens of the 



SWIFT 15 

Hesperides, Maecenas, Strabo describing Jericho, and the Assyrian 
kings. Apropos of beans, he would mention Pythagoras's precept 
to abstain from beans, and that this precept probably meant that wise 
men should abstain from public affairs. He is a placid Epicurean; 
he is a Pythagorean philosopher; he is a wise man — that is the 
deduction. Does not Swift think so? One can imagine the down- 
cast eyes lifted up for a moment, and the flash of scorn which they 
emit. Swift's eyes were as azure as the heavens; Pope says nobly 
(as everything Pope said and thought of his friend was good and 
noble), "His eyes are as azure as the heavens, and have a charming 
archness in them." And one person in that household, that pompous, 
stately, kindly Moor Park, saw heaven nowhere else. 

But the Temple amenities and solemnities did not agree with 
Swift. He was half killed with a surfeit of Shene pippins; and in a 
garden-seat which he devised for himself at Moor Park, and where 
he devoured greedily the stock of books within his reach, he caught 
a vertigo and deafness which punished and tormented him through 
life. He could not bear the place or the servitude. Even in that 
poem of courtly condolence, from which we have quoted a few lines 
of mock melancholy, he breaks out of the funereal procession with a 
mad shriek, as it were, and rushes away crying his own grief, cursing 
his own fate, foreboding madness, and forsaken by fortune, and even 
hope. 

I don't know anything more melancholy than the letter to Tem- 
ple, in which, after having broke from his bondage, the poor wretch 
crouches piteously towards his cage again, and deprecates his mas- 
ter's anger. He asks for testimonials for orders. "The particulars 
required of me are what relate to morals and learning; and the 
reasons of quitting your honour's family — that is, whether the last 
was occasioned by any ill action. They are left entirely to your 
honour's mercy, though in the first I think I cannot reproach myself 
for anything further than for infirmities. This is all I dare at 
present beg from your honour, under circumstances of life not 
worth your regard: what is left me to wish (next to the health and 
prosperity of your honour and family) is that Heaven would one 
day allow me the opportunity of leaving my acknowledgments at 
your feet. I beg my most humble duty and service be presented to 



l6 THACKERAY 

my ladies, your honour's lady and sister." — Can prostration fall 
deeper? could a slave bow lower? 

Twenty years afterwards Bishop Kennet, describing the same 
man, says, "Dr. Swift came into the coffee-house and had a bow 
from everybody but me. When I came to the antechamber [at 
Court] to wait before prayers, Dr. Swift was the principal man of 
talk and business. He was soliciting the Earl of Arran to speak 
to his brother, the Duke of Ormond, to get a place for a clergyman. 
He was promising Mr. Thorold to undertake, with my Lord Treas- 
urer, that he should obtain a salary of 200/. per annum as member of 
the English Church at Rotterdam. He stopped F. Gwynne, Esq., 
going into the Queen with the red bag, and told him aloud, he had 
something to say to him from my Lord Treasurer. He took out 
his gold watch, and telling the time of day, complained that it was 
very late. A gentleman said he was too fast. 'How can I help it,' 
says the Doctor, 'if the courtiers give me a watch that won't go 
right?' Then he instructed a young nobleman, that the best poet in 
England was Mr. Pope (a Papist), who had begun a translation of 
Homer into English, for which he would have them all subscribe: 
'For,' says he, 'he shall not begin to print till I have a thousand 
guineas for him.' Lord Treasurer, after leaving the Queen, came 
through the room, beckoning Dr. Swift to follow him, — both went 
off just before prayers." There's a little malice in the Bishop's "just 
before prayers." 

This picture of the great Dean seems a true one, and is harsh, 
though not altogether unpleasant. He was doing good, and to 
deserving men too, in the midst of these intrigues and triumphs. 
His journals and a thousand anecdotes of him relate his kind acts 
and rough manners. His hand was constantly stretched out to 
relieve an honest man — he was cautious about his money, but 
ready. — If you were in a strait would you like such a benefactor? 
I think I would rather have had a potato and a friendly word from 
Goldsmith than have been beholden to the Dean for a guinea and 
a dinner. He insulted a man as he served him, made women cry, 
guests look foolish, bullied unlucky friends, and flung his benefac- 
tions into poor men's faces. No; the Dean was no Irishman — ^no 
Irishman ever gave but with a kind word and a kind heart. 



SWIFT 17 

It is told, as if it were to Swift's credit, that the Dean of St. 
Patrick's performed his family devotions every morning regularly, 
but with such secrecy that the guests in his house were never in the 
least aware of the ceremony. There was no need surely why a 
church dignitary should assemble his family privily in a crypt, and 
as if he was afraid of heathen persecution. But I think the world 
was right, and the bishops who advised Queen Anne, when they 
counselled her not to appoint the author of the "Tale of a Tub" to 
a bishopric, gave perfectly good advice. The man who wrote the 
arguments and illustrations in that wild book, could not but be 
aware what must be the sequel of the propositions which he laid 
down. The boon companion of Pope and Bolingbroke, who chose 
these as the friends of his life, and the recipients of his confidence 
and affection, must have heard many an argument, and joined in 
many a conversation over Pope's port, or St. John's burgundy, which 
would not bear to be repeated at other men's boards. 

I know of few things more conclusive as to the sincerity of 
Swift's religion than his advice to poor John Gay to turn clergyman, 
and look out for a seat on the Bench. Gay, the author of the 
"Beggar's Opera" — Gay, the wildest of the wits about town — it was 
this man that Jonathan Swift advised to take orders — to invest in 
a cassock and bands — just as he advised him to husband his shil- 
lings and put his thousand pounds out at interest. The Queen, 
and the bishops, and the world, were right in mistrusting the re- 
ligion of that man. 

I am not here, of course, to speak of any man's religious views, 
except in so far as they influence his literary character, his life, his 
humour. The most notorious sinners of all those fellow-mortals 
whom it is our business to discuss — Harry Fielding and Dick Steele, 
were especially loud, and I believe really fervent, in their expres- 
sions of belief; they belaboured freethinkers, and stoned imaginary 
atheists on all sorts of occasions, going out of their way to bawl 
their own creed, and persecute their neighbour's, and if they sinned 
and stumbled, as they constantly did with debt, with drink, with 
all sorts of bad behaviour, they got upon their knees and cried 
"Peccavi" with a most sonorous orthodoxy. Yes; poor Harry Field- 
ing and poor Dick Steele were trusty and undoubting Church of 



1 8 THACKERAY 

England men; they abhorred Popery, Atheism, and wooden shoes, 
and idolatries in general; and hiccupped Church and State with 
fervour. 

But Swift? His mind had had a different schooling, and pos- 
sessed a very different logical power. He was not bred up in a tipsy 
guard-room, and did not learn to reason in a Covent Garden tavern. 
He could conduct an argument from beginning to end. He could 
see forward with a fatal clearness. In his old age, looking at the 
"Tale of a Tub," when he said, "Good God, what a genius I had 
when I wrote that book!" I think he was admiring not the genius, 
but the consequences to which the genius had brought him — a vast 
genius, a magnificent genius, a genius wonderfully bright, and 
dazzling, and strong, — to seize, to know, to see, to flash upon false- 
hood and scorch it into perdition, to penetrate into the hidden 
motives, and expose the black thoughts of men, — an awful, an evil 
spirit. 

Ah man! you, educated in Epicurean Temple's library, you whose 
friends were Pope and St. John — what made you to swear to fatal 
vows, and bind yourself to a life-long hypocrisy before the Heaven 
which you adored with such real wonder, humility, and reverence? 
For Swift was a reverent, was a pious spirit — for Swift could love 
and could pray. Through the storms and tempests of his furious 
mind, the stars of religion and love break out in the blue, shining 
serenely, though hidden by the driving clouds and the maddened 
hurricane of his life. 

It is my belief that he suffered frightfully from the consciousness 
of his own scepticism, and that he had bent his pride so far down 
as to put his apostasy out to hire. The paper left behind him, called 
"Thoughts on Religion," is merely a set of excuses for not pro- 
fessing disbelief. He says of his sermons that he preached pamphlets : 
they have scarce a Christian characteristic; they might be preached 
from the steps of a synagogue, or the floor of a mosque, or the box 
of a coffee-house almost. There is little or no cant — he is too great 
and too proud for that; and, in so far as the badness of his sermons 
goes, he is honest. But having put that cassock on, it poisoned him: 
he was strangled in his bands. He goes through life, tearing, like 
a man possessed with a devil. Like Abudah in the Arabian story, 



SWIFT 19 

he is always looking out for the Fury, and knows that the night 
will come and the inevitable hag with it. What a night, my God, 
it was! what a lonely rage and long agony — what a vulture that tore 
the heart of that giant! It is awful to think of the great sufferings 
of this great man. Through life he always seems alone, somehow. 
Goethe was so. I can't fancy Shakspeare otherwise. The giants must 
live apart. The kings can have no company. But this man suffered 
so; and deserved so to suffer. One hardly reads anywhere of such 
a pain. 

The "saeva indignatio" of which he spoke as lacerating his heart, 
and which he dares to inscribe on his tombstone — as if the wretch 
who lay under that stone waiting God's judgment had a right to 
be angry, — breaks out from him in a thousand pages of his writing, 
and tears and rends him. Against men in office, he having been 
overthrown; against men in England, he having lost his chance of 
preferment there, the furious exile never fails to rage and curse. 
Is it fair to call the famous "Drapier's Letters" patriotism.? They 
are masterpieces of dreadful humour and invective: they are rea- 
soned logically enough too, but the proposition is as monstrous and 
fabulous as the Lilliputian island. It is not that the grievance is so 
great, but there is his enemy — the assault is wonderful for its activity 
and terrible rage. It is Samson, with a bone in his hand, rushing 
on his enemies and felling them : one admires not the cause so much 
as the strength, the anger, the fury of the champion. As is the case 
with madmen, certain subjects provoke him, and awaken his fits 
of wrath. Marriage is one of these; in a hundred passages in his 
writings he rages against it; rages against children; an object of 
constant satire, even more contemptible in his eyes than a lord's 
chaplain, is a poor curate with a large family. The idea of this 
luckless paternity never fails to bring down from him gibes and 
foul language. Could Dick Steele, or Goldsmith, or Fielding, in 
his most reckless moment of satire, have written anything like the 
Dean's famous "modest proposal" for eating children.? Not one of 
these but melts at the thoughts of childhood, fondles and caresses it. 
Mr. Dean has no such softness, and enters the nursery with the 
tread and gaiety of an ogre. "I have been assured," says he in the 
"Modest Proposal," "by a very knowing American of my acquaint- 



20 THACKERAY 

ance in London, that a young healthy child, well nursed, is, at a 
year old, a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether 
stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt it will 
equally serve in a ragout." And taking up this pretty joke, as his 
way is, he argues it with perfect gravity and logic. He turns and 
twists this subject in a score of different ways: he hashes it; and he 
serves it up cold; and he garnishes it; and relishes it always. He 
describes the little animal as "dropped from its dam," advising 
that the mother should let it suck plentifully in the last month, so 
as to render it plump and fat for a good table! 

"A child," says his Reverence, "will make two dishes at an enter- 
tainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or 
hind quarter will make a reasonable dish," and so on; and, the 
subject being so delightful that he can't leave it, he proceeds to 
recommend, in place of venison for squires' tables, "the bodies of 
young lads and maidens not exceeding fourteen or under twelve." 
Amiable humourist! laughing castigator of morals! There was a 
process well known and practised in the Dean's gay days: when a 
lout entered the coffee-house, the wags proceeded to what they 
called "roasting" him. This is roasting a subject with a vengeance. 
The Dean had a native genius for it. As the "Almanach des Gour- 
mands" says. On nait rotisseur. 

And it was not merely by the sarcastic method that Swift exposed 
the unreasonableness of loving and having children. In Gulliver, 
the folly of love and marriage is urged by graver arguments and 
advice. In the famous Lilliputian kingdom. Swift speaks with ap- 
proval of the practice of instantly removing children from their 
parents and educating them by the State; and amongst his favourite 
horses, a pair of foals are stated to be the very utmost a well-regu- 
lated equine couple would permit themselves. In fact, our great 
satirist was of opinion that conjugal love was unadvisable, and 
illustrated the theory by his own practice and example — God help 
him — which made him about the most wretched being in God's 
world. 

The grave and logical conduct of an absurd proposition, as exem- 
plified in the cannibal proposal just mentioned, is our author's con- 
stant method through all his works of humour. Given a country 



SWIFT 21 

of people six inches or sixty feet high, and by the mere process 
of the logic, a thousand wonderful absurdities are evolved, at so 
many stages of the calculation. Turning to the first minister who 
waited behind him with a white staff near as tall as the mainmast 
of the "Royal Sovereign," the King of Brobdingnag observes how 
contemptible a thing human grandeur is, as represented by such 
a contemptible little creature as Gulliver. "The Emperor of Lilliput's 
features are strong and masculine" (what a surprising humour there 
is in this description!) — "The Emperor's features," Gulliver says, 
"are strong and masculine, with an Austrian lip, an arched nose, his 
complexion olive, his countenance erect, his body and limbs well 
proportioned, and his deportment majestic. He is taller by the 
breadth of my nail than any of his court, which alone is enough to 
strike an awe into beholders." 

What a surprising humour there is in these descriptions! How 
noble the satire is here! how just and honest! How perfect the 
image! Mr. Macaulay has quoted the charming lines of the poet, 
where the king of the pigmies is measured by the same standard. 
We have all read in Milton of the spear that was like "the mast 
of some tall admiral," but these images are surely likely to come 
to the comic poet originally. The subject is before him. He is turn- 
ing it in a thousand ways. He is full of it. The figure suggests itself 
naturally to him, and comes out of his subject, as in that wonderful 
passage when Gulliver's box having been dropped by the eagle 
into the sea, and Gulliver having been received into the ship's cabin, 
he calls upon the crew to bring the box into the cabin, and put it on 
the table, the cabin being only a quarter the size of the box. It is 
the veracity of the blunder which is so admirable. Had a man 
come from such a country as Brobdingnag he would have blun- 
dered so. 

But the best stroke of humour, if there be a best in that abound- 
ing book, is that where Gulliver, in the unpronounceable country, 
describes his parting from his master the horse. "I took," he says, 
"a second leave of my master, but as I was going to prostrate myself 
to kiss his hoof, he did me the honour to raise it gently to my mouth. 
I am not ignorant how much I have been censured for mentioning 
this last particular. Detractors are pleased to think it improbable 



22 THACKERAY 

that so illustrious a person should descend to give so great a mark 
of distinction to a creature so inferior as I. Neither have I forgotten 
how apt some travellers are to boast of extraordinary favours they 
have received. But if these censurers were better acquainted with 
the noble and courteous disposition of the Houyhnhnms they would 
soon change their opinion." 

The surprise here, the audacity of circumstantial evidence, the 
astounding gravity of the speaker, who is not ignorant how much 
he has been censured, the nature of the favour conferred, and the 
respectful exultation at the receipt of it, are surely complete; it is 
truth topsy-turvy, entirely logical and absurd. 

As for the humour and conduct of this famous fable, I suppose 
there is no person who reads but must admire; as for the moral, I 
think it horrible, shameful, unmanly, blasphemous; and giant and 
great as this Dean is, I say we should hoot him. Some of this 
audience mayn't have read the last part of Gulliver, and to such 
I would recall the advice of the venerable Mr. Punch to persons 
about to marry, and say "Don't." When GulHver first lands among 
the Yahoos, the naked howling wretches clamber up trees and 
assault him, and he describes himself as "almost stifled with the filth 
which fell about him." The reader of the fourth part of "Gulliver's 
Travels" is like the hero himself in this instance. It is Yahoo lan- 
guage: a monster gibbering shrieks, and gnashing imprecations 
against mankind — tearing down all shreds of modesty, past all sense 
of manliness and shame; filthy in word, filthy in thought, furious, 
raging, obscene. 

And dreadful it is to think that Swift knew the tendency of his 
creed — the fatal rocks towards which his logic desperately drifted. 
That last part of "Gulliver" is only a consequence of what has gone 
before; and the worthlessness of all mankind, the pettiness, cruelty, 
pride, imbecility, the general vanity, the foolish pretension, the 
mock greatness, the pompous dulness, the mean aims, the base 
successes — all these were present to him; it was with the din of 
these curses of the world, blasphemies against heaven, shrieking 
in his ears, that he began to write his dreadful allegory — of which 
the meaning is that man is utterly wicked, desperate and imbecile, 
and his passions are so monstrous, and his boasted powers so mean, 



SWIFT 23 

that he is and deserves to be the slave of brutes, and ignorance is 
better than his vaunted reason. What had this man done? what 
secret remorse was rankUng at his heart? what fever was boihng 
in him, that he should see all the world bloodshot? We view the 
world with our own eyes, each of us; and we make from within 
us the world we see. A weary heart gets no gladness out of sun- 
shine; a selfish man is sceptical about friendship, as a man with 
no ear doesn't care for music. A frightful self-consciousness it must 
have been, which looked on mankind so darkly through those keen 
eyes of Swift. 

A remarkable story is told by Scott, of Delany, who interrupted 
Archbishop King and Swift in a conversation which left the prelate 
in tears, and from which Swift rushed away with marks of strong 
terror and agitation in his countenance, upon which the Archbishop 
said to Delany, "You have just met the most unhappy man on earth; 
but on the subject of his wretchedness you must never ask a ques- 
tion." 

The most unhappy man on earth; — Miserrimus — what a character 
of him! And at this time all the great wits of England had been 
at his feet. All Ireland had shouted after him, and worshipped him 
as a liberator, a saviour, the greatest Irish patriot and citizen. Dean 
Drapier BickerstafI Gulliver — the most famous statesmen, and the 
greatest poets of his day, had applauded him, and done him homage; 
and at this time, writing over to Bolingbroke from Ireland, he says, 
"It is time for me to have done with the world, and so I would if I 
could get into a better before I was called into the best, and not 
die here in a rage, lil^e a poisoned rat in a hole." 

We have spoken about the men, and Swift's behaviour to them; 
and now it behoves us not to forget that there are certain other 
persons in the creation who had rather intimate relations with the 
great Dean. Two women whom he loved and injured are known 
by every reader of books so familiarly that if we had seen them, or 
if they had been relatives of our own, we scarcely could have known 
them better. Who hasn't in his mind an image of Stella? Who 
does not love her? Fair and tender creature: pure and affectionate 
heart! Boots it to you, now that you have been at rest for a hundred 
and twenty years, not divided in death from the cold heart which 



24 THACKERAY 

caused yours, whilst it beat, such faithful pangs of love and grief — 
boots it to you now, that the whole world loves and deplores you? 
Scarce any man, I believe, ever thought of that grave, that did not 
cast a flower of pity on it, and write over it a sweet epitaph. Gentle 
lady, so lovely, so loving, so unhappy! you have had countless cham- 
pions; millions of manly hearts mourning for you. From generation 
to generation we take up the fond tradition of your beauty; we 
watch and follow your tragedy, your bright morning love and 
purity, your constancy, your grief, your sweet martyrdom. We 
know your legend by heart. You are one of the saints of English 
story. 

And if Stella's love and innocence are charming to contemplate, 
I will say that in spite of ill-usage, in spite of drawbacks, in spite 
of mysterious separation and union, of hope delayed and sickened 
heart — ^in the teeth of Vanessa, and that little episodical aberration 
which plunged Swift into such woful pitfalls and quagmires of 
amorous perplexity — ^in spite of the verdicts of most women, I be- 
lieve, who, as far as my experience and conversation go, generally 
take Vanessa's part in the controversy — in spite of the tears which 
Swift caused Stella to shed, and the rocks and barriers which fate 
and temper interposed, and which prevented the pure course of 
that true love from running smoothly — the brightest part of Swift's 
story, the pure star in that dark and tempestuous life of Swift's, is 
his love for Hester Johnson. It has been my business, professionally 
of course, to go through a deal of sentimental reading in my time, 
and to acquaint myself with love-making, as it has been described 
in various languages, and at various ages of the world; and I know 
of nothing more manly, more tender, more exquisitely touching, 
than some of these brief notes, written in what Swift calls "his little 
language" in his journal to Stella. 

He writes to her night and morning often. He never sends away 
a letter to her but he begins a new one on the same day. He can't 
bear to let go her kind little hand, as it were. He knows that she 
is thinking of him, and longing for him far away in Dublin yonder. 
He takes her letters from under his pillow and talks to them, famil- 
iarly, paternally, with fond epithets and pretty caresses — as he would 
to the sweet and artless creature who loved him. "Stay," he writes 



SWIFT 25 

one morning — it is the 14th of December, 1710 — "Stay, I will answer 
some of your letter this morning in bed. Let me see. Come and 
appear, little letter! Here I am, says he, and what say you to Stella 
this morning fresh and fasting? And can Stella read this writing 
without hurting her dear eyes?" he goes on, after more kind prattle 
and fond whispering. The dear eyes shine clearly upon him then — 
the good angel of his life is with him and blessing him. Ah, it was 
a hard fate that wrung from them so many tears, and stabbed 
pitilessly that pure and tender bosom. A hard fate: but would she 
have changed it? I have heard a woman say that she would have 
taken Swift's cruelty to have had his tenderness. He had a sort of 
worship for her whilst he wounded her. He speaks of her after she 
is gone; of her wit, of her kindness, of her grace, of her beauty, 
with a simple love and reverence that are indescribably touching; 
in contemplation of her goodness his hard heart melts into pathos; 
his cold rhyme kindles and glows into poetry, and he falls down 
on his knees, so to speak, before the angel whose life he had em- 
bittered, confesses his own wretchedness and unworthiness, and 
adores her with cries of remorse and love: — 
"When on my sickly couch I lay. 

Impatient both of night and day. 

And groaning in unmanly strains, 

Called every power to ease my pains. 

Then Stella ran to my relief. 

With cheerful face and inward grief. 

And though by heaven's severe decree 

She suffers hourly more than me. 

No cruel master could require 

From slaves employed for daily hire, 

What Stella, by her friendship warmed, 

With vigour and delight performed. 

Now, with a soft and silent tread, 

Unheard she moves about my bed: 

My sinking spirits now supplies 

With cordials in her hands and eyes. 

Best pattern of true friends! beware; 

You pay too dearly for your care 

If, while your tenderness secures 

My life, it must endanger yours: 

For such a fool was never found 



26 THACKERAY 

Who pulled a palace to the ground. 
Only to have the ruins made 
Materials for a house decayed." 

One little triumph Stella had in her life — one dear little piece of 
injustice was performed in her favour, for which I confess, for my 
part, i can't help thanking fate and the Dean. That other person 
was sacrificed to her — that — that young woman, who lived five doors 
from Dr. Swift's lodgings in Bury Street, and who flattered him, and 
made love to him in such an outrageous manner — ^Vanessa was 
thrown over. 

Swift did not keep Stella's letters to him in reply to those he 
wrote to her. He kept Bolingbroke's, and Pope's, and Harley's, and 
Peterborough's: but Stella, "very carefully," the Lives say, kept 
Swift's. Of course: that is the way of the world: and we cannot tell 
what her style was, or of what sort were the little letters which the 
Doctor placed there at night, and bade to appear from under his 
pillow of a morning. But in Letter IV. of that famous collection he 
describes his lodging in Bury Street, where he has the first floor, a 
dining-room and bed-chamber, at eight shillings a week; and in 
Letter VI. he says "he has visited a lady just come to town," whose 
name somehow is not mentioned; and in Letter VIII. he enters 
a query of Stella's — "What do you mean 'that boards near me, that 
I dine with now and then'? What the deuce! You know whom 
I have dined with every day since I left you, better than I do." Of 
course she does. Of course Swift has not the slightest idea of what 
she means. But in a few letters more it turns out that the Doctor 
has been to dine "gravely" with a Miss Vanhomrigh: then that he 
has been to "his neighbour": then that he has been unwell, and 
means to dine for the whole week with his neighbour! Stella was 
quite right in her previsions. She saw from the very first hint, 
what was going to happen; and scented Vanessa in the air. The 
rival is at the Dean's feet. The pupil and teacher are reading to- 
gether, and drinking tea together, and going to prayers together, 
and learning Latin together, and conjugating amo, atnas, amavi 
together. The little language is over for poor Stella. By the rule 
of grammar and the course of conjugation, doesn't amavi come 
after amo and amas? 



SWIFT 27 

The loves o£ Cadenus and Vanessa you may peruse in Cadenus's 
own poem on the subject, and in poor Vanessa's vehement expostu- 
latory verses and letters to him; she adores him, implores him, 
admires him, thinks him something godlike, and only prays to be 
admitted to lie at his feet. As they are bringing him home from 
church, those divine feet of Dr. Swift's are found pretty often in 
Vanessa's parlour. He likes to be admired and adored. He finds 
Miss Vanhomrigh to be a woman of great taste and spirit, and 
beauty and wit, and a fortune too. He sees her every day; he does 
not tell Stella about the business: until the impetuous Vanessa be- 
comes too fond of him, until the Doctor is quite frightened by the 
young woman's ardour, and confounded by her warmth. He wanted 
to marry neither of them — that I believe was the truth; but if he had 
not married Stella, Vanessa would have had him in spite of himself. 
When he went back to Ireland, his Ariadne, not content to remain in 
her isle, pursued the fugitive Dean. In vain he protested, he vowed, 
he soothed, and bullied; the news of the Dean's marriage with Stella 
at last came to her, and it killed her — she died of that passion. 

And when she died, and Stella heard that Swift had written 
beautifully regarding her, "That doesn't surprise me," said Mrs. 
Stella, "for we all know the Dean could write beautifully about a 
broomstick." A woman — a true woman! Would you have had one 
of them forgive the other.? 

In a note in his biography, Scott says that his friend Dr. Tuke of 
Dublin has a lock of Stella's hair, enclosed in a paper by Swift, on 
which are written, in the Dean's hand, the words: "Only a woman's 
hair." An instance, says Scott, of the Dean's desire to veil his feelings 
under the mask of cynical indifference. 

See the various notions of critics! Do those words indicate indiffer- 
ence or an attempt to hide feeling ? Did you ever hear or read four 
words more pathetic ? Only a woman's hair : only love, only fidelity, 
only purity, innocence, beauty; only the tenderest heart in the world 
stricken and wounded, and passed away now out of reach of pangs 
of hope deferred, love insulted, and pitiless desertion: — only that 
lock of hair left; and memory and remorse, for the guilty, lonely 
wretch, shuddering over the grave of his victim. 

And yet to have had so much love, he must have given some. 



28 THACKERAY 

Treasures o£ wit and wisdom, and tenderness, too, must that man 
have had locked up in the caverns of his gloomy heart, and shown 
fitfully to one or two whom he took in there. But it was not good 
to visit that place. People did not remain there long, and suffered 
for having been there. He shrank away from all afJections sooner 
or later. Stella and Vanessa both died near him, and away from 
him. He had not heart enough to see them die. He broke from his 
fastest friend, Sheridan; he slunk away from his fondest admirer, 
Pope. His laugh jars on one's ear after seven score years. He was 
always alone — alone and gnashing in the darkness, except when 
Stella's sweet smile came and shone upon him. When that went, 
silence and utter night closed over him. An immense genius; an 
awful downfall and ruin. So great a man he seems to me, that 
thinking of him is like thinking of an empire falling. We have 
other great names to mention — none I think, however, so great or 
so gloomy. 



THE IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY 

BY 

JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

John Henry Newman was born in London, February 21, 1801. Going 
up to Oxford at sixteen, he gained a scholarship at Trinity College, and 
after graduation became fellow and tutor of Oriel, then the most alive, 
intellectually, of the Oxford colleges. He took orders, and in 1828 was 
appointed vicar of St. Mary's, the university church. In 1832 he had to 
resign his tutorship on account of a difference of opinion with the head 
of the college as to his duties and responsibilities, Newman regarding 
his function as one of a "substantially religious nature." 

Returning to Oxford the next year from a journey on the Continent, 
he began, in cooperation with R. H. Froude and others, the publication 
of the "Tracts for the Times," a series of pamphlets which gave a name 
to the "Tractarian" or "Oxford" movement for the defence of the "doc- 
trine of apostolical succession and the integrity of the Prayer-Book." 
After several years of agitation, during which Newman came to exercise 
an extraordinary influence in Oxford, the movement and its leader fell 
under the official ban of the university and of the Anglican bishops, and 
Newman withdrew from Oxford, feeling that the Anglican Church had 
herself destroyed the defences which he had sought to build for her. In 
October, 1845, he was received into the Roman Church. 

The next year he went to Rome, and on his return introduced into 
England the institute of the Oratory. In 1854 he went to Dublin for 
four years as rector of the new Catholic university, and while there wrote 
his volume on "The Idea of a University," in which he expounds with 
wonderful clearness of thought and beauty of language his view of the 
aim of education. In 1879 he was created cardinal in recognition of his 
services to the cause of religion in England, and in 1890 he died. Of 
the history of Newman's religious opinions and influence no hint can be 
given here. The essays which follow do, indeed, imply important and 
fundamental elements of his system of belief; but they can be taken in 
detachment as the exposition of a view of the nature and value of culture 
by a man who was himself the fine flower of English university training 
and a master of English prose. 



THE IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY 

I. WHAT IS A UNIVERSITY? 

IF I were asked to describe as briefly and popularly as I could, 
what a University was, I should draw my answer from its 
ancient designation of a Studium Generale, or "School of Uni- 
versal Learning." This description implies the assemblage of stran- 
gers from all parts in one spot; — from all parts; else, how will you 
find professors and students for every department of knowledge? 
and in one spot; else, how can there be any school at all? Accord- 
ingly, in its simple and rudimental form, it is a school of knowledge 
of every kind, consisting of teachers and learners from every quarter. 
Many things are requisite to complete and satisfy the idea embodied 
in this description; but such as this a University seems to be in its 
essence, a place for the communication and circulation of thought, 
by means of personal intercourse, through a wide extent of country. 
There is nothing far-fetched or unreasonable in the idea thus 
presented to us; and if this be a University, then a University does 
but contemplate a necessity of our nature, and is but one specimen 
in a particular medium, out of many which might be adduced in 
others, of a provision for that necessity. Mutual education, in a 
large sense of the word, is one of the great and incessant occupa- 
tions of human society, carried on partly with set purpose, and 
partly not. One generation forms another; and the existing genera- 
tion is ever acting and reacting upon itself in the persons of its 
individual members. Now, in this process, books, I need scarcely 
say, that is, the liter a scripta, are one special instrument. It is true; 
and emphatically so in this age. Considering the prodigious powers 
of the press, and how they are developed at this time in the never- 
intermitting issue of periodicals, tracts, pamphlets, works in series, 
and light literature, we must allow there never was a time which 

31 



32 NEWMAN 

promised fairer for dispensing with every other means of informa- 
tion and instruction. What can we want more, you will say, for 
the intellectual education of the whole man, and for every man, 
than so exuberant and diversified and persistent a promulgation of 
all kinds of knowledge? Why, you will ask, need we go up to 
knowledge, when knowledge comes down to us? The Sibyl wrote 
her prophecies upon the leaves of the forest, and wasted them; but 
here such careless profusion might be prudently indulged, for it 
can be afforded without loss, in consequence of the almost fabulous 
fecundity of the instrument which these latter ages have invented. 
We have sermons in stones, and books in the running brooks; works 
larger and more comprehensive than those which have gained for 
ancients an immortality, issue forth every morning, and are pro- 
jected onwards to the ends of the earth at the rate of hundreds 
of miles a day. Our seats are strewed, our pavements are powdered, 
with swarms of little tracts; and the very bricks of 'our city walls 
preach wisdom, by informing us by their placards where we can at 
once cheaply purchase it. 

I allow all this, and much more; such certainly is our popular 
education, and its effects are remarkable. Nevertheless, after all, 
even in this age, whenever men are really serious about getting what, 
in the language of trade, is called "a good article," when they aim at 
something precise, something refined, something really luminous, 
something really large, something choice, they go to another market; 
they avail themselves, in some shape or other, of the rival method, 
the ancient method, of oral instruction, of present communication 
between man and man, of teachers instead of learning, of the per- 
sonal influence of a master, and the humble initiation of a disciple, 
and, in consequence, of great centres of pilgrimage and throng, 
which such a method of education necessarily involves. This, I think, 
will be found to hold good in all those departments or aspects of 
society, which possess an interest sufficient to bind men together, or 
to constitute what is called "a world." It holds in the political world, 
and in the high world, and in the religious world; and it holds also 
in the literary and scientific world. 

If the actions of men may be taken as any test of their convictions, 
then we have reason for saying this, viz.: — that the province and the 



WHAT IS A UNIVERSITY? 33 

inestimable benefit of tlie litera scripta is that of being a record of 
truth, and an authority of appeal, and an instrument of teaching in 
the hands of a teacher; but that, if we wish to become exact and 
fully furnished in any branch of knowledge which is diversified 
and complicated, we must consult the living man and listen to his 
living voice. I am not bound to investigate the cause of this, and 
anything I may say will, I am conscious, be short of its full analysis; — 
perhaps we may suggest, that no books can get through the number 
of minute questions which it is possible to ask on any extended 
subject, or can hit upon the very difficulties which are severally 
felt by each reader in succession. Or again, that no book can convey 
the special spirit and delicate peculiarities of its subject with that 
rapidity and certainty which attend on the sympathy of mind with 
mind, through the eyes, the look, the accent, and the manner, in 
casual expressions thrown off at the moment, and the unstudied 
turns of familiar conversation. But I am already dwelling too long 
on what is but an incidental portion of my main subject. What- 
ever be the cause, the fact is undeniable. The general principles 
of any study you may learn by books at home; but the detail, the 
colour, the tone, the air, the life which makes it live in us, you must 
catch all these from those in whom it lives already. You must 
imitate the student in French or German, who is not content with 
his grammar, but goes to Paris or Dresden: you must take example 
from the young artist, who aspires to visit the great Masters in 
Florence and in Rome. Till we have discovered some intellectual 
daguerreotype, which takes off the course of thought, and the form, 
lineaments, and features of truth, as completely and minutely as 
the optical instrument reproduces the sensible object, we must come 
to the teachers of wisdom to learn wisdom, we must repair to the 
fountain, and drink there. Portions of it may go from thence to 
the ends of the earth by means of books; but the fulness is in one 
place alone. It is in such assemblages and congregations of intellect 
that books themselves, the masterpieces of human genius, are writ- 
ten, or at least originated. 

The principle on which I have been insisting is so obvious, and 
instances in point are so ready, that I should think it tiresome to 
proceed with the subject, except that one or two illustrations may 



34 NEWMAN 

serve to explain my own language about it, which may not have 

done justice to the doctrine which it has been intended to enforce. 

For instance, the polished manners and high-bred bearing which 
are so difficult of attainment, and so strictly personal when attained, 
— which are so much admired in society, from society are acquired. 
All that goes to constitute a gentleman, — the carriage, gait, address, 
gestures, voice; the ease, the self-possession, the courtesy, the power 
of conversing, the talent of not offending; the lofty principle, the 
delicacy of thought, the happiness of expression, the taste and pro- 
priety, the generosity and forbearance, the candour and considera- 
tion, the openness of hajid; — ^these qualities, some of them come by 
nature, some of them may be found in any rank, some of them are 
a direct precept of Christianity; but the full assemblage of them, 
bound up in the unity of an individual character, do we expect they 
can be learned from books ? are they not necessarily acquired, where 
they are to be found, in high society? The very nature of the case 
leads us to say so; you cannot fence without an antagonist, nor 
challenge all comers in disputation before you have supported a 
thesis; and in like manner, it stands to reason, you cannot learn to 
converse till you have the world to converse with; you cannot un- 
learn your natural bashf ulness, or awkwardness, or stiffness, or other 
besetting deformity, till you serve your time in some school of 
manners. Well, and is it not so in matter of fact? The metropolis, 
the court, the great houses of the land, are the centres to which at 
stated times the country comes up, as to shrines of refinement and 
good taste; and then in due time the country goes back again 
home, enriched with a portion of the social accomplishments, which 
those very visits serve to call out and heighten in the gracious dis- 
pensers of them. We are unable to conceive how the "gentleman- 
like" can otherwise be maintained; and maintained in this way it is. 

And now a second instance: and here too I am going to speak 
without personal experience of the subject I am introducing. I 
admit I have not been in Parliament, any more than I have figured 
in the beau monde; yet I cannot but think that statesmanship, as well 
as high breeding, is learned, not by books, but in certain centres of 
education. If it be not presumption to say so. Parliament puts a 
clever man au courant with politics and affairs of state in a way 



WHAT IS A UNIVERSITY? 35 

surprising to himself. A member of the Legislature, if tolerably 
observant, begins to see things with new eyes, even though his 
views undergo no change. Words have a meaning now, and ideas 
a reality, such as they had not before. He hears a vast deal in pub- 
lic speeches and private conversation, which is never put into print. 
The bearings of measures and events, the action of parties, and the 
persons of friends and enemies, are brought out to the man who is 
in the midst of them with a distinctness, which the most diligent 
perusal of newspapers will fail to impart to them. It is access to the 
fountain-heads of political wisdom and experience, it is daily inter- 
course, of one kind or another, with the multitude who go up to 
them, it is familiarity with business, it is access to the contributions 
of fact and opinion thrown together by many witnesses from many 
quarters, which does this for him. However, I need not account 
for a fact, to which it is sufficient to appeal; that the Houses of 
Parliament and the atmosphere around them are a sort of University 
of politics. 

As regards the world of science, we find a remarkable instance of 
the principle which I am illustrating, in the periodical meetings for 
its advance, which have arisen in the course of the last twenty years, 
such as the British Association. Such gatherings would to many 
persons appear at first sight simply preposterous. Above all subjects 
of study. Science is conveyed, is propagated, by books, or by private 
teaching; experiments and investigations are conducted in silence; 
discoveries are made in solitude. What have philosophers to do with 
festive celebrities, and panegyrical solemnities with mathematical 
and physical truth? Yet on a closer attention to the subject, it is 
found that not even scientific thought can dispense with the sug- 
gestions, the instruction, the stimulus, the sympathy, the intercourse 
with mankind on a large scale, which such meetings secure. A fine 
time of year is chosen, when days are long, skies are bright, the 
earth smiles, and all nature rejoices; a city or town is taken by turns, 
of ancient name or modern opulence, where buildings are spacious 
and hospitality hearty. The novelty of place and circumstance, the 
excitement of strange, or the refreshment of well-known faces, the 
majesty of rank or of genius, the amiable charities of men pleased 
both with themselves and with each other; the elevated spirits, the 



36 NEWMAN 

circulation of thought, the curiosity; the morning sections, the out- 
door exercise, the well-furnished, well-earned board, the not ungrace- 
ful hilarity, the evening circle; the brilliant lecture, the discussions 
or collisions or guesses of great men one with another, the narratives 
of scientific processes, of hopes, disappointments, conflicts, and suc- 
cesses, the splendid eulogistic orations; these and the like constituents 
of the annual celebration, are considered to do something real and 
substantial for the advance of knowledge which can be done in no 
other way. Of course they can but be occasional; they answer to the 
annual Act, or Commencement, or Commemoration of a University, 
not to its ordinary condition; but they are of a University nature; 
and I can well believe in their utility. They issue in the promotion 
of a certain living and, as it were, bodily communication of knowl- 
edge from one to another, of a general interchange of ideas, and a 
comparison and adjustment of science with science, of an enlarge- 
ment of mind, intellectual and social, of an ardent love of the par- 
ticular study, which may be chosen by each individual, and a noble 
devotion to its interests. 

Such meetings, I repeat, are but periodical, and only partially 
represent the idea of a University. The bustle and whirl which are 
their usual concomitants, are in ill keeping with the order and grav- 
ity of earnest intellectual education. We desiderate means of in- 
struction which involve no interruption of our ordinary habits; nor 
need we seek it long, for the natural course of things brings it 
about, while we debate over it. In every great country, the metrop- 
olis itself becomes a sort of necessary University, whether we will 
or no. As the chief city is the seat of the court, of high society, of 
politics, and of law, so as a matter of course is it the seat of letters 
also; and at this time, for a long term of years, London and Paris 
are in fact and in operation Universities, though in Paris its famous 
University is no more, and in London a University scarcely exists 
except as a board of administration. The newspapers, magazines, 
reviews, journals, and periodicals of all kinds, the publishing trade, 
the libraries, museums, and academies there found, the learned and 
scientific societies, necessarily invest it with the functions of a Uni- 
versity; and that atmosphere of intellect, which in a former age 
hung over Oxford or Bologna or Salamanca, has, with the change 



WHAT IS A UNIVERSITY? 37 

o£ times, moved away to the centre of civil govermnent. Thither 
come up youths from all parts of the country, the students of law, 
medicine, and the fine arts, and the employes and attaches of litera- 
ture. There they live, as chance determines; and they are satisfied 
with their temporary home, for they find in it all that was promised 
to them there. They have not come in vain, as far as their own 
object in coming is concerned. They have not learned any particular 
religion, but they have learned their own particular profession well. 
They have, moreover, become acquainted with the habits, manners, 
and opinions of their place of sojourn, and done their part in main- 
taining the tradition of them. We cannot then be without virtual 
Universities; a metropolis is such: the simple question is, whether 
the education sought and given should be based on principle, formed 
upon rule, directed to the highest ends, or left to the random suc- 
cession of masters and schools, one after another, with a melancholy 
waste of thought and an extreme hazard of truth. 

Religious teaching itself affords us an illustration of our subject 
to a certain point. It does not indeed seat itself merely in centres of 
the world; this is impossible from the nature of the case. It is in- 
tended for the many, not the few; its subject matter is truth neces- 
sary for us, not truth recondite and rare; but it concurs in the 
principle of a University so far as this, that its great instrument, 
or rather organ, has ever been that which nature prescribes in all 
education, the personal presence of a teacher, or, in theological lan- 
guage. Oral Tradition. It is the living voice, the breathing form, 
the expressive countenance, which preaches, which catechizes. Truth, 
a subtle, invisible, manifold spirit, is poured into the mind of the 
scholar by his eyes and ears, through his affections, imagination, 
and reason; it is poured into his mind and is sealed up there in per- 
petuity, by propounding and repeating it, by questioning and re- 
questioning, by correcting and explaining, by progressing and then 
recurring to first principles, by all those ways which are implied 
in the word "catechizing." In the first ages, it was a work of long 
time; months, sometimes years, were devoted to the arduous task 
of disabusing the mind of the incipient Christian of its pagan 
errors, and of moulding it upon the Christian faith. The Scriptures 
indeed were at hand for the study of those who could avail them- 



38 NEWMAN 

selves of them; but St. Irenaeus does not hesitate to speak of whole 
races, who had been converted to Christianity, without being able 
to read them. To be unable to read or write was in those times no 
evidence of want of learning: the hermits of the deserts were, in 
this sense of the word, illiterate; yet the great St. Anthony, though 
he knew not letters, was a match in disputation for the learned phi- 
losophers who came to try him. Didymus again, the great Alex- 
andrian theologian, was blind. The ancient discipline, called the 
Disciplina Arcani, involved the same principle. The more sacred 
doctrines of Revelation were not committed to books but passed on 
by successive tradition. The teaching on the Blessed Trinity and the 
Eucharist appears to have been so handed down for some hundred 
years; and when at length reduced to writing, it has filled many 
folios, yet has not been exhausted. 

But I have said more than enough in illustration; I end as I began; 
— a University is a place of concourse, whither students come from 
every quarter for every kind of knowledge. You cannot have the 
best of every kind everywhere; you must go to some great city or 
emporium for it. There you have all the choicest productions of 
nature and art all together, which you find each in its own separate 
place elsewhere. All the riches of the land, and of the earth, are 
carried up thither; there are the best markets, and there the best 
workmen. It is the centre of trade, the supreme court of fashion, 
the umpire of rival talents, and the standard of things rare and 
precious. It is the place for seeing galleries of first-rate pictures, 
and for hearing wonderful voices and performers of transcendent 
skill. It is the place for great preachers, great orators, great nobles, 
great statesmen. In the nature of things, greatness and unity go 
together; excellence implies a centre. And such, for the third or 
fourth time, is a University; I hope I do not weary out the reader 
by repeating it. It is the place to which a thousand schools make 
contributions; in which the intellect may safely range and speculate, 
sure to find its equal in some antagonist activity, and its judge in 
the tribunal of truth. It is a place where inquiry is pushed forward, 
and discoveries verified and perfected, and rashness rendered in- 
nocuous, and error exposed, by the collision of mind with mind, 
and knowledge with knowledge. It is the place where the professor 



WHAT IS A UNIVERSITY? 39 

becomes eloquent, and is a missionary and a preacher, displaying 
his science in its most complete and most winning form, pouring it 
forth with the zeal of enthusiasm, and lighting up his own love 
of it in the breasts of his hearers. It is the place where the catechist 
makes good his ground as he goes, treading in the truth day by day 
into the ready memory, and wedging and tightening it into the 
expanding reason. It is a place which wins the admiration of the 
young by its celebrity, kindles the affections of the middle-aged by 
its beauty, and rivets the fidelity of the old by its associations. It 
is a seat of wisdom, a light of the world, a minister of the faith, 
an Alma Mater of the rising generation. It is this and a great deal 
more, and demands a somewhat better head and hand than mine 
to describe it well. 

Such is a University in its idea and in its purpose; such in good 
measure has it before now been in fact. Shall it ever be again? We 
are going forward in the strength of the Cross, under the patronage 
of the Blessed Virgin, in the name of St. Patrick, to attempt it. 



II. SITE OF A UNIVERSITY 

IF we would know what a University is, considered in its ele- 
mentary idea, we must betake ourselves to the first and most 
celebrated home of European literature and source of European 
civilization, to the bright and beautiful Athens, — Athens, whose 
schools drew to her bosom, and then sent back again to the business 
of life, the youth of the Western World for a long thousand years. 
Seated on the verge of the continent, the city seemed hardly suited 
for the duties of a central metropolis of knowledge; yet, what it lost 
in convenience of approach, it gained in its neighbourhood to the 
traditions of the mysterious East, and in the loveliness of the region 
in which it lay. Hither, then, as to a sort of ideal land, where all 
archetypes of the great and the fair were found in substantial being, 
and all departments of truth explored, and all diversities of intellec- 
tual power exhibited, where taste and philosophy were majestically 
enthroned as in a royal court, where there was no sovereignty but 
that of mind, and no nobility but that of genius, where professors 
were rulers, and princes did homage, hither flocked continually from 
the very corners of the orbis terrarum, the many-tongued generation, 
just rising, or just risen into manhood, in order to gain wisdom. 

Pisistratus had in an early age discovered and nursed the infant 
genius of his people, and Cimon, after the Persian war, had given it 
a home. That war had established the naval supremacy of Athens; 
she had become an imperial state; and the lonians, bound to her 
by the double chain of kindred and of subjection, were importing 
into her both their merchandize and their civilization. The arts and 
philosophy of the Asiatic coast were easily carried across the sea, 
and there was Cimon, as I have said, with his ample fortune, ready 
to receive them with due honours. Not content with patronizing 
their professors, he built the first of those noble porticos, of which 
we hear so much in Athens, and he formed the groves, which in 
process of time became the celebrated Academy. Planting is one 
of the most graceful, as in Athens it was one of the most beneficent, 

40 



SITE OF A UNIVERSITY 4 1 

of employments. Cimon took in hand the wild wood, pruned and 
dressed it, and laid it out with handsome walks and welcome foun- 
tains. Nor, while hospitable to the authors of the city's civilization, 
was he ungrateful to the instruments of her prosperity. His trees 
extended their cool, umbrageous branches over the merchants, who 
assembled in the Agora, for many generations. 

Those merchants certainly had deserved that act of bounty; for all 
the while their ships had been carrying forth the intellectual fame 
of Athens to the western world. Then commenced what may be 
called her University existence. Pericles, who succeeded Cimon both 
in the government and in the patronage of art, is said by Plutarch 
to have entertained the idea of making Athens the capital of fed- 
erated Greece: in this he failed, but his encouragement of such men 
as Phidias and Anaxagoras led the way to her acquiring a far more 
lasting sovereignty over a far wider empire. Little understanding 
the sources of her own greatness, Athens would go to war: peace 
is the interest of a seat of commerce and the arts; but to war she 
went; yet to her, whether peace or war, it mattered not. The political 
power of Athens waned and disappeared; kingdoms rose and fell; 
centuries rolled away, — they did but bring fresh triumphs to the 
city of the poet and the sage. There at length the swarthy Moor 
and Spaniard were seen to meet the blue-eyed Gaul; and the Cappa- 
docian, late subject of Mithridates, gazed without alarm at the 
haughty conquering Roman. Revolution after revolution passed over 
the face of Europe, as well as of Greece, but still she was there, — 
Athens, the city of mind, — as radiant, as splendid, as delicate, as 
young, as ever she had been. 

Many a more fruitful coast or isle is washed by the blue ^gean, 
many a spot is there more beautiful or sublime to see, many a terri- 
tory more ample; but there was one charm in Attica, which in the 
same perfection was nowhere else. The deep pastures of Arcadia, 
the plain of Argos, the Thessalian vale, these had not the gift; 
Bceotia, which lay to its immediate north, was notorious for its very 
want of it. The heavy atmosphere of that Bceotia might be good 
for vegetation, but it was associated in popular belief with the 
dulness of the Boeotian intellect: on the contrary, the special purity, 
elasticity, clearness, and salubrity of the air of Attica, lit concomitant 



42 NEWMAN 

and emblem of its genius, did that for it which earth did not; — it 
brought out every bright hue and tender shade of the landscape over 
which it was spread, and would have illuminated the face even of a 
more bare and rugged country. 

A confined triangle, perhaps fifty miles its greatest length, and 
thirty its greatest breadth; two elevated rocky barriers, meeting at an 
angle; three prominent mountains, commanding the plain, — Parnes, 
Pentelicus, and Hymettus; an unsatisfactory soil; some streams, not 
always full; — such is about the report which the agent of a London 
company would have made of Attica. He would report that the 
climate was mild; the hills were limestone; there was plenty of 
good marble; more pasture land than at first survey might have 
been expected, sufficient certainly for sheep and goats; fisheries pro- 
ductive; silver mines once, but long since worked out; figs fair; 
oil first-rate; olives in profusion. But what he would not think of 
noting down, was, that that olive tree was so choice in nature and 
so noble in shape, that it excited a religious veneration; and that it 
took so kindly to the light soil, as to expand into woods upon the 
open plain, and to climb up and fringe the hills. He would not 
think of writing word to his employers, how that clear air, of which 
I have spoken, brought out, yet blended and subdued the colours on 
the marble, till they had a softness and harmony, for all their rich- 
ness, which in a picture looks exaggerated, yet is after all within 
the truth. He would not tell, how that same delicate and brilliant 
atmosphere freshened up the pale olive, till the olive forgot its 
monotony, and its cheek glowed like the arbutus or beech of the 
Umbrian hills. He would say nothing of the thyme and thousand 
fragrant herbs which carpeted Hymettus; he would hear nothing 
of the hum of its bees; nor take much account of the rare flavour 
of its honey, since Gozo and Minorca were sufficient for the English 
demand. He would look over the ^Egean from the height he had 
ascended; he would follow with his eye the chain of islands, which, 
starting from the Sunian headland, seemed to offer the fabled divin- 
ities of Attica, when they would visit their Ionian cousins, a sort of 
viaduct thereto across the sea; but that fancy would not occur to 
him, nor any admiration of the dark violet billows with their white 
edges down below; nor of those graceful, fanlike jets of silver upon 



SITE OF A UNIVERSITY 43 

the rocks, which slowly rise aloft like water spirits from the deep, 
then shiver, and break, and spread, and shroud themselves, and 
disappear, in a soft mist of foam; nor of the gentle, incessant heaving 
and panting of the whole liquid plain; nor of the long waves, keep- 
ing steady time, like a line of soldiery, as they resound upon the 
hollow shore, — he would not deign to notice that restless Hving 
element at all, except to bless his stars that he was not upon it. Nor 
the distinct detail, nor the refined colouring, nor the graceful outline 
and roseate golden hue of the jutting crags, nor the bold shadows 
cast from Otus or Laurium by the declining sun; — our agent of a 
mercantile firm would not value these matters even at a low figure. 
Rather we must turn for the sympathy we seek to yon pilgrim 
student come from a semi-barbarous land to that small corner of 
the earth, as to a shrine, where he might take his fill of gazing on 
those emblems and coruscations of invisible unoriginate perfection. 
It was the stranger from a remote province, from Britain or from 
Mauritania, who in a scene so different from that of his chilly, woody 
swamps, or of his fiery, choking sands, learned at once what a real 
University must be, by coming to understand the sort of country, 
which was its suitable home. 

Nor was this all that a University required, and found in Athens. 
No one, even there, could live on poetry. If the students at that 
famous place had nothing better than bright hues and soothing 
sounds, they would not have been able or disposed to turn their 
residence there to much account. Of course they must have the 
means of living, nay, in a certain sense, of enjoyment, if Athens 
was to be an Alma Mater at the time, or to remain afterwards a 
pleasant thought in their memory. And so they had: be it recollected 
Athens was a port, and a mart of trade, perhaps the first in Greece; 
and this was very much to the point, when a number of strangers 
were ever flocking to it, whose combat was to be with intellectual, 
not physical difficulties, and who claimed to have their bodily wants 
supplied, that they might be at leisure to set about furnishing their 
minds. Now, barren as was the soil of Attica, and bare the face 
of the country, yet it had only too many resources for an elegant, 
nay luxurious abode there. So abundant were the imports of the 
place, that it was a common saying, that the productions, which 



44 NEWMAN 

were found singly elsewhere, were brought all together in Athens. 
Corn and wine, the staple o£ subsistence in such a climate, came 
from the isles of the ^gean; fine wool and carpeting from Asia 
Minor; slaves, as now, from the Euxine, and timber too; and iron 
and brass from the coasts of the Mediterranean. The Athenian did 
not condescend to manufactures himself, but encouraged them in 
others; and a population of foreigners caught at the lucrative occu- 
pation both for home consumption and for exportation. Their cloth, 
and other textures for dress and furniture, and their hardware — for 
instance, armour — were in great request. Labour was cheap; stone 
and marble in plenty; and the taste and skill, which at first were 
devoted to public buildings, as temples and porticos, were in course 
of time applied to the mansions of public men. If nature did much 
for Athens, it is undeniable that art did much more. 

Here some one will interrupt me with the remark: "By the bye, 
where are we, and whither are we going? — what has all this to do 
with a University? at least what has it to do with education? It is 
instructive doubtless; but still how much has it to do with your 
subject?" Now I beg to assure the reader that I am most conscien- 
tiously employed upon my subject; and I should have thought 
every one would have seen this: however, since the objection is 
made, I may be allowed to pause awhile, and show distinctly the 
drift of what I have been saying, before I go farther. What has this 
to do with my subject! why, the question of the site is the very first 
that comes into consideration, when a Stadium Generale is con- 
templated; for that site should be a liberal and noble one; who will 
deny it? All authorities agree in this, and very little reflection will 
be sufficient to make it clear. I recollect a conversation I once had 
on this very subject with a very eminent man. I was a youth of 
eighteen, and was leaving my University for the Long Vacation, 
when I found myself in company in a public conveyance with a 
middle-aged person, whose face was strange to me. However, it 
was the great academical luminary of the day, whom afterwards I 
knew very well. Luckily for me, I did not suspect it; and luckily 
too, it was a fancy of his, as his friends knew, to make himself on 
easy terms especially with stage-coach companions. So, what with 
my flippancy and his condescension, I managed to hear many things 



SITE OF A UNIVERSITY 45 

which were novel to me at the time; and one point which he was 
strong upon, and was evidently fond of urging, was the material 
pomp and circumstance which should environ a great seat of learn- 
ing. He considered it was worth the consideration of the govern- 
ment, whether Oxford should not stand in a domain of its own. An 
ample range, say four miles in diameter, should be turned into wood 
and meadow, and the University should be approached on all sides 
by a magnificent park, with fine trees in groups and groves and 
avenues, and with glimpses and views of the fair city, as the traveller 
drew near it. There is nothing surely absurd in the idea, though it 
would cost a round sum to realize it. What has a better claim to 
the purest and fairest possessions of nature, than the seat of wisdom ? 
So thought my coach companion; and he did but express the tradi- 
tion of ages and the instinct of mankind. 

For instance, take the great University of Paris. That famous 
school engrossed as its territory the whole south bank of the Seine, 
and occupied one half, and that the pleasanter half, of the city. King 
Louis had the island pretty well as his own, — it was scarcely more 
than a fortification; and the north of the river was given over to the 
nobles and citizens to do what they could with its marshes; but the 
eligible south, rising from the stream, which swept around its base, 
to the fair summit of St. Genevieve, with its broad meadows, its 
vineyards and its gardens, and with the sacred elevation of Mont- 
martre confronting it, all this was the inheritance of the University. 
There was that pleasant Pratum, stretching along the river's bank, 
in which the students for centuries took their recreation, which 
Alcuin seems to mention in his farewell verses to Paris, and which 
has given a name to the great Abbey of St. Germain-des-Pres. For 
long years it was devoted to the purposes of innocent and healthy 
enjoyment; but evil times came on the University; disorder arose 
within its precincts, and the fair meadow became the scene of party 
brawls; heresy stalked through Europe, and Germany and England 
no longer sending their contingent of students, a heavy debt was the 
consequence to the academical body. To let their land was the only 
resource left to them: buildings rose upon it, and spread along the 
green sod, and the country at length became town. Great was the 
grief and indignation of the doctors and masters, when this catas- 



46 NEWMAN 

trophe occurred. "A wretched sight," said the Proctor of the Ger- 
man nation, "a wretched sight, to witness the sale of that ancient 
manor, whither the Muses were wont to wander for retirement and 
pleasure. Whither shall the youthful student now betake himself, 
what relief will he find for his eyes, wearied with intense reading, 
now that the pleasant stream is taken from him?" Two centuries 
and more have passed since this complaint was uttered; and time 
has shown that the outward calamity, which it recorded, was but the 
emblem of the great moral revolution, which was to follow; till the 
institution itself has followed its green meadows, into the region of 
things which once were and now are not. 

And in like manner, when they were first contemplating a Uni- 
versity in Belgium, some centuries ago, "Many," says Lipsius, "sug- 
gested Mechlin, as an abode salubrious and clean, but Louvain was 
preferred, as for other reasons, so because no city seemed from the 
disposition of place and people, more suitable for learned leisure. 
Who will not approve the decision? Can a site be healthier or 
more pleasant ? The atmosphere pure and cheerful ; the spaces open 
and delightful; meadows, fields, vines, groves, nay, I may say, a 
rus in urbe. Ascend and walk round the walls; what do you look 
down upon ? Does not the wonderful and delightful variety smooth 
the brow and soothe the mind? You have corn, and apples, and 
grapes; sheep and oxen; and birds chirping or singing. Now carry 
your feet or your eyes beyond the walls; there are streamlets, the 
river meandering along; country-houses, convents, the superb for- 
tress; copses or woods fill up the scene, and spots for simple enjoy- 
ment." And then he breaks out into poetry: 

Salvete Athenac nostrae, Athenae Belgicae, 
Te Gallus, te Germanus, et te Sarmata 
Invisit, et Britannus, et te duplicis 
Hispaniae alumnus, etc. 

Extravagant, then, and wayward as might be the thought of my 
learned coach companion, when, in the nineteenth century, he imag- 
ined, Norman-wise, to turn a score of villages into a park or pleas- 
aunce, still, the waywardness of his fancy is excused by the justness 
of his principle; for certainly, such as he would have made it, a Uni- 



SITE OF A UNIVERSITY 47 

versity ought to be. Old Antony-a-Wood, discoursing on the de- 
mands of a University, had expressed the same sentiment long before 
him; as Horace in ancient times, with reference to Athens itself, 
when he spoke of seeking truth "in the groves of Academe." And 
to Athens, as will be seen, Wood himself appeals, when he would 
discourse of Oxford. Among "those things which are required to 
make a University," he puts down, — 

"First, a good and pleasant site, where there is a wholesome and 
temperate constitution of the air; composed with waters, springs or 
wells, woods and pleasant fields; which being obtained, those com- 
modities are enough to invite students to stay and abide there. As 
the Athenians in ancient times were happy for their conveniences, 
so also were the Britons, when by a remnant of the Grecians that 
came amongst them, they or their successors selected such a place 
in Britain to plant a school or schools therein, which for its pleasant 
situation was afterwards called Bellositum or Bellosite, now Oxford, 
privileged with all those conveniences before mentioned." 

By others the local advantages of that University have been more 
philosophically analyzed; — for instance, with a reference to its posi- 
tion in the middle of southern England; its situation on several 
islands in a broad plain, through which many streams flowed; the 
surrounding marshes, which, in times when it was needed, protected 
the city from invaders; its own strength as a military position; its 
easy communication with London, nay with the sea, by means of 
the Thames; while the London fortifications hindered pirates from 
ascending the stream, which all the time was so ready and con- 
venient for a descent. 

Alas! for centuries past that city has lost its prime honour and 
boast, as a servant and soldier of the Truth. Once named the second 
school of the Church, second only to Paris, the foster-mother of St. 
Edmund, St. Richard, St. Thomas Cantilupe, the theatre of great 
intellects, of Scotus the subtle Doctor, of Hales the irrefragable, of 
Occam the special, of Bacon the admirable, of Middleton the solid, 
and of Bradwardine the profound, Oxford has now lapsed to that 
level of mere human loveliness, which in its highest perfection we 
admire in Athens. Nor would it have a place, now or hereafter, 
in these pages, nor would it occur to me to speak its name, except 



48 NEWMAN 

that, even in its sorrowful deprivation, it still retains so much of 
that outward lustre, which, like the brightness on the prophet's face, 
ought to be a ray from an illumination within, as to afford me an 
illustration of the point on which I am engaged, viz., what should 
be the material dwelling-place and appearance, the local circum- 
stances, and the secular concomitants of a great University. Pictures 
are drawn in tales of romance, of spirits seemingly too beautiful 
in their fall to be really fallen, and the holy Pope at Rome, Gregory, 
in fact, and not in fiction, looked upon the blue eyes and golden 
hair of the fierce Saxon youth in the slave market, and pronounced 
them Angels, not Angles; and the spell which this once loyal daugh- 
ter of the Church still exercises upon the foreign visitor, even now 
when her true glory is departed, suggests to us how far more majestic 
and more touching, how brimful of indescribable influence would 
be the presence of a University, which was planted within, not with- 
out Jerusalem, — an influence, potent as her truth is strong, wide as 
her sway is world-wide, and growing, not lessening, by the extent 
of space over which its attraction would be exerted. 

Let the reader then listen to the words of the last learned German, 
who has treated of Oxford, and judge for himself if they do not 
bear me out, in what I have said of the fascination which the very 
face and smile of a University possess over those who come within 
its range. 

"There is scarce a spot in the world," says Huber, "that bears an 
historical stamp so deep and varied as Oxford; where so many noble 
memorials of moral and material power cooperating to an honour- 
able end, meet the eye all at once. He who can be proof against the 
strong emotions which the whole aspect and genius of the place tend 
to inspire, must be dull, thoughtless, uneducated, or of very per- 
verted views. Others will bear us witness, that, even side by side with 
the Eternal Rome, the Alma Mater of Oxford may be fitly named, 
as producing a deep, a lasting, and peculiar impression. 

"In one of the most fertile districts of the Queen of the Seas, whom 
nature has so richly blessed, whom for centuries past no footstep 
of foreign armies has desecrated, lies a broad green vale, where the 
Cherwell and the Isis mingle their full, clear waters. Here and there 
primeval elms and oaks overshadow them; while in their various 



SITE OF A UNIVERSITY 49 

windings they encircle gardens, meadows, and fields, villages, cot- 
tages, farm-houses, and country-seats, in motley mixture. In the 
midst rises a mass of mighty buildings, the general character of 
which varies between convent, palace, and castle. Some few Gothic 
church-towers and Romaic domes, it is true, break through the 
horizontal lines; yet the general impression at a distance and at 
first sight, is essentially different from that of any of the towns of 
the middle ages. The outlines are far from being so sharp, so 
angular, so irregular, so fantastical; a certain softness, a peculiar 
repose, reigns in those broader, terrace-like rising masses. Only in 
the creations of Claude Lorraine or Poussin could we expect to find 
a spot to compare with the prevailing character of this picture, 
especially when lit up by a favourable light. The principal masses 
consist of Colleges, the University buildings, and the city churches; 
and by the side of these the city itself is lost on distant view. But on 
entering the streets, we find around us all the signs of an active 
and prosperous trade. Rich and elegant shops in profusion afford 
a sight to be found nowhere but in England; but with all this 
glitter and show, they sink into a modest, and, as it were, a menial 
attitude, by the side of the grandly severe memorials of the higher 
intellectual life, memorials which have been growing out of that life 
from almost the beginning of Christianity itself. Those rich and 
elegant shops are, as it were, the domestic offices of these palaces of 
learning, which ever rivet the eye of the observer, while all besides 
seems perforce to be subservient to them. Each of the larger and 
more ancient Colleges looks like a separate whole — an entire town, 
whose walls and monuments proclaim the vigorous growth of many 
centuries; and the town itself has happily escaped the lot of modern 
beautifying, and in this respect harmonizes with the Colleges." 

There are those who, having felt the influence of this ancient 
School, and being smit with its splendour and its sweetness, ask 
wistfully, if never again it is to be Catholic, or whether at least 
some footing for Catholicity may not be found there. All honour 
and merit to the charitable and zealous hearts who so inquire! Nor 
can we dare to tell what in time to come may be the inscrutable 
purposes of that grace, which is ever more comprehensive than 
human hope and aspiration. But for me, from the day I left its 



50 NEWMAN 

walls, I never, for good or bad, have had anticipation of its future; 
and never for a moment have I had a wish to see again a place, 
which I have never ceased to love, and where I lived for nearly 
thirty years. Nay, looking at the general state of things at this day, 
I desiderate for a School of the Church, if an additional School is 
to be granted to us, a more central position than Oxford has to show. 
Since the age of Alfred and of the first Henry, the world has grown, 
from the west and south of Europe, into four or five continents; and 
I look for a city less inland than that old sanctuary, and a country 
closer upon the highway of the seas. I look towards a land both old 
and young; old in its Christianity, young in the promise of its future; 
a nation, which received grace before the Saxon came to Britain, and 
which has never quenched it; a Church, which comprehends in its 
history the rise and fall of Canterbury and York, which Augustine 
and Paulinus found, and Pole and Fisher left behind them. I con- 
template a people which has had a long night, and will have an 
inevitable day. I am turning my eyes towards a hundred years to 
come, and I dimly see the island I am gazing on, become the road 
of passage and union between two hemispheres, and the centre of 
the world. I see its inhabitants rival Belgium in populousness, France 
in vigour, and Spain in enthusiasm; and I see England taught by 
advancing years to exercise in its behalf that good sense which is 
her characteristic towards every one else. The capital of that pros- 
perous and hopeful land is situate in a beautiful bay and near a 
romantic region; and in it I see a flourishing University, which for 
a while had to struggle with fortune, but which, when its first 
founders and servants were dead and gone, had successes far exceed- 
ing their anxieties. Thither, as to a sacred soil, the home of their 
fathers, and the fountain-head of their Christianity, students are 
flocking from East, West, and South, from America and Australia 
and India, from Egypt and Asia Minor, with the ease and rapidity 
of a locomotion not yet discovered, and last, though not least, from 
England, — all speaking one tongue, all owning one faith, all eager 
for one large true wisdom; and thence, when their stay is over, 
going back again to carry over all the earth "peace to men of good 
will." 



III. UNIVERSITY LIFE AT 
ATHENS 

HOWEVER apposite may have been the digression into 
which I was led when I had got about half through the 
foregoing Chapter, it has had the inconvenience of what 
may be called running me off the rails; and now that I wish to pro- 
ceed from the point at which it took place, I shall find some trouble, 
if I may continue the metaphor, in getting up the steam again, or if 
I may change it, in getting into the swing of my subject. 

It has been my desire, were I able, to bring before the reader what 
Athens may have been, viewed as what we have since called a Uni- 
versity; and to do this, not with any purpose of writing a panegyric 
on a heathen city, or of denying its many deformities, or of con- 
cealing what was morally base in what was intellectually great, but 
just the contrary, of representing things as they really were; so far, 
that is, as to enable him to see what a University is, in the very 
constitution of society and in its own idea, what is its nature and 
object, and what it needs of aid and support external to itself to 
complete that nature and to secure that object. 

So now let us fancy our Scythian, or Armenian, or African, or 
Italian, or Gallic student, after tossing on the Saronic waves, which 
would be his more ordinary course to Athens, at last casting anchor 
at Pirsus. He is of any condition or rank of life you please, and 
may be made to order, from a prince to a peasant. Perhaps he is 
some Cleanthes, who has been a boxer in the public games. How 
did it ever cross his brain to betake himself to Athens in search of 
wisdom? or, if he came thither by accident, how did the love of it 
ever touch his heart? But so it was, to Athens he came with three 
drachms in his girdle, and he got his livelihood by drawing water, 
carrying loads, and the like servile occupations. He attached him- 
self, of all philosophers, to Zeno the Stoic, — to Zeno, the most high- 
minded, the most haughty of speculators; and out of his daily earn- 

51 



52 NEWMAN 

ings the poor scholar brought his master the daily sum o£ an obolus. 
in payment for attending his lectures. Such progress did he make, 
that on Zeno's death he actually was his successor in his school; and, 
if my memory does not play me false, he is the author of a hymn 
to the Supreme Being, which is one of the noblest effusions of the 
kind in classical poetry. Yet, even when he was the head of a school, 
he continued in his illiberal toil as if he had been a monk; and it 
is said that once, when the wind took his pallium, and blew it aside, 
he was discovered to have no other garment at all; — something like 
the German student who came up to Heidelberg with nothing upon 
him but a greatcoat and a pair of pistols. 

Or it is another disciple of the Porch, — Stoic by nature, earlier 
than by profession, — who is entering the city; but in what different 
fashion he comes! It is no other than Marcus, Emperor of Rome and 
philosopher. Professors long since were summoned from Athens 
for his service, when he was a youth, and now he comes, after his 
victories in the battlefield, to make his acknowledgments, at the end 
of life, to the city of wisdom, and to submit himself to an initiation 
into the Eleusinian mysteries. 

Or it is a young man of great promise as an orator, were it not 
for his weakness of chest, which renders it necessary that he should 
acquire the art of speaking without over-exertion, and should adopt 
a delivery sufficient for the display of his rhetorical talents on the 
one hand, yet merciful to his physical resources on the other. He is 
called Cicero; he will stop but a short time, and will pass over to 
Asia Minor and its cities, before he returns to continue a career 
which will render his name immortal; and he will like his short so- 
journ at Athens so well, that he will take good care to send his son 
thither at an earlier age than he visited it himself. 

But see where comes from Alexandria (for we need not be very 
solicitous about anachronisms) , a young man from twenty to twenty- 
two, who has narrowly escaped drowning on his voyage, and is to 
remain at Athens as many as eight or ten years, yet in the course 
of that time will not learn a line of Latin, thinking it enough to 
become accomplished in Greek composition, and in that he will 
succeed. He is a grave person, and difficult to make out; some 
say he is a Christian, something or other in the Christian line his 



UNIVERSITY LIFE AT ATHENS 53 

father is for certain. His name is Gregory, he is by country a Cappa- 
docian, and will in time become preeminently a theologian, and one 
of the principal Doctors of the Greek Church. 

Or it is one Horace, a youth of low stature and black hair, whose 
father has given him an education at Rome above his rank in life, 
and now is sending him to finish it at Athens; he is said to have a 
turn for poetry: a hero he is not, and it were well if he knew it; 
but he is caught by the enthusiasm of the hour, and goes off cam- 
paigning with Brutus and Cassius, and will leave his shield behind 
him on the field of Philippi. 

Or it is a mere boy of fifteen: his name Eunapius; though the 
voyage was not long, seasickness, or confinement, or bad living on 
board the vessel, threw him into a fever, and, when the passengers 
landed in the evening at Piraeus, he could not stand. His country- 
men who accompanied him, took him up among them and carried 
him to the house of the great teacher of the day, Projeresius, who 
was a friend of the captain's, and whose fame it was which drew 
the enthusiastic youth to Athens. His companions understand the 
sort of place they are in, and, with the licence of academic students, 
they break into the philosopher's house, though he appears to have 
retired for the night, and proceed to make themselves free of it, 
with an absence of ceiemony, which is only not impudence, because 
Proasresius takes it so easily. Strange introduction for our stranger 
to a seat of learning, but not out of keeping with Athens; for what 
could you expect of a place where there was a mob of youths and 
not even the pretence of control; where the poorer lived any how, 
and got on as they could, and the teachers themselves had no pro- 
tection from the humours and caprices of the students who filled 
their lecture-halls.? However, as to this Eunapius, Proarresius took 
a fancy to the boy, and told him curious stories about Athenian life. 
He himself had come up to the University with one Hephaestion, 
and they were even worse off than Cleanthes the Stoic; for they had 
only one cloak between them, and nothing whatever besides, except 
some old bedding; so when Proaeresius went abroad, Hephaestion 
lay in bed, and practised himself in oratory; and then Hephxstion 
put on the cloak, and Proseresius crept under the coverlet. At another 
time there was so fierce a feud between what would be called "town 



54 NEWMAN 

and gown" in an English University, that the Professors did not dare 
lecture in public, for fear of ill treatment. 

But a freshman like Eunapius soon got experience for himself of 
the ways and manners prevalent in Athens. Such a one as he had 
hardly entered the city, when he was caught hold of by a party of 
the academic youth, who proceeded to practise on his awkwardness 
and his ignorance. At first sight one wonders at their childishness; 
but the like conduct obtained in the medieval Universities; and not 
many months have passed away since the journals have told us of 
sober Englishmen, given to matter-of-fact calculations, and to the 
anxieties of money-making, pelting each other with snowballs on 
their own sacred territory, and defying the magistracy, when they 
would interfere with their privilege of becoming boys. So I suppose 
we must attribute it to something or other in human nature. Mean- 
while, there stands the new-comer, surrounded by a circle of his new 
associates, who forthwith proceed to frighten, and to banter, and 
to make a fool of him, to the extent of their wit. Some address him 
with mock politeness, others with fierceness; and so they conduct 
him in solemn procession across the Agora to the Baths; and as 
they approach, they dance about him like madmen. But this was to 
be the end of his trial, for the Bath was a sort of initiation; he 
thereupon received the pallium, or University gown, and was suf- 
fered by his tormentors to depart in peace. One alone is recorded 
as having been exempted from this persecution; it was a youth 
graver and loftier than even St. Gregory himself: but it was not from 
his force of character, but at the instance of Gregory, that he escaped. 
Gregory was his bosom-friend, and was ready in Athens to shelter 
him when he came. It was another Saint and Doctor; the great 
Basil, then, (it would appear,) as Gregory, but a catechumen of the 
Church. 

But to return to our freshman. His troubles are not at an end, 
though he has got his gown upon him. Where is he to lodge ? whom 
is he to attend ? He finds himself seized, before he well knows where 
he is, by another party of men, or three or four parties at once, like 
foreign porters at a landing, who seize on the baggage of the 
perplexed stranger, and thrust half a dozen cards into his unwilling 
hands. Our youth is plied by the hangers-on of professor this, or 



UNIVERSITY LIFE AT ATHENS 55 

sophist that, each of whom wishes the fame or the profit of having 
a houseful. We will say that he escapes from their hands, — ^but then 
he will have to choose for himself where he will put up; and, to 
tell the truth, with all the praise I have already given, and the praise 
I shall have to give, to the city of mind, nevertheless, between our- 
selves, the brick and wood which formed it, the actual tenements, 
where flesh and blood had to lodge (always excepting the mansions 
of great men of the place), do not seem to have been much better 
than those of Greek or Turkish towns which are at this moment 
a topic of interest and ridicule in the public prints. A lively picture 
has lately been set before us of Gallipoli. Take, says the writer, a 
multitude of the dilapidated outhouses found in farm-yards in Eng- 
land, of the rickety old wooden tenements, the cracked, shutterless 
structures of planks and tiles, the sheds and stalls, which our by-lanes, 
or fish-markets, or river-sides can supply; tumble them down on the 
declivity of a bare bald hill; let the spaces between house and house, 
thus accidentally determined, be understood to form streets, winding 
of course for no reason, and with no meaning, up and down the 
town; the roadway always narrow, the breadth never uniform, the 
separate houses bulging or retiring below, as circumstances may have 
determined, and leaning forward till they meet overhead; — and you 
have a good idea of Gallipoli. I question whether this picture would 
not nearly correspond to the special seat of the Muses in ancient 
times. Learned writers assure us distinctly that the houses of Athens 
were for the most part small and mean; that the streets were crooked 
and narrow; that the upper stories projected over the roadway; and 
that staircases, balustrades, and doors that opened outwards, ob- 
structed it; — a remarkable coincidence of description. I do not doubt 
at all, though history is silent, that that roadway was jolting to car- 
riages, and all but impassable; and that it was traversed by drains, 
as freely as any Turkish town now. Athens seems in these respects 
to have been below the average cities of its time. "A stranger," says 
an ancient, "might doubt, on the sudden view, if really he saw 
Athens." 

I grant all this, and much more, if you will; but, recollect, Athens 
was the home of the intellectual, and beautiful; not of low mechan- 
ical contrivances, and material organization. Why stop within your 



56 NEWMAN 

lodgings counting the rents in your wall or the holes in your tiling, 
when nature and art call you away? You must put up with such 
a chamber, and a table, and a stool, and a sleeping board, anywhere 
else in the three continents; one place does not differ from another 
indoors; your magalia in Africa, or your grottos in Syria, are not 
perfection. I suppose you did not come to Athens to swarm up a 
ladder, or to grope about a closet: you came to see and to hear, 
what hear and see you could not elsewhere. What food for the 
intellect is it possible to procure indoors, that you stay there looking 
about you? do you think to read there? where are your books? do 
you expect to purchase books at Athens ? — you are much out in your 
calculations. True it is, we at this day, who live in the nineteenth 
century, have the books of Greece as a perpetual memorial; and 
copies there have been, since the time that they were written; but 
you need not go to Athens to procure them, nor would you find 
them in Athens. Strange to say, strange to the nineteenth century, 
that in the age of Plato and Thucydides, there was not, it is said, 
a bookshop in the whole place: nor was the book trade in existence 
till the very time of Augustus. Libraries, I suspect, were the bright 
invention of Attalus or the Ptolemies; I doubt whether Athens had 
a library till the reign of Hadrian. It was what the student gazed 
on, what he heard, what he caught by the magic of sympathy, not 
what he read, which was the education furnished by Athens. 

He leaves his narrow lodging early in the morning; and not till 
night, if even then, will he return. It is but a crib or kennel, — ^in 
which he sleeps when the weather is inclement or the ground damp; 
in no respect a home. And he goes out of doors, not to read the day's 
newspaper, or to buy the gay shilling volume, but to imbibe the 
invisible atmosphere of genius, and to learn by heart the oral tradi- 
tions of taste. Out he goes; and, leaving the tumble-down town 
behind him, he mounts the Acropolis to the right, or he turns to the 
Areopagus on the left. He goes to the Parthenon to study the sculp- 
tures of Phidias; to the temple of the Dioscuri to see the paintings 
of Polygnotus. We indeed take our Sophocles or ^schylus out of 
our coat-pocket; but, if our sojourner at Athens would understand 
how a tragic poet can write, he must betake himself to the theatre 
on the south, and see and hear the drama literally in action. Or let 



UNIVERSITY LIFE AT ATHENS 57 

him go westward to the Agora, and there he will hear Lysias or 
Andocides pleading, or Demosthenes haranguing. He goes farther 
west still, along the shade of those noble planes, which Cimon has 
planted there; and he looks around him at the statues and porticos 
and vestibules, each by itself a work of genius and skill, enough to 
be the making of another city. He passes through the city gate, 
and then he is at the famous Ceramicus; here are the tombs of the 
mighty dead; and here, we will suppose, is Pericles himself, the 
most elevated, the most thrilling of orators, converting a funeral 
oration over the slain into a philosophical panegyric of the living. 

Onwards he proceeds still; and now he has come to that still more 
celebrated Academe, which has bestowed its own name on Uni- 
versities down to this day; and there he sees a sight which will be 
graven on his memory till he dies. Many are the beauties of the 
place, the groves, and the statues, and the temple, and the stream 
of the Cephissus flowing by; many are the lessons which will be 
taught him day after day by teacher or by companion; but his eye 
is just now arrested by one object; it is the very presence of Plato. 
He does not hear a word that he says; he does not care to hear; he 
asks neither for discourse nor disputation; what he sees is a whole, 
complete in itself, not to be increased by addition, and greater than 
anything else. It will be a point in the history of his life; a stay for 
his memory to rest on, a burning thought in his heart, a bond of 
union with men of like mind, ever afterwards. Such is the spell 
which the living man exerts on his fellows, for good or for evil. 
How nature impels us to lean upon others, making virtue, or genius, 
or name, the qualification for our doing so! A Spaniard is said to 
have travelled to Italy, simply to see Livy; he had his fill of gazing, 
and then went back again home. Had our young stranger got noth- 
ing by his voyage but the sight of the breathing and moving Plato, 
had he entered no lecture-room to hear, no gymnasium to converse, 
he had got some measure of education, and something to tell of to 
his grandchildren. 

But Plato is not the only sage, nor the sight of him the only lesson 
to be learned in this wonderful suburb. It is the region and the realm 
of philosophy. Colleges were the inventions of many centuries later; 
and they imply a sort of cloistered life, or at least a life of rule, 



58 NEWMAN 

scarcely natural to an Athenian. It was the boast of the philosophic 
statesman of Athens, that his countrymen achieved by the mere force 
of nature and the love of the noble and the great, what other people 
aimed at by laborious discipline; and all who came among them 
were submitted to the same method of education. We have traced 
our student on his wanderings from the Acropolis to the Sacred 
Way; and now he is in the region of the schools. No awful arch, 
no window of many-coloured lights marks the seats of learning 
there or elsewhere; philosophy lives out of doors. No close atmos- 
phere oppresses the brain or inflames the eyelid; no long session 
stiffens the limbs. Epicurus is reclining in his garden; Zeno looks 
like a divinity in his porch; the restless Aristotle, on the other side 
of the city, as if in antagonism to Plato, is walking his pupils off 
their legs in his Lyceum by the Ilyssus. Our student has determined 
on entering himself as a disciple of Theophrastus, a teacher of mar- 
vellous popularity, who has brought together two thousand pupils 
from all parts of the world. He himself is of Lesbos; for masters, 
as well as students, come hither from all regions of the earth, — as 
befits a University. How could Athens have collected hearers in 
such numbers, unless she had selected teachers of such power? it 
was the range of territory, which the notion of a University implies, 
which furnished both the quantity of the one, and the quality of the 
other. Anaxagoras was from Ionia, Carneades from Africa, Zeno 
from Cyprus, Protagoras from Thrace, and Gorgias from Sicily. 
Andromachus was a Syrian, Proa^resius an Armenian, Hilarius a 
Bithynian, Philiscus a Thessalian, Hadrian a Syrian. Rome is cele- 
brated for her liberaUty in civil matters; Athens was as liberal in 
intellectual. There was no narrow jealousy, directed against a Pro- 
fessor, because he was not an Athenian; genius and talent were the 
qualifications; and to bring them to Athens, was to do homage 
to it as a University. There was a brotherhood and a citizenship of 
mind. 

Mind came first, and was the foundation of the academical polity; 
but it soon brought along with it, and gathered round itself, the 
gifts of fortune and the prizes of life. As time went on, wisdom was 
not always sentenced to the bare cloak of Cleanthes; but beginning 
in rags, it ended in fine linen. The Professors became honourable 



UNIVERSITY LIFE AT ATHENS 59 

and rich; and the students ranged themselves under their names, 
and were proud of caUing themselves their countrymen. The Uni- 
versity was divided into four great nations, as the medieval anti- 
quarian would style them; and in the middle of the fourth century, 
Proaeresius was the leader or proctor of the Attic, Hephaestion of 
the Oriental, Epiphanius of the Arabic, and Diophantus of the Pon- 
tic. Thus the Professors were both patrons of clients, and hosts and 
proxeni of strangers and visitors, as well as masters of the schools: 
and the Cappadocian, Syrian, or Sicilian youth who came to one 
or other of them, would be encouraged to study by his protection, 
and to aspire by his example. 

Even Plato, when the schools of Athens were not a hundred years 
old, was in circumstances to enjoy the otium cum dignitate. He had 
a villa out at Heraclea; and he left his patrimony to his school, in 
whose hands it remained, not only safe, but fructifying, a marvellous 
phenomenon in tumultuous Greece, for the long space of eight hun- 
dred years. Epicurus too had the property of the Gardens where 
he lectured; and these too became the property of his sect. But in 
Roman times the chairs of grammar, rhetoric, politics, and the 
four philosophies, were handsomely endowed by the State; some 
of the Professors were themselves statesmen or high functionaries, 
and brought to their favourite study senatorial rank or Asiatic opu- 
lence. 

Patrons such as these can compensate to the freshman, in whom 
we have interested ourselves, for the poorness of his lodging and the 
turbulence of his companions. In every thing there is a better side 
and a worse; in every place a disreputable set and a respectable, and 
the one is hardly known at all to the other. Men come away from 
the same University at this day, with contradictory impressions and 
contradictory statements, according to the society they have found 
there; if you believe the one, nothing goes on there as it should be: 
if you believe the other, nothing goes on as it should not. Virtue, 
however, and decency are at least in the niinority everywhere, and 
under some sort of a cloud or disadvantage; and this being the 
case, it is so much gain whenever an Herodes Atticus is found, to 
throw the influence of wealth and station on the side even of a dec- 
orous philosophy. A consular man, and the heir of an ample for- 



60 NEWMAN 

tune, this Herod was content to devote his Hfe to a professorship, 
and his fortune to the patronage of hterature. He gave the sophist 
Polemo about eight thousand pounds, as the sum is calculated, for 
three declamations. He built at Athens a stadium six hundred feet 
long, entirely of white marble, and capable of admitting the whole 
population. His theatre, erected to the memory of his wife, was 
made of cedar wood curiously carved. He had two villas, one at 
Marathon, the place of his birth, about ten miles from Athens, the 
other at Cephissia, at the distance of six; and thither he drew to him 
the elite, and at times the whole body of the students. Long arcades, 
groves of trees, clear pools for the bath, delighted and recruited the 
summer visitor. Never was so brilliant a lecture-room as his evening 
banqueting-hall; highly connected students from Rome mixed with 
the sharp-witted provincial of Greece or Asia Minor; and the flippant 
sciolist, and the nondescript visitor, half philosopher, half tramp, 
met with a reception, courteous always, but suitable to his deserts. 
Herod was noted for his repartees; and we have instances on record 
of his setting down, according to the emergency, both the one and 
the other. 

A higher line, though a rarer one, was that allotted to the youthful 
Basil. He was one of those men who seem by a sort of fascination 
to draw others around them even without wishing it. One might 
have deemed that his gravity and his reserve would have kept them 
at a distance; but, almost in spite of himself, he was the centre of a 
knot of youths, who, pagans as most of them were, used Athens 
honestly for the purpose for which they professed to seek it; and, 
disappointed and displeased with the place himself, he seems never- 
theless to have been the means of their profiting by its advantages. 
One of these was Sophronius, who afterwards held a high office in 
the State: Eusebius was another, at that time the bosom-friend of 
Sophronius, and afterwards a Bishop. Celsus too is named, who 
afterwards was raised to the government of Cilicia by the Emperor 
Julian. Julian himself, in the sequel of unhappy memory, was then 
at Athens, and known at least to St. Gregory. Another Julian is 
also mentioned, who was afterwards commissioner of the land tax. 
Here we have a glimpse of the better kind of society among the 
students of Athens; and it is to the credit of the parties composing 



UNIVERSITY LIFE AT ATHENS 6 1 

it, that such young men as Gregory and Basil, men as intimately 
connected with Christianity as they were well known in the world, 
should hold so high a place in their esteem and love. When the two 
saints were departing, their companions came around them with the 
hope of changing their purpose. Basil persevered; but Gregory 
relented, and turned back to Athens for a season. 



THE STUDY OF POETRY 



BY 
MATTHEW ARNOLD 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

Matthew Arnold was the son of the well-known English school- 
master, Thomas Arnold of Rugby. He was born at Laleham in 1822, 
and went to school at Winchester and Rugby. Going up to Balliol 
College, Oxford, in 1841, he won a scholarship, took the Newdigate 
prize for English verse, and was elected fellow of Oriel in 1845. After 
some years as a private secretary, he became an Inspector of Schools and 
performed the routine duties of this office for thirty-five years. For ten 
years he was Professor of Poetry at Oxford, and in 1883-84 he lectured 
in America. He died in 1888. 

Arnold is notable among modern men of letters as being almost equally 
distinguished in poetry and prose. His poetical work belongs to the 
earlier part of his career, and was practically finished by 1867. At the 
time of its first publication it appealed to only a narrow public; but it 
rose steadily in esteem through Arnold's life, though he ceased to add 
to it, and now many critics hold that it will outlive his prose. The best 
of it is refined in feeling, lofty in thought, and exquisite in expression; 
its prevailing note, a subdued melancholy. 

In prose Arnold wrote on many themes — educational, social, political, 
and, especially, literary and religious. His attacks on dogmatic Chris- 
tianity promise to be the most short-lived of his works; and perhaps 
deservedly so, as here Arnold was dealing with technical matters in which 
he was not an expert. In literary criticism he has been and still is a vital 
influence, urging especially the value of an outlook over the literatures 
of other countries and the cultivating of an intimacy with the great 
classics of the past. In the following essay on "The Study of Poetry," 
one of the most famous of his utterances, there may be found exemplified 
his characteristically vivacious and memorable style, his delicate appre- 
ciations brilliantly and precisely expressed, his concrete and persuasive 
argument. Perhaps no single critical document of our time has con- 
tributed so many phrases to the current literary vocabulary, or has stim- 
ulated so many readers to the use of lofty and definite standards of judg- 
ment. 



THE STUDY OF POETRY' 

THE future of poetry is immense, because in poetry, where 
it is worthy of its high destinies, our race, as time goes on, 
will find an ever surer and surer stay. There is not a creed 
which is not shaken, not an accredited dogma which is not shown 
to be questionable, not a received tradition which does not threaten 
to dissolve. Our religion has materialised itself in the fact, in the 
supposed fact; it has attached its emotion to the fact, and now the 
fact is failing it. But for poetry the idea is everything; the rest is a 
world of illusion, of divine illusion. Poetry attaches its emotion to 
the idea; the idea is the fact. The strongest part of our religion to-day 
is its unconscious poetry.' 

Let me be permitted to quote these words of my own, as uttering 
the thought which should, in my opinion, go with us and govern 
us in all our study of poetry. In the present work it is the course of 
one great contributory stream to the world-river of poetry that we 
are invited to follow. We are here invited to trace the stream of 
English poetry. But whether we set ourselves, as here, to follow 
only one of the several streams that make the mighty river of poetry, 
or whether we seek to know them all, our governing thought should 
be the same. We should conceive of poetry worthily, and more 
highly than it has been the custom to conceive of it. We should 
conceive of it as capable of higher uses, and called to higher destinies, 
than those which in general men have assigned to it hitherto. More 
and more mankind will discover that we have to turn to poetry 
to interpret life for us, to console us, to sustain us. Without poetry, 
our science will appear incomplete; and most of what now passes 
with us for religion and philosophy will be replaced by poetry. 
Science, I say, will appear incomplete without it. For finely and 
truly does Wordsworth call poetry 'the impassioned expression which 

'Published in 1880 as the General Introduction to 'The English Poets,' edited by 
T. H. Ward. 

65 



66 ARNOLD 

is in the countenance of all science'; and what is a countenance with- 
out its expression ? Again, Wordsworth finely and truly calls poetry 
'the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge'; our religion, parading 
evidences such as those on which the popular mind relies now; our 
philosophy, pluming itself on its reasonings about causation and 
finite and infinite being; what are they but the shadows and dreams 
and false shows of knowledge? The day will come when we shall 
wonder at ourselves for having trusted to them, for having taken 
them seriously; and the more we perceive their hollo wness, the 
more we shall prize 'the breath and finer spirit of knowledge' 
offered to us by poetry. 

But if we conceive thus highly of the destinies of poetry, we must 
also set our standard for poetry high, since poetry, to be capable of 
fulfilling such high destinies, must be poetry of a high order of 
excellence. We must accustom ourselves to a high standard and to 
a strict judgment. Sainte-Beuve relates that Napoleon one day said, 
when somebody was spoken of in his presence as a charlatan : 'Char- 
latan as much as you please; but where is there not charlatanism?' 
— 'Yes,' answers Sainte-Beuve, 'in politics, in the art of governing 
mankind, that is perhaps true. But in the order of thought, in art, 
the glory, the eternal honour is that charlatanism shall find no en- 
trance; herein lies the inviolableness of that noble portion of man's 
being.' It is admirably said, and let us hold fast to it. In poetry, 
which is thought and art in one, it is the glory, the eternal honour, 
that charlatanism shall find no entrance; that this noble sphere be 
kept inviolate and inviolable. Charlatanism is for confusing or 
obliterating the distinctions between excellent and inferior, sound 
and unsound or only half-sound, true and untrue or only half-true. 
It is charlatanism, conscious or unconscious, whenever we confuse 
or obliterate these. And in poetry, more than anywhere else, it is 
unpermissible to confuse or obliterate them. For in poetry the dis- 
tinction between excellent and inferior, sound and unsound or only 
half-sound, true and untrue or only half-true, is of paramount im- 
portance. It is of paramount importance because of the high destinies 
of poetry. In poetry, as in criticism of life under the conditions fixed 
for such a criticism by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty, 
the spirit of our race will find, we have said, as time goes on and 



THE STUDY OF POETRY 67 

as other helps fail, its consolation and stay. But the consolation and 
stay will be of power in proportion to the power of the criticism of 
life. And the criticism of life will be of power in proportion as the 
poetry conveying it is excellent rather than inferior, sound rather 
than unsound or half-sound, true rather than untrue or half-true. 

The best poetry is what we want; the best poetry will be found to 
have a power of forming, sustaining, and delighting us, as nothing 
else can. A clearer, deeper sense of the best in poetry, and of the 
strength and joy to be drawn from it, is the most precious benefit 
which we can gather from a poetical collection such as the present. 
And yet in the very nature and conduct of such a collection there is 
inevitably something which tends to obscure in us the consciousness 
of what our benefit should be, and to distract us from the pursuit 
of it. We should therefore steadily set it before our minds at the 
outset, and should compel ourselves to revert constantly to the 
thought of it as we proceed. 

Yes; constantly in reading poetry, a sense for the best, the really 
excellent, and of the strength and joy to be drawn from it, should be 
present in our minds and should govern our estimate of what we 
read. But this real estimate, the only true one, is liable to be super- 
seded, if we are not watchful, by two other kinds of estimate, the 
historic estimate and the personal estimate, both of which are falla- 
cious. A poet or a poem may count to us historically, they may count 
to us on grounds personal to ourselves, and they may count to us 
really. They may count to us historically. The course of develop- 
ment of a nation's language, thought, and poetry, is profoundly 
interesting; and by regarding a poet's work as a stage in this course 
of development we may easily bring ourselves to make it of more 
importance as poetry than in itself it really is, we may come to use 
a language of quite exaggerated praise in criticising it; in short, to 
overrate it. So arises in our poetic judgments the fallacy caused by 
the estimate which we may call historic. Then, again, a poet or 
poem may count to us on grounds personal to ourselves. Our per- 
sonal affinities, likings and circumstances, have great power to sway 
our estimate of this or that poet's work, and to make us attach 
more importance to it as poetry than in itself it really possesses, 
because to us it is, or has been, of high importance. Here also we 



68 ARNOLD 

overrate the object of our interest, and apply to it a language of 
praise which is quite exaggerated. And thus we get the source of a 
second fallacy in our poetic judgments — the fallacy caused by an 
estimate which we may call personal. 

Both fallacies are natural. It is evident how naturally the study 
of the history and development of poetry may incline a man to 
pause over reputations arid works once conspicuous but now obscure, 
and to quarrel with a careless public for skipping, in obedience to 
mere tradition and habit, from one famous name or work in its 
national poetry to another, ignorant of what it misses, and of the 
reason for keeping what it keeps, and of the whole process of growth 
in its poetry. The French have become diligent students of their 
own early poetry, which they long neglected; the study makes many 
of them dissatisfied with their so-called classical poetry, the court- 
tragedy of the seventeenth century, a poetry which Pellisson long 
ago reproached with its want of the true poetic stamp, with its 
politesse sterile et rampante, but which nevertheless has reigned 
in France as absolutely as if it had been the perfection of classical 
poetry indeed. The dissatisfaction is natural; yet a lively and accom- 
plished critic, M. Charles d'Hericault, the editor of Clement Marot, 
goes too far when he says that 'the cloud of glory playing round a 
classic is a mist as dangerous to the future of a literature as it is 
intolerable for the purposes of history.' 'It hinders,' he goes on, 'it 
hinders us from seeing more than one single point, the culminating 
and exceptional point; the summary, fictitious and arbitrary, of a 
thought and of a work. It substitutes a halo for a physiognomy, it 
puts a statue where there was once a man, and hiding from us all 
trace of the labour, the attempts, the weaknesses, the failures, it 
claims not study but veneration; it does not show us how the thing 
is done, it imposes upon us a model. Above all, for the historian 
this creation of classic personages is inadmissible; for it withdraws 
the poet from his time, from his proper life, it breaks historical 
relationships, it blinds criticism by conventional admiration, and 
renders the investigation of literary origins unacceptable. It gives 
us a human personage no longer but a God seated immovable amidst 
His perfect work, like Jupiter on Olympus; and hardly will it be 
possible for the young student to whom such work is exhibited at 



THE STUDY OF POETRY 69 

such a distance from him, to beUeve that it did not issue ready-made 
from that divine head.' 

All this is brilliantly and tellingly said, but we must plead for a 
distinction. Everything depends on the reality of a poet's classic 
character. If he is a dubious classic, let us sift him; if he is a false 
classic, let us explode him. But if he is a real classic, if his work 
belongs to the class of the very best (for this is the true and right 
meaning of the word classic, classical), then the great thing for us is 
to feel and enjoy his work as deeply as ever we can, and to appreciate 
the wide difference between it and all work which has not the same 
high character. This is what is salutary, this is what is formative; 
this is the great benefit to be got from the study of poetry. Every- 
thing which interferes with it, which hinders it, is injurious. True, 
we must read our classic with open eyes, and not with eyes blinded 
with superstition; we must perceive when his work comes short, 
when it drops out of the class of the very best, and we must rate it, 
in such cases, at its proper value. But the use of this negative criti- 
cism is not in itself, it is entirely in its enabling us to have a clearer 
sense and a deeper enjoyment of what is truly excellent. To trace 
the labour, the attempts, the weaknesses, the failures of a genuine 
classic, to acquaint oneself with his time and his life and his his- 
torical relationships, is mere literary dilettantism unless it has that 
clear sense and deeper enjoyment for its end. It may be said that the 
more we know about a classic the better we shall enjoy him; and, 
if we lived as long as Methuselah and had all of us heads of perfect 
clearness and wills of perfect steadfastness, this might be true in fact 
as it is plausible in theory. But the case here is much the same as the 
case with the Greek and Latin studies of our schoolboys. The 
elaborate philological groundwork which we require them to lay 
is in theory an admirable preparation for appreciating the Greek and 
Latin authors worthily. The more thoroughly we lay the ground- 
work, the better we shall be able, it may be said, to enjoy the authors. 
True, if time were not so short, and schoolboys' wits not so soon tired 
and their power of attention exhausted; only, as it is, the elaborate 
philological preparation goes on, but the authors are little known 
and less enjoyed. So with the investigator of 'historic origins' in 
poetry. He ought to enjoy the true classic all the better for his 



70 ARNOLD 

investigations; he often is distracted from the enjoyment of the best, 
and with the less good he overbusies himself, and is prone to over- 
rate it in proportion to the trouble which it has cost him. 

The idea of tracing historic origins and historical relationships 
cannot be absent from a compilation like the present. And naturally 
the poets to be exhibited in it will be assigned to those persons for 
exhibition who are known to prize them highly, rather than to those 
who have no special inclination towards them. Moreover, the very 
occupation with an author, and the business of exhibiting him, dis- 
poses us to affirm and amplify his importance. In the present work, 
therefore, we are sure of frequent temptation to adopt the historic 
estimate, or the personal estimate, and to forget the real estimate; 
which latter, nevertheless, we must employ if we are to make f)oetry 
yield us its full benefit. So high is that benefit, the benefit of clearly 
feeling and of deeply enjoying the really excellent, the truly classic 
in poetry, that we do well, I say, to set it fixedly before our minds 
as our object in studying poets and poetry, and to make the desire 
of attaining it the one principle to which, as the Imitation says, what- 
ever we may read or come to know, we always return. Cum multa 
legeris et cognoveris, ad unum semper oportet redire principium. 

The historic estimate is likely in especial to affect our judgment 
and our language when we are dealing with ancient poets; the 
personal estimate when we are dealing with poets our contempo- 
raries, or at any rate modern. The exaggerations due to the historic 
estimate are not in themselves, perhaps, of very much gravity. Their 
report hardly enters the general ear; probably they do not always 
impose even on the literary men who adopt them. But they lead 
to a dangerous abuse of language. So we hear Caedmon, amongst 
our own poets, compared to Milton. I have already noticed the 
enthusiasm of one accomplished French critic for 'historic origins.' 
Another eminent French critic, M. Vitet, comments upon that 
famous document of the early poetry of his nation, the Chanson de 
Roland. It is indeed a most interesting document. The joculator or 
jongleur Taillefer, who was with William the Conqueror's army 
at Hastings, marched before the Norman troops, so said the tradi- 
tion, singing 'of Charlemagne and of Roland and of Oliver, and of 
the vassals who died at Roncevaux'; and it is suggested that in the 



THE STUDY OF POETRY 7I 

Chanson de Roland by one Turoldus or Theroulde, a poem pre- 
served in a manuscript o£ the twelfth century in the Bodleian Li- 
brary at Oxford, we have certainly the matter, perhaps even some 
of the words, of the chant which Taillefer sang. The poem has 
vigour and freshness; it is not without pathos. But M. Vitet is not 
satisfied with seeing in it a document of some poetic value, and of 
very high historic and linguistic value; he sees in it a grand and 
beautiful work, a monument of epic genius. In its general design 
he finds the grandiose conception, in its details he finds the constant 
union of simplicity with greatness, which are the marks, he truly 
says, of the genuine epic, and distinguish it from the artificial epic 
of literary ages. One thinks of Homer; this is the sort of praise 
which is given to Homer, and justly given. Higher praise there can- 
not well be, and it is the praise due to epic poetry of the highest 
order only, and to no other. Let us try, then, the Chanson de Roland 
at its best. Roland, mortally wounded, lay himself down under a 
pine-tree, with his face turned towards Spain and the enemy — 

'De plusurs choses a remembrer li prist, 
De tantes teres cume li hers cunquist, 
De dulce France, des Humes de sun Hgn, 
De Carlemagne sun seignor ki I'nurrit.' ^ 

That is primitive work, I repeat, with an undeniable poetic quality 
of its own. It deserves such praise, and such praise is sufficient for 
it. But now turn to Homer — 

"Qj ipkro- TOW S' fj5ri Karextv tpval^oos oXa, 
kv AaKidalfiovi avdi, ip'Ovg iv xorpiSt yaly.' 

We are here in another world, another order of poetry altogether; 
here is rightly due such supreme praise as that which M. Vitet gives 
to the Chanson de Roland. If our words are to have any meaning, 
if our judgments are to have any solidity, we must not heap that 
supreme praise upon poetry of an order immeasurably inferior. 

^ 'Then began he to call many things to remembrance, — all the lands which his 
valour conquered, and pleasant France, and the men of his lineage, and Charlemagne 
his liege lord who nourished him.' — 'Chanson de Roland,' iii. 939—942. 
' 'So said she; they long since in Earth's soft arms were reposing. 
There, in their own dear land, their fatherland, Lacedxmon.' 

— 'Iliad,' iii. 243, 244 (translated by Dr. Hawtrey). 



72 ARNOLD 

Indeed there can be no more useful help for discovering what 
poetry belongs to the class of the truly excellent, and can therefore 
do us most good, than to have always in one's mind lines and ex- 
pressions of the great masters, and to apply them as a touchstone to 
other poetry. Of course we are not to require this other poetry to 
resemble them; it may be very dissimilar. But if we have any tact 
we shall find them, when v/e have lodged them well in our minds, 
an infallible touchstone for detecting the presence or absence of high 
poetic quality, and also the degree of this quality, in all other poetry 
which we may place beside them. Short passages, even single lines, 
will serve our turn quite sufficiently. Take the two lines which I have 
just quoted from Homer, the poet's comment on Helen's mention 
of her brothers; — or take his 

'A SetXo), tI c^pCi'i Sd/iev JJrfKfj'i avaKTi 
OvqrQ ; ii/i€ts 5' kcFTOv ayripo} t' adavaroo re. 
^ Iva 8vaTrivoi.cn fier' AvSpaaLV &\7t' ex'?'"'"' j* 

the address of Zeus to the horses of Peleus; — or take finally his 
.Kai ci, ykpov, ri irplv flip h,Koboixa> S\0u)v tlvat.-* 

the words of Achilles to Priam, a suppliant before him. Take that 
incomparable line and a half of Dante, Ugolino's tremendous 
words — 

'lo no piangeva; si dentro impietrai. 

Piangevan elli ..." * 

take the lovely words of Beatrice to Virgil — 

'lo son fatta da Die, sua merce, tale, 
Che la vostra miseria non mi tange, 
Ne fiamma d'esto incendio non m'assale .,.''' 

take the simple, but perfect, single line — 

'In la sua volontade e nostra pace.' ' 
■•'Ah, unhappy pair, why gave we you to King Peleus, to a mortal? but ye are 
without old age, and immortal. Was it that with men born to misery ye might have 
sorrow?' — 'Iliad,' xvii. 443-445. 

* 'Nay, and thou too, old man, in former days wast, as we hear, happy.' — 'Iliad,' 
xxiv. 543. 

8 'I wailed not, so of stone grew I within; — they wailed.' — 'Inferno,' xxxiii. 39, 40. 
' 'Of such sort hath God, thanked be His mercy, made me, that your misery toucheth 
me not, neither doth the tlame of this fire strike me." — 'Inferno,' ii. 91-93. 

* 'In His will is our peace.' — 'Paradiso,' iii. 85. 



THE STUDY OF POETRY 73 

Take of Shakespeare a line or two of Henry the Fourth's expostula 
lation with sleep — 

'Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast 
Seal up the shipboy's eyes, and rock his brains 
In cradle of the rude imperious surge . . .' 

and take, as well, Hamlet's dying request to Horatio — 

'If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, 
Absent thee from felicity awhile, 
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain 
To tell my story . . .' 

Take of Milton that Miltonic passage: 

'Darken'd so, yet shone 
Above them all the archangel; but his face 
Deep scars of thunder had intrench'd, and care 
Sat on his faded cheek . . .' 

add two such lines as — 

'And courage never to submit or yield 
And what is else not to be overcome . . .* 

and finish with the exquisite close to the loss of Proserpine, the loss 

' . . , which cost Ceres all that pain 
To seek her through the world.' 

These few lines, if we have tact and can use them, are enough even 
of themselves to keep clear and sound our judgments about poetry, 
to save us from fallacious estimates of it, to conduct us to a real 
estimate. 

The specimens I have quoted differ widely from one another, but 
they have in common this : the possession of the very highest poetical 
quality. If we are thoroughly penetrated by their power, we shall 
find that we have acquired a sense enabling us, whatever poetry 
may be laid before us, to feel the degree in which a high poetical 
quality is present or wanting there. Critics give themselves great 
labour to draw out what in the abstract constitutes the characters 
of a high quality of poetry. It is much better simply to have recourse 
to concrete examples; — to take specimens of poetry of the high, the 
very highest quality, and to say: The characters of a high quality 



74 ARNOLD 

of poetry are what is expressed there. They are far better recognised 
by being felt in the verse of the master, than by being perused in 
the prose of the critic. Nevertheless if we are urgently pressed to give 
some critical account of them, we may safely, perhaps, venture on 
laying down, not indeed how and why the characters arise, but 
where and in what they arise. They are in the matter and substance 
of the poetry, and they are in its manner and style. Both of these, 
the substance and matter on the one hand, the style and manner on 
the other, have a mark, an accent, of high beauty, worth, and power. 
But if we are asked to define this mark and accent in the abstract, 
our answer must be: No, for we should thereby be darkening the 
question, not clearing it. The mark and accent are as given by the 
substance and matter of that poetry, by the style and manner of 
that poetry, and of all other poetry which is akin to it in quality. 

Only one thing we may add as to the substance and matter of 
poetry, guiding ourselves by Aristotle's profound observation that the 
superiority of poetry over history consists in its possessing a higher 
truth and a higher seriousness {<piKoao(puiTipov koI a-KovbaioTepov). Let 
us add, therefore, to what we have said, this: that the substance 
and matter of the best poetry acquire their special character from 
possessing, in an eminent degree, truth and seriousness. We may 
add yet further, what is in itself evident, that to the style and manner 
of the best poetry their special character, their accent, is given by 
their diction, and, even yet more, by their movement. And though 
we distinguish between the two characters, the two accents, of 
superiority, yet they are nevertheless vitally connected one with the 
other. The superior character of truth and seriousness, in the matter 
and substance of the best poetry, is inseparable from the superiority 
of diction and movement marking its style and manner. The two 
superiorities are closely related, and are in steadfast proportion one 
to the other. So far as high poetic truth and seriousness are wanting 
to a poet's matter and substance, so far also, we may be sure, will a 
high poetic stamp of diction and movement be wanting to his style 
and manner. In proportion as this high stamp of diction and move- 
ment, again, is absent from a poet's style and manner, we shall find, 
also, that high poetic truth and seriousness are absent from his 
substance and matter. 



THE STUDY OF POETRY 75 

So stated, these are but dry generalities; their whole force lies in 
their application. And I could wish every student of poetry to make 
the application of them for himself. Made by himself, the applica- 
tion would impress itself upon his mind far more deeply than made 
by me. Neither will my limits allow me to make any full application 
of the generalities above propounded; but in the hope of bringing 
out, at any rate, some significance in them, and of establishing an 
important principle more firmly by their means, I will, in the space 
which remains to me, follow rapidly from the commencement the 
course of our English poetry with them in my view. 

Once more I return to the early poetry of France, with which our 
own poetry, in its origins, is indissolubly connected. In the twelfth 
and thirteenth centuries, that seedtime of all modern language and 
literature, the poetry of France had a clear predominance in Europe. 
Of the two divisions of that poetry, its productions in the langue 
d'oil and its productions in the langue d'oc, the poetry of the langue 
d'oc, of southern France, of the troubadours, is of importance because 
of its effect on Italian literature; — the first literature of modern 
Europe to strike the true and grand note, and to bring forth, as in 
Dante and Petrarch it brought forth, classics. But the predominance 
of French poetry in Europe, during the twelfth and thirteenth cen- 
turies, is due to its poetry of the langue d'oil, the poetry of northern 
France and of the tongue which is now the French language. In 
the twelfth century the bloom of this romance-poetry was earlier 
and stronger in England, at the court of our Anglo-Norman kings, 
than in France itself. But it was a bloom of French poetry; and as 
our native poetry formed itself, it formed itself out of this. The 
romance-poems which took possession of the heart and imagination 
of Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries are French; 'they 
are,' as Southey justly says, 'the pride of French literature, nor have 
we anything which can be placed in competition with them.' 
Themes were supplied from all quarters; but the romance-setting 
which was common to them all, and which gained the ear of 
Europe, was French. This constituted for the French poetry, litera- 
ture, and language, at the height of the Middle Age, an unchal- 
lenged predominance. The Italian Brunetto Latini, the master of 
Dante, wrote his Treasure in French because, he says, 'la parleure 



76 ARNOLD 

en est plus delitable et plus commune a toutes gens.' In the same 
century, the thirteenth, the French romance-writer, Christian of 
Troyes, formulates the claims, in chivalry and letters, of France, his 
native country, as follows: — 

'Or vous art par ce livre apris. 
Que Gresse ot de chevalerie 
Le premier los et de clergie; 
Puis vint chevalerie a Rome, 
Et de la clergie la some, 
Qui ore est en France venue. 
Diex doinst qu'ele i soit retenue, 
Et que li lius li abelisse 
Tant que de France n'isse 
L'onor qui s'i est arestee!' 

'Now by this book you will learn that first Greece had the renown 
for chivalry and letters: then chivalry and the primacy in letters 
passed to Rome, and now it is come to France. God grant it may 
be kept there; and that the place may please it so well, that the 
honour which has come to make stay in France may never depart 
thence!' 

Yet it is now all gone, this French romance-poetry of which the 
weight of substance and the power of style are not unfairly repre- 
sented by this extract from Christian of Troyes. Only by means 
of the historic estimate can we persuade ourselves not to think that 
any of it is of poetical importance. 

But in the fourteenth century there comes an Englishman nour- 
ished on this poetry, taught his trade by this poetry, getting words, 
rhyme, metre from this poetry; for even of that stanza which the 
Italians used, and which Chaucer derived immediately from the 
Italians, the basis and suggestion was probably given in France. 
Chaucer (I have already named him) fascinated his contemporaries, 
but so too did Christian of Troyes and Wolfram of Eschenbach. 
Chaucer's power of fascination, however, is enduring; his poetical 
importance does not need the assistance of the historic estimate; it 
is real. He is a genuine source of joy and strength, which is flowing 
still for us and will flow always. He will be read, as time goes on, 
far more generally than he is read now. His language is a cause of 



THE STUDY OF POETRY ']'] 

difficulty for us; but so also, and I think in quite as great a degree, 
is the language of Burns. In Chaucer's case, as in that of Burns, 
it is a difficulty to be unhesitatingly accepted and overcome. 

If we ask ourselves wherein consists the immense superiority of 
Chaucer's poetry over the romance-poetry — why it is that in passing 
from this to Chaucer we suddenly feel ourselves to be in another 
world, we shall find that his superiority is both in the substance 
of his poetry and in the style of his poetry. His superiority in sub- 
stance is given by his large, free, simple, clear yet kindly view of 
human life, — so unlike the total want, in the romance-poets, of all 
intelligent command of it. Chaucer has not their helplessness; he 
has gained the power to survey the world from a central, a truly 
human point of view. We have only to call to mind the Prologue to 
The Canterbury Tales. The right comment upon it is Dryden's: 
'It is sufficient to say, according to the proverb, that here is God's 
plenty.' And again : 'He is a perpetual fountain of good sense.' It is 
by a large, free, sound representation of things, that poetry, this 
high criticism of life, has truth of substance; and Chaucer's poetry 
has truth of substance. 

Of his style and manner, if we think first of the romance-poetry 
and then of Chaucer's divine liquidness of diction, his divine fluid- 
ity of movement, it is difficult to speak temperately. They are irre- 
sistible, and justify all the rapture with which his successors speak 
of his 'gold dew-drops of speech.' Johnson misses the point entirely 
when he finds fault with Dryden for ascribing to Chaucer the first 
refinement of our numbers, and says that Gower also can show 
smooth numbers and easy rhymes. The refinement of our numbers 
means something far more than this. A nation may have versifiers 
with smooth numbers and easy rhymes, and yet may have no real 
poetry at all. Chaucer is the father of our splendid English poetry; 
he is our 'well of English undefiled,' because by the lovely charm 
of his diction, the lovely charm of his movement, he makes an 
epoch and founds a tradition. In Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, 
Keats, we can follow the tradition of the liquid diction, the fluid 
movement of Chaucer; at one time it is his liquid diction of which 
in these poets we feel the virtue, and at another time it is his fluid 
movement. And the virtue is irresistible. 



78 ARNOLD 

Bounded as is my space, I must yet find room for an example of 
Chaucer's virtue, as I have given examples to show the virtue of 
the great classics. I feel disposed to say that a single line is enough to 
show the charm of Chaucer's verse; that merely one line like this — 

'O martyr souded' in virginitee!' 

has a virtue of manner and movement such as we shall not find in 
all the verse of romance-poetry; — ^but this is saying nothing. The 
virtue is such as we shall not find, perhaps, in all English poetry, 
outside the poets whom I have named as the special inheritors of 
Chaucer's tradition. A single line, however, is too little if we have 
not the strain of Chaucer's verse well in our memory; let us take a 
stanza. It is from The Prioress's Tale, the story of the Christian child 
murdered in a Jewry — 

'My throte is cut unto my nekke-bone 
Saide this child, and as by way of kinde 
I should have deyd, yea, longe time agone; 
But Jesu Christ, as ye in bookes finde, 
Will that his glory last and be in minde. 
And for the worship of his mother dare 
Yet may I sing O Alma loud and clere.' 

Wordsworth has modernised this Tale, and to feel how delicate and 
evanescent is the charm of verse, we have only to read Wordsworth's 
first three lines of this stanza after Chaucer's — 

'My throat is cut unto the bone, I trow. 
Said this young child, and by the law of kind 
I should have died, yea, many hours ago.' 

The charm is departed. It is often said that the power of liquidness 
and fluidity in Chaucer's verse was dependent upon a free, a licen- 
tious dealing with language, such as is now impossible; upon a lib- 
erty, such as Burns too enjoyed, of making words like nec\, bird, into 
a dissyllable by adding to them, and words like cause, rhyme, into a 
dissyllable by sounding the e mute. It is true that Chaucer's fluidity 
is conjoined with this liberty, and is admirably served by it; but we 
ought not to say that it was dependent upon it. It was dependent 
^ The French sonde; soldered, fixed fast. 



THE STUDY OF POETRY 79 

upon his talent. Other poets with a Hke Hberty do not attain to the 
fluidity of Chaucer; Burns himself does not attain to it. Poets, again, 
who have a talent akin to Chaucer's, such as Shakespeare or Keats, 
have known how to attain his fluidity without the like liberty. 

And yet Chaucer is not one of the great classics. His poetry tran- 
scends and effaces, easily and without effort, all the romance-poetry 
of Catholic Christendom; it transcends and effaces all the English 
poetry contemporary with it, it transcends and effaces all the English 
poetry subsequent to it down to the age of Elizabeth. Of such avail 
is poetic truth of substance, in its natural and necessary union with 
poetic truth of style. And yet, I say, Chaucer is not one of the great 
classics. He has not their accent. What is wanting to him is sug- 
gested by the mere mention of the name of the first great classic of 
Christendom, the immortal poet who died eighty years before Chau- 
cer, — Dante. The accent of such verse as 

'In la sua volontade e nostra pace . . .' 

is altogether beyond Chaucer's reach; we praise him, but we feel 
that this accent is out of the question for him. It may be said that 
it was necessarily out of the reach of any poet in the England of that 
stage of growth. Possibly; but we are to adopt a real, not a historic, 
estimate of poetry. However we may account for its absence, some- 
thing is wanting, then, to the poetry of Chaucer, which poetry must 
have before it can be placed in the glorious class of the best. And 
there is no doubt what that something is. It is the trirouSatoTTjs, the 
high and excellent seriousness, which Aristotle assigns as one of the 
grand virtues of poetry. The substance of Chaucer's poetry, his view 
of things and his criticism of life, has largeness, freedom, 
shrewdness, benignity; but it has not this high seriousness. Homer's 
criticism of life has it, Dante's has it, Shakespeare's has it. It is this 
chiefly which gives to our spirits what they can rest upon; and with 
the increasing demands of our modern ages upon poetry, this virtue 
of giving us what we can rest upon will be more and more highly 
esteemed. A voice from the slums of Paris, fifty or sixty years after 
Chaucer, the voice of poor Villon out of his life of riot and crime, has 
at its happy moments (as, for instance, in the last stanza of La Belle 



8o ARNOLD 

Heaulmiere^") more of this important poetic virtue of seriousness 
than all the productions of Chaucer. But its apparition in Villon, and 
in men like Villon, is fitful; the greatness of the great poets, the 
power of their criticism of life, is that their virtue is sustained. 

To our praise, therefore, of Chaucer as a poet there must be this 
limitation; he lacks the high seriousness of the great classics, and 
therewith an important part of their virtue. Still, the main fact for 
us to bear in mind about Chaucer is his sterling value according to 
that real estimate which we firmly adopt for all poets. He has poetic 
truth of substance, though he has not high poetic seriousness, and 
corresponding to his truth of substance he has an exquisite virtue of 
style and manner. With him is born our real poetry. 

For my present purpose I need not dwell on our Elizabethan 
poetry, or on the continuation and close of this poetry in Milton. We 
all of us profess to be agreed in the estimate of this poetry; we all of 
us recognise it as great poetry, our greatest, and Shakespeare and Mil- 
ton as our poetical classics. The real estimate, here, has universal cur- 
rency. With the next age of our poetry divergency and difficulty be- 
gin. An historic estimate of that poetry has established itself; and the 
question is, whether it will be found to coincide with the real esti- 
mate. 

The age of Dryden, together with our whole eighteenth century 
which followed it, sincerely believed itself to have produced poetical 
classics of its own, and even to have made advance, in poetry, beyond 
all its predecessors. Dryden regards as not seriously disputable the 
opinion 'that the sweetness of English verse was never understood or 

'"The name Heaulmiire is said to be derived from a head-dress (helm) worn as 
a mark by courtesans. In Villon's ballad, a poor old creature of this class laments her 
days of youth and beauty. The last stanza of the ballad runs thus — 

'Ainsi le bon temps regretons 

Entre nous, pauvres vieilles sottes, 

Assises bas, a croppetons. 

Tout en ung tas comme pelottes; 

A petit feu de chenevottes 

Tost allum^es, tost estainctes. 

Et jadis fusmes si mignottes! 

Ainsi en prend a maintz et maintes.' 
'Thus amongst ourselves we regret the good time, poor silly old things, low-seated 
on our heels, all in a heap like so many balls; by a litde fire of hemp-stalks, soon 
lighted, soon spent. And once we were such darlings! So fares it with many and 
many a one.' 



THE STUDY OF POETRY 8 1 

practised by our fathers.' Cowley could see nothing at all in Chau- 
cer's poetry. Dryden heartily admired it, and, as we have seen, 
praised its matter admirably; but of its exquisite manner and move- 
ment all he can find to say is that 'there is the rude sweetness of a 
Scotch tune in it, which is natural and pleasing, though not perfect.' 
Addison, wishing to praise Chaucer's numbers, compares them with 
Dryden's own. And all through the eighteenth century, and down 
even into our own times, the stereotyped phrase of approbation 
for good verse found in our early poetry has been, that it even 
approached the verse of Dryden, Addison, Pope, and Johnson. 

Are Dryden and Pope poetical classics? Is the historic estimate, 
which represents them as such, and which has been so long estab- 
lished that it cannot easily give way, the real estimate? Words- 
worth and Coleridge, as is well known, denied it; but the authority 
of Wordsworth and Coleridge does not weigh much with the young 
generation, and there are many signs to show that the eighteenth 
century and its judgments are coming into favour again. Are the 
favourite poets of the eighteenth century classics? 

It is impossible within my present limits to discuss the question 
fully. And what man of letters would not shrink from seeming to 
dispose dictatorially of the claims of two men who are, at any rate, 
such masters in letters as Dryden and Pope; two men of such ad- 
mirable talent, both of them, and one of them, Dryden, a man, on 
all sides, of such energetic and genial power ? And yet, if we are to 
gain the full benefit from poetry, we must have the real estimate of 
it. I cast about for some mode of arriving, in the present case, at 
such an estimate without offence. And perhaps the best way is to 
begin, as it is easy to begin, with cordial praise. 

When we find Chapman, the Elizabethan translator of Homer, 
expressing himself in his preface thus: 'Though truth in her very 
nakedness sits in so deep a pit, that from Gades to Aurora and Gan- 
ges few eyes can sound her, I hope yet those few here will so discover 
and confirm that, the date being out of her darkness in this morning 
of our poet, he shall now gird his temples with the sun,' — we pro- 
nounce that such a prose is intolerable. When we find Milton writ- 
ing: 'And long it was not after, when I was confirmed in this opin- 
ion, that he, who would not be frustrate of his hope to write well 



82 ARNOLD 

hereafter in laudable things, ought himself to be a true poem,' — ^we 
pronounce that such a prose has its own grandeur, but that it is obso- 
lete and inconvenient. But when we find Dryden telling us: 'What 
Virgil wrote in the vigour of his age, in plenty and at ease, I have 
undertaken to translate in my declining years; struggling with 
wants, oppressed with sickness, curbed in my genius, liable to be 
misconstrued in all I write,' — 'then we exclaim that here at last 
we have the true English prose, a prose such as we would all 
gladly use if we only knew how. Yet Dryden was Milton's con- 
temporary. 

But after the Restoration the time had come when our nation felt 
the imperious need of a fit prose. So, too, the time had hkewise 
come when our nation felt the imperious need of freeing itself 
from the absorbing preoccupation which religion in the Puritan age 
had exercised. It was impossible that this freedom should be brought 
about without some negative excess, without some neglect and im- 
pairment of the religious life of the soul; and the spiritual history 
of the eighteenth century shows us that the freedom was not 
achieved without them. Still, the freedom was achieved; the pre- 
occupation, an undoubtedly baneful and retarding one if it had 
continued, was got rid of. And as with religion amongst us at that 
period, so it was also with letters. A fit prose was a necessity; but it 
was impossible that a fit prose should establish itself amongst us 
without some touch of frost to the imaginative life of the soul. The 
needful qualities for a fit prose are regularity, uniformity, precision, 
balance. The men of letters, whose destiny it may be to bring their 
nation to the attainment of a fit prose, must of necessity, whether 
they work in prose or in verse, give a predominating, an almost 
exclusive attention to the qualities of regularity, uniformity, pre- 
cision, balance. But an almost exclusive attention to these qualities 
involves some repression and silencing of poetry. 

We are to regard Dryden as the puissant and glorious founder. 
Pope as the splendid high priest, of our age of prose and reason, of 
our excellent and indispensable eighteenth century. For the purposes 
of their mission and destiny their poetry, like their prose, is admi- 
rable. Do you ask me whether Dryden's verse, take it almost where 
you will, is not good? 



THE STUDY OF POETRY 83 

'A milk-white Hind, immortal and unchanged, 
Fed on the lawns and in the forest ranged.' 

I answer: Admirable for the purposes of the inaugurator of an age 
of prose and reason. Do you ask me whether Pope's verse, take it 
almost where you will, is not good.? 

'To Hounslow Heath I point, and Banstead Down; 
Thence comes your mutton, and these chicks my own.' 

I answer: Admirable for the purposes of the high priest of an age 
of prose and reason. But do you ask me whether such verse proceeds 
from men with an adequate poetic criticism of life, from men whose 
criticism of life has a high seriousness, or even, without that high 
seriousness, has poetic largeness, freedom, insight, benignity.? Do 
you ask me whether the application of ideas to life in the verse of 
these men, often a powerful application, no doubt, is a powerful 
poetic application } Do you ask me whether the poetry of these men 
has either the matter or the inseparable manner of such an adequate 
poetic criticism; whether it has the accent of 



or of 
or of 



'Absent thee from felicity awhile . . .' 
'And what is else not to be overcome . 
'O martyr souded in virginitee!' 



I answer: It has not and cannot have them; it is the poetry of the 
builders of an age of prose and reason. Though they may write in 
verse, though they may in a certain sense be masters of the art of 
versification, Dryden and Pope are not classics of our poetry, they 
are classics of our prose. 

Gray is our poetical classic of that literature and age; the position 
of Gray is singular, and demands a word of notice here. He has not 
the volume or the power of poets who, coming in times more favour- 
able, have attained to an independent criticism of life. But he lived 
with the great poets, he lived, above all, with the Greeks, through 
perpetually studying and enjoying them; and he caught their poetic 



84 ARNOLD 

point of view for regarding life, caught their poetic manner. The 
point of view and the manner are not self-sprung in him, he caught 
them of others; and he had not the free and abundant use of them. 
But, whereas Addison and Pope never had the use of them, Gray 
had the use of them at times. He is the scantiest and frailest of 
classics in our poetry, but he is a classic. 

And now, after Gray, we are met, as we draw towards the end of 
the eighteenth century, we are met by the great name of Burns. 
We enter now on times where the personal estimate of poets begins 
to be rife, and where the real estimate of them is not reached without 
difficulty. But in spite of the disturbing pressures of personal par- 
tiality, of national partiality, let us try to reach a real estimate of the 
poetry of Burns. 

By his English poetry Burns in general belongs to the eighteenth 
century, and has little importance for us. 

'Mark ruffian Violence, distain'd with crimes. 

Rousing elate in these degenerate times; 

View unsuspecting Innocence a prey, 

As guileful Fraud points out the erring way; 

While subtle Litigation's pliant tongue 

The life-blood equal sucks of Right and Wrong!' 

Evidently this is not the real Burns, or his name and fame would have 
disappeared long ago. Nor is Clarinda's love-poet, Sylvander, the 
real Burns either. But he tells us himself: 'These English songs 
gravel me to death. I have not the command of the language that I 
have of my native tongue. In fact, I think that my ideas are more 
barren in English than in Scotch. I have been at Duncan Gray to 
dress it in English, but all I can do is desperately stupid.' We Eng- 
lish turn naturally, in Burns, to the poems in our own language, 
because we can read them easily; but in those poems we have not 
the real Burns. 

The real Burns is of course in his Scotch poems. Let us boldly 
say that of much of this poetry, a poetry dealing perpetually with 
Scotch drink, Scotch religion, and Scotch manners, a Scotchman's 
estimate is apt to be personal. A Scotchman is used to this world of 
Scotch drink, Scotch religion, and Scotch manners; he has a tender- 
ness for it; he meets its poet halfway. In this tender mood he reads 



THE STUDY OF POETRY 85 

pieces like the Holy Fair or Halloween. But this world of Scotch 
drink, Scotch religion, and Scotch manners is against a poet, not 
for him, when it is not a partial countryman who reads him; for in 
itself it is not a beautiful world, and no one can deny that it is of 
advantage to a poet to deal with a beautiful world. Burns's world of 
Scotch drink, Scotch religion, and Scotch manners, is often a harsh, 
a sordid, a repulsive world: even the world of his Cotter's Saturday 
Night is not a beautiful world. No doubt a poet's criticism of life 
may have such truth and power that it triumphs over its world and 
delights us. Burns may triumph over his world, often he does 
triumph over his world, but let us observe how and where. Burns 
is the first case we have had where the bias of the personal estimate 
tends to mislead; let us look at him closely, he can bear it. 

Many of his admirers will tell us that we have Burns, convivial, 
genuine, delightful, here — 

'Leeze me on drink! it gies us mair 

Than either school or college; 
It kindles wit, it waukens lair, 

It pangs us fou o' knowledge. 
Be't whisky gill or penny wheep 

Or ony stronger potion. 
It never fails, on drinking deep, 

To kittle up our notion 

By night or day.* 

There is a great deal of that sort of thing in Burns, and it is unsatis- 
factory, not because it is bacchanalian poetry, but because it has not 
that accent of sincerity which bacchanalian poetry, to do it justice, 
very often has. There is something in it of bravado, something 
which makes us feel that we have not the man speaking to us with 
his real voice; something, therefore, poetically unsound. 

With still more confidence will his admirers tell us that we have 
the genuine Burns, the great poet, when his strain asserts the inde- 
pendence, equality, dignity, of men, as in the famous song For a' 
that, and a' that — 

'A prince can mak' a belted knight, 

A marquis, duke, and a' that; 
But an honest man's aboon his might, 

Guid faith he mauna fa' that! 



86 ARNOLD 

For a' that, and a' that, 

Their dignities, and a' that, 
The pith o' sense, and pride o' worth, 

Are higher rank than a' that.' 

Here they find his grand, genuine touches; and still more, when 
this puissant genius, who so often set morality at defiance, falls 
moralising — 

'The sacred lowe o' weel-placed love 

Luxuriantly indulge it; 
But never tempt th' illicit rove, 

The' naething should divulge it. 
I waive the quantum o' the sin, 

The hazard o' concealing. 
But och! it hardens a' within, 

And petrifies the feeling.' 

Or in a higher strain — 

'Who made the heart, 'tis He alone 
~ Decidedly can try us; 

He knows each chord, its various tone; 

Each spring, its various bias. 
Then at the balance let's be mute. 

We never can adjust it; 
What's done we pardy may compute, 

But know not what's resisted.' 

Or in a better strain yet, a strain, his admirers will say, unsur- 
passable — 

'To make a happy fireside clime 
To weans and wife. 
That's the true pathos and sublime 
Of human life.' 

There is criticism of life for you, the admirers of Burns will say to 
us; there is the application of ideas to life! There is, undoubtedly. 
The doctrine of the last-quoted lines coincides almost exactly with 
what was the aim and end, Xenophon tells us, of all the teaching of 
Socrates. And the application is a powerful one; made by a man of 
vigorous understanding, and (need I say?) a master of language. 

But for supreme poetical success more is required than the power- 
ful application of ideas to life; it must be an application under the 



THE STUDY OF POETRY 87 

conditions fixed by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty. Those 
laws fix as an essential condition, in the poet's treatment of such 
matters as are here in question, high seriousness; — the high serious- 
ness which comes from absolute sincerity. The accent of high 
seriousness, born of absolute sincerity, is what gives to such verse as 

'In la sua volontade e nostra pace . . .' 

to such criticism of life as Dante's, its power. Is this accent felt in 
the passages which I have been quoting from Burns? Surely not; 
surely, if our sense is quick, we must perceive that we have not in 
those passages a voice from the very inmost soul of the genuine 
Burns; he is not speaking to us from these depths, he is more or 
less preaching. And the compensation for admiring such passages 
less, from missing the perfect poetic accent in them, will be that 
we shall admire more the poetry where that accent is found. 

No; Burns, like Chaucer, comes short of the high seriousness of 
the great classics, and the virtue of matter and manner which goes 
with that high seriousness is wanting to his work. At moments he 
touches it in a profound and passionate melancholy, as in those four 
immortal lines taken by Byron as a motto for The Bride of Abydos, 
but which have in them a depth of poetic quality such as resides 
in no verse of Byron's own — 

'Had we never loved sae kindly. 
Had we never loved sae blindly. 
Never met, or never parted, 
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.' 

But a whole poem of that quality Burns cannot make; the rest, in 
the Farewell to Nancy, is verbiage. 

We arrive best at the real estimate of Burns, I think, by con- 
ceiving his work as having truth of matter and truth of manner, but 
not the accent or the poetic virtue of the highest masters. His 
genuine criticism of life, when the sheer poet in him speaks, is 
ironic; it is not — 

'Thou Power Supreme, whose mighty scheme 

These woes of mine fulfil. 
Here firm I rest, they must be best 

Because they are Thy will!' 



88 ARNOLD 

It is far rather: Whistle owre the lave o'tl Yet we may say of him 
as of Chaucer, that of life and the world, as they come before him, 
his view is large, free, shrewd, benignant, — truly poetic therefore; 
and his manner of rendering what he sees is to match. But we must 
note, at the same time, his great difference from Chaucer. The free- 
dom of Chaucer is heightened, in Burns, by a fiery, reckless energy; 
the benignity of Chaucer deepens, in Burns, into an overwhelming 
sense of the pathos of things; — of the pathos of human nature, the 
pathos, also, of non-human nature. Instead of the fluidity of Chau- 
cer's manner, the manner of Burns has spring, boundless swiftness. 
Burns is by far the greater force, though he has perhaps less charm. 
The world of Chaucer is fairer, richer, more significant than that of 
Burns; but when the largeness and freedom of Burns get full sweep, 
as in Tarn o' Shunter, or still more in that puissant and splendid 
production, "The ]olly Beggars, his world may be what it will, his 
poetic genius triumphs over it. In the world of The Jolly Beggars 
there is more than hideousness and squalor, there is bestiality; yet 
the piece is a superb poetic success. It has a breadth, truth, and power 
which make the famous scene in Auerbach's Cellar, of Goethe's 
Faust, seem artificial and tame beside it, and which are only matched 
by Shakespeare and Aristophanes. 

Here, where his largeness and freedom serve him so admirably, 
and also in those poems and songs where to shrewdness he adds 
infinite archness and wit, and to benignity infinite pathos, where his 
manner is flawless, and a perfect poetic whole is the result, — in 
things like the address to the mouse whose home he had ruined, in 
things like Duncan Gray, Tarn Glen, Whistle and I'll come to you, 
my Lad, Auld Lang Syne (this list might be made much longer) , — 
here we have the genuine Burns, of whom the real estimate must 
be high indeed. Not a classic, nor with the excellent aTovbaibr-qs of 
the great classics, nor with a verse rising to a criticism of life and a 
virtue like theirs; but a poet with thorough truth of substance and 
an answering truth of style, giving us a poetry sound to the core. 
We all of us have a leaning towards the pathetic, and may be in- 
clined perhaps to prize Burns most for his touches of piercing, some- 
times almost intolerable, pathos; for verse like — 



THE STUDY OF POETRY 89 

'We twa hae paidl't i' the burn 

From mornin' sun till dine; 
But seas between us braid hae roar'd 

Sin auld lang syne ..." 

where he is as lovely as he is sound. But perhaps it is by the per- 
fection of soundness of his lighter and archer masterpieces that he is 
poetically most wholesome for us. For the votary misled by a per- 
sonal estimate of Shelley, as so many of us have been, are, and will 
be, — of that beautiful spirit building his many-coloured haze of 
words and images 

'Pinnacled dim in the intense inane' — 

no contact can be wholesomer than the contact with Burns at his 
archest and soundest. Side by side with the 

'On the brink of the night and the morning 

My coursers are wont to respire, 
But the Earth has just whispered a warning 

That their flight must be swifter than iire . . .' 

of Prometheus Unbound, how salutary, how very salutary, to place 
this from Tarn Glen — 

'My minnie does constantly deave me 

And bids me beware o' young men; 
They flatter, she says, to deceive me; 

But wha can think sae o' Tarn Glen?' 

But we enter on burning ground as we approach the poetry of 
times so near to us — poetry like that of Byron, Shelley, and Words- 
worth — of which the estimates are so often not only personal, but 
personal with passion. For my purpose, it is enough to have taken 
the single case of Burns, the first poet we come to of whose work 
the estimate formed is evidently apt to be personal, and to have 
suggested how we may proceed, using the poetry of the great classics 
as a sort of touchstone, to correct this estimate, as we had previously 
corrected by the same means the historic estimate where we met with 
it. A collection like the present, with its succession of celebrated 
names and celebrated poems, offers a good opportunity to us for 
resolutely endeavouring to make our estimates of poetry real. I 
have sought to point out a method which will help us in making 



90 ARNOLD 

them so, and to exhibit it in use so far as to put any one who Ukes 
in a way of applying it for himself. 

At any rate the end to which the method and the estimate are 
designed to lead, and from leading to which, if they do lead to it, 
they get their whole value,— the benefit of being able clearly to 
feel and deeply to enjoy the best, the truly classic, in poetry, — is an 
end, let me say it once more at parting, of supreme importance. We 
are often told that an era is opening in which we are to see multi- 
tudes of a common sort of readers, and masses of a common sort 
of literature; that such readers do not want and could not relish 
anything better than such literature, and that to provide it is becom- 
ing a vast and profitable industry. Even if good literature entirely 
lost currency with the world, it would still be abundantly worth 
while to continue to enjoy it by oneself. But it never will lose cur- 
rency with the world, in spite of monetary appearances; it never 
will lose supremacy. Currency and supremacy are insured to it, not 
indeed by the world's deliberate and conscious choice, but by some- 
thing far deeper, — by the instinct of self-preservation in humanity. 



SESAME AND LILIES 



BY 
JOHN RUSKIN 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

John Ruskin (1819-1900), the greatest master of ornate prose in the 
English language, was born in London and educated at Oxford. He 
studied painting, and became a graceful and accurate draftsman, but he 
early transferred his main energies from the production to the criticism 
and teaching of art. In 1843 appeared the first volume of "Modern 
Painters," and succeeding volumes continued to be published till it was 
completed by the fifth in i860. The startling originality of this work, 
both in style and in the nature of its esthetic theories, brought the author 
at once into prominence, though for some time he was more attacked 
than followed. Meanwhile he extended his scope to include other fields. 
In "The Seven Lamps of Architecture" (1849) and "The Stones of 
Venice" (1851-53) he applied his theories to architecture; in "Pre- 
Raphaelitism" (1851) he came to the defense of the new school of art 
then beginning to agitate England; in "Unto this Last" (1861) and 
many other writings he attacked the current political economy. 

In spite of the great variety of the themes of Ruskin's numerous vol- 
umes, there are to be found, underlying the eloquent argument, exposi- 
tion, and exhortation of all, a few persistent principles. The application 
of these principles in one place is often inconsistent with that in another, 
and Ruskin frankly reversed his opinion with great frequency in suc- 
cessive editions of the same work; yet he continued to use a dogmatic 
tone which is at once his strength and his weakness. 

The two lectures which constitute "Sesame and Lilies" deal ostensibly 
with the reading of books; but in characteristic fashion the author brings 
into the discussion his favorite ideas on ethics, esthetics, economics, and 
many other subjects. It thus gives a fairly comprehensive idea of the 
nature of the widespread influence which he exerted on English life and 
thought during the whole of the second half of the nineteenth century. 
Its style also, in its earnestness, its richness, and its lofty eloquence, exem- 
plifies the pitch to which he brought the tradition of the highly decorated 
prose cultivated by De Quincey in the previous generation, a pitch of 
gorgeousness in color and cadence which has been surpassed by none. 



SESAME AND LILIES 

LECTURE I.— SESAME: OF 
KINGS' TREASURIES' 

"You shall each have a cake of sesame, — and ten jxsund." 

Lucian: The Fisherman. 

M' first duty this evening is to ask your pardon for the am- 
biguity of title under which the subject of lecture has been 
announced: for indeed I am not going to talk of kings, 
known as regnant, nor of treasuries, understood to contain wealth; 
but of quite another order of royalty, and another material of riches, 
than those usually acknowledged, I had even intended to ask your 
attention for a little while on trust, and (as sometimes one contrives, 
in taking a friend to see a favorite piece of scenery) to hide what I 
wanted most to show, with such imperfect cunning as I might, until 
we unexpectedly reached the best point of view by winding paths. 
But — and as also I have heard it said, by men practised in public 
address, that hearers are never so much fatigued as by the endeavor 
to follow a speaker who gives them no clue to his purposes, — I will 
take the slight mask off at once, and tell you plainly that I want to 
speak to you about the treasures hidden in books; and about the way 
we find them, and the way we lose them. A grave subject, you will 
say; and a wide one! Yes; so wide that I shall make no effort to 
touch the compass of it. I will try only to bring before you a few 
simple thoughts about reading, which press themselves upon me 
every day more deeply, as I watch the course of the public mind with 
respect to our daily enlarging means of education; and the answer- 
ingly wider spreading on the levels, of the irrigation of literature. 

2. It happens that I have practically some connection with schools 
for different classes of youth; and I receive many letters from parents 

'This lecture was given December 6, 1864, at Rusholme Town Hall, Manchester, 
in aid of a library fund for the Rusholme Institute. 

93 



94 RUSKIN 

respecting the education of tbieir children. In the mass of these let- 
ters I am always struck by the precedence which the idea of a "posi- 
tion in life" takes above all other thoughts in the parents' — more 
especially in the mothers' — minds. "The education befitting such 
and such a station in life" — this is the phrase, this the object, always. 
They never seek, as far as I can make out, an education good in it- 
self; even the conception of abstract Tightness in training rarely 
seems reached by the writers. But an education "which shall keep 
a good coat on my son's back; — which shall enable him to ring with 
confidence the visitors' bell at double-belled doors; which shall re- 
sult ultimately in establishment of a double-belled door to his own 
house; — in a word, which shall lead to 'advancement in life'; — this 
we pray for on bent knees — and this is all we pray for." It never 
seems to occur to the parents that there may be an education which, 
in itself, is advancement in Life; — that any other than that may per- 
haps be advancement in Death; and that this essential education 
might be more easily got, or given, than they fancy, if they set about 
it in the right way; while it is for no price, and by no favor, to be 
got, if they set about it in the wrong. 

3. Indeed, among the ideas most prevalent and effective in the 
mind of this busiest of countries, I suppose the first — at least that 
which is confessed with the greatest frankness, and put forward as 
the fittest stimulus to youthful exertion — ^is this of "Advancement in 
Life." May I ask you to consider with me what this idea practically 
includes, and what it should include? 

Practically, then, at present, "advancement in life" means, becom- 
ing conspicuous in life; — obtaining a position which shall be 
acknowledged by others to be respectable or honorable. We do not 
understand by this advancement in general, the mere making of 
money, but the being known to have made it; not the accomplish- 
ment of any great aim, but the being seen to have accomplished it. 
In a word, we mean the gratiiication of our thirst for applause. That 
thirst, if the last infirmity of noble minds, is also the first infirmity 
of weak ones; and, on the whole, the strongest impulsive influence 
of average humanity : the greatest efforts of the race have always been 
traceable to the love of praise, as its greatest catastrophes to the love 
of pleasure. 



sesame: of kings' treasuries 95 

4. I am not about to attack or defend this impulse. I want you 
only to feel how it lies at the root of effort; especially of all modern 
effort. It is the gratification of vanity which is, with us, the stimulus 
of toil, and balm of repose; so closely does it touch the very springs 
of life that the wounding of our vanity is always spoken of (and 
truly) as in its measure mortal; we call it "mortification," using the 
same expression which we should apply to a gangrenous and incur- 
able bodily hurt. And although few of us may be physicians enough 
to recognize the various effect of this passion upon health and en- 
ergy, I believe most honest men know, and would at once acknowl- 
edge, its leading power with them as a motive. The seaman does 
not commonly desire to be made captain only because he knows he 
can manage the ship better than any other sailor on board. He wants 
to be made captain that he may be called captain. The clergyman 
does not usually want to be made a bishop only because he believes 
no other hand can, as firmly as his, direct the diocese through its 
difficulties. He wants to be made bishop primarily that he may be 
called "My Lord." And a prince does not usually desire to enlarge, 
or a subject to gain, a kingdom, because he believes that no one else 
can as well serve the State, upon its throne; but, briefly, because he 
wishes to be addressed as "Your Majesty," by as many lips as may 
be brought to such utterance. 

5. This, then, being the main idea of "advancement in life," the 
force of it applies, for all of us, according to our station, particularly 
to that secondary result of such advancement which we call "getting 
into good society." We want to get into good society, not that we 
may have it, but that we may be seen in it; and our notion of its 
goodness depends primarily on its conspicuousness. 

Will you pardon me if I pause for a moment to put what I fear 
you may think an impertinent question? I never can go on with 
an address unless I feel, or know, that my audience are either with 
me or against me: I do not much care which, in beginning; but I 
must know where they are; and I would fain find out, at this in- 
stant, whether you think I am putting the motives of popular action 
too low. I am resolved, to-night, to state them low enough to be 
admitted as probable; for whenever, in my writings on Political 
Economy, I assume that a little honesty, or generosity — or what used 



96 RUSKIN 

to be called "virtue" — may be calculated upon as a human motive o£ 
action, people always answer me, saying, "You must not calculate 
on that: that is not in human nature: you must not assume anything 
to be common to men but acquisitiveness and jealousy; no other 
feeling ever has influence on them, except accidentally, and in mat- 
ters out of the way of business." I begin, accordingly, to-night low in 
the scale of motives; but I must know if you think me right in doing 
so. Therefore, let me ask those who admit the love of praise to be 
usually the strongest motive in men's minds in seeking advancement, 
and the honest desire of doing any kind of duty to be an entirely 
secondary one, to hold up their hands. {About a dozen hands held 
up — the audience, partly not being sure the lecturer is serious, and, 
partly, shy of expressing opinion.) I am quite serious — I really do 
want to know what you think; however, I can judge by putting the 
reverse question. Will those who think that duty is generally the 
first, and love of praise the second, motive, hold up their hands? 
(0«<? hand reported to have been held up, behind the lecturer.) 
Very good; I see you are with me, and that you think I have not 
begun too near the ground. Now, without teasing you by putting 
farther question, I venture to assume that you will admit duty as at 
least a secondary or tertiary motive. You think that the desire of 
doing something useful, or obtaining some real good, is indeed an 
existent collateral idea, though a secondary one, in most men's desire 
of advancement. You will grant that moderately honest men desire 
place and office, at least in some measure, for the sake of beneficent 
power; and would wish to associate rather with sensible and well- 
informed persons than with fools and ignorant persons, whether 
they are seen in the company of the sensible ones or not. And finally, 
without being troubled by repetition of any common truisms about 
the preciousness of friends, and the influence of companions, you 
will admit, doubtless, that according to the sincerity of our desire 
that our friends may be true, and our companions wise, — and 
in proportion to the earnestness and discretion with which we 
choose both, will be the general chances of our happiness and use- 
fulness. 

6. But, granting that we had both the will and the sense to choose 
our friends well, how few of us have the power! or, at least, how 



> 



sesame: of kings treasuries 97 

limited, for most, is the sphere of choice! Nearly all our associations 
are determined by chance, or necessity; and restricted within a nar- 
row circle. We cannot know whom we would; and those whom we 
know, we cannot have at our side when we most need them. All the 
higher circles of human intelligence are, to those beneath, only 
momentarily and partially open. We may, by good fortune, obtain 
a glimpse of a great poet, and hear the sound of his voice; or put a 
question to a man of science, and be answered good-humoredly. We 
may intrude ten minutes' talk on a cabinet minister, answered 
probably with words worse than silence, being deceptive; or snatch, 
once or twice in our lives, the privilege of throwing a bouquet in 
the path of a Princess, or arresting the kind glance of a Queen. And 
yet these momentary chances we covet; and spend our years, and 
passions, and powers in pursuit of little more than these; while, 
meantime, there is a society continually open to us, of people who 
will talk to us as long as we like, whatever our rank or occupation ; — 
talk to us in the best words they can choose, and of the things near- 
est their hearts. And this society, because it is so numerous and so 
gentle, and can be kept waiting round us all day long, — kings and 
statesmen lingering patiently, not to grant audience, but to gain it! — 
in those plainly furnished and narrow anterooms, our bookcase 
shelves, — we make no account of that company, — perhaps never 
listen to a word they would say, all day long! 

7. You may tell me, perhaps, or think within yourselves, that the 
apathy with which we regard this company of the noble, who are 
praying us to listen to them; and the passion with which we pursue 
the company, probably of the ignoble who despise us, or who have 
nothing to teach us, are grounded in this, — that we can see the faces 
of the living men, and it is themselves, and not their sayings, with 
which we desire to become familiar. But it is not so. Suppose you 
never were to see their faces; — suppose you could be put behind a 
screen in the statesman's cabinet, or the prince's chamber, would you 
not be glad to listen to their words, though you were forbidden to 
advance beyond the screen? And when the screen is only a little 
less, folded in two instead of four, and you can be hidden behind 
the cover of the two boards that bind a book, and listen all day long, 
not to the casual talk, but to the studied, determined,chosen addresses 



98 RUSKIN 

o£ the wisest of men; — ^this station of audience, and honorable privy 
council, you despisel 

8. But perhaps you will say that it is because the living people 
talk of things that are passing, and are of immediate interest to you, 
that you desire to hear them. Nay; that cannot be so, for the living 
people will themselves tell you about passing matters much better in 
their writings than in their careless talk. But I admit that this motive 
does influence you, so far as you prefer those rapid and ephemeral 
writings to slow and enduring writings, — books, properly so called. 
For all books are divisible into two classes, the books of the hour, 
and the books of all time. Mark this distinction — it is not one of 
quality only. It is not merely the bad book that does not last, and 
the good one that does. It is a distinction of species. There are good 
books for the hour, and good ones for all time; bad books for the 
hour, and bad ones for all time. I must define the two kinds before 
I go farther. 

9. The good book of the hour, then, — I do not speak of the bad 
ones, — is simply the useful or pleasant talk of some person whom 
you cannot otherwise converse with, printed for you. Very useful 
often, telling you what you need to know; very pleasant often, as a 
sensible friend's present talk would be. These bright accounts of 
travels; good-humored and witty discussions of question; lively or 
pathetic story-telling in the form of novel; firm fact-telling, by the 
real agents concerned in the events of passing history; — all these 
books of the hour, multiplying among us as education becomes more 
general, are a peculiar possession of the present age; we ought to be 
entirely thankful for them, and entirely ashamed of ourselves if we 
make no good use of them. But we make the worst possible use if 
we allow them to usurp the place of true books: for strictly speak- 
ing, they are not books at all, but merely letters or newspapers in 
good print. Our friend's letter may be delightful, or necessary, 
to-day : whether worth keeping or not, is to be considered. The news- 
paper may be entirely proper at breakfast time, but assuredly it is 
not reading for all day. So, though bound up in a volume, the long 
letter which gives you so pleasant an account of the inns, and roads, 
and weather last year at such a place, or which tells you that amusing 
story, or gives you the real circumstances of such and such events. 



sesame: of kings treasuries 99 

however valuable for occasional reference, may not be, in the real 
sense of the word, a "book" at all, nor in the real sense, to be "read." 
A book is essentially not a talked thing, but a written thing; and 
written, not with the view of mere communication, but of perma- 
nence. The book of talk is printed only because its author cannot 
speak to thousands of people at once; if he could, he would — the 
volume is mere multiplication of his voice. You cannot talk to your 
friend in India; if you could, you would; you write instead: that is 
mere conveyance of voice. But a book is written, not to multiply the 
voice merely, not to carry it merely, but to perpetuate it. The author 
has something to say which he perceives to be true and useful, or 
helpfully beautiful. So far as he knows, no one has yet said it; so 
far as he knows, no one else can say it. He is bound to say it, clearly 
and melodiously if he may; clearly, at all events. In the sum of his 
life he finds this to be the thing, or group of things, manifest to him; 
— this, the piece of true knowledge, or sight, which his share of sun- 
shine and earth has permitted him to seize. He would fain set it 
down forever; engrave it on rock, if he could; saying, "This is the 
best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved, and hated, 
like another; my life was as the vapor and is not; but this I saw and 
knew: this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory." That is his 
"writing"; it is, in his small human way, and with whatever degree 
of true inspiration is in him, his inscription, or scripture. That is a 
"Book." 

10. Perhaps you think no books were ever so written. 

But, again, I ask you, do you at all believe in honesty, or at all in 
kindness ? or do you think there is never any honesty or benevolence 
in wise people ? None of us, I hope, are so unhappy as to think that. 
Well, whatever bit of a wise man's work is honestly and benevolently 
done, that bit is his book, or his piece of art.^ It is mixed always with 
evil fragments — ill-done, redundant, affected work. But if you read 
rightly, you will easily discover the true bits, and those are the book. 

11. Now books of this kind have been written in all ages by their 
greatest men : — by great readers, great statesmen, and great thinkers. 
These are all at your choice; and Life is short. You have heard as 
much before; — yet have you measured and mapped out this short 

*Note this sentence carefully, and compare the "Queen of the Air," § io6. 



100 RUSKIN 

life and its possibilities? Do you know, if you read this, that you 
cannot read that — that what you lose to-day you cannot gain to-mor- 
row? Will you go and gossip with your housemaid, or your stable- 
boy, when you may talk with queens and kings; or flatter yourselves 
that it is with any worthy consciousness of your own claims to respect 
that you jostle with the hungry and common crowd for entree here, 
and audience there, when all the while this eternal court is open to 
you, with its society, wide as the world, multitudinous as its days, 
the chosen, and the mighty, of every place and time ? Into that you 
may enter always ; in that you may take fellowship and rank accord- 
ing to your wish; from that, once entered into it, you can never be 
outcast but by your own fault; by your aristocracy of companionship 
there, your own inherent aristocracy will be assuredly tested, and 
the motives with which you strive to take high place in the society 
of the living, measured, as to all the truth and sincerity that are 
in them, by the place you desire to take in this company of the 
Dead. 

12. "The place you desire," and the place you fit yourself for, I 
must also say; because, observe, this court of the past differs from all 
living aristocracy in this: — it is open to labor and to merit, but to 
nothing else. No wealth will bribe, no name overawe, no artifice 
deceive, the guardian of those Elysian gates. In the deep sense, no 
vile or vulgar person ever enters there. At the portieres of that silent 
Faubourg St. Germain, there is but brief question : — "Do you deserve 
to enter? Pass. Do you ask to be the companion of nobles? Make 
yourself noble, and you shall be. Do you long for the conversation 
of the wise? Learn to understand it, and you shall hear it. But on 
other terms ? — no. If you will not rise to us, we cannot stoop to you. 
The living lord may assume courtesy, the living philosopher explain 
his thought to you with considerate pain; but here we neither feign 
nor interpret; you must rise to the level of our thoughts if you would 
be gladdened by them, and share our feelings, if you would recognize 
our presence." 

13. This, then, is what you have to do, and I admit that it is much. 
You must, in a word, love these people, if you are to be among them. 
No ambition is of any use. They scorn your ambition. You must 
love them, and show your love in these two following ways: 



sesame: of kings' treasuries ioi 

I. — ^First, by a true desire to be taught by them, and to enter into 
their thoughts. To enter into theirs, observe; not to find your own 
expressed by them. If the person who wrote the book is not wiser 
than you, you need not read it; if he be, he will think differently 
from you in many respects. 

Very ready we are to say of a book, "How good this is — that's 
exactly what I think!" But the right feeling is, "How strange that 
is! I never thought of that before, and yet I see it is true; or if I 
do not now, I hope I shall, some day." But whether thus submis- 
sively or not, at least be sure that you go to the author to get at his 
meaning, not to find yours. Judge it afterwards, if you think your- 
self qualified to do so; but ascertain it first. And be sure also, if 
the author is worth anything, that you will not get at his meaning 
all at once; — nay, that at his whole meaning you will not for a long 
time arrive in any wise. Not that he does not say what he means, 
and in strong words too; but he cannot say it all; and what is more 
strange, will not, but in a hidden way and in parables, in order that 
he may be sure you want it. I cannot quite see the reason of this, 
nor analyze that cruel reticence in the breasts of wise men which 
makes them always hide their deeper thought. They do not give it 
to you by way of help, but of reward; and will make themselves 
sure that you deserve it before they allow you to reach it. But it is 
the same with the physical type of wisdom, gold. There seems, to 
you and me, no reason why the electric forces of the earth should not 
carry whatever there is of gold within it at once to the mountain 
tops, so that kings and people might know that all the gold they 
could get was there; and without any trouble of digging, or anxiety, 
or chance, or waste of time, cut it away, and coin as much as they 
needed. But Nature does not manage it so. She puts it in little fis- 
sures in the earth, nobody knows where: you may dig long and find 
none; you must dig painfully to find any. 

14. And it is just the same with men's best wisdom. When you 
come to a good book, you must ask yourself, "Am I inclined to work 
as an Australian miner would? Are my pickaxes and shovels in 
good order, and am I in good trim myself, my sleeves well up to the 
elbow, and my breath good, and my temper?" And, keeping the 
figure a little longer, even at the cost of tiresomeness, for it is a thor- 



102 RUSKIN 

oughly useful one, the metal you are in search of being the author's 
mind or meaning, his words are as the rock which you have to crush 
and smelt in order to get at it. And your pickaxes are your own 
care, wit, and learning; your smel ting-furnace is your own thought- 
ful soul. Do not hope to get at any good author's meaning with- 
out those tools and that fire; often you will need sharpest, finest chis- 
eling, and patientest fusing, before you can gather one grain of the 
metal. 

15. And therefore, first of all, I tell you, earnestly and authorita- 
tively (I know I am right in this), you must get into the habit of 
looking intensely at words, and assuring yourself of their meaning, 
syllable by syllable — nay, letter by letter. For though it is only by 
reason of the opposition of letters in the function of signs, to sounds 
in the function of signs, that the study of books is called "literature," 
and that a man versed in it is called, by the consent of nations, a 
man of letters instead of a man of books, or of words, you may yet 
connect with that accidental nomenclature this real fact: — that you 
might read all the books in the British Museum (if you could live 
long enough) and remain an utterly "illiterate," uneducated person; 
but that if you read ten pages of a good book, letter by letter, — that 
is to say, with real accuracy, — you are forevermore in some measure 
an educated person. The entire difference between education and 
non-education (as regards the merely intellectual part of it) con- 
sists in this accuracy. A well-educated gentleman may not know 
many languages, — may not be able to speak any but his own, — may 
have read very few books. But whatever language he knows, he 
knows precisely; whatever word he pronounces, he pronounces 
rightly; above all, he is learned in the peerage of words; knows the 
words of true descent and ancient blood at a glance, from words of 
modern canaille; remembers all their ancestry, their inter-marriages, 
distant relationships, and the extent to which they were admitted, 
and offices they held, among the national noblesse of words at any 
time, and in any country. But an uneducated person may know, by 
memory, many languages, and talk them all, and yet truly know 
not a word of any, — not a word even of his own. An ordinarily 
clever and sensible seaman will be able to make his way ashore at 
most ports; yet he has only to speak a sentence of any language to 



'sesame: of kings treasuries 103 

be known for an illiterate person: so also the accent, or turn of 
expression of a single sentence, will at once mark a scholar. And 
this is so strongly felt, so conclusively admitted by educated persons, 
that a false accent or a mistaken syllable is enough, in the parliament 
of any civilized nation, to assign to a man a certain degree of inferior 
standing forever. 

16. And this is right; but it is a pity that the accuracy insisted on 
is not greater, and required to a serious purpose. It is right that a 
false Latin quantity should excite a smile in the House of Commons; 
but it is wrong that a false English meaning should not excite a 
frown there. Let the accent of words be watched; and closely: let 
their meaning be watched more closely still, and fewer will do the 
work. A few words well chosen and distinguished, will do work 
that a thousand cannot, when every one is acting, equivocally, in 
the function of another. Yes; and words, if they are not watched, 
will do deadly work sometimes. There are masked words droning 
and skulking about us in Europe just now, — (there never were so 
many, owing to the spread of a shallow, blotching, blundering, infec- 
tious "information," or rather deformation, everywhere, and to the 
teaching of catechisms and phrases at schools instead of human mean- 
ings) — there are masked words abroad, I say, which nobody under- 
stands, but which everybody uses, and most people will also fight for, 
live for, or even die for, fancying they mean this or that, or the other, 
of things dear to them: for such words wear chameleon cloaks — 
"ground-lion" cloaks, of the color of the ground of any man's fancy: 
on that ground they lie in wait, and rend him with a spring from it. 
There never were creatures of prey so mischievous, never diploma- 
tists so cunning, never poisoners so deadly, as these masked words; 
they are the unjust stewards of all men's ideas: whatever fancy or 
favorite instinct a man most cherishes, he gives to his favorite masked 
word to take care of for him; the word at last comes to have an infi- 
nite power over him, — you cannot get at him but by its ministry. 

17. And in languages so mongrel in breed as the English, there is 
a fatal power of equivocation put into men's hands, almost whether 
they will or no, in being able to use Greek or Latin words for an 
idea when they want it to be awful; and Saxon or otherwise com- 
mon words when they want it to be vulgar. What a singular and 



104 RUSKIN 

salutary effect, for instance, would be produced on the minds of 
people who are in the habit of taking the Form of the "Word" they 
live by, for the Power of which that Word tells them, if we always 
either retained, or refused, the Greek form "biblos," or "biblion," 
as the right expression for "book" — instead of employing it only in 
the one instance in which we wish to give dignity to the idea, and 
translating it into English everywhere else. How wholesome it 
would be for many simple persons, if, in such places (for instance) 
as Acts xix, 19, we retained the Greek expression, instead of trans- 
lating it, and they had to read — "Many of them also which used 
curious arts, brought their bibles together, and burnt them before 
all men; and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty 
thousand pieces of silver"! Or if, on the other hand, we translated 
where we retain it, and always spoke of "The Holy Book," instead 
of "Holy Bible," it might come into more heads than it does at 
present, that the Word of God, by which the heavens were, of old, 
and by which they are now kept in store,' cannot be made a present 
of to anybody in morocco binding; nor sown on any wayside by 
help either of steam plough or steam press; but is nevertheless being 
offered to us daily, and by us with contumely refused; and sown in 
us daily, and by us, as instantly as may be, choked. 

18. So, again, consider what effect has been produced on the Eng- 
lish vulgar mind by the use of the sonorous Latin form "damno," in 
translating the Greek KaraKpLvco, when people charitably wish to 
make it forcible; and the substitution of the temperate "condemn" 
for it, when they choose to keep it gentle; and what notable sermons 
have been preached by illiterate clergymen on — "He that believeth 
not shall be damned"; though they would shrink with horror from 
translating Heb. xi. 7, "The saving of his house, by which he damned 
the world"; or John viii. 10, 11, "Woman, hath no man damned thee? 
She saith, No man, Lord. Jesus answered her, Neither do I damn 
thee; go and sin no more." And divisions in the mind of Europe, 
which have cost seas of blood and in the defense of which the noblest 
souls of men have been cast away in frantic desolation, countless as 
forest leaves — though, in the heart of them, founded on deeper 

' 2 Peter iii. 5-7. 



sesame: of kings' treasuries 105 

causes — ^have nevertheless been rendered practicably possible, namely, 
by the European adoption of the Greek word for a public meeting, 
"ecclesia," to give peculiar respectability to such meetings, when held 
for religious purposes; and other collateral equivocations, such as the 
vulgar English one of using the word "priest" as a contraction for 
"presbyter." 

19. Now, in order to deal with words rightly, this is the habit you 
must form. Nearly every word in your language has been first a 
word of some other language — of Saxon, German, French, Latin, 
or Greek (not to speak of eastern and primitive dialects). And many 
words have been all these; — that is to say, have been Greek first, 
Latin next, French and German next, and English last: undergoing 
a certain change of sense and use on the lips of each nation; but 
retaining a deep vital meaning, which all good scholars feel in 
employing them, even at this day. If you do not know the Greek 
alphabet, learn it; young or old — girl or boy — whoever you may be, 
if you think of reading seriously (which, of course, implies that you 
have some leisure at command), learn your Greek alphabet; then 
get good dictionaries of all these languages, and whenever you are 
in doubt about a word, hunt it down patiently. Read Max Miiller's 
lectures thoroughly, to begin with; and, after that, never let a word 
escape you that looks suspicious. It is severe work; but you will find 
it, even at first, interesting, and at last, endlessly amusing. And the 
general gain to your character, in power and precision, will be quite 
incalculable. 

Mind, this does not imply knowing, or trying to know, Greek or 
Latin, or French. It takes a whole life to learn any language per- 
fectly. But you can easily ascertain the meanings through which the 
English word has passed; and those which in a good writer's work 
it must still bear. 

20. And now, merely for example's sake, I will, with your per- 
mission, read a few lines of a true book with you, carefully; and 
see what will come out of them. I will take a book perfectly known 
to you all. No English words are more familiar to us, yet few per- 
haps have been read with less sincerity. I will take these few follow- 
ing lines of "Lycidas": 



I06 RUSKIN 

"Last came, and last did go, 
The pilot of the Galilean lake; 
Two massy keys he bore of metals twain 
(The golden opes, the iron shuts amain), 
He shook his mitred locks, and stern bespake, 
'How well could I have spar'd for thee, young swain, 
Enow of such as for their bellies' sake 
Creep, and intrude, and climb into the fold! 
Of other care they little reckoning make, 
Than how to scramble at the shearers' feast. 
And shove away the worthy bidden guest; 
Blind mouths! that scarce themselves know how to hold 
A sheep-hook, or have learn'd aught else, the least 
That to the faithful herdsman's art belongs! 
What recks it them ? What need they? They are sped; 
And when they list, their lean and flashy songs 
Grate on their scrannel pipes of wretched straw; 
The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed. 
But, swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw, 
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread; 
Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw 
Daily devours apace, and nothing said.' " 

Let US think over this passage, and examine its words. 

First, is it not singular to find Milton assigning to St. Peter, not 
only his full episcopal function, but the very types of it which Protes- 
tants usually refuse most passionately? His "mitred" locks! Milton 
was no Bishop-lover; how comes St. Peter to be "mitred"? "Two 
massy keys he bore." Is this, then, the power of the keys claimed by 
the Bishops of Rome, and is it acknowledged here by Milton only in 
a poetical license, for the sake of its picturesqueness, that he may get 
the gleam of the golden keys to help his effect? Do not think it. 
Great men do not play stage tricks with doctrines of life and death : 
only little men do that. Milton means what he says; and means it 
with his might too — is going to put the whole strength of his spirit 
presently into the saying of it. For though not a lover of false bish- 
ops, he was a lover of true ones; and the Lake-pilot is here, in his 
thoughts, the type and head of true episcopal power. For Milton 
reads that text, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of 
heaven" quite honestly. Puritan though he be, he would not blot it 
out of the book because there have been bad bishops; nay, in order 



sesame: of kings treasuries 107 

to understand him, we must understand that verse first; it will not 
do to eye it askance, or whisper it under our breath, as if it were a 
weapon of an adverse sect. It is a solemn, universal assertion, deeply 
to be kept in mind by all sects. But perhaps we shall be better able 
to reason on it if we go on a little farther, and come back to it. For 
clearly this marked insistence on the power of the true episcopate is 
to make us feel more weightily what is to be charged against the 
false claimants of episcopate; or generally, against false claimants 
of power and rank in the body of the clergy; they who, "for their 
belhes' sake, creep, and intrude, and climb into the fold." 

21. Never think Milton uses those three words to fill up his verse, 
as a loose writer would. He needs all the three; especially those three, 
and no more than those — "creep," and "intrude," and "climb"; no 
other words would or could serve the turn, and no more could be 
added. For they exhaustively comprehend the three classes, corre- 
spondent to the three characters, of men who dishonestly seek ecclesi- 
astical power. First, those who "creep" into the fold; who do not 
care for office, nor name, but for secret influence, and do all things 
occultly and cunningly, consenting to any servility of office or con- 
duct, so only that they may intimately discern, and unawares direct, 
the minds of men. Then those who "intrude" (thrust, that is) 
themselves into the fold, who by natural insolence of heart, and 
stout eloquence of tongue, and fearlessly perseverant self-assertion, 
obtain hearing and authority with the common crowd. Lastly, those 
who "chmb," who by labor and learning, both stout and sound, but 
selfishly exerted in the cause of their own ambition, gain high digni- 
ties and authorities, and become "lords over the heritage," though not 
"ensamples to the flock." 

22. Now go on : — 

"Of other care they Htde reckoning make, 
Than how to scramble at the shearers' feast. 
Blind mouths — " 

I pause again, for this is a strange expression; a broken metaphor, 
one might think, careless and unscholarly. 

Not so: its very audacity and pithiness are intended to make us 
look close at the phrase and remember it. Those two monosyllables 



I08 RUSKIN 

express the precisely accurate contraries of right character, in the 
two great offices of the Church — those of bishop and pastor. 

A "Bishop" means a "person who sees." 

A "Pastor" means a "person who feeds." 

The most unbishoply character a man can have is therefore to be 
BUnd. 

The most unpastoral is, instead of feeding, to want to be fed, — 
to be a Mouth. 

Take the two reverses together, and you have "blind mouths." 
We may advisably follow out this idea a little. Nearly all the evils 
in the Church have arisen from bishops desiring power more than 
light. They want authority, not outlook. Whereas their real office 
is not to rule; though it may be vigorously to exhort and rebuke; 
it is the king's office to rule; the bishop's office is to oversee the flock; 
to number it, sheep by sheep; to be ready always to give full account 
of it. Now it is clear he cannot give account of the souls, if he has 
not so much as numbered the bodies of his flock. The first thing, 
therefore, that a bishop has to do is at least to put himself in a posi- 
tion in which, at any moment, he can obtain the history, from 
childhood, of every living soul in his diocese, and of its present state. 
Down in that back street. Bill and Nancy, knocking each other's 
teeth out! — Does the bishop know all about it? Has he his eye upon 
them? Has he had his eye upon them? Can he circumstantially 
explain to us how Bill got into the habit of beating Nancy about the 
head ? If he cannot, he is no bishop, though he had a mitre as high 
as Salisbury steeple; he is no bishop, — he has sought to be at the 
helm instead of the masthead; he has no sight of things. "Nay," you 
say, "it is not his duty to look after Bill in the back street." What! 
the fat sheep that have full fleeces — you think it is only those he 
should look after, while (go back to your Milton) "the hungry sheep 
look up, and are not fed, besides what the grim wolf with privy 
paw" (bishops knowing nothing about it) "daily devours apace, and 
nothing said"? 

"But that's not our idea of a bishop."^ Perhaps not; but it was 
St. Paul's; and it was Milton's. They may be right, or we may be; 
* Compare the 13th Letter in "Time and Tide." 



sesame: of kings treasuries 109 

but we must not think we are reading either one or the other by 
putting our meaning into their words. 
23. I go on. 

"But, swoln with wind, and the rank, mist they draw." 

This is to meet the vulgar answer that "if the poor are not looked 
after in their bodies, they are in their souls; they have spiritual food." 

And Milton says, "They have no such thing as spiritual food; they 
are only swollen with wind." At first you may think that is a coarse 
type, and an obscure one. But again, it is a quite literally accurate 
one. Take up your Latin and Greek dictionaries, and find out the 
meaning of "Spirit." It is only a contraction of the Latin word 
"breath," and an indistinct translation of the Greek word for "wind." 
The same word is used in writing, "The wind bloweth where it 
listeth"; and in writing, "So is every one that is born of the Spirit"; 
born of the breath, that is; for it means the breath of God, in soul 
and body. We have the true sense of it in our words "inspiration" 
and "expire." Now, there are two kinds of breath with which the 
flock may be filled; God's breath, and man's. The breath of God is 
health, and life, and peace to them, as the air of heaven is to the 
flocks on the hills; but man's breath — the word which he calls 
spiritual, — is disease and contagion to them, as the fog of the fen. 
They rot inwardly with it; they are puffed up by it, as a dead body 
by the vapors of its own decomposition. This is literally true of all 
false religious teaching; the first and last, and fatalest sign of it 
is that "puffing up." Your converted children, who teach their par- 
ents; your converted convicts, who teach honest men; your converted 
dunces, who, having lived in cretinous stupefaction half their lives, 
suddenly awakening to the fact of there being a God, fancy them- 
selves therefore His peculiar people and messengers; your sectarians 
of every species, small and great, Catholic or Protestant, of high 
church or low, in so far as they think themselves exclusively in the 
right and others wrong; and preeminently, in every sect, those who 
hold that men can be saved by thinking rightly instead of doing 
rightly, by word instead of act, and wish instead of work: — these 
are the true fog children — clouds, these, without water; bodies, these, 



no RUSKIN 

of putrescent vapor and skin, without blood or flesh: blown bag- 
pipes for the fiends to pipe with — corrupt, and corrupting, — "Swollen 
with wind, and the rank mist they draw." 

24. Lastly, let us return to the lines respecting the power of the 
keys, for now we can understand them. Note the difference between 
Milton and Dante in their interpretation of this power: for once, 
the latter is weaker in thought; he supposes both the keys to be of 
the gate of heaven; one is of gold, the other of silver: they are given 
by St. Peter to the sentinel angel; and it is not easy to determine the 
meaning either of the substances of the three steps of the gate, or of 
the two keys. But Milton makes one, of gold, the key of heaven; 
the other, of iron, the key of the prison in which the wicked teachers 
are to be bound who "have taken away the key of knowledge, yet 
entered not in themselves." 

We have seen that the duties of bishop and pastor are to see and 
feed; and of all who do so it is said, "He that watereth, shall be 
watered also himself." But the reverse is truth also. He that watereth 
not, shall be withered himself, and he that seeth not, shall himself be 
shut out of sight — shut into the perpetual prison-house. And that 
prison opens here, as well as hereafter: he who is to be bound in 
heaven must first be bound on earth. That command to the strong 
angels, of which the rock-apostle is the image, "Take him, and bind 
him hand and foot, and cast him out," issues, in its measure, against 
the teacher, for every help withheld, and for every truth refused, and 
for every falsehood enforced; so that he is more strictly fettered the 
more he fetters, and farther outcast, as he more and more misleads, 
till at last the bars of the iron cage close upon him, and as "the 
golden opes, the iron shuts amain." 

25. We have got something out of the lines, I think, and much 
more is yet to be found in them; but we have done enough by way 
of example of the kind of word-by-word examination of your author 
which is rightly called "reading"; watching every accent and expres- 
sion, and putting ourselves always in the author's place, annihilating 
our own personality, and seeking to enter into his, so as to be able 
assuredly to say, "Thus Milton thought," not "Thus / thought, in 
mis-reading Milton." And by this process you will gradually come 
to attach less weight to your own "Thus I thought" at other times. 



sesame: of kings' treasuries hi 

You will begin to perceive that what you thought was a matter of 
no serious importance; — that your thoughts on any subject are not 
perhaps the clearest and wisest that could be arrived at thereupon : — 
in fact, that unless you are a very singular person, you cannot be said 
to have any "thoughts" at all; that you have no materials for them, 
in any serious matters;^ — no right to "think," but only to try to 
learn more of the facts. Nay, most probably all your life (unless, as 
I said, you are a singular person) you will have no legitimate right 
to an "opinion" on any business, except that instantly under your 
hand. What must of necessity be done, you can always find out, 
beyond question, how to do. Have you a house to keep in order, a 
commodity to sell, a field to plough, a ditch to cleanse ? There need 
be no two opinions about these proceedings; it is at your peril if you 
have not much more than an "opinion" on the way to manage such 
matters. And also, outside of your own business, there are one or 
two subjects on which you are bound to have but one opinion. That 
roguery and lying are objectionable, and are instantly to be flogged 
out of the way whenever discovered; — ^that covetousness and love of 
quarreling are dangerous dispositions even in children, and deadly 
dispositions in men and nations; — that in the end, the God of heaven 
and earth loves active, modest, and kind people, and hates idle, 
proud, greedy, and cruel ones; — on these general facts you are bound 
to have but one, and that a very strong, opinion. For the rest, respect- 
ing religions, governments, sciences, arts, you will find that, on the 
whole, you can know nothing, — judge nothing; that the best you 
can do, even though you may be a well-educated person, is to be 
silent, and strive to be wiser every day, and to understand a little 
more of the thoughts of others, which so soon as you try to do hon- 
estly, you will discover that the thoughts even of the wisest are very 
little more than pertinent questions. To put the difficulty into a 
clear shape, and exhibit to you the grounds for /'^decision, that is all 
they can generally do for you! — and well for them and for us, if 
indeed they are able "to mix the music with our thoughts, and sad- 
den us with heavenly doubts." This writer, from whom I have been 
reading to you, is not among the first or wisest: he sees shrewdly as 

' Modern "education" for the most part signifies giving people the faculty of 
thinking wrong on every conceivable subject of importance to them. 



112 RUSKIN 

far as he sees, and therefore it is easy to find out his full meaning; 
but with the greater men, you cannot fathom their meaning; they 
do not even wholly measure it themselves, — it is so wide. Suppose 
I had asked you, for instance, to seek for Shakespeare's opinion, 
instead of Milton's, on this matter of Church authority? — or for 
Dante's? Have any of you, at this instant, the least idea what either 
thought about it? Have you ever balanced the scene with the bishops 
in "Richard III." against the character of Cranmer? the description 
of St. Francis and St. Dominic against that of him who made Virgil 
wonder to gaze upon him, — "disteso, tanto vilmente, nell' eterno 
esilio"; or of him whom Dante stood beside, "come '1 frate che con- 
fessa lo perfido assassin?"* Shakespeare and Alighieri knew men 
better than most of us, I presume! They were both in the midst of 
the main struggle between the temporal and spiritual powers. They 
had an opinion, we may guess. But where is it? Bring it into court! 
Put Shakespeare's or Dante's creed into articles, and send it up for 
trial by the Ecclesiastical Courts! 

26. You will not be able, I tell you again, for many and many a 
day, to come at the real purposes and teaching of these great men; 
but a very little honest study of them will enable you to perceive that 
what you took for your own "judgment" was mere chance prejudice, 
and drifted, helpless, entangled weed of castaway thought: nay, you 
will see that most men's minds are indeed little better than rough 
heath wilderness, neglected and stubborn, partly barren, partly over- 
grown with pestilent brakes, and venomous, wind-sown herbage of 
evil surmise; that the first thing you have to do for them, and your- 
self, is eagerly and scornfully to set fire to this; burn all the jungle 
into wholesome ash heaps, and then plough and sow. All the true 
literary work before you, for life, must begin with obedience to that 
order, "Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns." 

27. II.' — Having then faithfully listened to the great teachers, that 
you may enter into their Thoughts, you have yet this higher advance 
to make; — you have to enter into their Hearts. As you go to them 
first for clear sight, so you must stay with them, that you may share 
at last their just and mighty Passion. Passion, or "sensation." I am 

'"Inferno," xxiii. 125, 126; xix. 49, 50. 
^Compare § 13 above. 



sesame: of kings treasuries 113 

not afraid of the word; still less of the thing. You have heard many 
outcries against sensation lately; but, I can tell you, it is not less 
sensation we want, but more. The ennobling difference between 
one man and another, — ^between one animal and another, — is pre- 
cisely in this, that one feels more than another. If we were sponges, 
perhaps sensation might not be easily got for us; if we were earth- 
worms, liable at every instant to be cut in two by the spade, perhaps 
too much sensation might not be good for us. But, being human 
creatures, // is good for us; nay, we are only human in so far as we 
are sensitive, and our honor is precisely in proportion to our passion. 

28. You know I said of that great and pure society of the dead, that 
it would allow "no vain or vulgar person to enter there." What do 
you think I meant by a "vulgar" person? What do you yourselves 
mean by "vulgarity"? You will find it a fruitful subject of thought; 
but, briefly, the essence of all vulgarity lies in want of sensation. 
Simple and innocent vulgarity is merely an untrained and undevel- 
oped bluntness of body and mind; but in true inbred vulgarity, there 
is a deathful callousness, which, in extremity, becomes capable of 
every sort of bestial habit and crime, without fear, without pleasure, 
without horror, and without pity. It is in the blunt hand and the 
dead heart, in the diseased habit, in the hardened conscience, that 
men become vulgar; they are forever vulgar, precisely in proportion 
as they are incapable of sympathy, — of quick understanding, — of all 
that, in deep insistence on the common, but most accurate term, may 
be called the "tact" or "touch-faculty" of body and soul; that tact 
which the Mimosa has in trees, which the pure woman has above all 
creatures; — fineness and fullness of sensation beyond reason; — the 
guide and sanctifier of reason itself. Reason can but determine what 
is true: — it is the God-given passion of humanity which alone can 
recognize what God has made good. 

29. We come then to the great concourse of the Dead, not merely 
to know from them what is True, but chiefly to feel with them what 
is just. Now, to feel with them, we must be like them; and none of 
us can become that without pains. As the true knowledge is disci- 
plined and tested knowledge, — not the first thought that comes, — so 
the true passion is disciplined and tested passion, — not the first pas- 
sion that comes. The first that come are the vain, the false, the 



114 RUSKIN 

treacherous; i£ you yield to them they will lead you wildly and far 
in vain pursuit, in hollow enthusiasm, till you have no true purpose 
and no true passion left. Not that any feeling possible to humanity 
is in itself wrong, but only wrong when undisciplined. Its nobility 
is in its force and justice; it is wrong when it is weak, and felt for 
paltry cause. There is a mean wonder, as of a child who sees a jug- 
gler tossing golden balls, and this is base, if you will. But do you 
think that the wonder is ignoble, or the sensation less, with which 
every human soul is called to watch the golden balls of heaven tossed 
through the night by the Hand that made them? There is a mean 
curiosity, as of a child opening a forbidden door, or a servant prying 
into her master's business; — and a noble curiosity, questioning, in 
the front of danger, the source of the great river beyond the sand, — 
the place of the great continents beyond the sea; — a nobler curiosity 
still, which questions of the source of the River of Life, and of the 
space of the Continent of Heaven, — things which "the angels desire 
to look into." So the anxiety is ignoble, with which you linger over 
the course and catastrophe of an idle tale; but do you think the 
anxiety is less, or greater, with which you watch, or ought to watch, 
the dealings of fate and destiny with the life of an agonized nation } 
Alas! it is the narrowness, selfishness, minuteness, of your sensation 
that you have to deplore in England at this day; — sensation which 
spends itself in bouquets and speeches; in revelings and junketings; 
in sham fights and gay puppet shows, while you can look on and 
see noble nations murdered, man by man, without an effort or a tear. 
30. I said "minuteness" and "selfishness" of sensation, but in a 
word, I ought to have said "injustice" or "unrighteousness" of sen- 
sation. For as in nothing is a gentleman better to be discerned from 
a vulgar person, so in nothing is a gentle nation (such nations have 
been) better to be discerned from a mob, than in this, — that their 
feelings are constant and just, results of due contemplation, and of 
equal thought. You can talk a mob into anything; its feelings may 
be — usually are — on the whole, generous and right; but it has no 
foundation for them, no hold of them; you may tease or tickle it 
into any, at your pleasure; it thinks by infection, for the most part, 
catching an opinion like a cold, and there is nothing so little that it 
will not roar itself wild about, when the fit is on; — nothing so great 



sesame: of kings treasuries 115 

but it will forget in an hour, when the fit is past. But a gentleman's, 
or a gentle nation's, passions are just, measured, and continuous. A 
great nation, for instance, does not spend its entire national wits for 
a couple of months in weighing evidence of a single ruffian's having 
done a single murder; and for a couple of years see its own children 
murder each other by their thousands or tens of thousands a day, 
considering only what the effect is likely to be on the price of cotton, 
and caring nowise to determine which side of battle is in the wrong. 
Neither does a great nation send its poor little boys to jail for stealing 
six walnuts; and allow its bankrupts to steal their hundreds or 
thousands with a bow, and its bankers, rich with poor men's sav- 
ings, to close their doors "under circumstances over which they have 
no control," with a "by your leave"; and large landed estates to be 
bought by men who have made their money by going with armed 
steamers up and down the China Seas, selling opium at the cannon's 
mouth, and altering, for the benefit of the foreign nation, the com- 
mon highwayman's demand of "your money or your life," into that 
of "your money and your life." Neither does a great nation allow 
the lives of its innocent poor to be parched out of them by fog fever, 
and rotted out of them by dunghill plague, for the sake of sixpence 
a life extra per week to its landlords;" and then debate, with driveling 
tears, and diabolical sympathies, whether it ought not piously to 
save, and nursingly cherish, the lives of its murderers. Also, a great 
nation, having made up its mind that hanging is quite the whole- 
somest process for its homicides in general, can yet with mercy 
distinguish between the degrees of guilt in homicides; and does not 
yelp like a pack of frost-pinched wolf-cubs on the blood-track of an 
unhappy crazed boy, or gray-haired clodpate Othello, "perplexed i' 
the extreme," at the very moment that it is sending a Minister of the 
Crown to make polite speeches to a man who is bayoneting young 
girls in their father's sight, and killing noble youths in cool blood, 
faster than a country butcher kills lambs in spring. And, lastly, a 
great nation does not mock Heaven and its Powers, by pretending 
belief in a revelation which asserts the love of money to be the root 
of all evil, and declaring, at the same time, that it is actuated, and 

* See note at end of lecture. I have put it in large type, because the course of matters 
since it was written has made it perhaps better worth attention. 



Il6 RUSKIN 

intends to be actuated, in all chief national deeds and measures, by 
no other love. 

31. My friends, I do not know why any of us should talk about 
reading. We want some sharper discipline than that of reading; but, 
at all events, be assured, we cannot read. No reading is possible for 
a people with its mind in this state. No sentence of any great writer 
is intelligible to them. It is simply and sternly impossible for the 
English public, at this moment, to understand any thoughtful writ- 
ing, — so incapable of thought has it become in its insanity of avarice. 
Happily, our disease is, as yet, little worse than this incapacity of 
thought; it is not corruption of the inner nature; we ring true still, 
when anything strikes home to us; and though the idea that every- 
thing should "pay" has infected our every purpose so deeply, that 
even when we would play the good Samaritan, we never take out 
our twopence and give them to the host without saying, "When I 
come again, thou shalt give me fourpence," there is a capacity of 
noble passion left in our hearts' core. We show it in our work, — in 
our war, — even in those unjust domestic affections which make us 
furious at a small private wrong, while we are polite to a boundless 
public one: we are still industrious to the last hour of the day, 
though we add the gambler's fury to the laborer's patience; we 
are still brave to the death, though incapable of discerning true cause 
for battle; and are still true in affection to our own flesh, to the 
death, as the sea-monsters are, and the rock-eagles. And there is 
hope for a nation while this can be still said of it. As long as it holds 
its life in its hand, ready to give it for its honor (though a foolish 
honor), for its love (though a selfish love), and for its business 
(though a base business), there is hope for it. But hope only; for 
this instinctive, reckless virtue cannot last. No nation cart last, which 
has made a mob of itself, however generous at heart. It must dis- 
cipline its passions, and direct them, or they will discipline it, one 
day, with scorpion whips. Above all a nation cannot last as a money- 
making mob: it cannot with impunity, — it cannot with existence, — 
go on despising literature, despising science, despising art, despising 
nature, despising compassion, and concentrating its soul on Pence. 
Do you think these are harsh or wild words? Have patience with 



_» 



sesame: of kings treasuries 117 

me but a little longer. I will prove their truth to you, clause by 
clause. 

32. I. — I say first we have despised literature. What do we, as a 
nation, care about books? How much do you think we spend alto- 
gether on our libraries, public or private, as compared with what we 
spend on our horses? If a man spends lavishly on his library you 
call him mad — a bibliomaniac. But you never call any one a horse- 
maniac, though men ruin themselves every day by their horses, and 
you do not hear of people ruining themselves by their books. Or, 
to go lower still, how much do you think the contents of the book- 
shelves of the United Kingdom, public and private, would fetch, as 
compared with the contents of its wine-cellars? What position 
would its expenditure on literature take, as compared with its 
expenditure on luxurious eating? We talk of food for the mind, 
as of food for the body; now a good book contains such food inex- 
haustibly; it IS a provision for life, and for the best part of us; yet 
how long most people would look at the best book before they would 
give the price of a large turbot for it! though there have been men 
who have pinched their stomachs and bared their backs to buy a 
book, whose libraries were cheaper to them, I think, in the end, than 
most men's dinners are. We are few of us put to such trial, and 
more the pity; for, indeed, a precious thing is all the more precious 
to us if it has been won by work or economy; and if public libraries 
were half as costly as public dinners, or books cost the tenth part 
of what bracelets do, even foolish men and women might sometimes 
suspect there was good in reading, as well as in munching and 
sparkling; whereas the very cheapness of literature is making even 
wise people forget that if a book is worth reading, it is worth buying. 
No book is worth anything which is not worth much; nor is it 
serviceable, until it has been read, and reread, and loved, and loved 
again; and marked, so that you can refer to the passages you want in 
it as a soldier can seize the weapon he needs in an armory, or a house- 
wife bring the spice she needs from her store. Bread of flour is good: 
but there is bread, sweet as honey, if we would eat it, in a good book; 
and the family must be poor indeed which, once in their lives, can- 
not, for such multipliable barley-loaves, pay their baker's bill. We 



Il8 RUSKIN 

call ourselves a rich nation, and we are filthy and fooUsh enough to 
thumb each other's books out of circulating libraries! 

33. II. — I say we have despised science. "What!" you exclaim, "are 
we not foremost in all discovery,' and is not the whole world giddy 
by reason, or unreason, of our inventions?" Yes; but do you suppose 
that is national work? That work is all done in spite of the nation; 
by private people's zeal and money. We are glad enough, indeed, to 
make our profit of science; we snap up anything in the way of a 
scientific bone that has meat on it, eagerly enough; but if the scien- 
tific man comes for a bone or a crust to us, that is another story. 
What have we publicly done for science? We are obliged to know 
what o'clock it is, for the safety of our ships, and therefore we pay for 
an observatory; and we allow ourselves, in the person of our Parlia- 
ment, to be annually tormented into doing something, in a slovenly 
way, for the British Museum; sullenly apprehending that to be a 
place for keeping stuffed birds in, to amuse our children. If any- 
body will pay for his own telescope, and resolve another nebula, we 
cackle over the discernment as if it were our own; if one in ten 
thousand of our hunting squires suddenly perceives that the earth 
was indeed made to be something else than a portion for foxes, and 
burrows in it himself, and tells us where the gold is, and where the 
coals, we understand that there is some use in that; and very properly 
knight him; but is the accident of his having found out how to 
employ himself usefully any credit to us? (The negation of such 
discovery among his brother squires may perhaps be some ^^wcredit 
to us, if we would consider of it.) But if you doubt these generalities, 
here is one fact for us all to meditate upon, illustrative of our love of 
science. Two years ago there was a collection of the fossils of Solen- 
hofen to be sold in Bavaria; the best in existence, containing many 
specimens unique for perfectness, and one unique as an example of 
a species (a whole kingdom of unknown living creatures being 
announced by that fossil). This collection, of which the mere mar- 
ket worth, among private buyers, would probably have been some 
thousand or twelve hundred pounds, was offered to the English 
nation for seven hundred; but we would not give seven hundred, 

' Since this was written, the answer has become definitely- — No; we have surrendered 
the field of Arctic discovery to the Continental nations, as being ourselves too poor 
to pay for ships. 



sesame: of kings' treasuries 119 

and the whole series would have been in the Munich Museum at 
this moment, if Professor Owen'" had not with loss of his own time, 
and patient tormenting of the British public in person of its repre- 
sentatives, got leave to give four hundred pounds at once, and him- 
self become answerable for the other three! which the said public 
will doubtless pay him eventually, but sulkily, and caring nothing 
about the matter all the while; only always ready to cackle if any 
credit comes of it. Consider, I beg of you, arithmetically, what this 
fact means. Your annual expenditure for public purposes (a third of 
it for military apparatus) is at least fifty millions. Now 700/. is to 
50,000,000/., roughly, as seven pence to two thousand pounds. Sup- 
pose, then, a gentleman of unknown income, but whose wealth was 
to be conjectured from the fact that he spent two thousand a year 
on his park-walls and footmen only, professes himself fond of 
science; and that one of his servants comes eagerly to tell him that 
an unique collection of fossils, giving clue to a new era of creation, 
is to be had for the sum of seven pence sterling; and that the gentle- 
man, who is fond of science, and spends two thousand a year on his 
park, answers, after keeping his servant waiting several months, 
"Well! I'll give you four pence for them, if you will be answerable 
for the extra three pence yourself, till next year!" 

34. III. — I say you have despised Art! "What!" you again answer, 
"have we not Art exhibitions, miles long? and do we not pay 
thousands of pounds for single pictures? and have we not Art schools 
and institutions, more than ever nation had before?" Yes, truly, but 
all that is for the sake of the shop. You would fain sell canvas as 
well as coals, and crockery as well as iron; you would take every 
other nation's bread out of its mouth if you could;" not being able 
to do that, your ideal of life is to stand in the thoroughfares of the 
world, like Ludgate apprentices, screaming to every passer-by, "What 
d'ye lack?" You know nothing of your own faculties or circum- 
stances; you fancy that, among your damp, flat fields of clay, you 
can have as quick art-fancy as the Frenchman among his bronzed 

'"I state this fact without Professor Owen's permission: which of course he could 
not with propriety have granted, had I asked it; but I consider it so important that 
the public should be aware of the fact that I do what seems to be right, though rude. 

" That was our real idea of "Free Trade" — "All the trade to myself." You find 
now that by "competition" other people can manage to sell something as well as 
you — and now we call for Protection again. Wretches! 



120 RUSKIN 

vines, or the Italian under his volcanic cliffs; — that Art may be 
learned as bookkeeping is, and when learned, -will give you more 
books to keep. You care for pictures, absolutely, no more than you 
do for the bills pasted on your dead walls. There is always room on 
the walls for the bills to be read, — never for the pictures to be seen. 
You do not know what pictures you have (by repute) in the country, 
nor whether they are false or true, nor whether they are taken care 
of or not; in foreign countries, you calmly see the noblest existing 
pictures in the world rotting in abandoned wreck — (in Venice you 
saw the Austrian guns deliberately pointed at the palaces containing 
them), and if you heard that all the fine pictures in Europe were 
made into sand-bags to-morrow on the Austrian forts, it would not 
trouble you so much as the chance of a brace or two of game less in 
your own bags, in a day's shooting. That is your national love of 
Art. 

35. IV. — You have despised Nature; that is to say, all the deep and 
sacred sensations of natural scenery. The French revolutionists made 
stables of the cathedrals of France; you have made race-courses of 
the cathedrals of the earth. Your one conception of pleasure is to 
drive in railroad carriages round their aisles, and eat off their altars.''' 
You have put a railroad bridge over the fall of Schaffhausen. You 
have tunneled the cliffs of Lucerne by Tell's chapel; you have 
destroyed the Clarens shore of the Lake of Geneva; there is not a 
quiet valley in England that you have not filled with bellowing fire; 
there is no particle left of English land which you have not trampled 
coal ashes into" — nor any foreign city in which the spread of your 
presence is not marked among its fair old streets and happy gardens 
by a consuming white leprosy of new hotels and perfumers' shops: 
the Alps themselves, which your own poets used to love so reverently, 
you look upon as soaped poles in a bear-garden, which you set your- 
selves to climb, and slide down again with "shrieks of delight." 
When you are past shrieking, having no human articulate voice to 

'2 1 meant that the beautiful places of the world — Switzerland, Italy, South Ger- 
many, and so on — are, indeed, the truest cathedrals — ^places to be reverent in, and 
to worship in; and that we only care to drive through them, and to eat and drink at 
their most sacred places. 

1' I was singularly struck, some years ago, by finding all the river shore at Rich- 
mond, in Yorkshire, black in its earth, from the mere drift of soot-laden air from 
places many miles away. 



sesame: of kings treasuries 121 

say you are glad with, you fill the quietude of their valleys with gun- 
powder blasts, and rush home, red with cutaneous eruption of con- 
ceit, and voluble with convulsive hiccough of self-satisfaction. I 
think nearly the two sorrowfuUest spectacles I have ever seen in 
humanity, taking the deep inner significance of them, are the English 
mobs in the valley of Chamouni, amusing themselves with firmg 
rusty howitzers; and the Swiss vintagers of Zurich expressing their 
Christian thanks for the gift of the vine, by assembling in knots in 
the "towers of the vineyards," and slowly loading and firing horse- 
pistols from morning till evening. It is pitiful to have dim concep- 
tions of duty; more pitiful, it seems to me, to have conceptions like 
these, of mirth. 

36. Lastly. You despise compassion. There is no need of words 
of mine for proof of this. I will merely print one of the newspaper 
paragraphs which I am in the habit of cutting out and throwing into 
my store-drawer; here is one from a Daily Telegraph of an early 
date this year (1867) (date which, though by me carelessly left 
unmarked, is easily discoverable; for on the back of the slip, there 
is the announcement that "yesterday the seventh of the special serv- 
ices of this year was performed by the Bishop of Ripon in St. 
Paul's"); it relates only one of such facts as happen now daily; this, 
by chance, having taken a form in which it came before the cor- 
oner. . . . 

"An inquiry was held on Friday by Mr. Richards, deputy coroner, 
at the White Horse Tavern, Christ Church, Spitalfields, respecting 
the death of Michael Collins, aged 58 years. Mary Collins, a miser- 
able-looking woman, said that she lived with the deceased and his 
son in a room at 2, Cobb's Court, Christ Church. Deceased was a 
'translator' of boots. Witness went out and bought old boots; 
deceased and his son made them into good ones, and then witness 
sold them for what she could get at the shops, which was very little 
indeed. Deceased and his son used to work night and day to try 
and get a little bread and tea, and pay for the room (2^. a week), so 
as to keep the home together. On Friday night week, deceased got 
up from his bench and began to shiver. He threw down the boots, 
saying, 'Somebody else must finish them when I am gone, for I can 
do no more.' There was no fire, and he said, 'I would be better if I 



122 RUSKIN 

was warm.' Witness therefore took two pairs of translated boots" to 
sell at the shop, but she could only get 14^. for the two pairs, for 
the people at the shop said, 'We must have our profit.' Witness got 
14 lbs. of coal and a little tea and bread. Her son sat up the whole 
night to make the 'translations,' to get money, but deceased died on 
Saturday morning. The family never had enough to eat. — Coroner: 
'It seems to me deplorable that you did not go into the workhouse.' 
Witness: 'We wanted the comforts of our little home.' A juror asked 
what the comforts were, for he only saw a little straw in the corner 
of the room, the windows of which were broken. The witness began 
to cry, and said that they had a quilt and other little things. The 
deceased said he never would go into the workhouse. In summer, 
when the season was good, they sometimes made as much as los. 
profit in a week. They then always saved towards the next week, 
which was generally a bad one. In winter they made not half so 
much. For three years they had been getting from bad to worse. — 
Cornelius Collins said that he had assisted his father since 1847. 
They used to work so far into the night that both nearly lost their 
eyesight. Witness now had a film over his eyes. Five years ago 
deceased applied to the parish for aid. The relieving ofScer gave him 
a 4-lb. loaf, and told him if he came again he should 'get the stones.' " 

'* One of the things which we must very resolutely enforce, for the good of all 
classes, in our future arrangements, must be that they wear no "translated" articles 
of dress. 

'* This abbreviation of the penalty of useless labor is curiously coincident in verbal 
form with a certain passage which some of us may remember. It may, perhaps, be 
well to preserve beside this paragraph another cutting out of my store-drawer, from 
the Morning Post, of about a parallel date, Friday, March loth, 1865: — "The salons 

of Mme. C , who did the honors with clever imitative grace and elegance, were 

crowded with princes, dukes, marquises, and counts — in fact, with the same male 
company as one meets at the parties of the Princess Metternich and Madame Drouyn 
de Lhuys. Some English peers and members of Parliament were present, and appeared 
to enjoy the animated and dazzlingly improper scene. On the second floor the supper- 
tables were loaded with every delicacy of the season. That your readers may form 
some idea of the dainty fare of the Parisian demi-monde, I copy the menu of the 
supper, which was served to all the guests (about 200) seated at four o'clock. Choice 
Yquem, Johannisberg, Lafitte, Tokay, and champagne of the finest vintages were 
served most lavishly throughout the morning. After supper dancing was resumed 
with increased animation, and the ball terminated with a chaine diaholiqtie and a 
cancan d'enfer at seven in the morning. (Morning-service— 'Ere the fresh lawns 
appeared, under the opening eyelids of the Morn. — ') Here is the menu; — 'Consomme 
de volaille a la Bagration; 16 hors-d'oeuvres varies. Bouchees ^ la Talleyrand. 
Saumons froids, sauce Ravigote. Filets de boeuf en Bellevue, timbales milanaises 
chaudfroid de gibier. Dindes truffles. Pat^s de foies gras, buissons d'&revisses, salades 
v^n^tiennes, geli'cs blanches aux fruits, gateaux mancini, parisiens et parisiennes. 
Fromages glacis. Ananas. Dessert.' " 



sesame: of kings treasuries 123 

That disgusted deceased, and he would have nothing to do with 
them since. They got worse and worse until last Friday week, when 
they had not even a halfpenny to buy a candle. Deceased then lay 
down on the straw, and said he could not live till morning. — A 
juror: 'You are dying of starvation yourself, and you ought to go 
into the house until the summer.' Witness : 'If we went in we should 
die. When we come out in the summer we should be like people 
dropped from the sky. No one would know us, and we would not 
have even a room. I could work now if I had food, for my sight 
would get better.' Dr. G. P. Walker said deceased died from syn- 
cope, from exhaustion, from want of food. The deceased had had no 
bedclothes. For four months he had had nothing but bread to eat. 
There was not a particle of fat in the body. There was no disease, 
but if there had been medical attendance, he might have survived 
the syncope or fainting. The coroner having remarked upon the 
painful nature of the case, the jury returned the following ver- 
dict: 'That deceased died from exhaustion, from want of food 
and the common necessaries of life; also through want of medical 
aid.' " 

37. "Why would witness not go into the workhouse?" you ask. 
Well, the poor seem to have a prejudice against the workhouse which 
the rich have not; for, of course, every one who takes a pension 
from Government goes into the workhouse on a grand scale ;'° only 
the workhouses for the rich do not involve the idea of work, and 
should be called play-houses. But the poor like to die independently, 
it appears; perhaps if we made the play-houses for them pretty and 
pleasant enough, or gave them their pensions at home, and allowed 
them a little introductory peculation with the public money, their 
minds might be reconciled to the conditions. Meantime, here are 
the facts : we make our relief either so insulting to them, or so pain- 
ful, that they rather die than take it at our hands; or, for third alter- 
native, we leave them so untaught and foolish that they starve like 
brute creatures, wild and dumb, not knowing what to do, or what 
to ask. I say, you despise compassion; if you did not, such a news- 
paper paragraph would be as impossible in a Christian country as a 

'^Please observe this statement, and think of it, and consider how it happens that 
a poor old woman will be ashamed to take a shilling a week from the country — but 
no one is ashamed to take a pension of a thousand a year. 



124 RUSKIN 

deliberate assassination permitted in its public streets." "Christian," 
did I say ? Alas, if we were but wholesomely ww-Christian, it would 
be impossible; it is our imaginary Christianity that helps us to com- 
mit these crimes, for we revel and luxuriate in our faith, for the 
lewd sensation of it; dressing it up, like everything else, in fiction. 
The dramatic Christianity of the organ and aisle, of dawn-service 
and twilight-revival — the Christianity which we do not fear to mix 
the mockery of, pictorially, with our play about the devil, in our 
Satanellas,— Roberts, — Fausts; chanting hymns through traceried 
windows for background effect, and artistically modulating the 
"Dio" through variation on variation of mimicked prayer (while 
we distribute tracts, next day, for the benefit of uncultivated 
swearers, upon what we suppose to be the signification of the Third 
Commandment); — this gas-lighted, and gas-inspired, Christianity, 
we are triumphant in, and draw back the hem of our robes from 
the touch of the heretics who dispute it. But to do a piece of com- 
mon Christian righteousness in a plain English word or deed; to 

^^I am heartily glad to see such a paper as the Pall Mall Gazette established; for 
the power of the press in the hands of highly educated men, in independent position, 
and of honest purpose, may, indeed, become all that it has been hitherto vainly 
vaunted to be. Its editor will, therefore, I doubt not, pardon me, in that, by very 
reason of my respect for the journal, I do not let pass unnoticed an article in its third 
number, page 5, which was wrong in every word of it, with the intense wrongness 
which only an honest man can achieve who has taken a false turn of thought in the 
outset, and is following it, regardless of consequences. It contained at the end this 
notable passage: — 

"The bread of affliction, and the water of affliction — aye, and the bedsteads and 
blankets of affliction, are the very utmost that the law ought to give to outcasts merely 
as outcasts." I merely put beside this expression of the gentlemanly mind of England 
in 1865, a part of the message which Isaiah was ordered to "lift up his voice like 
a trumpet" in declaring to the genriemen of his day: "Ye fast for strife, and to 
smite with the fist of wickedness. Is not this the fast that I have chosen, to deal 
thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out (margin, 
'afflicted') to thy house?" The falsehood on which the writer had mentally founded 
himself, as previously stated by him, was this: "To confound the functions of the 
dispensers of the poor-rates which those of the dispensers of a charitable institution 
is a great and pernicious error." This sentence is so accurately and exquisitely wrong, 
that its substance must be thus reversed in our minds before we can deal with any 
existing problem of national distress. "To understand that the dispensers of the 
poor-rates are the almoners of the nation, and should distribute its alms with a 
gentleness and freedom of hand as much greater and franker than that possible to 
individual charity, as the collective national wisdom and power may be supposed 
greater than those of any single person, is the foundation of all law respecting 
pauperism." (Since this was written the Pall Mall Gazette has become a mere party 
paper — like the rest; but it writes well, and does more good than mischief on the 
whole.) 



sesame: of kings' treasuries 125 

make Christian law any rule of life, and found one National act or 
hope thereon, — we know too well what our faith comes to for that! 
You might sooner get lightning out of incense smoke than true 
action or passion out of your modern English religion. You had 
better get rid of the smoke, and the organ-pipes, both; leave them, 
and the Gothic windows, and the painted glass, to the property- 
man; give up your carburetted hydrogen ghost in one healthy 
expiration, and look after Lazarus at the doorstep. For there is a 
true Church wherever one hand meets another helpfully, and that 
is the only holy or Mother Church which ever was, or ever shall be. 

38. All these pleasures, then, and all these virtues, I repeat, you 
nationally despise. You have, indeed, men among you who do not; 
by whose work, by whose strength, by whose life, by whose death, 
you live, and never thank them. Your wealth, your amusement, 
your pride, would all be alike impossible, but for those whom you 
scorn or forget. The policeman, who is walking up and down the 
black lane all night to watch the guilt you have created there, and 
may have his brains beaten out, and be maimed for life, at any 
moment, and never be thanked; the sailor wrestling with the sea's 
rage; the quiet student poring over his book or his vial; the com- 
mon worker, without praise, and nearly without bread, fulfilling his 
task as your horses drag your carts, hopeless, and spurned of all: these 
are the men by whom England lives; but they are not the nation; 
they are only the body and nervous force of it, acting still from old 
habit in a convulsive perseverance, while the mind is gone. Our 
National wish and purpose are to be amused; our National religion 
is the performance of church ceremonies, and preaching of soporific 
truths (or untruths) to keep the mob quietly at work, while we 
amuse ourselves; and the necessity for this amusement is fastening 
on us as a feverous disease of parched throat and wandering eyes — 
senseless, dissolute, merciless. How literally that word Dis-Ease, the 
Negation and impossibility of Ease, expresses the entire moral state 
of our English Industry and its Amusements! 

39. When men are rightly occupied, their amusement grows out 
of their work, as the color-petals out of a fruitful flower; — when they 
are faithfully helpful and compassionate, all their emotions become 
steady, deep, perpetual, and vivifying to the soul as the natural pulse 



126 RUSKIN 

of the body. But now, having no true business, we pour our whole 
masculine energy into the false business of money-making; and 
having no true emotion, we must have false emotions dressed up 
for us to play with, not innocently, as children with dolls, but guiltily 
and darkly, as the idolatrous Jews with their pictures on cavern 
walls, which men had to dig to detect. The justice we do not execute, 
we mimic in the novel and on the stage; for the beauty we destroy 
in nature, we substitute the metamorphosis of the pantomime, and 
(the human nature of us imperatively requiring awe and sorrow of 
some kind) for the noble grief we should have borne with our fel- 
lows, and the pure tears we should have wept with them, we gloat 
over the pathos of the police court, and gather the night-dew of the 
grave. 

40. It is difHcult to estimate the true significance of these things; 
the facts are frightful enough; — the measure of national fault 
involved in them is, perhaps, not as great as it would at first seem. 
We permit, or cause, thousands of deaths daily, but we mean no 
harm; we set fire to houses, and ravage peasants' fields; yet we 
should be sorry to find we had injured anybody. We are still kind 
at heart; still capable of virtue, but only as children are. Chalmers, 
at the end of his long life, having had much power with the public, 
being plagued in some serious matter by a reference to "public 
opinion," uttered the impatient exclamation, "The public is just a 
great baby!" And the reason that I have allowed all these graver 
subjects of thought to mix themselves up with an inquiry into 
methods of reading, is that, the more I see of our national faults and 
miseries, the more they resolve themselves into conditions of childish 
illiterateness, and want of education in the most ordinary habits 
of thought. It is, I repeat, not vice, not selfishness, not dullness of 
brain, which we have to lament; but an unreachable schoolboy's 
recklessness, only differing from the true schoolboy's in its incapacity 
of being helped, because it acknowledges no master. 

41. There is a curious type of us given in one of the lovely, neg- 
lected works of the last of our great painters. It is a drawing of 
Kirkby Lonsdale churchyard, and of its brook, and valley, and hills, 
and folded morning sky beyond. And unmindful alike of these, and 
of the dead who have left these for other valleys and for other skies, 



sesame: of kings treasuries 127 

a group of schoolboys have piled their little books upon a grave, to 
strike them off with stones. So, also, we play with the words of the 
dead that would teach us, and strike them far from us with our 
bitter, reckless will; little thinking that those leaves which the wind 
scatters had been piled, not only upon a gravestone, but upon the 
seal of an enchanted vault — nay, the gate of a great city of sleeping 
kings, who would awake for us, and walk with us, if we knew but 
how to call them by their names. How often, even if we lift the mar- 
ble entrance gate, do we but wander among those old kings in their 
repose, and finger the robes they lie in, and stir the crowns on their 
foreheads; and still they are silent to us, and seem but a dusty 
imagery; because we know not the incantation of the heart that 
would wake them; — which, if they once heard, they would start up 
to meet us in their power of long ago, narrowly to look upon us, and 
consider us; and, as the fallen kings of Hades meet the newly fallen, 
saying, "Art thou also become weak as we — art thou also become 
one of us?" so would these kings, with their undimmed, unshaken 
diadems, meet us, saying, "Art thou also become pure and mighty 
of heart as we — art thou also become one of us?" 

42. Mighty of heart, mighty of mind — "magnanimous" — to be 
this, is, indeed, to be great in life; to become this increasingly, is, 
indeed, to "advance in life," — ^in life itself — not in the trappings of it. 
My friends, do you remember that old Scythian custom, when the 
head of a house died? How he was dressed in his finest dress, and 
set in his chariot, and carried about to his friends' houses; and each 
of them placed him at his table's head, and all feasted in his pres- 
ence ? Suppose it were offered to you, in plain words, as it is offered 
to you in dire facts, that you should gain this Scythian honor, 
gradually, while you yet thought yourself alive. Suppose the offer 
were this: You shall die slowly; your blood shall daily grow cold, 
your flesh petrify, your heart beat at last only as a rusted group of 
iron valves. Your life shall fade from you, and sink through the 
earth into the ice of Caina; but, day by day, your body shall be 
dressed more gaily, and set in higher chariots, and have more orders 
on its breast — crowns on its head, if you will. Men shall bow before 
it, stare and shout round it, crowd after it up and down the streets; 
build palaces for it, feast with it at their tables' heads all the night 



128 RUSKIN 

long; your soul shall stay enough within it to know what they do, 
and feel the weight of the golden dress on its shoulders, and the 
furrow of the crown-edge on the skull; — no more. Would you take 
the oiler, verbally made by the death-angel? Would the meanest 
among us take it, think you? Yet practically and verily we grasp 
at it, every one of us, in a measure; many of us grasp at it in its full- 
ness of horror. Every man accepts it, who desires to advance in 
Ufe without knowing what life is; who means only that he is to get 
more horses, and more footmen, and more fortune, and more public 
honor, and — not more personal soul. He only is advancing in life, 
whose heart is getting softer, whose blood warmer, whose brain 
quicker, whose spirit is entering into Living peace. And the men 
who have this life in them are the true lords or kings of the earth — 
they, and they only. All other kingships, so far as they are true, are 
only the practical issue and expression of theirs; if less than this, they 
are either dramatic royalties, — costly shows, set off, indeed, with real 
jewels instead of tinsel, — but still only the toys of nations; or else 
they are no royalties at all, but tyrannies, or the mere active and 
practical issue of national folly; for which reason I have said of 
them elsewhere, "Visible governments are the toys of some nations, 
the diseases of others, the harness of some, the burdens of more." 

43. But I have no words for the wonder with which I hear King- 
hood still spoken of, even among thoughtful men, as if governed 
nations were a personal property, and might be bought and sold, or 
otherwise acquired, as sheep, of whose flesh their king was to feed, 
and whose fleece he was to gather; as if Achilles' indignant epithet 
of base kings, "people-eating," were the constant and proper title of 
all monarchs; and enlargement of a king's dominion meant the 
same thing as the increase of a private man's estate! Kings who 
think so, however powerful, can no more be the true kings of the 
nation than gadflies are the kings of a horse; they suck it, and may 
drive it wild, but do not guide it. They, and their courts, and their 
armies are, if one could see clearly, only a large species of marsh 
mosquito, with bayonet proboscis and melodious, band-mastered 
trumpeting in the summer air; the twilight being, perhaps, some- 
times fairer, but hardly more wholesome, for its glittering mists of 
midge companies. The true kings, meanwhile, rule quietly, if at 



sesame: of kings' treasuries 129 

all, and hate ruling; too many of them make "il gran rifiiito";" and 
if they do not, the mob, as soon as they are likely to become useful 
to it, is pretty sure to make its "gran rifiuto" of them. 

44. Yet the visible king may also be a true one, some day, if ever 
day comes when he will estimate his dominion by the force of it, — 
not the geographical boundaries. It matters very little whether Trent 
cuts you a cantel out here, or Rhine rounds you a castle less there. 
But it does matter to you, king of men, whether you can verily say 
to this man, "Go," and he goeth; and to another, "Come," and he 
Cometh. Whether you can turn your people, as you can Trent — and 
where it is that you bid them come, and where go. It matters to 
you, king of men, whether your people hate you, and die by you, or 
love you, and live by you. You may measure your dominion by 
multitudes better than by miles; and count degrees of love latitude, 
not from, but to, a wonderfully warm and indefinite equator. 

45. Measure! nay, you cannot measure. Who shall measure the 
difference between the power of those who "do and teach," and who 
are greatest in the kingdoms of earth, as of heaven — and the power 
of those who undo, and consume — whose power, at the fullest, is 
only the power of the moth and the rust? Strange! to think how 
the Moth-kings lay up treasures for the moth; and the Rust-kings, 
who are to their peoples' strength as rust to armor, lay up treasures 
for the rust; and the Robber-kings, treasures for the robber; but how 
few kings have ever laid up treasures that needed no guarding — 
treasures of which, the more thieves there were, the better! Broidered 
robe, only to be rent; helm and sword, only to be dimmed; jewel and 
gold, only to be scattered; — there have been three kinds of kings who 
have gathered these. Suppose there ever should arise a Fourth order 
of kings, who had read, in some obscure writing of long ago, that 
there was a Fourth kind of treasure, which the jewel and gold could 
not equal, neither should it be valued with pure gold. A web made 
fair in the weaving, by Athena's shuttle; an armor, forged in divine 
fire by Vulcanian force — a gold to be mined in the sun's red heart, 
where he sets over the Delphian cliffs; — deep-pictured tissue, 
impenetrable armor, potable gold! — the three great Angels of Con- 
duct, Toil, and Thought, still calling to us, and waiting at the posts 

" The great renunciation. 



130 RUSKIN 

of our doors, to lead us, with their winged power, and guide us, 
with their unerring eyes, by the path which no fowl knoweth, and 
which the vulture's eye has not seen! Suppose kings should ever 
arise, who heard and believed this word, and at last gathered and 
brought forth treasures of — Wisdom — for their people? 

46. Think what an amazing business that would be! How incon- 
ceivable, in the state of our present national wisdom! That we 
should bring up our peasants to a book exercise instead of a bayonet 
exercise! — organize, drill, maintain with pay, and good generalship, 
armies of thinkers, instead of armies of stabbers! — find national 
amusement in reading-rooms as well as rifle-grounds; give prizes for 
a fair shot at a fact, as well as for a leaden splash on a target. What 
an absurd idea it seems, put fairly in words, that the wealth of the 
capitalists of civilized nations should ever come to support literature 
instead of war! 

47. Have yet patience with me, while I read you a single sentence 
out of the only book, properly to be called a book, that I have yet 
written myself, the one that will stand (if anything stand) surest 
and longest of all work of mine. 

"It is one very awful form of the operation of wealth in Europe 
that it is entirely capitalists' wealth that supports unjust wars. Just 
wars do not need so much money to support them; for most of the 
men who wage such, wage them gratis; but for an unjust war, men's 
bodies and souls have both to be bought; and the best tools of war 
for them besides, which make such war costly to the maximum; not 
to speak of the cost of base fear, and angry suspicion, between nations 
which have not grace nor honesty enough in all their multitudes to 
buy an hour's peace of mind with; as, at present, France and Eng- 
land, purchasing of each other ten millions' sterling worth of con- 
sternation, annually (a remarkably light crop, half thorns and half 
aspen leaves, sown, reaped, and granaried by the 'science' of the 
modern political economist, teaching covetousness instead of truth) . 
And, all unjust war being supportable, if not by pillage of the 
enemy, only by loans from capitalists, these loans are repaid by subse- 
quent taxation of the people, who appear to have no will in the mat- 
ter, the capitalists' will being the primary root of the war; but its 
real root is the covetousness of the whole nation, rendering it inca- 



sesame: of kings' treasuries 131 

pable of faith, frankness, or justice, and bringing about, therefore, in 
due time, his own separate loss and punishment to each person." 

48. France and England literally, observe, buy panic of each other; 
they pay, each of them, for ten thousand thousand pounds' worth of 
terror, a year. Now suppose, instead of buying these ten millions' 
worth of panic annually, they made up their minds to be at peace 
with each other, and buy ten millions' worth of knowledge annually; 
and that each nation spent its ten thousand thousand pounds a year 
in founding royal libraries, royal art galleries, royal museums, royal 
gardens, and places of rest. Might it not be better somewhat for 
both French and English? 

49. It will be long, yet, before that comes to pass. Nevertheless, I 
hope it will not be long before royal or national libraries will be 
founded in every considerable city, with a royal series of books in 
them; the same series in every one of them, chosen books, the best 
in every kind, prepared for that national series in the most perfect 
way possible; their text printed all on leaves of equal size, broad of 
margin, and divided into pleasant volumes, light in the hand, beau- 
tiful, and strong, and thorough as examples of binders' work; and 
that these great libraries will be accessible to all clean and orderly 
persons at all times of the day and evening; strict law being enforced 
for this cleanliness and quietness. 

50. I could shape for you other plans for art galleries, and for 
natural history galleries, and for many precious — many, it seems to 
me, needful — things; but this book plan is the easiest and needfullest, 
and would prove a considerable tonic to what we call our British 
constitution, which has fallen dropsical of late, and has an evil 
thirst, and evil hunger, and wants healthier feeding. You have got 
its corn laws repealed for it; try if you cannot get corn laws estab- 
lished for it dealing in a better bread; — bread made of that old 
enchanted Arabian grain, the Sesame, which opens doors; — doors 
not of robbers', but of Kings' Treasuries. 

NOTE TO §30 

Respecting the increase of rent by the deaths of the poor, for 
evidence of which see the preface to the Medical officers' report to the 
Privy Council, just published, there are suggestions in its preface 



132 RUSKIN 

which will make some stir among us, I fancy, respecting which let 
me note these points following: — 

There are two theories on the subject of land now abroad, and in 
contention; both false. 

The first is that, by Heavenly law, there have always existed, and 
must continue to exist, a certain number of hereditarily sacred per- 
sons to whom the earth, air, and water of the world belong, as per- 
sonal property; of which earth, air, and water, these persons may, 
at their pleasure, permit, or forbid, the rest of the human race to 
eat, breathe, or to drink. This theory is not for many years longer 
tenable. The adverse theory is that a division of the land of the 
world among the mob of the world would immediately elevate the 
said mob into sacred personages; that houses would then build 
themselves, and corn grow of itself; and that everybody would be 
able to live, without doing any work for his living. This theory 
would also be found highly untenable in practice. 

It will, however, require some rough experiments, and rougher 
catastrophes, before the generality of persons will be convinced 
that no law concerning anything — least of all concerning land, for 
either holding or dividing it, or renting it high, or renting it low — 
would be of the smallest ultimate use to the people, so long as the 
general contest for life, and for the means of life, remains one of 
mere brutal competition. That contest, in an unprincipled nation, 
will take one deadly form or another, whatever laws you make 
against it. For instance, it would be an entirely wholesome law for 
England, if it could be carried, that maximum limits should be 
assigned to incomes according to classes; and that every nobleman's 
income should be paid to him as a fixed salary or pension by the 
nation; and not squeezed by him in variable sums, at discretion, 
out of the tenants of his land. But if you could get such a law passed 
to-morrow, and if, which would be farther necessary, you could 
fix the value of the assigned incomes by making a given weight of 
pure bread for a given sum, a twelvemonth would not pass before 
another currency would have been tacitly established, and the 
power of accumulative wealth would have reasserted itself in some 



sesame: of kings' treasuries 133 

other article, or some other imaginary sign. There is only one cure 
for public distress — and that is public education, directed to make 
men thoughtful, merciful, and just. There are, indeed, many laws 
conceivable which would gradually better and strengthen the na- 
tional temper; but, for the most part, they are such as the national 
temper must be much bettered before it would bear. A nation 
in its youth may be helped by laws, as a weak child by backboards, 
but when it is old it cannot that way straighten its crooked spine. 
And besides, the problem of land, at its worst, is a bye one; dis- 
tribute the earth as you will, the principal question remains inex- 
orable, — ^Who is to dig it? Which of us, in brief words, is to do 
the hard and dirty work for the rest — and for what pay? Who is 
to do the pleasant and clean work, and for what pay? Who is to 
do no work, and for what pay? And there are curious moral and 
religious questions connected with these. How far is it lawful to 
suck a portion of the soul out of a great many persons, in order 
to put the abstracted psychical quantities together and make one very 
beautiful or ideal soul? If we had to deal with mere blood, instead 
of spirit (and the thing might literally be done — as it has been done 
with infants before now) — so that it were possible by taking a cer- 
tain quantity of blood from the arms of a given number of the 
mob, and putting it all into one person, to make a more azure- 
blooded gentleman of him, the thing would of course be managed; 
but secretly, I should conceive. But now, because it is brain and 
soul that we abstract, not visible blood, it can be done quite openly, 
and we live, we gentlemen, on delicatest prey, after the manner of 
weasels; that is to say, we keep a certain number of clowns digging 
and ditching, and generally stupefied, in order that we, being fed 
gratis, may have all the thinking and feeling to ourselves. Yet 
there is a great deal to be said for this. A highly-bred and trained 
English, French, Austrian, or Italian gentleman (much more a 
lady) is a great production, — a better production than most statues; 
being beautifully colored as well as shaped, and plus all the brains; 
a glorious thing to look at, a wonderful thing to talk to; and you 
cannot have it, any more than a pyramid or a church, but by 



134 RUSKIN 

sacrifice of much contributed life. And it is, perhaps, better to build 
a beautiful human creature than a beautiful dome or steeple — and 
more delightful to look up reverently to a creature far above us, 
than to a wall; only the beautiful human creature will have some 
duties to do in return — duties of living belfry and rampart — of 
which presently. 



LECTURE II. — LILIES: OF 
QUEENS' GARDENS' 

"Be thou glad, oh thirsting Desert; let the desert be made cheerful, and 
bloom as the lily; and the barren places of Jordan shall run wild with 
wood." — Isaiah xxxv, i. (Septuagint.) 

IT will, perhaps, be well, as this Lecture is the sequel of one 
previously given, that I should shortly state to you my general 
intention in both. The questions specially proposed to you in 
the first, namely, How and What to Read, rose out of a far deeper 
one, which it was my endeavor to make you propose earnestly to 
yourselves, namely, Why to Read. I want you to feel, with me, 
that whatever advantages we possess in the present day in the 
diffusion of education and of literature, can only be rightly used by 
any of us when we have apprehended clearly what education is to 
lead to, and literature to teach. I wish you to see that both well- 
directed moral training and well-chosen reading lead to the posses- 
sion of a power over the ill-guided and illiterate, which is, according 
to the measure of it, in the truest sense, \ingly; conferring indeed 
the purest kingship that can exist among men: too many other 
kingships (however distinguished by visible insignia or material 
power) being either spectral or tyrannous; — spectral — that is to 
say, aspects and shows only of royalty, hollow as death, and which 
only the "likeness of a kingly crown have on"; or else tyrannous — 
that is to say, substituting their own will for the law of justice and 
love by which all true kings rule. 

52. There is, then, I repeat — and as I want to leave this idea 
with you, I begin with it, and shall end with it — only one pure kind 
of kingship; an inevitable and external kind, crowned or not: the 
kingship, namely, which consists in a stronger moral state, and a 
truer thoughtful state, than that of others; enabling you, therefore, 

'This lecture was given December 14, 1864, at the Town Hall, Manchester, in aid 
of the St. Andrew's Schools. 

135 



136 RUSKIN 

to guide, or to raise them. Observe that word "State"; we have 
got into a loose way of using it. It means hterally the standing and 
stabiHty of a thing; and you have the full force of it in the derived 
word "statue" — "the immovable thing." A king's majesty or "state," 
then, and the right of his kingdom to be called a state, depends on 
the movelessness of both: — without tremor, without quiver of bal- 
ance; established and enthroned upon a foundation of eternal law 
which nothing can alter, nor overthrow. 

53. Believing that all literature and all education are only useful 
so far as they tend to confirm this calm, beneficent, and therefore 
kingly, power — first, over ourselves, and, through ourselves, over 
all around us, I am now going to ask you to consider with me 
farther, what special portion or kind of this royal authority, arising 
out of noble education, may rightly be possessed by women; and 
how far they also are called to a true queenly power. Not in their 
households merely, but over all within their sphere. And in what 
sense, if they rightly understood and exercised this royal or gracious 
influence, the order and beauty induced by such benignant power 
would justify us in speaking of the territories over which each of 
them reigned, as "Queens' Gardens." 

54. And here, in the very outset, we are met by a far deeper 
question, which — strange though this may seem — remains among 
many of us yet quite undecided, in spite of its infinite importance. 

We cannot determine what the queenly power of women should 
be, until we are agreed what their ordinary power should be. We 
cannot consider how education may fit them for any widely ex- 
tending duty, until we are agreed what is their true constant duty. 
And there never was a time when wilder words were spoken, or 
more vain imagination permitted, respecting this question — quite 
vital to all social happiness. The relations of the womanly to the 
manly nature, their different capacities of intellect or of virtue, 
seem never to have been yet estimated with entire consent. We 
hear of the "mission" and of the "rights" of Woman, as if these 
could ever be separate from the mission and the rights of Man; — 
as if she and her lord were creatures of independent kind, and of 
irreconcilable claim. This, at least, is wrong. And not less wrong — 
perhaps even more foolishly wrong (for I will anticipate thus far 



lilies: of queens' gardens 137 

what I hope to prove) — ^is the idea that woman is only the shadow 
and attendant image of her lord, owing him a thoughtless and servile 
obedience, and supported altogether in her weakness by the pre- 
eminence of his fortitude. 

This, I say, is the most foolish of all errors respecting her who 
was made to be the helpmate of man. As if he could be helped 
effectively by a shadow, or worthily by a slave! 

55. I. — ^Let us try, then, whether we cannot get at some clear 
and harmonious idea (it must be harmonious if it is true) of what 
womanly mind and virtue are in power and office, with respect to 
man's; and how their relations, rightly accepted, aid, and increase, 
the vigor, and honor, and authority of both. 

And now I must repeat one thing I said in the last lecture : namely, 
that the first use of education was to enable us to consult with the 
wisest and the greatest men on all points of earnest difficulty. That 
to use books rightly, was to go to them for help: to appeal to them, 
when our own knowledge and power of thought failed: to be led 
by them into wider sight — purer conception — than our own, and 
receive from them the united sentence of the judges and councils 
of all time, against our solitary and unstable opinion. 

Let us do this now. Let us see whether the greatest, the wisest, 
the purest-hearted of all ages are agreed in any wise on this point: 
let us hear the testimony they have left respecting what they held to 
be the true dignity of woman, and her mode of help to man. 

56. And first let us take Shakespeare. 

Note broadly in the outset, Shakespeare has no heroes; — he has 
only heroines. There is not one entirely heroic figure in all his 
plays, except the slight sketch of Henry the Fifth, exaggerated for 
the purposes of the stage: and the still slighter Valentine in "The 
Two Gentlemen of Verona." In his labored and perfect plays you 
have no hero. Othello would have been one, if his simplicity had 
not been so great as to leave him the prey of every base practice 
round him; but he is the only example even approximating to the 
heroic type. Coriolanus — Caesar — Antony, stand in flawed strength, 
and fall by their vanities; — Hamlet is indolent, and drowsily specu- 
lative; Romeo an impatient boy; the Merchant of Venice languidly 
submissive to adverse fortune; Kent, in King Lear, is entirely noble 



138 RUSKIN 

at heart, but too rough and unpolished to be of true use at the 
critical time, and he sinks into the ofBce of a servant only. Orlando, 
no less noble, is yet the despairing toy of chance, followed, com- 
forted, saved, by Rosalind. Whereas there is hardly a play that has 
not a perfect woman in it, steadfast in grave hope and errorless 
purpose: CordeUa, Desdemona, Isabella, Hermione, Imogen, Queen 
Katherine, Perdita, Silvia, Viola, Rosalind, Helena, and last, and 
perhaps loveliest, Virgilia, are all faultless: conceived in the highest 
heroic type of humanity. 

57. Then observe, secondly. 

The catastrophe of every play is caused always by the folly or 
fault of a man; the redemption, if there be any, is by the wisdom 
and virtue of a woman, and failing that, there is none. The catas- 
trophe of King Lear is owing to his own want of judgment, his 
impatient vanity, his misunderstanding of his children; the virtue 
of his one true daughter would have saved him from all the 
injuries of the others, unless he had cast her away from him; as it 
is, she all but saves him. 

Of Othello I need not trace the tale; — nor the one weakness of 
his so mighty love; nor the inferiority of his perceptive intellect 
to that even of the second woman character in the play, the Emilia 
who dies in wild testimony against his error: — 

"Oh, murderous coxcomb! What should such a fool 
Do with so good a wife?" 

In "Romeo and Juliet," the wise and brave stratagem of the wife 
is brought to ruinous issue by the reckless impatience of her hus- 
band. In "Winter's Tale" and in "Cymbeline," the happiness and 
existence of two princely households, lost through long years, and 
imperiled to the death by the folly and obstinacy of the husbands, 
are redeemed at last by the queenly patience and wisdom of the 
wives. In "Measure for Measure," the foul injustice of the judge, 
and the foul cowardice of the brother, are opposed to the victorious 
truth and adamantine purity of a woman. In "Coriolanus," the 
mother's counsel, acted upon in time, would have saved her son 
from all evil; his momentary forgetfulness of it is his ruin; her 
prayer, at last granted, saves him — not, indeed, from death, but 
from the curse of living as the destroyer of his country. 



lilies: of queens gardens 139 

And what shall I say of Julia, constant against the fickleness of 
a lover who is a mere wicked child? — of Helena, against the petu- 
lance and insult of a careless youth? — of the patience of Hero, the 
passion of Beatrice, and the calmly devoted wisdom of the "un- 
lessoned girl," who appears among the helplessness, the blindness, 
and the vindictive passions of men, as a gentle angel, bringing 
courage and safety by her presence, and defeating the worst malig- 
nities of crime by what women are fancied most to fail in, — pre- 
cision and accuracy of thought. 

58. Observe, further, among all the principal figures in Shake- 
speare's plays, there is only one weak woman — Ophelia; and it is 
because she fails Hamlet at the critical moment, and is not, and 
cannot in her nature be, a guide to him when he needs her most, 
that all the bitter catastrophe follows. Finally, though there are 
three wicked women among the principal figures, Lady Macbeth, 
Regan, and Goneril, they are felt at once to be frightful exceptions 
to the ordinary laws of life; fatal in their influence also in proportion 
to the power for good which they have abandoned. 

Such, in broad light, is Shakespeare's testimony to the position 
and character of women in human life. He represents them as 
infallibly faithful and wise counselors, — incorruptibly just and pure 
examples — strong always to sanctify, even when they cannot save. 

59. Not as in any wise comparable in knowledge of the nature 
of man, — still less in his understanding of the causes and courses of 
fate, — ^but only as the writer who has given us the broadest view 
of the conditions and modes of ordinary thought in modern society, 
I ask you next to receive the witness of Walter Scott. 

I put aside his merely romantic prose writings as of no value; and 
though the early romantic poetry is very beautiful, its testimony 
is of no weight, other than that of a boy's ideal. But his true works, 
studied from Scottish life, bear a true witness; and, in the whole 
range of these, there are but three men who reach the heroic type^ — 

^I ought, in order to make this assertion fully understood, to have noted the 
various weaknesses which lower the ideal of other great characters of men in the 
Waverley novels — the selfishness and narrowness of thought in Redgauntlet, the weak 
religious enthusiasm in Edward Glendinning, and the like; and I ought to have 
noticed that there are several quite perfect characters sketched sometimes in the 
backgrounds; three — let us accept joyously this courtesy to England and her soldiers 
— are English ofiRcers: Colonel Gardiner, Colonel Talbot, and Colonel Mannering. 



140 RUSKIN 

Dandie Dinmont, Rob Roy, and Claverhouse; o£ these, one is a 
border farmer; another a freebooter; the third a soldier in a bad 
cause. And these touch the ideal of heroism only in their courage 
and faith, together with a strong, but uncultivated, or mistakenly 
applied, intellectual power; while his younger men are the gentle- 
manly playthings of fantastic fortune, and only by aid (or accident) 
of that fortune, survive, not vanquish, the trials they involuntarily 
sustain. Of any disciplined, or consistent character, earnest in a 
purpose wisely conceived, or dealing with forms of hostile evil, 
definitely challenged, and resolutely subdued, there is no trace in 
his conceptions of young men. Whereas in his imaginations of 
women, — in the characters of Ellen Douglas, of Flora Maclvor, 
Rose Bradwardine, Catherine Seyton, Diana Vernon, Lilias Red- 
gauntlet, Alice Bridgenorth, Alice Lee, and Jeanie Deans, — with 
endless varieties of grace, tenderness, and intellectual power, we 
find in all a quite infallible and inevitable sense of dignity and 
justice; a fearless, instant, and untiring self-sacrifice to even the 
appearance of duty, much more to its real claims; and, finally, a 
patient wisdom of deeply restrained affection, which does infinitely 
more than protect its objects from a momentary error; it gradually 
forms, animates, and exalts the characters of the unworthy lovers, 
until, at the close of the tale, we are just able, and no more, to take 
patience in hearing of their unmerited success. 

So that in all cases, with Scott as with Shakespeare, it is the 
woman who watches over, teaches, and guides the youth; it is 
never, by any chance, the youth who watches over or educates his 
mistress. 

60. Next, take, though more briefly, graver testimony — that of 
the great ItaHans and Greeks. You know well the plan of Dante's 
great poem — that it is a love poem to his dead lady; a song of praise 
for her watch over his soul. Stooping only to pity, never to love, 
she yet saves him from destruction — saves him from hell. He is 
going eternally astray in despair; she comes down from heaven to 
his help, and throughout the ascents of Paradise is his teacher, inter- 
preting for him the most difficult truths, divine and human, and 
leading him, with rebuke upon rebuke, from star to star. 

I do not insist upon Dante's conception; if I began I could not 
cease; besides, you might think this a wild imagination of one 



lilies: of queens gardens 141 

poet's heart. So I will rather read to you a few verses of the 
deliberate writing of a knight of Pisa to his living lady, wholly 
characteristic of the feeling of all the noblest men of the thirteenth, 
or early fourteenth, century, preserved among many other such 
records of knightly honor and love, which Dante Rossetti has 
gathered for us from among the early Italian poets. 

"For lo! thy law is passed 
That this my love should manifesdy be 

To serve and honor thee; 
And so I do; and my delight is full. 
Accepted for the servant of thy rule. 

"Without almost, I am all rapturous. 
Since thus my will was set 
To serve, thou flower of joy, thine excellence; 
Nor ever seems it anything could rouse 
A pain or regret, 
But on thee dwells mine every thought and sense; 
Considering that from thee all virtues spread 

As from a fountain head, — 
That in thy gift is wisdom's best avail, 

And honor without fail; 
With whom each sovereign good dwells separate, 
Fulfilling the perfection of thy state. 

"Lady, since I conceived 
That pleasurable aspect in my heart. 

My life has been apart 
In shining brightness and the place of truth; 

Which till that time, good sooth, 
Groped among shadows in a darken'd place. 

Where many hours and days 
It hardly ever had remember'd good. 

But now my servitude 
Is thine, and I am full of joy and rest. 

A man from a wild beast 
Thou madest me, since for thy love I lived." 

61. You may think, perhaps, a Greek knight would have had a 
lower estimate of women than this Christian lover. His spiritual 
subjection to them was, indeed, not so absolute; but as regards their 
own personal character, it was only because you could not have 
followed me so easily, that I did not take the Greek women instead 
of Shakespeare's; and instance, for chief ideal types of human 



142 RUSKIN 

beauty and faith, the simple mother's and wife's heart of An- 
dromache; the divine, yet rejected wisdom of Cassandra; the playful 
kindness and simple princess-life of happy Nausicaa; the housewifely 
calm of that of Penelope, with its watch upon the sea; the ever 
patient, fearless, hopelessly devoted piety of the sister and daughter, 
in Antigone; the bowing down of Iphigenia, lamblike and silent; 
and, finally, the expectation of the resurrection, made clear to the 
soul of the Greeks in the return from her grave of that Alcestis, 
who, to save her husband, had passed calmly through the bitterness 
of death. 

62. Now, I could multiply witness upon witness of this kind 
upon you if I had time. I would take Chaucer, and show you why 
he wrote a Legend of Good Women; but no Legend of Good Men. 
I would take Spenser, and show you how all his fairy knights are 
sometimes deceived and sometimes vanquished; but the soul of Una 
is never darkened, and the spear of Britomart is never broken. Nay, 
I could go back into the mythical teaching of the most ancient times, 
and show you how the great people, — by one of whose princesses 
it was appointed that the Lawgiver of all the earth should be 
educated, rather than by his own kindred; — how that great Egyp- 
tian people, wisest then of nations, gave to their Spirit of Wisdom 
the form of a woman; and into her hand, for a symbol, the 
weaver's shuttle; and how the name and the form of that spirit, 
adopted, believed, and obeyed by the Greeks, became that Athena 
of the olive-helm, and cloudy shield, to faith in whom you owe, 
down to this date, whatever you hold most precious in art, in litera- 
ture, or in types of national virtue. 

63. But I will not wander into this distant and mythical element; 
I will only ask you to give its legitimate value to the testimony of 
these great poets and men of the world, — consistent, as you see it 
is, on this head. I will ask you whether it can be supposed that these 
men, in the main work of their lives, are amusing themselves with 
a fictitious and idle view of the relations between man and woman; — 
nay, worse than fictitious or idle; for a thing may be imaginary, 
yet desirable, if it were possible; but this, their ideal of woman, is, 
according to our common idea of the marriage relation, wholly 
undesirable. The woman, we say, is not to guide, nor even to think 



lilies: of queens" gardens 143 

for herself. The man is always to be the wiser; he is to be the 
thinker, the ruler, the superior in knowledge and discretion, as in 
power. 

64. Is it not somewhat important to make up our minds on this 
matter? Are all these great men mistaken, or are we? Are Shake- 
speare and ^schylus, Dante and Homer, merely dressing dolls for 
us; or, worse than dolls, unnatural visions, the realization of which, 
were it possible, would bring anarchy into all households and ruin 
into all affections? Nay, if you could suppose this, take lastly the 
evidence of facts, given by the human heart itself. In all Christian 
ages which have been remarkable for their purity or progress, there 
has been absolute yielding of obedient devotion, by the lover, to his 
mistress. I say obedient; — not merely enthusiastic and worshiping 
in imagination, but entirely subject, receiving from the beloved 
woman, however young, not only the encouragement, the praise, 
and the reward of all toil, but so far as any choice is open, or any 
question difficult of decision, the direction of all toil. That chivalry, 
to the abuse and dishonor of which are attributable primarily what- 
ever is cruel in war, unjust in peace, or corrupt and ignoble in domes- 
tic relations; and to the original purity and power of which we owe 
the defense alike of faith, of law, and of love; — that chivalry, I say, 
in its very first conception of honorable life, assumes the subjection 
of the young knight to the command — should it even be the 
command in caprice — of his lady. It assumes this, because its mas- 
ters knew that the first and necessary impulse of every truly taught 
and knightly heart is this of blind service to its lady; that where 
that true faith and captivity are not, all wayward and wicked 
passions must be; and that in this rapturous obedience to the single 
love of his youth, is the sanctification of all man's strength, and 
the continuance of all his purposes. And this, not because such 
obedience would be safe, or honorable, were it ever rendered to 
the unworthy; but because it ought to be impossible for every noble 
youth — ^it is impossible for every one rightly trained — to love any 
one whose gentle counsel he cannot trust, or whose prayerful com- 
mand he can hesitate to obey. 

65. I do not insist by any farther argument on this, for I think 
it should commend itself at once to your knowledge of what has 



144 RUSKIN 

been and to your feelings of what should be. You cannot think 
that the buckling on of the knight's armor by his lady's hand was 
a mere caprice of romantic fashion. It is the type of an eternal truth 
— that the soul's armor is never well set to the heart unless a woman's 
hand has braced it; and it is only when she braces it loosely that 
the honor of manhood fails. Know you not those lovely lines — I 
would they were learned by all youthful ladies of England: — 

"Ah, wasteful woman! — she who may 
On her sweet self set her own price, 
Knowing he cannot choose but pay — 
How has she cheapen'd Paradise! 
How given for nought her priceless gift, 
How spoiled the bread and spill'd the wine. 
Which, spent with due, respective thrift. 
Had made brutes men, and men divine!" ' 

66. Thus much, then, respecting the relations of lovers I believe 
you will accept. But what we too often doubt is the fitness of the 
continuance of such a relation throughout the whole of human life. 
We think it right in the lover and mistress, not in the husband and 
wife. That is to say, we think that a reverent and tender duty is 
due to one whose affection we still doubt, and whose character we 
as yet do but partially and distantly discern; and that this reverence 
and duty are to be withdrawn when the affection has become wholly 
and limitlessly our own, and the character has been so sifted and 
tried that we fear not to entrust it with the happiness of our lives. 
Do you not see how ignoble this is, as well as how unreasonable? 
Do you not feel that marriage, — when it is marriage at all, — is 
only the seal which marks the vowed transition of temporary into 
untiring service, and of fitful into eternal love? 

67. But how, you will ask, is the idea of this guiding function 
of the woman reconcilable with a true wifely subjection? Simply 
in that it is a guiding, not a determining, function. Let me try to 
show you briefly how these powers seem to be rightly distinguish- 
able. 

' Coventry Patmore. You cannot read him too often or too carefully; as far as I 
know he is the only living poet who always strengthens and purifies; the others 
sometimes darken, and nearly always depress and discourage, the imagination they 
deeply seize. 



lilies: of queens' gardens 145 

We are foolish, and without excuse foolish, in speaking of the 
"superiority" of one sex to the other, as if they could be compared 
in similar things. Each has what the other has not: each completes 
the other, and is completed by the other: they are in nothing alike, 
and the happiness and perfection of both depends on each asking 
and receiving from the other what the other only can give. 

68. Now their separate characters are briefly these: The man's 
power is active, progressive, defensive. He is eminently the doer, 
the creator, the discoverer, the defender. His intellect is for specula- 
tion and invention; his energy for adventure, for war, and for 
conquest, wherever war is just, wherever conquest necessary. But 
the woman's power is for rule, not for battle, — and her intellect is 
not for invention or creation, but for sweet ordering, arrangement, 
and decision. She sees the qualities of things, their claims, and their 
places. Her great function is Praise: she enters into no contest, but 
infallibly judges the crown of contest. By her office, and place, she 
is protected from all danger and temptation. The man, in his rough 
work in open world, must encounter all peril and trial: to him, 
therefore, must be the failure, the offense, the inevitable error : often 
he must be wounded, or subdued; often misled; and always hard- 
ened. But he guards the woman from all this; within his house, 
as ruled by her, unless she herself has sought it, need enter no 
danger, no temptation, no cause of error or offense. This is the true 
nature of home — it is the place of Peace; the shelter, not only from 
all injury, but from all terror, doubt, and division. In so far as it 
is not this, it is not home: so far as the anxieties of the outer life 
penetrate into it, and the inconsistently-minded, unknown, unloved, 
or hostile society of the outer world is allowed by either husband 
or wife to cross the threshold, it ceases to be home; it is then only 
a part of that outer world which you have roofed over, and lighted 
fire in. But so far as it is a sacred place, a vestal temple, a temple 
of the hearth watched over by Household Gods, before whose faces 
none may come but those whom they can receive with love, — so 
far as it is this, and roof and fire are types only of a nobler shade 
and light, — shade as of the rock in a weary land, and light as of 
the Pharos in the stormy sea, — so far it vindicates the name, and 
fulfills the praise, of home. 



146 RUSKIN 

And wherever a true wife comes, this home is always round her. 
The stars only may be over her head; the glowworm in the night- 
cold grass may be the only fire at her foot: but home is yet wherever 
she is; and for a noble woman it stretches far round her, better than 
ceiled with cedar, or painted with vermilion, shedding its quiet light 
far, for those who else were homeless. 

69. This, then, I believe to be, — will you not admit it to be, — the 
woman's true place and power? But do not you see that to fulfill 
this, she must — as far as one can use such terms of a human creature 
— be incapable of error? So far as she rules, all must be right, or 
nothing is. She must be enduringly, incorruptibly good; instinc- 
tively, infallibly wise — wise, not for self-development, but for self- 
renunciation: wise, not that she may set herself above her husband, 
but that she may never fail from his side: wise, not with the narrow- 
ness of insolent and loveless pride, but with the passionate gentle- 
ness of an infinitely variable, because infinitely applicable, modesty 
of service — the true changefulness of woman. In that great sense — 
"La donna e mobile," not "Qual piiim' al vento"; no, nor yet 
"Variable as the shade, by the light quivering aspen made"; but 
variable as the light, manifold in fair and serene division, that it 
may take the color of all that it falls upon, and exalt it. 

70. II. — I have been trying, thus far, to show you what should be 
the place, and what the power of woman. Now, secondly, we ask, 
What kind of education is to fit her for these ? 

And if you indeed think this is a true conception of her office and 
dignity, it will not be difficult to trace the course of education which 
would fit her for the one, and raise her to the other. 

The first of our duties to her — no thoughtful persons now doubt 
this — is to secure for her such physical training and exercise as 
may confirm her health, and perfect her beauty, the highest refine- 
ment of that beauty being unattainable without splendor of activity 
and of delicate strength. To perfect her beauty, I say, and increase 
its power; it cannot be too powerful, nor shed its sacred light too 
far: only remember that all physical freedom is vain to produce 
beauty without a corresponding freedom of heart. There are two 
passages of that poet who is distinguished, it seems to me, from all 
others — not by power, but by exquisite righiness — which point you 



lilies: of queens gardens 147 

to the source, and describe to you, in a few syllables, the comple- 
tion of womanly beauty. I will read the introductory stanzas, but 
the last is the one I wish you specially to notice: — 

"Three years she grew in sun and shower, 
Then Nature said, 'A lovelier flower 

On earth was never sown. 
This child I to myself will take; 
She shall be mine, and I will make 

A lady of my own. 

" 'Myself will to my darling be 

Both law and impulse; and with me 

The girl, in rock and plain, 
In earth and heaven, in glade and bower. 
Shall feel an overseeing power 

To kindle, or restrain. 

" 'The floating clouds their state shall lend 
To her; for her the willow bend; 

Nor shall she fail to see 
Even in the motions of the storm 
Grace that shall mould the maiden's form 

By silent sympathy. 

" 'And vital feelings of delight 

Shall rear her form to stately height. 

Her virgin bosom swell. 
Such thoughts to Lucy I will give, 
While she and I together live. 

Here in this happy dell.' " * 

"Vital feelings of delight," observe. There are deadly feelings 
of delight; but the natural ones are vital, necessary to every life. 

And they must be feelings of delight, if they are to be vital. Do 
not think you can make a girl lovely, if you do not make her happy. 
There is not one restraint you put on a good girl's nature — there is 
not one check you give to her instincts of affection or of effort — 
which will not be indelibly written on her features, with a hardness 
which is all the more painful because it takes away the brightness 
from the eyes of innocence, and the charm from the brow of virtue. 

* Observe, it is "Nature" who is speaking throughout, and who says, 
"While she and I together live." 



148 RUSKIN 

71. This for the means: now note the end. Take from the same 
poet, in two hnes, a perfect description of womanly beauty — 

"A countenance in which did meet 
Sweet records, promises as sweet." 

The perfect loveUness of a woman's countenance can only consist 
in that majestic peace, which is founded in the memory of happy 
and useful years, — full of sweet records; and from the joining of 
this with that yet more majestic childishness, which is still full of 
change and promise; — opening always — modest at once, and bright, 
with hope of better things to be won, and to be bestowed. There 
is no old age where there is still that promise. 

72. Thus, then, you have first to mould her physical frame, and 
then, as the strength she gains will permit you, to fill and temper 
her mind with all knowledge and thoughts which tend to confirm 
its natural instincts of justice, and refine its natural tact of love. 

All such knowledge should be given her as may enable her to 
understand, and even to aid, the work of men: and yet it should be 
given, not as knowledge, — not as if it were, or could be, for her an 
object to know; but only to feel, and to judge. It is of no moment, 
as a matter of pride or perfectness in herself, whether she knows 
many languages or one; but it is of the utmost, that she should be 
able to show kindness to a stranger, and to understand the sweet- 
ness of a stranger's tongue. It is of no moment to her own worth 
or dignity that she should be acquainted with this science or that; 
but it is of the highest that she should be trained in habits of accu- 
rate thought; that she should understand the meaning, the in- 
evitableness, and the loveliness of natural laws; and follow at least 
some one path of scientific attainment, as far as to the threshold 
of that bitter Valley of Humiliation, into which only the wisest and 
bravest of men can descend, owning themselves forever children, 
gathering pebbles on a boundless shore. It is of little consequence 
how many positions of cities she knows, or how many dates of 
events, or names of celebrated persons — it is not the object of 
education to turn a woman into a dictionary; but it is deeply 
necessary that she should be taught to enter with her whole per- 
sonality into the history she reads; to picture the passages of it vitally 
in her own bright imagination; to apprehend, with her fine in- 



lilies: of queens gardens 149 

stincts, the pathetic circumstances and dramatic relations, which the 
historian too often only eclipses by his reasoning, and disconnects 
by his arrangement: it is for her to trace the hidden equities of 
divine reward, and catch sight, through the darkness, of the fatal 
threads of woven fire that connect error with its retribution. But, 
chiefly of all, she is to be taught to extend the limits of her sympathy 
with respect to that history which is being for her determined as 
the moments pass in which she draws her peaceful breath: and 
to the contemporary calamity, which, were it but rightly mourned 
by her, would recur no more hereafter. She is to exercise herself 
in imagining what would be the effects upon her mind and conduct, 
if she were daily brought into the presence of the suffering which 
is not the less real because shut from her sight. She is to be taught 
somewhat to understand the nothingness of the proportion which 
that little world in which she lives and loves, bears to the world 
in which God lives and loves; — and solemnly she is to be taught to 
strive that her thoughts of piety may not be feeble in proportion to 
the number they embrace, nor her prayer more languid than it is 
for the momentary relief from pain of her husband or her child, 
when it is uttered for the multitudes of those who have none to 
love them, — and is "for all who are desolate and oppressed." 

73. Thus far, I think, I have had your concurrence; perhaps you 
will not be with me in what I believe is most needful for me to say. 
There is one dangerous science for women — one which they must 
indeed beware how they profanely touch — that of theology. Strange, 
and miserably strange, that while they are modest enough to doubt 
their powers, and pause at the threshold of sciences where every 
step is demonstrable and sure, they will plunge headlong, and with- 
out one thought of incompetency, into that science in which the 
greatest men have trembled, and the wisest erred. Strange, that 
they will complacently and pridefully bind up whatever vice or 
folly there is in them, whatever arrogance, petulance, or blind in- 
comprehensiveness, into one bitter bundle of consecrated myrrh. 
Strange, in creatures born to be Love visible, that where they can 
know least, they will condemn first, and think to recommend them- 
selves to their Master, by scrambling up the steps of His judgment 
throne, to divide it with Him. Strangest of all, that they should 



150 RUSKIN 

think they were led by the Spirit of the Comforter into habits of 
mind which have become in them the unmixed elements of home 
discomfort; and that they dare to turn the Household Gods of 
Christianity into ugly idols of their own; — spiritual dolls, for them 
to dress according to their caprice; and from which their husbands 
must turn away in grieved contempt, lest they should be shrieked at 
for breaking them. 

74. I believe, then, with this exception, that a girl's education 
should be nearly, in its course and material of study, the same as a 
boy's; but quite differently directed. A woman, in any rank of 
life, ought to know whatever her husband is likely to know, but 
to know it in a different way. His command of it should be 
foundational and progressive; hers, general and accomplished for 
daily and helpful use. Not but that it would often be wiser in men 
to learn things in a womanly sort of way, for present use, and to 
seek for the discipline and training of their mental powers in such 
branches of study as will be afterwards fittest for social service; but, 
speaking broadly, a man ought to know any language or science 
he learns, thoroughly — while a woman ought to know the same 
language, or science, only so far as may enable her to sympathize in 
her husband's pleasures, and in those of his best friends. 

75. Yet, observe, with exquisite accuracy as far as she reaches. 
There is a wide difference between elementary knowledge and 
superficial knowledge — between a firm beginning, and an infirm 
attempt at compassing. A woman may always help her husband 
by what she knows, however little; by what she half -knows, or mis- 
knows, she will only tease him. 

And indeed, if there were to be any difference between a girl's 
education and a boy's, I should say that of the two the girl should 
be earlier led, as her intellect ripens faster, into deep and serious 
subjects: and that her range of literature should be, not more, but 
less frivolous; calculated to add the qualities of patience and serious- 
ness to her natural poignancy of thought and quickness of wit; 
and also to keep her in a lofty and pure element of thought. I enter 
not now into any question of choice of books; only let us be sure 
that her books are not heaped up in her lap as they fall out of the 
package of the circulating library, wet with the last and lightest 
spray of the fountain of folly. 



lilies: of queens gardens 151 

76. Or even of the fountain of wit; for with respect to that sore 
temptation of novel-reading, it is not the badness of a novel that 
we should dread, so much as its overwrought interest. The weakest 
romance is not so stupefying as the lower forms of religious exciting 
literature, and the worst romance is not so corrupting as false history, 
false philosophy, or false political essays. But the best romance 
becomes dangerous, if, by its excitement, it renders the ordinary 
course of life uninteresting, and increases the morbid thirst for 
useless acquaintance with scenes in which we shall never be called 
upon to act. 

77. I speak therefore of good novels only, and our modern litera- 
ture is particularly rich in types of such. Well read, indeed, these 
books have serious use, being nothing less than treatises on moral 
anatomy and chemistry; studies of human nature in the elements of 
it. But I attach little weight to this function: they are hardly ever 
read with earnestness enough to permit them to fulfill it. The utmost 
they usually do is to enlarge somewhat the charity of a kind reader, 
or the bitterness of a malicious one; for each will gather, from the 
novel, food for her own disposition. Those who are naturally proud 
and envious will learn from Thackeray to despise humanity; those 
who are naturally gentle, to pity it; those who are naturally shallow, 
to laugh at it. So also, there might be a serviceable power in novels 
to bring before us, in vividness, a human truth which we had before 
dimly conceived; but the temptation to picturesqueness of state- 
ment is so great, that often the best writers of fiction cannot resist 
it; and our views are rendered so violent and one-sided, that their 
vitality is rather a harm than good. 

78. Without, however, venturing here on any attempt at decision 
of how much novel-reading should be allowed, let me at least clearly 
assert this, that whether novels, or poetry, or history be read, they 
should be chosen, not for their freedom from evil, but for their 
possession of good. The chance and scattered evil that may here 
and there haunt, or hide itself in, a powerful book, never does any 
harm to a noble girl; but the emptiness of an author oppresses her, 
and his amiable folly degrades her. And if she can have access to 
a good library of old and classical books, there need be no choosing 
at all. Keep the modern magazine and novel out of your girl's 
way; turn her loose into the old library every wet day, and let her 



152 RUSKIN 

alone. She will find what is good for her; you cannot; for there is 
just this difference between the making of a girl's character and a 
boy's — you may chisel a boy into shape, as you would a rock, or 
hammer him into it, if he be of a better kind, as you would a piece 
of bronze. But you cannot hammer a girl into anything. She grows 
as a flower does, — she will wither without sun; she will decay in her 
sheath, as the narcissus will, if you do not give her air enough; she 
may fall, and defile her head in dust, if you leave her without help 
at some moments of her life; but you cannot fetter her; she must 
take her own fair form and way, if she take any, and in mind as 
in body, must have always — 

"Her household motions light and free 
And steps of virgin liberty." 

Let her loose in the library, I say, as you do a fawn in a field. It 
knows the bad weeds twenty times better than you; and the good 
ones, too, and will eat some bitter and prickly ones, good for it, 
which you had not the slightest thought would have been so. 

79. Then, in art, keep the finest models before her, and let her 
practice in all accomplishments to be accurate and thorough, so as 
to enable her to understand more than she accomplishes. I say the 
finest models — that is to say, the truest, simplest, usefullest. Note 
those epithets: they will range through all the arts. Try them in 
music, where you might think them the least applicable. I say the 
truest, that in which the notes most closely and faithfully express 
the meaning of the words, or the character of intended emotion; 
again, the simplest, that in which the meaning and melody are 
attained with the fewest and most significant notes possible; and, 
finally, the usefullest, that music which makes the best words most 
beautiful, which enchants them in our memories each with its own 
glory of sound, and which applies them closest to the heart at the 
moment we need them. 

80. And not only in the material and in the course, but yet more 
earnestly in the spirit of it, let a girl's education be as serious as a 
boy's. You bring up your girls as if they were meant for sideboard 
ornament, and then complain of their frivolity. Give them the 
same advantages that you give their brothers — appeal to the same 



lilies: of queens' gardens 153 

grand instincts of virtue in them; teach them, also, that courage and 
truth are the pillars of their being; — do you think that they would 
not answer that appeal, brave and true as they are even now, when 
you know that there is hardly a girl's school in this Christian king- 
dom where the children's courage or sincerity would be thought of 
half so much importance as their way of coming in at a door; and 
when the whole system of society, as respects the mode of estab- 
lishing them in life, is one rotten plague of cowardice and imposture 
— cowardice, in not daring to let them live, or love, except as their 
neighbors choose; and imposture, in bringing, for the purpose of 
our own pride, the full glow of the world's worst vanity upon a 
girl's eyes, at the very period when the whole happiness of her 
future existence depends upon her remaining undazzled? 

81. And give them, lastly, not only noble teachings but noble 
teachers. You consider somewhat, before you send your boy to 
school, what kind of a man the master is; — whatsoever kind of a 
man he is, you at least give him full authority over your son, and 
show some respect for him yourself; — if he comes to dine with you, 
you do not put him at a side table; you know, also, that at his 
college, your child's immediate tutor will be under the direction of 
some still higher tutor, for whom you have absolute reverence. You 
do not treat the Dean of Christ Church or the Master of Trinity as 
your inferiors. 

But what teachers do you give your girls, and what reverence 
do you show to the teachers you have chosen? Is a girl likely to 
think her own conduct, or her own intellect, of much importance, 
when you trust the entire formation of her character, moral and 
intellectual, to a person whom you let your servants treat with less 
respect than they do your housekeeper (as if the soul of your child 
were a less charge than jams and groceries), and whom you your- 
self think you confer an honor upon by letting her sometimes sit 
in the drawing-room in the evening? 

82. Thus, then, of literature as her help, and thus of art. There 
is one more help which we cannot do without — one which, alone, 
has sometimes done more than all other influences besides, — the 
help of wild and fair nature. Hear this of the education of Joan 
of Arc: — 



154 RUSKIN 

"The education of this poor girl was mean, according to the 
present standard; was ineffably grand, according to a purer philo- 
sophic standard; and only not good for our age, because for us it 
would be unattainable. . . 

"Next after her spiritual advantages, she owed most to the 
advantages of her situation. The fountain of Domremy was on the 
brink of a boundless forest; and it was haunted to that degree by 
fairies, that the parish priest {cure) was obliged to read mass there 
once a year, in order to keep them in any decent bounds. . . . 

"But the forests of Domremy — those were the glories of the land; 
for in them abode mysterious powers and ancient secrets that tow- 
ered into tragic strength. Abbeys there were, and abbey windows, — 
'like Moorish temples of the Hindoos,' that exercised even princely 
power both in Touraine and in the German Diets. These had their 
sweet bells that pierced the forests for many a league at matins or 
vespers, and each its own dreamy legend. Few enough, and scat- 
tered enough, were these abbeys, so as in no degree to disturb the 
deep solitude of the region; yet many enough to spread a network 
or awning of Christian sanctity over what else might have seemed 
a heathen wilderness."' 

Now you cannot, indeed, have here in England, woods eighteen 
miles deep to the center; but you can, perhaps, keep a fairy or two 
for your children yet, if you wish to keep them. But do you wish it? 
Suppose you had each, at the back of your houses, a garden large 
enough for your children to play in, with just as much lawn as 
would give them room to run, — no more — and that you could not 
change your abode; but that, if you chose, you could double your 
income, or quadruple it, by digging a coal-shaft in the middle of 
the lawn, and turning the flower-beds into heaps of coke. Would 
you do it? I hope not. I can tell you, you would be wrong if you 
did, though it gave you income sixty-fold instead of four-fold. 

83. Yet this is what you are doing with all England. The whole 
country is but a little garden, not more than enough for your chil- 
dren to run on the lawns of, if you would let them all run there. 
And this little garden you will turn into furnace-ground, and fill 

' "Joan of Arc: in reference to M. Michelet's 'History of France.' " De Quincey's 
Works, Vol. III., page 217. 



lilies: of queens gardens 155 

with heaps of cinders, if you can; and those children of yours, not 
you, will suffer for it. For the fairies will not be all banished; there 
are fairies of the furnace as of the wood, and their first gifts seem 
to be "sharp arrows of the mighty"; but their last gifts are "coals 
of juniper." 

84. And yet I cannot — though there is no part of my subject that 
I feel more — press this upon you; for we made so little use of the 
power of nature while we had it, that we shall hardly feel what we 
have lost. Just on the other side of the Mersey you have your Snow- 
don, and your Menai Straits, and that mighty granite rock beyond 
the moors of Anglesea, splendid in its heathery crest, and foot 
planted in the deep sea, once thought of as sacred — a divine promon- 
tory, looking westward; the Holy Head or Headland, still not 
without awe when its red light glares first through storm. These are 
the hills, and these the bays and blue inlets, which, among the 
Greeks, would have been always loved, always fateful in influence 
on the national mind. That Snowdon is your Parnassus; but where 
are its Muses? That Holyhead mountain is your Island of iEgina, 
but where is its Temple to Minerva ? 

85. Shall I read you what the Christian Minerva had achieved 
under the shadow of our Parnassus, up to the year 1848? — Here is 
a little account of a Welsh school, from page 261 of the report on 
Wales, published by the Committee of Council on Education. This 
is a school close to a town containing 5,000 persons: — 

"I then called up a larger class, most of whom had recently come 
to the school. Three girls repeatedly declared that they had never 
heard of Christ, and two that they had never heard of God. Two 
out of six thought Christ was on earth now" (they might have had 
a worse thought, perhaps) ; "three knew nothing about the cruci- 
fixion. Four out of seven did not know the names of the months, 
nor the number of days in a year. They had no notion of addition 
beyond two and two, or three and three; their minds were perfect 
blanks." 

Oh, ye women of England! from the Princess of that Wales to 
the simplest of you, do not think your own children can be brought 
into their true fold of rest while these are scattered on the hills, as 
sheep having no shepherd. And do not think your daughters can 



156 RUSKIN 

be trained to the truth of their own human beauty, while the 
pleasant places, which God made at once for their schoolroom and 
their playground, lie desolate and defiled. You cannot baptize them 
rightly in those inch-deep fonts of yours, unless you baptize them 
also in the sweet waters which the great Lawgiver strikes forth 
forever from the rocks of your native land — waters which a Pagan 
would have worshiped in their purity, and you only worship with 
pollution. You cannot lead your children faithfully to those narrow 
axe-hewn church altars of yours, while the dark azure altars in 
heaven — the mountains that sustain your island throne, — mountains 
on which a Pagan would have seen the powers of heaven rest in 
every wreathed cloud — remain for you without inscription; altars 
built, not to, but by, an Unknown God. 

86. III. — Thus far, then, of the nature, thus far of the teaching, 
of woman, and thus of her household office, and queenliness. We 
come now to our last, our widest question, — What is her queenly 
office with respect to the state? 

Generally we are under an impression that a man's duties are 
public, and a woman's private. But this is not altogether so. A man 
has a personal work or duty, relating to his own home, and a public 
work or duty, which is the expansion of the other, relating to the 
state. So a woman has a personal work or duty, relating to her 
own home, and a public work or duty, which is also the expansion 
of that. 

Now the man's work for his own home is, as has been said, to 
secure its maintenance, progress, and defense; the woman's to secure 
its order, comfort, and loveliness. 

Expand both these functions. The man's duty, as a member of 
a commonwealth, is to assist in the maintenance, in the advance, 
in the defense of the state. The woman's duty, as a member of the 
commonwealth, is to assist in the ordering, in the comforting, and 
in the beautiful adornment of the state. 

What the man is at his own gate, defending it, if need be, against 
insult and spoil, that also, not in a less, but in a more devoted 
measure, he is to be at the gate of his country, leaving his home, 
if need be, even to the spoiler, to do his more incumbent work there. 

And, in like manner, what the woman is to be within her gates, 
as the center of order, the balm of distress, and the mirror of beauty; 



lilies: of queens' gardens 157 

that she is also to be without her gates, where order is more diffi- 
cult, distress more imminent, loveliness more rare. 

And as within the human heart there is always set an instinct 
tor all its real duties, — an instinct which you cannot quench, but 
only warp and corrupt if you withdraw it from its true purpose; — 
as there is the intense instinct of love, which, rightly disciplined, 
maintains all the sanctities of life, and, misdirected, undermines 
them; and must do either the one or the other; — so there is in the 
human heart an inextinguishable instinct, the love of power, which, 
rightly directed, maintains all the majesty of law and life, and, mis- 
directed, wrecks them. 

87. Deep-rooted in the innermost life of the heart of man, and of 
the heart of woman, God set it there, and God keeps it there. 
Vainly, as falsely, you blame or rebuke the desire of power! — For 
Heaven's sake, and for Man's sake, desire it all you can. But what 
power? That is all the question. Power to destroy? the lion's limb, 
and the dragon's breath? Not so. Power to heal, to redeem, to 
guide, and to guard. Power of the scepter and shield; the power 
of the royal hand that heals in touching, — that binds the fiend and 
looses the captive; the throne that is founded on the rock of Justice, 
and descended from only by steps of mercy. Will you not covet such 
power as this, and seek such throne as this, and be no more house- 
wives, but queens? 

88. It is now long since the women of England arrogated, imi- 
versally, a title which once belonged to nobility only, and, having 
once been in the habit of accepting the simple title of gentlewoman, 
as correspondent to that of gentleman, insisted on the privilege of 
assuming the title of "Lady," ^ which properly corresponds only to 
the title of "Lord." 

I do not blame them for this; but only for their narrow motive 
in this. I would have them desire and claim the title of Lady, 
provided they claim, not merely the title, but the office and duty 
signified by it. Lady means "bread-giver" or "loaf-giver," and Lord 

^ I wish there were a true order of chivalry instituted for our English youth of 
certain ranks, in which both boy and girl should receive, at a given age, their knight- 
hood and ladyhood by true title; attainable only by certain probation and trial both 
of character and accomplishment; and to be forfeited, on conviction, by their peers, 
of any dishonorable act. Such an institution would be entirely, and with all noble 
results, possible, in a nation which loved honor. That it would not be possible among 
us is not to the discredit of the scheme. 



158 RUSKIN 

means "maintainer of laws," and both titles have reference, not to 
the law which is maintained in the house, nor to the bread which 
is given to the household, but to law maintained for the multitude, 
and to bread broken among the multitude. So that a Lord has 
legal claim only to his title in so far as he is the maintainer of the 
justice of the Lord of Lords; and a Lady has legal claim to her 
title only so far as she communicates that help to the poor repre- 
sentatives of her Master, which women once, ministering to Him of 
their substance, were permitted to extend to that Master Himself; 
and when she is known, as He Himself once was, in breaking of 
bread. 

89. And this beneficent and legal dominion, this power of the 
Dominus, or House-Lord, and of the Domina, or House-Lady, is 
great and venerable, not in the number of those through whom it 
has lineally descended, but in the number of those whom it grasps 
within its sway; it is always regarded with reverent worship wher- 
ever its dynasty is founded on its duty, and its ambition co-relative 
with its beneficence. Your fancy is pleased with the thought of 
being noble ladies, with a train of vassals. Be it so: you cannot be 
too noble, and your train cannot be too great; but see to it that your 
train is of vassals whom you serve and feed, not merely of slaves who 
serve and feed you; and that the multitude which obeys you is of 
those whom you have comforted, not oppressed, — whom you have 
redeemed, not led into captivity. 

90. And this, which is true of the lower or household dominion, 
is equally true of the queenly dominion; — that highest dignity is 
open to you, if you will also accept that highest duty. Rex et Regina 
— Roi et Reine — "Right-Ao&rs"; they differ but from the Lady and 
Lord, in that their power is supreme over the mind as over the 
person — that they not only feed and clothe, but direct and teach. 
And whether consciously or not, you must be, in many a heart, 
enthroned: there is no putting by that crown; queens you must 
always be; queens to your lovers; queens to your husbands and 
your sons; queens of higher mystery to the world beyond, which 
bows itself, and will forever bow, before the myrtle crown, and the 
stainless scepter, of womanhood. But, alas! you are too often idle 
and careless queens, grasping at majesty in the least things, while 



lilies: of queens' gardens 159 

you abdicate it in the greatest; and leaving misrule and violence to 
work their will among men, in defiance of the power which, holding 
straight in gift from the Prince of all Peace, the wicked among you 
betray, and the good forget. 

91. "Prince of Peace." Note that name. When kings rule in 
that name, and nobles, and the judges of the earth, they also, in 
their narrow place, and mortal measure, receive the power of it. 
There are no other rulers than they: other rule than theirs is but 
misrule] they who govern verily "Dei gratia" are all princes, yes, or 
princesses, of peace. There is not a war in the world, no, nor an in- 
justice, but you women are answerable for it; not in that you have 
provoked, but in that you have not hindered. Men, by their nature, 
are prone to fight; they will fight for any cause, or for none. It is 
for you to choose their cause for them, and to forbid them when 
there is no cause. There is no suffering, no injustice, no misery in 
the earth, but the guilt of it lies with you. Men can bear the sight 
of it, but you should not be able to bear it. Men may tread it down 
without sympathy in their own struggle; but men are feeble in 
sympathy, and contracted in hope; it is you only who can feel the 
depths of pain; and conceive the way of its healing. Instead of 
trying to do this, you turn away from it; you shut yourselves within 
your park walls and garden gates; and you are content to know that 
there is beyond them a whole world in wilderness — a world of 
secrets which you dare not penetrate; and of suffering which you 
dare not conceive. 

92. I tell you that this is to me quite the most amazing among 
the phenomena of humanity. I am surprised at no depths to which, 
when once warped from its honor, that humanity can be degraded. 
I do not wonder at the miser's death, with his hands, as they relax, 
dropping gold. I do not wonder at the sensualist's life, with the 
shroud wrapped about his feet. I do not wonder at the single-handed 
murder of a single victim, done by the assassin in the darkness of 
the railway, or reed-shadow of the marsh. I do not even wonder at 
the myriad-handed murder of multitudes, done boastfully in the 
daylight, by the frenzy of nations, and the immeasurable, unimagi- 
nable guilt, heaped up from hell to heaven, of their priests and kings. 
But this is wonderful to me — oh, how wonderful! — to see the tender 



l60 RUSKIN 

and delicate woman among you, with her child at her breast, and a 
power, if she would wield it, over it, and over its father, purer 
than the air of heaven, and stronger than the seas of earth — nay, a 
magnitude of blessing which her husband would not part with for 
all that earth itself, though it were made of one entire and perfect 
chrysolite: — to see her abdicate this majesty to play at precedence 
with her next-door neighbor! This is wonderful — oh, wonderful! 
— ^to see her, with every innocent feeling fresh within her, go out 
in the morning into her garden to play with the fringes of its 
guarded flowers, and lift their heads when they are drooping, with 
her happy smile upon her face, and no cloud upon her brow, because 
there is a little wall around her place of peace: and yet she knows, 
in her heart, if she would only look for its knowledge, that, outside 
of that little rose-covered wall, the wild grass, to the horizon, is torn 
up by the agony of men, and beat level by the drift of their life- 
blood. 

93. Have you ever considered what a deep under meaning there 
lies, or at least may be read, if we choose, in our custom of strewing 
flowers before those whom we think most happy ? Do you suppose 
it is merely to deceive them into the hope that happiness is always 
to fall thus in showers at their feet? — ^that wherever they pass they 
will tread on the herbs of sweet scent, and that the rough ground 
will be made smooth for them by depth of roses? So surely as 
they beUeve that, they will have, instead, to walk on bitter herbs and 
thorns; and the only softness to their feet will be of snow. But it 
is not thus intended they should believe; there is a better meaning in 
that old custom. The path of a good woman is indeed strewn with 
flowers: but they rise behind her steps, not before them. "Her feet 
have touched the meadows, and left the daisies rosy." 

94. You think that only a lover's fancy; — false and vain! How if 
it could be true? You think this also, perhaps, only a poet's fancy — 

"Even the light harebell raised its head 
Elastic from her airy tread." 

But it is little to say of a woman, that she only does not destroy 
where she passes. She should revive; the harebells should bloom, 
not stoop, as she passes. You think I am rushing into wild hyperbole? 



lilies: of queens' gardens i6i 

Pardon me, not a whit — I mean what I say in calm EngUsh, spoken 
in resolute truth. You have heard it said — (and I believe there is 
more than fancy even in that saying, but let it pass for a fanciful 
one) — that flowers only flourish rightly in the garden of some one 
who loves them. I know you would like that to be true; you would 
think it a pleasant magic if you could flush your flowers into brighter 
bloom by a kind look upon them : nay, more, if your look had the 
power, not only to cheer, but to guard; — if you could bid the black 
blight turn away and the knotted caterpillar spare — if you could 
bid the dew fall upon them in the drought, and say to the south 
wind, in frost — ^"Come, thou south, and breathe upon my garden, 
that the spices of it may flow out." This you would think a great 
thing? And do you think it not a greater thing, that all this (and 
how much more than this!) you can do for fairer flowers than these 
— flowers that could bless you for having blessed them, and will love 
you for having loved them; — flowers that have thoughts like yours, 
and lives like yours; which, once saved, you save forever? Is this 
only a little power? Far among the moorlands and the rocks, — ^far 
in the darkness of the terrible streets, — these feeble florets are lying, 
with all their fresh leaves torn, and their stems broken — will you 
never go down to them, nor set them in order in their little fragrant 
beds, nor fence them in their trembling, from the fierce wind ? Shall 
morning follow morning, for you, but not for them; and the dawn 
rise to watch, far away, those frantic Dances of Death,' but no dawn 
rise to breathe upon these living banks of wild violet, and woodbine, 
and rose; nor call to you, through your casement, — call (not giving 
you the name of the English poet's lady, but the name of Dante's 
great Matilda, who, on the edge of happy Lethe, stood wreathing 
flowers with flowers), saying: — 

"Come into the garden, Maud, 
For the black bat, night, has flown, 
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad 
And the musk of the roses blown"? 

Will you not go down among them ? — among those sweet living 
things, whose new courage, sprung from the earth with the deep 
color of heaven upon it, is starting up in strength of goodly spire; 

' See note, p. 120. 



1 62 RUSKIN 

and whose purity, washed from the dust, is opening, bud by bud, 
into the flower of promise; — and still they turn to you, and for you, 
"The Larkspur listens — I hear, I hear! And the Lily whispers — I 
wait." 

95. Did you notice that I missed two lines when I read you that 
first stanza; and think that I had forgotten them? Hear them 
now: — 

"Come into the garden, Maud, 
For the black bat, night, has flown. 
Come into the garden, Maud, 
I am here at the gate, alone." 

Who is it, think you, who stands at the gate of this sweeter garden, 
alone, waiting for you.? Did you ever hear, not of a Maud, but a 
Madeleine, who went down to her garden in the dawn and found 
One waiting at the gate, whom she supposed to be the gardener? 
Have you not sought Him often; — sought Him in vain, all through 
the night; — sought Him in vain at the gate of that old garden 
where the fiery sword is set? He is never there; but at the gate 
of this garden He is waiting always — waiting to take your hand — 
ready to go down to see the fruits of the valley, to see whether the 
vine has flourished, and the pomegranate budded. There you shall 
see with Him the little tendrils of the vines that His hand is guiding 
— there you shall see the pomegranate springing where His hand 
cast the sanguine seed; — more: you shall see the troops of the angel 
keepers that, with their wings, wave away the hungry birds from 
the pathsides where He has sown, and call to each other between 
the vineyard rows, "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil 
the vines, for our vines have tender grapes." Oh — you queens — ^you 
queens; among the hills and happy greenwood of this land of yours, 
shall the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; and 
in your cities, shall the stones cry out against you, that they are the 
only pillows where the Son of Man can lay His head? 



JOHN MILTON 

BY 
WALTER BAGEHOT 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

Walter Bagehot, economist, journalist, and critic, was born at Lang- 
port, Somersetshire, February 3, 1826. He was the son of a banker, and 
after graduating at University College, London, and being called to the 
bar, he joined his father in business. In 1851 he went to Paris, and was 
there during the coup d'etat of Louis Napoleon, of which he gave a 
vivacious account in letters to an English journal. Soon after his return 
he began to contribute his first series of biographical studies to the Pro- 
spective Review and the National Review, of which latter he was for 
some time joint-editor. From i860 to 1877 he was editor of the Econ- 
omist, and during this period he published his notable work on The 
English Constitution, his Physics and Politics, and his Lombard 
Street: a Description of the Money Market. He died March 24, 1877. 

It is chiefly as one of the most brilliant and original of recent writers 
on political philosophy that Bagehot is known, but he holds also a dis- 
tinct place as a critic of literature. He did not write criticism like a 
professional man of letters, and his production in this field is at times 
less fine in workmanship than that of some men of much less abiUty. 
But, in compensation, he was free from the tendency to the use of a 
technical literary dialect and to the excessive self-consciousness in style 
which mars so much modern work in this department. He wrote as a 
man of affairs with a vigorous mind and a gift of picturesque speech, a 
robust taste and a genuine love of letters. He always had something 
definite to say, and no one can read his discussion of such a man as Milton 
without feeling braced and stimulated by contact with an intellect of 
uncommon strength and incisiveness. 



JOHN MILTON' 

(1859) 

THE "Life of Milton," by Professor Masson, is a difficulty 
for the critics. It is very laborious, very learned, and in the 
main, we believe, very accurate; it is exceedingly long, — 
there are 780 pages in this volume, and there are to be two volumes 
more; it touches on very many subjects, and each of these has been 
investigated to the very best of the author's ability. No one can 
wish to speak with censure of a book on which so much genuine 
labor has been expended; and yet we are bound, as true critics, to 
say that we think it has been composed upon a principle that is 
utterly erroneous. In justice to ourselves we must explain our 
meaning. 

There are two methods on which biography may consistently be 
written. The first of these is what we may call the exhaustive 
method. Every fact which is known about the hero may be told us; 
everything which he did, everything which he would not do, every- 
thing which other people did to him, everything which other people 
would not do to him, may be narrated at full length. We may 
have a complete picture of all the events of his life; of all which 
he underwent, and all which he achieved. We may, as Mr. Carlyle 
expresses it, have a complete account "of his effect upon the universe, 
and of the effect of the universe upon him."^ We admit that 
biographies of this species would be very long, and generally very 

• "The Life of John Milton, narrated in connection with the Political, Ecclesiastical, 
and Literary History of his time." By David Masson, M.A., Professor of English 
Literature in University College, London. Cambridge: Macmillan. 

"An Account of the Life, Opinions, and Writings of John Milton." By Thomas 
Keightley; with an Introduction to "Paradise Lost." London: Chapman & Hall. 

"The Poems of Milton," with Notes by Thomas Keightley. London: Chapman & 
Hall. 

^ Review of Lockhart's "Scott." 

Copyright, 1891, by The Travelers Insurance Company. 

Copyright, 1899, by The Travelers Insurance Company. 

165 



1 66 BAGEHOT 

tedious; we know that the world could not contain very many of 
them: but nevertheless, the principle on which they may be written 
is intelligible. 

The second method on which the life of a man may be written 
is the selective. Instead of telling everything, we may choose what 
we will tell. We may select out of the numberless events, from 
among the innumerable actions of his life, those events and those 
actions which exemplify his true character, which prove to us what 
were the true limits of his talents, what was the degree of his 
deficiencies, which were his defects, which his vices; in a word, we 
may select the traits and the particulars which seem to give us the 
best idea of the man as he lived and as he was. On this side the 
Flood, as Sydney Smith would have said, we should have fancied 
that this was the only practicable principle on which biographies 
can be written about persons of whom many details are recorded. 
For ancient heroes the exhaustive method is possible: all that can 
be known of them is contained in a few short passages of Greek and 
Latin, and it is quite possible to say whatever can be said about 
every one of these; the result would not be unreasonably bulky, 
though it might be dull. But in the case of men who have lived in 
the thick of the crowded modern world, no such course is admissible; 
overmuch may be said, and we must choose what we will say. 
Biographers, however, are rarely bold enough to adopt the selective 
method consistently. They have, we suspect, the fear of the critics 
before their eyes. They do not like that it should be said that "the 
work of the learned gentleman contains serious omissions : the events 
of 1562 are not mentioned; those of October, 1579, are narrated but 
very cursorily"; and we fear that in any case such remarks will be 
made. Very learned people are pleased to show that they know 
what is not in the book; sometimes they may hint that perhaps 
the author did not know it, or surely he would have mentioned it. 
But a biographer who wishes to write what most people of cultiva- 
tion will be pleased to read must be courageous enough to face the 
pain of such censures. He must choose, as we have explained, the 
characteristic parts of his subject: and all that he has to take care of 
besides is, so to narrate them that their characteristic elements shall 
be shown; to give such an account of the general career as may 



MILTON 167 

make it clear what these chosen events really were, — to show their 
respective bearings to one another; to delineate what is expressive 
in such a manner as to make it expressive. 

This plan of biography is, however, by no means that of Mr. 
Masson: he has no dread of overgrown bulk and overwhelming 
copiousness. He finds indeed what we have called the "exhaustive 
method" insufficient: he not only wishes to narrate in full the life 
of Milton, but to add those of his contemporaries likewise; he seems 
to wish to tell us not only what Milton did, but also what every 
one else did in Great Britain during his lifetime. He intends his 
book to be not 

"merely a biography of Milton, but also in some sort a continuous history 
of his time. . . . The suggestions of Milton's life have indeed determined 
the tracks of these historical researches and expositions, sometimes 
through the literature of the period, sometimes through its civil and 
ecclesiastical polidcs; but the extent to which I have pursued them, and 
the space which I have assigned to them, have been determined by my 
desire to present, by their combination, something like a connected his- 
torical view of British thought and British society in general prior to the 
great Revolution." 

We need not do more than observe that this union of heterogeneous 
aims must always end, as it has in this case, in the production of a 
work at once overgrown and incomplete. A great deal which has 
only a slight bearing on the character of Milton is inserted; much 
that is necessary to a true history of "British thought and British 
society" is of necessity left out. The period of Milton's Ufe which 
is included in the published volume makes the absurdity especially 
apparent. In middle life Milton was a great controversialist on 
contemporary topics; and though it would not be proper for a 
biographer to load his pages with a full account of all such con- 
troversies, yet some notice of the most characteristic of them would 
be expected from him. In this part of Milton's life some reference 
to public events would be necessary; and we should not severely 
censure a biographer if the great interest of those events induced 
him to stray a little from his topic. But the first thirty years of 
Milton's life require a very different treatment. He passed those 
years in the ordinary musings of a studious and meditative youth; 



1 68 BAGEHOT 

it was the period of "Lycidas" and "Comus"; he then dreamed the 

"Sights which youthful poets dream 



"I 



On summer eve by haunted stream.' 

We do not wish to have this part of his life disturbed, to a greater 
extent than may be necessary, with the harshness of pubHc affairs. 
Nor is it necessary that it should be so disturbed: a life of poetic 
retirement requires but little reference to anything except itself; 
in a biography of Mr. Tennyson we should not expect to hear of 
the Reform Bill or the Corn Laws. Mr. Masson is, however, of a 
different opinion : he thinks it necessary to tell us, not only all which 
Milton did, but everything also that he might have heard of. 

The biography of Mr. Keightley is on a very different scale: he 
tells the story of Milton's career in about half a small volume. 
Probably this is a little too concise, and the narrative is somewhat 
dry and bare. It is often, however, acute, and is always clear; and 
even were its defects greater than they are, we should think it un- 
seemly to criticize the last work of one who has performed so many 
useful services to literature with extreme severity. 

The bare outline of Milton's life is very well known. We have 
all heard that he was born in the latter years of King James, just 
when Puritanism was collecting its strength for the approaching 
struggle; that his father and mother were quiet good people, in- 
clined, but not immoderately, to that persuasion; that he went up 
to Cambridge early, and had some kind of dissension with the 
authorities there; that the course of his youth was in a singular 
degree pure and staid; that in boyhood he was a devourer of books, 
and that he early became, and always remained, a severely studious 
man; that he married and had difficulties of a peculiar character 
with his first wife; that he wrote on divorce; that after the death 
of his first wife, he married a second time a lady who died very soon, 
and a third time a person who survived him more than fifty years; 
that he wrote early poems of singular beauty, which we still read; 
that he traveled in Italy, and exhibited his learning in the academies 
there; that he plunged deep in the theological and political contro- 
versies of his time; that he kept a school, — or rather, in our more 

S "L'Allegro." 



MILTON 169 

modern phrase, took pupils; that he was a repubUcan o£ a peculiar 
kind, and of "no church," which Dr. Johnson thought dangerous;* 
that he was Secretary for Foreign Languages under the Long 
Parliament, and retained that office after the coup d'etat of Crom- 
well; that he defended the death of Charles L, and became blind 
from writing a book in haste upon that subject; that after the 
Restoration he was naturally in a position of some danger and much 
difficulty; that in the midst of that difficulty he wrote "Paradise 
Lost"; that he did not fail in "heart or hope," * but lived for fourteen 
years after the destruction of all for which he had labored, in serene 
retirement, "though fallen on evil days, though fallen on evil 
times," ' — all this we have heard from our boyhood. How much is 
wanting to complete the picture — how many traits, both noble and 
painful, might be recovered from the past — we shall never know, 
till some biographer skilled in interpreting the details of human 
nature shall select this subject for his art. All that we can hope to 
do in an essay like this is, to throw together some miscellaneous 
remarks on the character of the Puritan poet, and on the peculiarities 
of his works; and if in any part of them we may seem to make 
unusual criticisms, and to be overready with depreciation or objec- 
tion, our excuse must be, that we wish to paint a likeness and that 
the harsher features of the subject should have a prominence even 
in an outline. 

There are two kinds of goodness conspicuous in the world, and 
often made the subject of contrast there; for which, however, we 
seem to want exact words, and which we are obliged to describe 
rather vaguely and incompletely. These characters may in one 
aspect be called the "sensuous" and the "ascetic." The character of 
the first is that which is almost personified in the poet-king of Israel, 
whose actions and whose history have been "improved" so often by 
various writers that it now seems trite even to allude to them. 
Nevertheless, the particular virtues and the particular career of 
David seem to embody the idea of what may be called "sensuous 
goodness" far more completely than a living being in general comes 

< "Life of Milton." ' Sonnet xix. 

' "Though fallen on evil days. 
On evil days though fallen, and evil tongues." 

— "Paradise Lo»t," Book rii. 



170 BAGEHOT 

near to an abstract idea. There may have been shades in the actual 
man which would have modified the resemblance; but in the por- 
trait which has been handed down to us, the traits are perfect and 
the approximation exact. The principle of this character is its 
sensibility to outward stimulus: it is moved by all which occurs, 
stirred by all which happens, open to the influences of whatever it 
sees, hears, or meets with. The certain consequence of this mental 
constitution is a peculiar liability to temptation. Men are, according 
to the divine, "put upon their trial through the senses." It is through 
the constant suggestions of the outer world that our minds are 
stimulated, that our will has the chance of a choice, that moral life 
becomes possible. The sensibility to this external stimulus brings 
with it, when men have it to excess, an unusual access of moral 
difficulty. Everything acts on them, and everything has a chance 
of turning them aside; the most tempting things act upon them very 
deeply, and their influence, in consequence, is extreme. Naturally, 
therefore, the errors of such men are great. We need not point the 
moral: — 

"Dizzied faith and guilt and woe, 
Loftiest aims by earth defiled, 
Gleams of wisdom sin-beguiled, 
Sated power's tyrannic mood, 
Counsels shared with men of blood. 
Sad success, parental tears. 
And a dreary gift of years." ' 

But on the other hand, the excellence of such men has a charm, a 
kind of sensuous sweetness, that is its own. Being conscious of 
frailty, they are tender to the imperfect; being sensitive to this world, 
they sympathize with the world; being familiar with all the moral 
incidents of life, their goodness has a richness and a complication: 
they fascinate their own age, and in their deaths they are "not 
divided" from the love of others. Their peculiar sensibility gives 
a depth to their religion: it is at once deeper and more human than 
that of other men. As their sympathetic knowledge of those whom 
they have seen is great, so it is with their knowledge of Him whom 
they have not seen; and as is their knowledge, so is their love: it is 
' John Henry Newman's "Call of David." 



MILTON 171 

deep, from their nature; rich and intimate, from the variety of their 
experience; chastened by the ever-present sense of their weakness 
and of its consequences. 

In extreme opposition to this is the ascetic species of goodness. 
This is not, as is sometimes beHeved, a self -produced ideal, — a simply 
voluntary result of discipline and restraint. Some men have by 
nature what others have to elaborate by effort. Some men have a 
repulsion from the world. All of us have, in some degree, a pro- 
tective instinct; an impulse, that is to say, to start back from what 
may trouble us, to shun what may fascinate us, to avoid what may 
tempt us. On the moral side of human nature this preventive check 
is occasionally imperious: it holds the whole man under its control, — 
makes him recoil from the world, be offended at its amusements, 
be repelled by its occupations, be scared by its sins. The consequences 
of this tendency, when it is thus in excess, upon the character are 
very great and very singular. It secludes a man in a sort of natural 
monastery; he lives in a kind of moral solitude: and the effects of 
his isolation, for good and for evil, on his disposition are very many. 
The best result is a singular capacity for meditative religion. Being 
aloof from what is earthly, such persons are shut up with what is 
spiritual; being unstirred by the incidents of time, they are alone 
with the eternal; rejecting this life, they are alone with what is 
beyond. According to the measure of their minds, men of this 
removed and secluded excellence become eminent for a settled and 
brooding piety, for a strong and predominant religion. In human 
life, too, in a thousand ways, their isolated excellence is apparent. 
They walk through the whole of it with an abstinence from sense, 
a zeal of morality, a purity of ideal, which other men have not; 
their religion has an imaginative grandeur, and their life something 
of an unusual impeccability: and these are obviously singular excel- 
lences. But the deficiencies to which the same character tends are 
equally singular. In the first place, their isolation gives them a 
certain pride in themselves and an inevitable ignorance of others. 
They are secluded by their constitutional Sainoiv from life; they are 
repelled from the pursuits which others care for; they are alarmed 
at the amusements which others enjoy. In consequence, they trust 
in their own thoughts; they come to magnify both them and them- 



172 BAGEHOT 

selves, — for being able to think and to retain them. The greater the 
nature of the man, the greater is this temptation. His thoughts are 
greater, and in consequence the greater is his tendency to prize them, 
the more extreme is his tendency to overrate them. This pride, too, 
goes side by side with a want of sympathy. Being aloof from 
others, such a mind is unlike others; and it feels, and sometimes 
it feels bitterly, its own unlikeness. Generally, however, it is too 
wrapped up in its own exalted thoughts to be sensible of the pain 
of moral isolation; it stands apart from others, unknowing and 
unknown. It is deprived of moral experience in two ways, — it is 
not tempted itself, and it does not comprehend the temptations of 
others. And this defect of moral experience is almost certain to 
produce two effects, one practical and the other speculative. When 
such a man is wrong, he will be apt to believe that he is right. If 
his own judgment err, he will not have the habit of checking it by 
the judgment of others: he will be accustomed to think most men 
wrong; differing from them would be no proof of error, agreeing 
with them would rather be a basis for suspicion. He may, too, be 
very wrong, for the conscience of no man is perfect on all sides. 
The strangeness of secluded excellence will be sometimes deeply 
shaded by very strange errors. To be commonly above others, still 
more to think yourself above others, is to be below them every now 
and then, and sometimes much below. Again, on the speculative 
side, this defect of moral experience penetrates into the distinguish- 
ing excellence of the character, — its brooding and meditative religion. 
Those who see life under only one aspect can see religion under 
only one likewise. This world is needful to interpret what is be- 
yond; the seen must explain the unseen. It is from a tried and a 
varied and a troubled moral life that the deepest and truest idea 
of God arises. The ascetic character wants these; therefore in its 
religion there will be a harshness of outline, — a bareness, so to say, — 
as well as a grandeur. In life we may look for a singular purity; but 
also, and with equal probability, for singular self-confidence, a cer- 
tain unsympathizing straitness, and perhaps a few singular errors. 

The character of the ascetic or austere species of goodness is 
almost exactly embodied in Milton. Men, indeed, are formed on no 
ideal type: human nature has tendencies too various, and circum- 



MILTON 173 

Stances too complex; all men's characters have sides and aspects 
not to be comprehended in a single definition: but in this case, the 
extent to which the character of the man, as we find it delineated, 
approaches to the moral abstraction which we sketch from theory 
is remarkable. The whole being of Milton may, in some sort, be 
summed up in the great commandment of the austere character, 
"Reverence thyself." We find it expressed in almost every one of 
his singular descriptions of himself, — of those striking passages 
which are scattered through all his works, and which add to what- 
ever interest may intrinsically belong to them one of the rarest 
of artistic charms, that of magnanimous autobiography. They have 
been quoted a thousand times, but one of them may perhaps be 
quoted again: — 

"I had my time, readers, as others have, who have good learning be- 
stowed upon them, to be sent to those places where, the opinion was, it 
might be soonest attained; and as the manner is, was not unstudied in 
those authors which are most commended: whereof some were grave 
orators and historians, whose matter methought I loved indeed, but as 
my age then was, so I understood them; others were the smooth elegiac 
poets, whereof the schools are not scarce, whom both for the pleasing 
sound of their numerous writing, which in imitation I found most easy 
and most agreeable to nature's part in me, and for their matter, which 
what it is, there be few who know not, I was so allured to read, that no 
recreation came to me better welcome. For that it was then those years 
with me which are excused, though they be least severe, I may be saved 
the labor to remember ye. Whence having observed them to account it 
the chief glory of their wit, in that they were ablest to judge, to praise, 
and by that could esteem themselves worthiest to love, those high per- 
fections which under one or other name they took to celebrate, I thought 
with myself by every instinct and presage of nature, which is not wont 
to be false, that what emboldened them to this task might with such 
diligence as they used embolden me; and that what judgment, wit, or 
elegance was my share would herein best appear, and best value itself, by 
how much more wisely and with more love of virtue I should choose (let 
rude ears be absent) the object of not unlike praises. For albeit these 
thoughts to some will seem virtuous and commendable, to others only 
pardonable, to a third sort perhaps idle, yet the mentioning of them now 
will end in serious. 

"Nor blame it, readers, in those years to propose to themselves such a 
reward, as the noblest dispositions above other things in this life have 
sometimes preferred: whereof not to be sensible when good and fair in 



174 BAGEHOT 

one person meet, argues both a gross and shallow judgment, and withal 
an ungende and swainish breast. For by the firm settling of these per- 
suasions, I became, to my best memory, so much a proficient, that if I 
found those authors anywhere speaking unworthy things of themselves, or 
unchaste of those names which before they had extolled, this effect it 
wrought with me, — ^from that time forward their art I still applauded, but 
the men I deplored; and above them all, preferred the two famous re- 
nowners of Beatrice and Laura, who never write but honor of them to 
whom they devote their verse, displaying sublime and pure thoughts 
without transgression. And long it was not after, when I was confirmed 
in this opinion, — that he who would not be frustrate of his hope to write 
well hereafter in laudable things ought himself to be a true poem; that is, 
a composition and pattern of the best and honorablest things: not pre- 
suming to sing high praises of heroic men or famous cities, unless he 
have in himself the experience and the practice of all that which is 
praiseworthy." * 

It may be fanciful to add, and we may be laughed at, but we 
believe that the self-reverencing propensity was a little aided by his 
singular personal beauty. All the describers of his youth concur in 
telling us that this was very remarkable. Mr. Masson has the 
following account of it: — 

"When Milton left Cambridge in July, 1632, he was twenty-three years 
and eight months old. In stature, therefore, at least, he was already what- 
ever he was to be. 'In stature,' he says himself at a later period, when 
driven to speak on the subject, 'I confess I am not tall, but still of what 
is nearer to middle height than to little; and what if I were of little, of 
which stature have often been very great men both in peace and war — 
though why should that be called little which is great enough for virtue?' 
('Statura, fateor, non sum procera, sed quae mediocri tamen quam parvae 
propior sit; sed quid si parva, qua et summi saepe tum pace turn hello 
viri fuere — quanquam parva cur dicitur, quae ad virtutem satis magna 
est?') This is precise enough; but we have Aubrey's words to the same 
effect. 'He was scarce so tall as I am,' says Aubrey; to which, to make it 
more intelligible, he appends the marginal note, — 'Qu. Quot feet I am 
Jiigh? Resp. Of middle stature': i.e., Milton was a little under middle 
height. 'He had light-brown hair,' continues Aubrey, — putting the word 
'abrown' (auburn) in the margin by way of synonym for 'light brown'; 
— 'his complexion exceeding fair; oval face; his eye a dark gray.' " 

We are far from accusing Milton of personal vanity : his character 
was too enormous, if we may be allowed so to say, for a fault so 

* "Apology for Smectymnuus." 



MILTON 175 

petty. But a little tinge of excessive self-respect will cling to those 
who can admire themselves. Ugly men are and ought to be 
ashamed of their existence; Milton was not so. 

The peculiarities of the austere type of character stand out in 
Milton more remarkably than in other men who partake of it, 
because of the extreme strength of his nature. In reading him this 
is the first thing that strikes us. We seem to have left the little 
world of ordinary writers. The words of some authors are said to 
have "hands and feet"; they seem, that is, to have a vigor and 
animation which only belong to things which live and move. 
Milton's words have not this animal life, — there is no rude energy 
about them; but on the other hand, they have or seem to have a 
soul, a spirit which other words have not. He was early aware that 
what he wrote, "by certain vital signs it had," was such as the world 
would not "willingly let die." ' After two centuries we feel the same. 
There is a solemn and firm music in the lines; a brooding sublimity 
haunts them; the spirit of the great writer moves over the face of 
the page. In life there seems to have been the same peculiar strength 
that his works suggest to us. His moral tenacity is amazing: he 
took his own course, and he kept his own course; and we may trace 
in his defects the same characteristics. "Energy and ill temper," 
some say, "are the same thing"; and though this is a strong exag- 
geration, yet there is a basis of truth in it. People who labor much 
will be cross if they do not obtain that for which they labor; those 
who desire vehemently will be vexed if they do not obtain that 
which they desire. As is the strength of the impelling tendency, so, 
other things being equal, is the pain which it will experience if it 
be baffled. Those, too, who are set on what is high will be propor- 
tionately offended by the intrusion of what is low. Accordingly, 
Milton is described by those who knew him as "a harsh and choleric 
man." "He had," we are told, "a gravity in his temper, not melan- 
choly, or not till the latter part of his life, not sour, not morose or 
ill-natured, but a certain severity of mind; a mind not condescend- 
ing to little things";'" and this although his daughter remembered 
that he was delightful company, the life of conversation, and that 
he was so "on account of a flow of subject, and an unaffected cheer- 
' "Reason of Church Government," introduction to Book iii. '" Philips. 



176 BAGEHOT 

fulness and civility." Doubtless this may have been so when he 
was at ease, and at home; but there are unmistakable traces of the 
harsher tendency in almost all his works. 

Some of the peculiarities of the ascetic character were likewise 
augmented by his studious disposition. This began very early in 
life, and continued till the end. "My father," he says, "destined me 
... to the study of polite literature, which I embraced with such 
avidity, that from the twelfth year of my age I hardly ever retired to 
rest from my studies till midnight; which was the first source of 
injury to my eyes, to the natural weakness of which were added 
frequent headaches: all of which not retarding my eagerness after 
knowledge, he took care to have me instructed," etc." Every page 
of his works shows the result of this education. In spite of the 
occupations of manhood, and the blindness and melancholy of old 
age, he still continued to have his principal pleasure in that "studious 
and select" reading, which, though often curiously transmuted, is 
perpetually involved in the very texture of his works. We need 
not stay to observe how a habit in itself so austere conduces to the 
development of an austere character. Deep study, especially deep 
study which haunts and rules the imagination, necessarily removes 
men from life, absorbs them in themselves; purifies their conduct, 
with some risk of isolating their sympathies; develops that loftiness 
of mood which is gifted with deep inspirations and indulged with 
great ideas, but which tends in its excess to engender a contempt for 
others, and a self-appreciation which is even more displeasing to 
them. 

These same tendencies were aggravated also by two defects which 
are exceedingly rare in great English authors, and which perhaps 
Milton alone amongst those of the highest class is in a remarkable 
degree chargeable with; we mean a deficiency in humor, and a 
deficiency in a knowledge of plain human nature. Probably when, 
after the lapse of ages, English literature is looked at in its larger 
features only, and in comparison with other literatures which have 
preceded or which may follow it, the critics will lay down that its 
most striking characteristic as a whole is its involution, so to say, 
in life; the degree to which its book life resembles real life; the 
" Translated by Keighdey from "Defensio Secunda." 



MILTON 177 

extent to which the motives, dispositions and actions of common 
busy persons are represented in a medium which would seem Hkely 
to give us pecuUarly the ideas of secluded and the tendencies of 
meditative men. It is but an aspect of this fact, that English litera- 
ture abounds — some critics will say abounds excessively — with 
humor. This is in some sense the imaginative element of ordinary 
life, — the relieving charm, partaking at once of contrast and simili- 
tude, which gives a human and an intellectual interest to the world 
of clowns and cottages, of fields and farmers. The degree to which 
Milton is deficient in this element is conspicuous in every page 
of his writings where its occurrence could be looked for; and if we 
do not always look for it, this is because the subjects of his most 
remarkable works are on a removed elevation, where ordinary life, 
the world of "cakes and ale," is never thought of and never expected. 
It is in his dramas, as we should expect, that Milton shows this 
deficiency the most. "Citizens" never talk in his pages, as they do 
in Shakespeare. We feel instinctively that Milton's eye had never 
rested with the same easy pleasure on the easy, ordinary, shopkeeping 
world. Perhaps, such is the complication of art, it is on the most 
tragic occasions that we feel this want the most. 

It may seem an odd theory, and yet we believe it to be a true 
principle, that catastrophes require a comic element. We appear to 
feel the same principle in life. We may read solemn descriptions 
of great events in history, — say of Lord Strafford's trial, and of his 
marvelous speech, and his appeal to his "saint in heaven"; but we 
comprehend the whole transaction much better when we learn 
from Mr. Baillie, the eyewitness, that people ate nuts and apples, 
and talked, and laughed, and betted on the great question of 
acquittal and condemnation. Nor is it difficult to understand why 
this should be so. It seems to be a law of the imagination, at least 
in most men, that it will not bear concentration. It is essentially a 
glancing faculty. It goes and comes, and comes and goes, and we 
hardly know whence or why. But we most of us know that when 
we try to fix it, in a moment it passes away. Accordingly, the proper 
procedure of art is to let it go in such a manner as to ensure its 
coming back again. The force of artistic contrasts effects exactly 
this result: skillfully disposed opposites suggest the notion of each 



178 BAGEHOT 

other. We realize more perfectly and easily the great idea, the 
tragic conception, when we are familiarized with its effects on the 
minds of Uttle people, with the petty consequences which it causes 
as well as with the enormous forces from which it comes. The 
catastrophe of Samson Agonistes discloses Milton's imperfect mastery 
of this element of effect. If ever there was an occasion which ad- 
mitted its perfect employment, it was this. The kind of catastrophe 
is exactly that which is sure to strike, and strike forcibly, the minds 
of common persons. If their observations on the occasion were really 
given to us, we could scarcely avoid something rather comic. The 
eccentricity, so to speak, of ordinary persons shows itself peculiarly 
at such times, and they say the queerest things. Shakespeare has 
exemplified this principle most skillfully on various occasions: it is 
the sort of art which is just in his way. His imagination always 
seems to be floating between the contrasts of things; and if his 
mind had a resting-place that it liked, it was this ordinary view of 
extraordinary events. Milton was under the great[est] obligation 
to use this relieving principle of art in the catastrophe of Samson, 
because he has made every effort to heighten the strictly tragic 
element, which requires that relief. His art, always serious, was 
never more serious. His Samson is not the incarnation of physical 
strength which the popular fancy embodies in the character; nor 
is it the simple and romantic character of the Old Testament. On 
the contrary, Samson has become a Puritan: the observations he 
makes would have done much credit to a religious pikeman in 
Cromwell's army. In consequence, his death requires some light- 
ening touches to make it a properly artistic event. The pomp of 
seriousness becomes too oppressive. 

"At length for intermission sake they led him 
Between the pillars; he his guide requested 
(For so from such as nearer stood we heard). 
As overtired, to let him lean awhile 
With both his arms on those two massy pillars 
That to the archM roof gave main support. 
He unsuspicious led him; which when Samson 
Felt in his arms, with head awhile inclined, 
And eyes fast fixed, he stood, as one who prayed, 
Or some great matter in his mind revolved; 



MILTON .179 

At last with head erect thus cried aloud: 

'Hitherto, lords, what your commands imposed 

I have performed, as reason was, obeying. 

Not without wonder or delight beheld; 

Now of my own accord such other trial 

I mean to show you of my strength, yet greater, 

As with amaze shall strike all who behold.' 

This uttered, straining all his nerves he bowed, 

As with the force of winds and waters pent 

When mountains tremble, those two massy pillars 

With horrible convulsion to and fro. 

He tugged, he shook, till down they came, and drew 

The whole roof after them, with burst of thunder. 

Upon the heads of all who sat beneath, — 

Lords, ladies, captains, counselors, or priests, 

Their choice nobility and flower, not only 

Of this, but each Philistian city round, 

Met from all parts to solemnize this feast. 

Samson with these immixed, inevitably 

Pulled down the same destruction on himself; 

The vulgar only 'scaped who stood without. 

Chor. O dearly bought revenge, yet glorious! 
Living or dying thou hast fulfilled 

The work for which thou wast foretold 
To Israel, and now liest victorious 
Among thy slain self-killed. 

Not willingly, but tangled in the fold 
Of dire necessity, whose law in death conjoined 
Thee with thy slaughtered foes, in number more 
Than all thy life had slain before." 

This is grave and fine; but Shakespeare would have done it differ- 
ently and better. 

We need not pause to observe how certainly this deficiency in 
humor and in the delineation of ordinary human feeling is con- 
nected with a recluse, a solitary, and to some extent an unsympathiz- 
ing life. If we combine a certain natural aloofness from common 
men with literary habits and an incessantly studious musing, we 
shall at once see how powerful a force is brought to bear on an 
instinctively austere character, and how sure it will be to develop 
the peculiar tendencies of it, both good and evil. It was to no pur- 
pose that Milton seems to have practised a sort of professional study 



l80 BAGEHOT 

of life. No man could rank more highly the importance to a poet 
of an intellectual insight into all-important pursuits and "seemly 
arts." But it is not by the mere intellect that we can take in the 
daily occupations of mankind: we must sympathize with them, 
and see them in their human relations. A chimney-sweeper, qud 
chimney-sweeper, is not very sentimental: it is in himself that he 
is so interesting. 

Milton's austere character is in some sort the more evident be- 
cause he possessed in large measure a certain relieving element, in 
which those who are eminent in that character are very deficient. 
Generally such persons have but obtuse senses: we are prone to 
attribute the purity of their conduct to the dullness of their sensa- 
tions. Milton had no such obtuseness: he had every opportunity 
for knowing the "world of eye and ear";" you cannot open his 
works without seeing how much he did know of it. The austerity 
of his nature was not caused by the deficiency of his senses, but by 
an excess of the warning instinct. Even when he professed to deline- 
ate the world of sensuous delight, this instinct shows itself. Dr. 
Johnson thought he could discern melancholy in "L'Allegro";" if 
he had said solitariness, it would have been correct. 

The peculiar nature of Milton's character is very conspicuous in 
the events of his domestic Hfe, and in the views which he took of 
the great public revolutions of his age. We can spare only a very 
brief space for the examination of either of these; but we will 
endeavor to say a few words upon each of them. 

The circumstances of Milton's first marriage are as singular as 
any in the strange series of the loves of the poets. The scene opens 
with an affair of business. Milton's father, as is well known, was 
a scrivener, — a kind of professional money-lender, then well known 
in London; and having been early connected with the vicinity of 
Oxford, continued afterwards to have pecuniary transactions of a 
certain nature with country gentlemen of that neighborhood. In 
the course of these he advanced X500 to a certain Mr. Richard 
Powell, a squire of fair landed estate, residing at Forest Hill, which 
is about four miles from the city of Oxford. The money was lent 
on the nth of June, 1627; and a few months afterwards Mr. Milton 
12 Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey." ''"Life of Milton." 



MILTON l8l 

the elder gave £,2,1:1. of it to his son the poet, who was then a youth 
at college, and made a formal memorandum of the same in the 
form then usual, which still exists. The debt was never wholly 
discharged; "for in 1 650-1 we find Milton asserting on oath that 
he had received only about ;^i8o, 'in part satisfaction of my said 
just and principal debt, with damages for the same, and my costs 
of suit.' " Mr. Keightley supposes him to have taken "many a ride 
over to Forest Hill" after he left Cambridge and was living at 
Horton, which is not very far distant; but of course this is only 
conjecture. We only know that about 1643 "he took," as his nephew 
relates, "a journey into the country, nobody about him certainly 
knowing the reason, or that it was any more than a journey of 
recreation. After a month's stay, home he returns a married man, 
that went out a bachelor; his wife being Mary, the eldest daughter 
of Mr. Richard Powell, then a justice of the peace" for the county 
of Oxford. The suddenness of the event is rather striking; but 
Philips was at the time one of Milton's pupils, and it is possible 
that some pains may have been taken to conceal the love affair from 
the "young gentlemen." Still, as Philips was Milton's nephew, he 
was likely to hear such intelligence tolerably early; and as he does 
not seem to have done so, the denouement was probably rather 
prompt. At any rate, he was certainly married at that time, and 
took his bride home to his house in Aldersgate Street; and there 
was feasting and gayety according to the usual custom of such 
events. A few weeks after, the lady went home to her friends, in 
which there was of course nothing remarkable; but it is singular 
that when the natural limit of her visit at home was come, she 
absolutely refused to return to her husband. The grounds of so 
strange a resolution are very difficult to ascertain. Political feeling 
ran very high; old Mr. Powell adhered to the side of the king, and 
Milton to that of the Parliament: and this might be fancied to have 
caused an estrangement. But on the other hand, these circumstances 
must have been well known three months before. Nothing had 
happened in that quarter of a year to change very materially the 
position of the two parties in the state. Some other cause for Mrs. 
Milton's conduct must be looked for. She herself is said to have 
stated that she did not Uke her husband's "spare diet and hard 



1 82 BAGEHOT 

Study."" No doubt, too, she found it dull in London: she had 
probably always lived in the country, and must have been quite 
unaccustomed to the not very pleasant scene in which she found 
herself. Still, many young ladies have married schoolmasters, and 
many young ladies have gone from Oxfordshire to London; and 
nevertheless, no such dissolution of matrimonial harmony is known 
to have occurred. 

The fact we believe to be, that the bride took a dislike to her 
husband. We cannot but have a suspicion that she did not like 
him before marriage, and that pecuniary reasons had their influence. 
If, however, Mr. Powell exerted his paternal influence, it may be 
admitted that he had unusual considerations to advance in favor 
of the alliance he proposed. It is not every father whose creditors 
are handsome young gentlemen with fair incomes. Perhaps it 
seemed no extreme tyranny to press the young lady a little to do 
that which some others might have done without pressing. Still 
all this is but hypothesis: our evidence as to the love affairs of the 
time of King Charles I. is but meager. But whatever the feelings 
of Miss Powell may have been, those of Mrs. Milton are exceedingly 
certain. She would not return to her husband; she did not answer 
his letters; and a messenger whom he sent to bring her back was 
handled rather roughly. Unquestionably she was deeply to blame, 
by far the most to blame of the two. Whatever may be alleged 
against him is as nothing compared with her offense in leaving 
him. To defend so startling a course, we must adopt views of 
divorce even more extreme than those which Milton was himself 
driven to inculcate; and whatever Mrs. Milton's practice may have 
been, it may be fairly conjectured that her principles were strictly 
orthodox. Yet if she could be examined by a commission to the 
ghosts, she would probably have some palliating circumstances to 
allege in mitigation of judgment. There were perhaps peculiarities 
in Milton's character which a young lady might not improperly 
dishke. The austere and ascetic character is of course far less agree- 
able to women than the sensuous and susceptible. The self-occupa- 
tion, the pride, the abstraction of the former are to the female mind 

"Philips. 



MILTON 183 

disagreeable; studious habits and unusual self-denial seem to it 
purpejseless; lofty enthusiasm, public spirit, the solitary pursuit of 
an elevated ideal, are quite out of its way: they rest too little on 
the visible world to be intelligible, they are too little suggested by 
the daily occurrences of life to seem possible. The poet in search 
of an imaginary phantom has never been successful with women, — 
there are innumerable proofs of that; and the ascetic moralist is 
even less interesting. A character combined out of the two — and 
this to some extent was Milton's — is singularly likely to meet with 
painful failure; with a failure the more painful, that it could never 
anticipate or explain it. Possibly he was absorbed in an austere 
self-conscious excellence: it may never have occurred to him that 
a lady might prefer the trivial detail of daily happiness. 

Milton's own view of the matter he has explained to us in his 
book on divorce; and it is a very odd one. His complaint was that 
his wife would not talk. What he wished in marriage was "an 
intimate and speaking help" : he encountered "a mute and spiritless 
mate." One of his principal incitements to the "pious necessity of 
divorcing" was an unusual deficiency in household conversation. 
A certain loquacity in their wives has been the complaint of various 
eminent men; but his domestic affliction was a different one. The 
"ready and reviving associate," whom he had hoped to find, appeared 
to be a "coinhabiting mischief," who was sullen, and perhaps seemed 
bored and tired. And at times he is disposed to cast the blame of 
his misfortune on the uninstructive nature of youthful virtue. The 
"soberest and best-governed men," he says, "are least practised in 
these affairs," are not very well aware that "the bashful muteness" 
of a young lady "may ofttimes hide all the unliveliness and natural 
sloth which is really unfit for conversation," and are rather in too 
great haste to "light the nuptial torch": whereas those "who have 
lived most loosely, by reason of their bold accustoming, prove most 
successful in their matches; because their wild affections, unsettling 
at will, have been as so many divorces to teach them experience." 
And he rather wishes to infer that the virtuous man should, in 
case of mischance, have his resource of divorce likewise. 

In truth, Milton's book on divorce — though only containing prin- 



184 BAGEHOT 

ciples which he continued to beHeve long after he had any personal 
reasons for wishing to do so — was clearly suggested at first by the 
unusual phenomena of his first marriage. His wife began by not 
speaking to him, and finished by running away from him. Accord- 
ingly, like most books which spring out of personal circumstances, 
his treatises on this subject have a frankness and a mastery of detail 
which others on the same topic sometimes want. He is remark- 
ably free from one peculiarity of modern writers on such matters. 
Several considerate gentlemen are extremely anxious for the "rights 
of women"; they think that women will benefit by removing the 
bulwarks which the misguided experience of ages has erected for 
their protection. A migratory system of domestic existence might 
suit Madame Dudevant, and a few cases of singular exception; but 
we cannot fancy that it would be, after all, so much to the taste 
of most ladies as the present more permanent system. We have 
some reminiscence of the stories of the wolf and the lamb, when 
we hear amiable men addressing a female auditory (in books, of 
course) on the advantages of a freer "development." We are 
perhaps wrong, but we cherish an indistinct suspicion that an 
indefinite extension of the power of selection would rather tend to 
the advantage of the sex which more usually chooses. But we have 
no occasion to avow such opinions now. Milton had no such modern 
views : he is frankly and honestly anxious for the rights of the man. 
Of the doctrine that divorce is only permitted for the help of wives, 
he exclaims, "Palpably uxorious! who can be ignorant that woman 
was created for man, and not man for woman? . . . What an 
injury is it after wedlock not to be beloved! what to be slighted! 
what to be contended with in point of house-rule who shall be the 
head; not for any parity of wisdom, for that were something rea- 
sonable, but out of female pride! 'I suffer not,' saith St. Paul, 'the 
woman to usurp authority over the man.' If the Apostle could not 
suffer it," he naturally remarks, "into what mold is he mortified 
that can?" He had a sincere desire to preserve men from the society 
of unsocial and unsympathizing women; and that was his principal 
idea. 

His theory, to a certain extent, partakes of the same notion. The 
following passage contains a perspicuous exposition of it: — 



MILTON 185 

"Moses, Deut. xxiv. i, established a grave and prudent law, full of 
moral equity, full of due consideration towards nature, that cannot be 
resisted, a law consenting with the wisest men and civilest nations: that 
when a man hath married a wife, if it come to pass that he cannot love 
her by reason of some displeasing natural quality or unfitness in her, let 
him write her a bill of divorce. The intent of which law undoubtedly 
was this: that if any good and peaceable man should discover some help- 
less disagreement or dislike, either of mind or body, whereby he could not 
cheerfully perform the duty of a husband without the perpetual dis- 
sembling of offense and disturbance to his spirit, — rather than to live 
uncomfortably and unhappily both to himself and to his wife, rather than 
to continue undertaking a duty which he could not possibly discharge, he 
might dismiss her whom he could not tolerably, and so not conscionably 
retain. And this law the Spirit of God by the mouth of Solomon, Prov. 
XXX. 21, 23, testifies to be a good and a necessary law, by granting it that 
'a hated woman' (for so the Hebrew word signifies, rather than 'odious,' 
though it come all to one), — that 'a hated woman, when she is married, 
is a thing that the earth cannot bear.' " 

And he complains that the civil law of modern states interferes with 
the "domestical prerogative of the husband." 

His notion would seem to have been that a husband was bound 
not to dismiss his wife, except for a reason really sufficient; such as 
a thoroughly incompatible temper, an incorrigible "muteness," and 
a desertion like that of Mrs. Milton. But he scarcely liked to admit 
that in the use of this power he should be subject to the correction of 
human tribunals. He thought that the circumstances of each case 
depended upon "utterless facts"; and that it was practically impos- 
sible for a civil court to decide on a subject so delicate in its essence, 
and so imperceptible in its data. But though amiable men doubtless 
suffer much from the deficiencies of their wives, we should hardly 
like to entrust them, in their own cases, with a jurisdiction so prompt 
and summary. 

We are far from being concerned, however, just now, with the 
doctrine of divorce on its intrinsic merits: we were only intending 
to give such an account of Milton's opinions upon it as might serve 
to illustrate his character. We think we have shown that it is pos- 
sible there may have been, in his domestic relations, a little over- 
weening pride; a tendency to overrate the true extent of masculine 
rights, and to dwell on his wife's duty to be social towards him 



1 86 BAGEHOT 

rather than on his duty to be social towards her, — to be rather sullen 
whenever she was not quite cheerful. Still, we are not defending a 
lady for leaving her husband for defects of such inferior magnitude. 
Few households would be kept together, if the right of transition 
were exercised on such trifling occasions. We are but suggesting 
that she may share the excuse which our great satirist has suggested 
for another unreliable lady: "My mother was an angel; but angels 
are not always commodes d vivre!' 

This is not a pleasant part of our subject, and we must leave it. It 
is more agreeable to relate that on no occasion of his life was the 
substantial excellence of Milton's character more conclusively shown 
than in his conduct at the last stage of this curious transaction. After 
a very considerable interval, and after the publication of his book on 
divorce, Mrs. Milton showed a disposition to return to her husband; 
and in spite of his theories, he received her with open arms. With 
great Christian patience, he received her relations too. The Parlia- 
mentary party was then victorious; and old Mr. Powell, who had 
suffered very much in the cause of the king, lived until his death 
untroubled, and "wholly to his devotion," as we are informed, in 
the house of his son-in-law. 

Of the other occurrences of Milton's domestic life we have left 
ourselves no room to speak; we must turn to our second source of 
illustration for his character, — his opinions on the great public events 
of his time. It may seem odd, but we believe that a man of austere 
character naturally tends both to an excessive party spirit and to an 
extreme isolation. Of course the circumstances which develop the 
one must be different from those which are necessary to call out the 
other: party spirit requires companionship; isolation, if we may be 
pardoned so original a remark, excludes it. But though, as we have 
shown, this species of character is prone to mental solitude, tends to 
an intellectual isolation where it is possible and as soon as it can, yet 
when invincible circumstances throw it into mental companionship, 
when it is driven into earnest association with earnest men on inter- 
esting topics, its zeal becomes excessive. Such a man's mind is at 
home only with its own enthusiasm; it is cooped up within the 
narrow limits of its own ideas, and it can make no allowance for 
those who differ from or oppose them. We may see something of 



MILTON 187 

this excessive party zeal in Burke. No one's reasons are more philo- 
sophical; yet no one who acted with a party went farther in aid of 
it or was more violent in support of it. He forgot what could be 
said for the tenets of the enemy; his imagination made that enemy 
an abstract incarnation of his tenets. A man, too, who knows that 
he formed his opinions originally by a genuine and intellectual 
process is but little aware of the undue energy those ideas may 
obtain from the concurrence of those around. Persons who first 
acquired their ideas at second hand are more open to a knowledge 
of their own weakness, and better acquainted with the strange force 
which there is in the sympathy of others. The isolated mind, when 
it acts with the popular feeling, is apt to exaggerate that feeling for 
the most part by an almost inevitable consequence of the feelings 
which render it isolated. Milton is an example of this remark. In 
the commencement of the struggle between Charles I. and the 
Parliament, he sympathized strongly with the popular movement, 
and carried to what seems now a strange extreme his partisanship. 
No one could imagine that the first literary Englishman of his time 
could write the following passage on Charles I.: — 

"Who can with patience hear this filthy, rascally fool speak so irrev- 
erently of persons eminent both in greatness and piety? Dare you com- 
pare King David with King Charles: a most religious king and prophet 
with a superstitious prince, and who was but a novice in the Christian 
religion; a most prudent, wise prince with a weak one; a valiant prince 
with a cowardly one; finally, a most just prince with a most unjust one? 
Have you the impudence to commend his chastity and sobriety, who is 
known to have committed all manner of lewdness in company with his 
confidant the Duke of Buckingham? It were to no purpose to inquire 
into the private actions of his life, who publicly at plays would embrace 
and kiss the ladies." "" 

Whatever may be the faults of that ill-fated monarch, — and they 
assuredly were not small, — no one would now think this absurd 
invective to be even an excusable exaggeration. It misses the true 
mark altogether, and is the expression of a strongly imaginative 
mind, which has seen something that it did not like, and is unable 
in consequence to see anything that has any relation to it distinctly 
or correctly. But with the supremacy of the Long Parliament Mil- 
15 "Defense of the People of England." Chap. iv. 



1 88 BAGEHOT 

ton's attachment to their cause ceased. No one has drawn a more 
unfavorable picture of the rule which they established. Years after 
their supremacy had passed away, and the restoration of the mon- 
archy had covered with a new and strange scene the old actors and 
the old world, he thrust into a most unlikely part of his "History of 
England" [Book iii.] the following attack on them: — 

"But when once the superficial zeal and popular fumes that acted their 
New Magistracy were cooled and spent in them, straight every one betook 
himself (setting the Commonwealth behind, his private ends before) to 
do as his own profit or ambition led him. Then was justice delayed, and 
soon after denied; spite and favor determined all: hence faction, thence 
treachery, both at home and in the field; everywhere wrong and oppres- 
sion; foul and horrid deeds committed daily, or maintained, in secret or 
in open. Some who had been called from shops and warehouses, with- 
out other merit, to sit in supreme councils and committees (as their 
breeding was), fell to huckster the Commonwealth. Others did there- 
after as men could soothe and humor them best; so he who would give 
most, or under covert of hypocritical zeal insinuate basest, enjoyed un- 
worthily the rewards of learning and fidelity, or escaped the punishment 
of his crimes and misdeeds. Their votes and ordinances, which men 
looked should have contained the repealing of bad laws, and the imme- 
diate constitution of better, resounded with nothing else but new imposi- 
tions, taxes, excises, — yearly, monthly, weekly; not to reckon the offices, 
gifts, and preferments bestowed and shared among themselves." 

His dislike of this system of committees, and of the generally dull 
and unemphatic administration of the Commonwealth, attached 
him to the Puritan army and to Cromwell; but in the continuation 
of the passage we have referred to, he expresses — with something, let 
it be said, of a schoolmaster feeling — an unfavorable judgment on 
their career : — 

"For Britain, to speak a truth not often spoken, as it is a land fruitful 
enough of men stout and courageous in war, so it is naturally not over- 
fertile of men able to govern justly and prudently in peace, trusting only 
in their mother-wit; who consider not justly that civility, prudence, love 
of the public good more than of money or vain honor, are to this soil in 
a manner outlandish, — grow not here, but in minds well implanted with 
solid and elaborate breeding; too impolitic else and rude, if not head- 
strong and intractable to the industry and virtue either of executing or 
understanding true civil government. Valiant indeed, and prosperous to 
win a field; but to know the end and reason of winning, unjudicious and 
unwise: in good or bad success, alike unreachable. For the sun, which 



MILTON 189 

we want, ripens wits as well as fruits; and as wine and oil are imported 
to us from abroad, so must ripe understanding and many civil virtues be 
imported into our minds from foreign writings and examples of best 
ages; we shall else miscarry still, and come short in the attempts of any 
great enterprise. Hence did theif victories prove as fruitless as their 
losses dangerous, and left them still, conquering, under the same griev- 
ances that men suffer conquered: which was indeed unlikely to go other- 
wise, unless men more than vulgar — bred up, as few of them were, in 
the knowledge of ancient and illustrious deeds, invincible against many 
and vain titles, impartial to friendships and relations — had conducted 
their affairs; but then, from the chapman to the retailer, many whose 
ignorance was more audacious than the rest were admitted with all their 
sordid rudiments to bear no mean sway among them, both in church and 
state." 

We need not speak of Milton's disapprobation of the Restoration. 
Between him and the world of Charles II. the opposition was inevi- 
table and infinite. Therefore the general fact remains, that except in 
the early struggles, when he exaggerated the popular feeling, he 
remained solitary in opinion, and had very little sympathy with any 
of the prevailing parties of his time. 

Milton's own theory of government is to be learned from his 
works. He advocated a free commonwealth, without rule of a single 
person or House of Lords; but the form of his projected common- 
wealth was peculiar. He thought that a certain perpetual council, 
which should be elected by the nation once for all, and the number 
of which should be filled up as vacancies might occur, was the best 
possible machine of government. He did not confine his advocacy 
to abstract theory, but proposed the immediate establishment of 
such a council in this country. We need not go into an elaborate 
discussion to show the errors of this conclusion. Hardly any one, 
then or since, has probably adopted it. The interest of the theoretical 
parts of Milton's political works is entirely historical. The tenets 
advocated are not of great value, and the arguments by which he 
supports them are perhaps of less; but their relation to the times in 
which they were written gives them a very singular interest. The 
time of the Commonwealth was the only period in English history 
in which the fundamental questions of government have been 
thrown open for popular discussion in this country. We read in 
French literature discussions on the advisability of establishing a 



190 BAGEHOT 

monarchy, on the advisability of establishing a republic, on the 
advisability of establishing an empire; and before we proceed to 
examine the arguments, we cannot help being struck at the strange 
contrast which this multiplicity of open questions presents to our 
own uninquiring acquiescence in the hereditary polity which has 
descended to us. "Kings, Lords, and Commons" are, we think, 
ordinances of nature. Yet Milton's political writings embody the 
reflections of a period when, for a few years, the government of 
England was nearly as much a subject of fundamental discussion as 
that of France was in 1851. An "invitation to thinkers," to borrow 
the phrase of Necker, was given by the circumstances of the time; 
and with the habitual facility of philosophical speculation, it was 
accepted, and used to the utmost. 

Such are not the kind of speculations in which we expect assistance 
from Milton. It is not in its transactions with others, in its dealings 
with the manifold world, that the isolated and austere mind shows 
itself to the most advantage. Its strength lies in itself. It has "a calm 
and pleasing solitariness." It hears thoughts which others cannot 
hear. It enjoys the quiet and still air of delightful studies; and is 
ever conscious of such musing and poetry "as is not to be obtained 
by the invocation of Dame Memory and her twin daughters, but by 
devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit, who can enrich with all utter- 
ance and knowledge, and sends out his seraphim with the hallowed 
fire of his altar." 

"Descend from heaven, Urania, by that name 
If rightly thou art called, whose voice divine 
Following, above th' Olympian hill I soar, 
Above the flight of Pegasean wing. 
The meaning, not the name, I call; for thou 
Nor of the Muses nine, nor on the top 
Of old Olympus dwell'st, but heavenly born: 
Before the hills appeared, or fountain flowed, 
Thou with eternal Wisdom didst converse. 
Wisdom thy sister, and with her didst play 
In presence of th' Almighty Father, pleased 
With thy celestial song. Up led by thee, 
Into the heaven of heavens I have presumed, 
An earthly guest, and drawn empyreal air. 
Thy tempering. With like safety guided down, 



MILTON 191 

Return me to my native element; 
Lest from this flying steed unreined (as once 
Bellerophon, though from a lower clime), 
Dismounted, on th' Aleian field I fall, 
Erroneous there to wander, and forlorn. 
Half yet remains unsung, but narrower bound 
Within the visible diurnal sphere: 
Standing on earth, not rapt above the pole, 
More safe I sing with mortal voice, unchanged 
To hoarse or mute, though fallen on evil days, 
On evil days though fallen, and evil tongues; 
In darkness, and vi'ith dangers compassed round. 
And solitude: yet not alone, while thou 
Visit'st my slumbers nightly, or when morn 
Purples the east. Still govern thou my song, 
Urania, and fit audience find, though few; 
But drive far off the barbarous dissonance 
Of Bacchus and his revelers, the race 
Of that wild rout that tore the Thracian bard 
In Rhodope, where woods and rocks had ears 
To rapture, till the savage clamor drowned 
Both harp and voice, nor could the Muse defend 
Her son. So fail not thou, who thee implores; 
For thou art heavenly, she an empty dream." '^ 

"An ancient clergyman of Dorsetshire, Dr. Wright, found John 
Milton in a small chamber hung with rusty green, sitting in an 
elbow-chair, and dressed neatly in black; pale, but not cadaverous. 
. . . He used also to sit in a gray coarse-cloth coat at the door of his 
house near Bunhill Fields, in warm, sunny weather";" arid the 
common people said he was inspired. 

If from the man we turn to his works, we are struck at once with 
two singular contrasts. The first of them is this: — The distinction 
between ancient and modern art is sometimes said, and perhaps 
truly, to consist in the simple bareness of the imaginative concep- 
tions which we find in ancient art, and the comparatively complex 
clothing in which all modern creations are embodied. If we adopt 
this distinction, Milton seems in some sort ancient, and in some sort 
modern. Nothing is so simple as the subject-matter of his works. 
The two greatest of his creations, the character of Satan and the 
■6 "Paradise Lost," Book vii '' Richardson. 



192 BAGEHOT 

character of Eve, are two of the simplest — the latter probably the 
very simplest — in the whole field of literature. On this side Milton's 
art is classical. On the other hand, in no writer is the imagery more 
profuse, the illustrations more various, the dress altogether more 
splendid; and in this respect the style of his art seems romantic and 
modern. In real truth, however, it is only ancient art in a modern 
disguise: the dress is a mere dress, and can be stripped off when we 
will, — we all of us do perhaps in memory strip it off for ourselves. 
Notwithstanding the lavish adornments with which her image is 
presented, the character of Eve is still the simplest sort of feminine 
essence, — the pure embodiment of that inner nature which we believe 
and hope that women have. The character of Satan, though it is 
not so easily described, has nearly as few elements in it. The most 
purely modern conceptions will not bear to be unclothed in this 
manner: their romantic garment clings inseparably to them. Hamlet 
and Lear are not to be thought of except as complex characters, with 
very involved and complicated embodiments. They are as difficult 
to draw out in words as the common characters of life are: that of 
Hamlet, perhaps, is more so. If we make it, as perhaps we should, 
the characteristic of modern and romantic art that it presents us with 
creations which we cannot think of or delineate except as very varied 
and, so to say, circumstantial, we must not rank Milton among the 
masters of romantic art. And without involving the subject in the 
troubled sea of an old controversy, we may say that the most striking 
of the poetical peculiarities of Milton is the bare simplicity of his 
ideas and the rich abundance of his illustrations. 

Another of his peculiarities is equally striking. There seems to be 
such a thing as second-hand poetry : some poets, musing on the poetry 
of other men, have unconsciously shaped it into something of their 
own. The new conception is like the original, it would never proba- 
bly have existed had not the original existed previously : still, it is suf- 
ficiently different from the original to be a new thing, not a copy or a 
plagiarism; it is a creation, though, so to say, a suggested creation. 

Gray is as good an example as can be found of a poet whose works 
abound in this species of semi-original conceptions. Industrious 
critics track his best lines back, and find others like them which 
doubtless lingered near his fancy while he was writing them. The 



MILTON 193 

same critics have been equally busy with the works of Milton, and 
equally successful. They find traces of his reading in half his works; 
not, which any reader could do, in overt similes and distinct illustra- 
tions, but also in the very texture of the thought and the expression. 
In many cases, doubtless, they discover more than he himself knew. 
A mind like his, which has an immense store of imaginative recollec- 
tions, can never know which of his own imaginations is exactly 
suggested by which recollection. Men awake with their best ideas; 
it is seldom worth while to investigate very curiously whence they 
came. Our proper business is to adapt and mold and act upon them. 
Of poets perhaps this is true even more remarkably than of other 
men: their ideas are suggested in modes, and according to laws, 
which are even more impossible to specify than the ideas of the rest 
of the world. Second-hand poetry, so to say, often seems quite 
original to the poet himself; he frequently does not know that he 
derived it from an old memory: years afterwards it may strike him 
as it does others. Still, in general, such inferior species of creation 
is not so likely to be found in minds of singular originality as in 
those of less. A brooding, placid, cultivated mind, like that of Gray, 
is the place where we should expect to meet with it. Great originality 
disturbs the adaptive process, removes the mind of the poet from the 
thoughts of other men, and occupies it with its own heated and flash- 
ing thoughts. Poetry of the second degree is like the secondary 
rocks of modern geology, — a still, gentle, alluvial formation; the 
igneous glow of primary genius brings forth ideas like the primeval 
granite, simple, astounding, and alone. Milton's case is an exception 
to this rule. His mind has marked originality, probably as much of 
it as any in literature; but it has as much of molded recollection as 
any mind, too. His poetry in consequence is like an artificial park, 
green and soft and beautiful, yet with outlines bold, distinct, and 
firm, and the eternal rock ever jutting out; or, better still, it is like 
our own Lake scenery, where nature has herself the same combina- 
tion, where we have Rydal Water side by side with the everlasting 
upheaved mountain. Milton has the same union of softened beauty 
with unimpaired grandeur; and it is his peculiarity. 

These are the two contrasts which puzzle us at first in Milton, and 
which distinguish him from other poets in our remembrance after- 



194 BAGEHOT 

wards. We have a superficial complexity in illustration. and imagery 
and metaphor; and in contrast with it we observe a latent simplicity 
of idea, an almost rude strength of conception. The underlying 
thoughts are few, though the flowers on the surface are so many. 
We have likewise the perpetual contrast of the soft poetry of the 
memory, and the firm^as it were, fused — and glowing poetry of 
the imagination. His words, we may half fancifully say, are like 
his character: there is the same austerity in the real essence, the same 
exquisiteness of sense, the same delicacy of form which we know that 
he had, the same music which we imagine there was in his voice. In 
both his character and his poetry there was an ascetic nature in a 
sheath of beauty. 

No book, perhaps, which has ever been written is more difficult to 
criticize than "Paradise Lost." The only way to criticize a work of 
the imagination is, to describe its effect upon the mind of the reader, 
—at any rate, of the critic; and this can only be adequately delineated 
by strong illustrations, apt similes, and perhaps a little exaggeration. 
The task is in its very nature not an easy one: the poet paints a pic- 
ture on the fancy of the critic, and the critic has in some sort to copy 
it on the paper; he must say what it is before he can make remarks 
upon it. But in the case of "Paradise Lost" we hardly like to use 
illustrations. The subject is one which the imagination rather shrinks 
from. At any rate, it requires courage and an effort to compel the 
mind to view such a subject as distinctly and vividly as it views other 
subjects. Another peculiarity of "Paradise Lost" makes the difficulty 
even greater. It does not profess to be a mere work of art; or rather, 
it claims to be by no means that and that only. It starts with a 
dogmatic aim: it avowedly intends to 

"assert eternal Providence, 
And justify the ways of God to men." 

In this point of view we have always had a sympathy with the Cam- 
bridge mathematician who has been so much abused. He said, 
"After all, 'Paradise Lost' proves nothing"; and various persons of 
poetical tastes and temperament have been very severe on the prosaic 
observation. Yet, "after all," he was right : Milton professed to prove 
something; he was too profound a critic — rather, he had too pro- 



MILTON" 195 

found an instinct of those eternal principles of art which criticism 
tries to state — not to know that on such a subject he must prove 
something. He professed to deal with the great problem of human 
destiny: to show why man was created, in what kind of universe 
he lives, whence he came and whither he goes. He dealt of necessity 
with the greatest of subjects; he had to sketch the greatest of objects. 
He was concerned with infinity and eternity even more than with 
time and sense : he undertook to delineate the ways and consequently 
the character of Providence, as well as the conduct and the tendencies 
of man. The essence of success in such an attempt is to satisfy the 
religious sense of man ; to bring home to our hearts what we know to 
be true; to teach us what we have not seen; to awaken us to what we 
have forgotten; to remove the "covering" from all people, and the 
"veil" that is spread over all nations : to give us, in a word, such a 
conception of things divine and human as we can accept, believe, and 
trust. The true doctrine of criticism demands what Milton invites, — 
an examination of the degree in which the great epic attains this aim. 
And if, in examining it, we find it necessary to use unusual illustra- 
tions, and plainer words than are customary, it must be our excuse 
that we do not think the subject can be made clear without them. 

The defect of "Paradise Lost" is that, after all, it is founded on a 
political transaction. The scene is in heaven very early in the history 
of the universe, before the creation of man or the fall of Satan. We 
have a description of a court [Book v.]. The angels, 

"by imperial summons called," 

appear: — 

"Under their hierarchs in orders bright 
Ten thousand thousand ensigns high advanced; 
Standards and gonfalons 'twixt van and rear 
Stream in the air, and for distinction serve 
Gf hierarchies, or orders, and degrees." 

To this assemblage "th' Omnipotent" speaks : — 

"Hear, all ye angels, progeny of light. 
Thrones, dominations, princedoms, virtues, powers, 
Hear my decree, which unrevoked shall stand: 
This day I have begot whom I declare 
My only Son, and on this holy hill 



196 



BAGEHOT 



Him have anointed, whom ye now behold 
At my right hand; your Head I him appoint: 
And by myself have sworn, to him shall bow 
All knees in heaven, and shall confess him Lord; 
Under his great vicegerent reign abide 
United as one individual soul, 
Forever happy. Him who disobeys, 
Me disobeys, breaks union, and that day. 
Cast out from God and blessed vision, falls 
Int' utter darkness, deep ingulfed, his place 
Ordained without redemption, without end." 

This act of patronage was not popular at court; and why should it 
have been.'' The religious sense is against it. The worship which 
sinful men owe to God is not transferable to lieutenants and vice- 
gerents. The whole scene of the court jars upon a true feeling; we 
seem to be reading about some emperor of history, who admits his 
son to a share in the empire, who confers on him a considerable 
jurisdiction, and requires officials, with "standards and gonfalons," 
to bow before him. The orthodoxy of Milton is quite as question- 
able as his accuracy; the old Athanasian creed was not made by per- 
sons who would allow such a picture as that of Milton to stand before 
their imaginations. The generation of the Son was to them a fact 
"before all time," an eternal fact. There was no question in their 
minds of patronage or promotion: the Son was the Son before all 
time, just as the Father was the Father before all time. Milton had 
in such matters a bold but not very sensitive imagination. He 
accepted the inevitable materialism of Biblical (and to some extent 
of all religious) language as distinct revelation. He certainly be- 
lieved, in contradiction to the old creed, that God had both "parts 
and passions." He imagined that earth is 

"but the shadow of heaven, and things therein 
Each to other like more than on earth is thought." " 

From some passages it would seem that he actually thought of God 
as having "the members and form" of a man. Naturally, therefore, 
he would have no toleration for the mysterious notions of time and 
eternity which are involved in the traditional doctrine. We are not, 
however, now concerned with Mihon's belief, but with his represen- 
I'Book v., Raphael to Adam. 



MILTON 197 

tation of his creed, — his picture, so to say, of it in "Paradise Lost"; 
still, as we cannot but think, that picture is almost irreligious, and 
certainly different from that which has been generally accepted in 
Christendom. Such phrases as "before all time," "eternal genera- 
tion," are doubtless very vaguely interpreted by the mass of men; 
nevertheless, no sensitively orthodox man could have drawn the pic- 
ture of a generation, not to say an exaltation, in time. 

We shall see this more clearly by reading what follows in the 
poem: — 

"All seemed well pleased; all seemed, but were not all." 

One of the archangels, whose name can be guessed, decidedly dis- 
approved, and calls a meeting, at which he explains that 

"orders and degrees 
Jar not with liberty, but well consist"; 

but still, that the promotion of a new person, on grounds of relation- 
ship merely, above — even infinitely above — the old angels, with 
imperial titles, was a "new law," and rather tyrannical. Abdiel, 

"than whom none with more zeal adored 
The Deity, and divine commands obeyed," 

attempts a defense: — 

"Grant it thee unjust, 
That equal over equals monarch reign: 
Thyself, though great and glorious, dost thou count, 
Or all angelic nature joined in one. 
Equal to him begotten Son? by whom 
As by his Word the mighty Father made 
All things, even thee, and all the spirits of heaven 
By him created in their bright degrees, 
Crowned them with glory, and to their glory named 
Thrones, dominations, princedoms, virtues, powers. 
Essential Powers; nor by his reign obscured, 
But more illustrious made, since he the Head 
One of our number thus reduced becomes, 
His laws our laws; all honor to him done 
Returns our own. Cease then this impious rage, 
And tempt not these; but hasten to appease 
Th' incensed Father and th' incensed Son, 
While pardon may be found, in time besought." 



198 BAGEHOT 

Yet though Abdiel's intentions were undeniably good, his argument 
is rather specious. Acting as an instrument in the process of creation 
would scarcely give a valid claim to the obedience o£ the created 
being. Power may be shown in the act, no doubt; but mere power 
gives no true claim to the obedience of moral beings. It is a kind of 
principle of all manner of idolatries and false religions to believe that 
it does so. Satan, besides, takes issue on the fact: — 

"That we were formed then, say'st thou ? and the work 
Of secondary hands, by task transferred 
From Father to his Son? Strange point and new! 
Doctrine which we would know whence learned." 

And we must say that the speech in which the new ruler is intro- 
duced to the "Thrones, dominations, princedoms, virtues, powers," 
is hard to reconcile with Abdiel's exposition. "This day" he seems 
to have come into existence, and could hardly have assisted at the 
creation of the angels, who are not young, and who converse with 
one another like old acquaintances. 

We have gone into this part of the subject at length, because it is 
the source of the great error which pervades "Paradise Lost" : Satan 
is made interesting. This has been the charge of a thousand ortho- 
dox and even heterodox writers against Milton. Shelley, on the other 
hand, has gloried in it; and fancied, if we remember rightly, that 
Milton intentionally ranged himself on the Satanic side of the uni- 
verse, just as Shelley himself would have done, and that he wished 
to show the falsity of the ordinary theology. But Milton was born 
an age too early for such aims, and was far too sincere to have advo- 
cated any doctrine in a form so indirect. He believed every word 
he said. He was not conscious of the effect his teaching would 
produce in an age like this, when skepticism is in the air, and when 
it is not possible to help looking coolly on his delineations. Probably 
in our boyhood we can recollect a period when any solemn descrip- 
tion of celestial events would have commanded our respect; we 
should not have dared to read it intelligently, to canvass its details 
and see what it meant: it was a religious book; it sounded reverential, 
and that would have sufficed. Something like this was the state of 
mind of the seventeenth century. Even Milton probably shared in a 
vague reverence for religious language; he hardly felt the moral 



MILTON 199 

effect of the pierures he was drawing. His artistic instinct, too, often 
hurries him away. His Satan was to him, as to us, the hero of his 
poem: having commenced by making him resist on an occasion 
which in an earthly kingdom would have been excusable and proper, 
he probably a little sympathized with him, just as his readers do. 

The interest of Satan's character is at its height in the first two 
books. Colieridge justly compared it to that of Napoleon. There is 
the same pride, the same Satanic ability, the same will, the same 
egotism. His character seems to grow with his position. He is far 
finer after his fall, in misery and suffering, with scarcely any resource 
except in himself, than he was originally in heaven; at least, if 
Raphael's description of him can be trusted. No portrait which 
imagination or history has drawn of a revolutionary anarch is nearly 
so perfect; there is all the grandeur of the greatest human mind, and 
a certain infinitude in his circumstances which humanity must ever 
want. Few EngUshmen feel a profound reverence for Napoleon I.; 
there was no French alliance in his time; we have most of us some 
tradition of antipathy to him. Yet hardly any Englishman can read 
the account of the campaign of 1814 without feeling his interest 
in the Emperor to be strong, and without perhaps being conscious of 
a latent wish that he may succeed. Our opinion is against him, our 
serious wish is of course for England; but the imagination has a 
sympathy of its own, and will not give place. We read about the 
great general, — never greater than in that last emergency, — showing 
resources of genius that seem almost infinite, and that assuredly have 
never been surpassed, yet vanquished, yielding to the power of cir- 
cumstances, to the combined force of adversaries each of whom 
singly he outmatches in strength, and all of whom together he sur- 
passes in majesty and in mind.. Something of the same sort of. interest 
belongs to the Satan of the first two books of "Paradise Lost." We 
know that he will be vanquished; his name is not a recommendation. 
Still, we do not imagine distinctly the minds by which he is to be 
vanquished; we. do not take the same interest in them that we do in 
him; our sympathies, our fancy, are on his side. 

Perhaps much of this was inevitable; yet what a defect it is.1 
especially what a. defect in Milton's own view, and looked at with 
the stern realism with which he regarded it! Suppose that the author 



200 BAGEHOT 

of evil in the universe were the most attractive being in it; suppose 
that the source of all sin were the origin of all interest to us! We 
need not dwell upon this. 

As we have said, much of this was difficult to avoid, if indeed it 
could be avoided in dealing with such a theme. Even Milton shrank, 
in some measure, from delineating the Divine character. His imagi- 
nation evidently halts when it is required to perform that task. The 
more delicate imagination of our modern world would shrink still 
more. Any person who will consider what such an attempt must 
end in, will find his nerves quiver. But by a curiously fatal error, 
Milton has selected for delineation exactly that part of the Divine 
nature which is most beyond the reach of the human faculties, and 
which is also, when we try to describe our fancy of it, the least 
effective to our minds. He has made God argue. Now, the procedure 
of the Divine mind from truth to truth must ever be incomprehensi- 
ble to us; the notion, indeed, of his proceeding at all is a contradic- 
tion : to some extent, at least, it is inevitable that we should use such 
language, but we know it is in reaHty inapplicable. A long train of 
reasoning in such a connection is so out of place as to be painful; and 
yet Milton has many. He relates a series of family prayers in heaven, 
with sermons afterwards, which are very tedious. Even Pope was 
shocked at the notion of Providence talking like a "school-divine." " 
And there is the still worse error, that if you once attribute reasoning 
to him, subsequent logicians may discover that he does not reason 
very well. 

Another way in which Milton has contrived to strengthen our 
interest in Satan is the number and insipidity of the good angels. 
There are old rules as to the necessity of a supernatural machinery 
for an epic poem, worth some fraction of the paper on which they 
are written, and derived from the practice of Homer, who believed 
his gods and goddesses to be real beings, and would have been rather 
harsh with a critic who called them machinery. These rules had 
probably an influence with Milton, and induced him to manipulate 
these serious angels more than he would have done otherwise. They 
appear to be excellent administrators with very little to do; a kind 
of grand chamberlains with wings, who fly down to earth and com- 

" Imitation of Horace's Epistle to Augustus, Book ii., Ep. i. 



MILTON 201 

municate information to Adam and Eve. They have no character: 
they are essentially messengers, — merely conductors, so to say, of 
the Providential will; no one fancies that they have an independent 
power of action; they seem scarcely to have minds of their own. No 
effect can be more unfortunate. If the struggle of Satan had been 
with Deity directly, the natural instincts of religion would have been 
awakened; but when an angel possessed of mind is contrasted with 
angels possessed only of wings, we sympathize with the former. 

In the first two books, therefore, our sympathy with Milton's Satan 
is great; we had almost said unqualified. The speeches he delivers 
are of well-known excellence. Lord Brougham, no contemptible 
judge of emphatic oratory, has laid down that if a person had not 
an opportunity of access to the great Attic masterpieces, he had better 
choose these for a model. What is to be regretted about the orator 
is, that he scarcely acts up to his sentiments. "Better to reign in hell 
than serve in heaven," is at any rate an audacious declaration; but 
he has no room for exhibiting similar audacity in action. His offen- 
sive career is limited; in the nature of the subject, there was scarcely 
any opportunity for the fallen archangel to display in the detail of 
his operations the surpassing intellect with which Milton has en- 
dowed him. He goes across chaos, gets into a few physical difficul- 
ties; but these are not much. His grand aim is the conquest of our 
first parents; and we are at once struck with the enormous inequality 
of the conflict. Two beings just created, without experience, without 
guile, without knowledge of good and evil, are expected to contend 
with a being on the delineation of whose powers every resource of 
art and imagination, every subtle suggestion, every emphatic simile, 
has been lavished. The idea in every reader's mind is, and must be, 
not surprise that our first parents should yield, but wonder that 
Satan should not think it beneath him to attack them. It is as if an 
army should invest a cottage. 

We have spoken more of theology than we intended; and we 
need not say how much the monstrous inequalities attributed to the 
combatants affect our estimate of the results of the conflict. The 
state of man is what it is, because the defenseless Adam and Eve of 
Milton's imagination yielded to the nearly all-powerful Satan whom 
he has delineated. Milton has in some sense invented this difficulty; 



202 BAGEHOT 

for in the book of Genesis there is no such inequaHty. The serpent 
may be subtler than any beast of the field; but he is not necessarily 
subtler or cleverer than man. So far from Milton having justified 
the ways of God to man, he has loaded the common theology with a 
new encumbrance. 

We may need refreshment after this discussion; and we cannot 
find it better than in reading a few remarks of Eve: — 

"That day I oft remember, when from sleep 
I first awaked, and found myself reposed 
Under a shade on flowers, much wondering where 
And what I was, whence hither brought, and how. 
Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound 
Of waters issued from a cave, and spread 
Into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved 
Pure as th' expanse of heaven; I thither went 
With unexperienced thought, and laid me down 
On the green bank, to look into the clear 
Smooth lake, that to me seemed another sky. 
As I bent down to look, just opposite 
A shape within the watery gleam appeared. 
Bending to look on me. I started back, 
It started back: but pleased I soon returned; 
Pleased it returned, as soon with answering looks 
Of sympathy and love. There I had fixed 
Mine eyes till now, and pined with vain desire. 
Had not a voice thus warned me: — 'What thou seest, 
What there thou seest, fair creature, is thyself; 
With thee it came and goes: but follow me. 
And I will bring thee where no shadow stays 
Thy coming, and thy soft embraces; he 
whose image thou art, him thou shalt enjoy 
Inseparably thine; to him shalt bear 
Multitudes like thyself, and thence be called 
Mother of human race.' What could I do 
But follow straight, invisibly thus led? 
Till I espied thee, fair indeed and tall. 
Under a platan; yet methought less fair, 
Less winning soft, less amiably mild. 
Than that smooth watery image. Back I turned; 
Thou following criedst aloud, 'Return, fair Eve; 
Whom fly'st thou?' "^^ 

2»Book iv. 



MILTON 203 

Eve's character, indeed, is one of the most wonderful efforts of the 
human imagination. She is a kind of abstract woman; essentially a 
typical being; an official "mother of all living." Yet she is a real 
interesting woman, not only full of delicacy and sweetness, but 
with all the undefinable fascination, the charm of personality, which 
such typical characters hardly ever have. By what consummate 
miracle of wit this charm of individuality is preserved, without im- 
pairing the general idea which is ever present to us, we cannot 
explain, for we do not know. 

Adam is far less successful. He has good hair, — "hyacinthine 
locks" that "from his parted forelock manly hung"; a "fair large 
front" and "eye subHme": but he has little else that we care for. 
There is, in truth, no opportunity of displaying manly virtues, even 
if he possessed them. He has only to yield to his wife's solicitations, 
which he does. Nor are we sure that he does it well: he is very 
tedious. He indulges in sermons which are good; but most men 
cannot but fear that so delightful a being as Eve must have found 
him tiresome. She steps away, however, and goes to sleep at some 
of the worst points. 

Dr. Johnson remarked that, after all, "Paradise Lost" was one 
of the books which no one wished longer : we fear, in this irreverent 
generation, some wish it shorter. Hardly any reader would be 
sorry if some portions of the latter books had been spared him. Cole- 
ridge, indeed, discovered profound mysteries in the last; but in 
what could not Coleridge find a mystery if he wished.'' Dry den 
more wisely remarked that Milton became tedious when he entered 
upon a "track of Scripture." ^' Nor is it surprising that such is the 
case. The style of many parts of Scripture is such that it will not 
bear addition or subtraction. A word less or an idea more, and the 
effect upon the mind is the same no longer. Nothing can be more 
tiresome than a sermonic amplification of such passages. It is almost 
too much when, as from the pulpit, a paraphrastic commentary is 
prepared for our spiritual improvement. In deference to the inten- 
tion, we bear it, but we bear it unwillingly; and we cannot endure it 
at all when, as in poems, the object is to awaken our fancy rather than 
to improve our conduct. The account of the creation in the book 

^' "E.ssay on Satire." 



204 BAGEHOT 

of Genesis is one of the compositions from which no sensitive imagi- 
nation would subtract an iota, to which it could not bear to add a 
word. Milton's paraphrase is alike copious and ineffective. The 
universe is, in railway phrase, "opened," but not created; no green 
earth springs in a moment from the indefinite void. Instead, too, 
of the simple loneliness of the Old Testament, several angelic offi- 
cials are in attendance, who help in nothing, but indicate that heaven 
must be plentifully supplied with tame creatures. 

There is no difficulty in writing such criticisms, and indeed other 
unfavorable criticisms, on "Paradise Lost." There is scarcely any 
book in the world which is open to a greater number, or which a 
reader who allows plain words to produce a due effect will be less 
satisfied with. Yet what book is really greater ? In the best parts the 
words have a magic in them; even in the inferior passages you are 
hardly sensible of their inferiority till you translate them into your 
own language. Perhaps no style ever written by man expressed so 
adequately the conceptions of a mind so strong and so peculiar; a 
manly strength, a haunting atmosphere of enhancing suggestions, a 
firm continuous music, are only some of its excellences. To com- 
prehend the whole of the others, you must take the volume down 
and read it, — the best defense of Milton, as has been said most truly, 
against all objections. 

Probably no book shows the transition which our theology has 
made since the middle of the seventeenth century, at once so plainly 
and so fully. We do not now compose long narratives to "justify the 
ways of God to men." The more orthodox we are, the more we 
shrink from it, the more we hesitate at such a task, the more we 
allege that we have no powers for it. Our most celebrated defenses 
of established tenets are in the style of Butler, not in that of Milton. 
They do not profess to show a satisfactory explanation of human 
destiny: on the contrary, they hint that probably we could not under- 
stand such an explanation if it were given us; at any rate, they allow 
that it is not given us. Their course is palliative: they suggest an 
"analogy of difficulties"; if our minds were greater, so they reason, 
we should comprehend these doctrines, — now we cannot explain 
analogous facts which we see and know. No style can be more 
opposite to the bold argument, the boastful exposition of Milton. 



MILTON 205 

The teaching of the eighteenth century is in the very atmosphere we 
breathe: we read it in the teachings of Oxford; we hear it from the 
missionaries of the Vatican. The air of the theology is clarified. We 
know our difficulties, at least : we are rather prone to exaggerate the 
weight of some than to deny the reality of any. 

We cannot continue a line of thought which would draw us on 
too far for the patience of our readers. We must, however, make 
one more remark, and we shall have finished our criticism on "Para- 
dise Lost." It is analogous to that which we have just made. The 
scheme of the poem is based on an offense against positive morality. 
The offense of Adam was not against nature or conscience, nor 
against anything of which we can see the reason or conceive the 
obligation, but against an unexplained injunction of the Supreme 
Will. The rebellion in heaven, as Milton describes it, was a rebel- 
lion not against known ethics or immutable spiritual laws, but 
against an arbitrary selection and an unexplained edict. We do not 
say that there is no such thing as positive morality, — we do not 
think so; even if we did, we should not insert a proposition so 
startling at the conclusion of a literary criticism. But we are sure 
that wherever a positive moral edict is promulgated, it is no subject, 
except perhaps under a very peculiar treatment, for literary art. By 
the very nature of it, it cannot satisfy the heart and conscience. It 
is a difficulty; we need not attempt to explain it away, — there are 
mysteries enough which will never be explained away. But it is con- 
trary to every principle of criticism to state the difficulty as if it were 
not one; to bring forward the puzzle, yet leave it to itself; to publish 
so strange a problem, and give only an untrue solution of it: and 
yet such, in its bare statement, is all that Milton has done. 

Of Milton's other writings we have left ourselves no room to 
speak; and though every one of them, or almost every one of them, 
would well repay a careful criticism, yet few of them seem to throw 
much additional light on his character, or add much to our essential 
notion of his genius, though they may exemplify and enhance it. 
"Comus" is the poem which does so the most. Literature has 
become so much lighter than it used to be, that we can scarcely 
realize the position it occupied in the light literature of our fore- 
fathers. We have now in our own language many poems that are 



206 BAGEHOT 

pleasanter in their subject, more graceful in their execution, more 
flowing in their outUne, more easy to read. Dr. Johnson, though per- 
haps no very excellent authority on the more intangible graces of 
literature, was disposed to deny to Milton the capacity of creating the 
lighter literature: "Milton, madam, was a genius that could cut a 
colossus from a rock, but could not carve heads upon cherry-stones." 
And it would not be surprising if this generation, which has access 
to the almost infinite quantity o£ lighter compositions which have 
been produced since Johnson's time, were to echo his sentence. In 
some degree, perhaps, the popular taste does so. "Comus" has no 
longer the peculiar exceptional popularity which it used to have: we 
can talk without general odium of its defects; its characters are 
nothing, its sentiments are tedious, its story is not interesting. But 
it is only when we have realized the magnitude of its deficiencies that 
we comprehend the peculiarity of its greatness. Its power is in its 
style. A grave and firm music pervades it; it is soft, without a 
thought of weakness; harmonious and yet strong; impressive, as 
few such poems are, yet covered with a bloom of beauty and a 
complexity of charm that few poems have either. We have perhaps 
light literature in itself better, that we read oftener and more easily, 
that lingers more in our memories; but we have not any, we ques- 
tion if there ever will be any, which gives so true a conception of 
the capacity and the dignity of the mind by which it was produced. 
The breath of solemnity which hovers round the music attaches us 
to the writer. Every line, here as elsewhere, in Milton excites the 
idea of indefinite power. 

And so we must draw to a close. The subject is an infinite one, 
and if we pursued it, we should lose ourselves in miscellaneous com- 
mentary, and run on far beyond the patience of our readers. What 
we have said has at least a defined intention: we have wished to 
state the impression which the character of Milton and the greatest 
of Milton's works are likely to produce on readers of the present 
generation, — a generation different from his own almost more than 
any other. 



SCIENCE AND CULTURE 

BY 
THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95) ^^^ ''"''ii 3' Ealing, near London, 
and, having studied medicine, went to sea as assistant surgeon in the 
navy. After leaving the Government service, he became Professor of 
Natural History at the Royal School of Mines, and FuUerian Professor 
of Physiology at the Royal Institution, and later held many commissions 
and received many distinctions in the scientific world. His special field 
was morphology, and in it he produced a large number of monographs 
and several comprehensive manuals. 

It is not, however, by his original contributions to knowledge that 
Huxley's name is best known to readers outside of technical science, but 
rather by his labors in popularization and in polemics. He was one of 
the foremost and most effective champions of Darwinism, and no scientist 
has been more conspicuous in the battle between the doctrine of evolu- 
tion and the older religious orthodoxy. Outside of this particular issue, 
he was a vigorous opponent of supernaturalism in all its forms, and a 
supporter of the agnosticism which demands that nothing shall be be- 
lieved "with greater assurance than the evidence warrants" — the evidence 
intended being, of course, of the same kind as that admitted in natural 
science. 

Huxley's interests thus extended from pure science into many adjoining 
fields, such as those of theology, philosophy (where he wrote an admi- 
rable book on Hume), and education. Of his attitude toward this last, a 
clear idea may be gained from the following address on "Science and 
Culture," a singularly forcible plea for the importance of natural science 
in general education. 

In all his writings Huxley commands a style excellently adapted to his 
purpose: clear, forcible, free from mannerism, yet telling and often 
memorable in phrase. Whatever may be the exact magnitude of his 
services to pure science, he was a master in the writing of English for 
the purposes of exposition and controversy, and a powerful intellectual 
influence on almost all classes in his generation. 



SCIENCE AND CULTURE' 

SIX years ago, as some of my present hearers may remember, I 
had the privilege of addressing a large assemblage of the 
inhabitants of this city, who had gathered together to do 
honor to the memory of their famous townsman, Joseph Priestley; 
and, if any satisfaction attaches to posthumous glory, we may hope 
that the manes of the burnt-out philosopher were then finally 
appeased. 

No man, however, who is endowed with a fair share of common 
sense, and not more than a fair share of vanity, will identify either 
contemporary or posthumous fame with the highest good; and 
Priestley's life leaves no doubt that he, at any rate, set a much higher 
value upon the advancement of knowledge, and the promotion of 
that freedom of thought which is at once the cause and the conse- 
quence of intellectual progress. 

Hence I am disposed to think that, if Priestley could be amongst 
us to-day, the occasion of our meeting would afford him even greater 
pleasure than the proceedings which celebrated the centenary of his 
chief discovery. The kindly heart would be moved, the high sense 
of social duty would be satisfied, by the spectacle of well-earned 
wealth, neither squandered in tawdry luxury and vainglorious show, 
nor scattered with the careless charity which blesses neither him 
that gives nor him that takes, but expended in the execution of a 
well-considered plan for the aid of present and future generations 
of those who are willing to help themselves. 

We shall all be of one mind thus far. But it is needful to share 
Priestley's keen interest in physical science; and to have learned, as 
he had learned, the value of scientific training in fields of inquiry 
apparently far remote from physical science; in order to appreciate, 
as he would have appreciated, the value of the noble gift which Sir 

'Originally delivered as an address, in 1880, at the opening of Mason Ck)llege, 
Birmingham, England, now the University of Birmingham. 

209 



210 HUXLEY 

Josiah Mason has bestowed upon the inhabitants of the Midland 
district. 

For us children of the nineteenth century, however, the establish- 
ment of a college under the conditions of Sir Josiah Mason's trust 
has a significance apart from any which it could have possessed a 
hundred years ago. It appears to be an indication that we are reach- 
ing the crisis of the battle, or rather of the long series of battles, which 
have been fought over education in a campaign which began long 
before Priestley's time, and will probably not be finished just yet. 

In the last century, the combatants were the champions of ancient 
literature, on the one side, and those of modern literature on the 
other; but, some thirty years^ ago, the contest became complicated 
by the appearance of a third army, ranged round the banner of 
physical science. 

I am not aware that any one has authority to speak in the name of 
this new host. For it must be admitted to be somewhat of a guerilla 
force, composed largely of irregulars, each of whom fights pretty 
much for his own hand. But the impressions of a full private, who 
has seen a good deal of service in the ranks, respecting the present 
position of affairs and the conditions of a permanent peace, may not 
be devoid of interest; and I do not know that I could make a better 
use of the present opportunity than by laying them before you. 

From the time that the first suggestion to introduce physical 
science into ordinary education was timidly whispered, until now, 
the advocates of scientific education have met with opposition of 
two kinds. On the one hand, they have been poohpoohed by the 
men of business who pride themselves on being the representatives of 
practicality; while, on the other hand, they have been excommuni- 
cated by the classical scholars, in their capacity of Levites in charge 
of the ark of culture and monopolists of liberal education. 

The practical men believed that the idol whom they worship — 
rule of thumb — has been the source of the past prosperity, and will 
suffice for the future welfare of the arts and manufactures. They 
were of opinion that science is speculative rubbish; that theory and 
practice have nothing to do with one another; and that the scientific 

*The advocacy o£ the introduction of physical science into general education by 
George Combe and others commenced a good deal earlier; but the movement had 
acquired hardly any practical force before the time to which I refer. 



SCIENCE AND CULTURE 211 

habit of mind is an impediment, rather than an aid, in the conduct 
of ordinary affairs. 

I have used the past tense in speaking of the practical men — ^for 
although they were very formidable thirty years ago, I am not sure 
that the pure species has not been extirpated. In fact, so far as mere 
argument goes, they have been subjected to such a feu d'enfer that 
it is a miracle if any have escaped. But I have remarked that your 
typical practical man has an unexpected resemblance to one of Mil- 
ton's angels. His spiritual wounds, such as are inflicted by logical 
weapons, may be as deep as a well and as wide as a church door, but 
beyond shedding a few drops of ichor, celestial or otherwise, he is 
no whit the worse. So, if any of these opponents be left, I will not 
waste time in vain repetition of the demonstrative evidence of the 
practical value of science; but knowing that a parable will sometimes 
penetrate where syllogisms fail to effect an entrance, I will offer a 
story for their consideration. 

Once upon a time, a boy, with nothing to depend upon but his 
own vigorous nature, was thrown into the thick of the struggle for 
existence in the midst of a great manufacturing population. He 
seems to have had a hard fight, inasmuch as, by the time he was 
thirty years of age, his total disposable funds amounted to twenty 
pounds. Neverdieless, middle life found him giving proof of his 
comprehension of the practical problems he had been roughly called 
upon to solve, by a career of remarkable prosperity. 

Finally, having reached old age with its well-earned surroundings 
of "honor, troops of friends," the hero of my story bethought him- 
self of those who were making a like start in hfe, and how he could 
stretch out a helping hand to them. 

After long and anxious reflection this successful practical man of 
business could devise nothing better than to provide them with the 
means of obtaining "sound, extensive, and practical scientific knowl- 
edge." And he devoted a large part of his. wealth and five years of 
incessant work to this end. 

I need not point the moral of a tale which, as the solid and spacious 
fabric of the Scientific College assures us, is no fable, nor can any- 
thing which I could say intensify the force of this practical answer 
to practical objections. 



212 HUXLEY 

We may take it for granted then, that, in the opinion of those best 
quahfied to judge, the diffusion of thorough scientific education is 
an absolutely essential condition of industrial progress; and that the 
college which has been opened to-day will confer an inestimable boon 
upon those whose livelihood is to be gained by the practice of the 
arts and manufactures of the district. 

The only question worth discussion is, whether the conditions, 
under which the work of the college is to be carried out, are such 
as to give it the best possible chance of achieving permanent success. 

Sir Josiah Mason, without doubt most wisely, has left very large 
freedom of action to the trustees, to whom he proposes ultimately to 
commit the administration of the college, so that they may be able 
to adjust its arrangements in accordance with the changing condi- 
tions of the future. But, with respect to three points, he has laid 
most explicit injunctions upon both administrators and teachers. 

Party politics are forbidden to enter into the minds of either, so 
far as the work of the college is concerned; theology is as sternly 
banished from its precincts; and finally, it is especially declared that 
the college shall make no provision for "mere literary instruction 
and education." 

It does not concern me at present to dwell upon the first two 
injunctions any longer than may be needful to express my full con- 
viction of their wisdom. But the third prohibition brings us face 
to face with those other opponents of scientific education, who are 
by no means in the moribund condition of the practical man, but 
alive, alert, and formidable. 

It is not impossible that we shall hear this express exclusion of 
"literary instruction and education" from a college which, neverthe- 
less, professes to give a high and efficient education, sharply criticised. 
Certainly the time was that the Levites of culture would have 
sounded their trumpets against its walls as against an educational 
Jericho. 

How often have we not been told that the study of physical science 
is incompetent to confer culture; that it touches none of the higher 
problems of life; and, what is worse, that the continual devotion to 
scientific studies tends to generate a narrow and bigoted belief in the 
applicability of scientific methods to the search after truth of all 



SCIENCE AND CULTURE 213 

kinds. How frequently one has reason to observe that no reply to a 
troublesome argument tells so well as calling its author a "mere 
scientific specialist." And, as I am afraid it is not permissible to 
speak of this form of opposition to scientific education in the past 
tense; may we not expect to be told that this, not only omission, but 
prohibition, of "mere literary instruction and education" is a patent 
example of scientific narrow-mindedness? 

I am not acquainted with Sir Josiah Mason's reasons for the action 
which he has taken; but if, as I apprehend is the case, he refers to 
the ordinary classical course of our schools and universities by the 
name of "mere literary instruction and education," I venture to offer 
sundry reasons of my own in support of that action. 

For I hold very strongly by two convictions. The first is, that 
neither the discipline nor the subject-matter of classical education 
is of such direct value to the student of physical science as to justify 
the expenditure of valuable time upon either; and the second is, 
that for the purpose of attaining real culture, an exclusively scientific 
education is at least as effectual as an exclusively literary education. 

I need hardly point out to you that these opinions, especially the 
latter, are diametrically opposed to those of the great majority of 
educated Englishmen, influenced as they are by school and university 
traditions. In their belief, culture is obtainable only by a liberal 
education; and a liberal education is synonymous, not merely with 
education and instruction in literature, but in one particular form 
of literature, namely, that of Greek and Roman antiquity. They 
hold that the man who has learned Latin and Greek, however little, 
is educated; while he who is versed in other branches of knowledge, 
however deeply, is a more or less respectable specialist, not admissible 
into cultured caste. The stamp of the educated man, the university 
degree, is not for him. 

I am too well acquainted with the generous catholicity of spirit, the 
true sympathy with scientific thought, which pervades the writings 
of our chief apostle of culture to identify him with these opinions; 
and yet one may cull from one and another of those epistles to the 
Philistines, which so much delight all who do not answer to that 
name, sentences which lend them some support. 

Mr. Arnold tells us that the meaning of culture is "to know the 



214 HUXLEY 

best that has been thought and said in the world." It is the criticism 
of life contained in literature. That criticism regards "Europe as 
being, for intellectual and spiritual purposes, one great confederation, 
bound to a joint action and working to a common result; and whose 
members have, for their common outfit, a knowledge of Greek, 
Roman, and Eastern antiquity, and of one another. Special, local, 
and temporary advantages being put out of account, that modern 
nation will in the intellectual and spiritual sphere make most prog- 
ress, which most thoroughly carries out this programme. And what 
is that but saying that we too, all of us, as individuals, the more thor- 
oughly we carry it out, shall make the more progress?" 

We have here to deal with two distinct propositions. The first, 
that a criticism of life is the essence of culture; the second, that 
hterature contains the materials which suffice for the construction of 
such a criticism. 

I think that we must all assent to the first proposition. For culture 
certainly means something quite different from learning or technical 
skill. It implies the possession of an ideal, and the habit of critically 
estimating the value of things by comparison with a theoretic stand- 
ard. Perfect culture should apply a complete theory of life, based 
upon a clear knowledge alike of its possibilities and of its limi- 
tations. 

But we may agree to all this, and yet strongly dissent from the 
assumption that literature alone is competent to supply this knowl- 
edge. After having learnt all that Greek, Roman, and Eastern 
antiquity have thought and said, and all that modern literatures 
have to tell us, it is not self-evident that we have laid a sufficiently 
broad and deep foundation for the criticism of life which consti- 
tutes culture. 

Indeed, to any one acquainted with the scope of physical science, 
it is not at all evident. Considering progress only in the "intellectual 
and spiritual sphere," I find myself wholly unable to admit that 
either nations or individuals will really advance, if their common 
outfit draws nothing from the stores of physical science. I should 
say that an army, without weapons of precision, and with no par- 
ticular base of operations, might more hopefully enter upon a cam- 
paign on the Rhine, than a man, devoid of a knowledge of what 



SCIENCE AND CULTURE 215 

physical science has done in the last century, upon a criticism of life. 

When a biologist meets with an anomaly, he instinctively turns 
to the study of development to clear it up. The rationale of contra- 
dictory opinions may with equal confidence be sought in history. 

It is, happily, no new thing that Englishmen should employ their 
wealth in building and endowing institutions for educational pur- 
poses. But, five or six hundred years ago, deeds of foundation 
expressed or impHed conditions as nearly as possible contrary to 
those which have been thought expedient by Sir Josiah Mason. That 
is to say, physical science was practically ignored, while a certain 
literary training was enjoined as a means to the acquirement of 
knowledge which was essentially theological. 

The reason of this singular contradiction between the actions of 
men alike animated by a strong and disinterested desire to promote 
the welfare of their fellows, is easily discovered. 

At that time, in fact, if any one desired knowledge beyond such 
as could be obtained by his own observation, or by common conversa- 
tion, his first necessity was to learn the Latin language, inasmuch 
as all the higher knowledge of the western world was contained in 
works written in that language. Hence, Latin grammar, with logic 
and rhetoric, studied through Latin, were the fundamentals of edu- 
cation. With respect to the substance of the knowledge imparted 
through this channel, the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, as inter- 
preted and supplemented by the Romish Church, were held to 
contain a complete and infaUibly true body of information. 

Theological dicta were, to the thinkers of those days, that which 
the axioms and definitions of Euclid are to the geometers of these. 
The business of the philosophers of the Middle Ages was to deduce 
from the data furnished by the theologians, conclusions in accordance 
with ecclesiastical decrees. They were allowed the high privilege of 
showing, by logical process, how and why that which the Church 
said was true, must be true. And if their demonstrations fell short 
of or exceeded this hmit, the Church was maternally ready to check 
their aberrations, if need be, by the help of the secular arm. 

Between the two, our ancestors were furnished with a compact 
and complete criticism of life. They were told how the world began, 
and how it would end; they learned that all material existence was 



2l6 HUXLEY 

but a base and insignificant blot upon the fair face of the spiritual 
world, and that nature was, to all intents and purposes, the play- 
ground of the devil; they learned that the earth is the centre of the 
visible universe, and that man is the cynosure of things terrestrial; 
and more especially is it inculcated that the course of nature had no 
fixed order, but that it could be, and constantly was, altered by the 
agency of innumerable spiritual beings, good and bad, according as 
they were moved by the deeds and prayers of men. The sum and 
substance of the whole doctrine was to produce the conviction that 
the only thing really worth knowing in this world was how to secure 
that place in a better, which, under certain conditions, the Church 
promised. 

Our ancestors had a living belief in this theory of life, and acted 
upon it in their dealings with education, as in all other matters. 
Culture meant saintliness — after the fashion of the saints of those 
days; the education that led to it was, of necessity, theological; and 
the way to theology lay through Latin. 

That the study of nature — further than was requisite for the 
satisfaction of everyday wants — should have any bearing on human 
life was far from the thoughts of men thus trained. Indeed, as 
nature had been cursed for man's sake, it was an obvious conclusion 
that those who meddled with nature were likely to come into pretty 
close contact with Satan. And, if any born scientific investigator 
followed his instincts, he might safely reckon upon earning the 
reputation, and probably upon suffering the fate, of a sorcerer. 

Had the western world been left to itself in Chinese isolation, there 
is no saying how long this state of things might have endured. But, 
happily, it was not left to itself. Even earHer than the thirteenth cen- 
tury, the development of Moorish civilization in Spain and the 
great movement of the Crusades had introduced the leaven which, 
from that day to this, has never ceased to work. At first, through 
the intermediation of Arabic translations, afterwards by the study 
of the originals, the western nations of Europe became acquainted 
with the writings of the ancient philosophers and poets, and, in time, 
with the whole of the vast literature of antiquity. 

Whatever there was of high intellectual aspiration or dominant 
capacity in Italy, France, Germany, and England, spent itself for 



SCIENCE AND CULTURE 21 7 

centuries in taking possession of the rich inheritance left by the dead 
civilization of Greece and Rome. Marvelously aided by the inven- 
tion of printing, classical learning spread and flourished. Those who 
possessed it prided themselves on having attained the highest culture 
then within the reach of mankind. 

And justly. For, saving Dante on his solitary pinnacle, there was 
no figure in modern literature at the time of the Renaissance to 
compare with the men of antiquity; there was no art to compete 
with their sculpture; there was no physical science but that which 
Greece had created. Above all, there was no other example of per- 
fect intellectual freedom — of the unhesitating acceptance of reason 
as the sole guide to truth and the supreme arbiter of conduct. 

The new learning necessarily soon exerted a profound influence 
upon education. The language of the monks and schoolmen seemed 
little better than gibberish to scholars fresh from Vergil and Cicero, 
and the study of Latin was placed upon a new foundation. More- 
over, Latin itself ceased to afford the sole key to knowledge. The 
student who sought the highest thought of antiquity found only a 
second-hand reflection of it in Roman literature, and turned his face 
to the full light of the Greeks. And after a battle, not altogether 
dissimilar to that which is at present being fought over the teaching 
of physical science, the study of Greek was recognized as an essential 
element of all higher education. 

Thus the humanists, as they were called, won the day; and the 
great reform which they effected was of incalculable service to man- 
kind. But the Nemesis of all reformers is finality; and the reformers 
of education, like those of religion, fell into the profound, however 
common, error of mistaking the beginning for the end of the work 
of reformation. 

The representatives of the humanists in the nineteenth century 
take their stand upon classical education as the sole avenue to cul- 
ture, as firmly as if we were still in the age of Renaissance. Yet, 
surely, the present intellectual relations of the modern and the 
ancient worlds are profoundly different from those which obtained 
three centuries ago. Leaving aside the existence of a great and char- 
acteristically modern literature, of modern painting, and, especially, 
of modern music, there is one feature of the present state of the 



2l8 HUXLEY 

civilized world which separates it more widely from the Renaissance 
than the Renaissance was separated from the Middle Ages. 

This distinctive character of our own times lies in the vast and 
constantly increasing part which is played by natural knowledge. 
Not only is our daily life shaped by it, not only does the prosperity of 
millions of men depend upon it, but our whole theory of life has 
long been influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by the general 
conceptions of the universe, which have been forced upon us by 
physical science. 

In fact, the most elementary acquaintance with the results of 
scientific investigation shows us that they offer a broad and striking 
contradiction to the opinions so implicitly credited and taught in the 
Middle Ages. 

The notions of the beginning and the end of the world entertained 
by our forefathers are no longer credible. It is very certain that the 
earth is not the chief body in the material universe, and that the 
world is not subordinated to man's use. It is even more certain that 
nature is the expression of a definite order with which nothing inter- 
feres, and that the chief business of mankind is to learn that order 
and govern themselves accordingly. Moreover this scientific "criti- 
cism of life" presents itself to us with different credentials from any 
other. It appeals not to authority, nor to what anybody may have 
thought or said, but to nature. It admits that all our interpretations 
of natural fact are more or less imperfect and symbolic, and bids the 
learner seek for truth not among words but among things. It warns 
us that the assertion which outstrips evidence is not only a blunder 
but a crime. 

The purely classical education advocated by the representatives 
of the humanists in our day gives no inkling of all this. A man may 
be a better scholar than Erasmus, and know no more of the chief 
causes of the present intellectual fermentation than Erasmus did. 
Scholarly and pious persons, worthy of all respect, favor us with 
allocutions upon the sadness of the antagonism of science to their 
mediaeval way of thinking, which betray an ignorance of the first 
principles of scientific investigation, an incapacity for understanding 
what a man of science means by veracity, and an unconsciousness 
of the weight of established scientific truths, which is almost comicaL 



SCIENCE AND CULTURE 219 

There is no great force in the tu quoque argument, or else the 
advocates of scientific education might fairly enough retort upon 
the modern humanists that they may be learned specialists, but that 
they possess no such sound foundation for a criticism of life as de- 
serves the name of culture. And, indeed, if we were disposed to be 
cruel, we might urge that the humanists have brought this reproach 
upon themselves, not because they are too full of the spirit of the 
ancient Greek, but because they lack it. 

The period of the Renaissance is commonly called that of the 
"Revival of Letters," as if the influences then brought to bear upon 
the mind of Western Europe had been wholly exhausted in the field 
of literature. I think it is very commonly forgotten that the revival 
of science, effected by the same agency, although less conspicuous, 
was not less momentous. 

In fact, the few and scattered students of nature of that day picked 
up the clew to her secrets exactly as it fell from the hands of the 
Greeks a thousand years before. The foundations of mathematics 
were so well laid by them that our children learn their geometry from 
a book written for the schools of Alexandria two thousand years 
ago. Modern astronomy is the natural continuation and development 
of the work of Hipparchus and of Ptolemy; modern physics of that 
of Democritus and of Archimedes; it was long before modern bio- 
logical science outgrew the knowledge bequeathed to us by Aristotle, 
by Theophrastus, and by Galen. 

We cannot know all the best thoughts and sayings of the Greeks 
unless we know what they thought about natural phenomena. We 
cannot fully apprehend their criticism of life unless we understand 
the extent to which that criticism was affected by scientific concep- 
tions. We falsely pretend to be the inheritors of their culture, unless 
we are penetrated, as the best minds among them were, with an 
unhesitating faith that the free employment of reason, in accordance 
with scientific method, is the sole method of reaching truth. 

Thus I venture to think that the pretensions of our modern hu- 
manists to the possession of the monopoly of culture and to the 
exclusive inheritance of the spirit of antiquity must be abated, if not 
abandoned. But I should be very sorry that anything I have said 
should be taken to imply a desire on my part to depreciate the value 



220 HUXLEY 

of classical education, as it might be and as it sometimes is. The 
native capacities of mankind vary no less than their opportunities; 
and while culture is one, the road by which one man may best reach 
it is widely different from that which is most advantageous to 
another. Again, while scientific education is yet inchoate and tenta- 
tive, classical education is thoroughly well organized upon the prac- 
tical experience of generations of teachers. So that, given ample 
time for learning and destination for ordinary life, or for a literary 
career, I do not think that a young Englishman in search of culture 
can do better than follow the course usually marked out for him, 
supplementing its deficiencies by his own efforts. 

But for those who mean to make science their serious occupation; 
or who intend to follow the profession of medicine; or who have to 
enter early upon the business of life; for all these, in my opinion, 
classical education is a mistake; and it is for this reason that I am 
glad to see "mere literary education and instruction" shut out from 
the curriculum of Sir Josiah Mason's college, seeing that its inclu- 
sion would probably lead to the introduction of the ordinary smatter- 
ing of Latin and Greek. 

Nevertheless, I am the last person to question the importance o£ 
genuine literary education, or to suppose that intellectual culture can 
be complete without it. An exclusively scientific training will 
bring about a mental twist as surely as an exclusive literary training. 
The value of the cargo does not compensate for a ship's being out 
of trim; and I should be very sorry to think that the Scientific Col- 
lege would turn out none but lop-sided men. 

There is no need, however, that such a catastrophe should happen. 
Instruction in English, French, and German is provided, and thus 
the three greatest literatures of the modern world are made accessible 
to the student. 

French and German, and especially the latter language, are 
absolutely indispensable to those who desire full knowledge in any 
department of science. But even supposing that the knowledge of 
these languages acquired is not more than sufficient for purely scien- 
tific purposes, every Englishman has, in his native tongue, an almost 
perfect instrument of literary expression; and, in his own literature, 
models of every kind of literary excellence. If an Englishman cannot 



SCIENCE AND CULTURE 221 

get literary culture out of his Bible, his Shakespeare, his Milton, 
neither, in my belief, will the profoundest study of Homer and 
Sophocles, Vergil and Horace, give it to him. 

Thus, since the constitution of the college makes sufficient provi- 
sion for literary as well as for scientific education, and since artistic 
instruction is also contemplated, it seems to me that a fairly complete 
culture is offered to all who are willing to take advantage of it. 

But I am not sure that at this point the "practical" man, scotched 
but not slain, may ask what all this talk about culture has to do 
with an institution, the object of which is defined to be "to promote 
the prosperity of the manufactures and the industry of the country." 
He may suggest that what is wanted for this end is not culture, nor 
even a purely scientific discipline, but simply a knowledge of applied 
science. 

I often wish that this phrase, "applied science," had never been 
invented. For it suggests that there is a sort of scientific knowledge 
of direct practical use, which can be studied apart from another sort 
of scientific knowledge, which is of no practical utility, and which 
is termed "pure science." But there is no more complete fallacy 
than this. What people call applied science is nothing but the appli- 
cation of pure science to particular classes of problems. It consists 
of deductions from those general principles, established by reasoning 
and observation, which constitute pure science. No one can safely 
make these deductions until he has a firm grasp of the principles; and 
he can obtain that grasp only by personal experience of the operations 
of observation and of reasoning on which they are founded. 

Almost all the processes employed in the arts and manufactures 
fall within the range either of physics or of chemistry. In order to 
improve them one must thoroughly understand them; and no one 
has a chance of really understanding them, unless he has obtained 
that mastery of principles and that habit of dealing with facts which 
is given by long-continued and well-directed purely scientific train- 
ing in the physical and chemical laboratory. So that there really is 
no question as to the necessity of purely scientific discipline, even 
if the work of the college were limited by the narrowest interpreta- 
tion of its stated aims. 

And, as to the desirableness of a wider culture than that yielded 



222 HUXLEY 

by science alone, it is to be recollected that the improvement o£ 
manufacturing processes is only one of the conditions which con- 
tribute to the prosperity of industry. Industry is a means and not an 
end; and mankind work only to get something which they want. 
What that something is depends partly on their innate, and partly 
on their acquired, desires. 

If the wealth resulting from prosperous industry is to be spent 
upon the gratification of unworthy desires, if the increasing perfec- 
tion of manufacturing processes is to be accompanied by an increas- 
ing debasement of those who carry them on, I do not see the good 
of industry and prosperity. 

Now it is perfectly true that men's views of what is desirable 
depend upon their characters; and that the innate proclivities to 
which we give that name are not touched by any amount of instruc- 
tion. But it does not follow that even mere intellectual education 
may not, to an indefinite extent, modify the practical manifestation 
of the characters of men in their actions, by supplying them with 
motives unknown to the ignorant. A pleasure-loving character will 
have pleasure of some sort; but, if you give him the choice, he may 
prefer pleasures which do not degrade him to those which do. And 
this choice is offered to every man who possesses in literary or artistic 
culture a never-failing source of pleasures, which are neither with- 
ered by age, nor staled by custom, nor embittered in the recollection 
by the pangs of self-reproach. 

If the institution opened to-day fulfils the intention of its founder, 
the picked intelligences among all classes of the population of this 
district will pass through it. No child born in Birmingham, hence- 
forward, if he have the capacity to profit by the opportunities offered 
to him, first in the primary and other schools, and afterward in the 
Scientific College, need fail to obtain, not merely the instruction, 
but the culture most appropriate to the conditions of his life. 

Within these walls the future employer and the future artisan 
may sojourn together for awhile, and carry, through all their lives, 
the stamp of the influences then brought to bear upon them. Hence, 
it is not beside the mark to remind you that the prosperity of indus- 
try depends not merely upon the improvement of manufacturing 
processes, not merely upon the ennobling of the individual character. 



SCIENCE AND CULTURE 223 

but upon a third condition, namely, a clear understanding of the 
conditions of social life on the part of both the capitalist and the 
operative, and their agreement upon common principles of social 
action. They must learn that social phenomena are as much the 
expression of natural laws as any others; that no social arrangements 
can be permanent unless they harmonize with the requirements of 
social statics and dynamics; and that, in the nature of things, there 
is an arbiter whose decisions execute themselves. 

But this knowledge is only to be obtained by the application of 
the methods of investigation adopted in physical researches to the 
investigation of the phenomena of society. Hence, I confess I should 
like to see one addition made to the excellent scheme of education 
propounded for the college, in the shape of provision for the teaching 
of sociology. For though we are all agreed that party politics are to 
have no place in the instruction of the college; yet in this country, 
practically governed as it is now by universal suffrage, every man 
who does his duty must exercise political functions. And, if the 
evils which are inseparable from the good of political liberty are to 
be checked, if the perpetual oscillation of nations between anarchy 
and despotism is to be replaced by the steady march of self-restrain- 
ing freedom; it will be because men will gradually bring themselves 
to deal with political, as they now deal with scientifical questions; 
to be as ashamed of undue haste and partisan prejudice in the one 
case as in the other; and to believe that the machinery of society is 
at least as delicate as that of a spinning-jenny, and as little likely to 
be improved by the meddling of those who have not taken the 
trouble to master the principles of its action. 

In conclusion, I am sure that I make myself the mouthpiece of all 
present in offering to the venerable founder of the institution, which 
now commences its beneficent career, our congratulations on the 
completion of his work; and in expressing the conviction that the 
remotest posterity will point to it as a crucial instance of the wisdom 
which natural piety leads all men to ascribe to their ancestors. 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 

BY 
EDWARD AUGUSTUS FREEMAN 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

Edward Augustus Freeman (1823-92), one of the most distinguished 
of recent EngUsh historians, was born at Harborne, in Staffordshire, and 
educated at Oxford, where he was a Fellow of Trinity College, and later 
Regius Professor of Modern History. His earlier writings show great 
interest in architecture, and it was one of his distinctions to be the first 
historian to make extensive use in his subject of the evidences and illus- 
trations supplied by the study of that art. His most famous and most 
elaborate work was his "History of the Norman Conquest" (1867-79), ^ 
monument which is likely long to remain the great authority on its 
period. 

Freeman believed in the unity of the study of history, and in the wide 
range of his own writings he went far toward realizing the universality 
he preached. Outside of the field just mentioned he wrote on ancient 
Greece, on Sicily, on the Ottoman Empire, on the United States, on the 
methods of historical study, and on many other subjects. His interests 
were primarily political, and he took an active part in the politics of his 
own day, writing for many years for the Saturday Review. As a teacher 
he influenced profoundly the scientific study of history in England. 

Of few terms in general use has the average man a less exact or less 
accurate comprehension than of the word "race." The speculative phil- 
ologists of last century, with their attempts to classify the peoples of the 
earth according to linguistic evidences, succeeded, as far as the layman 
is concerned, chiefly in adding to the confusion by popularizing prema- 
turely facts whose signification was improperly understood. The an- 
thropologists of a more recent time, with their study of skull-shapes and 
complexions, have sought to correct misapprehensions; but the popular 
mind is still in a mist about the whole matter. In the following essay 
Freeman brings his knowledge of modern scientific results and his 
enormous historical information to the rescue of the bewildered student, 
and does much to clear up the perplexing relations of race with language, 
custom, and blood. 



RACE AND LANGUAGE' 

IT is no very great time since the readers o£ the English news- 
papers were, perhaps a Uttle amused, perhaps a Httle startled, 
at the story of a deputation of Hungarian students going to 
Constantinople to present a sword of honor to an Ottoman general. 
The address and the answer enlarged on the ancient kindred of 
Turks and Magyars, on the long alienation of the dissevered kins- 
folk, on the return of both in these later times to a remembrance of 
the ancient kindred and to the friendly feelings to which such kin- 
dred gave birth. The discourse has a strange sound when we remem- 
ber the reigns of Sigismund and Wladislaus, when we think of the 
dark days of Nikopohs and Varna, when we think of Huniades 
encamped at the foot of Haemus, and of Belgrade beating back 
Mahomet the Conqueror from her gates. The Magyar and the 
Ottoman embracing with the joy of reunited kinsfolk is a sight 
which certainly no man would have looked forward to in the 
fourteenth or fifteenth century. At an earlier time the ceremony 
might have seemed a degree less wonderful. If a man whose ideas 
are drawn wholly from the modern map should sit down to study 
the writings of Constantine Porphyrogennetos, he would perhaps be 
startled at finding Turks and Franks spoken of as neighbors, at 
finding Turcia and Francia — we must not translate TovpKia and 
^payyLa by Turkey and France — spoken of as border-lands. A little 
study will perhaps show him that the change lies almost wholly in 
the names and not in the boundaries. The lands are there still, and 
the frontier between them has shifted much less than one might have 
looked for in nine hundred years. Nor has there been any great 
change in the population of the two countries. The Turks and the 
Franks of the Imperial geographer are there still, in the lands which 
he calls Turcia and Francia; only we no longer speak of them as 
Turks and Franks. The Turks of Constantine are Magyars; the 

■ From "Historical Essays," Third Series, 1879. 
227 



228 FREEMAN 

Franks of Constantine are Germans. The Magyar students may not 
unlikely have turned over the Imperial pages, and they may have 
seen how^ their forefathers stand described there. We can hardly 
fancy that the Ottoman general is likely to have given much time 
to lore of such a kind. Yet the Ottoman answer was as brimful of 
ethnological and antiquarian sympathy as the Magyar address. It 
is hardly to be believed that a Turk, left to himself, would by his 
own efforts have found out the primeval kindred between Turk 
and Magyar. He might remember that Magyar exiles had found a 
safe shelter on Ottoman territory; he might look deep enough into 
the politics of the present moment to see that the rule of Turk and 
Magyar alike is threatened by the growth of Slavonic national life. 
But the idea that Magyar and Turk owe each other any love or 
any duty, directly on the ground of primeval kindred, is certainly 
not likely to have presented itself to the untutored Ottoman mind. 
In short, it sounds, as some one said at the time, rather like the dream 
of a professor who has run wild with an ethnological craze, than 
like the serious thought of a practical man of any nation. Yet the 
Magyar students seem to have meant their address quite seriously. 
And the Turkish general, if he did not take it seriously, at least 
thought it wise to shape his answer as if he did. As a piece of prac- 
tical politics, it sounds like Frederick Barbarossa threatening to 
avenge the defeat of Crassus upon Saladin, or like the French of the 
revolutionary wars making the Pope Pius of those days answerable 
for the wrongs of Vercingetorix. The thing sounds like comedy, 
almost like conscious comedy. But it is a kind of comedy which may 
become tragedy, if the idea from which it springs get so deeply 
rooted in men's minds as to lead to any practical consequences. As 
long as talk of this kind does not get beyond the world of hot-headed 
students, it may pass for a craze. It would be more than a craze, if it 
should be so widely taken up on either side that the statesmen on 
either side find it expedient to profess to take it up also. 

To allege the real or supposed primeval kindred between Magyars 
and Ottomans as a ground for political action, or at least for political 
sympathy, in the affairs of the present moment, is an extreme case — 
some may be inclined to call it a reductio ad absurdum — of a whole 
range of doctrines and sentiments which have in modern days gained 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 229 

a great power over men's minds. They have gained so great a powder 
that those who may regret their influence cannot afford to despise 
it. To make any practical inference from the primeval kindred of 
Magyar and Turk is indeed pushing the doctrine of race, and of 
sympathies arising from race, as far as it well can be pushed. With- 
out plunging into any very deep mysteries, without committing 
ourselves to any dangerous theories in the darker regions of ethno- 
logical inquiry, we may perhaps be allowed at starting to doubt 
whether there is any real primeval kindred between the Ottoman 
and the Finnish Magyar. It is for those who have gone specially 
deep into the antiquities of the non-Aryan races to say whether there 
is or is not. At all events, as far as the great facts of history go, the 
kindred is of the vaguest and most shadowy kind. It comes to little 
more than the fact that Magyars and Ottomans are alike non-Aryan 
invaders who have made their way into Europe within recorded 
times, and that both have, rightly or wrongly, been called by the 
name of Turks. These do seem rather slender grounds on which 
to build up a fabric of national sympathy between two nations, when 
several centuries of living practical history all pull the other way. It 
is hard to believe that the kindred of Turk and Magyar was thought 
of when a Turkish pacha ruled at Buda. Doubtless Hungarian 
Protestants often deemed, and not unreasonably deemed, that the 
contemptuous toleration of the Moslem sultan was a lighter yoke 
than the persecution of the Catholic emperor. But it was hardly on 
grounds of primeval kindred that they made the choice. The ethno- 
logical dialogue held at Constantinople does indeed sound like 
ethnological theory run mad. But it is the very wildness of the 
thing which gives it its importance. The doctrine of race, and of 
sympathies springing from race, must have taken very firm hold 
indeed of men's minds before it could be carried out in a shape which 
we are tempted to call so grotesque as this. 

The plain fact is that the new lines of scientific and historical 
inquiry which have been opened in modern times have had a distinct 
and deep effect upon the politics of the age. The fact may be esti- 
mated in many ways, but its existence as a fact cannot be denied. 
Not in a merely scientific or literary point of view, but in one strictly 
practical, the world is not the same world as it was when men had 



230 FREEMAN 

not yet dreamed of the kindred between Sanscrit, Greek, and Eng- 
lish, when it was looked on as something of a paradox to him that 
there was a distinction between Celtic and Teutonic tongues and 
nations. Ethnological and philological researches — I do not forget 
the distinction between the two, but for the present I must group 
them together — have opened the way for new national sympathies, 
new national antipathies, such as would have been unintelligible a 
hundred years ago. A hundred years ago a man's political likes and 
dishkes seldom went beyond the range which was suggested by the 
place of his birth or immediate descent. Such birth or descent made 
him a member of this or that political community, a subject of this 
or that prince, a citizen — perhaps a subject — of this or that common- 
wealth. The political community of which he was a member had 
its traditional alliances and traditional enmities, and by those alli- 
ances and enmities the likes and dislikes of the members of that 
community were guided. But those traditional alliances and enmities 
were seldom determined by theories about language or race. The 
people of this or that place might be discontented under a foreign 
government; but, as a rule, they were discontented only if subjection 
to that foreign government brought with it personal oppression or 
at least political degradation. Regard or disregard of some purely 
local privilege or local feeUng went for more than the fact of a gov- 
ernment being native or foreign. What we now call the sentiment 
of nationality did not go for much; what we call the sentiment of 
race went for nothing at all. Only a few men here and there would 
have understood the feelings which have led to those two great 
events of our own time, the political reunion of the German and 
ItaHan nations after their long political dissolution. Not a soul would 
have understood the feelings which have allowed Panslavism to be a 
great practical agent in the affairs of Europe, and which have made 
talk about "the Latin race," if not practical, at least possible. Least 
of all, would it have been possible to give any touch of political 
importance to what would have then seemed so wild a dream as a 
primeval kindred between Magyar and Ottoman. 

That feelings such as these, and the practical consequences which 
have flowed from them, are distincdy due to scientific and historical 
teaching there can, I think, be no doubt. Religious sympathy and 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 23 1 

purely national sympathy are both feelings of much simpler growth, 
which need no deep knowledge nor any special teaching. The cry 
which resounded through Christendom when the Holy City was 
taken by the Mussulmans, the cry which resounded through Islam 
when the same city was taken by the Christians, the spirit which 
armed England to support French Huguenots and which armed 
Spain to support French Leaguers, all spring from motives which Ue 
on the surface. Nor need we seek for any explanation but such as 
lies on the surface for the natural wish for closer union which arose 
among Germans or Italians who found themselves parted off by 
purely dynastic arrangements from men who were their countrymen 
in everything else. Such a feeling has to strive with the counter- 
feeling which springs from local jealousies and local dislikes; but 
it is a perfectly simple feeling, which needs no subtle research either 
to arouse or to understand it. So, if we draw our illustrations from 
the events of our own time, there is nothing but what is perfectly 
simple in the feeling which calls Russia, as the most powerful of 
Orthodox states, to the help of her Orthodox brethren everywhere, 
and which calls the members of the Orthodox Church everywhere to 
look to Russia as their protector. The feeling may have to strive 
against a crowd of purely political considerations, and by those 
purely political considerations it may be outweighed. But the feel- 
ing is in itself altogether simple and natural. So again, the people 
of Montenegro and of the neighboring lands in Herzegovina and 
by the Bocche of Cattaro feel themselves countrymen in every sense 
but the political accident which keeps them asunder. They are drawn 
together by a tie which everyone can understand, by the same tie 
which would draw together the people of three adjoining English 
counties, if any strange political action should part them asunder 
in like manner. The feeling here is that of nationality in the strictest 
sense, nationality in a purely local or geographical sense. It would 
exist all the same if Panslavism had never been heard of; it might 
exist though those who feel it had never heard of the Slavonic race 
at all. It is altogether another thing when we come to the doctrine 
of race, and of sympathies founded on race, in the wider sense. Here 
we have a feeling which professes to bind together, and which as a 
matter of fact has had a real effect in binding together, men whose 



232 FREEMAN 

kindred to one another is not so obvious at first sight as the kindred 
of Germans, Italians, or Serbs who are kept asunder by nothing but 
a purely artificial political boundary. It is a feeling at whose bidding 
the call to union goes forth to men whose dwellings are geograph- 
ically far apart, to men who may have had no direct dealings with 
one another for years or for ages, to men whose languages, though 
the scholar may at once see that they are closely akin, may not be 
so closely akin as to be mutually intelligible for common purposes. 
A hundred years back the Servian might have cried for help to the 
Russian on the ground of common Orthodox faith; he would hardly 
have called for help on the ground of common Slavonic speech and 
origin. If he had done so, it would have been rather by way of 
grasping at any chance, however desperate or far-fetched, than as 
putting forward a serious and well understood claim which he might 
expect to find accepted and acted on by large masses of men. He 
might have received help, either out of genuine sympathy springing 
from community of faith or from the baser thought that he could 
be made use of as a convenient political tool. He would have got 
but little help purely on the ground of a community of blood and 
speech which had had no practical result for ages. When Russia in 
earlier days interfered between the Turk and his Christian subjects, 
there is no sign of any sympathy felt or possessed for Slaves as 
Slaves. Russia dealt with Montenegro, not, as far as one can see, 
out of any Slavonic brotherhood, but because an independent Ortho- 
dox State at enmity with the Turk could not fail to be a useful ally. 
The earlier dealings of Russia with the subject nations were far 
more busy among the Greeks than among the Slaves. In fact, till 
quite lately all the Orthodox subjects of the Turk were in most 
European eyes looked on as alike Greeks. The Orthodox Church 
has been commonly known as the Greek Church; and it has often 
been very hard to make people understand that the vast mass of 
the members of that so-called Greek Church are not Greek in any 
other sense. In truth we may doubt whether, till comparatively 
lately, the subject nations themselves were fully alive to the differ- 
ences of race and speech among them. A man must in all times 
and places know whether he speaks the same language as another 
man; but he does not always go on to put his consciousness of differ- 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 233 

ence into the shape o£ a sharply drawn formula. Still less does he 
always make the difference the ground of any practical course of 
action. The Englishman in the first days of the Norman Conquest 
felt the hardships of foreign rule, and he knew that those hardships 
were owing to foreign rule. But he had not learned to put his sense 
of hardship into any formula about an oppressed nationality. So, 
when the policy of the Turk found that the subtle intellect of the 
Greek could be made use of as an instrument of dominion over the 
other subject nations, the Bulgarian felt the hardship of the state of 
things in which, as it was proverbially said, his body was in bondage 
to the Turk and his soul in bondage to the Greek. But we may sus- 
pect that this neatly turned proverb dates only from the awakening 
of a distinctly national Bulgarian feeling in modern times. The Turk 
was felt to be an intruder and an enemy, because his rule was that 
of an open oppressor belonging to another creed. The Greek, on the 
other hand, though his spiritual dominion brought undoubted 
practical evils with it, was not felt to be an intruder and an enemy 
in the same sense. His quicker intellect and superior refinement 
made him a model. The Bulgarian imitated the Greek tongue and 
Greek manners; he was willing in other lands to be himself looked 
on as a Greek. It is only in quite modern times, under the direct 
influence of the preaching of the doctrine of race, that a hard and 
fast line has been drawn between Greeks and Bulgarians. That 
doctrine has cut two ways. It has given both nations, Greek and Bul- 
garian alike, a renewed national life, national strength, national 
hopes, such as neither of them had felt for ages. In so doing, it has 
done one of the best and most hopeful works of the age. But in so 
doing, it has created one of the most dangerous of immediate political 
difficulties. In calling two nations into a renewed being, it has 
arrayed them in enmity against each other, and that in the face of 
a common enemy in whose presence all lesser differences and jeal- 
ousies ought to be hushed into silence. 

There is then a distinct doctrine of race, and of sympathies 
founded on race, distinct from the feeling of community of religion, 
and distinct from the feeling of nationality in the narrower sense. 
It is not so simple or easy a feeling as either of those two. It does 
not in the same way lie on the surface; it is not in the same way 



234 FREEMAN 

grounded on obvious facts which are plain to every man's under- 
standing. The doctrine of race is essentially an artificial doctrine, a 
learned doctrine. It is an inference from facts which the mass of 
mankind could never have found out for themselves; facts which, 
without a distinctly learned teaching, could never be brought home 
to them in any intelligible shape. Now what is the value of such a 
doctrine? Does it follow that, because it is confessedly artificial, 
because it springs, not from a spontaneous impulse, but from a 
learned teaching, it is therefore necessarily foolish, mischievous, per- 
haps unnatural? It may perhaps be safer to hold that like many 
other doctrines, many other sentiments, it is neither universally good 
nor universally bad, neither inherently wise nor inherently foolish. 
It may be safer to hold that it may, like other doctrines and senti- 
ments, have a range within which it may work for good, while in 
some other range it may work for evil. It may in short be a doctrine 
which is neither to be rashly accepted, nor rashly cast aside, but one 
which may need to be guided, regulated, modified, according to 
time, place, and circumstance. I am not now called on so much to 
estimate the practical good and evil of the doctrine as to work out 
what the doctrine itself is, and to try to explain some difficulties 
about it, but I must emphatically say that nothing can be more shal- 
low, nothing more foolish, nothing more purely sentimental, than 
the talk of those who think that they can simply laugh down or 
shriek down any doctrine or sentiment which they themselves do 
not understand. A belief or a feeling which has a practical effect on 
the conduct of great masses of men, sometimes on the conduct of 
whole nations, may be very false and very mischievous; but it is in 
every case a great and serious fact, to be looked gravely in the face. 
Men who sit at their ease and think that all wisdom is confined to 
themselves and their own clique may think themselves vastly supe- 
rior to the great emotions which stir our times, as they would doubt- 
less have thought themselves vastly superior to. the emotions which 
stirred the first Saracens or the first Crusaders. But the emotions 
are there all the same, and they do their work all the same. The 
most highly educated man in the most highly educated society can- 
not sneer them out of being. 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 235 

But it is time to pass to the more strictly scientific aspect of the 
subject. The doctrine of race, in its popular form, is the direct off- 
spring of the study of scientific philology; and yet it is just now, in 
its popular form at least, somewhat under the ban of scientific philol- 
ogers. There is nothing very wonderful in this. It is in fact the 
natural course of things which might almost have been reckoned on 
beforehand. When the popular mind gets hold of a truth it seldom 
gets hold of it with strict scientific precision. It commonly gets hold 
of one side of the truth; it puts forth that side of the truth only. It 
puts that side forth in a form which may not be in itself distorted 
or exaggerated, but which practically becomes distorted and exag- 
gerated, because other sides of the same truth are not brought into 
their due relation with it. The popular idea thus takes a shape which 
is naturally offensive to men of strict precision, and which men of 
strict scientific precision have naturally, and from their own point of 
view quite rightly, risen up to rebuke. Yet it may often happen that, 
while the scientific statement is the only true one for scientific pur- 
poses, the popular version may also have a kind of practical truth 
for the somewhat rough and ready purposes of a popular version. 
In our present case scientific philologers are beginning to complain, 
with perfect truth and perfect justice from their own point of view, 
that the popular doctrine of race confounds race and language. 
They tell us, and they do right to tell us, that language is no certain 
test of race, that men who speak the same tongue are not therefore 
necessarily men of the same blood. And they tell us further, that 
from whatever quarter the alleged popular confusion came, it cer- 
tainly did not come from any teaching of scientific philologers. 

The truth of all this cannot be called in question. We have too 
many instances in recorded history of nations laying aside the use 
of one language and taking to the use of another, for anyone who 
cares for accuracy to set down language as any sure test of race. In 
fact, the studies of the philologer and those of the ethnologer strictly 
so called are quite distinct, and they deal with two wholly different 
sets of phenomena. The science of the ethnologer is stricdy a physi- 
cal science. He has to deal with purely physical phenomena; his 
business lies with the different varieties of the human body, and 



236 FREEMAN 

specially, to take that branch of his inquiries which most impresses 
the unlearned, with the various conformations of the human skull. 
His researches differ in nothing from those of the zoologist or the 
paleontologist, except that he has to deal with the physical phenom- 
ena of man, while they deal with the physical phenomena of other 
animals. He groups the different races of men exactly as the others 
group the genera and species of living or extinct mammals or reptiles. 
The student of ethnology as a physical science may indeed strengthen 
his conclusions by evidence of other kinds, evidence from arms, 
ornaments, pottery, modes of burial. But all these are secondary; 
the primary ground of classification is the physical conformation of 
man himself. As to language, the ethnological method, left to itself, 
can find out nothing whatever. The science of the ethnologer then, 
is primarily physical; it is historical only in that secondary sense in 
which paleontology, and geology itself, may fairly be called historical. 
It arranges the varieties of mankind according to a strictly physical 
classification; what the language of each variety may have been, it 
leaves to the professors of another branch of study to find out. 

The science of the philologer, on the other hand, is strictly his- 
torical. There is doubtless a secondary sense in which purely philo- 
logical science may be fairly called physical, just as there is a 
secondary sense in which pure ethnology may be called historical. 
That is to say, philology has to deal with physical phenomena, so 
far as it has to deal with the physical aspect of the sounds of which 
human language is made up. Its primary business, like the primary 
business of any other historical science, is to deal with phenomena 
which do not depend on physical laws, but which do depend on the 
human will. The science of language is, in this respect, like the 
science of human institutions or of human beliefs. Its subject-matter 
is not, like that of pure ethnology, what man is, but, like that of 
any other historical science, what man does. It is plain that no man's 
will can have any direct influence on the shape of his skull. I say 
no direct influence, because it is not for me to rule how far habits, 
places of abode, modes of life, a thousand things which do come 
under the control of the human will, may indirectly affect the physi- 
cal conformation of a man himself or of his descendants. Some 
observers have made the remark that men of civilized nations who 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 237 

live in a degraded social state do actually approach to the physical 
type of inferior races. However this may be, it is quite certain, that, 
as no man can by taking thought add a cubit to his stature, so no 
man can by taking thought make his skull brachycephalic or dolicho- 
cephalic. But the language which a man speaks does depend upon 
his will; he can by taking thought make his speech Romance or 
Teutonic. No doubt he has in most cases practically no choice in 
the matter. The language which he speaks is practically deter- 
mined for him by fashion, habit, early teaching, a crowd of things 
over which he has practically no control. But still the control is 
not physical and inevitable, as it is in the case of the shape of his 
skull. If we say that he cannot help speaking in a particular 
way; that is, that he cannot help speaking a particular language, 
this simply means that his circumstances are such that no other 
way of speaking presents itself to his mind. And in many cases, 
he has a real choice between two or more ways of speaking; 
that is, between two or more languages. Every word that a man 
speaks is the result of a real, though doubtless unconscious, act of his 
free will. We are apt to speak of gradual changes in languages, 
as in institutions or anything else, as if they were the result of a 
physical law, acting upon beings who had no choice in the matter. 
Yet every change of the kind is simply the aggregate of various 
acts of the will on the part of all concerned. Every change in speech, 
every introduction of a new sound or a new word, was really the 
result of an act of the will of some one or other. The choice may 
have been unconscious; circumstances may have been such as 
practically to give him but one choice; still he did choose; he spoke 
in one way, when there was no physical hinderance to his speak- 
ing in another way, when there was no physical compulsion to 
speak at all. The Gauls need not have changed their own language 
for Latin; the change was not the result of a physical necessity, but 
of a number of acts of the will on the part of this and that Gaul. 
Moral causes directed their choice, and determined that Gaul should 
become a Latin-speaking land. But whether the skulls of the Gauls 
should be long or short, whether their hair should be black or 
yellow, those were points over which the Gauls themselves had 
no direct control whatever. 



238 FREEMAN 

The study of men's skulls then is a study which is strictly physical, 
a study of facts over which the will of man has no direct control. 
The study of men's languages is strictly an historical study, a study 
of facts over which the will of man has a direct control. It follows 
therefore from the very nature of the two studies that language 
cannot be an absolutely certain test of physical descent. A man 
cannot, under any circumstances, choose his own skull; he may, 
under some circumstances, choose his own language. He must 
keep the skull which has been given him by his parents; he cannot, 
by any process of taking thought, determine what kind of skull he 
will hand on to his own children. But he may give up the use of the 
language which he has learned from his parents, and he may deter- 
mine what language he will teach to his children. The physical 
characteristics of a race are unchangeable, or are changed only by 
influences over which the race itself has no direct control. The 
language which the race speaks may be changed, either by a con- 
scious act of the will or by that power of fashion which is in truth 
the aggregate of countless unconscious acts of the will. And, as 
the very nature of the case thus shows that language is no sure test 
of race, so the facts of recorded history equally prove the same 
truth. Both individuals and whole nations do in fact often exchange 
the language of their forefathers for some other language. A man 
settles in a foreign country. He learns the language of that country; 
sometimes he forgets the use of his own language. His children may 
perhaps speak both tongues; if they speak one tongue only, it will 
be the tongue of the country where they live. In a generation or 
two all trace of foreign origin will have passed away. Here then 
language is no test of race. If the great-grandchildren speak the 
language of their great-grandfathers, it will simply be as they may 
speak any other foreign language. Here are men who by speech 
belong to one nation, by actual descent to another. If they lose the 
physical characteristics of the race to which the original settler 
belonged, it will be due to inter-marriage, to climate, to some cause 
altogether independent of language. Every nation will have some 
adopted children of this kind, more or fewer; men who belong 
to it by speech, but who do not belong to it by race. And what 
happens in the case of individuals happens in the case of whole 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 239 

nations. The pages of history are crowded with cases in which 
nations have cast aside the tongue of their forefathers, and have 
taken instead the tongue of some other people. Greek in the East, 
Latin in the West, became the famihar speech of millions who had 
not a drop of Greek or Italian blood in their veins. The same has 
been the case in later times with Arabic, Persian, Spanish, German, 
English. Each of those tongues has become the familiar speech of 
vast regions where the mass of the people are not Arabian, Spanish, 
or English, otherwise than by adoption. The Briton of Cornwall has, 
slowly but in the end thoroughly, adopted the speech of England. 
In the American continent full-blooded Indians preside over com- 
monwealths which speak the tongue of Cortes and Pizarro. In the 
lands to which all eyes are now turned, the Greek, who has been 
busily assimilating strangers ever since he first planted his colonies 
in Asia and Sicily, goes on busily assimilating his Albanian neigh- 
bors. And between renegades, janizaries, and mothers of all nations, 
the blood of many a Turk must be physically anything rather than 
Turkish. The inherent nature of the case, and the witness of 
recorded history, join together to prove that language is no certain 
test of race, and that the scientific philologers are doing good service 
to accuracy of expression and accuracy of thought by emphatically 
calling attention to the fact that language is no such test. 

But on the other hand, it is quite possible that the truth to which 
our attention is just now most fittingly called may, if put forth 
too broadly and without certain qualifications, lead to error quite 
as great as the error at which it is aimed. I do not suppose that 
anyone ever thought that language was, necessarily and in all cases, 
an absolute and certain test. If anybody does think so, he has put 
himself altogether out of court by shutting his eyes to the most 
manifest facts of the case. But there can be no doubt that many 
people have given too much importance to language as a test of 
race. Though they have not wholly forgotten the facts which tell 
the other way, they have not brought them out with enough 
prominence. But I can also believe that many people have written 
and spoken on the subject in a way which cannot be justified from 
a strictly scientific point of view, but which may have been fully 
justified from the point of view of the writers and speakers them- 



240 FREEMAN 

selves. It may often happen that a way of speaking may not be 
scientifically accurate, but may yet be quite near enough to the 
truth for the purposes of the matter in hand. It may, for some 
practical or even historical purpose, be really more true than the 
statement which is scientifically more exact. Language is no certain 
test of race; but if a man, struck by this wholesome warning, should 
run off into the belief that language and race have absolutely 
nothing to do with one another, he had better have gone without 
the warning. For in such a case the last error would be worse than the 
first. The natural instinct of mankind connects race and language. 
It does not assume that language is an infallible test of race; but it 
does assume that language and race have something to do with one 
another. It assumes, that though language is not an accurately 
scientific test of race, yet it is a rough and ready test which does for 
many practical purposes. To make something more of an exact 
definition, one might say, that though language is not a test of race, 
it is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, a presumption of 
race; that though it is not a test of race, yet it is a test of something 
which, for many practical purposes, is the same as race. 

Professor Max Miiller warned us long ago that we must not speak 
of a Celtic skull. Mr. Sayce has more lately warned us that we must 
not infer from community of Aryan speech that there is any 
kindred in blood between this or that Englishman and this or that 
Hindoo. And both warnings are scientifically true. Yet anyone 
who begins his studies on these matters with Professor Miiller's 
famous Oxford Essay will practically come to another way of look- 
ing at things. He will fill his mind with a vivid picture of the great 
Aryan family, as yet one, dwelling in one place, speaking one 
tongue, having already taken the first steps towards settled society, 
recognizing the domestic relations, possessing the first rudiments 
of government and religion, and calling all these first elements of 
culture by names of which traces still abide here and there among 
the many nations of the common stock. He will go on to draw 
pictures equally vivid of the several branches of the family parting 
off from the primeval home. One great branch he will see going 
to the southeast, to become the forefathers of the vast, yet isolated 
colony in the Asiatic lands of Persia and India. He watches the 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 24 1 

remaining mass sending off wave after wave, to become the fore- 
fathers of the nations of historical Europe. He traces out how each 
branch starts with its own share of the common stock — how the 
language, the creed, the institutions, once common to all, grow up 
into different, yet kindred, shapes, among the many parted branches 
which grew up, each with an independent life and strength of its 
own. This is what our instructors set before us as the true origin 
of nations and their languages. And, in drawing out the picture, 
we cannot avoid, our teachers themselves do not avoid, the use of 
words which imply that the strictly family relation, the relation 
of community of blood, is at the root of the whole matter. We cannot 
help talking about the family and its branches, about parents, 
children, brothers, sisters, cousins. The nomenclature of natural 
kindred exactly fits the case; it fits it so exactly that no other nomen- 
clature could enable us to set forth the case with any clearness. Yet 
we cannot be absolutely certain that there was any real community 
of blood in the whole story. We really know nothing of the origin 
of language or the origin of society. We may make a thousand 
ingenious guesses; but we cannot prove any of them. It may be 
that the group which came together, and which formed the 
primeval society which spoke the primeval Aryan tongue, were 
not brought together by community of blood, but by some other 
cause which threw them in one another's way. If we accept the 
Hebrew genealogies, they need not have had any community of 
blood nearer than common descent from Adam and Noah. That 
is, they need not have been all children of Shem, of Ham, or of 
Japheth; some children of Shem, some of Ham, and some of 
Japheth may have been led by some cause to settle together. Or if 
we believe in independent creations of men, or in the development 
of men out of mollusks, the whole of the original society need not 
have been descendants of the same man or the same mollusk. In 
short, there is no theory of the origin of man which requires us to 
believe that the primeval Aryans were a natural family; they may 
have been more like an accidental party of fellow-travelers. And if 
we accept them as a natural family, it does not follow that the 
various branches which grew into separate races and nations, speak- 
ing separate though kindred languages, were necessarily marked 



242 FREEMAN 

off by more immediate kindred. It may be that there is no nearer 
kindred in blood between this or that Persian, this or that Greek, 
this or that Teuton, than the general kindred of all Aryans. For, 
when this or that party marched off from the common home, it does 
not follow that those who marched off together were necessarily 
immediate brothers or cousins. The party which grew into Hindoos 
or Teutons may not have been made up exclusively of one set of 
near kinsfolk. Some of the children of the same parents or fore- 
fathers may have marched one way, while others marched another 
way, or stayed behind. We may, if we please, indulge our fancy 
by conceiving that there may actually be family distinctions older 
than distinctions of nation and race. It may be that the Gothic 
Amali and the Roman Mmilii — I throw out the idea as a mere 
illustration — were branches of a family which had taken a name 
before the division of Teuton and Italian. Some of the members 
of that family may have joined the band of which came the Goths, 
while other members joined the band of which came the Romans. 
There is no difference but the length of time to distinguish such 
a supposed case from the case of an English family, one branch 
of which settled in the seventeenth century at Boston in Massachu- 
setts, while another branch stayed behind at Boston in Holland. 
Mr, Sayce says truly that the use of a kindred language does not 
prove that the Englishman and the Hindoo are really akin in race; 
for, as he adds, many Hindoos are men of non-Aryan race who 
have simply learned to speak tongues of Sanscrit origin. He might 
have gone on to say, with equal truth, that there is no positive 
certainty that there was any community in blood among the original 
Aryan group itself, and that if we admit such community of blood 
in the original Aryan group, it does not follow that there is any 
further special kindred between Hindoo and Hindoo or between 
Englishman and Englishman. The original group may not have 
been a family, but an artificial union. And if it was a family, those 
of its members who marched together east or west or north or 
south may have had no tie of kindred beyond the common cousin- 
ship of all. 

Now the tendency of this kind of argument is to lead to some- 
thing a good deal more startling than the doctrine that language is 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 243 

no certain test of race. Its tendency is to go on further, and to show 
that race is no certain test of community of blood. And this comes 
pretty nearly to saying that there is no such thing as race at all. 
For our whole conception of race starts from the idea of community 
of blood. If the word "race" does not mean community of blood, 
it is hard to see what it does mean. Yet it is certain that there can 
be no positive proof of real community of blood, even among those 
groups of mankind which we instinctively speak of as families and 
races. It is not merely that the blood has been mingled in after- 
times; there is no positive proof that there was any community of 
blood in the beginning. No living Englishman can prove with 
absolute certainty that he comes in the male line of any of the 
Teutonic settlers in Britain in the fifth or sixth centuries. I say in 
the male line, because anyone who is descended from any English 
king can prove such descent, though he can prove it only through 
a long and complicated web of female successions. But we may 
be sure that in no other case can such a pedigree be proved by the 
kind of proof which lawyers would require to make out the title 
to an estate or a peerage. The actual forefathers of the modern 
Englishman may chance to have been, not true-born Angles or 
Saxons, but Britons, Scots, in later days Frenchmen, Flemings, men 
of any other nation who learned to speak English and took to them- 
selves English names. But supposing that a man could make out 
such a pedigree, supposing that he could prove that he came in 
the male line of some follower of Hengest or Cerdic, he would be 
no nearer to proving original community of blood either in the par- 
ticular Teutonic race or in the general Aryan family. If direct 
evidence is demanded, we must give up the whole doctrine of 
families and races, as far as we take language, manners, institutions, 
anything but physical conformation, as the distinguishing marks 
of races and families. That is to say, if we wish never to use any 
word of whose accuracy we cannot be perfectly certain, we must 
leave off speaking of races and families at all from any but the 
purely physical side. We must content ourselves with saying that 
certain groups of mankind have a common history, that they have 
languages, creeds, and institutions in common, but that we have 
no evidence whatever to show how they came to have languages, 



244 FREEMAN 

creeds, and institutions in common. We cannot say for certain what 
was the tie which brought the members of the original group 
together, any more than we can name the exact time and the exact 
place when and where they came together. 

We may thus seem to be landed in a howling wilderness of 
scientific uncertainty. The result of pushing our inquiries so far 
may seem to be to show that we really know nothing at all. But 
in truth the uncertainty is no greater than the uncertainty which 
attends all inquiries in the historical sciences. Though a historical 
fact may be recorded in the most trustworthy documents, though 
it may have happened in our own times, though we may have 
seen it happen with our own eyes, yet we cannot have the same 
certainty about it as the mathematician has about the proposition 
which he proves to absolute demonstration. We cannot have even 
that lower degree of certainty which the geologist has with regard 
to the order of succession between this and that stratum. For in 
all historical inquiries we are dealing with facts which themselves 
come within the control of human will and human caprice, and 
the evidence for which depends on the trustworthiness of human 
informants, who may either purposely deceive or unwittingly mis- 
lead. A man may lie; he may err. The triangles and the rocks 
can neither lie nor err. I may with my own eyes see a certain man 
do a certain act; he may tell me himself, or some one else may tell 
me, that he is the same man who did some other act; but as to his 
statement I cannot have absolute certainty, and no one but myself 
can have absolute certainty as to the statement which I make as 
to the facts which I saw with my own eyes. Historical evidence 
may range through every degree, from the barest likelihood to that 
undoubted moral certainty on which every man acts without hesi- 
tation in practical affairs. But it cannot get beyond this last 
standard. If, then, we are ever to use words like race, family, or even 
nation, to denote groups of mankind marked off by any kind of 
historical, as distinguished from physical, characteristics, we must 
be content to use those words, as we use many other words, without 
being able to prove that our use of them is accurate, as mathema- 
ticians judge of accuracy. I cannot be quite sure that William the 
Conqueror landed at Pevensey, though I have strong reasons for 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 245 

believing that he did so. And I have strong reasons for beUeving 
many facts about race and language about which I am much 
further from being quite sure than I am about William's landing 
at Pevensey. In short, in all these matters, we must be satisfied to 
let presumption very largely take the place of actual proof; and, if 
we only let presumption in, most of our difficulties at once fly away. 
Language is no certain test of race; but it is a presumption of race. 
Community of race, as we commonly understand race, is no certain 
proof of original community of blood; but it is a presumption of 
original community of blood. The presumption amounts to moral 
proof, if only we do not insist on proving such physical community 
of blood as would satisfy a genealogist. It amounts to moral proof, 
if all that we seek is to establish a relation in which the community 
of blood is the leading idea, and in which where natural community 
of blood does not exist, its place is supplied by something which by 
a legal fiction is looked upon as its equivalent. 

If, then, we do not ask for scientific, for what we may call 
physical, accuracy, but if we are satisfied with the kind of proof 
which is all that we can ever get in the historical sciences — if we are 
satisfied to speak in a way which is true for popular and practical 
purposes — then we may say that language has a great deal to do 
with race, as race is commonly understood, and that race has a 
great deal to do with community of blood. If we once admit the 
Roman doctrine of adoption, our whole course is clear. The natural 
family is the starting-point of everything; but we must give the 
natural family the power of artificially enlarging itself by admitting 
adoptive members. A group of mankind is thus formed, in which 
it does not follow that all the members have any natural community 
of blood, but in which community of blood is the starting-point, in 
which those who are connected by natural community of blood form 
the original body within whose circle the artificial members are 
admitted. A group of mankind thus formed is something quite 
different from a fortuitous concurrence of atoms. Three or four 
brothers by blood, with a fourth or fifth man whom they agree to 
look on as filling in everything the same place as a brother by 
blood, form a group which is quite unlike a union of four or five 
men, none of whom is bound by any tie of blood to any of the 



246 FREEMAN 

Others. In the latter kind of union the notion of kindred does not 
come in at all. In the former kind the notion of kindred is the 
groundwork of everything; it determines the character of every 
relation and every action, even though the kindred between some 
members of the society and others may be owing to a legal fiction 
and not to natural descent. All that we know of the growth of 
tribes, races, nations, leads us to believe that they grew in this way- 
Natural kindred was the groundwork, the leading and determining 
idea; but, by one of those legal fictions which have such an influence 
on all institutions, adoption was in certain cases allowed to count 
as natural kindred.^ 

The usage of all language shows that community of blood was 
the leading idea in forming the greater and smaller groups of man- 
kind. Words like <j)v\ov, yevos, gens, natio, \in, all point to the 
natural family as the origin of all society. The family in the nar- 
rower sense, the children of one father in one house, grew into a 
more extended family, the gens. Such were the Alkmaionidai, the 
Julii, or the Scyldingas, the real or artificial descendants of a real 
or supposed forefather. The nature of the gens has been set forth 
often enough. If it is a mistake to fancy that every Julius or Cor- 
nelius was the natural kinsman of every other Julius or Cornelius, 
it is equally a mistake to think that the gens Julia or Cornelia was 
in its origin a mere artificial association, into which the idea of 
natural kindred did not enter. It is indeed possible that really 
artificial gentes, groups of men of whom it might chance that none 
were natural kinsmen, were formed in later times after the model 
of the original gentes. Still such imitation would bear witness to 
the original conception of the gens. It would be the doctrine of 
adoption turned the other way; instead of a father adopting a son, 
a number of men would agree to adopt a common father. The 
family then grew into the gens; the union of gentes formed the 
State, the political community, which in its first form was commonly 
a tribe. Then came the nation, formed of a union of tribes. Kin- 

^I am here applying to this particular purpose a line of thought which both myself 
and others have often applied to other purposes. See, above all, Sir Henry Maine's 
lecture "On Kinship as the Basis of Society" in the lectures on the "Early History 
of Institutions"; I would refer also to my own lecture on "The State" in "Com- 
parative Politics." 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 247 

dred, real or artificial, is the one basis on which all society and all 
government have grown up. 

Now it is plain, that as soon as we admit the doctrine o£ artificial 
kindred — that is, as soon as we allow the exercise of the law o£ 
adoption — ^physical purity of race is at an end. Adoption treats a 
man as if he were the son of a certain father; it cannot really make 
him the son of that father. If a brachycephalic father adopts a 
dolichocephalic son, the legal act cannot change the shape of the 
adopted son's skull. I will not undertake to say whether, not indeed 
the rite of adoption, but the influences and circumstances which 
would spring from it, might not, in the course of generations, affect 
even the skull of the man who entered a certain gens, tribe, or 
nation by artificial adoption only. If by any chance the adopted 
son spoke a different language from the adopted father, the rite 
of adoption itself would not of itself change his language. But it 
would bring him under influences which would make him adopt 
the language of his new gens by a conscious act of the will, and 
which would make his children adopt it by the same unconscious 
act of the will by which each child adopts the language of his 
parents. The adopted son, still more the son of the adopted son, 
became, in speech, in feelings, in worship, in everything but physical 
descent, one with the gens into which he was adopted. He became 
one of that gens for all practical, political, historical purposes. It is 
only the physiologist who could deny his right to his new position. 
The nature of the process is well expressed by a phrase of our own 
law. When the nation — the word itself keeps about it the remem- 
brance of birth as the groundwork of everything — adopts a new 
citizen, that is, a new child of the State, he is said to be naturalized. 
That is, a legal process puts him in the same position, and gives him 
the same rights, as a man who is a citizen and a son by birth. It is 
assumed that the rights of citizenship come by nature — that is, by 
birth. The stranger is admitted to them only by a kind of artificial 
birth; he is naturaUzed by law; his children are in a generation or 
two naturalized in fact. There is now no practical distinction be- 
tween the Englishman whose forefathers landed with William, or 
even between . the Englishman whose forefathers sought shelter 
from Alva or from Louis XIV, and the Englishman whose fore- 



248 FREEMAN 

fathers landed with Hengest. It is for the physiologist to say whether 
any difference can be traced in their several skulls; for all practical 
purposes, historical or political, all distinction between these several 
classes has passed away. 

We may, in short, say that the law of adoption runs through 
everything, and that it may be practised on every scale. What 
adoption is at the hands of the family, naturalization is at the hands 
of the State. And the same process extends itself from adopted 
or naturalized individuals to large classes of men, indeed to whole 
nations. When the process takes place on this scale, we may best 
call it assimilation. Thus Rome assimilated the continental nations 
of western Europe to that degree that, allowing for a few survivals 
here and there, not only Italy, but Gaul and Spain, became Roman. 
The people of those lands, admitted step by step to the Roman 
franchise, adopted the name and tongue of Romans. It must soon 
have been hard to distinguish the Roman colonist in Gaul or Spain 
from the native Gaul or Spaniard who had, as far as in him lay, 
put on the guise of a Roman. This process of assimilation has gone 
on everywhere and at all times. When two nations come in this 
way into close contact with one another, it depends on a crowd of 
circumstances which shall assimilate the other, or whether they 
shall remain distinct without assimilation either way. Sometimes 
the conquerors assimilate their subjects; sometimes they are assimi- 
lated by their subjects; sometimes conquerors and subjects remain 
distinct forever. When assimilation either way does take place, the 
direction which it takes in each particular case will depend, partly 
on their respective numbers, partly on their degrees of civilization. 
A small number of less civilized conquerors will easily be lost among 
a greater number of more civilized subjects, and that even though 
they give their name to the land and people which they conquer. 
The modern Frenchman represents, not the conquering Frank, 
but the conquered Gaul, or, as he called himself, the conquered 
Roman. The modern Bulgarian represents, not the Finnish con- 
queror, but the conquered Slave. The modern Russian represents, 
not the Scandinavian ruler, but the Slave who sent for the Scandi- 
navian to rule over him. And so we might go on with endless other 
cases. The point is that the process of adoption, naturalization, 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 249 

assimilation, has gone on everywhere. No nation can boast of abso- 
lute purity of blood, though no doubt some nations come much 
nearer to it than others. When I speak of purity of blood, I leave 
out of sight the darker questions which I have already raised with 
regard to the groups of mankind in days before recorded history. I 
assume great groups like Celtic, Teutonic, Slavonic, as having what 
we may call a real corporate existence, however we may hold that 
that corporate existence began. My present point is that no existing 
nation is, in the physiologist's sense of purity, purely Celtic, Teu- 
tonic, Slavonic, or anything else. All races have assimilated a greater 
or less amount of foreign elements. Taking this standard, one 
which comes more nearly within the range of our actual knowledge 
than the possibilities of unrecorded times, we may again say that, 
from the purely scientific or physiological point of view, not only 
is language no test of race, but that, at all events among the great 
nations of the world, there is no such thing as purity of race 
at all. 

But, while we admit this truth, while we even insist upon it from 
the strictly scientific point of view, we must be allowed to look at 
it with different eyes from a more practical standing point. This 
is the standing point, whether of history which is the politics of 
the past, or of politics which are the history of the present. From 
this point of view, we may say unhesitatingly that there are such 
things as races and nations, and that to the grouping of those races 
and nations language is the best guide. We cannot undertake to 
define with any philosophical precision the exact distinction between 
race and race, between nation and nation. Nor can we undertake 
to define with the like precision in what way the distinctions between 
race and race, between nation and nation, began. But all analogy 
leads us to believe that tribes, nations, races, were all formed accord- 
ing to the original model of the family, the family which starts from 
the idea of the community of blood, but which allows artificial 
adoption to be its legal equivalent. In all cases of adoption, naturali- 
zation, assimilation, whether of individuals or of large classes of 
men, the adopted person or class is adopted into an existing com- 
munity. Their adoption undoubtedly influences the community 
into which they are adopted. It at once destroys any claim on the 



250 FREEMAN 

part of that community to purity of blood, and it influences the 
adopting community in many ways, physical and moral. A family, 
a tribe, or a nation, which has largely recruited itself by adopted 
members, cannot be the same as one which has never practised 
adoption at all, but all whose members come of the original stock. 
But the influence which the adopting community exercises upon 
its adopted members is far greater than any influence which they 
exercise upon it. It cannot change their blood; it cannot give them 
new natural forefathers; but it may do everything short of this; 
it may make them, in speech, in feeling, in thought, and in habit, 
genuine members of the community which has artificially made 
them its own. While there is not in any nation, in any race, any 
such thing as strict purity of blood, yet there is in each nation, in 
each race, a dominant element — or rather something more than an 
element — something which is the true essence of the race or nation, 
something which sets its standard and determines its character, 
something which draws to itself and assimilates to itself all other 
elements. It so works that all other elements are not coequal ele- 
ments with itself, but mere infusions poured into an already exist- 
ing body. Doubtless these infusions do in some measure influence 
the body which assimilates them; but the influence which they 
exercise is as nothing compared to the influence which they undergo. 
We may say that they modify the character of the body into which 
they are assimilated; they do not effect its personality. Thus, assum- 
ing the great groups of mankind as primary facts, the origin of 
which lies beyond our certain knowledge, we may speak of families 
and races, of the great Aryan family and of the races into which 
it parted, as groups which have a real, practical existence, as groups 
founded on the ruling primeval idea of kindred, even though in 
many cases the kindred may not be by natural descent, but only 
by law of adoption. The Celtic, Teutonic, Slavonic races of man 
are real living and abiding groups, the distinction between which 
we must accept among the primary facts of history. And they go 
on as living and abiding groups, even though we know that each 
of them has assimilated many adopted members, sometimes from 
other branches of the Aryan family, sometimes from races of men 
alien to the whole Aryan stock. These races which, in a strictly 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 25 I 

physiological point of view, have no existence at all, have a real 
existence from the more practical point of view of history and 
politics. The Bulgarian calls to the Russian for help, and the Rus- 
sian answers to his call for help, on the ground of their being 
alike members of the one Slavonic race. It may be that, if we could 
trace out the actual pedigree of this or that Bulgarian, of this or 
that Russian, we might either find that there was no real kindred 
between them, or we might find that there was a real kindred, 
but a kindred which must be traced up to another stock than that 
of the Slaves. In point of actual blood, instead of both being Slaves, 
it may be that one of them comes, it may be that both of them come 
of a stock which is not Slavonic or even Aryan. The Bulgarian 
may chance to be a Bulgarian in a truer sense than he thinks for; 
he may come of the blood of those original Finnish conquerors who 
gave the Bulgarian name to the Slaves among whom they were 
merged. And if this or that Bulgarian may chance to come of the 
stock of Finnish conquerors assimilated by their Slavonic subjects, 
this or that Russian may chance to come of the stock of Finnish 
subjects assimilated by their Slavonic conquerors. It may then so 
happen that the cry for help goes up, and is answered on a ground 
of kindred which in the eye of the physiologist has no existence. 
Or it may happen that the kindred is real in a way which neither 
the suppliant nor his helper thinks of. But in either case, for the 
practical purposes of human life, the plea is a good plea; the 
kindred on which it is founded is a real kindred. It is good by the 
law of adoption. It is good by the law the force of which we all 
admit whenever we count a man as an Englishman whose fore- 
fathers, two generations or twenty generations back, came to our 
shores as strangers. For all practical purposes, for all the purposes 
which guide men's actions, public or private, the Russian and the 
Bulgarian, kinsmen so long parted, perhaps in very truth no natural 
kinsmen at all, are members of the same race, bound together by 
the common sentiment of race. They belong to the same race, 
exactly as an Englishman whose forefathers came into Britain four- 
teen hundred years back, and an Englishman whose forefathers 
came only one or two hundred years back, are like members of the 
same nation, bound together by a tie of common nationality. 



252 FREEMAN 

And now, having ruled that races and nations, though largely 
formed by the workings of an artificial law, are still real and living 
things, groups in which the idea of kindred is the idea around which 
everything has grown, how are we to define our races and our 
nations? How are we to mark them off one from the other? Bear- 
ing in mind the cautions and qualifications which have been already 
given, bearing in mind large classes of exceptions which will 
presently be spoken of, I say unhesitatingly that for practical pur- 
poses there is one test, and one only, and that that test is language. 
It is hardly needful to show that races and nations cannot be 
defined by the merely political arrangements which group men 
under various governments. For some purposes of ordinary lan- 
guage, for some purposes of ordinary politics, we are tempted, 
sometimes driven, to take this standard. And in some parts of the 
world, in our own western Europe for instance, nations and gov- 
ernments do, in a rough way, fairly answer to one another. And, 
in any case, political divisions are not without their influence on 
the formation of national divisions, while national divisions ought 
to have the greatest influence on political divisions. That is to say, 
prima facie a nation and government should coincide. I say only 
prima facie; for this is assuredly no inflexible rule; there are often 
good reasons why it should be otherwise; only, whenever it is 
otherwise, there should be some good reason forthcoming. It might 
even be true that in no case did a government and a nation exactly 
coincide, and yet it would none the less be the rule that a government 
and a nation should coincide. That is to say, so far as a nation and 
a government coincide, we accept it as the natural state of things, 
and ask no question as to the cause. So far as they do not coincide, 
we mark the case as exceptional, by asking what is the cause. And 
by saying that a government and a nation should coincide we mean 
that, as far as possible, the boundaries of governments should be so 
laid out as to agree with the boundaries of nations. That is, we 
assume the nation as something already existing, something pri- 
mary, to which the secondary arrangements of government should, 
as far as possible, conform. How then do we define the nation, 
which is, if there is no especial reason to the contrary, to fix the 
limits of a government? Primarily, I say, as a rule, but a rule 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 253 

subject to exception — as a primd facie standard, subject to special 
reasons to the contrary — we define the nation by language. We 
may at least apply the test negatively. It would be unsafe to rule 
that all speakers of the same language must have a common na- 
tionality; but we may safely say that where there is not community 
of language, there is no common nationality in the highest sense. 
It is true that without community of language there may be an 
artificial nationality, a nationality which may be good for all political 
purposes, and which may engender a common national feeling. 
Still this is not quite the same thing as that fuller national unity 
which is felt where there is community of language. In fact, man- 
kind instinctively takes language as the badge of nationality. We 
so far take it as the badge, that we instinctively assume community 
of language in a nation as the rule, and we set down anything that 
departs from that rule as an exception. The first idea suggested 
by the word Frenchman or German or any other national name, is 
that he is a man who speaks French or German as his mother- 
tongue. We take for granted, in the absence of anything to make 
us think otherwise, that a Frenchman is a speaker of French, and 
that a speaker of French is a Frenchman. Where in any case it is 
otherwise, we mark that case as an exception, and we ask the 
special cause. Again, the rule is none the less the rule, nor the 
exceptions the exceptions, because the exceptions may easily out- 
number the instances which conform to the rule. The rule is still 
the rule, because we take the instances which conform to it as a 
matter of course, while in every case which does not conform to it 
we ask for the explanation. All the larger countries of Europe pro- 
vide us with exceptions; but we treat them all as exceptions. We do 
not ask why a native of France speaks French. But when a native 
of France speaks as his mother-tongue some other tongue than 
French, when French, or something which popularly passes for 
French, is spoken as his mother-tongue by someone who is not a 
native of France, we at once ask the reason. And the reason will 
be found in each case in some special historical cause which with- 
draws that case from the operation of the general law. A very good 
reason can be given why French, or something which popularly 
passes for French, is spoken in parts of Belgium and Switzerland, 



254 FREEMAN 

whose inhabitants are certainly not Frenchmen. But the reason 
has to be given, and it may fairly be asked. 

In the like sort, if we turn to our own country, whenever within 
the bounds of Great Britain we find any tongue spoken other than 
English, we at once ask the reason, and we learn the special historic 
cause. In a part of France and a part of Great Britain we find 
tongues spoken which differ alike from English and from French, 
but which are strongly akin to one another. We find that these are 
the survivals of a group of tongues once common to Gaul and 
Britain, but which the settlement of other nations, the introduction 
and the growth of other tongues, have brought down to the level 
of survivals. So again we find islands which both speech and 
geographical position seem to mark as French, but which are depen- 
dencies, and loyal dependencies, of the English crown. We soon 
learn the cause of the phenomenon which seems so strange. Those 
islands are the remains of a State and a people which adopted the 
French tongue, but which, while it remained one, did not become 
a part of the French State. That people brought England by force 
of arms under the rule of their own sovereigns. The greater part 
of that people were afterward conquered by France, and gradually 
became French in feeling as well as in language. But a remnant 
clave to their connection with the land which their forefathers had 
conquered, and that remnant, while keeping the French tongue, 
never became French in feeling. This last case, that of the Norman 
islands, is a specially instructive one. Normandy and England were 
politically connected, while language and geography pointed rather 
to a union between Normandy and France. In the case of conti- 
nental Normandy, where the geographical tie was strongest, lan- 
guage and geography together could carry the day, and the conti- 
nental Norman became a Frenchman. In the islands, where the 
geographical tie was less strong, political traditions and manifest 
interest carried the day against language and a weaker geographical 
tie. The insular Norman did not become a Frenchman. But neither 
did he become an Englishman. He alone remained Norman, keep- 
ing his own tongue and his own laws, but attached to the English 
crown by a tie at once of tradition and of advantage. Between 
States of the relative size of England and the Norman islands, 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 255 

the relation naturally becomes a relation of dependence on the 
part of the smaller members of the union. But it is well to remember 
that our forefathers never conquered the forefathers of the men 
of the Norman islands, but that their forefathers did once conquer 
ours. 

These instances, and countless others, bear out the position that, 
while community of language is the most obvious sign of common 
nationality, while it is the main element, or something more than 
an element, in the formation of nationality, the rule is open to 
exceptions of all kinds, and that the influence of language is at all 
times liable to be overruled by other influences. But all the excep- 
tions confirm the rule, because we specially remark those cases 
which contradict the rule, and we do not specially remark those 
cases which do not conform to it. 

In the cases which we have just spoken of, the growth of the 
nation as marked out by language, and the growth of the exceptions 
to the rule of language, have both come through the gradual, un- 
conscious working of historical causes. Union under the same 
government, or separation under separate governments, has been 
among the foremost of those historical causes. The French nation 
consists of the people of all that extent of continuous territory 
which has been brought under the rule of the French kings. But 
the working of the cause has been gradual and unconscious. There 
was no moment when anyone deliberately proposed to form a 
French nation by joining together all the separate duchies and 
countries which spoke the French tongue. Since the French nation 
has been formed, men have proposed to annex this or that land on 
the ground that its people spoke the French tongue, or perhaps 
only some tongue akin to the French tongue. But the formation of 
the French nation itself was the work of historical causes, the 
work doubtless of a settled policy acting through many generations, 
but not the work of any conscious theory about races and lan- 
guages. It is a special mark of our time, a special mark of the 
influence which doctrines about race and language have had on 
men's minds, that we have seen great nations united by processes 
in which theories of race and language really have had much to 
do with bringing about their union. If statesmen have not been 



256 FREEMAN 

themselves moved by such theories, they have at least found that 
it suited their purpose to make use of such theories as a means of 
working on the minds of others. In the reunion of the severed 
German and Italian nations the conscious feeling of nationality, 
and the acceptance of a common language as the outward badge 
of nationality, had no small share. Poets sang of language as the 
badge of national union; statesmen made it the badge, so far as 
political considerations did not lead them to do anything else. The 
revivified kingdom of Italy is very far from taking in all the 
speakers of the Italian tongue. Lugano, Trent, Aquileia — to take 
places which are clearly Italian, and not to bring in places of more 
doubtful nationality, like the cities of Istria and Dalmatia — form no 
part of the Italian poUtical body, and Corsica is not under the same 
rule as the other two great neighboring islands. But the fact that 
all these places do not belong to the Italian body at once suggests 
the twofold question, why they do not belong to it, and whether 
they ought not to belong to it. History easily answers the first 
question; it may perhaps also answer the second question in a 
way which will say Yes as regards one place and No as regards 
another. Ticino must not lose her higher freedom; Trieste must 
remain the needful mouth for southern Germany; Dalmatia must 
not be cut off from the Slavonic mainland; Corsica would seem 
to have sacrificed national feeling to personal hero-worship. But it 
is certainly hard to see why Trent and Aquileia should be kept 
apart from the Italian body. On the other hand, the revivified 
Italian kingdom contains very little which is not Italian in speech. 
It is perhaps by a somewhat elastic view of language that the dialect 
of Piedmont and the dialect of Sicily are classed under one head; 
still, as a matter of fact, they have a single classical standard, and 
they are universally accepted as varieties of the same tongue. But 
it is only in a few Alpine valleys that languages are spoken which, 
whether Romance or Teutonic, are in any case not Italian. The 
reunion of Italy, in short, took in all that was Italian, save when 
some political cause hindered the rule of language from being 
followed. Of anything not Italian by speech so little has been taken 
in that the non-Italian parts of Italy, Burgundian Aosta and the 
Seven German Communes — if these last still keep their Teutonic 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 257 

language — fall under the rule that there are some things too small 
for laws to pay heed to. 

But it must not be forgotten that all this simply means that in 
the lands of which we have just been speaking the process of 
adoption has been carried out on the largest scale. Nations, with 
languages as their rough practical test, have been formed; but they 
have been formed with very little regard to physical purity of 
blood. In short, throughout western Europe assimilation has been 
the rule. That is to say, in any of the great divisions of Western 
Europe, though the land may have been settled and conquered 
over and over again, yet the mass of the people of the land have 
been drawn to some one national type. Either some one among 
the races inhabiting the land has taught the others to put on its 
likeness, or else a new national type has arisen which has elements 
drawn from several of those races. Thus the modern Frenchman 
may be defined as produced by the union of blood which is mainly 
Celtic with a speech which is mainly Latin, and with an historical 
polity which is mainly Teutonic. That is, he is neither Gaul, Roman, 
nor Frank, but a fourth type, which has drawn important elements 
from all three. Within modern France this new national type has 
so far assimilated all others as to make everything else merely 
exceptional. The Fleming of one corner, the Basque of another, 
even the far more important Breton of a third corner, have all in 
this way become mere exceptions to the general type of the country. 
If we pass into our own islands we shall find that the same process 
has been at work. If we look to Great Britain only, we shall find 
that, though the means have not been the same, yet the end has 
been gained hardly less thoroughly than in France. For all real 
political purposes, for everything which concerns a nation in the 
face of other nations. Great Britain is as thoroughly united as 
France is. Englishmen, Scotchmen, Welshmen feel themselves one 
people in the general affairs of the world. A secession of Scotland 
or Wales is as unlikely as a secession of Normandy or Languedoc. 
The part of the island which is not thoroughly assimilated in 
language, that part which still speaks Welsh or Gaelic, is larger in 
proportion than the non-French part of modern France. But how- 
ever much either the northern or the western Briton may, in a fit 



258 FREEMAN 

of antiquarian politics, declaim against the Saxon, for all practical 
political purposes he and the Saxon are one. The distinction between 
the southern and the northern English — for the men of Lothian 
and Fife must allow me to call them by this last name — is, speaking 
politically and without ethnological or linguistic precision, much as 
if France and Aquitaine had been two kingdoms united on equal 
terms, instead of Aquitaine being merged in France. When we 
cross into Ireland, we indeed find another state of things, and one 
which comes nearer to some of the phenomena which we shall 
come to in other parts of the world. Ireland is, most unhappily, not 
so firmly united to Great Britain as the different parts of Great 
Britain are to one another. Still even here the division arises quite 
as much from geographical and historical causes as from distinc- 
tions of race strictly so called. If Ireland had had no wrongs, still 
two great islands can never be so thoroughly united as a continuous 
territory can be. On the other hand, in point of language, the dis- 
contented part of the United Kingdom is much less strongly marked 
off than that fraction of the contented part which is not thoroughly 
assimilated. Irish is certainly not the language of Ireland in at all 
the same degree in which Welsh is the language of Wales. The 
Saxon has commonly to be denounced in the Saxon tongue. 

In some other parts of Western Europe, as in the Spanish and 
Scandinavian peninsulas, the coincidence of language and national- 
ity is stronger than it is in France, Britain, or even Italy. No one 
speaks Spanish except in Spain or in the colonies of Spain. And 
within Spain the proportion of those who do not speak Spanish, 
namely the Basque remnant, is smaller than the non-assimilated 
element in Britain and France. Here two things are to be marked: 
First, the modern Spanish nation has been formed, like the French, 
by a great process of assimilation; secondly, the actual national 
arrangements of the Spanish peninsula are wholly due to historical 
causes, we might almost say historical accidents, and those of very 
recent date. Spain and Portugal are separate kingdoms, and we 
look on their inhabitants as forming separate nations. But this is 
simply because a queen of Castile in the fifteenth century married 
a king of Aragon. Had Isabella married a king of Portugal we 
should now talk of Spain and Aragon as we now talk of Spain 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 259 

and Portugal, and we should count Portugal for part of Spain. 
In language, in history, in everything else, Aragon was really more 
distinct from Castile than Portugal was. The king of Castile was 
already spoken of as king of Spain, and Portugal would have 
merged in the Spanish kingdom at last as easily as Aragon did. In 
Scandinavia, on the other hand, there must have been less assimila- 
tion than anywhere else. In the present kingdoms of Norway and 
Sweden there must be a nearer approach to actual purity of blood 
than in any other part of Europe. One cannot fancy that much 
Finnish blood has been assimilated, and there have been no con- 
quests or settlements later than that of the Northmen themselves. 

When we pass into central Europe we shall find a somewhat 
different state of things. The distinctions of race seem to be more 
lasting. While the national unity of the German Empire is greater 
than that of either France or Great Britain, it has not only subjects 
of other languages, but actually discontented subjects, in three 
corners, on its French, its Danish, and its Polish frontiers. We ask 
the reason, and it will be at once answered that the discontent of 
all three is the result of recent conquest, in two cases of very recent 
conquest indeed. But this is one of the very points to be marked; 
the strong national unity of the German Empire has been largely 
the result of assimilation; and these three parts, where recent 
conquest has not yet been followed by assimilation, are chiefly 
important because in all three cases, the discontented territory is 
geographically continuous with a territory of its own speech out- 
side the Empire. This does not prove that assimilation can never 
take place, but it will undoubtedly make the process longer and 
harder. 

So again, wherever German-speaking people dwell outside the 
bounds of the revived German State, as well as when that revived 
German State contains other than German-speaking people, we ask 
the reason and we can find it. Political reasons forbade the immedi- 
ate annexation of Austria, Tyrol, and Salzburg. Combined political 
and geographical reasons, and, if we look a little deeper, ethno- 
logical reasons too, forbade the annexation of Courland, Livonia, 
and Esthonia. Some reason or other will, it may be hoped, always 
be found to hinder the annexation of lands which, like Zurich and 



260 FREEMAN 

Berne, have reached a higher political level. Outlying brethren in 
Transsilvania or at Saratof again come under the rule "De minimis 
non curat lex." In all these cases the rule that nationality and lan- 
guage should go together yields to unavoidable circumstances. But, 
on the other hand, where French or Danish or Slavonic or Lithu- 
anian is spoken within the bounds of the new empire, the principle 
that language is the badge of nationality, that without community 
of language nationality is imperfect, shows itself in another shape. 
One main object of modern policy is to bring these exceptional 
districts under the general rule by spreading the German language 
in them. Everywhere, in short, wherever a power is supposed to 
be founded on nationality, the common feeling of mankind in- 
stinctively takes language as the test of nationality. We assume 
language as the test of a nation, without going into any minute 
questions as to the physical purity of blood in that nation. A con- 
tinuous territory, living under the same government and speaking 
the same tongue, forms a nation for all practical purposes. If some 
of its inhabitants do not belong to the original stock of blood, they 
at least belong to it by adoption. 

The question may now fairly be asked. What is the case in those 
parts of the world where people who are confessedly of different 
races and languages inhabit a continuous territory and live under 
the same government ? How do we define nationality in such cases 
as these.' The answer will be very different in different cases, 
according to the means by which the different national elements in 
such a territory have been brought together. They may form what 
I have already called an artificial nation, united by an act of its 
own free will. Or it may be simply a case where distinct nations, 
distinct in everything which can be looked on as forming a nation, 
except the possession of an independent government, are brought 
together, by whatever causes, under a common ruler. The former 
case is very distinctly an exception which proves the rule, and 
the latter is, though in quite another way, an exception which proves 
the rule also. Both cases may need somewhat more in the way of 
definition. We will begin with the first, the case of a nation which 
has been formed out of elements which differ in language, but 
which still have been brought together so as to form an artificial 
nation. In the growth of the chief nations of western Europe the 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 26 1 

principle which was consciously or unconsciously followed has been 
that the nation should be marked out by language, and the use of 
any tongue other than the dominant tongue of the nation should 
be at least exceptional. But there is one nation in Europe, one 
which has a full right to be called a nation in a political sense, 
which has been formed on the directly opposite principle. The Swiss 
Confederation has been formed by the union of certain detached 
fragments of the German, Italian, and Burgundian nations. It may 
indeed be said that the process has been in some sort a process of 
adoption, that the Italian and Burgundian elements have been in- 
corporated into an already existing German body; that, as those 
elements were once subjects or dependents or protected allies, the 
case is one of clients or freedmen who have been admitted to the 
full privileges of the gens. This is undoubtedly true, and it is 
equally true of a large part of the German element itself. Through- 
out the Confederation, allies and subjects have been raised to the 
rank of confederates. But the former position of the component 
elements does not matter for our purpose. As a matter of fact, the 
foreign dependencies have all been admitted into the Confederation 
on equal terms. German is undoubtedly the language of a great 
majority of the Confederation; but the two recognized Romance 
languages are each the speech, not of a mere fragment or survival, 
like Welsh in Britain or Breton in France, but of a large minority 
forming a visible element in the general body. The three languages 
are all of them alike recognized as national languages, though, 
as if to keep up the universal rule that there should be some excep- 
tions to all rules, a fourth language still lives on within the bounds 
of the Confederation, which is not admitted to the rights of the 
other three, but is left in the state of a fragment or a survival.' Is 
such an artificial body as this to be called a nation.'' It is plainly 
not a nation by blood or by speech. It can hardly be called a nation 
by adoption. For, if we chose to say that the three elements have 
all agreed to adopt one another as brethren, yet it has been adoption 
without assimilation. Yet surely the Swiss Confederation is a nation. 

'While the Swiss Confederation recognizes German, French, and Italian as all alike 
national languages, the independent Romance language, which is still used in some 
parts of the Canton of Graubiinden, that which is known specially as Romansch, 
is not recognized. It is left in the same position in which Welsh and Gaelic are left 
in Great Britain, in which Basque, Breton, Provenfal, Walloon, and 1-lemish are left 
within the borders of that French kingdom which has grown so as to take them all in. 



262 FREEMAN 

It is not a mere power, in which various nations are brought to- 
gether, whether willingly, or unwillingly, under a common ruler, 
but without any further tie of union. For all political purposes the 
Swiss Confederation is a nation, a nation capable of as strong and 
true national feeling as any other nation. Yet it is a nation purely 
artificial, one in no way defined by blood or speech. It thus proves 
the rule in two ways. We at once feel that this artificially formed 
nation, which has no common language, but each of whose elements 
speaks a language common to itself with some other nation, is 
something different from those nations which are defined by a 
universal or at least a predominant language. We mark it as an 
exception, as something different from other cases. And when we 
see how nearly this artificial nation comes, in every point but that 
of language, to the likeness of those nations which are defined by 
language, we see that it is a nation defined by language which sets 
the standard, and after the model of which the artificial nation 
forms itself. The case of the Swiss Confederation and its claim 
to rank as a nation would be like the case of those gentes, if any 
such there were, which did not spring even from the expansion of 
an original family, but which were artificially formed in imitation 
of those which did, and which, instead of a real or traditional fore- 
father, chose for themselves an adopted one. 

In the Swiss Confederation, then, we have a case of a nation 
formed by an artificial process, but which still is undoubtedly a 
nation in the face of other nations. We now come to the other class, 
in which nationality and language keep the connection which they 
have elsewhere, but in which nations do not even in the roughest 
way answer to governments. We have only to go into the Eastern 
lands of Europe to find a state of things in which the notion of 
nationality, as marked out by language and national feeling, has 
altogether parted company from the notion of poUtical govern- 
ment. It must be remembered that this state of things is not 
confined to the nations which are or have lately been under the 
yoke of the Turk. It extends also to the nations or fragments of 
nations which make up the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. In all 
the lands held by these two powers we come across phenomena of 
geography, race, and language, which stand out in marked contrast 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 263 

with anything to which we are used in western Europe. We may 
perhaps better understand what these phenomena are if we suppose 
a state of things which sounds absurd in the West, but which has 
its exact parallel in many parts of the East. Let us suppose that 
in a journey through England we came successively to districts, 
towns, or villages, where we found, one after another, first, Britons 
speaking Welsh; then Romans speaking Latin; then Saxons or 
Angles, speaking an older form of our own tongue; then Scandi- 
navians speaking Danish; then Normans speaking Old-French; 
lastly, perhaps a settlement of Flemings, Huguenots, or Palatines, 
still remaining a distinct people and speaking their own tongue. Or 
let us suppose a journey through northern France, in which we 
found at different stages, the original Gaul, the Roman, the Frank, 
the Saxon of Bayeux, the Dane of Coutances, each remaining a 
distinct people, each of them keeping the tongue which they first 
brought with them into the land. Let us suppose further that, in 
many of these cases, a religious distinction was added to a national 
distinction. Let us conceive one village Roman Catholic, another 
Anglican, others Nonconformist of various types, even if we do not 
call up any remnants of the worshippers of Jupiter or of Woden. 
All this seems absurd in any Western country, and absurd enough 
it is. But the absurdity of the West is the living reality of the East. 
There we may still find all the chief races which have ever occupied 
the country, still remaining distinct, still keeping separate tongues, 
and those for the most part, their own original tongues. Within the 
present and late European dominions of the Turk, the original 
races, those whom we find there at the first beginnings of history, 
are all there still, and two of them keep their original tongues. 
They form three distinct nations. First of all there are the Greeks. 
We have not here to deal with them as the representatives of that 
branch of the Roman Empire which adopted their speech, but 
simply as one of the original elements in the population of the 
Eastern peninsula. Known almost down to our own day by their 
historical name of Romans, they have now fallen back on the name 
of Hellenes. And to that name they have a perfecdy good claim. 
If the modern Greeks are not all true Hellenes, they are an ag- 
gregate of adopted Hellenes gathered round and assimilated to 



264 FREEMAN 

a true Hellenic kernel. Here we see the oldest recorded inhabi- 
tants of a large part of the land abiding, and abiding in a very 
different case from the remnants of the Celt and the Iberian in 
Western Europe. The Greeks are no survival of a nation; they 
are a true and living nation — a nation whose importance is quite 
out of proportion to its extent in mere numbers. They still abide, 
the predominant race in their own ancient and again independ- 
ent land, the predominant race in those provinces of the conti- 
nental Turkish dominion which formed part of their ancient 
land, the predominant race through all the shores and islands of 
the .(Egaean and of part of the Euxine also. In near neighborhood 
to the Greeks still live another race of equal antiquity, the Skipetar 
or Albanians. These, as I believe is no longer doubted, represent the 
ancient lUyrians. The exact degree of their ethnical kindred with 
the Greeks is a scientific question which need not here be considered ; 
but the facts that they are more largely intermingled with the 
Greeks than any of the other neighboring nations, that they show 
a special power of identifying themselves with the Greeks — a power, 
so to speak, of becoming Greeks and making part of the artificial 
Greek nation, are matters of practical history. It must never be 
forgotten that, among the worthies of the Greek War of Independ- 
ence, some of the noblest were not of Hellenic but Albanian blood. 
The Orthodox Albanian easily turns into a Greek; and the Ma- 
hometan Albanian is something which is broadly distinguished from 
a Turk. He has, as he well may have, a strong national feeling, and 
that national feeling has sometimes got the better of religious divi- 
sions. If Albania is among the most backward parts of the peninsula, 
still it is, by all accounts, the part where there is most hope of men of 
different religions joining together against the common enemy. 

Here then are two ancient races, the Greeks and another race, 
not indeed so advanced, so important, or so widely spread, but a 
race which equally keeps a real national being. There is also a 
third ancient race which survives as a distinct people, though they 
have for ages adopted a foreign language. These are the Vlachs 
or Roumans, the surviving representatives of the great race, call it 
Thracian or any other, which at the beginning of history held the 
great inland mass of the Eastern peninsula, with the Illyrians to 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 265 

the west of them and the Greeks to the south. Every one knows 
that in the modern principahty of Roumania and in the adjoining 
parts of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, there is to be seen that 
phenomenon so unique in the East, a people who not only, as the 
Greeks did till lately, still keep the Roman name, but who speak 
neither Greek nor Turkish, neither Slave nor Skipetar, but a dia- 
lect of Latin, a tongue akin, not to the tongues of any of their 
neighbors, but to the tongues of Gaul, Italy, and Spain. And any 
one who has given any real attention to this matter knows that the 
same race is to be found, scattered here and there, if in some parts 
only as wandering shepherds, in the Slavonic, Albanian, and Greek 
lands south of the Danube. The assumption has commonly been 
that this outlying Romance people owe their Romance character 
to the Roman colonization of Dacia under Trajan. In this view, 
the modern Roumans would be the descendants of Trajan's colonists 
and of Dacians who had learned of them to adopt the speech and 
manners of Rome. But when we remember that Dacia was the 
first Roman province to be given up — that the modern Roumania 
was for ages the highway of every barbarian tribe on its way from 
the East to the West — that the land has been conquered and settled 
and forsaken over and over again — it would be passing strange if 
this should be the one land, and its people the one race, to keep 
the Latin tongue when it has been forgotten in all the neighboring 
countries. In fact, this idea has been completely dispersed by modern 
research. The establishment of the Roumans in Dacia is of com- 
paratively recent date, beginning only in the thirteenth century. 
The Roumans of Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transsilvania, are iso- 
lated from the scattered Rouman remnant on Pindos and elsewhere. 
They represent that part of the inhabitants of the peninsula which 
became Latin, while the Greeks remained Greek, and the Illyrians 
remained barbarian. Their lands, Moesia, Thrace specially so called, 
and Dacia, were added to the empire at various times from Augustus 
to Trajan. That they should gradually adopt the Latin language 
is in no sort wonderful. Their position with regard to Rome was 
exactly the same as that of Gaul and Spain. Where Greek civilization 
had been firmly established, Latin could nowhere displace it. Where 
Greek civilization was unknown, Latin overcame the barbarian 



266 FREEMAN 

tongue. It would naturally do so in this part of the East exactly as 
it did in the West." 

Here then we have in the southeastern peninsula three nations 
which have all lived on to all appearances from the very beginnings 
of European history, three distinct nations, speaking three distinct 
languages. We have nothing answering to this in the West. It needs 
no proof that the speakers of Celtic and Basque in Gaul and in 
Spain do not hold the same position in western Europe which the 
Greeks, Albanians, and Roumans do in eastern Europe. In the 
East the most ancient inhabitants of the land are still there, not 
as scraps or survivals, not as fragments of nations lingering on in 
corners, but as nations in the strictest sense, nations whose national 
being forms an element in every modern and political question. 
They all have their memories, their grievances, and their hopes; 
and their memories, their grievances, and their hopes are all of a 
practical and political kind. Highlanders, Welshmen, Bretons, 
French Basques, whatever we say of the Spanish brethren, have 
doubtless memories, but they have hardly political grievances or 
hopes. Ireland may have political grievances; it certainly has politi- 
cal hopes; but they are not exactly of the same kind as the griev- 
ances or hopes of the Greek, the Albanian, and the Rouman. Let 
Home Rule succeed to the extent of setting up an independent king 
and parliament of Ireland, yet the language and civilization of that 
king and parliament would still be English. Ireland would form 
an English State, politically hostile, it may be, to Great Britain, but 
still an English State. No Greek, Albanian or Rouman State would 
be in the same way either Turkish or Austrian. 

On these primitive and abiding races came, as on other parts of 
Europe, the Roman conquest. That conquest planted Latin colonies 
on the Dalmatian coast, where the Latin tongue still remains in its 
Italian variety as the speech of literature and city Ufe; it Romanized 
one great part of the earlier inhabitants: it had the great political 
effect of all, that of planting the Roman power in a Greek city, 
and thereby creating a State, and in the end a nation, which was 
Roman on one side, and Greek on the other. Then came the 

* On Rouman history I have followed Roesler's "Romanische Studien"and Jirecek's 
"Geschichte der Bulgaren." 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 267 

wandering of the nations, on which, as regards men of our own 
race, we need not dwell. The Goths marched at will through the 
Eastern Empire; but no Teutonic settlement was ever made within 
its bounds, no lasting Teutonic settlement was ever made even on its 
border. The part of the Teuton in the West was played, far less 
perfectly indeed, by the Slave in the East. He is there what the 
Teuton is here, the great representative of what we may call the 
modern European races, those whose part in history began after 
the establishment of the Rouman power. The differences between 
the position of the two races are chiefly these. The Slave in the 
East has pre-Roman races standing alongside of him in a way in 
which the Teuton has not in the West. On the Greeks and Al- 
banians he has had but little influence; on the Rouman and his 
language his influence has been far greater, but hardly so great as 
the influence of the Teuton on the Romance nations and languages 
of western Europe. The Slave too stands alongside of races which 
have come in since his own coming, in a way in which the Teuton 
in the West is still further from doing. That is to say, besides Greeks, 
Albanians, and Roumans, he stands alongside of Bulgarians, Mag- 
yars, and Turks, who have nothing to answer to them in the West. 
The Slave, in the time of his coming, in the nature of his settle^ 
ment, answers roughly to the Teuton; his position is what that of 
the Teuton would be if western Europe had been brought under 
the power of an alien race at some time later than his own settle- 
ment. The Slaves undoubtedly form the greatest element in the 
population of the Eastern peninsula, and they once reached more 
widely still. Taking the Slavonic name in its widest meaning, they 
occupy all the lands from the Danube and its great tributaries south- 
ward to the strictly Greek border. The exceptions are where earlier 
races remain, Greek or Italian on the coast-line, Albanian in the 
mountains. The Slaves hold the heart of the peninsula, and they 
hold more than the peninsula itself. The Slave lives equally on both 
sides of what is or was the frontier of the Austrian and Ottoman 
empires; indeed, but for another set of causes which have affected 
eastern Europe, the Slave might have reached uninterruptedly from 
the Baltic to the ^gaean. 
This last set of causes are those which specially distinguish the 



268 FREEMAN 

histories of eastern and o£ western Europe; a set of causes which, 
though exactly twelve hundred years old/ are still fresh and living, 
and which are the special causes which have aggravated the special 
difficulties of the last five hundred years. In Western Europe, though 
we have had plenty of political conquests, we have had no national 
migrations since the days of the Teutonic settlements — at least, if we 
may extend these last so as to take in the Scandinavian settlements 
in Britain and Gaul. The Teuton has pressed to the East at the 
expense of the Slave and the Old-Prussian; the borders between the 
Romance and the Teutonic nations in the West have fluctuated; 
but no third set of nations has come in, strange alike to the Roman 
and the Teuton and to the whole Aryan family. As the Huns of 
Attila showed themselves in western Europe as passing ravagers, 
so did the Magyars at a later day; so did the Ottoman Turks in a 
day later still, when they besieged Vienna and laid waste the Vene- 
tian mainland. But all these Turanian invaders appeared in western 
Europe simply as passing invaders; in eastern Europe their part 
has been widely different. Besides the temporary dominion of 
Avars, Patzinaks, Chazars, Cumans, and a crowd of others, three 
bodies of more abiding settlers, the Bulgarians, the Magyars, and the 
Mongol conquerors of Russia, have come in by one path; a fourth, 
the Ottoman Turks, have come in by another path. Among all 
these invasions we have one case of thorough assimilation, and only 
one. The original Finnish Bulgarians have, Hke Western con- 
querors, been lost among Slavonic subjects and neighbors. The 
geographical function of the Magyar has been to keep the two 
great groups of Slavonic nations apart. To his coming, more than 
to any other cause, we may attribute the great historical gap which 
separates the Slave of the Baltic from his southern kinsfolk. The 
work of the Ottoman Turk we all know. These latter settlers 
remain alongside of the Slave, just as the Slave remains alongside 
of the earlier settlers. The Slavonized Bulgarians are the only 
instance of assimilation such as we are used to in the West. All 
the other races, old and new, from the Albanian to the Ottoman, 

^It should be remembered that, as the year 1879 saw the beginning of the liberated 
Bulgarian State, the year 679 saw the beginning of the first Bulgarian kingdom south 
of the Danube. 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 269 

are still there, each keeping its national being and its national 
speech. And in one part of the ancient Dacia we must add quite 
a distinct element, the element o£ Teutonic occupation in a form 
unlike any in which we see it in the West, in the shape of the Saxons 
of Transsilvania. 

We have thus worked out our point in detail. While in each 
Western country some one of the various races which have settled 
in it has, speaking roughly, assimilated the others, in the lands 
which are left under the rule of the Turk, or which have been lately 
delivered from his rule, all the races that have ever settled in the 
country still abide side by side. So when we pass into the lands 
which form the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, we find that that 
composite dominion is just as much opposed as the dominion of 
the Turk is to those ideas of nationality towards which Western 
Europe has been long feeling its way. We have seen by the example 
of Switzerland that it is possible to make an artificial nation out of 
fragments which have split off from three several nations. But 
the Austro-Hungarian monarchy is not a nation, not even an artifi- 
cial nation of this kind. Its elements are not bound together in the 
same way as the three elements of the Swiss Confederation. It does 
indeed contain one whole nation in the form of the Magyars; we 
might say that it contains two, if we reckon the Czechs for a dis- 
tinct nation. Of its other elements, we may for the moment set 
aside those parts of Germany which are so strangely united with 
the crowns of Hungary and Dalmatia. In those parts of the 
monarchy which come within the more strictly Eastern lands — the 
Roman and the Rouman — we may so distinguish the Romance- 
speaking inhabitants of Dalmatia and the Romance-speaking in- 
habitants of Transsilvania. The Slave of the north and of the south, 
the Magyar conqueror, the Saxon immigrant, all abide as distinct 
races. That the Ottoman is not to be added to our list in Hungary, 
while he is to be added in lands farther south, is simply because 
he has been driven out of Hungary, while he is allowed to abide in 
lands farther south. No point is more important to insist on now 
than the fact that the Ottoman once held the greater part of Hun- 
gary by exactly the same right, the right of the strongest, as that 



270 FREEMAN 

by which he still holds Macedonia and Epeiros. It is simply the 
result of a century of warfare, from Sobieski to Joseph II, which 
fixed the boundary which only yesterday seemed eternal to diploma- 
tists, but which now seems to have vanished. The boundary has 
advanced and gone back over and over again. As Buda once was 
Turkish, Belgrade has more than once been Austrian. The whole 
of the southeastern lands, Austrian, Turkish, and independent, from 
the Carpathian Mountains southward, present the same characteris- 
tic of permanence and distinctness among the several races which 
occupy them. The several races may lie, here in large continuous 
masses, there in small detached settlements; but there they all are 
in their distinctness. There is among them plenty of living and 
active nationd feeling; but while in the West political arrange- 
ments for the most part follow the great lines of national feeling, 
in the East the only way in which national feeling can show itself 
is by protesting, whether in arms or otherwise, against existing 
poHtical arrangements. Save the Magyars alone, the ruling race 
in the Hungarian kingdom, there is no case in those lands in which 
the whole continuous territory inhabited by speakers of the same 
tongue is placed under a separate national government of its own. 
And, even in this case, the identity between nation and government 
is imperfect in two ways. It is imperfect, because, after all, though 
Hungary has a separate national government in internal matters, 
yet it is not the Hungarian kingdom, but the Austro-Hungarian 
monarchy of which it forms a part, which counts as a power among 
the other powers of Europe. And the national character of the 
Hungarian government is equally imperfect from the other side. 
It is national as regards the Magyar; it is not national as regards 
the Slave, the Saxon, and the Rouman. Since the liberation of 
part of Bulgaria, no whole European nation is under the rule of 
the Turk. No one nation of the southeast peninsula forms a single 
national government. One fragment of a nation is free under a 
national government, another fragment is ruled by civilized stran- 
gers, a third is trampled down by barbarians. The existing States 
of Greece, Roumania, and Servia are far from taking in the whole 
of the Greek, Rouman, and Servian nations. In all these lands, 
Austrian, Turkish, and independent, there is no difficulty in mark- 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 27! 

ing oflf the several nations; only in no case do the nations answer 
to any existing political power. 

In all these cases, where nationality and government are alto- 
gether divorced, language becomes yet more distinctly the test o£ 
nationality than it is in Western lands where nationality and gov- 
ernment do to some extent coincide. And when nationahty and 
language do not coincide in the East, it is owing to another cause, 
of which also we know nothing in the West. In many cases religion 
takes the place of nationality; or rather the ideas of religion and 
nationality can hardly be distinguished. In the West a man's nation- 
ality is in no way affected by the religion which he professes, or even 
by his change from one religion to another. In the East it is other- 
wise. The Christian renegade who embraces Islam becomes for 
most practical purposes a Turk. Even if, as in Crete and Bosnia, 
he keeps his Greek or Slavonic language, he remains Greek or 
Slave only in a secondary sense. For the first principle of the 
Mahometan religion, the lordship of the true believer over the 
infidel, cuts off the possibility of any true national fellowship be- 
tween the true believer and the infidel. Even the Greek or Armenian 
who embraces the Latin creed goes far toward parting with his 
nationality as well as with his religion. For the adoption of the 
Latin creed implies what is in some sort the adoption of a new 
allegiance, the accepting of the authority of the Roman bishop. In 
the Armenian indeed we are come very near to the phenomena of 
the further East, where names like Parsee and Hindoo, names in 
themselves as strictly ethnical as Englishman or Frenchman, have 
come to express distinctions in which religion and nationality are 
absolutely the same thing. Of this whole class of phenomena the 
Jew is of course the crowning example. But we speak of these 
matters here only as bringing in an element in the definition of 
nationality to which we are unused in the West. But it quite comes 
within our present subject to give one definition from the south- 
eastern lands. What is the Greek? Clearly he who is at once a 
Greek in speech and Orthodox in faith. The Hellenic Mussulmans 
in Crete, even the Hellenic Latins in some of the other islands, are 
at the most imperfect members of the Hellenic body. The utmost 
that can be said is that they keep the power of again entering that 



272 FREEMAN 

body, either by their own return to the national faith, or by such a 
change in the state of things as shall make difference in religion no 
longer inconsistent with true national fellowship. 

Thus, wherever we go, we find language to be the rough practical 
test of nationality. The exceptions are many; they may perhaps 
outnumber the instances which conform to the rule. Still they are 
exceptions. Community of language does not imply community of 
blood; it might be added that diversity of language does not imply 
diversity of blood. But community of language is, in the absence of 
any evidence to the contrary, a presumption of the community of 
blood, and it is proof of something which for practical purposes is 
the same as community of blood. To talk of "the Latin race" is 
in strictness absurd. We know that the so-called race is simply 
made up of those nations which adopted the Latin language. The 
Celtic, Teutonic, and Slavonic races may conceivably have been 
formed by a like artificial process. But the presumption is the other 
way; and if such a process ever took place, it took place long before 
history began. The Celtic, Teutonic, and Slavonic races come before 
us as groups of mankind marked out by the test of language. 
Within those races separate nations are again marked out by a 
stricter application of the test of language. Within the race we 
may have languages which are clearly akin to each other, but which 
need not be mutually intelligible. Within the nation we have only 
dialects which are mutually intelligible, or which, at all events, 
gather round some one central dialect which is intelligible to all. 
We take this standard of races and nations, fully aware that it will 
not stand a physiological test, but holding that for all practical 
purposes adoption must pass as equivalent to natural descent. And, 
among the practical purposes which are affected by the facts of race 
and nationality, we must, as long as a man is what he is, as long as 
he has not been created afresh according to some new scientific 
pattern, not shrink from reckoning those generous emotions which, 
in the present state of European feeling, are beginning to bind to- 
gether the greater as well as the lesser groups of mankind. The 
sympathies of men are beginning to reach wider than could have 
been dreamed of a century ago. The feeling which was once con- 



RACE AND LANGUAGE 273 

fined to the mere household extended itself to the tribe or city. From 
the tribe or city it extended itself to the nation; from the nation it 
is beginning to extend itself to the whole race. In some cases it 
can extend itself to the whole race far more easily than in others. 
In some cases historical causes have made nations of the same race 
bitter enemies, while they have made nations of dillerent races 
friendly allies. The same thing happened in earlier days between 
tribes and cities of the same nation. But, when hindrances of this 
kind do not exist, the feeling of race, as something beyond the 
narrower feeling of nationality, is beginning to be a powerful agent 
in the feelings and actions of men and of nations. A long series 
of mutual wrongs, conquest, and oppression on one side, avenged 
by conquest and oppression on the other side, have made the Slave 
of Poland and the Slave of Russia the bitterest of enemies. No 
such hindrance exists to stop the flow of natural and generous 
feeling between the Slave of Russia and the Slave of the southeastern 
lands. Those whose statesmanship consists in some hand-to-mouth 
shift for the moment, whose wisdom consists in refusing to look 
either back to the past or onward to the future, cannot understand 
this great fact of our times; and what they cannot understand they 
mock at. But the fact exists, and does its work in spite of them. 
And it does its work none the less because in some cases the feeling 
of sympathy is awakened by a claim of kindred, where, in the sense 
of the physiologist or the genealogist, there is no kindred at all. 
The practical view, historical or political, will accept as members 
of this or that race or nation many members whom the physiologist 
would shut out, whom the English lawyer would shut out, but 
whom the Roman lawyer would gladly welcome to every privilege 
of the stock on which they were grafted. The line of the Scipios, 
of the Cxsars, and of the Antonines was continued by adoption; 
and for all practical purposes the nations of the earth have agreed 
to follow the examples set them by their masters. 



TRUTH OF INTERCOURSE 
SAMUEL PEPYS 

BY 

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson (1850-94), novelist, essayist, and 
poet, was descended from a famous family of lighthouse builders. He 
was born at lildinburgh, Scotland, and was intended for the ancestral 
profession of engineer. Abandoning this, he tried law with no better 
success, and finally devoted himself to his destined vocation of letters. 

Stevenson began his career with the writing of essays, then issued two 
charming volumes of humorous and contemplative travel, "An Inland 
Voyage" and "Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes"; then collected 
in his "New Arabian Nights" a number of fanciful short stories he had 
been publishing in a magazine. In 1883 he first caught the attention of 
the larger public with "Treasure Island," one of the best, and probably 
the best written, boys' story in the language. His most sensational suc- 
cess was "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"; but a much 
higher literary quality appears in such novels as "The Master of Ballan- 
trae," "Kidnapped," and "Catriona," in which he to some extent follows 
the trcidition of Scott, with far greater finish of style, but without Scott's 
fine spontaneity and unconsciousness. He published also three small 
volumes of verse, some of it of great charm and delicacy. 

Stevenson was essentially an artist in words. The modern desire for 
subtlety of cadence and for the rendering of fine shades of expression is 
seen in a high degree in all he wrote, and his work has the merits and 
defects that accompany this extreme preoccupation with style. But he 
had also great virtues of matter. He was a superb story-teller, an acute 
and sensitive critic, a genial and whole-hearted lover of life. In the 
essay on "Truth of Intercourse" will be found an example of his gra- 
cious and tactful moralizing; in "Samuel Pepys," a penetrating inter- 
pretation of one of the most amazing pieces of self-revelation in the 
annals of literature. 



TRUTH OF INTERCOURSE 

AMONG sayings that have a currency in spite of being wholly 
LJk false upon the face of them for the sake of a half-truth upon 
■A. JL. another subject which is accidentally combined with error, 
one of the grossest and broadest conveys the monstrous proposition 
that it is easy to tell the truth and hard to tell a lie. I wish heartily 
it were. But the truth is one; it has first to be discovered, then justly 
and exactly uttered. Even with instruments specially contrived 
for such a purpose — with a foot rule, a level, or a theodolite — it is 
not easy to be exact; it is easier, alas! to be inexact. From those 
who mark the divisions on a scale to those who measure the 
boundaries of empires or the distance of the heavenly stars, it is 
by careful method and minute, unwearying attention that men 
rise even to material exactness or to sure knowledge even of external 
and constant things. But it is easier to draw the outline of a 
mountain than the changing appearance of a face; and truth in 
human relations is of this more intangible and dubious order: hard 
to seize, harder to communicate. Veracity to facts in a loose, collo- 
quial sense — not to say that I have been in Malabar when as a 
matter of fact I was never out of England, not to say that I have 
read Cervantes in the original when as a matter of fact I know not 
one syllable of Spanish — this, indeed, is easy and to the same degree 
unimportant in itself. Lies of this sort, according to circumstances, 
may or may not be important; in a certain sense even they may or 
may not be false. The habitual liar may be a very honest fellow, 
and live truly with his wife and friends; while another man who 
never told a formal falsehood in his life may yet be himself one 
lie — heart and face, from top to bottom. This is the kind of lie 
which poisons intimacy. And, vice versa, veracity to sentiment, 
truth in a relation, truth to your own heart and your friends, never 
to feign or falsify emotion — that is the truth which makes love 
possible and mankind happy. 

277 



278 STEVENSON 

L'art de bien dire is but a drawing-room accomplishment unless 
it be pressed into the service of the truth. The difficulty of literature 
is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your 
reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish. This is commonly 
understood in the case of books or set orations; even in making your 
will, or writing an explicit letter, some difficulty is admitted by 
the world. But one thing you can never make Philistine natures 
understand; one thing, which yet lies on the surface, remains as 
unseizable to their wits as a high flight of metaphysics — namely, 
that the business of life is mainly carried on by means of this 
difficult art of literature, and according to a man's proficiency in 
that art shall i^e the freedom and the fulness of his intercourse with 
other men. Anybody, it is supposed, can say what he means; and, 
in spite of their notorious experience to the cpntrary, people so 
continue to suppose. Now, I simply open the last book I have been 
reading — Mr. Leland's captivating English Gipsies. "It is said," 
I find on page 7, "that those who can converse with Irish peasants 
in their own native tongue form far higher opinions of their 
appreciation of the beautiful, and of the elements of humour and 
pathos in their hearts, than do those who know their thoughts only 
through the medium of English. I know from my own observations 
that this is quite the case with the Indians of North America, and 
it is unquestionably so with the gipsy." In short, where a man has 
not a full possession of the language, the most important, because 
the most amiable, qualities of his nature have to lie buried and 
fallow; for the pleasure of comradeship, and the intellectual part 
of love, rest upon these very "elements of humour and pathos." 
Here is a man opulent in both, and for lack of a medium he can 
put none of it out to interest in the market of affection! But what 
is thus made plain to our apprehensions in the case of a foreign 
language is partially true even with the tongue we learned in 
childhood. Indeed, we all speak different dialects; one shall be 
copious and exact, another loose and meagre; but the speech of the 
ideal talker shall correspond and fit upon the truth of fact — not 
clumsily, obscuring lineaments, like a mantle, but cleanly adhering, 
like an athlete's skin. And what is the result? That the one can 
open himself more clearly to his friends, and can enjoy more of 



TRUTH OF INTERCOURSE 279 

what makes life truly valuable — intimacy with those he loves. An 
orator makes a false step; he employs some trivial, some absurd, 
some vulgar phrase; in the turn of a sentence, he insults by a side 
wind, those whom he is labouring to charm; in speaking to one 
sentiment he unconsciously ruffles another in parenthesis; and 
you are not surprised, for you know his task to be dehcate and filled 
with perils. "O frivolous mind of man, light ignorance!" As if 
yourself, when you seek to explain some misunderstanding or excuse 
some apparent fault, speaking swiftly and addressing a mind still 
recently incensed, were not harnessing for a more perilous adven- 
ture; as if yourself required less tact and eloquence; as if an angry 
friend or a suspicious lover were not more easy to oifend than a 
meeting of indifferent politicians! Nay, and the orator treads in 
a beaten round; the matters he discusses have been discussed a 
thousand times before; language is ready-shaped to his purpose; 
he speaks out of a cut and dry vocabulary. But you — may it not be 
that your defence reposes on some subtlety of feeling, not so much 
as touched upon in Shakespeare, to express which, like a pioneer, 
you must venture forth into zones of thought still unsurveyed, and 
become yourself a literary innovator ? For even in love there are 
unlovely humours; ambiguous acts, unpardonable woj'ds, may yet 
have sprung from a kind sentiment. If the injured one could read 
your heart, you may be sure that he would understand and pardon; 
but, alas! the heart cannot be shown — it has to be demonstrated in 
words. Do you think it is a hard thing to write poetry } Why, that 
is to write poetry, and of a high, if not the highest, order. 

I should even more admire "the lifelong and heroic literary 
labours" of my fellow-men, patiently clearing up in words their 
loves and their contentions, and speaking their autobiography daily 
to their wives, were it not for a circumstance which lessens their 
difficulty and my admiration by equal parts. For life, though largely, 
is not entirely carried on by literature. We are subject to physical 
passions and contortions; the voice breaks and changes, and speaks 
by unconscious and winning inflections; we have legible counte- 
nances, like an open book; things that cannot be said look elo- 
quently through the eyes; and the soul, not locked into the body 
as a dungeon, dwells ever on the threshold with appealing signals. 



28o STEVENSON 

Groans and tears, looks and gestures, a flush or a paleness, are often 
the most clear reporters of the heart, and speak more directly to the 
hearts of others. The message flies by these interpreters in the least 
space of time, and the misunderstanding is averted in the moment 
of its birth. To explain in words takes time and a just and patient 
hearing; and in the critical epochs of a close relation, patience and 
justice are not qualities on which we can rely. But the look or the 
gesture explains things in a breath; they tell their message without 
ambiguity; imlike speech, they cannot stumble, by the way, on a 
reproach or an allusion that should steel your friend against the 
truth; and then they have a higher authority, for they are the direct 
expression of the heart, not yet transmitted through the unfaithful 
and sophisticating brain. Not long ago I wrote a letter to a friend 
which came near involving us in quarrel; but we met, and in 
personal talk I repeated the worst of what I had written, and added 
worse to that; and with the commentary of the body it seemed not 
unfriendly either to hear or say. Indeed, letters are in vain for the 
purposes of intimacy; an absence is a dead break in the relation; yet 
two who know each other fully and are bent on perpetuity in love, 
may so preserve the attitude of their affections that they may meet 
on the same terms as they had parted. 

Pitiful is the case of the blind, who cannot read the face; pitiful 
that of the deaf, who cannot follow the changes of the voice. And 
there are others also to be pitied; for there are some of an inert, 
uneloquent nature, who have been denied all the symbols of com- 
munication, who have neither a lively play of facial expression, nor 
speaking gestures, nor a responsive voice, nor yet the gift of frank, 
explanatory speech: people truly made of clay, people tied for life 
into a bag which no one can undo. They are poorer than the gipsy, 
for their heart can speak no language under heaven. Such people 
we must learn slowly by the tenor of their acts, or through yea and 
nay communications; or we take them on trust on the strength of 
a general air. and now and again, when we see the spirit breaking 
through in a flash, correct or change our estimate. But these will be 
uphill intimacies, without charm or freedom, to the end; and free- 
dom is the chief ingredient in confidence. Some minds, romantically 
dull, despise physical endowments. That is a doctrine for a mis- 



TRUTH OF INTERCOURSE 28 1 

anthrope; to those who Hke their fellow-creatures it must always 
be meaningless; and, for my part, I can see few things more 
desirable, after the possession of such radical qualities as honour 
and humour and pathos, than to have a lively and not a stolid 
countenance; to have looks to correspond with every feeling; to be 
elegant and delightful in person, so that we shall please even in 
the intervals of active pleasing, and may never discredit speech 
with uncouth manners or become unconsciously our own burlesques. 
But of all unfortunates there is one creature (for I will not call him 
man) conspicuous in misfortune. This is he who has forfeited his 
birthright of expression, who has cultivated artful intonations, who 
has taught his face tricks, like a pet monkey, and on every side 
perverted or cut off his means of communication with his fellow- 
men. The body is a house of many windows: there we all sit, 
showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love 
us. But this fellow has filled his windows with opaque glass, ele- 
gantly coloured. His house may be admired for its design, the 
crowd may pause before the stained windows, but meanwhile the 
poor proprietor must lie languishing within, uncomforted, un- 
changeably alone. 

Truth of intercourse is something more difficult than to refrain 
from open lies. It is possible to avoid falsehood and yet not tell 
the truth. It is not enough to answer formal questions. To reach 
the truth by yea and nay communications implies a questioner with 
a share of inspiration such as is often found in mutual love. Yea and 
nay mean nothing; the meaning must have been related in the 
question. Many words are often necessary to convey a very simple 
statement; for in this sort of exercise we never hit the gold; the 
most that we can hope is by many arrows, more or less far off on 
different sides, to indicate, in the course of time, for what target 
we are aiming, and after an hour's talk, back and forward, to 
convey the purport of a single principle or a single thought. And 
yet while the curt, pithy speaker misses the point entirely, a wordy, 
prolegomenous babbler will often add three new offences in the 
process of excusing one. It is really a most delicate affair. The 
world was made before the English language, and seemingly upon 
a different design. Suppose we held our converse, not in words, 



282 STEVENSON 

but in music; those who have a bad ear would find themselves cut 
off from all near commerce, and no better than foreigners in this 
big world. Bui: we do not consider how many have "a bad ear" for 
words, nor how often the most eloquent find nothing to reply. 
I hate questioners and questions; there are so few that can be 
spoken to without a lie. "Do you forgive me?" Madam and sweet- 
heart, so far as I have gone in life I have never yet been able to 
discover what forgiveness means. "Is it still the same between us?" 
Why, how can it be? It is eternally different; and yet you are 
still the friend of my heart. "Do you understand me?" God knows; 
I should think it highly improbable. 

The cruelest lies are often told in silence. A man may have sat 
in a room for hours and not opened his teeth, and yet come out of 
that room a disloyal friend or a vile calumniator. And how many 
loves have perished because, from pride, or spite, or diffidence, or 
that unmanly shame which withholds a man from daring to betray 
emotion, a lover, at the critical point of the relation, has but hung 
his head and held his tongue? And, again, a lie may be told by a 
truth, or a truth conveyed through a lie. Truth to facts is not 
always truth to sentiment; and part of the truth, as often happens 
in answer to a question, may be the foulest calumny. A fact may 
be an exception; but the feeling is the law, and it is that which 
you must neither garble nor belie. The whole tenor of a conversa- 
tion is a part of the meaning of each separate statement; the be- 
ginning and the end define and travesty the intermediate con- 
versation. You never speak to God; you address a fellow-man, full 
of his own tempers; and to tell truth, rightly understood, is not 
to state the true facts, but to convey a true impression; truth in 
spirit, not truth to letter, is the true veracity. To reconcile averted 
friends a Jesuitical discretion is often needful, not so much to gain 
a kind hearing as to communicate sober truth. Women have an 
ill name in this connection; yet they live in as true relations; the lie 
of a good woman is the true index of her heart. 

"It takes," says Thoreau, in the noblest and most useful passage 
I remember to have read in any modern author,' "two to speak 
truth — one to speak and another to hear." He must be very little 

' "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers," Wednesday, p. 283. 



TRUTH OF INTERCOURSE 283 

experienced, or have no great zeal for truth, who does not recognise 
the fact. A grain of anger or a grain of suspicion produces strange 
acoustical effects, and makes the ear greedy to remark offence. 
Hence we find those who have once quarrelled carry themselves 
distantly, and are ever ready to break the truce. To speak truth 
there must be moral equality or else no respect; and hence between 
parent and child intercourse is apt to degenerate into a verbal 
fencing bout, and misapprehensions to become ingrained. And 
there is another side to this, for the parent begins with an imperfect 
notion of the child's character, formed in early years or during 
the equinoctial gales of youth; to this he adheres, noting only the 
facts which suit with his preconception; and wherever a person 
fancies himself unjustly judged, he at once and finally gives up the 
effort to speak truth. With our chosen friends, on the other hand, 
and still more between lovers (for mutual understanding is love's 
essence), the truth is easily indicated by the one and aptly compre- 
hended by the other. A hint taken, a look understood, conveys 
the gist of long and delicate explanations; and where the life is 
known even yea and nay become luminous. In the closest of all 
relations — that of a love well founded and equally shared — speech 
is half discarded, like a roundabout, infantile process or a ceremony 
or formal etiquette; and the two communicate directly by their 
presences, and with few looks and fewer words contrive to share 
their good and evil and uphold each other's hearts in joy. For love 
rests upon a physical basis; it is a familiarity of nature's making and 
apart from voluntary choice. Understanding has in some sort outrun 
knowledge, for the affection perhaps began with the acquaintance; 
and as it was not made like other relations, so it is not, like them, 
to be perturbed or clouded. Each knows more than can be uttered; 
each lives by faith, and believes by a natural compulsion; and 
between man and wife the language of the body is largely developed 
and grown strangely eloquent. The thought that prompted and 
was conveyed in a caress would only lose to be set down in words — 
ay, although Shakespeare himself should be the scribe. 

Yet it is in these dear intimacies, beyond all others, that we must 
strive and do battle for the truth. Let but a doubt arise, and alas! 
all the previous intimacy and confidence is but another charge 



284 STEVENSON 

against the person doubted. "What a monstrous dishonesty is this 
if I have been deceived so long and so completely!" Let but that 
thought gain entrance, and you plead before a deaf tribunal. Appeal 
to the past; why, that is your crime! Make all clear, convince the 
reason; alas! speciousness is but a proof against you. "// you can 
abuse me now, the more lively that you have abused me from the 
first." 

For a strong affection such moments are worth supporting, and 
they will end well; for your advocate is in your lover's heart and 
speaks her own language; it is not you but she herself who can 
defend and clear you of the charge. But in slighter intimacies, and 
for a less stringent union.'' Indeed, is it worth while? We are 
all incompris, only more or less concerned for the mischance; all 
trying wrongly to do right; all fawning at each other's feet like 
dumb, neglected lap-dogs. Sometimes we catch an eye — this is our 
opportunity in the ages — and we wag our tail with a poor smile. "Is 
that all?" All? If you only knew! But how can they know? They 
do not love us; the more fools we to squander life on the indifferent. 

But the morality of the thing, you will be glad to hear, is excel- 
lent; for it is only by trying to understand others that we can get our 
own hearts understood; and in matters of human feeling the 
clement judge is the most successful pleader. 



SAMUEL PEPYS 

IN two books a fresh light has recently been thrown on the 
character and position of Samuel Pepys. Mr. Mynors Bright 
has given us a new transcription of the Diary, increasing it 
in bulk by near a third, correcting many errors, and completing 
our knowledge of the man in some curious and important points. 
We can only regret that he has taken liberties with the author and 
the public. It is no part of the duties of the editor of an established 
classic to decide what may or may not be "tedious to the reader." 
The book is either an historical document or not, and in condemn- 
ing Lord Braybrooke Mr. Bright condemns himself. As for the 
time-honored phrase, "unfit for publication," without being cynical, 
we may regard it as the sign of a precaution more or less com- 
mercial; and we may think, without being sordid, that when we 
purchase six huge and distressingly expensive volumes, we are 
entitled to be treated rather more like scholars and rather less like 
children. But Mr. Bright may rest assured: while we complain, 
we are still grateful. Mr. Wheatley, to divide our obligation, brings 
together, clearly and with no lost words, a body of illustrative 
material. Sometimes we might ask a little more; never, I think, less. 
And as a matter of fact, a great part of Mr. Wheatley's volume 
might be transferred, by a good editor of Pepys, to the margin of 
the text, for it is precisely what the reader wants. 

In the light of these two books, at least, we have now to read our 
author. Between them they contain all we can expect to learn for, 
it may be, many years. Now, if ever, we should be able to form 
some notion of that unparalleled figure in the annals of mankind 
— unparalleled for three good reasons: first, because he was a man 
known to his contemporaries in a halo of almost historical pomp, 
and to his remote descendants with an indecent familiarity, like a 
tap-room comrade; second, because he has outstripped all competi- 
tors in the art or virtue of a conscious honesty about oneself; and, 
third, because, being in many ways a very ordinary person, he has 

28s 



286 STEVENSON 

yet placed himself before the public eye with such a fulness and 
such an intimacy of detail as might be envied by a genius hke 
Montaigne. Not then for his own sake only, but as a character in 
a unique position, endowed with a unique talent, and shedding a 
unique light upon the lives of the mass of mankind, he is surely 
worthy of prolonged and patient study. 



THE DIARY 



That there should be such a book as Pepys's Diary is incom- 
parably strange. Pepys, in a corrupt and idle period, played the 
man in public employments, toiling hard and keeping his honor 
bright. Much of the little good that is set down to James the 
Second comes by right to Pepys; and if it were little for a king, it 
is much for a subordinate. To his clear, capable head was owing 
somewhat of the greatness of England on the seas. In the exploits 
of Hawke, Rodney, or Nelson, this dead Mr. Pepys of the Navy 
OiBce had some considerable share. He stood well by his business 
in the appalling plague of 1666. He was loved and respected by 
some of the best and wisest men in England. He was President of 
the Royal Society; and when he came to die, people said of his 
conduct in that solemn hour — thinking it needless to say more — 
that it was answerable to the greatness of his life. Thus he walked 
in dignity, guards of soldiers sometimes attending him in his walks, 
subalterns bowing before his periwig; and when he uttered his 
thoughts they were suitable to his state and services. On February 
8, 1668, we find him writing to Evelyn, his mind bitterly occupied 
with the late Dutch war, and some thoughts of the different story 
of the repulse of the great Armada: "Sir, you will not wonder at 
the backwardness of my thanks for the present you made me, so 
many days since, of the Prospect of the Medway, while the Hol- 
lander rode master in it, when I have told you that the sight of 
it hath led me to such reflections on my particular interest, by my 
employment, in the reproach due to that miscarriage, as have given 
me little less disquiet than he is fancied to have who found his 
face in Michael Angelo's hell. The same should serve me also in 
excuse for my silence in celebrating your mastery shown in the 
design and draught, did not indignation rather than courtship 



SAMUEL PEPYS 287 

urge me so far to commend them, as to wish the furniture of our 
House of Lords changed from the story of '88 to that of '67 (of 
Evelyn's designing), till the pravity of this were reformed to the 
temper of that age, wherein God Almighty found his blessings 
more operative than, I fear, he doth in ours his judgments." 

This is a letter honorable to the writer, where the meaning rather 
than the words is eloquent. Such was the account he gave of himself 
to his contemporaries; such thoughts he chose to utter, and in such 
language: giving himself out for a grave and patriotic public 
servant. We turn to the same date in the Diary by which he is 
known, after two centuries, to his descendants. The entry begins 
in the same key with the letter, blaming the "madness of the House 
of Commons" and "the base proceedings, just the epitome of all our 
public proceedings in this age, of the House of Lords"; and then, 
without the least transition, this is how our diarist proceeds: "To 
the Strand, to my bookseller's, and there bought an idle, rogueish 
French book, L'escholle des Filles, which I have bought in plain 
binding, avoiding the buying of it better bound, because I resolve, 
as soon as I have read it, to burn it, that it may not stand in the list 
of books, nor among them, to disgrace them, if it should be found." 
Even in our day, when responsibility is so much more clearly appre- 
hended, the man who wrote the letter would be notable; but what 
about the man, I do not say who bought a roguish book, but who 
was ashamed of doing so, yet did it, and recorded both the doing 
and the shame in the pages of his daily journal ? 

We all, whether we write or speak, must somewhat drape ourselves 
when we address our fellows; at a given moment we apprehend our 
character and acts by some particular side; we are merry with one, 
grave with another, as befits the nature and demands of the relation. 
Pepys's letter to Evelyn would have little in common with that other 
one to Mrs. Knipp which he signed by the pseudonym of Dapper 
Dic}{y; yet each would be suitable to the character of his correspond- 
ent. There is no untruth in this, for man, being a Protean animal, 
swiftly shares and changes with his company and surroundings; and 
these changes are the better part of his education in the world. To 
strike a posture once for all, and to march through hfe like a drum- 
major, is to be highly disagreeable to others and a fool for oneself 



288 STEVENSON 

into the bargain. To Evelyn and to Knipp we understand the dou- 
ble facing; but to whom was he posing in the Diary, and what, in 
the name of astonishment, was the nature of the pose? Had he 
suppressed all mention of the book, or had he bought it, gloried in 
the act, and cheerfully recorded his glorification, in either case we 
should have made him out. But no; he is full of precautions to con- 
ceal the "disgrace" of the purchase, and yet speeds to chronicle the 
whole affair in pen and ink. It is a sort of anomaly in human action, 
which we can exactly parallel from another part of the Diary. 

Mrs. Pepys had written a paper of her too just complaints against 
her husband, and written it in plain and very pungent English. 
Pepys, in an agony lest the world should come to see it, brutally 
seizes and destroys the tell-tale document; and then — you disbelieve 
your eyes — down goes the whole story with unsparing truth and in 
the cruellest detail. It seems he has no design but to appear respect- 
able, and here he keeps a private book to prove he was not. You 
are at first faintly reminded of some of the vagaries of the morbid 
religious diarist; but at a moment's thought the resemblance dis- 
appears. The design of Pepys is not at all to edify; it is not from 
repentance that he chronicles his peccadillos, for he tells us when he 
does repent, and, to be just to him, there often follows some improve- 
ment. Again, the sins of the religious diarist are of a very formal 
pattern, and are told with an elaborate whine. But in Pepys you 
come upon good, substantive misdemeanors; beams in his eye of 
which he alone remains unconscious; healthy outbreaks of the ani- 
mal nature, and laughable subterfuges to himself that always com- 
mand belief and often engage the sympathies. 

Pepys was a young man for his age, came slowly to himself in 
the world, sowed his wild oats late, took late to industry, and pre- 
served till nearly forty the headlong gusto of a boy. So, to come 
rightly at the spirit in which the Diary was written, we must recall 
a class of sentiments which with most of us are over and done before 
the age of twelve. In our tender years we still preserve a freshness 
of surprise at our prolonged existence; events make an impression 
out of all proportion to their consequence; we are unspeakably 
touched by our own past adventures; and look forward to our future 
personality with sentimental interest. It was something of this, I 



SAMUEL PEPYS 289 

think, that clung to Pepys. Although not sentimental in the abstract, 
he was sweetly sentimental about himself. His own past clung about 
his heart, an evergreen. He was the slave of an association. He 
could not pass by Islington, where his father used to carry him to 
cakes and ale, but he must light at the "King's Head" and eat and 
drink "for remembrance of the old house sake." He counted it 
good fortune to lie a night at Epsom to renew his old walks, "where 
Mrs. Hely and I did use to walk and talk, with whom I had the 
first sentiments of love and pleasure in a woman's company, dis- 
course and taking her by the hand, she being a pretty woman." He 
goes about weighing up the Assurance, which lay near Woolwich 
under water, and cries in a parenthesis, "Poor ship, that I have been 
twice merry in, in Captain Holland's time"; and after revisiting the 
Naseby, now changed into the Charles, he confesses "it was a great 
pleasure to myself to see the ship that I began my good fortune in." 
The stone that he was cut for he preserved in a case; and to the 
Turners he kept alive such gratitude for their assistance that for 
years, and after he had begun to mount himself into higher zones, 
he continued to have that family to dinner on the anniversary of the 
operation. Not Hazlitt nor Rousseau had a more romantic passion 
for their past, although at times they might express it more roman- 
tically; and if Pepys shared with them this childish fondness, did not 
Rousseau, who left behind him the Confessions, or Hazlitt, who 
wrote the Liber Amoris, and loaded his essays with loving personal 
detail, share with Pepys in his unwearied egotism? For the two 
things go hand in hand; or, to be more exact, it is the first that makes 
the second either possible or pleasing. 

But, to be quite in sympathy with Pepys, we must return once 
more to the experience of children. I can remember to have written, 
in the fly-leaf of more than one book, the date and the place where 
I then was — if, for instance, I was ill in bed or sitting in a certain 
garden; these were jottings for my future self; if I should chance on 
such a note in after years, I thought it would cause me a particular 
thrill to recognize myself across the intervening distance. Indeed, 
I might come upon them now, and not be moved one tittle — which 
shows that I have comparatively failed in life, and grown older than 
Samuel Pepys. For in the Diary we can find more than one such 



290 STEVENSON 

note of perfect childish egotism; as when he explains that his candle 
is going out, "which makes me write thus slobberingly" ; or as in this 
incredible particularity, "To my study, where I only wrote thus 
much of this day's passages to this,* and so out again"; or lastly, as 
here, with more of circumstance: "I staid up till the bellman came by 
with his bell under my window, as I was writing of this very line, 
and cried, 'Past one of the clock, and a cold, frosty, windy morning.' " 
Such passages are not to be misunderstood. The appeal to Samuel 
Pepys years hence is unmistakable. He desires that dear, though 
unknown, gentleman keenly to realize his predecessor; to remember 
why a passage was uncleanly written; to recall (let us fancy, with 
a sigh) the tones of the bellman, the chill of the early, windy morn- 
ing, and the very line his own romantic self was scribing at the 
moment. The man, you will perceive, was making reminiscences — a 
sort of pleasure by ricochet, which comforts many in distress, and 
turns some others into sentimental libertines: and the whole book, 
if you will but look at it in that way, is seen to be a work of art to 
Pepys's own address. 

Here, then, we have the key to that remarkable attitude preserved 
by him throughout his Diary, to that unflinching — I had almost said, 
that unintelligent — sincerity which makes it a miracle among human 
books. He was not unconscious of his errors — far from it; he was 
often startled into shame, often reformed, often made and broke his 
vows of change. But whether he did ill or well, he was still his own 
unequalled self; still that entrancing ego of whom alone he cared to 
write; and still sure of his own affectionate indulgence, when the 
parts should be changed, and the writer come to read what he had 
written. Whatever he did, or said, or thought, or suffered, it was 
still a trait of Pepys, a character of his career; and as, to himself, he 
was more interesting than Moses or than Alexander, so all should 
be faithfully set down. I have called his Diary a work of art. Now 
when the artist has found something, word or deed, exactly proper 
to a favorite character in play or novel, he will neither suppress nor 
diminish it, though the remark be silly or the act mean. The hesita- 
tion of Hamlet, the credulity of Othello, the baseness of Emma 
Bovary, or the irregularities of Mr. Swiveller, caused neither disap- 
pointment nor disgust to their creators. And so with Pepys and his 



SAMUEL PEPYS 29 1 

adored protagonist: adored not blindly, but with trenchant insight 
and enduring, human toleration. I have gone over and over the 
greater part of the Diary; and the points where, to the most sus- 
picious scrutiny, he has seemed not perfectly sincere, are so few, so 
doxibtful, and so petty, that I am ashamed to name them. It may 
be said that we all of us write such a diary in airy characters upon 
our brain; but I fear there is a distinction to be made; I fear that as 
we render to our consciousness an account of our daily fortunes and 
behavior, we too often weave a tissue of romantic compliments and 
dull excuses; and even if Pepys were the ass and coward that men 
call him, we must take rank as sillier and more cowardly than he. 
The bald truth about oneself, what we are all too timid to admit 
when we are not too dull to see it, that was what he saw clearly and 
set down unsparingly. 

It is improbable that the Diary can have been carried on in the 
same single spirit in which it was begun. Pepys was not such an 
ass, but he must have perceived, as he went on, the extraordinary 
nature of the work he was producing. He was a great reader, and 
he knew what other books were like. It must, at least, have crossed 
his mind that some one might ultimately decipher the manuscript, 
and he himself, with all his pains and pleasures, be resuscitated in 
some later day; and the thought, although discouraged, must have 
warmed his heart. He was not such an ass, besides, but he must 
have been conscious of the deadly explosives, the guncotton and the 
giant powder, he was hoarding in his drawer. Let some contempo- 
rary light upon the Journal, and Pepys was plunged forever in social 
and political disgrace. We can trace the growth of his terrors by 
two facts. In 1660, while the Diary was still in its youth, he tells 
about it, as a matter of course, to a lieutenant in the navy; but in 
1669, when it was already near an end, he could have bitten his 
tongue out, as the saying is, because he had let slip his secret to one 
so grave and friendly as Sir William Coventry. And from two other 
facts I think we may infer that he had entertained, even if he had 
not acquiesced in, the thought of a far-distant pubUcity. The first 
is of capital importance: the Diary was not destroyed. The second — 
that he took unusual precautions to confound the cipher in "ro- 
guish" passages — proves, beyond question, that he was thinking of 



292 STEVENSON 

some other reader besides himself. Perhaps while his friends were ad- 
miring the "greatness of his behavior" at the approach of death, he 
may have had a twinkling hope of immortality. Mens cujusque is est 
quisque, said his chosen motto; and, as he had stamped his mind with 
every crook and foible in the pages of the Diary, he might feel that 
what he left behind him was indeed himself. There is perhaps no 
other instance so remarkable of the desire of man for publicity and an 
enduring name. The greatness of his life was open, yet he longed 
to communicate its smallness also; and, while contemporaries bowed 
before him, he must buttonhole posterity with the news that his 
periwig was once alive with nits. But this thought, although I cannot 
doubt he had it, was neither his first nor his deepest; it did not color 
one word that he wrote; the Diary, for as long as he kept it, re- 
mained what it was when he began, a private pleasure for himself. 
It was his bosom secret; it added a zest to all his pleasures; he lived 
in and for it, and might well write these solemn words, when he 
closed that confidant forever : "And so I betake myself to that course 
which is almost as much as to see myself go into the grave; for which, 
and all the discomforts that will accompany my being blind, the good 
God prepare me." 



A LIBERAL GENIUS 



Pepys spent part of a certain winter Sunday, when he had taken 
physic, composing "a song in praise of a liberal genius (such as I take 
my own to be) to all studies and pleasures." The song was unsuc- 
cessful, but the Diary is, in a sense, the very song that he was seeking; 
and his portrait by Hales, so admirably reproduced in Mynors 
Bright's edition, is a confirmation of the Diary. Hales it would 
appear, had known his business; and though he put his sitter to a 
deal of trouble, almost breaking his neck "to have the portrait full 
of shadows," and draping him in an Indian gown hired expressly 
for the purpose, he was preoccupied about no merely picturesque 
effects, but to portray the essence of the man. Whether we read the 
picture by the Diary or the Diary by the picture, we shall at least 
agree that Hales was among the number of those who can "surprise 
the manners in the face." Here we have a mouth pouting, moist with 
desires; eyes greedy, protuberant, and yet apt for weeping too; a 



SAMUEL PEPYS 293 

nose great alike in character and dimensions; and altogether a most 
fleshly, melting countenance. The face is attractive by its promise of 
reciprocity. I have used the word greedy, but the reader must not 
suppose that he can change it for that closely kindred one of hungry; 
for there is here no aspiration, no waiting for better things, but an 
animal joy in all that comes. It could never be the face of an artist; 
it is the face of a viveur — kindly, pleased and pleasing, protected 
from excess and upheld in contentment by the shifting versatility of 
his desires. For a single desire is more rightly to be called a lust; 
but there is health in a variety, where one may balance and control 
another. 

The whole world, town or country, was to Pepys a garden of 
Armida. Wherever he went, his steps were winged with the most 
eager expectation; whatever he did, it was done with the most lively 
pleasure. An insatiable curiosity in all the shows of the world and 
all the secrets of knowledge, filled him brimful of the longing to 
travel, and supported him in the toils of study. Rome was the dream 
of his life; he was never happier than when he read or talked of the 
Eternal City. When he was in Holland, he was "with child" to see 
any strange thing. Meeting some friends and singing with them in 
a palace near The Hague, his pen fails him to express his passion of 
delight, "the more so because in a heaven of pleasure and in a strange 
country." He must go to see all famous executions. He must needs 
visit the body of a murdered man, defaced "with a broad wound," 
he says, "that makes my hand now shake to write of it." He learned 
to dance, and was "like to make a dancer." He learned to sing, and 
walked about Gray's Inn Fields "humming to myself (which is now 
my constant practice) the trillo." He learned to play the lute, the 
flute, the flageolet, and the theorbo, and it was not the fault of his 
intention if he did not learn the harpsichord or the spinet. He learned 
to compose songs, and burned to give forth "a scheme and theory of 
music not yet ever made in the world." When he heard "a fellow 
whistle like a bird exceeding well," he promised to return another 
day and give an angel for a lesson in the art. Once, he writes, "I took 
the Bezan back with me, and with a brave gale and tide reached up 
that night to the Hope, taking great pleasure in learning the sea- 
men's manner of singing when they sound the depths." If he found 



294 STEVENSON 

himself rusty in his Latin grammar, he must fall to it like a school- 
boy. He was a member of Harrington's Club till its dissolution, and 
of the Royal Society before it had received the name. Boyle's Hydro- 
statics was "of infinite delight" to him, walking in Barnes Elms. We 
find him comparing Bible concordances, a captious judge of ser- 
mons, deep in Descartes and Aristotle. We find him, in a single year, 
studying timber and thie measurement of timber; tar and oil, hemp, 
and the process of preparing cordage; mathematics and accounting; 
the hull and the rigging of ships from a model; and "looking and 
improving himself of the (naval) stores with" — hark to the fellow! — 
"great delight." His familiar spirit of delight was not the same with 
Shelley's; but how true it was to him through life! He is only copy- 
ing something, and behold,he "takes great pleasure to rule the lines, 
and have the capital words wrote with red ink"; he has only had his 
coal-cellar emptied and cleaned, and behold, "it do please him ex- 
ceedingly." A hog's harslett is "a piect of meat he loves." He cannot 
ride home in my Lord Sandwich's coach, but he must exclaim, with 
breathless gusto, "his noble, rich coach." When he is bound for a 
supper party, he anticipates a "glut of pleasure." When he has a new 
watch, "to see my childishness," says he, "I could not forbear carry- 
ing it in my hand and seeing what o'clock it was an hundred times." 
To go to Vauxhall, he says, and "to hear the nightingales and other 
birds, hear fiddles, and there a harp and here a Jew's trump, and 
here laughing, and there fine people walking, is mighty divertising." 
And the nightingales, I take it, were particularly dear to him; and it 
was again "with great pleasure" that he paused to hear them as he 
walked to Woolwich, while the fog was rising and the April sun 
broke through. 

He must always be doing something agreeable, and, by preference, 
two agreeable things at once. In his house he had a box of carpen- 
ter's tools, two dogs, an eagle, a canary, and a blackbird that whistled 
tunes, lest, even in that full life, he should chance upon an empty 
moment. If he had to wait for a dish of poached eggs, he must put 
in the time by playing on the flageolet; if a sermon were dull, he 
must read in the book of Tobit or divert his mind with sly advances 
on the nearest women. When he walked, it must be with a book in 
his pocket to beguile the way in case the nightingales were silent; 



SAMUEL PEPYS 295 

and even along the streets of London, with so many pretty faces to 
be spied for and dignitaries to be saluted, his trail was marked by lit- 
tle debts "for wine, pictures, etc.," the true headmark of a life intoler- 
ant of any joyless passage. He had a kind of idealism in pleasure; like 
the princess in the fairy story, he was conscious of a rose-leaf out of 
place. Dearly as he loved to talk, he could not enjoy nor shine in a 
conversation when he thought himself unsuitably dressed. Dearly 
as he loved eating, he "knew not how to eat alone;" pleasure for him 
must heighten pleasure; and the eye and ear must be flattered like 
the palate ere he avow himself content. He had no zest in a good 
dinner when it fell to be eaten "in a bad street and in a periwig- 
maker's house"; and a collation was spoiled for him by indifferent 
music. His body was indefatigable, doing him yeoman service in 
this breathless chase of pleasures. On April 11, 1662, he mentions that 
he went to bed "weary, which I seldom am"; and already over thirty, 
he would sit up all night cheerfully to see a comet. But it is never 
pleasure that exhausts the pleasure-seeker; for in that career, as in 
all others, it is failure that kills. The man who enjoys so wholly and 
bears so impatiently the slightest widowhood from joy, is just the 
man to lose a night's rest over some paltry question of his right to 
fiddle on the leads, or to be "vexed to the blood" by a solecism in his 
wife's attire; and we find in consequence that he was always peevish 
when he was hungry, and that his head "aked mightily" after a dis- 
pute. But nothing could divert him from his aim in life; his remedy 
in care was the same as his delight in prosperity; it was with pleasure, 
and with pleasure only, that he sought to drive out sorrow; and, 
whether he was jealous of his wife or skulking from a bailiff, he 
would equally take refuge in the theatre. There, if the house be 
full and the company noble, if the songs be tunable, the actors per- 
fect, and the play diverting, this old hero of the secret Diary, this 
private self-adorer, will speedily be healed of his distresses. 

Equally pleased with a watch, a coach, a piece of meat, a tune 
upon the fiddle, or a fact in hydrostatics, Pepys was pleased yet more 
by the beauty, the worth, the mirth, or the mere scenic attitude in 
life of his fellow-creatures. He shows himself throughout a sterling 
humanist. Indeed, he who loves himself, not in idle vanity, but with 
a plenitude of knowledge, is the best equipped of all to love his 



296 STEVENSON 

neighbors. And perhaps it is in this sense that charity may be most 
properly said to begin at home. It does not matter what quality a 
person has: Pepys can appreciate and love him for it. He "fills his 
eyes" with the beauty of Lady Castlemaine; indeed, he may be said 
to dote upon the thought of her for years; if a woman be good-look- 
ing and not painted, he will walk miles to have another sight of her; 
and even when a lady by a mischance spat upon his clothes, he was 
immediately consoled when he had observed that she was pretty. 
But, on the other hand, he is delighted to see Mrs. Pett upon her 
knees, and speaks thus of his Aunt James: "a poor, religious, well- 
meaning, good soul, talking of nothing but God Almighty, and 
that with so much innocence that mightily pleased me." He is taken 
with Pen's merriment and loose songs, but not less taken with the 
sterling worth of Coventry. He is jolly with a drunken sailor, but 
listens with interest and patience, as he rides the Essex roads, to the 
story of a Quaker's spiritual trials and convictions. He lends a critical 
ear to the discourse of kings and royal dukes. He spends an evening 
at Vauxhall with "Killigrew and young Newport — loose company," 
says he, "but worth a man's being in for once, to know the nature 
of it, and their manner of talk and lives." And when a rag-boy lights 
him home, he examines him about his business and other ways of 
livelihood for destitute children. This is almost half-way to the be- 
ginning of philanthropy; had it only been the fashion, as it is at 
present, Pepys had perhaps been a man famous for good deeds. And 
it is through this quality that he rises, at times, superior to his sur- 
prising egotism; his interest in the love affairs of others is, indeed, 
impersonal; he is filled with concern for my Lady Castlemaine, whom 
he only knows by sight, shares in her very jealousies, joys with her 
in her successes; and it is not untrue, however strange it seems in 
his abrupt presentment, that he loved his maid Jane because she 
was in love with his man Tom. 

Let us hear him, for once, at length: "So the women and W. 
Hewer and I walked upon the Downes, where a flock of sheep was; 
and the most pleasant and innocent sight that ever I saw in my life. 
We found a shepherd and his Uttle boy reading, far from any houses 
or sight of people, the Bible to him ; so I make the boy to read to me, 
which he did with the forced tone that children do usually read, that 



SAMUEL PEPYS 297 

was mighty pretty; and then I did give him something, and went 
to the father, and talked with him. He did content himself mightily 
in my liking his boy's reading, and did bless God for him, the most 
like one of the old patriarchs that ever I saw in my life, and it brought 
those thoughts of the old age of the world in my mind for two or 
three days after. We took notice of his woollen knit stockings of two 
colors mixed, and of his shoes shod with iron, both at the toe and 
heels, and with great nails in the soles of his feet, which was mighty 
pretty; and taking notice of them, 'Why,' says the poor man, 'the 
downes, you see, are full of stones, and we are faine to shoe ourselves 
thus; and these,' says he, 'will make the stones fly till they ring 
before me.' I did give the poor man something, for which he was 
mighty thankful, and I tried to cast stones with his home crooke. He 
values his dog mightily, that would turn a sheep any way which he 
would have him, when he goes to fold them; told me there was 
about eighteen score sheep in his flock, and that he hath four shill- 
ings a week the year round for keeping of them; and Mrs. Turner, 
in the common fields here, did gather one of the prettiest nosegays 
that ever I saw in my life." 

And so the story rambles on to the end of that day's pleasuring; 
with cups of milk, and glow-worms, and people walking at sundown 
with their wives and children, and all the way home Pepys still 
dreaming "of the old age of the world" and the early innocence of 
man. This was how he walked through life, his eyes and ears wide 
open, and his hand, you will observe, not shut; and thus he observed 
the lives, the speech, and the manners of his fellow-men, with prose 
fidelity of detail and yet a lingering glamour of romance. 

It was "two or three days after" that he extended this passage in 
the pages of his Journal, and the style has thus the benefit of some 
reflection. It is generally supposed that, as a writer, Pepys must 
rank at the bottom of the scale of merit. But a style which is inde- 
fatigably lively, telling, and picturesque through six large volumes 
of everyday experience, which deals with the whole matter of a life, 
and yet is rarely wearisome, which condescends to the most fastidi- 
ous particulars, and yet sweeps all away in the forthright current of 
the narrative, — such a style may be ungrammatical, it may be inele- 
gant, it may be one tissue of mistakes, but it can never be devoid of 



298 STEVENSON 

merit. The first and the true function of the writer has been thor- 
oughly performed throughout; and though the manner of his utter- 
ance may be childishly awkward, the matter has been transformed 
and assimilated by his unfeigned interest and delight. The gusto of 
the man speaks out fierily after all these years. For the difference 
between Pepys and Shelley, to return to that half whimsical approxi- 
mation, is one of quality but not one of degree; in his sphere, Pepys 
felt as keenly, and his is the true prose of poetry — prose because the 
spirit of the man was narrow and earthly, but poetry because he was 
dehghtedly alive. Hence, in such a passage as this about the Epsom 
shepherd, the result upon the reader's mind is entire conviction and 
unmingled pleasure. So, you feel, the thing fell out, not otherwise; 
and you would no more change it than you would change a sub- 
limity of Shakespeare's, a homely touch of Bunyan's, or a favored 
reminiscence of your own. 

There never was a man nearer being an artist, who yet was not 
one. The tang was in the family; while he was writing the journal 
for our enjoyment in his comely house in Navy Gardens, no fewer 
than two of his cousins were tramping the fens, kit under arm, to 
make music to the country girls. But he himself, though he could 
play so many instruments and pass judgment in so many fields of 
art, remained an amateur. It is not given to any one so keenly to 
enjoy, without some greater power to understand. That he did not 
like Shakespeare as an artist for the stage may be a fault, but it is 
not without either parallel or excuse. He certainly admired him as 
a poet; he was the first beyond mere actors on the rolls of that 
innumerable army who have got "To be or not to be" by heart. Nor 
was he content with that; it haunted his mind; he quoted it to him- 
self in the pages of the Diary, and, rushing in where angels fear to 
tread, he set it to music. Nothing, indeed, is more notable than the 
heroic quality of the verses that our little sensualist in a periwig 
chose out to marry with his own mortal strains. Some gust from 
brave Elizabethan times must have warmed his spirit, as he sat tun- 
ing his sublime theorbo. "To be or not to be. Whether 'tis nobler" 
— "Beauty retire, thou dost my pity move" — "It is decreed, nor shall 
thy fate, O Rome"; — open and dignified in the sound, various and 
majestic in the sentiment, it was no inapt, as it was certainly no timid, 



SAMUEL PEPYS 299 

spirit that selected such a range of themes. Of "Gaze not on Swans," 
I know no more than these four words; yet that also seems to promise 
well. It was, however, not a probable suspicion, the work of his 
master, Mr. Berkenshaw — as the drawings that figure at the breaking 
up of a young ladies' seminary are the work of the professor attached 
to the establishment. Mr. Berkenshaw was not altogether happy in 
his pupil. The amateur cannot usually rise into the artist, some 
leaven of the world still clogging him; and we find Pepys behaving 
Uke a pickthank to the man who taught him composition. In rela- 
tion to the stage, which he so warmly loved and understood, he was 
not only more hearty, but more generous to others. Thus he encoun- 
ters Colonel Reames, "a man," says he, "who understands and loves 
a play as well as I, and I love him for it." And again, when he and 
his wife had seen a most ridiculous insipid piece, "Glad we were," he 
writes, "that Betterton had no part in it." It is by such a zeal and 
loyalty to those who labor for his delight that the amateur grows 
worthy of the artist. And it should be kept in mind that, not only in 
art, but in morals, Pepys rejoiced to recognize his betters. There was 
not one speck of envy in the whole human-hearted egotist. 

RESPECTABILITY 

When writers inveigh against respectability, in the present de- 
graded meaning of the word, they are usually suspected of a taste for 
clay pipes and beer cellars; and their performances are thought to 
hail from the Owl's Nest of the comedy. They have something more, 
however, in their eye than the dulness of a round million dinner 
parties that sit down yearly in old England. For to do anything 
because others do it, and not because the thing is good, or kind, or 
honest in its own right, is to resign all moral control and captaincy 
upon yourself, and go post-haste to the devil with the greater number. 
We smile over the ascendancy of priests; but I had rather follow a 
priest than what they call the leaders of society. No life can better 
than that of Pepys illustrate the dangers of this respectable theory 
of living. For what can be more untoward than the occurrence, at 
a critical period and while the habits are still pliable, of such sweep- 
ing transformation as the return of Charles the Second ? Round went 
the whole fleet of England on the other tack; and while a few tall 



300 STEVENSON 

pintas, Milton or Pen, still sailed a lonely course by the stars and 
their own private compass, the cock-boat, Pepys, must go about with 
the majority among "the stupid starers and the loud huzzas." 

The respectable are not led so much by any desire of applause as by 
a positive need for countenance. The weaker and the tamer the man, 
the more will he require this support; and any positive quality re- 
lieves him, by just so much, of this dependence. In a dozen ways, 
Pepys was quite strong enough to please himself without regard for 
others; but his positive qualities were not co-extensive with the field 
of conduct; and in many parts of life he followed, with gleeful preci- 
sion, in the footprints of the contemporary Mrs. Grundy. In morals, 
particularly, he lived by the countenance of others; felt a slight from 
another more keenly than a meanness in himself, and then first 
repented when he was found out. You could talk of religion or 
morality to such a man; and by the artist side of him, by his lively 
sympathy and apprehension, he could rise, as it were dramatically, 
to the significance of what you said. All that matter in religion 
which has been nicknamed other-worldliness was strictly in his 
gamut; but a rule of life that should make a man rudely virtuous, 
following right in good report and ill report, was foolishness and a 
stumbling-block to Pepys. He was much thrown across the Friends; 
and nothing can be more instructive than his attitude toward these 
most interesting people of that age. I have mentioned how he con- 
versed with one as he rode; when he saw some brought from a 
meeting under arrest, "I would to God," said he, "they would either 
conform, or be more wise and not be catched"; and to a Quaker in 
his own office he extended a timid though effectual protection. Mean- 
while there was growing up next door to him that beautiful nature, 
William Pen. It is odd that Pepys condemned him for a fop; odd, 
though natural enough when you see Pen's portrait, that Pepys was 
jealous of him with his wife. But the cream of the story is when Pen 
publishes his Sandy Foundation Shal^en, and Pepys has it read aloud 
by his wife. "I find it," he says, "so well writ as, I think, it is too 
good for him ever to have writ it; and it is a serious sort of book, and 
not fit for everybody to read." Nothing is more galling to the merely 
respectable than to be brought in contact with religious ardor. Pepys 
had his own foundations, sandy enough, but dear to him from prac- 



SAMUEL PEPYS 3OI 

tical considerations, and he would read the book with true uneasiness 
of spirit; for conceive the blow if, by some plaguy accident, this 
Pen were to convert him! It was a different kind of doctrine that he 
judged profitable for himself and others. "A good sermon of Mr. 
Giflord's at our church, upon 'Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven.' 
A very excellent and persuasive, good and moral sermon. He 
showed, like a wise man, that righteousness is a surer moral way 
of being rich than sin and villainy." It is thus that respectable people 
desire to have their Greathearts address them, telling, in mild ac- 
cents, how you may make the best of both worlds, and be a moral 
hero without courage, kindness, or troublesome reflection; and thus 
the Gospel, cleared of Eastern metaphor, becomes a manual of 
worldly prudence, and a handybook for Pepys and the successful 
merchant. 

The respectability of Pepys was deeply grained. He has no idea 
of truth except for the Diary. He has no care that a thing shall be, 
if it but appear; gives out that he has inherited a good estate, when 
he has seemingly got nothing but a lawsuit; and is pleased to be 
thought liberal when he knows he has been mean. He is conscien- 
tiously ostentatious. I say conscientiously, with reason. He could 
never have been taken for a fop, like Pen, but arrayed himself in a 
manner nicely suitable to his position. For long he hesitated to 
assume the famous periwig; for a public man should travel gravely 
with the fashions, not foppishly before, nor dowdily behind, the 
central movement of his age. For long he durst not keep a carriage; 
that, in his circumstances, would have been improper; but a time 
comes, with the growth of his fortune, when the impropriety has 
shifted to the other side, and he is "ashamed to be seen in a hackney." 
Pepys talked about being "a Quaker or some very melancholy 
thing"; for my part, I can imagine nothing so melancholy, because 
nothing half so silly, as to be concerned about such problems. But 
so respectability and the duties of society haunt and burden their 
poor devotees; and what seems at first the very primrose path of life, 
proves difficult and thorny like the rest. And the time comes to 
Pepys, as to all the merely respectable, when he must not only order 
his pleasures, but even clip his virtuous movements, to the public 
patter of the age. There was some juggling among officials to avoid 



302 STEVENSON 

direct taxation; and Pepys, with a noble impulse, growing ashamed 
of this dishonesty, designed to charge himself with ;riooo; but find- 
ing none to set him an example, "nobody of our ablest merchants" 
with this moderate liking for clean hands, he judged it "not decent"; 
he feared it would "be thought vain glory"; and, rather than appear 
singular, cheerfully remained a thief. One able merchant's coun- 
tenance, and Pepys had dared to do an honest act! Had he found 
one brave spirit, properly recognized by society, he might have gone 
far as a disciple. Mrs. Turner, it is true, can fill him full of sordid 
scandal, and make him believe, against the testimony of his senses, 
that Pen's venison pasty stank like the devil; but, on the other hand, 
Sir William Coventry can raise him by a word into another being. 
Pepys, when he is with Coventry, talks in the vein of an old Roman. 
What does he care for office or emolument? "Thank God, I have 
enough of my own," says he, "to buy me a good book and a good 
fiddle, and I have a good wife." And again, we find this pair pro- 
jecting an old age when an ungrateful country shall have dismissed 
them from the field of public service; Coventry living retired in a 
fine house, and Pepys dropping in, "it may be, to read a chapter of 
Seneca." 

Under this influence, the only good one in his life, Pepys continued 
zealous and, for the period, pure in his employment. He would not 
be "bribed to be unjust," he says, though he was "not so squeamish 
as to refuse a present after," suppose the king to have received no 
wrong. His new arrangement for the victualling of Tangier, he 
tells us with honest complacency, will save the king a thousand and 
gain Pepys three hundred pounds a year, — a statement which exactly 
fixes the degree of the age's enlightenment. But for his industry and 
capacity no praise can be too high. It was an unending struggle for 
the man to stick to his business in such a garden of Armida as he 
found this life; and the story of his oaths, so often broken, so cour- 
ageously renewed, is worthy rather of admiration than the contempt 
it has received. 

Elsewhere, and beyond the sphere of Coventry's influence, we find 
him losing scruples and daily complying further with the age. When 
he began the Journal, he was a trifle prim and puritanic; merry 
enough, to be sure, over his private cups, and still remembering 



SAMUEL PEPYS 3O3 

Magdalene ale and his acquaintance with Mrs. Ainsworth of Cam- 
bridge. But youth is a hot season with all; when a man smells April 
and May he is apt at times to stumble; and in spite of a disordered 
practice, Pepys's theory, the better things that he approved and fol- 
lowed after, we may even say were strict. Where there was "tag, rag, 
and bobtail, dancing, singing, and drinking," he felt "ashamed, and 
went away"; and when he slept in church he prayed God forgive 
him. In but a little while we find him with some ladies keeping 
each other awake "from spite," as though not to sleep in church 
were an obvious hardship; and yet later he calmly passes the time 
of service, looking about him, with a perspective glass, on all the 
pretty women. His favorite ejaculation, "Lord!" occurs but once that 
I have observed in 1660, never in '61, twice in '62, and at least five 
times in '63; after which the "Lords" may be said to pullulate like 
herrings, with here and there a solitary "damned," as it were a 
whale among the shoal. He and his wife, once filled with dudgeon 
by some innocent freedoms at a marriage, are soon content to go 
pleasuring with my Lord Brouncker's mistress, who was not even, 
by his own account, the most discreet of mistresses. Tag, rag, and 
bobtail, dancing, singing, and drinking become his natural element; 
actors and actresses and drunken, roaring courtiers are to be found 
in his society; until the man grew so involved with Saturnalian man- 
ners and companions that he was shot almost unconsciously into the 
grand domestic crash of 1668. 

That was the legitimate issue and punishment of years of stag- 
gering walk and conversation. The man who has smoked his pipe 
for half a century in a powder magazine finds himself at last the 
author and the victim of a hideous disaster. So with our pleasant- 
minded Pepys and his peccadillos. All of a sudden, as he still trips 
dexterously enough among the dangers of a double-faced career, 
thinking no great evil, humming to himself the trillo, Fate takes the 
further conduct of that matter from his hands, and brings him face 
to face with the consequences of his acts. For a man still, after so 
many years, the lover, although not the constant lover, of his wife, — 
for a man, besides, who was so greatly careful of appearances, — the 
revelation of his infidelities was a crushing blow. The tears that he 
shed, the indignities that he endured, are not to be measured. A 



304 STEVENSON 

vulgar woman, and now justly incensed, Mrs. Pepys spared him no 
detail of suffering. She was violent, threatening him with the tongs; 
she was careless of his honor, driving him to insult the mistress 
whom she had driven him to betray and to discard; worst of all, 
she was hopelessly inconsequent in word and thought and deed, now 
lulling him with reconciliations, and anon flaming forth again with 
the original anger. Pepys had not used his wife well; he had 
wearied her with jealousies, even while himself unfaithful; he had 
grudged her clothes and pleasures, while lavishing both upon him- 
self; he had abused her in words; he had bent his fist at her in anger; 
he had once blacked her eye; and it is one of the oddest particulars 
in that odd Diary of his, that, while the injury is referred to once in 
passing, there is no hint as to the occasion or the manner of the 
blow. But now, when he is in the wrong, nothing can exceed the 
long-suffering affection of this impatient husband. While he was 
still sinning and still undiscovered, he seems not to have known a 
touch of penitence stronger than what might lead him to take his 
wife to the theatre, or for an airing, or to give her a new dress, by 
way of compensation. Once found out, however, and he seems to 
himself to have lost all claim to decent usage. It is perhaps the 
strongest instance of his externality. His wife may do what she 
pleases, and though he may groan, it will never occur to him to 
blame her; he has no weapon left but tears and the most abject 
submission. We should perhaps have respected him more had he not 
given away so utterly — above all, had he refused to write, under his 
wife's dictation, an insulting letter to his unhappy fellow-culprit, 
Miss Willet; but somehow I believe we like him better as he was. 

The death of his wife, following so shortly after, must have 
stamped the impression of this episode upon his mind. For the 
remaining years of his long life we have no Diary to help us, and 
we have seen already how little stress is to be laid upon the tenor 
of his correspondence; but what with the recollection of the catas- 
trophe of his married life, what with the natural influence of his 
advancing years and reputation, it seems not unlikely that the period 
of gallantry was at an end for Pepys; and it is beyond a doubt that 
he sat down at last to an honored and agreeable old age among his 
books and music, the correspondent of Sir Isaac Newton, and in one 



SAMUEL PEPYS 305 

instance at least, the poetical counsellor of Dryden. Through all this 
period, that Diary which contained the secret memoirs of his life, 
with all its inconsistencies and escapades, had been religiously pre- 
served; nor when he came to die, does he appear to have provided 
for its destruction. So we may conceive him faithful to the end to 
all his dear and early memories; still mindful of Mrs. Hely in the 
woods at Epsom; still lighting at Islington for a cup of kindness to 
the dead; still, if he heard again that air that once so much disturbed 
him, thrilling at the recollection of the love that bound him to his 
wife. 



ON THE ELEVATION OF THE 
LABORING CLASSES 

BY 
WILLIAM ELLERY CHANNING 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

William Ellery Channing, the chief apostle of New England Uni- 
tarianism, was born at Newport, Rhode Island, April 7, 1780. He grad- 
uated from Harvard in 1798, and five years later became minister of the 
Federal Street Church in Boston, where he remained for thirty-seven 
years. He died October 2, 1842. 

Channing was still a child when, in 1785, King's Chapel in Boston, 
in revising its liturgy, eliminated the doctrine of the Trinity. For the 
next fifty years the movement went on, separating the Congregational 
churches in New England into Trinitarian and Unitarian. A sermon 
preached by Channing in Baltimore in 1819, at the ordination of Jared 
Sparks, is generally regarded as the formulation of the Unitarian creed, 
and throughout his life Channing continued a leader in the denomi- 
nation. 

To the tolerance, the culture, and the high civic and private virtue 
that characterized the typical Unitarian of that time, Channing added 
an emotional and spiritual quality, and an interest in philosophy, 
that make him not merely the greatest of the Unitarian leaders, but in 
important respects the first of the Transcendentalists. "The Calvinists," it 
has been said, "believed that human nature is totally depraved; the Uni- 
tarians denied this, their denial carrying with it the positive implication 
that human nature is essentially good; the Transcendentalists believed 
that human nature is divine" (Goddard). Judged by this test, Channing 
belongs to the third group, for it is in his passionate faith in the divinity 
of human nature, apparent in the following lectures "On the Elevation 
of the Laboring Classes," as in his writing and preaching in general, 
that one finds the characteristic mark of his spirit and the main secret 
of his power. 



INTRODUCTORY REMARKS 

The following lectures were prepared for two meetings of mechanics, 
one of them consisting of apprentices, the other of adults. For want of 
strength they were delivered only to the former, though, in preparing 
them, I had kept the latter also in view. "The Mechanic Apprentices' 
Library Association," at whose request the lectures are published, is an 
institution of much promise, not only furnishing a considerable means 
of intellectual improvement, but increasing the self-resf)ect and conducing 
to the moral safety of the members. 

When I entered on this task, I thought of preparing only one lecture 
of the usual length. But I soon found that I could not do justice to my 
views in so narrow a compass. I therefore determined to write at large, 
and to communicate through the press the results of my labor, if they 
should be thought worthy of publication. With this purpose, I intro- 
duced topics which I did not deliver, and which I thought might be 
usefully presented to some who might not hear me. I make this state- 
ment to prevent the objection, that the lectures are not, in all things, 
adapted to those to whom they were delivered. Whilst written chiefly 
for a class, they were also intended for the community. 

As the same general subject is discussed in these lectures as in the 
"Lecture on Self-Culture," published last winter, there will, of course, 
be found in them that coincidence of thoughts which always takes place 
in the writings of a man who has the inculcation of certain great prin- 
ciples much at heart. Still, the point of view, the mode of discussion, 
and the choice of topics, differ much in the two productions; so that my 
state of mind would be given very imperfectly were the present lectures 
withheld. 

This is, probably, the last opportunity I shall have for communicating 
with the laboring classes through the press. I may, therefore, be allowed 
to express my earnest wishes for their happiness, and my strong hope 
that they will justify the confidence of their friends, and will prove by 
their example the possibility of joining with labor all the improvements 
which do honor to our nature. — W. E. C, Boston, February ii, 1840. 



ON THE ELEVATION OF THE 
LABORING CLASSES 



IT is with no common pleasure that I take part in the present 
course of lectures. Such a course is a sign of the times, and 
very interesting to all who are interested in the progress of their 
fellow-creatures. We hear much of the improvements of our age. 
The wonders achieved by machinery are the common talk of every 
circle; but I confess that, to me, this gathering of mechanics' appren- 
tices, whose chief bond of union is a library, and who come together 
weekly to refresh and improve themselves by the best instruction 
which the state of society places within their reach, is more encour- 
aging than all the miracles of the machinist. In this meeting I see, 
what I desire most to see, that the mass of the people are beginning 
to comprehend themselves and their true happiness, that they are 
catching glimpses of the great work and vocation of human beings, 
and are rising to their true place in the social state. The present 
meeting indicates a far more radical, more important change in the 
world than the steam-engine, or the navigation of the Atlantic in a 
fortnight. That members of the laboring class, at the close of a day's 
work, should assemble in such a hall as this, to hear lectures on 
science, history, ethics, and the most stirring topics of the day, from 
men whose education is thought to fit them for the highest offices, 
is a proof of a social revolution, to which no bounds can be set, and 
from which too much cannot be hoped. I see in it a repeal of the 
sentence of degradation passed by ages on the mass of mankind. I 
see in it the dawn of a new era, in which it will be understood that 
the first object of society is to give incitements and means of progress 
to all its members. I see in it the sign of the approaching triumph 
of men's spiritual over their outward and material interests. In the 
hunger and thirst for knowledge and for refined pleasures which 

3" 



312 CHANNING 

this course of lectures indicates in those who labor, I see that the 
spirit of man is not always to be weighed down by toils for animal 
life and by the appetite for animal indulgences. I do attach great 
importance to this meeting, not for its own sake or its immediate 
benefits, but as a token and pledge of a new impulse given to society 
through all its conditions. On this account, I take more pleasure in 
speaking here than I should feel in being summoned to pronounce 
a show-oration before all the kings and nobles on earth. In truth, 
it is time to have done with shows. The age is too stirring, we are 
pressed on by too solemn interests, to be justified in making speeches 
for self-display or mere amusement. He who cannot say something 
in sympathy with, or in aid of, the great movements of humanity, 
might as well hold his peace. 

With these feelings and convictions, I am naturally, almost neces- 
sarily, led to address you on a topic which must insure the attention 
of such an audience: namely, the elevation of that portion of the 
community who subsist by the labor of the hands. This work, I have 
said, is going on. I may add, that it is advancing nowhere so rapidly 
as in this city. I do not believe that, on the face of the earth, the 
spirit of improvement has anywhere seized so strongly on those who 
live by the sweat of the brow as among ourselves. Here it is nothing 
rare to meet the union of intellectual culture and self-respect with 
hard work. Here the prejudice against labor as degrading has very 
much given way. This, then, is the place where the subject which 
I have proposed should be discussed. We ought to consider in what 
the true elevation of the laboring portion consists, how far it is prac- 
ticable, and how it may be helped onward. The subject, I am aware, 
is surrounded with much prejudice and error. Great principles need 
to be brought out, and their application plainly stated. There are 
serious objections to be met, fears to be disarmed, and rash hopes to 
be crushed. I do not profess to have mastered the topic. But I can 
claim one merit, that of coming to the discussion with a feeling of 
its importance, and with a deep interest in the class of people whom 
it concerns. I trust that this expression of interest will not be set 
down as mere words, or as meant to answer any selfish purpose. A 
politician who professes attachment to the people is suspected to 
love them for their votes. But a man who neither seeks nor would 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 313 

accept any place within their gift may hope to be Ustened to as their 
friend. As a friend, I would speak plainly. I cannot flatter. I see 
defects in the laboring classes. I think that, as yet, the greater part 
of them have made little progress; that the prejudices and passions, 
the sensuality and selfishness of multitudes among them, are formid- 
able barriers to improvement; that multitudes have not waked as 
yet to a dim conception of the end for which they are to struggle. 
My hopes do not blind me to what exists; and with this clear sense 
of the deficiencies of the multitude of men, I cannot, without guilt, 
minister to their vanity. Not that they alone are to be charged with 
deficiencies. Look where we may, we shall discern in all classes 
ground for condemnation; and whoever would do good ought to 
speak the truth of all, only remembering that he is to speak with 
sympathy, and with a consciousness of his own fallibleness and 
infirmity. 

In giving my views of the elevation of the laboring multitude, I 
wish that it may be understood that I shall often speak prospectively, 
or of changes and improvements which are not to be expected imme- 
diately, or soon; and this I say, that I may not be set down as a 
dreamer, expecting to regenerate the world in a day. I fear, how- 
ever, that this explanation will not shield me from this and like 
reproaches. There are men who, in the face of all history, of the 
great changes wrought in men's condition, and of the new principles 
which are now acting on society, maintain that the future is to be a 
copy of the past, and probably a faded rather than bright copy. 
From such I differ, and did I not differ I would not stand here. Did 
I expect nothing better from human nature than I see, I should have 
no heart for the present effort, poor as it may be. I see the signs of 
a better futurity, and especially signs that the large class by whose 
toil we all live are rising from the dust; and this faith is my only 
motive to what I now offer. 

The elevation of the laboring portion of society: this is our subject. 
I shall first consider in what this consists. I shall then consider some 
objections to its practicableness, and to this point shall devote no 
small part of the discussion; and shall close the subject with giving 
some grounds of my faith and hope in regard to the most numerous 
class of our fellow-beings. 



314 CHANNING 

I. What is to be understood by the elevation of the laboring class? 
This is our first topic. To prevent misapprehension, I will begin with 
stating what is not meant by it, in what it does not consist. — I say, 
then, that by the elevation of the laborer, I do not understand that 
he is to be raised above the need of labor. I do not expect a series of 
improvements, by which he is to be released from his daily work. 
Still more, I have no desire to dismiss him from his workshop and 
farm, to take the spade and axe from his hand, and to make his life 
a long holiday. I have faith in labor, and I see the goodness of God 
in placing us in a world where labor alone can keep us alive. I would 
not change, if I could, our subjection to physical laws, our exposure 
to hunger and cold, and the necessity of constant conflicts with the 
material world. I would not, if I could, so temper the elements that 
they should infuse into us only grateful sensations, that they should 
make vegetation so exuberant as to anticipate every want, and the 
minerals so ductile as to offer no resistance to our strength and skill. 
Such a world would make a contemptible race. Man owes his 
growth, his energy, chiefly to that striving of the will, that conflict 
with difficulty, which we call Effort. Easy, pleasant work does not 
make robust minds, does not give men a consciousness of their 
powers, does not train them to endurance, to perseverance, to steady 
force of will, that force without which all other acquisitions avail 
nothing. Manual labor is a school in which men are placed to get 
energy of purpose and character, a vastly more important endow- 
ment than all the learning of all other schools. They are placed, 
indeed, under hard masters, physical sufferings and wants, the power 
of fearful elements, and the vicissitudes of all human things; but 
these stern teachers do a work which no compassionate, indulgent 
friend could do for us; and true wisdom will bless Providence for 
their sharp ministry. I have great faith in hard work. The material 
world does much for the mind by its beauty and order; but it does 
more for our minds by the pains it inflicts; by its obstinate resistance 
which nothing but patient toil can overcome; by its vast forces, which 
nothing but unremitting skill and effort can turn to our use; by its 
perils which demand continual vigilance; and by its tendencies to 
decay. I believe that difficulties are more important to the human 
mind than what we call assistances. Work we all must, if we mean 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 315 

to bring out and perfect our nature. Even if we do not work with 
the hands, we must undergo equivalent toil in some other direction. 
No business or study which does not present obstacles, tasking to the 
full the intellect and the will, is worthy of a man. In science, he 
who does not grapple with hard questions, who does not concentrate 
his whole intellect in vigorous attention, who does not aim to pene- 
trate what at first repels him, will never attain to mental force. The 
uses of toil reach beyond the present world. The capacity of steady, 
earnest labor is, I apprehend, one of our great preparations for 
another state of being. When I see the vast amount of toil required 
of men, I feel that it must have important connections with their 
future existence; and that he who has met this discipline manfully 
has laid one essential foundation of improvement, exertion, and 
happiness in the world to come. You will here see that to me labor 
has great dignity. It is not merely the grand instrument by which 
the earth is overspread with fruitfulness and beauty, and the ocean 
subdued, and matter wrought into innumerable forms for comfort 
and ornament. It has a far higher function, which is to give force 
to the will, efficiency, courage, the capacity of endurance, and of 
persevering devotion to far-reaching plans. Alas, for the man who 
has not learned to work! He is a poor creature. He does not know 
himself. He depends on others, with no capacity of making returns 
for the support they give; and let him not fancy that he has a 
monopoly of enjoyment. Ease, rest, owes its deliciousness to toil; 
and no toil is so burdensome as the rest of him who has nothing to 
task and quicken his powers. 

I do not, then, desire to release the laborer from toil. This is not 
the elevation to be sought for him. Manual labor is a great good; 
but, in so saying, I must be understood to speak of labor in its just 
proportions. In excess it does great harm. It is not a good, when 
made the sole work of life. It must be joined with higher means of 
improvement, or it degrades instead of exalting. Man has a various 
nature, which requires a variety of occupation and discipline for its 
growth. Study, meditation, society, and relaxation should be mixed 
up with his physical toils. He has intellect, heart, imagination, taste, 
as well as bones and muscles; and he is grievously wronged when 



3l6 CHANNING 

compelled to exclusive drudgery for bodily subsistence. Life should 
be an alternation of employments, so diversified as to call the whole 
man into action. Unhappily our present civilization is far from 
realizing this idea. It tends to increase the amount of manual toil, 
at the very time that it renders this toil less favorable to the culture of 
the mind. The division of labor, which distinguishes civilized from 
savage life, and to which we owe chiefly the perfection of the arts, 
tends to dwarf the intellectual powers, by confining the activity of 
the individual to a narrow range, to a few details, perhaps to the 
heading of pins, the pointing of nails, or the tying together of 
broken strings; so that while the savage has his faculties sharpened 
by various occupations, and by exposure to various perils, the civi- 
lized man treads a monotonous, stupefying round of unthinking toil. 
This cannot, must not, always be. Variety of action, corresponding 
to the variety of human powers, and fitted to develop all, is the most 
important element of human civilization. It should be the aim of 
philanthropists. In proportion as Christianity shall spread the spirit ' 
of brotherhood, there will and must be a more equal distribution of 
toils and means of improvement. That system of labor which saps 
the health, and shortens life, and famishes intellect, needs, and must 
receive, great modification. Still, labor in due proportion is an 
important part of our present lot. It is the condition of all outward 
comforts and improvements, whilst, at the same time, it conspires 
with higher means and influences in ministering to the vigor and 
growth of the soul. Let us not fight against it. We need this admo- 
nition, because at the present moment there is a general disposition 
to shun labor; and this ought to be regarded as a bad sign of our 
times. The city is thronged with adventurers from the country, and 
the liberal professions are overstocked, in the hope of escaping the 
primeval sentence of living by the sweat of the brow; and to this 
crowding of men into trade we owe not only the neglect of agricul- 
ture, but, what is far worse, the demoralization of the community. 
It generates excessive competition, which of necessity generates 
fraud. Trade is turned to gambling; and a spirit of mad speculation 
exposes public and private interests to a disastrous instability. It is, 
then, no part of the philanthropy which would elevate the laboring 
body, to exempt them from manual toil. In truth, a wise philan- 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 317 

thropy would, if possible, persuade all men of all conditions to mix 
up a measure of this toil with their other pursuits. The body as well 
as the mind needs vigorous exertion, and even the studious would 
be happier were they trained to labor as well as thought. Let us 
learn to regard manual toil as the true discipline of a man. Not a 
few of the wisest, grandest spirits have toiled at the work-bench and 
the plough. 

I have said that, by the elevation of the laboring mass, I do not 
mean that they are to be released from labor. I add, in the next place, 
that this elevation is not to be gained by efforts to force themselves 
into what are called the upper ranks of society. I wish them to rise, 
but I have no desire to transform them into gentlemen or ladies, 
according to the common acceptation of these terms. I desire for 
them not an outward and showy, but an inward and real change; 
not to give them new titles and an artificial rank, but substantial 
improvements and real claims to respect. I have no wish to dress 
them from a Parisian tailor's shop, or to teach them manners from a 
dancing-school. I have no desire to see them, at the end of the day, 
doff their working dress, that they may play a part in richly attired 
circles. I have no desire that they should be admitted to luxurious 
feasts, or should get a taste for gorgeous upholstery. There is noth- 
ing cruel in the necessity which sentences the jnultitude of men to 
eat, dress, and lodge plainly and simply, especially where the sentence 
is executed so mildly as in this country. In this country, where the 
demand for labor is seldom interrupted, and the openings for enter- 
prise are numerous beyond precedent, the laboring class, with few 
exceptions, may well be satisfied with their accommodations. Very 
many of them need nothing but a higher taste for beauty, order, and 
neatness, to give an air of refinement and grace as well as comfort 
to their establishments. In this country, the mass of laborers have 
their share of outward good. Their food, abundant and healthful, 
seasoned with the appetite which labor gives, is, on the whole, 
sweeter as well as healthier than the elaborate luxuries of the pros- 
perous; and their sleep is sounder and more refreshing than falls to 
the lot of the less employed. Were it a possible thing, I should be 
sorry to see them turned into men and women of fashion. Fashion 
is a poor vocation. Its creed, that idleness is a privilege, and work a 



3l8 CHANNING 

disgrace, is among the deadliest errors. Without depth of thought, 
or earnestness of feehng, or strength of purpose, Uving an unreal life, 
sacrificing substance to show, substituting the factitious for the 
natural, mistaking a crowd for society, finding its chief pleasure in 
ridicule, and exhausting its ingenuity in expedients for killing time, 
fashion is among the last influences under which a human being, 
who respects himself or who comprehends the great end of life, 
would desire to be placed. I use strong language, because I would 
combat the disposition, too common in the laboring mass, to regard 
what is called the upper class with envy or admiration. This dis- 
position manifests itself among them in various forms. Thus, when 
one of their number prospers he is apt to forget his old acquaintance, 
and to work his way, if possible, into a more fashionable caste. As 
far, indeed, as he extends his acquaintance among the intelligent, 
refined, generous, and truly honorable, he makes a substantial im- 
provement of his condition; but if, as is too often the case, he is 
admitted by way of favor into a circle which has few claims beyond 
those of greater luxury and show, and which bestows on him a 
patronizing, condescending notice, in exchange for his old, honor- 
able influence among his original associates, he does any thing but 
rise. Such is not the elevation I desire for the laborer. I do not de- 
sire him to struggle into another rank. Let him not be a servile 
copyist of other classes, but aim at something higher than has yet 
been realized in any body of men. Let him not associate the idea of 
Dignity or Honor with certain modes of living, or certain outward 
connections. I would have every man stand on his own ground, and 
take his place among men according to personal endowments and 
worth, and not according to outward appendages; and I would have 
every member of the community furnished with such means of im- 
provement, that, if faithful to himself, he may need no outward 
appendage to attract the respect of all around him. 

I have said, that the people are not to be elevated by escaping 
labor, or by pressing into a different rank. Once more, I do not mean 
by the elevation of the people, that they should become self-important 
politicians; that, as individuals or a class, they should seize on 
political power; that by uniting their votes they should triumph over 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 319 

the more prosperous; or that they should succeed in bending the 
administration o£ government to their particular interests. An indi- 
vidual is not elevated by figuring in public affairs, or even by getting 
into ofSce. He needs previous elevation to save him from disgrace 
in his public relations. To govern one's self, not others, is true glory. 
To serve through love, not to rule, is Christian greatness. Office is 
not dignity. The lowest men, because most faithless in principle, 
most servile to opinion, are to be found in office. I am sorry to say 
it, but the truth should be spoken, that, at the present moment, 
political action in this country does little to lift up any who are con- 
cerned in it. It stands in opposition to a high morality. Politics, 
indeed, regarded as the study and pursuit of the true, enduring good 
of a community, as the application of great unchangeable principles 
to public affairs, is a noble sphere of thought and action; but politics, 
in its common sense, or considered as the invention of temporary 
shifts, as the playing of a subtile game, as the tactics of party for 
gaining power and the spoils of office, and for elevating one set of 
men above another, is a paltry and debasing concern. The laboring 
class are sometimes stimulated to seek power as a class, and this it is 
thought will raise them. But no class, as such, should bear rule 
among us. All conditions of society should be represented in the 
government, and alike protected by it; nor can any thing be expected 
but disgrace to the individual and the country from the success of 
any class in grasping at a monopoly of political power. I would by 
no means discourage the attention of the people to politics. They 
ought to study in earnest the interests of the country, the principles 
of our institutions, the tendencies of public measures. But the unhap- 
piness is, they do not study; and, until they do, they cannot rise by 
political action. A great amount of time, which, if well used, would 
form an enlightened population, is now wasted on newspapers and 
conversations, which inflame the passions, which unscrupulously 
distort the truth, which denounce moral independence as treachery 
to one's party, which agitate the country for no higher end than a 
triumph over opponents; and thus multitudes are degraded into 
men-worshippers or men-haters, into the dupes of the ambitious, or 
the slaves of a faction. To rise, the people must substitute reflection 
for passion. There is no other way. By these remarks, I do not mean 



320 CHANNING 

to charge on the laboring class all the passionateness of the country. 
All classes partake of the madness, and all are debased by it. The 
fiery spirits are not confined to one portion of the community. The 
men, whose ravings resound through the halls of Congress, and are 
then circulated through the country as eloquence, are not taken from 
among those who toil. Party prejudices break out as fiercely on the 
exchange, and even in the saloon, as in the workshop. The disease 
has spread everywhere. Yet it does not dishearten me, for I see that 
it admits of mitigation, if not of cure. I trust that these lectures, and 
other sources of intellectual enjoyment now opening to the public, 
will abate the fever of political excitement, by giving better occupa- 
tion to the mind. Much, too, may be hoped from the growing self- 
respect of the people, which will make them shrink indignantly from 
the disgrace of being used as blinded partisans and unreflecting tools. 
Much also is to be hoped from the discovery, which must sooner or 
later be made, that the importance of government is enormously 
overrated, that it does not deserve all this stir, that there are vastly 
more effectual means of human happiness. Political institutions are 
to be less and less deified, and to shrink into a narrower space; and 
just in proportion as a wiser estimate of government prevails, the 
present frenzy of political excitement will be discovered and put to 
shame. 

I have now said what I do not mean by the elevation of the labor- 
ing classes. It is not an outward change of condition. It is not 
release from labor. It is rot struggling for another rank. It is not 
political power. I understand something deeper. I know but one 
elevation of a human being, and that is elevation of soul. Without 
this, it matters nothing where a man stands or what he possesses; and 
with it, he towers, he is one of God's nobility, no matter what place 
he holds in the social scale. There is but one elevation for a laborer, 
and for all other men. There are not different kinds of dignity for 
different orders of men, but one and the same to all. The only ele- 
vation of a human being consists in the exercise, growth, energy 
of the higher principles and powers of his soul. A bird may be shot 
upward to the skies by a foreign force; but it rises, in the true sense 
of the word, only when it spreads its own wings and soars by its 
own living power. So a man may be thrust upward into a conspicu- 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 32I 

ous place by outward accidents; but he rises, only in so far as he 
exerts himself, and expands his best faculties, and ascends by a free 
effort to a nobler region of thought and action. Such is the elevation 
I desire for the laborer, and I desire no other. This elevation is indeed 
to be aided by an improvement of his outward condition, and in 
turn it greatly improves his outward lot; and thus connected, out- 
ward good is real and great; but supposing it to exist in separation 
from inward growth and life, it would be nothing worth, nor would 
I raise a finger to promote it. 

I know it will be said that such elevation as I have spoken of is 
not and cannot be within the reach of the laboring multitude, and 
of consequence they ought not to be tantalized with dreams of its 
attainment. It will be said that the principal part of men are plainly 
designed to work on matter for the acquisition of material and 
corporeal good, and that, in such, the spirit is of necessity too wedded 
to matter to rise above it. This objection will be considered by and 
by; but I would just observe, in passing, that the objector must 
have studied very carelessly the material world, if he suppose that it 
is meant to be the grave of the minds of most of those who occupy it. 
Matter was made for spirit, body for mind. The mind, the spirit, 
is the end of this living organization of flesh and bones, of nerves 
and muscles; and the end of this vast system of sea and land, and 
air and skies. This unbounded creation of sun, and moon, and 
stars, and clouds, and seasons, was not ordained merely to feed and 
clothe the body, but first and supremely to awaken, nourish, and 
expand the soul, to be the school of the intellect, the nurse of thought 
and imagination, the field for the active powers, a revelation of the 
Creator, and a bond of social union. We were placed in the mate- 
rial creation, not to be its slaves, but to master it, and to make it a 
minister to our highest powers. It is interesting to observe how much 
the material world does for the mind. Most of the sciences, arts, 
professions, and occupations of life, grow out of our connection with 
matter. The natural philosopher, the physician, the lawyer, the 
artist, and the legislator, find the objects or occasions of their re- 
searches in matter. The poet borrows his beautiful imagery from 
matter. The sculptor and painter express their noble conceptions 
through matter. Material wants rouse the world to activity. The 



322 CHANNING 

material organs of sense, especially the eye, wake up infinite thoughts 
in the mind. To maintain, then, that the mass of men are and must 
be so immersed in matter, that their souls cannot rise, is to contra- 
dict the great end of their connection with matter. I maintain that 
the philosophy which does not see, in the laws and phenomena of 
outward nature, the means of awakening mind, is lamentably short- 
sighted; and that a state of society which leaves the mass of men to 
be crushed and famished in soul by excessive toils on matter is at 
war with God's designs, and turns into means of bondage what was 
meant to free and exparld the soul. 

Elevation of soul, this is to be desired for the laborer as for every 
human being; and what does this mean? The phrase, I am aware, 
is vague, and often serves for mere declamation. Let me strive to 
convey some precise ideas of it; and in doing this, I can use no 
language which will save the hearer from the necessity of thought. 
The subject is a spiritual one. It carries us into the depths of our own 
nature, and I can say nothing about it worth saying, without tasking 
your powers of attention, without demanding some mental toil. I 
know that these lectures are meant for entertainment rather than 
mental labor; but, as I have told you, I have great faith in labor, and 
I feel that I cannot be more useful than in exciting the hearer to 
some vigorous action of mind. 

Elevation of soul, in what does this consist? Without aiming at 
philosophical exactness, I shall convey a sufficiently precise idea of 
it, by saying that it consists, first, in force of thought exerted for the 
acquisition of truth; secondly, in force of pure and generous feeling; 
thirdly, in force of moral purpose. Each of these topics needs a lec- 
ture for its development. I must confine myself to the first; from 
which, however, you may learn in a measure my views of the other 
two. — Before entering on this topic, let me offer one preliminary 
remark. To every man who would rise in dignity as a man, be he 
rich or poor, ignorant or instructed, there is one essential condi- 
tion, one effort, one purpose, without which not a step can be 
taken. He must resolutely purpose and labor to free himself from 
whatever he knows to be wrong in his motives and life. He 
who habitually allows himself in any known crime or wrongdoing, 
effectually bars his progress towards a higher intellectual and moral 
life. On this point every man should deal honestly with himself. If 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 323 

he will not listen to his conscience, rebuking him for violations of 
plain duty, let him not dream of self-elevation. The foundation is 
wanting. He will build, if at all, in sand. 

I now proceed to my main subject. I have said that the elevation 
of a man is to be sought, or rather consists, first, in force of thought 
exerted for the acquisition of truth; and to this I ask your serious 
attention. Thought, thought, is the fundamental distinction of mind, 
and the great work of life. All that a man does outwardly is but the 
expression and completion of his inward thought. To work effec- 
tually, he must think clearly. To act nobly, he must think nobly. 
Intellectual force is a principal element of the soul's life, and should 
be proposed by every man as a principal end of his being. It is com- 
mon to distinguish between the intellect and the conscience, between 
the power of thought and virtue, and to say that virtuous action is 
worth more than strong thinking. But we mutilate our nature by 
thus drawing lines between actions or energies of the soul, which are 
intimately, indissolubly bound together. The head and the heart 
are not more vitally connected than thought and virtue. Does not 
conscience include, as a part of itself, the noblest action of the intel- 
lect or reason ? Do we not degrade it by making it a mere feeling ? 
Is it not something more ? Is it not a wise discernment of the right, 
the holy, the good? Take away thought from virtue, and what 
remains worthy of a man.'' Is not high virtue more than blind in- 
stinct? Is it not founded on, and does it not include clear, bright 
perceptions of what is lovely and grand in character and action? 
Without power of thought, what we call conscientiousness, or a 
desire to do right, shoots out into illusion, exaggeration, pernicious 
excess. The most cruel deeds on earth have been perpetrated in the 
name of conscience. Men have hated and murdered one another 
from a sense of duty. The worst frauds have taken the name of 
pious. Thought, intelligence, is the dignity of a man, and no man is 
rising but in proportion as he is learning to think clearly and forci- 
bly, or directing the energy of his mind to the acquisition of 
truth. Every man, in whatsoever condition, is to be a student. No 
matter what other vocation he may have, his chief vocation is to 
Think. 

I say every man is to be a student, a thinker. This does not mean 
that he is to shut himself within four walls, and bend his body and 



324 CHANNING 

mind over books. Men thought before books were written, and 
some of the greatest thinkers never entered what we call a study. 
Nature, Scripture, society, and life, present perpetual subjects for 
thought; and the man who collects, concentrates, employs his facul- 
ties on any of these subjects for the purpose of getting the truth, is so 
far a student, a thinker, a philosopher, and is rising to the dignity of 
a man. It is time that we should cease to limit to professed scholars 
the titles of thinkers, philosophers. Whoever seeks truth with an 
earnest mind, no matter when or how, belongs to the school of 
intellectual men. 

In a loose sense of the word, all men may be said to think; that 
is, a succession of ideas, notions, passes through their minds from 
morning to night; but in as far as this succession is passive, undi- 
rected, or governed only by accident and outward impulse, it has 
little more claim to dignity than the experience of the brute, who 
receives, with like passiveness, sensations from abroad through his 
waking hours. Such thought, if thought it may be called, having no 
aim, is as useless as the vision of an eye which rests on nothing, which 
flies without pause over earth and sky, and of consequence receives 
no distinct image. Thought, in its true sense, is an energy of intellect. 
In thought, the mind not only receives impressions or suggestions 
from without or within, but reacts upon them, collects its attention, 
concentrates its forces upon them, breaks them up and analyzes 
them like a living laboratory, and then combines them anew, traces 
their connections, and thus impresses itself on all the objects which 
engage it. 

The universe in which we live was plainly meant by God to stir 
up such thought as has now been described. It is full of difficulty 
and mystery, and can only be penetrated and unravelled by the con- 
centration of the intellect. Every object, even the simplest in nature 
and society, every event of life, is made up of various elements subtly 
bound together; so that, to understand anything, we must reduce it 
from its complexity to its parts and principles, and examine their 
relations to one another. Nor is this all. Every thing which enters 
the mind not only contains a depth of mystery in itself, but is con- 
nected by a thousand ties with all other things. The universe is not 
a disorderly, disconnected heap, but a beautiful whole, stamped 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 325 

throughout with unity, so as to be an image of the One Infinite 
Spirit. Nothing stands alone. All things are knit together, each 
existing for all and all for each. The humblest object has infinite 
connections. The vegetable, which you saw on your table to-day, 
came to you from the first plant which God made to grow on the 
earth, and was the product of the rains and sunshine of six thousand 
years. Such a universe demands thought to be understood; and we 
are placed in it to think, to put forth the power within, to look 
beneath the surface of things, to look beyond particular facts and 
events to their causes and effects, to their reasons and ends, their 
mutual influences, their diversities and resemblances, their propor- 
tions and harmonies, and the general laws which bind them together. 
This is what I mean by thinking; and by such thought the mind rises 
to a dignity which humbly represents the greatness of the Divine 
intellect; that is, it rises more and more to consistency of views, to 
broad general principles, to universal truths, to glimpses of the order 
and harmony and infinity of the Divine system, and thus to a deep, 
enlightened veneration of the Infinite Father. Do not be startled, as 
if I were holding out an elevation of mind utterly to be despaired 
of; for all thinking, which aims honestly and earnestly to see things 
as they are, to see them in their connections, and to bring the loose, 
conflicting ideas of the mind into consistency and harmony, all such 
thinking, no matter in what sphere, is an approach to the dignity of 
which I speak. You are all capable of the thinking which I recom- 
mend. You have all practised it in a degree. The child, who casts 
an inquiring eye on a new toy, and breaks it to pieces that he may 
discover the mysterious cause of its movements, has begun the work 
of which I speak, has begun to be a philosopher, has begun to pene- 
trate the unknown, to seek consistency and harmony of thought; 
and let him go on as he has begun, and make it one great business of 
life to inquire into the elements, connections, and reasons of what- 
ever he witnesses in his own breast, or in society, or in outward 
nature, and, be his condition what it may, he will rise by degrees to 
a freedom and force of thought, to a breadth and unity of views, 
which will be to him an inward revelation and promise of the 
intellectual greatness for which he was created. 
You will observe, that in speaking of force of thought as the ele- 



326 CHANNING 

vauon of the laborer and of every human being, I have continually 
supposed this force to be exerted for the purpose of acquiring truth. 
I beg you never to lose sight of this motive, for it is essential to 
intellectual dignity. Force of thought may be put forth for other 
purposes, to amass wealth for selfish gratification, to give the indi- 
vidual power over others, to blind others, to weave a web of 
sophistry, to cast a deceitful lustre on vice, to make the worse appear 
the better cause. But energy of thought so employed, is suicidal. The 
intellect, in becoming a pander to vice, a tool of the passions, an 
advocate of lies, becomes not only degraded, but diseased. It loses 
the capacity of distinguishing truth from falsehood, good from evil, 
right from wrong; it becomes as worthless as an eye which cannot 
distinguish between colors or forms. Woe to that mind which wants 
the love of truth! For want of this, genius has become a scourge to 
the world, its breath a poisonous exhalation, its brightness a seducer 
into paths of pestilence and death. Truth is the light of the Infinite 
Mind, and the image of God in his creatures. Nothing endures but 
truth. The dreams, fictions, theories, which men would substitute 
for it, soon die. Without its guidance effort is vain, and hope base- 
less. Accordingly, the love of truth, a deep thirst for it, a deliberate 
purpose to seek it and hold it fast, may be considered as the very 
foundation of human culture and dignity. Precious as thought is, 
the love of truth is still more precious; for without it, thought — 
thought wanders and wastes itself, and precipitates men into guilt 
and misery. There is no greater defect in education and the pulpit 
than that they inculcate so little an impartial, earnest, reverential 
love of truth, a readiness to toil, to live and die for it. Let the labor- 
ing man be imbued in a measure with this spirit; let him learn to 
regard himself as endowed with the power of thought, for the very 
end of acquiring truth; let him learn to regard truth as more precious 
than his daily bread; and the spring of true and perpetual elevation 
is touched within him. He has begun to be a man; he becomes one 
of the elect of his race. Nor do I despair of this elevation of the 
laborer. Unhappily little, almost nothing, has been done as yet to 
inspire either rich or poor with the love of truth for its own sake, or 
for the life, and inspiration, and dignity it gives to the soul. The 
prosperous have as little of this principle as the laboring mass. I 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 327 

think, indeed, that the spirit of luxurious, fashionable life, is more 
hostile to it than the hardships of the poor. Under a wise culture, 
this principle may be awakened in all classes, and wherever awak- 
ened, it will form philosophers, successful and noble thinkers. These 
remarks seem to me particularly important, as showing how inti- 
mate a union subsists between the moral and intellectual nature, and 
how both must work together from the beginning. All human cul- 
ture rests on a moral foundation, on an impartial, disinterested spirit, 
on a willingness to make sacrifices to the truth. Without this moral 
power, mere force of thought avails nothing towards our elevation. 

I am aware that I shall be told that the work of thought which 
I have insisted on is difficult, that to collect and concentrate the mind 
for the truth is harder than to toil with the hands. Be it so. But 
are we weak enough to hope to rise without toil.? Does any man, 
laborer or not, expect to invigorate body or mind without strenuous 
effort? Does not the child grow and get strength by throwing a 
degree of hardship and vehemence and conflict into his very sports ? 
Does not life without difficulty become insipid and joyless? Cannot 
a strong interest turn difficulty into pleasure? Let the love of truth, 
of which I have spoken, be awakened, and obstacles in the way to it 
will whet, not discourage, the mind, and inspire a new delight into 
its acquisition. 

I have hitherto spoken of force of thought in general. My views 
will be given more completely and distinctly, by considering, next, 
the objects on which this force is to be exerted. These may be re- 
duced to two classes, matter and mind — the physical world which 
falls under our eyes, and the spiritual world. The working man 
is particularly called to make matter his study, because his business 
is to work on it, and he works more wisely, effectually, cheerfully, 
and honorably, in proportion as he knows what he acts upon, knows 
the laws and forces of which he avails himself, understands the rea- 
son of what he does, and can explain the changes which fall under 
his eye. Labor becomes a new thing when thought is thrown into 
it, when the mind keeps pace with the hands. Every farmer should 
study chemistry, so as to understand the elements or ingredients 
which enter into soils, vegetation, and manures, and the laws accord- 
ing to which they combine with and are loosened from one another. 



328 CHANNING 

So, the mechanic should understand the mechanical powers, the laws 
of motion, and the history and composition of the various substances 
which he works on. Let me add, that the farmer and the mechanic 
should cultivate the perception of beauty. What a charm and new 
value might the farmer add to his grounds and cottage, were he a 
man of taste! The product of the mechanic, be it great or small, a 
house or a shoe, is worth more, sometimes much more, if he can 
succeed in giving it the grace of proportion. In France, it is not un- 
common to teach drawing to mechanics, that they may get a quick 
eye and a sure hand, and may communicate to their works the 
attraction of beauty. Every man should aim to impart this perfec- 
tion to his labors. The more of mind we carry into toil, the better. 
Without a habit of thought, a man works more like a brute or 
machine than like a man. With it, his soul is kept alive amidst his 
toils. He learns to fix an observing eye on the processes of his trade, 
catches hints which abridge labor, gets glimpses of important dis- 
coveries, and is sometimes able to perfect his art. Even now, after 
all the miracles of invention which honor our age, we little suspect 
what improvements of machinery are to spring from spreading 
intelligence and natural science among workmen. 

But I do not stop here. Nature is to engage our force of thought, 
not simply for the aid which the knowledge of it gives in working, 
but for a higher end. Nature should be studied for its own sake, 
because so wonderful a work of God, because impressed with his 
perfection, because radiant with beauty, and grandeur, and wisdom, 
and beneficence. A laborer, like every other man, is to be liberally 
educated, that is, he is to get knowledge, not only for his bodily 
subsistence, but for the life, and growth, and elevation of his mind. 
Am I asked, whether I expect the laborer to traverse the whole circle 
of the physical sciences? Certainly not; nor do I expect the merchant, 
or the lawyer, or preacher to do it. Nor is this at all necessary to 
elevation of soul. The truths of physical science, which give greatest 
dignity to the mind, are those general laws of the creation which it 
has required ages to unfold, but which an active mind, bent on 
self-enlargement, may so far study and comprehend, as to interpret 
the changes of nature perpetually taking place around us, as to 
see in all the forces of the universe the workings of one Infinite 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 329 

Power, and in all its arrangements the manifestation of one unsearch- 
able wisdom. 

And this leads me to observe the second great object on which 
force of thought is to be exerted, and that is mind, spirit, compre- 
hending under this word God and all his intelligent offspring. 
This is the subject of what are called the metaphysical and moral 
sciences. This is the grand field for thought; for the outward, 
material world is the shadow of the spiritual, and made to minister 
to it. This study is of vast extent. It comprehends theology, meta- 
physics, moral philosophy, political science, history, literature. This 
is a formidable list, and it may seem to include a vast amount of 
knowledge which is necessarily placed beyond the reach of the 
laborer. But it is an interesting thought, that the key to these various 
sciences is given to every human being in his own nature, so that they 
are peculiarly accessible to him. How is it that I get my ideas of God, 
of my fellow-creatures, of the deeds, suffering, motives, which make 
up universal history? I comprehend all these from the conscious- 
ness of what passes in my own soul. The mind within me is a type 
representative of all others, and therefore I can understand all. 
Whence come my conceptions of the intelligence, and justice, and 
goodness, and power of God? It is because my own spirit contains 
the germs of these attributes. The ideas of them are first derived 
from my own nature, and therefore I comprehend them in other 
beings. Thus the foundation of all the sciences which treat of mind 
is laid in every man's breast. The good man is exercising in his 
business and family, faculties and affections which bear a likeness 
to the attributes of the Divinity, and to the energies which have 
made the greatest men illustrious; so that in studying himself, in 
learning the highest principles and laws of his own soul, he is in 
truth studying God, studying all human history, studying the 
philosophy which has immortalized the sages of ancient and mod- 
ern times. In every man's mind and life all other minds and lives 
are more or less represented and wrapped up. To study other 
things, I must go into the outward world, and perhaps go far. To 
study the science of spirit, I must come home and enter my own 
soul. The profoundest books that have ever been written do 
nothing more than bring out, place in clear light, what is passing 



330 CHANNING 

in each of your minds. So near you, so within you, is the grandest 
truth. 

I have, indeed, no expectation that the laborer is to understand 
in detail the various sciences which relate to mind. Few men in 
any vocation do so understand them. Nor is it necessary; though, 
where time can be commanded, the thorough study of some par- 
ticular branch, in which the individual has a special interest, will be 
found of great utility. What is needed to elevate the soul is, not 
that a man should know all that has been thought and written in 
regard to the spiritual nature, not that a man should become an 
encyclopaedia, but that the great ideas, in which all discoveries termi- 
nate, which sum up all sciences, which the philosopher extracts 
from infinite details, may be comprehended and felt. It is not the 
quantity, but the quality of knowledge, which determines the mind's 
dignity. A man of immense information may, through the want 
of large and comprehensive ideas, be far inferior in intellect to a 
laborer, who, with little knowledge, has yet seized on great truths. 
For example, I do not expect the laborer to study theology in the 
ancient languages, in the writings of the Fathers, in the history of 
sects, &c., &c.; nor is this needful. All theology, scattered as it is 
through countless volumes, is summed up in the idea of God; and 
let this idea shine bright and clear in the laborer's soul and he has 
the essence of theological libraries, and a far higher light than has 
visited thousands of renowned divines. A great mind is formed by 
a few great ideas, not by an infinity of loose details. I have known 
very learned men who seemed to me very poor in intellect, because 
they had no grand thoughts. What avails it that a man has studied 
ever so minutely the histories of Greece and Rome, if the great 
ideas of freedom, and beauty, and valor, and spiritual energy, have 
not been kindled by these records into living fires in his soul? The 
illumination of an age does not consist in the amount of its knowl- 
edge, but in the broad and noble principles of which that knowledge 
is the foundation and inspirer. The truth is, that the most laborious 
and successful student is confined in his researches to a very few 
of God's works; but this limited knowledge of things may still 
suggest universal laws, broad principles, grand ideas, and these 
elevate the mind. There are certain thoughts, principles, ideas, 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 33 1 

which by their nature rule over all knowledge, which are intrinsi- 
cally glorious, quickening, all-comprehending, eternal, and with 
these I desire to enrich the mind of the laborer and of every human 
being. 

To illustrate my meaning, let me give a few examples of the 
great ideas which belong to the study or science of mind. Of course, 
the first of these, the grandest, the most comprehensive, is the idea 
of God, the Parent Mind, the Primitive and Infinite Intelligence. 
Every man's elevation is to be measured first and chieily by his 
conception of this Great Being; and to attain a just, and bright, 
and quickening knowledge of Him, is the highest aim of thought. 
In truth, the great end of the universe, of revelation, of life, is to 
develop in us the idea of God. Much earnest, patient, laborious 
thought is required to see this Infinite Being as He is, to rise above 
the low, gross notions of the Divinity, which rush in upon us from 
our passions, from our selfish partialities, and from the low-minded 
world around us. There is one view of God particularly suited to 
elevate us. I mean the view of Him as the "Father of our spirits"; 
as having created us with great powers to grow up to perfection; 
as having ordained all outward things to minister to the progress of 
the soul; as always present to inspire and strengthen us, to wake 
us up to inward life, and to judge and rebuke our wrong-doing; 
as looking with parental joy on our resistance of evil; as desiring to 
communicate himself to our minds for ever. This one idea, ex- 
panded in the breast of the laborer, is a germ of elevation more 
fruitful than all science, no matter how extensive or profound, 
which treats only of outward finite things. It places him in the 
first rank of human beings. You hear of great theologians. He only 
deserves the name, be his condition what it may, who has, by thought 
and obedience, purified and enlarged his conception of God. 

From the idea of God, I proceed to another grand one, that of 
man, of human nature; and this should be the object of serious, 
intense thought. Few men know, as yet, what a man is. They 
know his clothes, his complexion, his property, his rank, his follies, 
and his outward life. But the thought of his inward being, his 
proper humanity, has hardly dawned on multitudes; and yet, who 
can live a man's life that does not know what is the distinctive 



332 CHANNING 

worth o£ a human being? It is interesting to observe how faithful 
men generally are to their idea of a man; how they act up to it. 
Spread the notion that courage is true manhood, and how many 
will die rather than fall short of that standard; and hence, the true 
idea of a man, brought out in the laborer's mind, elevates him 
above every other class who may want it. Am I asked for my 
conception of the dignity of a human being? I should say, that 
it consists, first, in that spiritual principle, called sometimes the 
reason, sometimes the conscience, which, rising above what is local 
and temporary, discerns immutable truth and everlasting right; 
which, in the midst of imperfect things, conceives of perfectionj 
which is universal and impartial, standing in direct opposition to 
the partial, selfish principles of human nature; which says to me 
with authority, that my neighbor is as precious as myself, and his 
rights as sacred as my own ; which commands me to receive all truth, 
however it may war with my pride, and to do all justice, however 
it may conflict with my interest; and which calls me to rejoice with 
love in all that is beautiful, good, holy, happy, in whatever being 
these attributes may be found. This principle is a ray of Divinity 
in man. We do not know what man is, still something of the 
celestial grandeur of this principle in the soul may be discerned. 
There is another grand view of man, included indeed in the former, 
yet deserving distinct notice. He is a free being; created to act from 
a spring in his own breast, to form himself and to decide his own 
destiny; connected intimately with nature, but not enslaved to it; 
connected still more strongly with God, yet not enslaved even to 
the Divinity, but having power to render or withhold the service 
due to his Creator; encompassed by a thousand warring forces, by 
physical elements which inflict pleasure and pain, by dangers seen 
and unseen, by the influences of a tempting, sinful world, yet endued 
by God with power to contend with all, to perfect himself by con- 
flict with the very forces which threaten to overwhelm him. Such 
is the idea of a man. Happy he in whom it is unfolded by earnest 
thought! 

Had I time, I should be glad to speak of other great ideas 
belonging to the science of mind, and which sum up and give 
us, in one bright expression, the speculations of ages. The idea of 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 333 

human life, of its true end and greatness; the idea of virtue, as 
the absolute and ultimate good; the idea of liberty, which is the 
highest thought of political science, and which, by its intimate 
presence to the minds of the people, is the chief spring of our 
country's life and greatness, — all these might be enlarged on; and I 
might show how these may be awakened in the laborer, and may give 
him an elevation which many who are above labor want. But, leav- 
ing all these, I will only refer to another, one of the most important 
results of the science of mind, and which the laborer, in common 
with every man, may and should receive, and should strengthen 
by patient thought. It is the idea of his importance as an individual. 
He is to understand that he has a value, not as belonging to a com- 
munity, and contributing to a general good which is distinct from 
himself, but on his own account. He is not a mere part of a 
machine. In a machine the parts are useless, but as conducing to 
the end of the whole, for which alone they subsist. Not so a man. He 
is not simply a means, but an end, and exists for his own sake, 
for the unfolding of his nature, for his own virtue and happiness. 
True, he is to work for others, but not servilely, not with a broken 
spirit, not so as to degrade himself: he is to work for others from 
a wise self-regard, from principles of justice and benevolence, and 
in the exercise of a free will and intelligence, by which his own 
character is perfected. His individual dignity, not derived from 
birth, from success, from wealth, from outward show, but consist- 
ing in the indestructible principles of his soul, — this ought to enter 
into his habitual consciousness. I do not speak rhetorically or use 
the cant of rhapsodists, but I utter my calm, deliberate conviction, 
when I say that the laborer ought to regard himself with a self- 
respect unknown to the proudest monarch who rests on outward 
rank. 

I have now illustrated what I mean by the great ideas which 
exalt the mind. Their worth and power cannot be exaggerated. They 
are the mightiest influences on earth. One great thought breathed 
into a man may regenerate him. The idea of freedom in ancient 
and modern republics, the idea of inspiration in various religious 
sects, the idea of immortality, how have these triumphed over 
worldly interests! How many heroes and martyrs have they formed! 



334 CHANNING 

Great ideas are mightier than the passions. To awaken them is 
the highest office of education. As yet it has been Httle thought 
of. The education of the mass of the people has consisted in giving 
them mechanical habits, in breaking them to current usages and 
modes of thinking, in teaching religion and morality as traditions. 
It is time that a rational culture should take the place of mechanical; 
that men should learn to act more from ideas and principles, and 
less from blind impulse and undiscerning imitation. 

Am I met here by the constantly recurring objection, that such 
great thoughts as have now been treated of are not to be expected 
in the multitude of men whose means of culture are so confined? 
To this difficulty I shall reply in the next lecture; but I wish to 
state a fact, or law of our nature, very cheering to those who, with 
few means, still pant for generous improvement. It is this, that 
great ideas come to us less from outward, direct, laborious teaching, 
than from indirect influences, and from the native working of our 
own minds; so that those who want the outward apparatus for 
extensive learning are not cut off from them. Thus, laborious 
teachers may instruct us for years in God, and virtue, and the soul, 
and we may remain nearly as ignorant of them as at the beginning; 
whilst a look, a tone, an act of a fellow-creature, who is kindled by 
a grand thought, and who is thrown in our path at some susceptible 
season of life, will do much to awaken and expand this thought 
within us. It is a matter of experience that the greatest ideas often 
come to us, when right-minded, we know not how. They flash on 
us as lights from heaven. A man seriously given to the culture of 
his mind in virtue and truth finds himself under better teaching 
than that of man. Revelations of his own soul, of God's intimate 
presence, of the grandeur of the creation, of the glory of disinterested- 
ness, of the deformity of wrong-doing, of the dignity of universal 
justice, of the might of moral principle, of the immutableness of 
truth, of immortality, and of the inward sources of happiness; 
these revelations, awakening a thirst for something higher than he 
is or has, come of themselves to an humble, self-improving man. 
Sometimes a common scene in nature, one of the common relations 
of life, will open itself to us with a brightness and pregnancy of 
meaning unknown before. Sometimes a thought of this kind forms 
an era in life. It changes the whole future course. It is a new 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 335 

creation. And these great ideas are not confined to men of any 
class. They are communications of the Infinite Mind to all minds 
which are open to their reception; and labor is a far better condition 
for their reception than luxurious or fashionable Ufe. It is even 
better than a studious life, when this fosters vanity, pride, and the 
spirit of jealous competition. A childlike simplicity attracts these 
revelations more than a selfish culture of intellect, however far 
extended. — Perhaps a caution should be added to these suggestions. 
In speaking of great ideas, as sometimes springing up of them- 
selves, as sudden illuminations, I have no thought of teaching that 
we are to wait for them passively, or to give up our minds unthink- 
ingly to their control. We must prepare ourselves for them by 
faithfulness to our own powers, by availing ourselves of all means 
of culture within our reach; and, what is more, these illuminations, 
if they come, are not distinct, complete, perfect views, but glimpses, 
suggestions, flashes, given us, like all notices and impressions from 
the outward world, to be thought upon, to be made subjects of 
patient reflection, to be brought by our own intellect and activity 
into their true connection with all our other thoughts. A great idea, 
without reflection, may dazzle and bewilder, may destroy the 
balance and proportion of the mind, and impel to dangerous excess. 
It is to awaken the free, earnest exertion of our powers, to rouse 
us from passiveness to activity and life, that inward inspirations, and , 
the teachings of outward nature, are accorded to the mind. 

I have thus spoken at large of that force of thought which the 
laborer is to seek as his true elevation; and I will close the subject 
with observing, that on whatever objects or for whatever purposes 
this force may be exerted, one purpose should be habitually pre- 
dominant, and that is, to gain a larger, clearer comprehension of 
all the duties of life. Thought cannot take too wide a range; but 
its chief aim should be to acquire juster and brighter perceptions 
of the right and the good, in every relation and condition in which 
we may be placed. Do not imagine that I am here talking pro- 
fessionally, or sliding unconsciously, by the force of habit, into the 
tone of the pulpit. The subject of duty belongs equally to all pro- 
fessions and all conditions. It were as wise to think of Uving without 
breath, or of seeing without light, as to exclude moral and religious 
principle from the work of self-elevation. And I say this, because 



33^ CHANNING 

you are in danger o£ mistaking mere knowledge for improvement. 
Knowledge fails of its best end when it does not minister to a high 
virtue. I do not say that we are never to think, read, or study, but 
for the express purpose of learning our duties. The mind must 
not be tied down by rigid rules. Curiosity, amusement, natural 
tastes, may innocently direct reading and study to a certain extent. 
Even in these cases, however, we are bound to improve ourselves 
morally as well as intellectually, by seeking truth and rejecting 
falsehood, and by watching against the taint which inheres in 
almost all human productions. What avails intellectual without 
moral power? How little does it avail us to study the outward 
world, if its greatness inspire no reverence of its Author, if its 
beneficence awaken no kindred love towards our fellow-creatures! 
How little does it avail us to study history, if the past do not help 
us to comprehend the dangers and duties of the present; if from 
the sufferings of those who have gone before us, we do not learn 
how to suffer, and from their great and good deeds how to act 
nobly; if the development of the human heart, in different ages 
and countries, do not give us a better knowledge of ourselves! How 
little does literature benefit us, if the sketches of life and character, 
the generous sentiments, the testimonies to disinterestedness and 
rectitude, with which it abounds, do not incite and guide us to 
wiser, purer, and more graceful action! How little substantial 
good do we derive from poetry and the fine arts, if the beauty, 
which delights the imagination, do not warm and refine the heart, 
and raise us to the love and admiration of what is fair, and perfect, 
and lofty, in character and life! Let our studies be as wide as our 
condition will allow; but let this be their highest aim, to instruct 
us in our duty and happiness, in the perfection of our nature, in 
the true use of life, in the best direction of our powers. Then is 
the culture of intellect an unmixed good, when it is sacredly used 
to enlighten the conscience, to feed the flame of generous sentiment, 
to perfect us in our common employments, to throw a grace over 
our common actions, to make us sources of innocent cheerfulness 
and centres of holy influence, and to give us courage, strength, 
stability, amidst the sudden changes and sore temptations and trials 
of life. 



LECTURE 11. 

IN my last lecture I invited your attention to a subject of great 
interest, the elevation of the laboring portion of the community. 
I proposed to consider, first, in what this elevation consists; 
secondly the objections which may be made to its practicableness; 
thirdly, the circumstances which now favor it, and gives us hope 
that it will be more and more accomplished. In considering the 
first head, I began with stating in what the elevation of the laboring 
class does not consist, and then proceeded to show positively what 
it is, what it does consist in. I want time to retrace the ground 
over which we then travelled. I must trust to your memories. I 
was obliged by my narrow limits to confine myself chiefly to the 
consideration of the intellectual elevation which the laborer is to 
propose; though, in treating this topic, I showed the moral, religious, 
social improvements which enter into his true dignity. I observed 
that the laborer was to be a student, a thinker, an intellectual man, as 
well as a laborer; and suggested the qualifications of this truth 
which are required by this peculiar employment, by his daily 
engagement in manual toil. I now come to consider the objections 
which spring up in many minds, when such views of the laborer's 
destiny are given. This is our second head. 

First, it will be objected, that the laboring multitude cannot 
command a variety of books, or spend much time in reading; and 
how then can they gain the force of thought, and the great ideas, 
which were treated of in the former lecture.? This objection grows 
out of the prevalent disposition to confound intellectual improve- 
ment with book-learning. Some seem to think that there is a kind 
of magic in a printed page, that types give a higher knowledge 
than can be gained from other sources. Reading is considered as 
the royal road to intellectual eminence. This prejudice I have vir- 
tually set aside in my previous remarks; but it has taken so strong 
a hold of many as to need some consideration. I shall not attempt 

337 



338 CHANNING 

to repel the objection by decrying books. Truly good books are 
more than mines to those who can understand them. They are the 
breathings of the great souls o£ past times. Genius is not embalmed 
in them, as is sometimes said, but lives in them perpetually. But 
we need not many books to answer the great ends of reading. A 
few are better than many, and a little time given to a faithful 
study of the few will be enough to quicken thought and enrich 
the mind. The greatest men have not been book-men. Washington, 
it has often been said, was no great reader. The learning com- 
monly gathered from books is of less worth than the truths we 
gain from experience and reflection. Indeed, most of the knowl- 
edge from reading, in these days, being acquired with Uttle mental 
action, and seldom or never reflected on and turned to use, is very 
much a vain show. Events stirring the mind to earnest thought 
and vigorous application of its resources, do vastly more to elevate 
the mind than most of our studies at the present time. Few of the 
books read among us deserve to be read. Most of them have no 
principle of life, as is proved by the fact that they die the year of 
their birth. They do not come from thinkers, and how can they 
awaken thought? A great proportion of the reading of this city 
is useless, I had almost said pernicious. I should be sorry to see our 
laborers exchanging their toils for the reading of many of our 
young ladies and young gentlemen, who look on the intellect as 
given them for amusement; who read, as they visit, for amusement, 
who discuss no great truths and put forth no energy of thought on 
the topics which fly through their minds. With this insensibility 
to the dignity of the intellect, and this frittering away of the mind 
on superficial reading, I see not with what face they can claim 
superiority to the laboring mass, who certainly understand one thing 
thoroughly, that is, their own business, and who are doing some- 
thing useful for themselves and their fellow-creatures. The great 
use of books is to rouse us to thought; to turn us to questions which 
great men have been working on for ages; to furnish us with 
materials for the exercise of judgment, imagination, and moral 
feeling; to breathe into us a moral life from higher spirits than our 
own; and this benefit of books may be enjoyed by those who have 
not much time for retired study. 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 339 

It must not be forgotten, by those who despair of the laboring 
classes because they cannot live in libraries, that the highest sources 
of truth, light, and elevation of mind, are not libraries, but our 
inward and outward experience. Human life, with its joys and 
sorrows, its burdens and alleviations, its crimes and virtues, its 
deep wants, its solemn changes, and its retributions, always press- 
ing on us; what a library is this! and who may not study it? Every 
human being is a volume worthy to be studied. The books which 
circulate most freely through the community are those which give 
us pictures of human life. How much more improving is the 
original, did we know how to read it."" The laborer has this page 
always open before him; and, still more, the laborer is every day 
writing a volume more full of instruction than all human produc- 
tions, I mean his own life. No work of the most exalted genius 
can teach us so much as the revelation of human nature in the 
secrets of our own souls, in the workings of our own passions, 
in the operations of our own intelligence, in the retributions which 
follow our own good and evil deeds, in the dissatisfaction with 
the present, in the spontaneous thoughts and aspirations which 
form part of every man's biography. The study of our own history 
from childhood, of all the stages of our development, of the good 
and bad influences which have beset us, of our mutations of feeling 
and purpose, and of the great current which is setting us towards 
future happiness or woe, — this is a study to make us nobly wise; 
and who of us has not access to this fountain of eternal truth.'' 
May not the laborer study and understand the pages which he is 
writing in his own breast? 

In these remarks, I have aimed to remove the false notion into 
which the laborers themselves fall, that they can do little towards 
acquiring force and fulness of thought, because in want of books. 
I shall next turn to prejudices more confined to other classes. A 
very common one is, that the many are not to be called to think, 
study, improve their minds, because a privileged few are intended 
by God to do their thinking for them. "Providence," it is said, 
"raises up superior minds, whose office it is to discover truth for 
the rest of the race. Thinking and manual toil are not meant to 



340 CHANNING 

go together. The division of labor is a great law o£ nature. One 
man is to serve society by his head, another by his hands. Let each 
class keep to its proper work." These doctrines I protest against. 
I deny to any individual or class this monopoly of thought. Who 
among men can show God's commission to think for his brethren, 
to shape passively the intellect of the mass, to stamp his own image 
on them as if they were wax ? As well might a few claim a monop- 
oly of light and air, of seeing and breathing, as of thought. Is not 
the intellect as universal a gift as the organs of sight and respiration ? 
Is not truth as freely spread abroad as the atmosphere or the sun's 
rays? Can we imagine that God's highest gifts of intelligence, 
imagination, and moral power were bestowed to provide only for 
animal wants? to be denied the natural means of growth, which 
is action ? to be starved by drudgery ? Were the mass of men made 
to be monsters? to grow only in a few organs and faculties, and 
to pine away and shrivel in others ? or were they made to put forth 
all the powers of men, especially the best and most distinguishing? 
No man, not the lowest, is all hands, all bones and muscles. The 
mind is more essential to human nature, and more enduring, than 
the limbs; and was this made to lie dead? Is not thought the right 
and duty of all? Is not truth ahke precious to all? Is not truth the 
natural aliment of the mind, as plainly as the wholesome grain is 
of the body ? Is not the mind adapted to thought, as plainly as the 
eye to light, the ear to sound? Who dares to withhold it from its 
natural action, its natural element and joy? Undoubtedly some 
men are more gifted than others, and are marked out for more 
studious lives. But the work of such men is not to do others' 
thinking for them, but to help them to think more vigorously and 
effectually. Great minds are to make others great. Their superiority 
is to be used, not to break the multitude to intellectual vassalage, not 
to establish over them a spiritual tyranny, but to rouse them from 
lethargy, and to aid them to judge for themselves. The light and 
life which spring up in one soul are to be spread far and wide. Of 
all treasons against humanity, there is no one worse than his who 
employs great intellectual force to keep down the intellect of his 
less favored brother. 
It is sometimes urged by those who consider the multitude as 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 34I 

not intended to think, that at best they can learn but Uttle, and that 
this is hkely to harm rather than to do them good. "A little learn- 
ing," we are told, "is a dangerous thing." "Shallow draughts" o£ 
knowledge are worse than ignorance. The mass of the people, it is 
said, can go to the bottom of nothing; and the result of stimulating 
them to thought will be the formation of a dangerous set of half- 
thinkers. To this argument I reply, first, that it has the inconvenience 
of proving too much; for, if valid, it shows that none of any class 
ought to think. For who, I would ask, can go to the bottom of 
anything? Whose "learning" is not "little"? Whose "draughts" 
of knowledge are not "shallow"? Who of us has fathomed the 
depths of a single product of nature or a single event in history? 
Who of us is not baffled by the mysteries in a grain of sand ? How 
contracted the range of the widest intellect! But is our knowledge, 
because so little, of no worth? Are we to despise the lessons which 
are taught us in this nook of creation, in this narrow round of 
human experience, because an infinite universe stretches around us, 
which we have no means of exploring, and in which the earth, and 
sun, and planets dwindle to a point? We should remember that 
the known, however little it may be, is in harmony with the 
boundless unknown, and a step towards it. We should remember, 
too, that the gravest truths may be gathered from a very narrow 
compass of information. God is revealed in his smallest work as 
truly as in his greatest. The principles of human nature may be 
studied better in a family than in the history of the world. The 
finite is a manifestation of the infinite. The great ideas, of which 
I have formerly spoken, are within the reach of every man who 
thirsts for truth, and seeks it with singleness of mind. I will only 
add, that the laboring class are not now condemned to draughts 
of knowledge so shallow as to merit scorn. Many of them know 
more of the outward world than all the philosophers of antiquity; 
and Christianity has opened to them mysteries of the spiritual world 
which kings and prophets were not privileged to understand. And 
are they, then, to be doomed to spiritual inaction, as incapable of 
useful thought? 

It is sometimes said, that the multitude may think on the common 
business of life, but not on higher subjects, and especially on religion. 



342 CHANNING 

This, it is said, must be received on authority; on this, men in 
general can form no judgment of their own. But this is the last 
subject on which the individual should be willing to surrender 
himself to others' dictation. In nothing has he so strong an interest. 
In nothing is it so important that his mind and heart should be 
alive and engaged. In nothing has he readier means of judging for 
himself. In nothing, as history shows, is he more likely to be led 
astray by such as assume the office of thinking for him. Religion 
is a subject open to all minds. Its great truths have their foundation 
in the soul itself, and their proofs surround us on all sides. God 
has not shut up the evidence of his being in a few books, written in 
a foreign language, and locked up in the libraries of colleges and 
philosophers; but has written his name on the heavens and on the 
earth, and even on the minutest animal and plant; and his word, 
taught by Jesus Christ, was not given to scribes and lawyers, but 
taught to the poor, to the mass of men, on mountains, in streets, 
and on the sea-shore. Let me not be told that the multitude do 
actually receive religion on authority, or on the word of others. I 
reply, that a faith so received seems to me of litde worth. The 
precious, the living, the effectual part of a poor man's faith, is that 
of which he sees the reasonableness and excellence; that which 
approves itself to his intelligence, his conscience, his heart; that which 
answers to deep wants in his own soul, and of which he has the 
witness in his own inward and outward experience. All other parts 
of his belief, those which he takes on blind trust, and in which he 
sees no marks of truth and divinity, do him little or no good. Too 
often they do him harm, by perplexing his simple reason, by sub- 
stituting the fictions and artificial systems of theologians for the 
plain precepts of love, and justice, and humility, and fiUal trust in 
God. As long as it was supposed that religion is to benefit the world 
by laying restraints, awakening fears, and acting as a part of the 
system of police, so long it was natural to rely on authority and 
tradition as the means of its propagation; so long it was desirable 
to stifle thought and inquiry on the subject. But now that we have 
learned that the true office of religion is to awaken pure and lofty 
sentiments, and to unite man to God by rational homage and 
enlightened love, there is something monstrous in placing religion 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 343 

beyond the thought and the study o£ the mass of the human race. 

I proceed to another prejudice. It is objected, that the distinction 
of ranks is essential to social order, and that this will be swept away 
by calling forth energy of thought in all men. This objection, indeed, 
though exceedingly insisted on in Europe, has nearly died out here; 
but still enough of it lingers among us to deserve consideration. 
I reply, then, that it is a libel on social order to suppose that it 
requires for its support the reduction of the multitude of human 
beings to ignorance and servility; and that it is a libel on the Creator 
to suppose that he requires, as the foundation of communities, the 
systematic depression of the majority of his intelligent offspring. 
The supposition is too grossly unreasonable, too monstrous, to 
require labored refutation. I see no need of ranks, either for social 
order or for any other purpose. A great variety of pursuits and 
conditions is indeed to be desired. Men ought to follow their genius, 
and to put forth their powers in every useful and lawful way. I do 
not ask for a monotonous world. We are far too monotonous now. 
The vassalage of fashion, which is a part of rank, prevents con- 
tinually the free expansion of men's powers. Let us have the 
greatest diversity of occupations. But this does not imply that there 
is a need of splitting society into castes or ranks, or that a certain 
number should arrogate superiority, and stand apart from the rest 
of men as a separate race. Men may work in different departments 
of life, and yet recognize their brotherly relation, and honor one 
another, and hold friendly communion with one another. Un- 
doubtedly, men will prefer as friends and common associates those 
with whom they sympathize most. But this is not to form a rank 
or caste. For example, the intelligent seek out the intelligent; the 
pious, those who reverence God. But suppose the intellectual and 
the religious to cut themselves off by some broad, visible distinction 
from the rest of society, to form a clan of their own, to refuse 
admission • into their houses to people of inferior knowledge and 
virtue, and to diminish as far as possible the occasions of inter- 
course with them; would not society rise up, as one man, against 
this arrogant exclusiveness ? And if intelligence and piety may not 
be the foundations of a caste, on what ground shall they, who have 



344 CHANNING 

no distinction but wealth, superior costume, richer equipages, finer 
houses, draw lines around themselves and constitute themselves a 
higher class? That some should be richer than others is natural 
and is necessary, and could only be prevented by gross violations o£ 
right. Leave men to the free use of their powers, and some will 
accumulate more than their neighbors. But to be prosperous is not 
to be superior; and should form no barrier between men. Wealth 
ought not to secure to the prosperous the slightest consideration. 
The only distinctions which should be recognized are those of the 
soul, of strong principle, of incorruptible integrity, of usefulness, of 
cultivated intellect, of fidelity in seeking for truth. A man in 
proportion as he has these claims, should be honored and welcomed 
everywhere. I see not why such a man, however coarsely if neatly 
dressed, should not be a respected guest in the most splendid man- 
sions, and at the most brilliant meetings. A man is worth infinitely 
more than the saloons, and the costumes, and the show of the 
universe. He was made to tread all these beneath his feet. What 
an insult to humanity is the present deference to dress and uphol- 
stery, as if silk-worms, and looms, and scissors, and needles could 
produce something nobler than a man! Every good man should 
protest against a caste founded on outward prosperity, because it 
exalts the outward above the inward, the material above the spiritual; 
because it springs from and cherishes a contemptible pride in super- 
ficial and transitory distinctions; because it alienates man from 
his brother, breaks the tie of common humanity, and breeds jeal- 
ousy, scorn, and mutual ill-will. Can this be needed to social order ? 
It is true, that in countries where the mass of the people are 
ignorant and servile, the existence of a higher and a worshipped 
rank tends to keep them from outrage. It infuses a sentiment of 
awe, which prevents more or less the need of force and punishment. 
But it is worthy of remark that the means of keeping order in one 
state of society may become the chief excitement of discontent and 
disorder in another, and this is peculiarly true of aristocracy or 
high rank. In rude ages, this keeps the people down; but when 
the people by degrees have risen to some consciousness of their 
rights and essential equality with the rest of the race, the awe of 
rank naturally subsides, and passes into suspicion, jealousy, and 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 345 

sense of injury, and a disposition to resist. The very institution 
which once restrained, now provokes. Through this process the Old 
World is now passing. The strange illusion, that a man, because he 
wears a garter or a riband, or was born to a title, belongs to another 
race, is fading away; and society must pass through a series of revolu- 
tions, silent or bloody, until a more natural order takes place of 
distinctions which grew originally out of force. Thus aristocracy, 
instead of giving order to society, now convulses it. So impossible 
is it for arbitrary human ordinations permanently to degrade human 
nature or subvert the principles of justice and freedom. 

I am aware that it will be said, "that the want of refinement 
of manners and taste in the lower classes will necessarily keep them 
an inferior caste, even though all political inequalities be removed." 
I acknowledge this defect of manners in the multitude, and grant 
that it is an obstacle to intercourse with the more improved, though 
often exaggerated. But this is a barrier which must and will yield 
to the means of culture spread through our community. The evil 
is not necessarily associated with any condition of human life. An 
intelligent traveller' tells us, that in Norway, a country wanting 
many of our advantages, good manners and politeness are spread 
through all conditions; and that the "rough way of talking to and 
living with each other, characteristic of the lower classes of society 
in England, is not found there." Not many centuries ago, the 
intercourse of the highest orders in Europe was sullied by indelicacy 
and fierceness; but time has worn out these stains, and the same 
cause is now removing what is repulsive among those who toil with 
their hands. I cannot believe that coarse manners, boisterous con- 
versation, slovenly negligence, filthy customs, surliness, indecency, 
are to descend by necessity from generation to generation in any 
portion of the community. I do not see why neatness, courtesy, 
delicacy, ease, and deference to others' feelings, may not be made 
the habits of the laboring multitude. A change is certainly going on 
among them in respect to manners. Let us hope that it will be 
a change for the better; that they will not adopt false notions of 
refinement; that they will escape the servile imitation of what is 
hollow and insincere, and the substitution of outward shows for 
* See Laing's Travels in Norway. 



346 CHANNING 

genuine natural courtesy. Unhappily they have but imperfect models 
on which to form themselves. It is not one class alone which needs 
reform in manners. We all need a new social intercourse, which 
shall breathe genuine refinement; which shall unite the two great 
elements of politeness, self-respect, and a delicate regard to the 
rights and feelings of others; which shall be free without rudeness, 
and earnest without positiveness; which shall be graceful, yet warm- 
hearted; and in which communication shall be frank, unlabored, 
overflowing, through the absence of all assumption and pretence, 
and through the consciousness of being safe from heartless ridicule. 
This grand reform, which I trust is to come, will bring with it a 
happiness little known in social life; and whence shall it come? 
The wise and disinterested of all conditions must contribute to it; 
and I see not why the laboring classes may not take part in the 
work. Indeed, when I consider the greater simplicity of their lives 
and their greater openness to the spirit of Christianity, I am not 
sure but that the "golden age" of manners is to begin among those 
who are now despaired of for their want of refinement. 

In these remarks, I have given the name of "prejudices" to the 
old opinions respecting rank, and respecting the need of keeping 
the people from much thought. But allow these opinions to have 
a foundation in truth; suppose high fences of rank to be necessary 
to refinement of manners; suppose that the happiest of all ages 
were the feudal, when aristocracy was in its flower and glory, when 
the noble, superior to the laws, committed more murders in one 
year than the multitude in twenty. Suppose it best for the laborer 
to live and die in thoughtless ignorance. Allow all this, and that 
we have reason to look with envy on the past; one thing is plain, 
the past is gone, the feudal castle is dismantled, the distance between 
classes greatly reduced. Unfortunate as it may be, the people have 
begun to think, to ask reasons for what they do and suffer and 
believe, and to call the past to account. Old spells are broken, old 
reliances gone. Men can no longer be kept down by pageantry, 
state-robes, forms, and shows. Allowing it to be best that society 
should rest on the depression of the multitude, the multitude will 
no longer be quiet when they are trodden under foot, but ask 
impatiently for a reason why they too may not have a share in 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 347 

social blessings. Such is the state of things, and we must make the 
best of what we cannot prevent. Right or wrong, the people will 
think; and is it not important that they should think justly? that 
they should be inspired with the love of truth, and instructed how 
to seek it? that they should be established by wise culture in the 
great principles on which religion and society rest, and be pro- 
tected from scepticism and wild speculation by intercourse with 
enlightened and virtuous men? It is plain that in the actual state 
of the world, nothing can avail us but a real improvement of the 
mass of the people. No stable foundation can be laid for us but 
in men's minds. Alarming as the truth is, it should be told, that 
outward institutions cannot now secure us. Mightier powers than 
institutions have come into play among us, the judgment, the 
opinions, the feelings of the many; and all hopes of stability which 
do not rest on the progress of the many, must perish. 

But a more serious objection than any yet considered, to the 
intellectual elevation of the laboring class, remains to be stated. It 
is said, "that the laborer can gain subsistence for himself and his 
family only by a degree of labor which forbids the use of means of 
improvement. His necessary toils leave no time or strength for 
thought. Political economy, by showing that population outstrips 
the means of improvement, passes an irrepealable sentence of 
ignorance and degradation on the laborer. He can live but for 
one end, which is to keep himself alive. He cannot give time and 
strength to intellectual, social, and moral culture, without starving 
his family, and impoverishing the community. Nature has laid this 
heavy law on the mass of the people, and it is idle to set up our 
theories and dreams of improvement against nature." 

This objection applies with great force to Europe, and is not 
without weight here. But it does not discourage me. I reply, first, 
to this objection, that it generally comes from a suspicious source. 
It comes generally from men who abound, and are at ease; who 
think more of property than of any other human interest; who 
have Uttle concern for the mass of their fellow-creatures; who are 
willing that others should bear all the burdens of life, and that 
any social order should continue which secures to themselves per- 



348 CHANNING 

sonal comfort or gratification. The selfish epicure and the thriving 
man of business easily discover a natural necessity for that state of 
things which accumulates on themselves all the blessings, and on 
their neighbor all the evils, of life. But no man can judge what is 
good or necessary for the multitude but he who feels for them, and 
whose equity and benevolence are shocked by the thought that all 
advantages are to be monopolized by one set of men, and all dis- 
advantages by another. I wait for the judgment of profound 
thinkers and earnest philanthropists on this point, — a judgment 
formed after patient study of political economy, and human nature 
and human history; nor even on such authority shall I readily 
despair of the multitude of my race. 

In the next place, the objection under consideration is very much 
a repetition of the old doctrine, that what has been must be; that 
the future is always to repeat the past, and society to tread for ever 
the beaten path. But can any thing be plainer than that the present 
condition of the world is peculiar, unprecedented ? that new powers 
and new principles are at work? that the application of science to 
art is accomplishing a stupendous revolution? that the condition of 
the laborer is in many places greatly improved, and his intellectual 
aids increased? that abuses, once thought essential to society, and 
which seemed entwined with all its fibres, have been removed ? Do 
the mass of men stand where they did a few centuries ago? And 
do not new circumstances, if they make us fearful, at the same time 
keep us from despair? The future, be it what it may, will not 
resemble the past. The present has new elements, which must work 
out new weal or woe. We have no right, then, on the ground of 
the immutableness of human affairs, to quench, as far as we have 
power, the hope of social progress. 

Another consideration, in reply to the objection that the neces- 
sary toils of life exclude improvement, may be drawn not only 
from general history, but from the experience of this country in 
particular. The working classes here have risen and are still rising 
intellectually, and yet there are no signs of starvation, nor are we 
becoming the poorest people on earth. By far the most interesting 
view of this country is the condition of the working multitude. 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 349 

Nothing among us deserves the attention of the traveller so much 
as the force of thought and character, and the self-respect awakened 
by our history and institutions in the mass of the people. Our pros- 
perous classes are much like the same classes abroad, though, as 
we hope, of purer morals; but the great working multitude leave 
far behind them the laborers of other countries. No man of ob- 
servation and benevolence can converse with them without being 
struck and delighted with the signs they give of strong and sound 
intellect and manly principle. And who is authorized to set bounds 
to this progress? In improvement the first steps are the hardest. 
The difficulty is to wake up men's souls, not to continue their 
action. Every accession of light and strength is a help to new 
acquisitions. 

Another consideration, in reply to the objection, is, that as yet 
no community has seriously set itself to the work of improving 
all its members, so that what is possible remains to be ascertained. 
No experiment has been made to determine how far liberal provision 
can be made at once for the body and mind of the laborer. The 
highest social art is yet in its infancy. Great minds have nowhere 
solemnly, earnestly undertaken to resolve the problem, how the 
multitude of men may be elevated. The trial is to come. Still 
more, the multitude have nowhere comprehended distinctly the 
true idea of progress, and resolved deliberately and solemnly to 
reduce it to reality. This great thought, however, is gradually 
opening on them, and it is destined to work wonders. From them- 
selves their salvation must chiefly come. Little can be done for 
them by others, till a spring is touched in their own breasts; and 
this being done, they cannot fail. The people, as history shows us, 
can accomplish miracles under the power of a great idea. How 
much have they often done and suffered in critical moments for 
country, for religion! The great idea of their own elevation is only 
beginning to unfold itself within them, and its energy is not to be 
foretold. A lofty conception of this kind, were it once distinctly 
seized, would be a new life breathed into them. Under this impulse 
they would create time and strength for their high calling, and 
would not only regenerate themselves, but the community. 



350 CHANNING 

Again, I am not discouraged by the objection, that the laborer, 
if encouraged to give time and strength to the elevation of his 
mind, will starve himself and impoverish the country, when I con- 
sider the energy and efficiency of mind. The highest force in the 
universe is mind. This created the heavens and earth. This has 
changed the wilderness into fruitfulness, and linked distant coun- 
tries in a beneficent ministry to one another's wants. It is not to 
brute force, to physical strength, so much as to art, to skill, to intel- 
lectual and moral energy, that men owe their mastery over the 
world. It is mind which has conquered matter. To fear, then, 
that by calling forth a people's mind, we shall impoverish and 
starve them, is to be frightened at a shadow. I believe, that with 
the growth of intellectual and moral power in the community, its 
productive power will increase, that industry will become more 
efficient, that a wiser economy will accumulate wealth, that un- 
imagined resources of art and nature will be discovered. I believe 
that the means of living will grow easier, in proportion as a people 
shall become enlightened, self-respecting, resolute, and just. Bodily 
or material forces can be measured, but not the forces of the soul; 
nor can the results of increased mental energy be foretold. Such a 
community will tread down obstacles now deemed invincible, and 
turn them into helps. The inward moulds the outward. The 
power of a people lies in its mind; and this mind, if fortified and 
enlarged, will bring external things into harmony with itself. It 
will create a new world around it, corresponding to itself. If, how- 
ever, I err in this belief; if, by securing time and means for improve- 
ment to the multitude, industry and capital should become less 
productive, I still say, Sacrifice the wealth, and not the mind of 
a people. Nor do I believe that the physical good of a community 
would in this way be impaired. The diminution of a country's 
wealth, occasioned by general attention to intellectual and moral 
culture, would be followed by very different effects from those 
which would attend an equal diminution brought about by sloth, 
intemperance, and ignorance. There would indeed be less produc- 
tion in such a country, but the character and spirit of the people 
would effect a much more equal distribution of what would be 
produced; and the happiness of a community depends vastly more 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 35 1 

on the distribution than on the amount o£ its wealth. In thus 
speaking of the future, I do not claim any special prophetical gift. 
As a general rule, no man is able to foretell distinctly the ultimate, 
permanent results of any great social change. But as to the case 
before us, we ought not to doubt. It is a part of rehgion to believe 
that by nothing can a country so effectually gain happiness and 
lasting prosperity as by the elevation of all classes of its citizens. 
To question this seems an approach to crime. 

"If this fail. 
The pillar'd firmament is rottenness. 
And earth's base built on stubble." 

I am aware that, in reply to all that has been said in favor of the 
possibility of uniting self-improvement with labor, discouraging 
facts may be brought forward from our daily experience. It 
may be said that in this country, under advantages unknown in 
other lands, there is a considerable number on whom the burden 
of toil presses very heavily, who can scarcely live with all their 
efforts, and who are cut off by their hard condition from the means 
of intellectual culture; and if this take place now, what are we to 
expect hereafter in a more crowded population.'' I acknowledge 
that we have a number of depressed laborers, whose state is exceed- 
ingly unpropitious to the education of the mind; but this argument 
will lose much of its power when we inquire into the causes of 
this evil. We shall then see that it comes, not from outward neces- 
sity, not from the irresistible obstacles abroad, but chiefly from 
the fault or ignorance of the sufferers themselves; so that the 
elevation of the mind and character of the laborer tends directly 
to reduce, if not remove, the evil. Of consequence, this elevation 
finds support in what is urged against it. In confirmation of these 
views, allow me just to hint at the causes of that depression of 
many laborers which is said to show that labor and self-improve- 
ment cannot go on together. 

First, how much of this depression is to be traced to intemperance ? 
What a great amount of time, and strength, and money, might 
multitudes gain for self -improvement, by a strict sobriety! That 
cheap remedy, pure water, would cure the chief evils in very many 



352 CHANNING 

families of the ignorant and poor. Were the sums which are still 
lavished on ardent spirits appropriated wisely to the elevation of 
the people, what a new world we should live in! Intemperance 
not only wastes the earnings, but the health and the minds of men. 
How many, were they to exchange what they call moderate drinking 
for water, would be surprised to learn that they had been living 
under a cloud, in half-stupefaction, and would become conscious 
of an intellectual energy of which they had not before dreamed! 
Their labors would exhaust them less; and less labor would be 
needed for their support; and thus their inability to cultivate their 
high nature would in a great measure be removed. The working 
class, above all men, have an interest in the cause of temperance, 
and they ought to look on the individual who lives by scattering 
the means and excitements of drunkenness not only as the general 
enemy of his race, but as their own worst foe. 

In the next place, how much of the depression of laborers may 
be traced to the want of a strict economy! The prosperity of this 
country has produced a wastefulness that has extended to the labor- 
ing multitude. A man, here, turns with scorn from fare that in 
many countries would be termed luxurious. It is, indeed, important 
that the standard of living in all classes should be high; that is, it 
should include the comforts of life, the means of neatness and order 
in our dwellings, and such supplies of our wants as are fitted to 
secure vigorous health. But how many waste their earnings on 
indulgences which may be spared, and thus have no resource for 
a dark day, and are always trembling on the brink of pauperism! 
Needless expenses keep many too poor for self-improvement. And 
here let me say, that expensive habits among the more prosperous 
laborers often interfere with the mental culture of themselves and 
their families. How many among them sacrifice improvement to 
appetite! How many sacrifice it to the love of show, to the desire 
of outstripping others, and to habits of expense which grow out 
of this insatiable passion! In a country so thriving and luxurious 
as ours, the laborer is in danger of contracting artificial wants and 
diseased tastes; and to gratify these he gives himself wholly to 
accumulation, and sells his mind for gain. Our unparalleled pros- 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 353 

parity has not been an unmixed good. It has inflamed cupidity, has 
diseased the imagination with dreams of boundless success, and 
plunged a vast multitude into excessive toils, feverish competitions, 
and exhausting cares. A laborer, having secured a neat home and a 
wholesome table, should ask nothing more for the senses; but 
should consecrate his leisure, and what may be spared of his earn- 
ings, to the culture of himself and his family, to the best books, to 
the best teaching, to pleasant and profitable intercourse, to sympathy 
and the offices of humanity, and to the enjoyment of the beautiful 
in nature and art. Unhappily, the laborer, if prosperous, is anxious 
to ape the rich man, instead of trying to rise above him, as he often 
may, by noble acquisitions. The young in particular, the apprentice 
and the female domestic, catch a taste for fashion, and on this altar 
sacrifice too often their uprightness, and almost always the spirit 
of improvement, dooming themselves to ignorance, if not to vice, 
for a vain show. Is this evil without remedy? Is human nature 
always to be sacrificed to outward decoration? Is the outward 
always to triumph over the inward man ? Is nobleness of sentiment 
never to spring up among us ? May not a reform in this particular 
begin in the laboring class, since it seems so desperate among the 
more prosperous? Cannot the laborer, whose condition calls him 
so loudly to simplicity of taste and habits, take his stand against 
that love of dress which dissipates and corrupts so many minds 
among the opulent? Cannot the laboring class refuse to measure 
men by outward success, and pour utter scorn on all pretensions 
founded on outward show or condition? Sure I am, that, were 
they to study plainness of dress and simplicity of living, for the 
purpose of their own true elevation, they would surpass in intellect, 
in taste, in honorable qualities, and in present enjoyment, that 
great proportion of the prosperous who are softened into indulgence 
or enslaved to empty show. By such self-denial, how might the 
burden of labor be lightened, and time and strength redeemed for 
improvement! 

Another cause of the depressed condition of not a few laborers, 
as I believe, is their ignorance on the subject of health. Health is 
the working man's fortune, and he ought to watch over it more 



354 CHANNING 

than the capitalist over his largest investments. Health lightens 
the efforts of body and mind. It enables a man to crowd much 
work into a narrow compass. Without it, little can be earned, and 
that little by slow, exhausting toil. For these reasons I cannot but 
look on it as a good omen that the press is circulating among us 
cheap works, in which much useful knowledge is given of the 
structure, and functions, and laws of the human body. It is in no 
small measure through our own imprudence that disease and 
debility are incurred, and one remedy is to be found in knowledge. 
Once let the mass of the people be instructed in their own frames; 
let them understand clearly that disease is not an accident, but has 
fixed causes, many of which they can avert, and a great amount of 
suffering, want, and consequent intellectual depression will be 
removed. — I hope I shall not be thought to digress too far, when I 
add, that were the mass of the community more enlightened on 
these points, they would apply their knowledge, not only to their 
private habits, but to the government of the city, and would insist 
on municipal regulations favoring general health. This they owe 
to themselves. They ought to require a system of measures for 
effectually cleansing the city; for supplying it with pure water, 
either at public expense or by a private corporation; and for pro- 
hibiting the erection or the letting of such buildings as must 
generate disease. What a sad thought is it, that in this metropolis, 
the blessings which God pours forth profusely on bird and beast, 
the blessings of air, and light, and water, should, in the case of 
many families, be so stinted or so mixed with impurities, as to 
injure instead of invigorating the frame! With what face can the 
great cities of Europe and America boast of their civilization, when 
within their limits thousands and ten thousands perish for want of 
God's freest, most lavish gifts! Can we expect improvement among 
people who are cut off from nature's common bounties, and want 
those cheering influences of the elements which even savages enjoy.? 
In this city, how much health, how many lives are sacrificed to 
the practice of letting cellars and rooms which cannot be ventilated, 
which want the benefits of light, free air, and pure water, and the 
means of removing filth! We forbid by law the selling of putrid 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 355 

meat in the market. Why do we not forbid the renting of rooms 
in which putrid, damp and noisome vapors are working as sure 
destruction as the worst food? Did people understand that they 
are as truly poisoned in such dens as by tainted meat and decaying 
vegetables, would they not appoint commissioners for houses as 
truly as commissioners for markets? Ought not the renting of 
imtenantable rooms, and the crowding of such numbers into a 
single room as must breed disease, and may infect a neighborhood, 
be as much forbidden as the importation of a pestilence? I have 
enlarged on this point, because I am persuaded that the morals, 
manners, decencies, self-respect, and intellectual improvement, as 
well as the health and physical comforts of a people, depend on no 
outward circumstances more than on the quality of the houses 
in which they live. The remedy of the grievance now stated lies 
with the people themselves. The laboring people must require that 
the health of the city shall be a leading object of the municipal 
administration, and in so doing they will protect at once the body 
and the mind. 

I will mention one more cause of the depressed condition of 
many laborers, and that is, sloth, "the sin which doth most easily 
beset us." How many are there who, working languidly and re- 
luctantly, bring little to pass, spread the work of one hour over 
many, shrink from difficulties which ought to excite them, keep 
themselves poor, and thus doom their families to ignorance as well 
as to wanti 

In these remarks I have endeavored to show that the great 
obstacles to the improvement of the laboring classes are in them- 
selves, and may therefore be overcome. They want nothing but 
the will. Outward difficulty will shrink and vanish before them, 
just as far as they are bent on progress, just as far as the great idea 
of their own elevation shall take possession of their minds. I know 
that many will smile at the suggestion, that the laborer may be 
brought to practise thrift and self-denial, for the purpose of becom- 
ing a nobler being. But such sceptics, having never experienced 
the power of a grand thought or generous purpose, are no judges 
of others. They may be assured, however, that enthusiasm is not 



356 CHANNING 

wholly a dream, and that it is not wholly unnatural for individuals 
or bodies to get the idea of something higher and more inspiring 
than their past attainments. 

III. Having now treated of the elevation of the laborer, and 
examined the objections to it, I proceed, in the last place, to consider 
some of the circumstances of the times which encourage hopes of 
the progress of the mass of the people. My limits oblige me to 
confine myself to very few. — And, first, it is an encouraging cir- 
cumstance, that the respect for labor is increasing, or rather that 
the old prejudices against manual toil, as degrading a man or 
putting him in a lower sphere, are wearing away; and the cause 
of this change is full of promise; for it is to be found in the progress 
of intelligence, Christianity, and freedom, all of which cry aloud 
against the old barriers created between the different classes, and 
challenge especial sympathy and regard for those who bear the 
heaviest burdens, and create most of the comforts of social life. 
The contempt of labor of which I have spoken is a relic of the old 
aristocratic prejudices which formerly proscribed trade as unworthy 
of a gentleman, and must die out with other prejudices of the same 
low origin. And the results must be happy. It is hard for a class 
of men to respect themselves who are denied respect by all around 
them. A vocation looked on as degrading will have a tendency to 
degrade those who follow it. Away, then, wdth the idea of some- 
thing low in manual labor. There is something shocking to a 
religious man in the thought that the employment which God has 
ordained for the vast majority of the human race should be unworthy 
of any man, even to the highest. If, indeed, there were an employ- 
ment which could not be dispensed with, and which yet tended to 
degrade such as might be devoted to it, I should say that it ought 
to be shared by the whole race, and thus neutralized by extreme 
division, instead of being laid, as the sole vocation, on one man 
or a few. Let no human being be broken in spirit or trodden under 
foot for the outward prosperity of the State. So far is manual labor 
from meriting contempt or slight, that it will probably be found, 
when united with true means of spiritual culture, to foster a sounder 
judgment, a keener observation, a more creative imagination, and 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 357 

a purer taste, than any other vocation. Man thinks of the few, God 
of the many; and the many will be found at length to have within 
their reach the most effectual means of progress. 

Another encouraging circumstance of the times is the creation of 
a popular literature, which puts within the reach of the laboring 
class the means of knowledge in whatever branch they wish to 
cultivate. Amidst the worthless volumes which are every day sent 
from the press for mere amusement, there are books of great value 
in all departments, published for the benefit of the mass of readers. 
Mines of inestimable truth are thus open to all who are resolved 
to think and learn. Literature is now adapting itself to all wants; 
and I have little doubt that a new form of it will soon appear for 
the special benefit of the laboring classes. This will have for its 
object, to show the progress of the various useful arts, and to 
preserve the memory of their founders, and of men who have laid 
the world under obligation by great inventions. Every trade has 
distinguished names in its history. Some trades can number, among 
those who have followed them, philosophers, poets, men of true 
genius. I would suggest to the members of this Association whether 
a course of lectures, intended to illustrate the history of the more 
important trades, and of the great blessings they have conferred 
on society, and of the eminent individuals who have practised them, 
might not do much to instruct, and, at the same time, to elevate 
them. Such a course would carry them far into the past, would 
open to them much interesting information, and at the same time 
introduce them to men whom they may well make their models. 
I would go farther. I should be pleased to see the members of an 
important trade setting apart an anniversary for the commemora- 
tion of those who have shed lustre on it by their virtues, their 
discoveries, their genius. It is time that honor should be awarded 
on higher principles than have governed the judgment of past ages. 
Surely the inventor of the press, the discoverer of the compass, the 
men who have applied the power of steam to machinery, have 
brought the human race more largely into their debt than the 
bloody race of conquerors, and even than many beneficent princes. 
Antiquity exalted into divinities the first cultivators of wheat and 



358 CHANNING 

the useful plants, and the first forgers of metals; and we, in these 
maturer ages of the world, have still greater names to boast in 
the records of useful art. Let their memory be preserved to kindle 
a generous emulation in those who have entered into their labors. 

Another circumstance, encouraging the hope of progress in the 
laboring class, is to be found in the juster views they are beginning 
to adopt in regard to the education of their children. On this 
foundation, indeed, our hope for all classes must chiefly rest. All 
are to rise chiefly by the care bestowed on the young. Not that I 
would say, as is sometimes rashly said, that none but the young 
can improve. I give up no age as desperate. Men who have lived 
thirty, or fifty years, are not to feel as if the door was shut upon 
them. Every man who thirsts to become something better has in 
that desire a pledge that his labor will not be in vain. None are too 
old to learn. The world, from our first to our last hour, is our 
school, and the whole of life has but one great purpose, education. 
Still, the child, uncorrupted, unhardened, is the most hopeful sub- 
ject; and vastly more, I believe, is hereafter to be done for children, 
than ever before, by the gradual spread of a simple truth, almost too 
simple, one would think, to need exposition, yet up to this day 
wilfully neglected, namely, that education is a sham, a cheat, unless 
carried on by able, accomplished teachers. The dignity of the 
vocation of a teacher is beginning to be understood; the idea is 
dawning on us that no office can compare in solemnity and im- 
portance with that of training the child ; that skill to form the young 
to energy, truth, and virtue, is worth more than the knowledge 
of all other arts and sciences; and that, of consequence, the encourage- 
ment of excellent teachers is the first duty which a community 
owes to itself. I say the truth is dawning, and it must make its way. 
The instruction of the children of all classes, especially of the 
laboring class, has as yet been too generally committed to unpre- 
pared, unskilful hands, and of course the school is in general little 
more than a name. The whole worth of a school lies in the teacher. 
You may accumulate the most expensive apparatus for instruction; 
but without an intellectual, gifted teacher, it is little better than 
rubbish; and such a teacher, without apparatus, may effect the 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 359 

happiest results. Our university boasts, and with justice, of its library, 
cabinets, and philosophical instruments; but these are lifeless, profit- 
less, except as made effectual by the men who use them. A few 
eminent men, skilled to understand, reach, and quicken the minds 
of the pupils, are worth all these helps. And I say this, because it 
is commonly thought that the children of the laboring class cannot 
be advanced, in consequence of the inability of parents to furnish 
a variety of books and other apparatus. But in education, various 
books and implements are not the great requisites, but a high order 
of teachers. In truth, a few books do better than many. The object 
of education is not so much to give a certain amount of knowledge, 
as to awaken the faculties, and give the pupil the use of his own 
mind; and one book, taught by a man who knows how to accom- 
plish these ends, is worth more than libraries as usually read. It is 
not necessary that much should be taught in youth, but that a litde 
should be taught philosophically, profoundly, livingly. For example, 
it is not necessary that the pupil be carried over the history of the 
world from the deluge to the present day. Let him be helped to 
read a single history wisely, to apply the principles of historical 
evidence to its statements, to trace the causes and effects of events, 
to penetrate into the motives of actions, to observe the workings 
of human nature in what is done and suffered, to judge impartially 
of action and character, to sympathize with what is noble, to detect 
the spirit of an age in different forms from our own, to seize the 
great truths which are wrapped up in details, and to discern a moral 
Providence, a retribution, amidst all corruptions and changes; let 
him learn to read a single history thus, and he has learned to read 
all histories; he is prepared to study, as he may have time in future 
hfe, the whole course of human events; he is better educated by 
this one book than he would be by all the histories in all languages 
as commonly taught. The education of the laborer's children need 
never stop for want of books and apparatus. More of them would 
do good, but enough may be easily obtained. What we want is, 
a race of teachers acquainted with the philosophy of the mind, 
gifted men and women, who shall respect human nature in the 
child, and strive to touch and gently bring out his best powers and 
sympathies; and who shall devote themselves to this as the great 



360 CHANNING 

end of life. This good, I trust, is to come, but it comes slowly. The 
estabUshment of normal schools shows that the want of it begins 
to be felt. This good requires that education shall be recognized by 
the community as its highest interest and duty. It requires that the 
instructors of youth shall take precedence of the money-getting 
classes, and that the woman of fashion shall fall behind the female 
teacher. It requires that parents shall sacrifice show and pleasure to 
the acquisition of the best possible helps and guides for their chil- 
dren. Not that a great pecuniary compensation is to create good 
teachers; these must be formed by individual impulse, by a genuine 
interest in education; but good impulse must be seconded by out- 
ward circumstances; and the means of education will always bear a 
proportion to the respect in which the office of teacher is held in the 
community. 

Happily, in this country, the true idea of education, of its nature 
and supreme importance, is silently working and gains ground. 
Those of us who look back on half a century, see a real, great 
improvement in schools and in the standard of instruction. What 
should encourage this movement in this country is, that nothing 
is wanting here to the intellectual elevation of the laboring class 
but that a spring should be given to the child, and that the art of 
thinking justly and strongly should be formed in early life; for, 
this preparation being made, the circumstances of future life will 
almost of themselves carry on the work of improvement. It is one 
of the inestimable benefits of free institutions, that they are con- 
stant stimulants to the intellect; that they furnish, in rapid succes- 
sion, quickening subjects of thought and discussion. A whole people 
at the same moment are moved to reflect, reason, judge, and act on 
matters of deep and universal concern; and where the capacity of 
thought has received wise culture, the intellect, unconsciously, by 
an almost irresistible sympathy, is kept perpetually alive. The mind, 
like the body, depends on the climate it lives in, on the air it 
breathes; and the air of freedom is bracing, exhilarating, expanding, 
to a degree not dreamed of under a despotism. This stimulus of 
liberty, however, avails little, except where the mind has learned 
to think for the acquisition of truth. The unthinking and passionate 
are hurried by it into ruinous excess. 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 36 1 

The last ground of hope for the elevation of the laborer, and the 
chief and the most sustaining, is the clearer development of the 
principles of Christianity. The future influences of this religion 
are not to be judged from the past. Up to this time it has been made 
a political engine, and in other ways perverted. But its true spirit, 
the spirit of brotherhood and freedom, is beginning to be understood, 
and this will undo the work which opposite principles have been 
carrying on for ages. Christianity is the only effectual remedy for 
the fearful evils of modern civilization, — a system which teaches its 
members to grasp at everything, and to rise above everybody, as 
the great aims of life. Of such a civilization the natural fruits are, 
contempt of others' rights, fraud, oppression, a gambling spirit in 
trade, reckless adventure, and commercial convulsions, all tending 
to impoverish the laborer and to render every condition insecure. 
Relief is to come, and can only come, from the new application of 
Christian principles, of universal justice and universal love, to 
social institutions, to commerce, to business, to active life. This 
application has begun, and the laborer, above all men, is to feel 
its happy and exalting influences. 

Such are some of the circumstances which inspire hopes of the 
elevation of the laboring classes. To these might be added other 
strong grounds of encouragement, to be found in the principles of 
human nature, in the perfections and providence of God, and in 
the prophetic intimations of his word. But these I pass over. From 
all I derive strong hopes for the mass of men. I do not, cannot see, 
why manual toil and self-improvement may not go on in friendly 
union. I do not see why the laborer may not attain to refined habits 
and manners as truly as other men. I do not see why conversation 
under his humble roof may not be cheered by wit and exalted by 
intelligence. I do not see why, amidst his toils, he may not cast his 
eye around him on God's glorious creation, and be strengthened 
and refreshed by the sight. I do not see why. the great ideas which 
exalt humanity — those of the Infinite Father, of perfection, of our 
nearness to God, and of the purpose of our being — may not grow 
bright and strong in the laborer's mind. Society, I trust, is tending 
towards a condition in which it will look back with astonishment 
at the present neglect or perversion of human powers. In the 



362 CHANNING 

development of a more enlarged philanthropy, in the diffusion of 
the Christian spirit of brotherhood, in the recognition of the equal 
rights of every human being, we have the dawn and promise of a 
better age, when no man will be deprived of the means of elevation 
but by his own fault; when the evil doctrine, worthy of the arch- 
fiend, that social order demands the depression of the mass of men, 
will be rejected with horror and scorn; when the great object of 
the community will be to accumulate means and influences for 
awakening and expanding the best powers of all classes; when far 
less will be expended on the body and far more on the mind; when 
men of uncommon gifts for the instruction of their race will be 
sent forth to carry light and strength into every sphere of human 
life; when spacious libraries, collections of the fine arts, cabinets of 
natural history, and all the institutions by which the people may 
be refined and ennobled, will be formed and thrown open to all; 
and when the toils of life, by a wise intermixture of these higher 
influences, will be made the instruments of human elevation. 

Such are my hopes of the intellectual, moral, religious, social 
elevation of the laboring class. I should not, however, be true to 
myself, did I not add that I have fears as well as hopes. Time is 
not left me to enlarge on this point; but without a reference to it I 
should not give you the whole truth. I would not disguise from 
myself or others the true character of the world we live in. Human 
imperfection throws an uncertainty over the future. Society, like 
the natural world, holds in its bosom fearful elements. Who can 
hope that the storms which have howled over past ages have 
spent all their force ? It is possible that the laboring classes, by their 
recklessness, their passionateness, their jealousies of the more pros- 
perous, and their subserviency to parties and political leaders, may 
turn all their bright prospects into darkness, may blight the hopes 
which philanthropy now cherishes of a happier and holier social 
state. It is also possible, in this mysterious state of things, that evil 
may come to them from causes which are thought to promise them 
nothing but good. The present anxiety and universal desire is to 
make the country rich, and it is taken for granted that its growing 
wealth is necessarily to benefit all conditions. But is this consequence 
sure.'' May not a country be rich, and yet great numbers of the 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 363 

people be wofully depressed? In England, the richest nation under 
heaven, how sad, how degraded the state of the agricultural and 
manufacturing classes! It is thought that the institutions of this 
country give an assurance that growing wealth will here equally 
benefit and carry forward all portions of the community. I hope 
so; but I am not sure. At the present time a momentous change is 
taking place in our condition. The improvement in steam naviga- 
tion has half annihilated the space between Europe and America, 
and by the progress of invention the two continents are to be more 
and more placed side by side. We hail this triumph of the arts 
with exultation. We look forward to the approaching spring, when 
this metropolis is to be linked with England by a line of steamboats, 
as a proud era in our history. That a great temporary excitement 
will be given to industry, and that our wealth and numbers will 
increase, admits no dispute; but this is a small matter. The great 
question is, Will the mass of the people be permanently advanced 
in the comforts of life, and, still more, in intelligence and character, 
in the culture of their highest powers and affections? It is not 
enough to grow, if our growth is to resemble that of other populous 
places. Better continue as we are, better even decline, than tread 
in the steps of any great city, whether of past or present times. I 
doubt not that, under God's providence, the approximation of 
Europe and America is ultimately to be a blessing to both; but 
without our vigilance, the nearer effects may be more or less disas- 
trous. It cannot be doubted that for a time many among us, espe- 
cially in the prosperous classes, will be more and more infected from 
abroad, will sympathize more with the institutions, and catch 
more the spirit and manners, of the Old World. As a people we 
want moral independence. We bow to "the great" of other countries, 
and we shall become for a time more and more servile in our imita- 
tion. But this, though bad, may not be the worst result. I would 
ask, What is to be the effect of bringing the laboring classes of 
Europe twice as near us as they now are? Is there no danger of a 
competition that is to depress the laboring classes here? Can the 
workman here stand his ground against the half-famished, ignorant 
workmen of Europe, who will toil for any wages, and who never 
think of redeeming an hour for personal improvement? Is there 



364 CHANNING 

no danger that, with increasing intercourse with Europe, we shall 
import the striking, fearful contrasts which there divide one people 
into separate nations? Sooner than that our laboring class should 
become a European populace, a good man would almost wish that 
perpetual hurricanes, driving every ship from the ocean, should 
sever wholly the two hemispheres from each other. Heaven preserve 
us from the anticipated benefits of nearer connection with Europe, 
if with these must come the degradation which we see or read of 
among the squalid poor of her great cities, among the overworked 
operatives of her manufactories, among her ignorant and half- 
brutalized peasants. Any thing, every thing should be done to save 
us from the social evils which deform the Old World, and to build 
up here an intelligent, right-minded, self-respecting population. If 
this end should require us to change our present modes of life, to 
narrow our foreign connections, to desist from the race of com- 
mercial and manufacturing competition with Europe; if it should 
require that our great cities should cease to grow, and that a large 
portion of our trading population should return to labor, these 
requisitions ought to be obeyed. One thing is plain, that our present 
civilization contains strong tendencies to the intellectual and moral 
depression of a large portion of the community; and this influence 
ought to be thought of, studied, watched, withstood, with a stern 
solemn purpose of withholding no sacrifice by which it may be 
counteracted. 

Perhaps the fears now expressed may be groundless. I do not ask 
you to adopt them. My end will be gained if I can lead you to study, 
habitually and zealously, the influence of changes and measures on 
the character and condition of the laboring class. There is no subject 
on which your thoughts should turn more frequently than on this. 
Many of you busy yourselves with other questions, such as the 
probable result of the next election of President, or the prospects 
of this or that party. But these are insignificant, compared with the 
great question, Whether the laboring classes here are destined to 
the ignorance and depression of the lower ranks of Europe, or 
whether they can secure to themselves the means of intellectual and 
moral progress. You are cheated, you are false to yourselves, when 
you suffer politicians to absorb you in their selfish purposes, and 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 365 

to draw you away from this great question. Give the first place in 
your thoughts to this. Carry it away with you from the present 
lecture; discuss it together; study it when alone; let your best heads 
work on it; resolve that nothing shall be wanting on your part 
to secure the means of intellectual and moral well-being to your- 
selves, and to those who may come after you. 

In these lectures, I have expressed a strong interest in the laboring 
portion of the community; but I have no partiality to them con- 
sidered merely as laborers. My mind is attracted to them because 
they constitute the majority of the human race. My great interest 
is in human nature, and in the working classes as its most numerous 
representatives. To those who look on this nature with contempt 
or utter distrust, such language may seem a mere form, or may be 
construed as a sign of the predominance of imagination and feeling 
over the judgment. No matter. The pity of these sceptics I can 
return. Their wonder at my credulity cannot surpass the sorrow- 
ful astonishment with which I look on their indifference to the 
fortunes of their race. In spite of all their doubts and scoffs, human 
nature is still most dear to me. When I behold it manifested in its 
perfect proportions in Jesus Christ, I cannot but revere it as the true 
temple of the Divinity. When I see it as revealed in the great and 
good of all times, I bless God for those multipHed and growing 
proofs of its high destiny. When I see it bruised, beaten down, 
stifled by ignorance and vice, by oppression, injustice, and grinding 
toil, I weep for it, and feel that every man should be ready to 
suffer for its redemption. I do and I must hope for its progress. 
But in saying this, I am not blind to its immediate dangers. I am 
not sure that dark clouds and desolating storms are not even now 
gathering over the world. When we look back on the mysterious 
history of the human race, we see that Providence has made use of 
fearful revolutions as the means of sweeping away the abuses of 
ages, and of bringing forward mankind to their present improve- 
ment. Whether such revolutions may not be in store for our own 
times, I know not. The present civilization of the Christian world 
presents much to awaken doubt and apprehension. It stands in 
direct hostility to the great ideas of Christianity. It is selfish, mer- 
cenary, sensual. Such a civilization cannot, must not, endure for 



366 CHANNING 

ever. How it is to be supplanted, I know not. I hope, however, 
that it is not doomed, like the old Roman civilization, to be quenched 
in blood. I trust that the works of ages are not to be laid low by 
violence, rapine, and the all-devouring sword. I trust that the exist- 
ing social state contains in its bosom something better than it has 
yet unfolded. I trust that a brighter future is to come, not from 
the desolation, but from gradual, meliorating changes of the present. 
Among the changes to which I look for the salvation of the modern 
world, one of the chief is the intellectual and moral elevation of the 
laboring class. The impulses which are to reform and quicken 
society are probably to come, not from its more conspicuous, but 
from its obscurer divisions; and among these I see with joy new 
wants, principles, and aspirations beginning to unfold themselves. 
Let what is already won give us courage. Let faith in a parental 
Providence give us courage; and if we are to be disappointed in 
the present, let us never doubt that the great interests of human 
nature are still secure under the eye and care of an Almighty Friend. 
Note for the third head. — ^Under the third head of the lectures, 
in which some of the encouraging circumstances of the times are 
stated, I might have spoken of the singular advantages and means 
of progress enjoyed by the laborer in this metropolis. It is believed 
that there cannot be found another city in the world in which the 
laboring classes are as much improved, possess as many helps, enjoy 
as much consideration, exert as much influence, as in this place. 
Had I pursued this subject, I should have done what I often wished 
to do; I should have spoken of the obligations of our city to my 
excellent friend, James Savage, Esq., to whose unwearied efforts 
we are chiefly indebted for two inestimable institutions, the Provi- 
dent Institution for Savings and the Primary Schools; the former 
giving to the laborer the means of sustaining himself in times of 
pressure, and the latter placing almost at his door the means of 
instruction for his children from the earliest age. The union of the 
Primary Schools with the Grammar Schools and the High Schools 
in this place, constitutes a system of public education unparalleled, 
it is believed, in any country. It would not be easy to name an 
individual to whom our city is under greater obligations than to 
Mr. Savage. In the enterprises which I have named, he was joined 



ELEVATION OF THE LABORING CLASSES 367 

and greatly assisted by the late Elisha Ticknor, Esq., whose name 
ought also to be associated with the Provident Institution and the 
Primary Schools. The subject o£ these lectures brings to my mind 
the plan of an institution which was laid before me by Mr. Ticknor, 
for teaching at once agriculture and the mechanic arts. He believed 
that a boy might be made a thorough farmer, both in theory and 
practice, and might at the same time learn a trade, and that by 
being skilled in both vocations he would be more useful, and 
would multiply his chances of comfortable subsistence. I was 
interested by the plan, and Mr. Ticknor's practical wisdom led me 
to believe that it might be accomplished. 



THE POETIC PRINCIPLE 



BY 

EDGAR ALLAN POE 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) was born in Boston, the child of actors 
who died while he was very young. He was adopted by a Virginian 
gentleman, Mr. John Allan, who put him to school in England for five 
years, then in Richmond, and finally sent him to the University of Vir- 
ginia. He remained there only a short time, and after finding that he 
disliked business, and publishing a volume of poems, he enlisted in the 
army. Mr. Allan had him discharged and placed him in West Point, 
from which he got himself dismissed. After that he supported himself 
in a hand-to-mouth fashion by writing for and editing newspapers and 
periodicals, living successively in Baltimore, Richmond, Philadelphia, and 
New York. The publication of his remarkable poem, "The Raven," in 
1845, brought him fame, and for a short time he was a literary lion. But 
in 1847 his wife died, and his two remaining years were a gradual 
descent. 

Poe's work falls into three divisions: poems, tales, and criticism. The 
poems are chiefly remarkable for the amazing technical skill with which 
haunting rhythms and studied successions of vowel and consonant sounds 
are made to suggest atmospheres and emotional moods, with a minimum 
of thought. In the writing of fiction, Poe is the great master of the weird 
tale, no writer having surpassed him in the power of shaking the reader's 
nerves with suggestions of the supernatural and the horrible. In these 
stories, as in the poems, he shows an extraordinary sense of form, and his 
effects are produced not merely by the violently sensational, but by care- 
fully calculated attacks upon the reader's imaginative sensibilities. 

In criticism Poe was, if not a scholarly, at least a stimulating and sug- 
gestive, writer, with a fine ear and, within his range, keen insight. His 
essay on "The Poetic Principle" is his poetic confession of faith. He 
makes clear and defends his conception of poetry; a conception which 
excludes many great kinds of verse, but which, illuminated as it is by 
abundant examples of his favorite poems, throws light in turn upon some 
of the fundamental elements of poetry. 

It is worth noting that no American author seems to have enjoyed so 
great a European vogue as Poe. 



THE POETIC PRINCIPLE 

IN speaking of the Poetic Principle, I have no design to be 
either thorough or profound. While discussing, very much at 
random, the essentiality of what we call Poetry, my principal 
purpose will be to cite for consideration some few of those minor 
English or American poems which best suit my own taste, or which 
upon my own fancy have left the most definite impression. By 
"minor poems" I mean, of course, poems of little length. And here 
in the beginning permit me to say a few words in regard to a 
somewhat peculiar principle, which, whether rightfully or wrong- 
fully, has always had its influence in my own critical estimate of the 
poem. I hold that a long poem does not exist. I maintain that the 
phrase, "a long poem," is simply a flat contradiction in terms. 

I need scarcely observe that a poem deserves its title only inas- 
much as it excites, by elevating the soul. The value of the poem is 
in the ratio of this elevating excitement. But all excitements are, 
through a psychal necessity, transient. That degree of excitement 
which would entitle a poem to be so called at all, cannot be sus- 
tained throughout a composition of any great length. After the 
lapse of half an hour, at the very utmost, it flags — fails — a revulsion 
ensues — and then the poem is, in effect, and in fact, no longer such. 

There are, no doubt, many who have found difficulty in recon- 
ciling the critical dictum that the "Paradise Lost" is to be devoutly 
admired throughout, with the absolute impossibility of maintaining 
for it, during perusal, the amount of enthusiasm which that critical 
dictum would demand. The great work, in fact, is to be regarded 
as poetical, only when, losing sight of that vital requisite in all 
works of Art, Unity, we view it merely as a series of minor poems. 
If, to preserve its Unity — its totality of effect or impression — we read 
it (as would be necessary) at a single sitting, the result is but a 
constant alternation of excitement and depression. After a passage 
of what we feel to be true poetry, there follows, inevitably, a passage 

371 



372 POE 

of platitude which no critical prejudgment can force us to admire; 
but if, upon completing the work, we read it again, omitting the 
first book (that is to say, commencing with the second), we shall 
be surprised at now finding that admirable which we before con- 
demned — that damnable which we had previously so much admired. 
It follows from all this that the ultimate, aggregate, or absolute effect 
of even the best epic under the sun is a nullity; — and this is precisely 
the fact. 

In regard to the "Iliad," we have, if not positive proof, at least 
very good reason for believing it intended as a series of lyrics; but, 
granting the epic intention, I can say only that the work is based 
in an imperfect sense of art. The modern epic is, of the supposititious 
ancient model, but an inconsiderate and blindfold imitation. But 
the day of these artistic anomalies is over. If, at any time, any very 
long poems were popular in reality — which I doubt — ^it is at least 
clear that no very long poem will ever be popular again. 

That the extent of a poetical work is, ceteris paribus, the measure 
of its merit, seems undoubtedly, when we thus state it, a proposition 
sufficiently absurd — yet we are indebted for it to the Quarterly 
Reviews. Surely there can be nothing in mere size, abstractly con- 
sidered — there can be nothing in mere bul\, so far as a volume is 
concerned which has so continuously elicited admiration from these 
saturnine pamphlets! A mountain, to be sure, by the mere senti- 
ment of physical magnitude which it conveys, does impress us with 
a sense of the sublime — ^but no man is impressed after this fashion 
by the material grandeur of even "The Columbiad." Even the 
Quarterlies have not instructed us to be so impressed by it. As yet, 
they have not insisted on our estimating Lamartine by the cubic 
foot, or Pollok by the pound — but what else are we to in^er from 
their continual prating about "sustained effort"? If, by "sustained 
effort," any little gentleman has accomplished an epic, let us frankly 
commend him for the effort, — if this indeed be a thing commend- 
able, — ^but let us forbear praising the epic on the effort's account. 
It is to be hoped that common sense, in the time to come, will prefer 
deciding upon a work of Art, rather by the impression it makes — 
by the effect it produces — than by the time it took to impress the 
effect, or by the amount of "sustained effort" which had been 



THE POETIC PRINCIPLE 373 

found necessary in effecting the impression. The fact is, that per- 
severance is one thing and genius quite another; nor can all the 
Quarterlies in Christendom confound them. By and by, this propo- 
sition, with many which I have been just urging, will be received 
as self-evident. In the mean time, by being generally condemned 
as falsities, they will not be essentially damaged as truths. 

On the other hand, it is clear that a poem may be improperly 
brief. Undue brevity degenerates into mere epigrammatism. A very 
short poem, while now and then producing a brilliant or vivid, 
never produces a profound or enduring, effect. There must be the 
steady pressing down of the stamp upon the wax. Beranger has 
wrought innumerable things, pungent and spirit-stirring; but, in 
general, they have been too imponderous to stamp themselves deeply 
into the public opinion, and thus, as so many feathers of fancy, have 
been blown aloft only to be whistled down the wind. 

A remarkable instance of the effect of undue brevity in depressing 
a poem — in keeping it out of the popular view — is afforded by the 
following exquisite litde serenade: — 

"I arise from dreams of thee 

In the first sweet sleep of night, 
When the winds are breathing low, 

And the stars are shining bright: 
I arise from dreams of thee. 

And a spirit in my feet 
Hath led me — who knows how! — 

To thy chamber-window. Sweet! 

"The wandering airs they faint 

On the dark, the silent stream; 
And the champak odors fail 

Like sweet thoughts in a dream; 
The nightingale's complaint. 

It dies upon her heart, 
As I must on thine. 

Oh, beloved as thou art! 

"Oh, lift me from the grass! 
I die! I faint! I fail! 
Let thy love in kisses rain 
On my lips and eyelids pale. 



374 POE 

My cheek is cold and white, alas! 

My heart beats loud and fast; 
Oh! press it to thine own again, 

Where it will break at last!" 

Very few, perhaps, are familiar with these lines — ^yet no less a 
poet than Shelley is their author. There warm, yet delicate and 
ethereal imagination will be appreciated by all; but by none so 
thoroughly as by him who has himself arisen from sweet dreams 
of one beloved to bathe in the aromatic air of a southern midsummer 
night. 

One of the finest poems by Willis — the very best, in my opinion, 
which he has ever written — has, no doubt, through this same defect 
of undue brevity, been kept back from its proper position, not less 
in the critical than in the popular view. 

"The shadows lay along Broadway, 

Twas near the twilight-tide — 
And slowly there a lady fair 

Was walking in her pride. 
Alone walked she; but, viewlessly, 

Walked spirits at her side. 

"Peace charmed the street beneath her feet, 

And Honor charmed the air; 
And all astir looked kind on her, 

And called her good as fair; 
For all God ever gave to her 

She kept with chary care. 

"She kept with care her beauties rare 

From lovers warm and true, — 
For her heart was cold to all but gold. 

And the rich came not to woo, — 
But honored well are charms to sell 

If priests the selling do. 

"Now walking there was one more fair — 
A slight girl, lily-pale; 
And she had unseen company 

To make the spirit quail: 
'Twixt Want and Scorn she walked forlorn. 
And nothing could avail. 



THE POETIC PRINCIPLE 375 

"No mercy now can dear her brow 
For this world's peace to pray; 
For, as love's wild prayer dissolved in air, 

Her woman's heart gave way! — 
But the sin forgiven by Christ in Heaven 
By man is cursed alwayl" 

In this composition we find it difficult to recognize the Willis who 
has written so many mere "verses o£ society." The lines are not only 
richly ideal, but full of energy, while they breathe an earnestness — 
an evident sincerity of sentiment — for which we look in vain 
throughout all the other works of this author. 

While the epic mania — while the idea that, to merit in poetry, 
prolixity is indispensable — ^has, for some years past, been gradually 
dying out of the public mind by mere dint of its own absurdity — we 
find it succeeded by a heresy too palpably false to be long tolerated, 
but one which, in the brief period it has already endured, may be 
said to have accomplished more in the corruption of our Poetical 
Literature than all its other enemies combined. I allude to the heresy 
of The Didactic. It has been assumed, tacitly and avowedly, directly 
and indirectly, that the ultimate object of all Poetry is Truth. Every 
poem, it is said, should inculcate a moral; and by this moral is the 
poetical merit of the work to be adjudged. We Americans, espe- 
cially, have patronized this happy idea; and we Bostonians, very 
especially, have developed it in full. We have taken it into our heads 
that to write a poem simply for the poem's sake, and to acknowledge 
such to have been our design, would be to confess ourselves radically 
wanting in the true Poetic dignity and force; but the simple fact is, 
that, would we but permit ourselves to look into our own souls, we 
should immediately there discover that under the sun there neither 
exists nor can exist any work more thoroughly dignified, more 
supremely noble, than this very poem — this poem per se — ^this poem 
which is a poem and nothing more — this poem written solely for 
the poem's sake. 

With as deep a reverence for the True as ever inspired the bosom 
of man, I would, nevertheless, limit in some measure its modes of 
inculcation. I would limit to enforce them. I would not enfeeble 
them by dissipation. The demands of Truth are severe; she has no 



376 POE 

sympathy with the myrtles. All that which is so indispensable in 
Song is precisely all that with which she has nothing whatever to 
do. It is but making her a flaunting paradox to wreathe her in gems 
and flowers. In enforcing a truth we need severity rather than efflo- 
rescence of language. We must be simple, precise, terse. We must 
be cool, calm, unimpassioned. In a word, we must be in that mood, 
which, as nearly as possible, is the exact converse of the poetical. He 
must be blind, indeed, who does not perceive the radical and chasmal 
differences between the truthful and the poetical modes of incul- 
cation. He must be theory-mad beyond redemption who, in spite 
of these differences, shall still persist in attempting to reconcile the 
obstinate oils and waters of Poetry and Truth. 

Dividing the world of mind into its three most immediately 
obvious distinctions, we have the Pure Intellect, Taste, and the Moral 
Sense. I place Taste in the middle, because it is just this position 
which in the mind it occupies. It holds intimate relations with either 
extreme, but from the Moral Sense is separated by so faint a differ- 
ence that Aristotle has not hesitated to place some of its operations 
among the virtues themselves. Nevertheless, we find the offices of 
the trio marked with a sufficient distinction. Just as the intellect 
concerns itself with Truth, so Taste informs us of the Beautiful, 
while the Moral Sense is regardful of Duty. Of this latter, while 
Conscience teaches the obligation, and Reason the expediency. Taste 
contents herself with displaying the charms : — waging war upon Vice 
solely on the ground of her deformity — her disproportion — her ani- 
mosity to the fitting, to the appropriate, to the harmonious — in a 
word, to Beauty. 

An immortal instinct, deep within the spirit of man, is thus, 
plainly, a sense of the Beautiful. This it is which administers to his 
delight in the manifold forms, and sounds, and odors, and senti- 
ments, amid which he exists. And just as the lily is repeated in the 
lake, or the eyes of Amaryllis in the mirror, so is the mere oral or 
written repetition of these forms, and sounds, and colors, and odors, 
and sentiments, a duplicate source of delight. But this mere repeti- 
tion is not poetry. He who shall simply sing, with however glowing 
enthusiasm, or with however vivid a truth of description, of the 
sights, and sounds, and odors, and colors, and sentiments, which 



THE POETIC PRINCIPLE 377 

greet him in common with all mankind — he, I say, has yet failed to 
prove his divine title. There is still a something in the distance 
which he has been unable to attain. We have still a thirst unquench- 
able, to allay which he has not shown us the crystal springs. This 
thirst belongs to the immortality of Man. It is at once a consequence 
and an indication of his perennial existence. It is the desire of the 
moth for the star. It is no mere appreciation of the Beauty before 
us, but a wild effort to reach the Beauty above. Inspired by an 
ecstatic prescience of the glories beyond the grave, we struggle, by 
multiform combinations among the things and thoughts of Time, 
to attain a portion of that Loveliness whose very elements, per- 
haps, appertain to eternity alone. And thus when by Poetry — or 
when by Music, the most entrancing of the Poetic moods — we find 
ourselves melted into tears not as the Abbate Gravia supposes 
through excess of pleasure, but through a certain petulant, impatient 
sorrow at our inability to grasp now, wholly, here on earth, at once 
and forever, those divine and rapturous joys, of which through the 
poem, or through the music, we attain to but brief and indeterminate 
glimpses. 

The struggle to apprehend the supernal Loveliness — this struggle, 
on the part of souls fittingly constituted — has given to the world all 
that which it (the world) has ever been enabled at once to under- 
stand and to feel as poetic. 

The Poetic Sentiment, of course, may develop itself in various 
modes — in Painting, in Sculpture, in Architecture, in the Dance — 
very especially in Music, — and very peculiarly and with a wide field, 
in the composition of the Landscape Garden. Our present theme, 
however, has regard only to its manifestation in words. And here 
let me speak briefly on the topic of rhythm. Contenting myself with 
the certainty that Music, in its various modes of metre, rhythm, and 
rhyme, is of so vast a moment in Poetry as never to be wisely rejected 
— is so vitally important an adjunct, that he is simply silly who de- 
clines its assistance — I will not now pause to maintain its absolute 
essentiality. It is in Music, perhaps, that the soul most nearly attains 
the great end for which, when inspired by the Poetic Sentiment, it 
struggles — the creation of supernal Beauty. It may be, indeed, that 
here this sublime end is, now and then, attained in fact. We are 



378 POE 

often made to feel, with a shivering delight, that from an earthly 
harp are stricken notes which cannot have been unfamiliar to the 
angels. And thus there can be little doubt that in the union of 
Poetry with Music in its popular sense we shall find the widest field 
for the Poetic development. The old Bards and Minnesingers had 
advantages which we do not possess — and Thomas Moore, singing 
his own songs, was, in the most legitimate manner, perfecting them 
as poems. 

To recapitulate, then: — I would define, in brief, the Poetry of 
words as The Rhythmical Creation of Beauty. Its sole arbiter is 
Taste. With the Intellect or with the Conscience, it has only collat- 
eral relations. Unless incidentally, it has no concern whatever either 
with Duty or with Truth. 

A few words, however, in explanation. That pleasure which is at 
once the most pure, the most elevating, and the most intense, is 
derived, I maintain, from the contemplation of the Beautiful. In 
the contemplation of Beauty we alone find it possible to attain that 
pleasurable elevation, or excitement, 0/ the soul, which we recognize 
as the Poetic Sentiment, and which is so easily distinguished from 
Truth, which is the satisfaction of the Reason, or from Passion, 
which is the excitement of the Heart. I make Beauty, therefore, — 
using the word as inclusive of the sublime, — I make Beauty the 
province of the poem, simply because it is an obvious rule of Art that 
effects should be made to spring as directly as possible from their 
causes — no one as yet having been weak enough to deny that the 
peculiar elevation in question is at least most readily attainable in the 
poem. It by no means follows, however, that the incitements of 
Passion, or the precepts of Duty, or even the lessons of Truth, may 
not be introduced into a poem and with advantage; for they may 
subserve, incidentally, in various ways, the general purposes of the 
work; but the true artist will always contrive to tone them down in 
proper subjection to that Beauty which is the atmosphere and the 
real essence of the poem. 

I cannot better introduce the few poems which I shall present for 
your consideration, than by the citation of the "Proem" to Mr. Long- 
fellow's "Waif": 



THE POETIC PRINCIPLE 379 

"The day is done, and the darkness 
Falls from the wings of Night, 
As a feather is wafted downward 
From an eagle in his flight. 

"I see the lights of the village 

Gleam through the rain and the mist, 
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me, 
That my soul cannot resist: 

"A feeling of sadness and longing, 
That is not akin to pain. 
And resembles sorrow only 
As the mist resembles the rain. 

"Come, read to me some poem. 

Some simple and heartfelt lay. 
That shall soothe this restless feeling, 
And banish the thoughts of day. 

"Not from the grand old masters, 
Not from the bards sublime, 
Whose distant footsteps echo 
Through the corridors of Time. 

"For, like strains of martial music, 
Their mighty thoughts suggest 
Life's endless toil and endeavor; 
And to-night I long for rest. 

"Read from some humbler poet. 

Whose songs gushed from his heart. 
As showers from the clouds of summer. 
Or tears from the eyelids start; 

"Who, through long days of labor, 
And nights devoid of ease. 
Still heard in his soul the music 
Of wonderful melodies. 

"Such songs have power to quiet 

The restless pulse of care. 

And come like the benediction 

That follows after prayer. 



380 POE 

"Then read from the treasured volume 

The poem of thy choice, 
And lend to the rhyme of the poet 
The beauty of thy voice. 

"And the night shall be filled with music. 
And the cares, that infest the day. 
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs, 
And as silently steal away." 

With no great range of imagination, these lines have been justly 
admired for their delicacy of expression. Some of the images are 
very effective. Nothing can be better than — 

"the bards sublime. 
Whose distant footsteps echo 
Through the corridors of Time." 

The idea of the last quatrain is also very effective. The poem, on the 
whole, however, is chiefly to be admired for the graceful insouciance 
of its metre, so well in accordance with the character of the senti- 
ments, and especially for the ease of the general manner. This 
"ease," or naturalness, in a literary style, it has long been the fashion 
to regard as ease in appearance alone — as a point of really difficult 
attainment. But not so; a natural manner is difficult only to him who 
should never meddle with it — to the unnatural. It is but the result 
of writing with the understanding, or with the instinct, that the tone, 
in composition, should always be that which the mass of mankind 
would adopt — and must perpetually vary, of course, with the occa- 
sion. The author who, after the fashion of the "North American 
Review," should be, upon all occasions, merely "quiet," must neces- 
sarily, upon many occasions, be simply silly, or stupid; and has no 
more right to be considered "easy," or "natural," than a Cockney 
exquisite, or than the sleeping Beauty in the wax-works. 

Among the minor poems of Bryant, none has so much impressed 
me as the one which he entitles "June." I quote only a portion of it: — 

"There, through the long, long summer hours. 

The golden light should lie. 
And thick, young herbs and groups of flowers 
Stand in their beauty by. 



THE POETIC PRINCIPLE 38 1 

The oriole should build and tell 
His love-tale, close beside my cell; 

The idle butterfly 
Should rest him there, and there be heard 
The housewife-bee and humming-bird. 

"And what, if cheerful shouts at noon, 

Come, from the village sent. 
Or songs of maids, beneath the moon, 

With fairy laughter blent? 
And what, if in the evening light, 
Betrothed lovers walk in sight 

Of my low monument? 
I would the lovely scene around 
Might know no sadder sight nor sound. 

"I know that I no more should see 

The season's glorious show. 
Nor would its brightness shine for me. 

Nor its wild music flow; 
But if, around my place of sleep. 
The friends I love should come to weep. 

They might not haste to go. 
Soft airs, and song, and light, and bloom 
Should keep them, lingering by my tomb. 

"These to their softened hearts should bear 

The thought of what has been, 
And speak of one who cannot share 

The gladness of the scene; 
Whose part, in all the pomp that fills 
The circuit of the summer hills, 

Is — that his grave is green; 
And deeply would their hearts rejoice 
To hear again his living voice." 

The rhythmical flow, here, is even voluptuous — nothing could be 
more melodious. The poem has always affected me in a remarkable 
manner. The intense melancholy, which seem to well up, perforce, 
to the surface of all the poet's cheerful sayings about his grave, we 
find thrilling us to the soul, while there is the truest poetic elevation 
in the thrill. The impression left is one of a pleasurable sadness. 



382 POE 

And i£, in the remaining compositions which I shall introduce to 
you, there be more or less of a similar tone always apparent, let me 
remind you that (how or why we know not) this certain taint of 
sadness is inseparably connected with all the higher manifestations 
of true Beauty. It is, nevertheless, 

"A feeling of sadness and longing 
That is not akin to pain, 
And resembles sorrow only 

As the mist resembles the rain." 

The taint of which I speak is clearly perceptible even in a poem so 
full of brilliancy and spirit as the "Health" of Edward C. Pinkney: — 

"I fill this cup to one made up 

Of loveliness alone, 
A woman, of her gende sex 

The seeming paragon; 
To whom the better elements 

And kindly stars have given 
A form so fair, that, like the air, 

'Tis less of earth than heaven. 

"Her every tone is music's own, 

Like those of morning birds, 
And something more than melody 

Dwells ever in her words; 
The coinage of her heart are they, 

And from her lips each flows 
As one may see the burdened bee 

Forth issue from the rose. 

"Affecdons are as thoughts to her. 

The measures of her hours; 
Her feelings have the fragrancy, 

The freshness of young flowers; 
And lovely passions, changing oft, 

So fill her, she appears 
The image of themselves by turns, — 

The idol of past years! 

"Of her bright face one glance will trace 

A picture on the brain, 
And of her voice in echoing hearts 
A sound must long remain; 



THE POETIC PRINCIPLE 383 

But memory, such as mine of her, 

So very much endears, 
When death is nigh, my latest sigh 

Will not be life's, but hers. 

"I fill this cup to one made up 

Of loveliness alone, 
A woman, of her gentle sex 

The seeming paragon — 
Her health! and would on earth there stood 

Some more of such a frame. 
That life might be all poetry. 

And weariness a name." 

It was the misfortune of Mr. Pinkney to have been born too far 
south. Had he been a New Englander, it is probable that he would 
have been ranked as the first of American lyrists by that magnani- 
mous cabal which has so long controlled the destinies of American 
Letters, in conducting the thing called the "North American Re- 
view." The poem just cited is especially beautiful; but the poetic 
elevation which it induces we must refer chiefly to our sympathy in 
the poet's enthusiasm. We pardon his hyperboles for the evident 
earnestness with which they are uttered. 

It was by no means my design, however, to expatiate upon the 
merits of what I should read you. These will necessarily speak for 
themselves. Boccalini, in his "Advertisements from Parnassus," tells 
us that Zoilus once presented Apollo a very caustic criticism upon 
a very admirable book; whereupon the god asked him for the 
beauties of the work. He replied that he only busied himself about 
the errors. On hearing this, Apollo, handing him a sack of unwin- 
nowed wheat, bade him pick out all the chaff for his reward. 

Now this fable answers very well as a hit at the critics; but I am 
by no means sure that the god was in the right. I am by no means 
certain that the true limits of the critical duty are not grossly mis- 
understood. Excellence, in a poem especially, may be considered in 
the light of an axiom, which need only be properly put, to become 
self-evident. It is not excellence if it requires to be demonstrated as 
such; and thus, to point out too particularly the merits of a work of 
Art, is to admit that they are not merits altogether. 



384 POE 

Among the "Melodies* of Thomas Moore, is one whose distin- 
guished character as a poem proper seems to have been singularly 
left out of view. I allude to his lines beginning: "Come, rest in this 
bosom." The intense energy of their expression is not surpassed by 
anything in Byron. There are two of the lines in which a sentiment 
is conveyed that embodies the all in all of the divine passion of love — 
a sentiment which, perhaps, has found its echo in more, and in more 
passionate, human hearts than any other single sentiment ever 
embodied in words: — 

"Come, rest in this bosom, my own stricken deer. 
Though the herd have fled from thee, thy home is still here; 
Here still is the smile than no cloud can o'ercast. 
And a heart and a hand all thy own to the last. 

"Oh! what was love made for, if 'tis not the same 
Through joy and through torment, through glory and shame? 
I know not, I ask not, if guilt's in that heart, 
I but know that I love thee, whatever thou art. 

"Thou hast called me thy angel in moments of bliss. 
And thy angel I'll be, 'mid the horrors of this, — 
Through the furnace, unshrinking, thy steps to pursue, 
And shield thee, and save thee, — or perish there too!" 

It has been the fashion, of late days, to deny Moore imagination, 
while granting him fancy — a distinction originating with Coleridge 
— than whom no man more fully comprehended the great powers 
of Moore. The fact is that the fancy of this poet so far predominates 
over all his other faculties, and over the fancy of all other men, as 
to have induced, very naturally, the idea that he is fanciful only. But 
never was there a greater mistake. Never was a grosser wrong done 
the fame of a true poet. In the compass of the English language I 
can call to mind no poem more profoundly, more weirdly imagina- 
tive, in the best sense, than the lines commencing: "I would I were 
by that dim lake," which are the composition of Thomas Moore. I 
regret that I am unable to remember them. 

One of the noblest — and, speaking of fancy, one of the most 
singularly fanciful — of modern poets, was Thomas Hood. His "Fair 
Ines" had always, for me, an inexpressible charm: — 



THE POETIC PRINCIPLE 385 

"O saw ye not fair Ines? 

She's gone into the West, 
To dazzle when the sun is down, 

And rob the world of rest; 
She took our daylight with her, 

The smiles that we love best, 
With morning blushes on her cheek. 

And pearls upon her breast. 

"O turn again, fair Ines, 

Before the fall of night, 
For fear the moon should shine alone, 

And stars unrivalled bright; 
And blessed will the lover be 

That walks beneath their light, 
And breathes the love against thy cheek 

I dare not even write! 

"Would I had been, fair Ines, 

That gallant cavalier. 
Who rode so gayly by thy side, 

And whispered thee so near! 
Were there no bonny dames at home, 

Or no true lovers here. 
That he should cross the seas to win 

The dearest of the dear? 

"I saw thee, lovely Ines, 

Descend along the shore. 
With bands of noble gentlemen, 

And banners waved before; 
And gentle youth and maidens gay, 

And snowy plumes they wore; 
It would have been a beauteous dream — 

If it had been no more! 

"Alas, alas, fair Ines! 

She went away with song, 
With Music waiting on her steps. 

And shoutings of the throng; 
But some were sad and felt no mirth. 

But only Music's wrong. 
In sounds that sang Farewell, Farewell, 

To her you've loved so long. 



386 POE 

"Farewell, farewell, fair Ines! 

That vessel never bore 
So fair a lady on its deck. 

Nor danced so light before, — 
Alas, for pleasure on the sea. 

And sorrow on the shore! 
The smile that blest one lover's heart 

Has broken many more!" 

"The Haunted House," by the same author, is one o£ the truest 
poems ever written; one o£ the truest, one of the most unexception- 
able, one of the most thoroughly artistic both in its theme and in its 
execution. It is, moreover, powerfully ideal, imaginative. I regret 
that its length renders it unsuitable for the purposes of this Lecture. 
In place of it, permit me to offer the universally appreciated "Bridge 
of Sighs." 

"One more Unfortunate, 

Weary of breath, 

Rashly importunate, 

Gone to her death! 

"Take her up tenderly, 
Lift her with care: 
Fashioned so slenderly, 
Young, and so fair! 

"Look at her garments 
Clinging like cerements; 
Whilst the wave constandy 
Drips from her clothing; 
Take her up instantly. 
Loving, not loathing 

"Touch her not scornfully; 
Think of her mournfully. 
Gently and humanly; 
Not of the stains of her, — 
All that remains of her 
Now is pure womanly. 

"Make no deep scrutiny 
Into her mutiny 
Rash and undutiful: 
Past all dishonor. 
Death has left on her 
Only the beautiful. 



THE POETIC PRINCIPLE 387 

"Still, for all slips of hers. 
One of Eve's family — 
Wipe those poor lips of hers 
Oozing so clammily, 

"Loop up her tresses 
Escaped from the comb, 
Her fair auburn tresses; 
Whilst wonderment guesses 
Where was her home ? 

"Who was her father ? 
Who was her mother? 
Had she a sister? 
Had she a brother? 
Or was there a dearer one 
Still, and a nearer one 
Yet, than all other? 

"Alas! for the rarity 
Of Christian charity 
Under the sun! 
Oh, it was pitiful! 
Near a whole city full. 
Home she had none. 

"Sisterly, brotherly, 
Fatherly, motherly 
Feelings had changed; 
Love, by harsh evidence. 
Thrown from its eminence; 
Even God's providence 
Seeming estranged. 

"Where the lamps quiver 
So far in the river. 
With many a light 
From window and casement, 
From garret to basement. 
She stood, with amazement. 
Houseless by night. 

"The bleak wind of March 
Made her tremble and shiver. 
But not the dark arch. 
Or the black flowing river: 



388 



POE 

"Mad from life's history, 
Glad to death's mystery, 
Swift to be hurled — 
Anywhere, anywhere 
Out of the world! 

"In she plunged boldly, 
No matter how coldly 
The rough river ran, — 
Over the brink of it, 
Picture it — think of it, 
Dissolute man! 
Lave in it, drink of it. 
Then, if you can! 

"Take her up tenderly, 
Lift her with care; 
Fashioned so slenderly, 
Young, and so fair! 

"Ere her limbs frigidly 
Stiffen too rigidly, 
Decently — kindly — 
Smoothe and compose them: 
And her eyes, close them. 
Staring so blindly! 

"Dreadfully staring 
Through muddy impurity, 
As when with the daring 
Last look of despairing 
Fixed on futurity. 

"Perishing gloomily. 
Spurred by contumely, 
Cold inhumanity. 
Burning insanity, 
Into her rest. — 
Cross her hands humbly. 
As if praying dumbly. 
Over her breast! 

"Owning her weakness. 
Her evil behavior, 
And leaving, with meekness. 
Her sins to her Saviour!" 



THE POETIC PRINCIPLE 389 

The vigor of this poem is no less remarkable than its pathos. The 
versification, although carrying the fanciful to the very verge of the 
fantastic, is nevertheless admirably adapted to the wild insanity which 
is the thesis of the poem. 

Among the minor poems of Lord Byron, is one which has never 
received from the critics the praise which it undoubtedly deserves: — 

"Though the day of my destiny's over. 

And the star of my fate hath declined. 
Thy soft heart refused to discover 

The faults which so many could find; 
Though thy soul with my grief was acquainted, 

It shrunk not to share it with me, 
And the love which my spirit hath painted 

It never hath found but in thee. 

"Then when nature around me is smiling. 

The last smile which answers to mine, 
I do not believe it beguiling, 

Because it reminds me of thine; 
And when winds are at war with the ocean. 

As the breasts I believed in with me. 
If their billows excite an emotion. 

It is that they bear me from thee. 

"Though the rock of my last hope is shivered. 

And its fragments are sunk in the wave. 
Though I feel that my soul is delivered 

To pain — it shall not be its slave. 
There is many a pang to pursue me; 

They may crush, but they shall not contemn; 
They may torture, but shall not subdue me; 

Tis of thee that I think — not of them. 

"Though human, thou didst not deceive me; 

Though woman, thou didst not forsake; 
Though loved, thou forborest to grieve me; 

Though slandered, thou never couldst shake; 
Though trusted, thou didst not disclaim me; 

Though parted, it was not to fly; 
Though watchful, 'twas not to defame me; 

Nor mute, that the world might belie. 



39© poE 

"Yet I blame not the world, nor despise it, 

Nor the war of the many with one — 
If my soul was not fitted to prize it, 

'T was folly not sooner to shun; 
And if dearly that error hath cost me. 

And more than I once could foresee, 
I have found that, whatever it lost me, 

It could not deprive me of thee. 

"From the wreck of the past, which hath perished. 

Thus much I at least may recall: 
It hath taught me that what I most cherished 

Deserved to be dearest of all. 
In the desert a fountain is springing, 

In the wide waste there still is a tree. 
And a bird in the solitude singing, 

Which speaks to my spirit of thee." 

Although the rhythm here is one of the most difficult, the versifica- 
tion could scarcely be improved. No nobler theme ever engaged the 
pen of poet. It is the soul-elevating idea, that no man can consider 
himself entitled to complain of Fate while, in his adversity, he still 
retains the unwavering love of woman. 

From Alfred Tennyson — although in perfect sincerity I regard 
him as the noblest poet that ever lived — I have left myself time to 
cite only a very brief specimen. I call him, and thin\ him, the noblest 
of poets, not because the impressions he produces are, at all times, 
the most profound, not because the poetical excitement which he 
induces is, at all times, the most intense, but because it is, at all times, 
the most ethereal — in other words, the most elevating and the most 
pure. No poet is so little of the earth, earthy. What I am about to 
read is from his last long poem, "The Princess": — 

"Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean, 
Tears from the depth of some divine despair 
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes. 
In looking on the happy autumn fields. 
And thinking of the days that are no more. 

"Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail 
That brings our friends up from the underworld; 
Sad as the last which reddens over one 
That sinks with all we love below the verge; 
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more. 



THE POETIC PRINCIPLE 39I 

"Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns 
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds 
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes 
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square; 
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more. 

"Dear as remembered kisses after death. 
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned 
On lips that are for others; deep as love, 
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret; 
O Death in Life, the days that are no more." 

Thus, although in a very cursory and imperfect manner, I have 
endeavored to convey to you my conception of the Poetic Principle. 
It has been my purpose to suggest that, while this Principle itself is, 
strictly and simply, the Human Aspiration for Supernal Beauty, the 
manifestation of the Principle is always found in an elevating excite- 
ment of the Soul, quite independent of that passion which is the 
intoxication of the Heart, or of that Truth which is the satisfaction 
of the Reason. For, in regard to Passion, alas! its tendency is to 
degrade rather than elevate the Soul. Love, on the contrary — ^Love, 
the true, the divine Eros, the Uranian as distinguished from the 
Dionaean Venus — is unquestionably the purest and truest of all 
poetical themes. And in regard to Truth — if, to be sure, through the 
attainment of a truth we are led to perceive a harmony where none 
was apparent before, we experience, at once the true poetical effect; 
but this effect is referable to the harmony alone, and not in the least 
degree to the truth which merely served to render the harmony 
manifest. 

We shall reach, however, more immediately a distinct conception 
of what the true Poetry is, by mere reference to a few of the simple 
elements which induce in the Poet himself the true poetical effect. 
He recognizes the ambrosia, which nourishes his soul, in the bright 
orbs that shine in Heaven, in the volutes of the flower, in the cluster- 
ing of low shrubberies, in the waving of the grain-fields, in the 
slanting of the tall. Eastern trees, in the blue distance of mountains, 
in the grouping of clouds, in the twinkling of half-hidden brooks, in 
the gleaming of silver rivers, in the repose of sequestered lakes, in 
the star-mirroring depths of lonely wells. He perceives it in the 



392 POE 

songs of birds, in the harp of ^olus, in the sighing of the night-wind, 
in the repining voice of the forest, in the surf that complains to the 
shore, in the fresh breath of the woods, in the scent of the violet, in 
the voluptuous perfume of the hyacinth, in the suggestive odor that 
comes to him at eventide from far-distant, undiscovered islands, over 
dim oceans, illimitable and unexplored. He owns it in all noble 
thoughts, in all unworldly motives, in all holy impulses, in all 
chivalrous, generous, and self-sacrificing deeds. He feels it in the 
beauty of woman, in the grace of her step, in the lustre of her eye, 
in the melody of her voice, in her soft laughter, in her sigh, in the 
harmony of the rustling of her robes. He deeply feels it in her win- 
ning endearments, in her burning enthusiasms, in her gentle chari- 
ties, in her meek and devotional endurances; but above all — ah! far 
above all — he kneels to it, he worships it in the faith, in the purity, 
in the strength, in the altogether divine majesty of her love. 

Let me conclude by the recitation of yet another brief poem — one 
very different in character from any that I have before quoted. It is 
by Motherwell, and is called "The Song of the Cavalier." With our 
modern and altogether rational ideas of the absurdity and impiety 
of warfare, we are not precisely in that frame of mind best adapted 
to sympathize with the sentiments, and thus to appreciate the real 
excellence, of the poem. To do this fully, we must identify ourselves, 
in fancy, with the soul of the old cavalier. 

"Then mounte! then mounte, brave gallants, all, 

And don your helmes amaine: 
Deathe's couriers, Fame and Honor, call 

Us to the field againe. 
No shrewish teares shall fill our eye 

When the sword-hilt's in our hand; 
Heart-whole we'll part and no whit sighe 

For the fayrest of the land; 
Let piping swaine, and craven wight, 

Thus weepe and puling crye. 
Our business is like men to fight. 

And hero-like to die!" 



WALKING 

BY 
HENRY DAVID THOREAU 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

Henry David Thoreau was born at Concord, Massachusetts, July 12, 
1817, and died there May 6, 1862. He was one of the most markedly 
individual of that group of philosophers and men of letters which has 
made the name of the little Massachusetts town so notable in the intel- 
lectual history of America. 

Thoreau came of a family of French descent, and was educated at 
Harvard. "He was bred," says his friend Emerson, "to no profession; 
he never married; he lived alone; he never went to church; he never 
voted; he refused to pay a tax to the State; he ate no flesh, he drank no 
wine, he never knew the use of tobacco; and, though a naturalist, he 
used neither trap nor gun." The individualism which is implied in these 
facts was the most prominent characteristic of this remarkable person. 
Holding that "a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which 
he can afford to let alone," he found that a small part of his time, devoted 
to making lead-pencils, carpentering, and surveying, gave him enough 
for his simple needs, and left him free for the rest of the year to observe 
nature, to think, and to write. 

In 1845 Thoreau built himself a hut on the edge of Walden Pond, and 
for over two years lived there in solitude, composing his "Week on the 
Concord and Merrimac Rivers." During these years he kept a journal, 
from which he later drew the volume called "Walden," and these are 
his only two books published during his lifetime. From articles in 
magazines and manuscripts, some eight more volumes have been com- 
piled since his death. 

Interesting as is the philosophy which permeates the work of this 
solitary, his books have found readers rather on account of their minute 
and sympathetic observation of nature and the beauty of their style. 
The following essay on "Walking" represents all three elements; and 
in its charming discursiveness, in the absence of any structure to hinder 
the writer's pen from wandering at will, and in the responsiveness which 
it exhibits to the moods and suggestions of nature, it is a characteristic 
expression of its author's spirit. 



WALKING 

[1862] 

I WISH to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and 
wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil, 
— to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, 
rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme state- 
ment, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough 
champions of civilization : the minister and the school committee and 
every one of you will take care of that. 

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life 
who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, — who 
had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully 
derived from "idle people who roved about the country, in the Mid- 
dle Ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going a la Sainte 
Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes 
a Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go 
to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere 
idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the 
good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word 
from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the 
good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at 
home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. 
He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant 
of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than 
the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the 
shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is 
the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, 
preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer 
this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels. 

It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, 
nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-eading enterprizes. 

395 



396 THOREAU 

Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to 
the old hearth-side from which we set out. Half the walk is but 
retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, per- 
chance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return — pre- 
pared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate 
kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother 
and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again 
— if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all 
your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk. 

To come down to my own experience, my companion and I, for 
I sometimes have a companion, take pleasure in fancying ourselves 
knights of a new, or rather an old, order — not Equestrians or Cheva- 
liers, not Ritters or riders, but Walkers, a still more ancient and 
honourable class, I trust. The chivalric and heroic spirit which once 
belonged to the Rider seems now to reside in, or perchance to have 
subsided into, the Walker, — not the Knight, but Walker, Errant. 
He is a sort of fourth estate, outside of Church and State and 
People. 

We have felt that we almost alone hereabouts practised this noble 
art; though, to tell the truth, at least, if their own assertions are to 
be received, most of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as 
I do, but they cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, free- 
dom, and independence which are the capital in this profession. It 
comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation 
from Heaven to become a walker. You must be born into the family 
of the Walkers. Ambulator nascitur, non fit. Some of my townsmen, 
it is true, can remember and have described to me some walks which 
they took ten years ago, in which they were so blessed as to lose 
themselves for half an hour in the woods; but I know very well that 
they have confined themselves to the highway ever since, whatever 
pretensions they may make to belong to this select class. No doubt 
they were elevated for a moment as by the reminiscence of a previous 
state of existence, when even they were foresters and outlaws. 

"When he came to grene wode, 

In a mery mornynge, 
There he herde the notes small 
Of byrdes mery syngynge. 



WALKING 397 

"It is ferre gone, sayd Robyn, 

That I was last here; 
Me lyste a lytell for to shote 
At the donne dere." 

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I 
spend four hours a day at least, — and it is commonly more than that, 
— sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, 
absolutely free from all worldly engagements. You may safely say, 
A penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes 
I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their 
shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting 
with crossed legs, so many of them — as if the legs were made to sit 
upon, and not to stand or walk upon — I think that they deserve some 
credit for not having all committed suicide long ago. 

I, who cannot stay in my chamber for a single day without acquir- 
ing some rust, and when sometimes I have stolen forth for a walk 
at the eleventh hour or four o'clock in the afternoon, too late to re- 
deem the day, when the shades of night were already beginning to 
be mingled with the daylight, have felt as if I had committed some 
sin to be atoned for, — I confess that I am astonished at the power of 
endurance, to say nothing of the moral insensibility, of my neigh- 
bours who confine themselves to shops and offices the whole day for 
weeks and months, ay, and years almost together. I know not what 
manner of stuff they are of — sitting there now at three o'clock in the 
afternoon, as if it were three o'clock in the morning. Bonaparte may 
talk of the three-o'clock-in-the-morning courage, but it is nothing to 
the courage which can sit down cheerfully at this hour in the after- 
noon over against one's self whom you have known all the morning, 
to starve out a garrison to whom you are bound by such strong ties of 
sympathy. I wonder that about this time, or say between four and 
five o'clock in the afternoon, too late for the morning papers and 
too early for the evening ones, there is not a general explosion heard 
up and down the street, scattering a legion of antiquated and house- 
bred notions and whims to the four winds for an airing — and so the 
evil cure itself. 

How womankind, who are confined to the house still more than 
men, stand it I do not know; but I have ground to suspect that most 



398 THOREAU 

of them do not stand it at all. When, early in a summer afternoon, 
we have been shaking the dust of the village from the skirts of our 
garments, making haste past those houses with purely Doric or 
Gothic fronts, which have such an air of repose about them, my com- 
panion whispers that probably about these times their occupants are 
all gone to bed. Then it is that I appreciate the beauty and the glory 
of architecture, which itself never turns in, but forever stands out 
and erect, keeping watch over the slumberers. 

No doubt temperament, and, above all, age, have a good deal to do 
with it. As a man grows older, his ability to sit still and follow indoor 
occupations increases. He grows vespertinal in his habits as the 
evening of life approaches, till at last he comes forth only j ust before 
sundown, and gets all the walk that he requires in half an hour. 

But the walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking 
exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours — as 
the swinging of dumb-bells or chairs; but is itself the enterprise and 
adventure of the day. If you would get exercise, go in search of the 
springs of life. Think of a man's swinging dumb-bells for his 
health, when those springs are bubbling up in far-off pastures un- 
sought by him! 

Moreover, you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the 
only beast which ruminates when walking. When a traveller asked 
Wordsworth's servant to show him her master's study, she answered, 
"Here is his library, but his study is out of doors." 

Living much out of doors, in the sun and wind, will no doubt 
produce a certain roughness of character — will cause a thicker cuticle 
to grow over some of the finer qualities of our nature, as on the face 
and hands, or as severe manual labor robs the hands of some of their 
delicacy of touch. So staying in the house, on the other hand, may 
produce a softness and smoothness, not to say thinness of skin, accom- 
panied by an increased sensibility to certain impressions. Perhaps 
we should be more susceptible to some influences important to our 
intellectual and moral growth, if the sun had shone and the wind 
blown on us a little less; and no doubt it is a nice matter to propor- 
tion rightly the thick and thin skin. But methinks that is a scurf that 
will fall off fast enough — that the natural remedy is to be found in 
the proportion which the night bears to the day, the winter to the 



WALKING 399 

summer, thought to experience. There will be so much the more 
air and sunshine in our thoughts. The callous palms of the laborer 
are conversant with finer tissues of self-respect and heroism, whose 
touch thrills the heart, than the languid fingers of idleness. That 
is mere sentimentality that lies abed by day and thinks itself white, 
far from the tan and callus of experience. 

When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what 
would become of us if we walked only in a garden or a mall ? Even 
some sects of philosophers have felt the necessity of importing the 
woods to themselves, since they did not go to the woods. "They 
planted groves and walks of Platanes," where they took subdiales 
ambulationes in porticos open to the air. Of course it is of no use 
to direct our steps to the woods, if they do not carry us thither. I 
am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the 
woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. In my afternoon walk I 
would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to 
society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the 
village. The thought of some work will run in my head and I am 
not where my body is — I am out of my senses. In my walks I would 
fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I 
am thinking of something out of the woods ? I suspect myself, and 
cannot help a shudder, when I find myself so implicated even in 
what are called good works — for this may sometimes happen. 

My vicinity affords many good walks; and though for so many 
years I have walked almost every day, and sometimes for several 
days together, I have not yet exhausted them. An absolutely new 
prospect is a great happiness, and I can still get this any afternoon. 
Two or three hours' walking will carry me to as strange a country 
as I expect ever to see. A single farmhouse which I had not seen 
before is sometimes as good as the dominions of the King of 
Dahomey. There is in fact a sort of harmony discoverable between 
the capabilities of the landscape within a circle of ten miles' radius, 
or the limits of an afternoon walk, and the threescore years and ten 
of human life. It will never become quite familiar to you. 

Nowadays almost all man's improvements, so called, as the build- 
ing of houses, and the cutting down of the forest and of all large 
trees, simply deform the landscape, and make it more and more tame 



400 THOREAU 

and cheap. A people who would begin by burning the fences and 
let the forest stand! I saw the fences half consumed, their ends lost 
in the middle of the prairie, and some worldly miser with a surveyor 
looking after his bounds, while heaven had taken place around him, 
and he did not see the angels going to and fro, but was looking for 
an old post-hole in the midst of paradise. I looked again, and saw 
him standing in the middle of a boggy stygian fen, surrounded by 
devils, and he had found his bounds without a doubt, three little 
stones, where a stake had been driven, and looking nearer, I saw 
that the Prince of Darkness was his surveyor. 

I can easily walk ten, fifteen, twenty, any number of miles, com- 
mencing at my own door, without going by any house, without 
crossing a road except where the fox and the mink do: first along 
by the river, and then the brook, and then the meadow and the 
wood-side. There are square miles in my vicinity which have no 
inhabitant. From many a hill I can see civilisation and the abodes of 
man afar. The farmers and their works are scarcely more obvious 
than woodchucks and their burrows. Man and his affairs, church 
and state and school, trade and commerce, and manufactures and 
agriculture, even politics, the most alarming of them all, — I am 
pleased to see how little space they occupy in the landscape. Politics 
is but a narrow field, and that still narrower highway yonder leads 
to it. I sometimes direct the traveller thither. If you would go to the 
political world, follow the great road — follow that market-man, keep 
his dust in your eyes, and it will lead you straight to it; for it, too, 
has its place merely, and does not occupy all space. I pass from it 
as from a bean-field into the forest, and it is forgotten. In one half- 
hour I can walk off to some portion of the earth's surface where a 
man does not stand from one year's end to another, and there, con- 
sequently, politics are not, for they are but as the cigar-smoke of a 
man. 

The village is the place to which the roads tend, a sort of expan- 
sion of the highway, as a lake of a river. It is the body of which roads 
are the arms and legs — a trivial or quadrivial place, the thorough- 
fare and ordinary of travellers. The word is from the Latin villa, 
which together with via, a way, or more anciently ved and vella, 
Varro derives from veho, to carry, because the villa is the place to and 
from which things are carried. They who got their living by team- 



WALKING 401 

ing were said vellaturam jacere. Hence, too, apparently, the Latin 
word vilis and our vile; also villain. This suggests what kind o£ 
degeneracy villagers are liable to. They are wayworn by the travel 
that goes by and over them, without travelling themselves. 

Some do not walk at all; others walk in the highways; a few walk 
across lots. Roads are made for horses and men of business. I do 
not travel in them much, comparatively, because I am not in a 
hurry to get to any tavern or grocery or livery-stable or depot to 
which they lead. I am a good horse to travel, but not from choice 
a roadster. The landscape-painter uses the figures of men to mark 
a road. He would not make that use of my figure. I walk out into 
a Nature such as the old prophets and poets. Menu, Moses, Homer, 
Chaucer, walked in. You may name it America, but it is not 
America: neither Americus Vespucius, nor Columbus, nor the rest 
were the discoverers of it. There is a truer account of it in mythology 
than in any history of America, so called, that I have seen. 

However, there are a few old roads that may be trodden with 
profit, as if they led somewhere now that they are nearly discon- 
tinued. There is the Old Marlborough Road, which does not go 
to Marlborough now, methinks, unless that is Marlborough where it 
carries me. I am the bolder to speak of it here, because I presume 
that there are one or two such roads in every town. 

THE OLD MARLBOROUGH ROAD 

Where they once dug for money, 

Where sometimes Martial Miles 

But never found any; 

Singly files, 

And Elijah Wood, 

I fear for no good: 

No other man, 

Save Elisha Dugan, — 

O man of wild habits, 

Partridges and rabbits. 

Who hast no cares 

Only to set snares, 

Who liv'st all alone, 

Close to the bone, 

And where life is sweetest 

Constandy eatest. 



402 THOREAU 

When the spring stirs my blood 
With the instinct to travel 
I can get enough gravel 

On the Old Marlborough Road. 
Nobody repairs it, 
For nobody wears it; 
It is a living way, 
As the Christians say. 

Not many there be 
Who enter therein, 

Only the guests of the 
Irishman Quin. 

What is it, what is it, 
But a direction out there, 

And the bare possibility 
Of going somewhere? 
Great guide-boards of stone. 
But travellers none; 
Cenotaphs of the towns 
Named on their crowns. 
It is worth going to see 
Where you might be. 
What king 
Did the thing, 
I am still wondering; 
Set up how or when. 
By what selectmen, 
Gourgas or Lee, 
Clark or Darby? 
They're a great endeavor 
To be something forever; 
Blank tablets of stone, 
Where a traveller might groan, 
And in one sentence 
Grave all that is known; 
Which another might read. 
In his extreme need. 
I know one or two 
Lines that would do. 
Literature that might stand 
All over the land, 
Which a man could remember 
Till next December, 
And read again in the Spring, 



WALKING 403 

After the thawing. 
If with fancy unfurled 

You leave your abode, 
You may go round the world 

By the Old Marlborough Road. 

At present, in this vicinity, the best part of the land is not private 
property; the landscape is not owned, and the walker enjoys com- 
parative freedom. But possibly the day will come when it will be 
partitioned off into so-called pleasure-grounds, in which a few will 
take a narrow and exclusive pleasure only, — when fences shall be 
multiplied, and man-traps and other engines invented to confine men 
to the public road, and walking over the surface of God's earth shall 
be construed to mean trespassing on some gentleman's grounds. To 
enjoy a thing exclusively is commonly to exclude yourself from the 
true enjoyment of it. Let us improve our opportunities, then, before 
the evil days come. 

What is it that makes it so hard sometimes to determine whither 
we will walk ? I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, 
which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. It is not 
indifferent to us which way we walk. There is a right way; but we 
are very liable from heedlessness and stupidity to take the wrong one. 
We would fain take that walk, never yet taken by us through this 
actual world, which is perfectly symbolical of the path which we 
love to travel in the interior and ideal world; and sometimes, no 
doubt, we find it difficult to choose our direction, because it does 
not yet exist distinctly in our idea. 

When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I 
will bend my steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide for 
me, I find, strange and whimsical as it may seem, that I finally and 
inevitably settle southwest, toward some particular wood or meadow 
or deserted pasture or hill in that direction. My needle is slow to 
settle, — varies a few degrees, and does not always point due south- 
west, it is true, and it has good authority for this variation, but it 
always settles between west and south-southwest. The future lies 
that way to me, and the earth seems more unexhausted and richer 
on that side. The outline which would bound my walks would be. 



404 THOREAU 

not a circle, but a parabola, or rather like one of those cometary orbits 
which have been thought to be non-returning curves, in this case 
opening westward, in which my house occupies the place of the sun. 
I turn round and round irresolute sometimes for a quarter of an 
hour, until I decide, for a thousandth time, that I will walk into the 
southwest or west. Eastward I go only by force; but westward I go 
free. Thither no business leads me. It is hard for me to believe that 
I shall find fair landscapes or sufficient wildness and freedom behind 
the eastern horizon. I am not excited by the prospect of a walk 
thither; but I believe that the forest which I see in the western 
horizon stretches uninterruptedly toward the setting sun, and there 
are no towns nor cities in it of enough consequence to disturb me. 
Let me live where I will, on this side is the city, on that the wilder- 
ness, and ever I am leaving the city more and more, and withdraw- 
ing into the wilderness. I should not lay so much stress on this fact, 
if I did not believe that something like this is the prevailing tendency 
of my countrymen. I must walk toward Oregon, and not toward 
Europe. And that way the nation is moving, and I may say that 
mankind progress from east to west. Within a few years we have 
witnessed the phenomenon of a south-eastward migration, in the 
settlement of Australia; but this affects us as a retrograde movement, 
and, judging from the moral and physical character of the first gen- 
eration of Australians, has not yet proved a successful experiment. 
The eastern Tartars think that there is nothing west beyond Thibet. 
"The world ends there," say they; "beyond there is nothing but a 
shoreless sea." It is unmitigated East where they live. 

We go eastward to realise history and study the works of art and 
literature, retracing the steps of the race; we go westward as into 
the future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure. The Atlantic 
is a Lethean stream, in our passage over which we have had an 
opportunity to forget the Old World and its institutions. If we do 
not succeed this time, there is perhaps one more chance for the race 
left before it arrives on the banks of the Styx; and that is in the Lethe 
of the Pacific, which is three times as wide. 

I know not how significant it is, or how far it is an evidence of 
singularity, that an individual should thus consent in his pettiest 
walk with the general movement of the race; but I know that some- 



WALKING 405 

thing akin to the migratory instinct in birds and quadrupeds, — 
which, in some instances, is known to have affected the squirrel 
tribe, impelling them to a general and mysterious movement, in 
which they were seen, say some, crossing the broadest rivers, each 
on its particular chip, with its tail raised for a sail, and bridging 
narrower streams with their dead, — that something like the juror 
which affects the domestic cattle in the spring, and which is referred 
to a worm in their tails, — affects both nations and individuals, either 
perennially or from time to time. Not a flock of wild geese cackles 
over our town, but it to some extent unsettles the value of real estate 
here, and if I were a broker I should probably take that disturbance 
into account. 

"Than longen folk to gon on pilgrimages, 
And palmares for to seken strange strondes." 

Every sunset which I witness inspires me with the desire to go to 
a West as distant and as fair as that into which the sun goes down. 
He appears to migrate westward daily, and tempts us to follow him. 
He is the Great Western Pioneer whom the nations follow. We 
dream all night of those mountain-ridges in the horizon, though 
they may be of vapor only, which were last gilded by his rays. The 
island of Adantis, and the islands and gardens of the Hesperides, 
a sort of terrestrial paradise, appear to have been the Great West of 
the ancients, enveloped in mystery and poetry. Who has not seen 
in imagination, when looking into the sunset sky, the gardens of the 
Hesperides, and the foundation of all those fables.'* 

Columbus felt the westward tendency more strongly than any 
before. He obeyed it, and found a New World for Castile and Leon. 
The herd of men in those days scented fresh pastures from afar. 

"And now the sun had stretched out all the hills, 
And now was dropped into the western bay; 
At last he rose, and twitched his mantle blue; 
To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new." 

Where on the globe can there be found an area of equal extent 
with that occupied by the bulk of our States, so fertile and so rich 
and varied in its productions, and at the same time so habitable by 



406 THOREAU 

the European, as this is? Michaux, who knew but part of them, says 
that "the species of large trees are much more numerous in North 
America than in Europe; in the United States there are more than 
one hundred and forty species that exceed thirty feet in height; in 
France there are but thirty that attain this size." Later botanists 
more than confirm his observations. Humboldt came to America to 
reahze his youthful dreams of a tropical vegetation, and he beheld 
it in its greatest perfection in the primitive forests of the Amazon, 
the most gigantic wilderness on the earth, which he has so eloquently 
described. The geographer Guyot, himself a European, goes farther 
— farther than I am ready to follow him; yet not when he says: "As 
the plant is made for the animal, as the vegetable world is made for 
the animal world, America is made for the man of the Old World. 
. . . The man of the Old World sets out upon his way. Leaving 
the highlands of Asia, he descends from station to station towards 
Europe. Each of his steps is marked by a new civilization superior 
to the preceding, by a greater power of development. Arrived at the 
Atlantic, he pauses on the shore of this unknown ocean, the bounds 
of which he knows not, and turns upon his footprints for an instant." 
When he has exhausted the rich soil of Europe, and reinvigorated 
himself, "then recommences his adventurous career westward as in 
the earliest ages." So far Guyot. 

From this western impulse coming in contact with the barrier of 
the Atlantic sprang the commerce and enterprise of modern times. 
The younger Michaux, in his "Travels West of the Alleghanies in 
1802," says that the common inquiry in the newly settled West was, 
" 'From what part of the world have you come?' As if these vast and 
fertile regions would naturally be the place of meeting and common 
country of all the inhabitants of the globe." 

To use an obsolete Latin word, I might say, Ex Oriente lux; ex 
Occidente frux. From the East light; from the West fruit. 

Sir Francis Head, an English traveller and a Governor-General 
of Canada, tells us that "in both the northern and southern hemi- 
spheres of the New World, Nature has not only outlined her works 
on a larger scale, but has painted the whole picture with brighter and 
more costly colors than she used in delineating and in beautifying 
the Old World. . . . The heavens of America appear infinitely 



WALKING 4C7 

higher, the sky is bluer, the air is fresher, the cold is intenser, the 
moon looks larger, the stars are brighter, the thunder is louder, the 
lightning is vivider, the wind is stronger, the rain is heavier, the 
mountains are higher, the rivers longer, the forests bigger, the plains 
broader." This statement will do at least to set against BufEon's 
account of this part of the world and its productions. 

Linn^us said long ago, "Nescio qu2 facies lata, glabra plantis 
Americanis: I know not what there is of joyous and smooth in the 
aspect of American plants;" and I think that in this country there 
are no, or at most very few, Ajricance bestice, African beasts, as the 
Romans called them, and that in this respect also it is peculiarly 
fitted for the habitation of man. We are told that within three miles 
of the centre of the East Indian city of Singapore, some of the inhabi- 
tants are annually carried off by tigers; but the traveller can lie down 
in the woods at night almost anywhere in North America without 
fear of wild beasts. 

These are encouraging testimonies. If the moon looks larger here 
than in Europe, probably the sun looks larger also. If the heavens 
of America appear infinitely higher, and the stars brighter, I trust 
that these facts are symbolical of the height to which the philosophy 
and poetry and religion of her inhabitants may one day soar. At 
length, perchance, the immaterial heaven will appear as much higher 
to the American mind, and the intimations that star it as much 
brighter. For I believe that climate does thus react on man — as there 
is something in the mountain air that feeds the spirit and inspires. 
Will not man grow to greater perfection intellectually as well as 
physically under these influences? Or is it unimportant how many 
foggy days there are in his life? I trust that we shall be more imagi- 
native, that our thoughts will be clearer, fresher, and more ethereal, 
as our sky — our understanding more comprehensive and broader, 
like our plains — our intellect generally on a grander scale, like our 
thunder and lightning, our rivers and mountains and forests — and 
our hearts shall even correspond in breadth and depth and grandeur 
to our inland seas. Perchance there will appear to the traveller some- 
thing, he knows not what, of Iceta and glabra, of joyous and serene, 
in our very faces. Else to what end does the world go on, and why 
was America discovered ? 



408 THOREAU 

To Americans I hardly need to say — 

"Westward the star of empire takes its way." 

As a true patriot, I should be ashamed to think that Adam in para- 
dise was more favourably situated on the whole than the backwoods- 
man in this country. 

Our sympathies in Massachusetts are not confined to New Eng- 
land; though we may be estranged from the South, we sympathize 
with the West. There is the home of the younger sons, as among 
the Scandinavians they took to the sea for their inheritance. It is too 
late to be studying Hebrew; it is more important to understand even 
the slang of to-day. 

Some months ago I went to see a panorama of the Rhine. It was 
like a dream of the Middle Ages. I floated down its historic stream 
in something more than imagination, under bridges built by the 
Romans, and repaired by later heroes, past cities and castles whose 
very names were music to my ears, and each of which was the subject 
of a legend. There were Ehrenbreitstein and Rolandseck and Cob- 
lentz, which I knew only in history. They were ruins that interested 
me chiefly. There seemed to come up from its waters and its vine- 
clad hills and valleys a hushed music as of Crusaders departing for 
the Holy Land. I floated along under the spell of enchantment, as 
if I had been transported to an heroic age, and breathed an atmos- 
phere of chivalry. 

Soon after, I went to see a panorama of the Mississippi, and as I 
worked my way up the river in the light of to-day and saw the steam- 
boats wooding up, counted the rising cities, gazed on the fresh ruins 
of Nauvoo, beheld the Indians moving west across the stream, and, 
as before I had looked up the Moselle, now looked up the Ohio and 
the Missouri and heard the legends of Dubuque and of Wenona's 
Cliff, — still thinking more of the future than of the past or present, 
— I saw that this was a Rhine stream of a different kind; that the 
foundations of castles were yet to be laid, and the famous bridges 
were yet to be thrown over the river; and I felt that this was the 
heroic age itself, though we know it not, for the hero is commonly 
the simplest and obscurest of men. 



WALKING 409 

The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and 
what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preserva- 
tion of the World. Every tree sends its fibres forth in search of the 
Wild. The cities import it at any price. Men plough and sail for it. 
From the forest and wilderness come the tonics and barks which 
brace mankind. Our ancestors were savages. The story of Romulus 
and Remus being suckled by a wolf is not a meaningless fable. The 
founders of every state which has risen to eminence have drawn their 
nourishment and vigor from a similar wild source. It was because 
the children of the Empire were not suckled by the wolf that they 
were conquered and displaced by the children of the northern for- 
ests who were. 

I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in 
which the corn grows. We require an infusion of hemlock-spruce 
or arbor-vitae in our tea. There is a difference between eating and 
drinking for strength and from mere gluttony. The Hottentots 
eagerly devour the marrow of the koodoo and other antelopes raw, 
as a matter of course. Some of our Northern Indians eat raw the 
marrow of the Arctic reindeer, as well as various other parts, includ- 
ing the summits of the anders, as long as they are soft. And herein, 
perchance, they have stolen a march on the cooks of Paris. They get 
what usually goes to feed the fire. This is probably better than stall- 
fed beef and slaughter-house pork to make a man of. Give me a 
wildness whose glance no civilization can endure — ^as if we lived on 
the marrow of koodoos devoured raw. 

There are some intervals which border the strain of the wood- 
thrush, to which I would migrate, — wild lands where no settler has 
squatted; to which, methinks, I am already acclimated. 

The African hunter Gumming tells us that the skin of the eland, 
as well as that of most other antelopes just killed, emits the most 
delicious perfume of trees and grass. I would have every man so 
much like a wild antelope, so much a part and parcel of Nature, that 
his very person should thus sweetly advertise our senses of his pres- 
ence, and remind us of those parts of Nature which he most haunts. 
I feel no disposition to be satirical, when the trapper's coat emits the 
odour of musquash even; it is a sweeter scent to me than that which 



410 THOREAU 

commonly exhales from the merchant's or the scholar's garments. 
When I go into their wardrobes and handle their vestments, I am 
reminded of no grassy plains and flowery meads which they have 
frequented, but of dusty merchants' exchanges and libraries rather. 

A tanned skin is something more than respectable, and perhaps 
olive is a fitter color than white for a man — a denizen of the woods. 
"The pale white man!" Ido not wonder that the African pitied him. 
Darwin the naturalist says, "A white man bathing by the side of a 
Tahitian was like a plant bleached by the gardener's art, compared 
with a fine, dark green one, growing vigorously in the open fields." 

Ben Jonson exclaims, — 

"How near to good is what is fair!" 

So I would say — 

How near to good is what is wild! 

Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet 
subdued to man, its presence refreshes him. One who pressed for- 
ward incessantly and never rested from his labors, who grew fast 
and made infinite demands on life, would always find himself in a 
new country or wilderness, and surrounded by the raw material of 
life. He would be climbing over the prostrate stems of primitive 
forest trees. 

Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, 
not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps. 
When, formerly, I have analyzed my partiality for some farm which 
I had contemplated purchasing, I have frequently found that I was 
attracted solely by a few square rods of impermeable and unfathom- 
able bog — a natural sink in one corner of it. That was the jewel 
which dazzled me. I derive more of my subsistence from the swamps 
which surround my native town than from the cultivated gardens 
in the village. There are no richer parterres to my eyes than the 
dense beds of dwarf andromeda (Cassandra calyculata) which cover 
these tender places on the earth's surface. Botany cannot go farther 
than tell me the names of the shrubs which grow there — the high- 
blueberry, panicled andromeda, lamb-kill, azalea, and rhodora — all 
standing in the quaking sphagnum. I often think that I should like 



WALKING 411 

to have my house front on this mass of dull red bushes, omitting 
other flower plots and borders, transplanted spruce and trim box; 
even graveled walks — to have this fertile spot under my windows, 
not a few imported barrow-fulls of soil only to cover the sand which 
was thrown out in digging the cellar. Why not put my house, my 
parlour, behind this plot, instead of behind that meagre assemblage 
of curiosities, that poor apology for a Nature and Art, which I call 
my front-yard ? It is an effort to clear up and make a decent appear- 
ance when the carpenter and mason have departed, though done as 
much for the passer-by as the dweller within. The most tasteful 
front-yard fence was never an agreeable object of study to me; the 
most elaborate ornaments, acorn-tops, or what not, soon wearied and 
disgusted me. Bring your sills up to the very edge of the swamp, 
then (though it may not be the best place for a dry cellar), so that 
there be no access on that side to citizens. Front-yards are not made 
to walk in, but, at most, through, and you could go in the back way. 

Yes, though you may think me perverse, if it were proposed to me 
to dwell in the neighborhood of the most beautiful garden that ever 
human art contrived, or else of a Dismal Swamp, I should certainly 
decide for the swamp. How vain, then, have been all your labors, 
citizens, for me! 

My spirits infallibly rise in proportion to the outward dreariness. 
Give me the ocean, the desert, or the wilderness! In the desert, pure 
air and solitude compensate for want of moisture and fertility. The 
traveller Burton says of it — "Your morale improves; you become 
frank and cordial, hospitable and single-minded. ... In the desert, 
spirituous liquors excite only disgust. There is a keen enjoyment in 
a mere animal existence." They who have been travelling long on the 
steppes of Tartary say : "On reentering cultivated lands, the agitation, 
perplexity, and turmoil of civilization oppressed and suffocated us; 
the air seemed to fail us, and we felt every moment as if about to 
die of asphyxia." When I would recreate myself, I seek the darkest 
wood, the thickest and most interminable and, to the citizen, most 
dismal swamp. I enter a swamp as a sacred place, — a sanctum sanc- 
torum. There is the strength, the marrow of Nature. The wild-wood 
covers the virgin mould, — and the same soil is good for men and 
for trees. A man's health requires as many acres of meadow to his 



412 THOREAU 

prospect as his farm does loads of muck. There are the strong meats 
on which he feeds. A town is saved, not more by the righteous men 
in it than by the woods and swamps that surround it. A township 
where one primitive forest waves above while another primitive 
forest rots below, — such a town is fitted to raise not only corn and 
potatoes, but poets and philosophers for the coming ages. In such 
a soil grew Homer and Confucius and the rest, and out of such a 
wilderness comes the Reformer eating locusts and wild honey. 

To preserve wild animals implies generally the creation of a for- 
est for them to dwell in or resort to. So it is with man. A hundred 
years ago they sold bark in our streets peeled from our own woods. 
In the very aspect of those primitive and rugged trees there was, 
methinks, a tanning principle which hardened and consolidated 
the fibres of men's thoughts. Ah! already I shudder for these com- 
paratively degenerate days of my native village, when you cannot 
collect a load of bark of good thickness; and we no longer produce 
tar and turpentine. 

The civilised nations — Greece, Rome, England — have been sus- 
tained by the primitive forests which anciently rotted where they 
stand. They survive as long as the soil is not exhausted. Alas for 
human culture! little is to be expected of a nation, when the vege- 
table mould is exhausted, and it is compelled to make manure of the 
bones of its fathers. There the poet sustains himself merely by his 
own superfluous fat, and the philosopher comes down on his mar- 
rowbones. 

It is said to be the task of the American "to work the virgin soil," 
and that "agriculture here already assumes proportions unknown 
everywhere else." I think that the farmer displaces the Indian even 
because he redeems the meadow, and so makes himself stronger 
and in some respects more natural. I was surveying for a man the 
other day a single straight line one hundred and thirty-two rods 
long, through a swamp, at whose entrance might have been written 
the words which Dante read over the entrance to the infernal re- 
gions, — "Leave all hope, ye that enter," — that is, of ever getting out 
again; where at one time I saw my employer actually up to his neck 
and swimming for his life in his property, though it was still winter. 
He had another similar swamp which I could not survey at all. 



WALKING 413 

because it was completely under water, and nevertheless, with 
regard to a third swamp, which I did survey from a distance, he 
remarked to me, true to his instincts, that he would not part with it 
for any consideration, on account of the mud which it contained. 
And that man intends to put a girdling ditch round the whole in 
the course of forty months, and so redeem it by the magic of his 
spade. I refer to him only as the type of a class. 

The weapons with which we have gained our most important vic- 
tories, which should be handed down as heirlooms from father to 
son, are not the sword and the lance, but the bush-whack, the turf- 
cutter, the spade, and the bog-hoe, rusted with the blood of many 
a meadow, and begrimed with the dust of many a hard-fought field. 
The very winds blew the Indian's corn-field into the meadow, and 
pointed out the way which he had not the skill to follow. He had 
no better implement with which to intrench himself in the land 
than a clam-shell. But the farmer is armed with plough and spade. 

In Literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dulness is but 
another name for tameness. It is the uncivilized free and wild think- 
ing in "Hamlet" and the "Iliad," in all the Scriptures and Mythol- 
ogies, not learned in the schools, that delights us. As the wild duck 
is more swift and beautiful than the tame, so is the wild — the mallard 
— thought, which 'mid falling dews wings its way above the fens. 
A truly good book is something as natural, and as unexpectedly and 
unaccountably fair and perfect, as a wild flower discovered on the 
prairies of the West or in the jungles of the East. Genius is a light 
which makes the darkness visible, like the lightning's flash, which 
perchance shatters the temple of knowledge itself, — and not a taper 
lighted at the hearthstone of the race, which pales before the light 
of common day. 

English literature, from the days of the minstrels to the Lake 
Poets, — Chaucer and Spenser and Milton, and even Shakespeare, 
included — breathes no quite fresh and, in this sense, wild strain. It 
is an essentially tame and civilized literature, reflecting Greece and 
Rome. Her wilderness is a green wood, her wild man, a Robin 
Hood. There is plenty of genial love of Nature, but not so much of 
Nature herself. Her chronicles inform us when her wild animals, but 
not when the wild man In her, became extinct. 



414 THOREAU 

The science of Humboldt is one thing, poetry is another thing. 
The poet to-day, notwithstanding all the discoveries of science, and 
the accumulated learning of mankind, enjoys no advantage over 
Homer. 

Where is the literature which gives expression to Nature? He 
would be a poet who could impress the winds and streams into his 
service, to speak for him; who nailed words to their primitive senses, 
as farmers drive down stakes in the spring, which the frost has 
heaved; who derived his words as often as he used them — trans- 
planted them to his page with earth adhering to their roots; whose 
words were so true and fresh and natural that they would appear 
to expand like the buds at the approach of spring, though they lay 
half-smothered between two musty leaves in a library, — aye, to bloom 
and bear fruit there, after their kind, annually, for the faithful 
reader, in sympathy with surrounding Nature. 

I do not know of any poetry to quote which adequately expresses 
this yearning for the Wild. Approached from this side, the best 
poetry is tame. I do not know where to find in any literature, 
ancient or modern, any account which contents me of that Nature 
with which even I am acquainted. You will perceive that I demand 
something which no Augustan nor Elizabethan age, which no cul- 
ture, in short, can give. Mythology comes nearer to it than anything. 
How much more fertile a Nature, at least, has Grecian mythology 
its root in than English literature! Mythology is the crop which the 
Old World bore before its soil was exhausted, before the fancy and 
imagination were affected with blight; and which it still bears, 
wherever its pristine vigor is unabated. All other literatures endure 
only as the elms which overshadow our houses; but this is like the 
great dragon-tree of the Western Isles, as old as mankind, and, 
whether that does or not, will endure as long; for the decay of other 
literatures makes the soil in which it thrives. 

The West is preparing to add its fables to those of the East. The 
valleys of the Ganges, the Nile, and the Rhine having yielded their 
crop, it remains to be seen what the valleys of the Amazon, the 
Platte, the Orinoco, the St. Lawrence, and the Mississippi will pro- 
duce. Perchance, when, in the course of ages, American liberty has 
become a fiction of the past — as it is to some extent a fiction of the 



WALKING 415 

present — the poets of the world will be inspired by American 
mythology. 

The wildest dreams of wild men, even, are not the less true, 
though they may not recommend themselves to the sense which is 
most common among Englishmen and Americans to-day. It is not 
every truth that recommends itself to the common sense. Nature 
has a place for the wild clematis as well as for the cabbage. Some 
expressions of truth are reminiscent — others merely sensible, as the 
phrase is, — others prophetic. Some forms of disease, even, may proph- 
esy forms of health. The geologist has discovered that the figures 
of serpents, griffins, flying dragons, and other fanciful embellishments 
of heraldry, have their prototypes in the forms of fossil species 
which were extinct before man was created, and hence "indicate a 
faint and shadowy knowledge of a previous state of organic exist- 
ence." The Hindoos dreamed that the earth rested on an elephant, 
and the elephant on a tortoise, and the tortoise on a serpent; and 
though it may be an unimportant coincidence, it will not be out 
of place here to state, that a fossil tortoise has lately been discovered 
in Asia large enough to support an elephant. I confess that I am 
pardal to these wild fancies, which transcend the order of time and 
development. They are the sublimest recreation of the intellect. The 
partridge loves peas, but not those that go with her into the pot. 

In short, all good things are wild and free. There is something 
in a strain of music, whether produced by an instrument or by the 
human voice, — take the sound of a bugle in a summer night, for 
instance, — which by its wildness, to speak without satire, reminds 
me of the cries emitted by wild beasts in their native forests. It is so 
much of their wildness as I can understand. Give me for my friends 
and neighbors wild men, not tame ones. The wildness of the savage 
is but a faint symbol of the awful ferity with which good men and 
lovers meet. 

I love even to see the domestic animals reassert their native rights, 
— any evidence that they have not wholly lost their original wild 
habits and vigor; as when my neighbor's cow breaks out of her 
pasture early in the spring and boldly swims the river, a cold, grey 
tide, twenty-five or thirty rods wide, swollen by the melted snow. 
It is the buffalo crossing the Mississippi. This exploit confers some 



4l6 THOREAU 

dignity on the herd in my eyes — already dignified. The seeds of 
instinct are preserved under the thick hides of cattle and horses, like 
seeds in the bowels of the earth, an indefinite period. 

Any sportiveness in cattle is unexpected. I saw one day a herd of 
a dozen bullocks and cows running about and frisking in unwieldy 
sport, like huge rats, even like kittens. They shook their heads, 
raised their tails, and rushed up and down a hill, and I perceived by 
their horns, as well as by their activity, their relation to the deer tribe. 
But, alas! a sudden loud Whoal would have damped their ardor at 
once, reduced them from venison to beef, and stiffened their sides 
and sinews like the locomotive. Who but the Evil One has cried, 
"Whoa!" to mankind? Indeed, the life of cattle, like that of many 
men, is but a sort of locomotiveness; they move a side at a time, and 
man, by his machinery, is meeting the horse and the ox half-way. 
Whatever part the whip has touched is thenceforth palsied. Who 
would ever think of a side of any of the supple cat tribe, as we speak 
of a side of beef? 

I rejoice that horses and steers have to be broken before they can 
be made the slaves of men, and that men themselves have some wild 
oats still left to sow before they become submissive members of 
society. Undoubtedly, all men are not equally fit subjects for civiliza- 
tion; and because the majority, like dogs and sheep, are tame by 
inherited disposition, this is no reason why the others should have 
their natures broken that they may be reduced to the same level. 
Men are in the main alike, but they were made several in order that 
they might be various. If a low use is to be served, one man will do 
nearly or quite as well as another; if a high one, individual excellence 
is to be regarded. Any man can stop a hole to keep the wind away, 
but no other man could serve so rare a use as the author of this 
illustration did. Confucius says — "The skins of the tiger and the 
leopard, when they are tanned, are as the skins of the dog and the 
sheep tanned." But it is not the part of a true culture to tame tigers, 
any more than it is to make sheep ferocious; and tanning their skins 
for shoes is not the best use to which they can be put. 

When looking over a list of men's names in a foreign language, 
as of military officers, or of authors who have written on a particular 



WALKING 417 

subject, I am reminded once more that there is nothing in a name. 
The name Menschikoff, for instance, has nothing in it to my ears 
more human than a whisker, and it may belong to a rat. As the 
names of the Poles and Russians are to us, so are ours to them. It 
is as if they had been named by the child's rigmarole — lery wiery 
ichery van, tittle-tol-tan. I see in my mind a herd of wild creatures 
swarming over the earth, and to each the herdsman has affixed some 
barbarous sound in his own dialect. The names of men are of course 
as cheap and meaningless as Bose and Tray, the names of dogs. 

Methinks it would be some advantage to philosophy, if men were 
named merely in the gross, as they are known. It would be neces- 
sary only to know the genus and perhaps the race or variety, to 
know the individual. We are not prepared to believe that every 
private soldier in a Roman army had a name of his own, — ^because 
we have not supposed that he had a character of his own. 

At present our only true names are nicknames. I knew a boy who, 
from his peculiar energy, was called "Buster" by his playmates, and 
this rightly supplanted his Christian name. Some travellers tell us 
that an Indian had no name given him at first, but earned it, and 
his name was his fame: and among some tribes he acquired a new 
name with every new exploit. It is pitiful when a man bears a name 
for convenience merely, who has earned neither name nor fame. 

I will not allow mere names to make distinctions for me, but still 
see men in herds for all them. A familiar name cannot make a man 
less strange to me. It may be given to a savage who retains in secret 
his own wild title earned in the woods. We have a wild savage in 
us, and a savage name is perchance somewhere recorded as ours. I 
see that my neighbor, who bears the familiar epithet William, or 
Edwin, takes it off with his jacket. It does not adhere to him when 
asleep or in anger, or aroused by any passion or inspiration. I seem 
to hear pronounced by some of his kin at such a time his original 
wild name in some jaw-breaking or else melodious tongue. 

Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours. Nature, lying 
all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as 
the leopard; and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to soci- 
ety, to that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on 



4l8 THOREAU 

man — a sort of breeding in and in, which produces at most a merely 
English nobility, a civilization destined to have a speedy limit. 

In society, in the best institutions of men, it is easy to detect a cer- 
tain precocity. When we should still be growing children, we are 
already little men. Give me a culture which imports much muck 
from the meadows, and deepens the soil — not that which trusts to 
heating manures, and improved implements and modes of culture 
only! 

Many a poor sore-eyed student that I have heard of would grow 
faster, both intellectually and physically, if, instead of sitting up so 
very late, he honestly slumbered a fool's allowance. 

There may be an excess even of informing light. Niepce, a French- 
man, discovered "actinism," that power in the sun's rays which pro- 
duces a chemical effect; that granite rocks, and stone structures, and 
statues of metal, "are all alike destructively acted upon during the 
hours of sunshine, and, but for provisions of Nature no less wonder- 
ful, would soon perish under the delicate touch of the most subtile 
of the agencies of the universe." But he observed that "those bodies 
which underwent this change during the daylight possessed the 
power of restoring themselves to their original conditions during the 
hours of night, when this excitement was no longer influencing 
them." Hence it has been inferred that "the hours of darkness are 
as necessary to the inorganic creation as we know night and sleep 
are to the organic kingdom." Not even does the moon shine every 
night, but gives place to darkness. 

I would not have every man nor every part of a man cultivated, 
any more than I would have every acre of earth cultivated: part 
will be tillage, but the greater part will be meadow and forest, not 
only serving an immediate use, but preparing a mould against a 
distant future, by the annual decay of the vegetation which it sup- 
ports. 

There are other letters for the child to learn than those which 
Cadmus invented. The Spaniards have a good term to express this 
wild and dusky knowledge — Gramdtica parda, tawny grammar — a 
kind of mother-wit derived from that same leopard to which I have 
referred. 

We have heard of a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowl- 



WALKING 419 

edge. It is said that knowledge is power; and the like. Methinks! 
there is equal need of a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Igno- 
rance, what we will call Beautiful Knowledge, a knowledge useful in 
a higher sense: for what is most of our boasted so-called knowledge 
but a conceit that we know something, which robs us of the advan- 
tage of our actual ignorance ? What we call knowledge is often our 
positive ignorance; ignorance our negative knowledge. By long 
years of patient industry and reading of the newspapers, — for what 
are the libraries of science but files of newspapers ? — a man accumu- 
lates a myriad facts, lays them up in his memory, and then when in 
some spring of his life he saunters abroad into the Great Fields of 
thought, he, as it were, goes to grass like a horse and leaves all his 
harness behind in the stable. I would say to the Society for the 
Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, sometimes, — Go to grass. You have 
eaten hay long enough. The spring has come with its green crop. 
The very cows are driven to their country pastures before the end of 
May; though I have heard of one unnatural farmer who kept his 
cow in the barn and fed her on hay all the year round. So, fre- 
quently, the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge treats 
its cattle. 

A man's ignorance some times is not only useful, but beautiful, — • 
while his knowledge, so called, is oftentimes worse than useless, 
besides being ugly. Which is the best man to deal with, — he who 
knows nothing about a subject, and, what is extremely rare, knows 
that he knows nothing, or he who really knows something about it, 
but thinks that he knows all? 

My desire for knowledge is intermittent; but my desire to bathe 
my head in atmospheres unknown to my feet is perennial and con- 
stant. The highest that we can attain to is not Knowledge, but 
Sympathy with Intelligence. I do not know that this higher knowl- 
edge amounts to anything more definite than a novel and grand 
surprise on a sudden revelation of the insufficiency of all that we 
called Knowledge before, — a discovery that there are more things 
in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy. It is 
the lighting up of the mist by the sun. Man cannot ]{now in any 
higher sense than this, any more than he can look serenely and with 
impunity in the face of the sun: 'Qs rl vodv, ov kuvov wijo-eis, — "You 



420 THOREAU 

will not perceive that, as perceiving a particular thing," say the 
Chaldean Oracles. 

There is something servile in the habit of seeking after a law 
which we may obey. We may study the laws of matter at and for 
our convenience, but a successful life knows no law. It is an unfor- 
tunate discovery certainly, that of a law which binds us where we 
did not know before that we were bound. Live free, child of the 
mist, — and with respect to knowledge we are all children of the 
mist. The man who takes the liberty to live is superior to all the 
laws, by virtue of his relation to the law-maker. "That is active 
duty," says the Vishnu Purana, "which is not for our bondage; that 
is knowledge which is for our liberation : all other duty is good only 
unto weariness; all other knowledge is only the cleverness of an 
artist." 

It is remarkable how few events or crises there are in our histories; 
how little exercised we have been in our minds; how few experiences 
we have had. I would fain be assured that I am growing apace and 
rankly, though my very growth disturb this dull equanimity, — 
though it be with struggle through long, dark, muggy nights or 
seasons of gloom. It would be well, if all our lives were a divine 
tragedy even, instead of this trivial comedy or farce. Dante, Bunyan, 
and others appear to have been exercised in their minds more than 
we: they were subjected to a kind of culture such as our district 
schools and colleges do not contemplate. Even Mahomet, though 
many may scream at his name, had a good deal more to live for, 
aye, and to die for, than they have commonly. 

When, at rare intervals, some thought visits one, as perchance he 
is walking on a railroad, then indeed the cars go by without his 
hearing them. But soon, by some inexorable law, our life goes by 
and the cars return. 

"Gentle breeze, that wanderest unseen, 
And bendest the thistles round Loira of storms. 
Traveller of the windy glens, 
Why hast thou left my ear so soon?" 

While almost all men feel an attraction drawing them to society, 
few are attracted strongly to Nature. In their relation to Nature men 



WALKING 421 

appear to me for the most part, notwithstanding their arts, lower 
than the animals. It is not often a beautiful relation, as in the case 
of the animals. How little appreciation of the beauty of the land- 
scape there is among us! We have to be told that the Greeks called 
the world Koc/ioj, Beauty, or Order, but we do not see clearly why 
they did so, and we esteem it at best only a curious philological fact. 

For my part, I feel that with regard to Nature I hve a sort of 
border life, on the confines of a world into which I make occasional 
and transient forays only, and my patriotism and allegiance to the 
State into whose territories I seem to retreat are those of a moss- 
trooper. Unto a life which I call natural I would gladly follow even 
a will-o'-the-wisp through bogs and sloughs unimaginable, but no 
moon nor firefly has shown me the causeway to it. Nature is a 
personality so vast and universal that we have never seen one of 
her features. The walker in the familiar fields which stretch around 
my native town sometimes finds himself in another land than is 
described in their owners' deeds, as it were in some far-away field 
on the confines of the actual Concord, where her jurisdiction ceases, 
and the idea which the word Concord suggests ceases to be sug- 
gested. These farms which I have myself surveyed, these bounds 
which I have set up, appear dimly still as through a mist; but they 
have no chemistry to fix them; they fade from the surface of the 
glass; and the picture which the painter painted stands out dimly 
from beneath. The world with which we are commonly acquainted 
leaves no trace, and it will have no anniversary. 

I took a walk on Spaulding's Farm the other afternoon. I saw the 
setting sun lighting up the opposite side of a stately pine wood. Its 
golden rays straggled into the aisles of the wood as into some noble 
hall. I was impressed as if some ancient and altogether admirable 
and shining family had settled there in that part of the land called 
Concord, unknown to me, — to whom the sun was servant, — who 
had not gone into society in the village, — who had not been called 
on. I saw their park, their pleasure-ground, beyond through the 
wood, in Spaulding's cranberry-meadow. The pines furnished them 
with gables as they grew. Their house was not obvious to vision; 
the trees grew through it. I do not know whether I heard the 
sounds of a suppressed hilarity or not. They seemed to recline on 



422 THOREAU 

the sunbeams. They have sons and daughters. They are quite well. 
The farmer's cart-path, which leads directly through their hall, does 
not in the least put them out, as the muddy bottom of a pool is some- 
times seen through the reflected skies. They never heard of Spauld- 
ing, and do not know that he is their neighbor, — notwithstanding I 
heard him whistle as he drove his team through the house. Noth- 
ing can equal the serenity of their lives. Their coat of arms is simply 
a lichen. I saw it painted on the pines and oaks. Their attics were 
in the tops of the trees. They are of no politics. There was no noise 
of labor. I did not perceive that they were weaving or spinning. 
Yet I did detect, when the wind lulled and hearing was done away, 
the finest imaginable sweet musical hum, — as of a distant hive in 
May, which perchance was the sound of their thinking. They had 
no idle thoughts, and no one without could see their work, for 
their industry was not as in knots and excrescences embayed. 

But I find it difficult to remember them. They fade irrevocably 
out of my mind even now while I speak and endeavor to recall 
them and recollect myself. It is only after a long and serious effort 
to recollect my best thoughts that I become again aware of their 
cohabitancy. If it were not for such famihes as this, I think I should 
move out of Concord. 

We are accustomed to say in New England that few and fewer 
pigeons visit us every year. Our forests furnish no mast for them. 
So, it would seem, few and fewer thoughts visit each growing man 
from year to year, for the grove in our minds is laid waste, — sold 
to feed unnecessary fires of ambition, or sent to mill, and there is 
scarcely a tvwg left for them to perch on. They no longer build 
nor breed with us. In some more genial season, perchance, a faint 
shadow flits across the landscape of the mind, cast by the wings 
of some thought in its vernal or autumnal migration, but, looking 
up, we are unable to detect the substance of the thought itself. Our 
winged thoughts are turned to poultry. They no longer soar, and 
they attain only to a Shanghai and Cochin-China grandeur. Those 
gra-a-ate thoughts, those gra-a-ate men you hear of! 

We hug the earth, — how rarely we mount! Methinks we might 
elevate ourselves a little more. We might climb a tree, at least. I 



WALKING 423 

found my account In climbing a tree once. It was a tall white pine, 
on the top of a hill; and though I got well pitched, I was well paid 
for it, for I discovered new mountains in the horizon which I had 
never seen before, — so much more of the earth and the heavens. 
I might have walked about the foot of the tree for three-score years 
and ten, and yet I certainly should never have seen them. But, 
above all, I discovered around me, — it was near the end of June, — 
on the ends of the topmost branches only, a few minute and delicate 
red cone-like blossoms, the fertile flower of the white pine looking 
heavenward. I carried straightway to the village the topmost ^ire, 
and showed it to stranger jurymen who walked the streets, — for 
it was court-week, — and to farmers and lumber-dealers and wood- 
choppers and hunters, and not one had ever seen the like before, 
but wondered as at a star dropped down. Tell of ancient architects 
finishing their works on the tops of columns as perfectly as on 
the lower and more visible parts! Nature has from the first expanded 
the minute blossoms of the forest only toward the heavens^ above 
men's heads and unobserved by them. We see only the flowers 
that are under our feet in the meadows. The pines have developed 
their delicate blossoms on the highest twigs of the wood every 
summer for ages, as well over the heads of Nature's red children 
as of her white ones; yet scarcely a farmer or hunter in the land 
has ever seen them. 

Above all, we cannot afford not to live in the present. He is 
blessed over all mortals who loses no moment of the passing life in 
remembering the past. Unless our philosophy hears the cock crow 
in every barn-yard within our horizon, it is belated. That sound 
commonly reminds us that we are growing rusty and andque in 
our employments and habits of thought. His philosophy comes 
down to a more recent time than ours. There is something sug- 
gested by it that is a newer testament, — the gospel according to this 
moment. He has not fallen astern; he has got up early and kept up 
early, and to be where he is is to be in season, in the foremost rank of 
time. It is an expression of the health and soundness of Nature, a 
brag for all the world, — healthiness as of a spring burst forth, a 
new fountain of the Muses, to celebrate this last inaant of time. 



424 THOREAU 

Where he lives no fugitive slave laws are passed. Who has not 
betrayed his master many times since last he heard that note? 

The merit of this bird's strain is in its freedom from all plaintive- 
ness. The singer can easily move us to tears or to laughter, but 
where is he who can excite in us a pure morning joy? When, in 
doleful dumps, breaking the awful stillness of our wooden side- 
walk on a Sunday, or, perchance, a watcher in the house of mourn- 
ing, I hear a cockerel crow far or near, I think to myself, "There 
is one of us well, at any rate," — and with a sudden gush return to 
my senses. 

We had a remarkable sunset one day last November. I was walk- 
ing in a meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, 
just before setting, after a cold gray day, reached a clear stratum 
in the horizon, and the softest, brightest morning sunlight fell on 
the dry grass and on the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon 
and on the leaves of the shrub-oaks on the hillside, while our shadows 
stretched long over the meadow eastward, as if we were the only 
motes in its beams. It was such a light as we could not have imagined 
a moment before, and the air also was so warm and serene that 
nothing was wanting to make a paradise of that meadow. When 
we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon, never to 
happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever an infinite 
number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the latest child that 
walked there, it was more glorious still. 

The sun sets on some retired meadow, where no house is visible, 
with all the glory and splendor that it lavishes on cities, and per- 
chance as it has never set before, — where there is but a solitary 
marsh-hawk to have his wings gilded by it, or only a musquash looks 
out from his cabin, and there is some little black-veined brook in 
the midst of the marsh, just beginning to meander, winding slowly 
round a decaying stump. We walked in so pure and bright a light, 
gilding the withered grass and leaves, so softly and serenely bright, 
I thought I had never bathed in such golden flood, without a ripple 
or a murmur to it. The west side of every wood and rising ground 
gleamed like the boundary of Elysium, and the sun on our backs 
seemed like a gentle herdsman driving us home at evening. 



WALKING 425 

So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall 
shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine 
into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a 
great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a 
bankside in autumn. 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN 
DEMOCRACY 

BY 

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

James Russell Lowell, poet, essayist, diplomatist, and scholar, was 
born at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on February 22, 1819, the son of a 
Unitarian minister. Educated at Harvard College, he tried the law, but 
soon gave it up for literature. His poem on "The Present Crisis," written 
in 1844, was his first really notable production, and one that made a 
deep impression on the public mind. In the twenty years of troubled 
politics that followed, one finds it constantly quoted. The year 1848 
saw four volumes from Lowell's pen — a book of "Poems," the "Fable for 
Critics," "The Biglow Papers," and the "Vision of Sir Launfal." The 
second of these exhibited the author as wit and critic, the third as polit- 
ical reformer, the fourth as poet and mystic; and these various sides of 
his personality continue to appear with varying prominence throughout 
his career. 

On the retirement of Longfellow from the chair of belles-lettres at 
Harvard in 1854, Lowell was elected to succeed him, and by way of 
preparation spent the next two years in Europe studying modern lan- 
guages and literatures. In 1857 he became the first editor of the Atlantic 
Monthly, and after 1864 he collaborated with Charles Eliot Norton in 
the editorship of the North American Review. Throughout the period 
of the war Lowell wrote much both in prose and verse on behalf of the 
Union; his work on the North American was largely literary criticism. 

In 1877 Lowell went to Spain as American Minister, and in 1880 to 
London, where for five years he represented the United States with great 
distinction, and did much to improve the relations of the two countries. 
Six years after his return, on August 12, 1891, he died in Elmwood, the 
house in Cambridge where he was born. 

Lowell's literary gifts were so various that it is difilcult to say on which 
of them his final reputation will rest. But it is certain that he will long 
be esteemed for the grace, vivacity, and eloquence of the prose in which 
he placed before the world his views of such great American principles 
and personalities as are dealt with in the two following essays on "Democ- 
racy" and on "Abraham Lincoln." 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN 

1864-1865 

THERE have been many painful crises since the impatient 
vanity of South Carolina hurried ten prosperous Common- 
wealths into a crime whose assured retribution was to leave 
them either at the mercy of the nation they had wronged, or of the 
anarchy they had summoned but could not control, when no 
thoughtful American opened his morning paper without dreading 
to find that he had no longer a country to love and honor. What- 
ever the result of the convulsion whose first shocks were beginning 
to be felt, there would still be enough square miles of earth for 
elbow-room; but that ineffable sentiment made up of memory and 
hope, of instinct and tradition, which swells every man's heart and 
shapes his thought, though perhaps never present to his conscious- 
ness, would be gone from it, leaving it common earth and nothing 
more. Men might gather rich crops from it, but that ideal harvest 
of priceless associations would be reaped no longer; that fine virtue 
which sent up messages of courage and security from every sod of 
it would have evaporated beyond recall. We should be irrevocably 
cut off from our past, and be forced to splice the ragged ends of 
our lives upon whatever new conditions chance might leave dan- 
gling for us. 

We confess that we had our doubts at first whether the patriotism 
of our people were not too narrowly provincial to embrace the 
proportions of national peril. We felt an only too natural distrust 
of immense public meetings and enthusiastic cheers. 

That a reaction should follow the hoHday enthusiasm with which 
the war was entered on, that it should follow soon, and that the 
slackening of public spirit should be proportionate to the previous 
over-tension, might well be foreseen by all who had studied human 
nature or history. Men acting gregariously are always in extremes. 

By arrangement with Houghton Mifflin Company. 
429 



430 LOWELL 

As they are one moment capable of higher courage, so they are 
hable, the next, to baser depression, and it is often a matter of 
chance whether numbers shall multiply confidence or discour- 
agement. Nor does deception lead more surely to distrust of men 
than self-deception to suspicion of principles. The only faith that 
wears well and holds its color in all weathers is that which is woven 
of conviction and set with the sharp mordant of experience. En- 
thusiasm is good material for the orator, but the statesman needs 
something more durable to work in, — must be able to rely on the 
deliberate reason and consequent firmness of the people, without 
which that presence of mind, no less essential in times of moral than 
of material peril, will be wanting at the critical moment. Would 
this fervor of the Free States hold out? Was it kindled by a just 
feeling of the value of constitutional liberty? Had it body enough 
to withstand the inevitable dampening of checks, reverses, delays? 
Had our population intelligence enough to comprehend that the 
choice was between order and anarchy, between the equilibrium of 
a government by law and the tussle of misrule by pronunciamiento? 
Could a war be maintained without the ordinary stimulus of hatred 
and plunder, and with the impersonal loyalty of principle? These 
were serious questions, and with no precedent to aid in answering 
them. 

At the beginning of the war there was, indeed, occasion for the 
most anxious apprehension. A President known to be infected with 
the political heresies, and suspected of sympathy with the treason, 
of the Southern conspirators, had just surrendered the reins, we 
will not say of power, but of chaos, to a successor known only as 
the representative of a party whose leaders, with long training in 
opposition, had none in the conduct of affairs; an empty treasury 
was called on to supply resources beyond precedent in the history of 
finance; the trees were yet growing and the iron unmined with 
which a navy was to be built and armored; officers without discipline 
were to make a mob into an army; and, above all, the pubhc 
opinion of Europe, echoed and reinforced with every vague hint 
and every specious argument of despondency by a powerful faction 
at home, was either contemptuously sceptical or actively hostile. It 
would be hard to over-estimate the force of this latter element of 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN 43 1 

disintegration and discouragement among a people where every 
citizen at home, and every soldier in the field, is a reader o£ news- 
papers. The pedlers of rumor in the North were the most effective 
allies of the rebellion. A nation can be liable to no more insidious 
treachery than that of the telegraph, sending hourly its electric 
thrill of panic along the remotest nerves of the community, till the 
excited imagination makes every real danger loom heightened with 
its unreal double. 

And even if we look only at more palpable difSculties, the problem 
to be solved by our civil war was so vast, both in its immediate 
relations and its future consequences; the conditions of its solution 
were so intricate and so greatly dependent on incalculable and 
uncontrollable contingencies; so many of the data, whether for 
hope or fear, were, from their novelty, incapable of arrangement 
under any of the categories of historical precedent, that there were 
moments of crisis when the firmest believer in the strength and 
sufficiency of the democratic theory of government might well 
hold his breath in vague apprehension of disaster. Our teachers of 
political philosophy, solemnly arguing from the precedent of some 
petty Grecian, Italian, or Flemish city, whose long periods of aristoc- 
racy were broken now and then by awkward parentheses of mob, 
had always taught us that democracies were incapable of the senti- 
ment of loyalty, of concentrated and prolonged effort, of far-reaching 
conceptions; were absorbed in material interests; impatient of 
regular, and much more of exceptional restraint; had no natural 
nucleus of gravitation, nor any forces but centrifugal; were always 
on the verge of civil war, and slunk at last into the natural alms- 
house of bankrupt popular government, a military despotism. Here 
was indeed a dreary outlook for persons who knew democracy, not 
by rubbing shoulders with it lifelong, but merely from books, and 
America only by the report of some fellow-Briton, who, having 
eaten a bad dinner or lost a carpet-bag here, had written to the 
"Times" demanding redress, and drawing a mournful inference of 
democratic instability. Nor were men wanting among ourselves 
who had so steeped their brains in London literature as to mistake 
Cockneyism for European culture, and contempt of their country 
for cosmopolitan breadth of view, and who, owing all they had 



432 LOWELL 

and all they were to democracy, thought it had an air of high- 
breeding to join in the shallow epicedium that our bubble had burst. 
But beside any disheartening influences which might affect the 
timid or the despondent, there were reasons enough of settled gravity 
against any over-confidence of hope. A war — which, whether we 
consider the expanse of the territory at stake, the hosts brought into 
the field, or the reach of the principles involved, may fairly be 
reckoned the most momentous of modern times — was to be waged 
by a people divided at home, unnerved by fifty years of peace, under 
a chief magistrate without experience and without reputation, whose 
every measure was sure to be cunningly hampered by a jealous and 
unscrupulous minority, and who, while dealing with unheard-of 
complications at home, must soothe a hostile neutrality abroad, wait- 
ing only a pretext to become war. All this was to be done without 
warning and without preparation, while at the same time a social 
revolution was to be accomplished in the political condition of four 
millions of people, by softening the prejudices, allaying the fears, 
and gradually obtaining the cooperation, of their unwilling libera- 
tors. Surely, if ever there were an occasion when the heightened 
imagination of the historian might see Destiny visibly intervening 
in human affairs, here was a knot worthy of her shears. Never, 
perhaps, was any system of government tried by so continuous and 
searching a strain as ours during the last three years; never has 
any shown itself stronger; and never could that strength be so 
directly traced to the virtue and intelligence of the people, — to that 
general enlightenment and prompt efficiency of public opinion 
possible only under the influence of a political framework like our 
own. We find it hard to understand how even a foreigner should 
be blind to the grandeur of the combat of ideas that has been going 
on here, — to the heroic energy, persistency, and self-reliance of a 
nation proving that it knows how much dearer greatness is than 
mere power; and we own that it is impossible for us to conceive 
the mental and moral condition of the American who does not 
feel his spirit braced and heightened by being even a spectator of 
such qualities and achievements. That a steady purpose and a 
definite aim have been given to the jarring forces which, at the be- 
ginning of the war, spent themselves in the discussion of schemes 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN 433 

which could only become operative, if at all, after the war was over; 
that a popular excitement has been slowly intensified into an 
earnest national will; that a somewhat impracticable moral senti- 
ment has been made the unconscious instrument of a practical 
moral end; that the treason of covert enemies, the jealousy of rivals, 
the unwise zeal of friends, have been made not only useless for 
mischief, but even useful for good; that the conscientious sensitive- 
ness of England to the horrors of civil conflict has been prevented 
from complicating a domestic with a foreign war; — all these results, 
any one of which might suffice to prove greatness in a ruler, have 
been mainly due to the good sense, the good humor, the sagacity, 
the large-mindedpess, and the unselfish honesty of the unknown 
man whom a blind fortune, as it seemed, had lifted from the crowd 
to the most dangerous and difficult eminence of modern times. It 
is by presence of mind in untried emergencies that the native metal 
of a man is tested; it is by the sagacity to see, and the fearless honesty 
to admit, whatever of truth there may be in an adverse opinion, 
in order more convincingly to expose the fallacy that lurks behind 
it, that a reasoner at length gains for his mere statement of a fact 
the force of argument; it is by a wise forecast which allows hostile 
combinations to go so far as by the inevitable reaction to become 
elements of his own power, that a politician proves his genius for 
statecraft; and especially it is by so gently guiding public sentiment 
that he seems to follow it, by so yielding doubtful points that he 
can be firm without seeming obstinate in essential ones, and thus 
gain the advantages of compromise without the weakness of con- 
cession; by so instinctively comprehending the temper and preju- 
dices of a people as to make them gradually conscious of the superior 
wisdom of his freedom from temper and prejudice, — it is by qualities 
such as these that a magistrate shows himself worthy to be chief 
in a commonwealth of freemen. And it is for qualities such as 
these that we firmly believe History will rank Mr. Lincoln among 
the most prudent of statesmen and the most successful of rulers. If 
we wish to appreciate him, we have only to conceive the inevitable 
chaos in which we should now be weltering, had a weak man or 
an unwise one been chosen in his stead. 
"Bare is back," says the Norse proverb, "without brother behind 



434 LOWELL 

it"; and this is, by analogy, true of an elective magistracy. The 
hereditary ruler in any critical emergency may reckon on the inex- 
haustible resources of prestige, of sentiment, of superstition, of 
dependent interest, while the new man must slowly and painfully 
create all these out of the unwilling material around him, by supe- 
riority of character, by patient singleness of purpose, by sagacious 
presentiment of popular tendencies and instinctive sympathy with 
the national character. Mr. Lincoln's task was one of peculiar and 
exceptional difficulty. Long habit had accustomed the American 
people to the notion of a party in power, and of a President as its 
creature and organ, while the more vital fact, that the executive 
for the time being represents the abstract idea of government as a 
permanent principle superior to all party and all private interest, 
had gradually become unfamiliar. They had so long seen the public 
policy more or less directed by views of party, and often even of 
personal advantage, as to be ready to suspect the motives of a chief 
magistrate compelled, for the first time in our history, to feel him- 
self the head and hand of a great nation, and to act upon the 
fundamental maxim, laid down by all publicists, that the first duty 
of a government is to defend and maintain its own existence. 
Accordingly, a powerful weapon seemed to be put into the hands 
of the opposition by the necessity under which the administration 
found itself of applying this old truth to new relations. Nor were 
the opposition his only nor his most dangerous opponents. 

The Republicans had carried the country upon an issue in which 
ethics were more directly and visibly mingled with politics than 
usual. Their leaders were trained to a method of oratory which 
relied for its effect rather on the moral sense than the understanding. 
Their arguments were drawn, not so much from experience as from 
general principles of right and wrong. When the war came, their 
system continued to be applicable and effective, for here again the 
reason of the people was to be reached and kindled through their 
sentiments. It was one of those periods of excitement, gathering, 
contagious, universal, which, while they last, exalt and clarify the 
minds of men, giving to the mere words country, human rights, 
democracy , a meaning and a force beyond that of sober and logical 
argument. They were convictions, maintained and defended by the 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN 435 

supreme logic of passion. That penetrating fire ran in and roused 
those primary instincts that make their lair in the dens and caverns 
of the mind. What is called the great popular heart was awakened, 
that indefinable something which may be, according to circum- 
stances, the highest reason or the most brutish unreason. But en- 
thusiasm, once cold, can never be warmed over into anything better 
than cant, — and phrases, when once the inspiration that filled them 
with beneficent power has ebbed away, retain only that semblance 
of meaning which enables them to supplant reason in hasty minds. 
Among the lessons taught by the French Revolution there is none 
sadder or more striking than this, that you may make everything 
else out of the passions of men except a political system that will 
work, and that there is nothing so pitilessly and unconsciously cruel 
as sincerity formulated into dogma. It is always demoralizing to 
extend the domain of sentiment over questions where it has no 
legitimate jurisdiction; and perhaps the severest strain upon Mr. 
Lincoln was in resisting a tendency of his own supporters which 
chimed with his own private desires, while wholly opposed to his 
convictions of what would be wise policy. 

The change which three years have brought about is too remark- 
able to be passed over without comment, too weighty in its lesson 
not to be laid to heart. Never did a President enter upon office with 
less means at his command, outside his own strength of heart and 
steadiness of understanding, for inspiring confidence in the people, 
and so winning it for himself, than Mr. Lincoln. All that was 
known of him was that he was a good stump-speaker, nominated 
for his availability, — that is, because he had no history, — and chosen 
by a party with whose more extreme opinions he was not in sym- 
pathy. It might well be feared that a man past fifty, against whom 
the ingenuity of hostile partisans could rake up no accusation, must 
be lacking in manliness of character, in decision of principle, in 
strength of will; that a man who was at best only the representative 
of a party, and who yet did not fairly represent even that, would 
fail of political, much more of popular, support. And certainly no 
one ever entered upon office with so few resources of power in the 
past, and so many materials of weakness in the present, as Mr. 
Lincoln. Even in that half of the Union which acknowledged him 



436 LOWELL 

as President, there was a large and at that time dangerous minority, 
that hardly admitted his claim to the office, and even in the party 
that elected him there was also a large minority that suspected him 
of being secretly a communicant with the church of Laodicea. All 
that he did was sure to be virulently attacked as ultra by one side; 
all that he left undone, to be stigmatized as proof of lukewarmness 
and backsliding by the other. Meanwhile, he was to carry on a truly 
colossal war by means of both; he was to disengage the country 
from diplomatic entanglements of unprecedented peril undisturbed 
by the help or the hindrance of either, and to win from the crown- 
ing dangers of his administration, in the confidence of the people, 
the means of his safety and their own. He has contrived to do it, 
and perhaps none of our Presidents since Washington has stood so 
firm in the confidence of the people as he does after three years of 
stormy administration. 

Mr. Lincoln's policy was a tentative one, and rightly so. He laid 
down no programme which must compel him to be either incon- 
sistent or unwise, no cast-iron theorem to which circumstances must 
be fitted as they rose, or else be useless to his ends. He seemed to 
have chosen Mazarin's motto, Le temps et mot. The moi, to be sure, 
was not very prominent at first; but it has grown more and more so, 
till the world is beginning to be persuaded that it stands for a 
character of marked individuality and capacity of affairs. Time was 
his prime-minister, and, we began to think, at one period, his 
general-in-chief also. At first he was so slow that he tired out all 
those who see no evidence of progress but in blowing up the engine; 
then he was so fast, that he took the breath away from those who 
think there is no getting on safely while there is a spark of fire 
under the boilers. God is the only being who has time enough; 
but a prudent man, who knows how to seize occasion, can com- 
monly make a shift to find as much as he needs. Mr. Lincoln, as 
it seems to us in reviewing his career, though we have sometimes 
in our impatience thought otherwise, has always waited, as a wise 
man should, till the right moment brought up all his reserves. 
Semper nocuit differre paratis is a sound axiom, but the really 
efficacious man will also be sure to know when he is not ready, and 
be firm against all persuasion and reproach till he is. 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN 437 

One would be apt to think, from some of the criticisms made on 
Mr. Lincoln's course by those who mainly agree with him in prin- 
ciple, that the chief object of a statesman should be rather to pro- 
claim his adhesion to certain doctrines, than to achieve their triumph 
by quietly accomplishing his ends. In our opinion, there is no more 
unsafe politician than a conscientiously rigid doctrinaire, nothing 
more sure to end in disaster than a theoretic scheme of policy that 
admits of no pliability for contingencies. True, there is a popular 
image of an impossible He, in whose plastic hands the submissive 
destinies of mankind become as wax, and to whose commanding 
necessity the toughest facts yield with the graceful pliancy of fiction; 
but in real life we commonly find that the men who control cir- 
cumstances, as it is called, are those who have learned to allow for the 
influence of their eddies, and have the nerve to turn them to account 
at the happy instant. Mr. Lincoln's perilous task has been to carry 
a rather shaky raft through the rapids, making fast the unrulier 
logs as he could snatch opportunity, and the country is to be con- 
gratulated that he did not think it his duty to run straight at all 
hazards, but cautiously to assure himself with his setting-pole where 
the main current was, and keep steadily to that. He is still in wild 
water, but we have faith that his skill and sureness of eye will 
bring him out right at last. 

A curious, and, as we think, not inapt parallel might be drawn 
between Mr. Lincoln and one of the most striking figures in modern 
history, — Henry IV. of France. The career of the latter may be 
more picturesque, as that of a daring captain always is; but in all 
its vicissitudes there is nothing more romantic than that sudden 
change, as by a rub of Aladdin's lamp, from the attorney's office in 
a country town of Illinois to the helm of a great nation in times like 
these. The analogy between the characters and circumstances of 
the two men is in many respects singularly close. Succeeding to a 
rebellion rather than a crown, Henry's chief material dependence 
was the Huguenot party, whose doctrines sat upon him with a loose- 
ness distasteful certainly, if not suspicious, to the more fanatical 
among them. King only in name over the greater part of France, 
and with his capital barred against him, it yet gradually became clear 
to the more far-seeing even of the Catholic party that he was the 



438 LOWELL 

only centre o£ order and legitimate authority round which France 
could reorganize itself. While preachers who held the divine right 
of kings made the churches of Paris ring with declamations in favor 
of democracy rather than submit to the heretic dog of a Bearnois, 
— much as our soi-disant Democrats have lately been preaching the 
divine right of slavery, and denouncing the heresies of the Declara- 
tion of Independence, — Henry bore both parties in hand till he was 
convinced that only one course of action could possibly combine 
his own interests and those of France. Meanwhile the Protestants 
believed somewhat doubtfully that he was theirs, the Catholics 
hoped somewhat doubtfully that he would be theirs, and Henry 
himself turned aside remonstrance, advice, and curiosity alike with 
a jest or a proverb (if a little high, he liked them none the worse), 
joking continually as his manner was. We have seen Mr. Lincoln 
contemptuously compared to Sancho Panza by persons incapable 
of appreciating one of the deepest pieces of wisdom in the pro- 
foundest romance ever written; namely, that, while Don Quixote 
was incomparable in theoretic and ideal statesmanship, Sancho, 
with his stock of proverbs, the ready money of human experience, 
made the best possible practical governor. Henry IV. was as full of 
wise saws and modern instances as Mr. Lincoln, but beneath all 
this was the thoughtful, practical, humane, and thoroughly earnest 
man, around whom the fragments of France were to gather them- 
selves till she took her place again as a planet of the first magnitude 
in the European system. In one respect Mr. Lincoln was more 
fortunate than Henry. However some may think him wanting in 
zeal, the most fanatical can find no taint of apostasy in any measure 
of his, nor can the most bitter charge him with being influenced by 
motives of personal interest. The leading distinction between the 
policies of the two is one of circumstances. Henry went over to 
the nation; Mr. Lincoln has steadily drawn the nation over to him. 
One left a united France; the other, we hope and believe, will leave 
a reunited America. We leave our readers to trace the further points 
of difference and resemblance for themselves, merely suggesting a 
general similarity which has often occurred to us. One only point 
of melancholy interest we will allow ourselves to touch upon. That 
Mr. Lincoln is not handsome nor elegant, we learn from certain 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN 439 

English tourists who would consider similar revelations in regard 
to Queen Victoria as thoroughly American in their want of 
bienseance. It is no concern of ours, nor does it affect his fitness for 
the high place he so worthily occupies; but he is certainly as for- 
tunate as Henry in the matter of good looks, if we may trust con- 
temporary evidence. Mr. Lincoln has also been reproached with 
Americanism by some not unfriendly British critics; but, with all 
deference, we cannot say that we like him any the worse for it, 
or see in it any reason why he should govern Americans the less 
wisely. 

People of more sensitive organizations may be shocked, but we 
are glad that in this our true war of independence, which is to free 
us forever from the Old World, we have had at the head of our 
affairs a man whom America made, as God made Adam, out of 
the very earth, unancestried, unprivileged, unknown, to show us 
how much truth, how much magnanimity, and how much state- 
craft await the call of opportunity in simple manhood when it 
believes in the justice of God and the worth of man. Convention- 
alities are all very well in their proper place, but they shrivel at 
the touch of nature like stubble in the fire. The genius that sways 
a nation by its arbitrary will seems less august to us than that which 
multiplies and reinforces itself in the instincts and convictions of an 
entire people. Autocracy may have something in it more melo- 
dramatic than this, but falls far short of it in human value and 
interest. 

Experience would have bred in us a rooted distrust of improvised 
statesmanship, even if we did not believe politics to be a science, 
which, if it cannot always command men of special aptitude and 
great powers, at least demands the long and steady application of 
the best powers of such men as it can command to master even its 
first principles. It is curious, that, in a country which boasts of its 
intelligence, the theory should be so generally held that the most 
complicated of human contrivances, and one which every day be- 
comes more complicated, can be worked at sight by any man able 
to talk for an hour or two without stopping to think. 

Mr. Lincoln is sometimes claimed as an example of a ready-made 
ruler. But no case could well be less in point; for, besides that he 



44° LOWELL 

was a man of such fair-mindedness as is always the raw material 
of wisdom, he had in his profession a training precisely the oppo- 
site of that to which a partisan is subjected. His experience as a 
lawyer compelled him not only to see that there is a principle under- 
lying every phenomenon in human affairs, but that there are always 
two sides to every question, both of which must be fully understood 
in order to understand either, and that it is of greater advantage 
to an advocate to appreciate the strength than the weakness of his 
antagonist's position. Nothing is more remarkable than the unerring 
tact with which, in his debate with Mr. Douglas, he went straight 
to the reason of the question; nor have we ever had a more striking 
lesson in political tactics than the fact, that, opposed to a man 
exceptionally adroit in using popular prejudice and bigotry to his 
purpose, exceptionally unscrupulous in appealing to those baser 
motives that turn a meeting of citizens into a mob of barbarians, 
he should yet have won his case before a jury of the people. Mr. 
Lincoln was as far as possible from an impromptu politician. His 
wisdom was made up of a knowledge of things as well as of men; 
his sagacity resulted from a clear perception and honest acknowl- 
edgment of difficulties, which enabled him to see that the only 
durable triumph of political opinion is based, not on any abstract 
right, but upon so much of justice, the highest attainable at any 
given moment in human affairs, as may be had in the balance of 
mutual concession. Doubtless he had an ideal, but it was the ideal 
of a practical statesman, — to aim at the best, and to take the next 
best, if he is lucky enough to get even that. His slow, but singu- 
larly masculine, intelligence taught him that precedent is only an- 
other name for embodied experience, and that it counts for even 
more in the guidance of communities of men than in that of the 
individual life. He was not a man who held it good public economy 
to pull down on the mere chance of rebuilding better. Mr. Lincoln's 
faith in God was qualified by a very well-founded distrust of the 
wisdom of man. Perhaps it was his want of self-confidence that 
more than anything else won him the unlimited confidence of the 
people, for they felt that there would be no need of retreat from 
any position he had deliberately taken. The cautious, but steady, 
advance of his policy during the war was like that of a Roman army. 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN 44 1 

He left behind him a firm road on which pubhc confidence could 
follow; he took America with him where he went; what he gained 
he occupied, and his advanced posts became colonies. The very 
homeliness of his genius was its distinction. His kingship was 
conspicuous by its workday homespun. Never was ruler so abso- 
lute as he, nor so little conscious of it; for he was the incarnate 
common-sense of the people. With all that tenderness of nature 
whose sweet sadness touched whoever saw him with something of 
its own pathos, there was no trace of sentimentalism in his speech 
or action. He seems to have had but one rule of conduct, always 
that of practical and successful politics, to let himself be guided 
by events, when they were sure to bring him out where he wished 
to go, though by what seemed to unpractical minds, which let go 
the possible to grasp at the desirable, a longer road. 

Undoubtedly the highest function of statesmanship is by degrees 
to accommodate the conduct of communities to ethical laws, and 
to subordinate the conflicting self-interests of the day to higher and 
more permanent concerns. But it is on the understanding, and not 
on the sentiment, of a nation that all safe legislation must be based. 
Voltaire's saying, that "a consideration of petty circumstances is 
the tomb of great things," may be true of individual men, but it 
certainly is not true of governments. It is by a multitude of such 
considerations, each in itself trifling, but all together weighty, that 
the framers of policy can alone divine what is practicable and 
therefore wise. The imputation of inconsistency is one to which 
every sound politician and every honest thinker must sooner or 
later subject himself. The foolish and the dead alone never change 
their opinion. The course of a great statesman resembles that of 
navigable rivers, avoiding immovable obstacles with noble bends of 
concession, seeking the broad levels of opinion on which men 
soonest settle and longest dwell, following and marking the almost 
imperceptible slopes of national tendency, yet always aiming at 
direct advances, always recruited from sources nearer heaven, and 
sometimes bursting open paths of progress and fruitful human 
commerce through what seem the eternal barriers of both. It is 
loyalty to great ends, even though forced to combine the small and 
opposing motives of selfish men to accomplish them; it is the 



442 LOWELL 

anchored cling to solid principles of duty and action, which knows 
how to swing with the tide, but is never carried away by it, — that 
we demand in public men, and not obstinacy in prejudice, same- 
ness of policy, or a conscientious persistency in what is impracticable. 
For the impracticable, however theoretically enticing, is always 
politically unwise, sound statesmanship being the application of 
that prudence to the public business which is the safest guide in 
that of private men. 

No doubt slavery was the most delicate and embarrassing ques- 
tion with which Mr. Lincoln was called on to deal, and it was one 
which no man in his position, whatever his opinions, could evade; 
for, though he might withstand the clamor of partisans, he must 
sooner or later yield to the persistent importunacy of circumstances, 
which thrust the problem upon him at every turn and in every shape. 

It has been brought against us as an accusation abroad and repeated 
here by people who measure their country rather by what is thought 
of it than by what it is, that our war has not been distinctly and 
avowedly for the extinction of slavery, but a war rather for the 
preservation of our national power and greatness, in which the 
emancipation of the negro has been forced upon us by circumstances 
and accepted as a necessity. We are very far from denying this; 
nay, we admit that it is so far true that we were slow to renounce 
our constitutional obligations even toward those who had absolved 
us by their own act from the letter of our duty. We are speaking 
of the government which, legally installed for the whole country, 
was bound, so long as it was possible, not to overstep the limits of 
orderly prescription, and could not, without abnegating its own very 
nature, take the lead in making rebellion an excuse for revolution. 
There were, no doubt, many ardent and sincere persons who seemed 
to think this as simple a thing to do as to lead off a Virginia reel. 
They forgot what should be forgotten least of all in a system like 
ours, that the administration for the time being represents not only 
the majority which elects it, but the minority as well, — a minority 
in this case powerful, and so little ready for emancipation that it 
was opposed even to war. Mr. Lincoln had not been chosen as 
general agent of an antislavery society, but President of the United 
States, to perform certain functions exactly defined by law. What- 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN 443 

ever were his wishes, it was no less duty than poHcy to mark out for 
himself a line of action that would not further distract the country, 
by raising before their time questions which plainly would soon 
enough compel attention, and for which every day was making the 
answer more easy. 

Meanwhile he must solve the riddle of this new Sphinx, or be 
devoured. Though Mr. Lincoln's policy in this critical affair has 
not been such as to satisfy those who demand an heroic treatment 
for even the most trifling occasion, and who will not cut their coat 
according to their cloth, unless they can borrow the scissors of 
Atropos, it has been at least not unworthy of the long-headed king 
of Ithaca. Mr. Lincoln had the choice of Bassanio offered him. 
Which of the three caskets held the prize that was to redeem the 
fortunes of the country.'' There was the golden one whose showy 
speciousness might have tempted a vain man; the silver of compro- 
mise, which might have decided the choice of a merely acute one; and 
the leaden, — dull and homely looking, as prudence always is, — yet 
with something about it sure to attract the eye of practical wisdom. 
Mr. Lincoln dallied with his decision perhaps longer than seemed 
needful to those on whom its awful responsibility was not to rest, 
but when he made it, it was worthy of his cautious but sure-footed 
understanding. The moral of the Sphinx-riddle, and it is a deep 
one, lies in the childish simplicity of the solution. Those who fail 
in guessing it, fail because they are over-ingenious, and cast about 
for an answer that shall suit their own notion of the gravity of the 
occasion and of their own dignity, rather than the occasion itself. 

In a matter which must be finally settled by public opinion, and in 
regard to which the ferment of prejudice and passion on both sides 
has not yet subsided to that equilibrium of compromise from which 
alone a sound public opinion can result, it is proper enough for 
the private citizen to press his own convictions with all possible 
force of argument and persuasion; but the popular magistrate, 
whose judgment must become action, and whose action involves the 
whole country, is bound to wait till the sentiment of the people is 
so far advanced toward his own point of view, that what he does 
shall find support in it, instead of merely confusing it with new 
elements of division. It was not unnatural that men earnestly 



444 LOWELL 

devoted to the saving of their country, and profoundly convinced 
that slavery was its only real enemy, should demand a decided policy 
round which all patriots might rally, — and this might have been 
the wisest course for an absolute ruler. But in the then unsettled 
state of the public mind, with a large party decrying even resistance 
to the slaveholder's rebellion as not only unwise, but even unlawful; 
with a majority, perhaps, even of the would-be loyal so long accus- 
tomed to regard the Constitution as a deed of gift conveying to 
the South their own judgment as to policy and instinct as to right, 
that they were in doubt at first whether their loyalty were due to 
the country or to slavery; and with a respectable body of honest 
and influential men who still believed in the possibility of con- 
ciliation, — Mr. Lincoln judged wisely, that, in laying down a policy 
in deference to one party, he should be giving to the other the very 
fulcrum for which their disloyalty had been waiting. 

It behooved a clear-headed man in his position not to yield so 
far to an honest indignation against the brokers of treason in the 
North as to lose sight of the materials for misleading which were 
their stock in trade, and to forget that it is not the falsehood of 
sophistry which is to be feared, but the grain of truth mingled with 
it to make it specious, — that it is not the knavery of the leaders so 
much as the honesty of the followers they may seduce, that gives 
them power for evil. It was especially his duty to do nothing which 
might help the people to forget the true cause of the war in fruitless 
disputes about its inevitable consequences. 

The doctrine of state rights can be so handled by an adroit 
demagogue as easily to confound the distinction between liberty 
and lawlessness in the minds of ignorant persons, accustomed always 
to be influenced by the sound of certain words, rather than to reflect 
upon the principles which give them meaning. For, though Seces- 
sion involves the manifest absurdity of denying to a State the right of 
making war against any foreign power while permitting it against 
the United States; though it supposes a compact of mutual con- 
cessions and guaranties among States without any arbiter in case of 
dissension; though it contradicts common-sense in assuming that 
the men who framed our government did not know what they 
meant when they substituted Union for Confederation; though it 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN 445 

falsifies history, which shows that the main opposition to the adop- 
tion of the Constitution was based on the argument that it did not 
allow that independence in the several States which alone would 
justify them in seceding; — yet, as slavery was universally admitted 
to be a reserved right, an inference could be drawn from any direct 
attack upon it (though only in self-defence) to a natural right of 
resistance, logical enough to satisfy minds untrained to detect fal- 
lacy, as the majority of men always are, and now too much disturbed 
by the disorder of the times to consider that the order of events had 
any legitimate bearing on the argument. Though Mr. Lincoln was 
too sagacious to give the Northern allies of the Rebels the occasion 
they desired and even strove to provoke, yet from the beginning of 
the war the most persistent efforts have been made to confuse the 
public mind as to its origin and motives, and to drag the people of 
the loyal States down from the national position they had instinc- 
tively taken to the old level of party squabbles and antipathies. The 
wholly unprovoked rebellion of an oligarchy proclaiming negro 
slavery the corner-stone of free institutions, and in the first flush of 
over-hasty confidence venturing to parade the logical sequence of 
their leading dogma, "that slavery is right in principle, and has 
nothing to do with difference of complexion," has been represented 
as a legitimate and gallant attempt to maintain the true principles 
of democracy. The rightful endeavor of an established government, 
the least onerous that ever existed, to defend itself against a treacher- 
ous attack on its very existence, has been cunningly made to seem 
the wicked effort of a fanatical clique to force its doctrines on an 
oppressed population. 

Even so long ago as when Mr. Lincoln, not yet convinced of the 
danger and magnitude of the crisis, was endeavoring to persuade 
himself of Union majorities at the South, and to carry on a war 
that was half peace in the hope of a peace that would have been all 
war, — while he was still enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law, under 
some theory that Secession, however it might absolve States from 
their obligations, could not escheat them of their claims under the 
Constitution, and that slaveholders in rebellion had alone among 
mortals the privilege of having their cake and eating it at the same 
time, — the enemies of free government were striving to persuade 



446 LOWELL 

the people that the war was an Abolition crusade. To rebel without 
reason was proclaimed as one o£ the rights of man, while it was 
carefully kept out of sight that to suppress rebellion is the first duty 
of government. All the evils that have come upon the country have 
been attributed to the Abolitionists, though it is hard to see how 
any party can become permanently powerful except in one of two 
ways, — either by the greater truth of its principles, or the extrava- 
gance of the party opposed to it. To fancy the ship of state, riding 
safe at her constitutional moorings, suddenly engulfed by a huge 
kraken of Abolitionism, rising from unknown depths and grasping 
it with slimy tentacles, is to look at the natural history of the matter 
with the eyes of Pontoppidan. To believe that the leaders in the 
Southern treason feared any danger from Abolitionism would be 
to deny them ordinary intelligence, though there can be little doubt 
that they made use of it to stir the passions and excite the fears of 
their deluded accomplices. They rebelled, not because they thought 
slavery weak, but because they believed it strong enough, not to 
overthrow the government, but to get possession of it; for it be- 
comes daily clearer that they used rebellion only as a means of 
revolution, and if they got revolution, though not in the shape they 
looked for, is the American people to save them from its conse- 
quences at the cost of its own existence? The election of Mr. 
Lincoln, which it was clearly in their power to prevent had they 
wished, was the occasion merely, and not the cause, of their revolt. 
Abolitionism, till within a year or two, was the despised heresy of a 
few earnest persons, without political weight enough to carry the 
election of a parish constable; and their cardinal principle was dis- 
union, because they were convinced that within the Union the 
position of slavery was impregnable. In spite of the proverb, great 
effects do not follow from small causes, — that is, disproportionately 
small, — but from adequate causes acting under certain required 
conditions. To contrast the size of the oak with that of the parent 
acorn, as if the poor seed had paid all costs from its slender strong- 
box, may serve for a child's wonder; but the real miracle lies in 
that divine league which bound all the forces of nature to the 
service of the tiny germ in fulfilling its destiny. Everything has 
been at work for the past ten years in the cause of anti-slavery, but 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN 447 

Garrison and Phillips have been far less successful propagandists 
than the slaveholders themselves, with the constantly growing arro- 
gance of their pretensions and encroachments. They have forced 
the question upon the attention of every voter in the Free States, 
by defiantly putting freedom and democracy on the defensive. But, 
even after the Kansas outrages, there was no wide-spread desire 
on the part of the North to commit aggressions, though there was 
a growing determination to resist them. The popular unanimity in 
favor of the war three years ago was but in small measure the 
result of anti-slavery sentiment, far less of any zeal for abolition. 
But every month of the war, every movement of the allies of slavery 
in the Free States, has been making Abolitionists by the thousand. 
The masses of any people, however intelligent, are very little moved 
by abstract principles of humanity and justice, until those principles 
are interpreted for them by the stinging commentary of some in- 
fringement upon their own rights, and then their instincts and 
passions, once aroused, do indeed derive an incalculable reinforce- 
ment of impulse and intensity from those higher ideas, those sublime 
traditions, which have no motive political force till they are allied 
with a sense of immediate personal wrong or imminent peril. Then 
at last the stars in their courses begin to fight against Sisera. Had 
any one doubted before that the rights of human nature are unitary, 
that oppression is of one hue the world over, no matter what the 
color of the oppressed, — had any one failed to see what the real 
essence of the contest was, — the efforts of the advocates of slavery 
among ourselves to throw discredit upon the fundamental axioms 
of the Declaration of Independence and the radical doctrines of 
Christianity could not fail to sharpen his eyes. 

While every day was bringing the people nearer to the conclusion 
which all thinking men saw to be inevitable from the beginning, 
it was wise in Mr. Lincoln to leave the shaping of his policy to 
events. In this country, where the rough and ready understanding 
of the people is sure at last to be the controlling power, a profound 
common-sense is the best genius for statesmanship. Hitherto, the 
wisdom of the President's measures has been justified by the fact 
that they have always resulted in more firmly uniting public opinion. 
One of the things particularly admirable in the public utterances 



448 LOWELL 

of President Lincoln is a certain tone of familiar dignity, which, 
while it is perhaps the most difficult attainment of mere style, is 
also no doubtful indication of personal character. There must be 
something essentially noble in an elective ruler who can descend 
to the level of confidential ease without forfeiting respect, some- 
thing very manly in one who can break through the etiquette of 
his conventional rank and trust himself to the reason and intelli- 
gence of those who have elected him. No higher compliment was 
ever paid to a nation than the simple confidence, the fireside plain- 
ness, with which Mr. Lincoln always addresses himself to the reason 
of the American people. This was, indeed, a true democrat, who 
grounded himself on the assumption that a democracy can think. 
"Come, let us reason together about this matter," has been the tone 
of all his addresses to the people; and accordingly we have never 
had a chief magistrate who so won to himself the love and at the 
same time the judgment of his countrymen. To us, that simple 
confidence of his in the right-mindedness of his fellow-men is very 
touching, and its success is as strong an argument as we have ever 
seen in favor of the theory that men can govern themselves. He 
never appeals to any vulgar sentiment, he never alludes to the 
humbleness of his origin; it probably never occurred to him, indeed, 
that there was anything higher to start from than manhood; and 
he put himself on a level with those he addressed, not by going down 
to them, but only by taking it for granted that they had brains and 
would come up to a common ground of reason. In an article lately 
printed in "The Nation," Mr. Bayard Taylor mentions the striking 
fact, that in the foulest dens of the Five Points he found the por- 
trait of Lincoln. The wretched population that makes its hive there 
threw all its votes and more against him, and yet paid this instinctive 
tribute to the sweet humanity of his nature. Their ignorance sold 
its vote and took its money, but all that was left of manhood in them 
recognized its saint and martyr. 

Mr. Lincoln is not in the habit of saying, "This is my opinion, 
or my theory," but, "This is the conclusion to which, in my judg- 
ment, the time has come, and to which, accordingly, the sooner we 
come the better for us." His policy has been the policy of public 
opinion based on adequate discussion and on a timely recognition 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN 449 

o£ the influence of passing events in shaping the features of events 
to come. 

One secret of Mr. Lincoln's remarkable success in captivating the 
popular mind is undoubtedly an unconsciousness of self which 
enables him, though under the necessity of constantly using the 
capital /, to do it without any suggestion of egotism. There is no 
single vowel which men's mouths can pronounce with such differ- 
ence of effect. That which one shall hide away, as it were, behind 
the substance of his discourse, or, if he bring it to the front, shall 
use merely to give an agreeable accent of individuality to what he 
says, another shall make an offensive challenge to the self-satisfaction 
of all his hearers, and an unwarranted intrusion upon each man's 
sense of personal importance, irritating every pore of his vanity, like 
a dry northeast wind, to a goose-flesh of opposition and hostility. 
Mr. Lincoln has never studied Quinctilian; but he has, in the 
earnest simplicity and unaffected Americanism of his own charac- 
ter, one art of oratory worth all the rest. He forgets himself so 
entirely in his object as to give his / the sympathetic and persuasive 
effect of We with the great body of his countrymen. Homely, 
dispassionate, showing all the rough-edged process of his thought 
as it goes along, yet arriving at his conclusions with an honest kind 
of every-day logic, he is so eminently our representative man, that, 
when he speaks, it seems as if the people were listening to their 
own thinking aloud. The dignity of his thought owes nothing to 
any ceremonial garb of words, but to the manly movement that 
comes of settled purpose and an energy of reason that knows not 
what rhetoric means. There has been nothing of Cleon, still less 
of Strepsiades striving to underbid him in demagogism, to be found 
in the public utterances of Mr. Lincoln. He has always addressed 
the intelligence of men, never their prejudice, their passion, or their 
ignorance. 

On the day of his death, this simple Western attorney, who 
according to one party was a vulgar joker, and whom the doc- 
trinaires among his own supporters accused of wanting every ele- 
ment of statesmanship, was the most absolute ruler in Christendom, 
and this solely by the hold his good-humored sagacity had laid 
on the hearts and understandings of his countrymen. Nor was 



450 LOWELL 

this all, for it appeared that he had drawn the great majority, not 
only of his fellow-citizens, but of mankind also, to his side. So 
strong and so persuasive is honest manliness without a single quality 
of romance or unreal sentiment to help it! A civilian during times 
of the most captivating military achievement, awkward, wdth no 
skill in the lower technicalities of manners, he left behind him a 
fame beyond that of any conqueror, the memory of a grace higher 
than that of outward person, and of a gentlemanliness deeper than 
mere breeding. Never before that startled April morning did such 
multitudes of men shed tears for the death of one they had never 
seen, as if with him a friendly presence had been taken away from 
their lives, leaving them colder and darker. Never was funeral 
panegyric so eloquent as the silent look of sympathy which strangers 
exchanged when they met on that day. Their common manhood 
had lost a kinsman. 



DEMOCRACY 

Inaugural Address on Assuming the Presidency of the 
Birmingham and Midland Institute, Birming- 
ham, England, 6 October, 1884 

HE must be a born leader or misleader of men, or must have 
been sent into the world unfurnished with that modulating 
and restraining balance-wheel which we call a sense of 
humor, who, in old age, has as strong a confidence in his opinions 
and in the necessity of bringing the universe into conformity with 
them as he had in youth. In a world the very condition of whose 
being is that it should be in perpetual flux, where all seems mirage, 
and the one abiding thing is the effort to distinguish realities from 
appearances, the elderly man must be indeed of a singularly tough 
and valid fibre who is certain that he has any clarified residuum of 
experience, any assured verdict of reflection, that deserves to be 
called an opinion, or who, even if he had, feels that he is justified 
in holding mankind by the button while he is expounding it. And 
in a world of daily — nay, almost hourly — journalism, where every 
clever man, every man who thinks himself clever, or whom any- 
body else thinks clever, is called upon to deliver his judgment point- 
blank and at the word of command on every conceivable subject 
of human thought, or on what sometimes seems to him very much 
the same thing, on every inconceivable display of human want of 
thought, there is such a spendthrift waste of all those commonplaces 
which furnish the permitted staple of public discourse that there is 
little chance of beguiling a new tune out of the one-stringed instru- 
ment on which we have been thrumming so long. In this des- 
perate necessity one is often tempted to think that, if all the words 
of the dictionary were tumbled down in a heap and then all those 

Copyright, 1886, by James Russell Lowell. 
Published by arrangement with Houghton MifBin Company. 

451 



452 LOWELL 

fortuitous juxtapositions and combinations that made tolerable sense 
were picked out and pieced together, we might find among them 
some poignant suggestions towards novelty of thought or expres- 
sion. But, alas! it is only the great poets who seem to have this 
unsolicited profusion of unexpected and incalculable phrase, this 
infinite variety of topic. For everybody else everything has been said 
before, and said over again after. He who has read his Aristotle 
will be apt to think that observation has on most points of general 
applicability said its last word, and he who has mounted the tower 
of Plato to look abroad from it will never hope to climb another 
with so lofty a vantage of speculation. Where it is so simple if 
not so easy a thing to hold one's peace, why add to the general 
confusion of tongues? There is something disheartening, too, in 
being expected to fill up not less than a certain measure of time, as 
if the mind were an hour-glass, that need only be shaken and set 
on one end or the other, as the case may be, to run its allotted sixty 
minutes with decorous exactitude. I recollect being once told by 
the late eminent naturalist, Agassiz, that when he was to deliver his 
first lecture as professor (at Zurich, I believe) he had grave doubts 
of his ability to occupy the prescribed three quarters of an hour. He 
was speaking without notes, and glancing anxiously from time to 
time at the watch that lay before him on the desk. "When I had 
spoken a half hour," he said, "I had told them everything I knew in 
the world, everything! Then I began to repeat myself," he added, 
roguishly, "and I have done nothing else ever since." Beneath the 
humorous exaggeration of the story I seemed to see the face of a 
very serious and improving moral. And yet if one were to say only 
what he had to say and then stopped, his audience would feel 
defrauded of their honest measure. Let us take courage by the 
example of the French, whose exportation of Bordeaux wines 
increases as the area of their land in vineyards is diminished. 

To me, somewhat hopelessly revolving these things, the undelay- 
able year has rolled round, and I find myself called upon to say 
something in this place, where so many wiser men have spoken 
before me. Precluded, in my quality of national guest, by motives 
of taste and discretion, from dealing with any question of imme- 
diate and domestic concern, it seemed to me wisest, or at any rate 



DEMOCRACY 453 

most prudent, to choose a topic of comparatively abstract interest, 
and to ask your indulgence for a few somewhat generalized re- 
marks on a matter concerning which I had some experimental 
knowledge, derived from the use of such eyes and ears as Nature 
had been pleased to endow me withal, and such report as I had 
been able to win from them. The subject which most readily 
suggested itself was the spirit and the working of those conceptions 
of life and polity which are lumped together, whether for reproach 
or commendation, under the name of Democracy. By temperament 
and education of a conservative turn, I saw the last years of that 
quaint Arcadia which French travellers saw with delighted amaze- 
ment a century ago, and have watched the change (to me a sad 
one) from an agricultural to a proletary population. The testimony 
of Balaam should carry some conviction. I have grown to manhood 
and am now growing old with the growth of this system of govern- 
ment in my native land, have watched its advances, or what some 
would call its encroachments, gradual and irresistible as those of a 
glacier, have been an ear-witness to the forebodings of wise and 
good and timid men, and have lived to see those forebodings belied 
by the course of events, which is apt to show itself humorously 
careless of the reputation of prophets. I recollect hearing a sagacious 
old gentleman say in 1840 that the doing away with the property 
qualification for suffrage twenty years before had been the ruin of 
the State of Massachusetts; that it had put public credit and private 
estate alike at the mercy of demagogues. I lived to see that Com- 
monwealth twenty odd years later paying the interest on her bonds 
in gold, though it cost her sometimes nearly three for one to keep 
her faith, and that while suffering an unparalleled drain of men 
and treasure in helping to sustain the unity and self-respect of the 
nation. 

If universal suffrage has worked ill in our larger cities, as it 
certainly has, this has been mainly because the hands that wielded 
it were untrained to its use. There the election of a majority of 
the trustees of the public money is controlled by the most ignorant 
and vicious of a population which has come to us from abroad, 
wholly unpractised in self-government and incapable of assimilation 
by American habits and methods. But the finances of our towns, 



454 LOWELL 

where the native tradition is still dominant and whose affairs are 
discussed and settled in a public assembly o£ the people, have been 
in general honestly and prudently administered. Even in manu- 
facturing towns, where a majority of the voters live by their daily 
wages, it is not so often the recklessness as the moderation of public 
expenditure that surprises an old-fashioned observer. "The beggar 
is in the saddle at last," cries Proverbial Wisdom. "Why, in the 
name of all former experience, doesn't he ride to the Devil?" Be- 
cause in the very act of mounting he ceased to be a beggar and 
became part owner of the piece of property he bestrides. The last 
thing we need be anxious about is property. It always has friends 
or the means of making them. If riches have wings to fly away 
from their owner, they have wings also to escape danger. 

I hear America sometimes playfully accused of sending you all 
your storms, and am in the habit of parrying the charge by alleging 
that we are enabled to do this because, in virtue of our protective 
system, we can afford to make better bad weather than anybody 
else. And what wiser use could we make of it than to export it in 
return for the paupers which some European countries are good 
enough to send over to us who have not attained to the same skill 
in the manufacture of them? But bad weather is not the worst 
thing that is laid at our door. A French gentleman, not long ago, 
forgetting Burke's monition of how unwise it is to draw an indict- 
ment against a whole people, has charged us with the responsibility 
of whatever he finds disagreeable in the morals or manners of his 
countrymen. If M. Zola or some other competent witness would 
only go into the box and tell us what those morals and manners 
were before our example corrupted them! But I confess that I find 
little to interest and less to edify me in these international bandyings 
of "You're another." 

I shall address myself to a single point only in the long list of 
offences of which we are more or less gravely accused, because that 
really includes all the rest. It is that we are infecting the Old World 
with what seems to be thought the entirely new disease of Democ- 
racy. It is generally people who are in what are called easy circum- 
stances who can afford the leisure to treat themselves to a handsome 
complaint, and these experience an immediate alleviation when once 



DEMOCRACY 455 

they have found a sonorous Greek name to abuse it by. There is 
something consolatory also, something flattering to their sense of 
personal dignity, and to that conceit of singularity which is the 
natural recoil from our uneasy consciousness of being common- 
place, in thinking ourselves victims of a malady by which no one 
had ever suffered before. Accordingly they find it simpler to class 
under one comprehensive heading whatever they find offensive to 
their nerves, their taste, their interests, or what they suppose to be 
their opinions, and christen it Democracy, much as physicians label 
every obscure disease gout, or as cross-grained fellows lay their ill- 
temper to the weather. But is it really a new ailment, and, if it be, is 
America answerable for it? Even if she were, would it account 
for the phylloxera, and hoof-and-mouth disease, and bad harvests, 
and bad English, and the German bands, and the Boers, and all 
the other discomforts with which these later days have vexed the 
souls of them that go in chariots ? Yet I have seen the evil example 
of Democracy in America cited as the source and origin of things 
quite as heterogeneous and quite as little connected with it by any 
sequence of cause and effect. Surely this ferment is nothing new. 
It has been at work for centuries, and we are more conscious of it 
only because in this age of publicity, where the newspapers offer 
a rostrum to whoever has a grievance, or fancies that he has, the 
bubbles and scum thrown up by it are more noticeable on the 
surface than in those dumb ages when there was a cover of silence 
and suppression on the cauldron. Bernardo Navagero, speaking of 
the Provinces of Lower Austria in 1546, tells us that "in them there 
are five sorts of persons. Clergy, Barons, Nobles, Burghers, and 
Peasants. Of these last no account is made, because they have no 
voice in the Diet." ' 

Nor was it among the people that subversive or mistaken doc- 
trines had their rise. A Father of the Church said that property 
was theft many centuries before Proudhon was born. Bourdaloue 

' Below the Peasants, it should be remembered, was still another even more helpless 
class, the servile farm-laborers. The same witness informs us that of the extraordinary 
imposts the Peasants paid nearly twice as much in proportion to their estimated 
property as the Barons, Nobles, and Burghers together. Moreover, the upper classes 
were assessed at their own valuation, while they arbitrarily fixed that of the Peasants, 
who had no voice, ("Relazioni degli Arabasciatori Veneti," Serie I., tomo i., pp. 378, 
379. 389-) 



456 LOWELL 

reaffirmed it. Montesquieu was the inventor of national workshops, 
and of the theory that the State owed every man a living. Nay, 
was not the Church herself the first organized Democracy? A few 
centuries ago the chief end of man was to keep his soul alive, and 
then the little kernel of leaven that sets the gases at work was 
religious, and produced the Reformation. Even in that, far-sighted 
persons like the Emperor Charles V. saw the germ of political and 
social revolution. Now that the chief end of man seems to have be- 
come the keeping of the body alive, and as comfortably alive as 
possible, the leaven also has become wholly political and social. 
But there had also been social upheavals before the Reformation 
and contemporaneously with it, especially among men of Teutonic 
race. The Reformation gave outlet and direction to an unrest already 
existing. Formerly the immense majority of men — our brothers — 
knew only their sufferings, their wants, and their desires. They are 
beginning now to know their opportunity and their power. All per- 
sons who see deeper than their plates are rather inclined to thank 
God for it than to bewail it, for the sores of Lazarus have a poison 
in them against which Dives has no antidote. 

There can be no doubt that the spectacle of a great and pros- 
perous Democracy on the other side of the Atlantic must react 
powerfully on the aspirations and political theories of men in the 
Old World who do not find things to their mind; but, whether for 
good or evil, it should not be overlooked that the acorn from which 
it sprang was ripened on the British oak. Every successive swarm 
that has gone out from this officina gentium has, when left to its 
own instincts — may I not call them hereditary instincts? — assumed 
a more or less thoroughly democratic form. This would seem to 
show, what I believe to be the fact, that the British Constitution, 
under whatever disguises of prudence or decorum, is essentially 
democratic. England, indeed, may be called a monarchy with demo- 
cratic tendencies, the United States a democracy with conservative 
instincts. People are continually saying that America is in the air, 
and I am glad to think it is, since this means only that a clearer 
conception of human claims and human duties is beginning to 
be prevalent. The discontent with the existing order of things, 
however, pervaded the atmosphere wherever the conditions were 



DEMOCRACY 457 

favorable, long before Columbus, seeking the back door of Asia, 
found himself knocking at the front door of America. I say wher- 
ever the conditions were favorable, for it is certain that the germs 
of disease do not stick or find a prosperous field for their develop- 
ment and noxious activity unless where the simplest sanitary pre- 
cautions have been neglected. "For this effect defective comes by 
cause," as Polonius said long ago. It is only by instigation of the 
wrongs of men that what are called the Rights of Man become 
turbulent and dangerous. It is then only that they syllogize unwel- 
come truths. It is not the insurrections of ignorance that are danger- 
ous, but the revolts of intelligence: — 

"The wicked and the weak rebel in vain. 
Slaves by their own compulsion." 

Had the governing classes in France during the last century paid 
as much heed to their proper business as to their pleasures or 
manners, the guillotine need never have severed that spinal marrow 
of orderly and secular tradition through which in a normally con- 
stituted state the brain sympathizes with the extremities and sends 
will and impulsion thither. It is only when the reasonable and 
practicable are denied that men demand the unreasonable and im- 
practicable; only when the possible is made difficult that they fancy 
the impossible to be easy. Fairy tales are made out of the dreams 
of the poor. No; the sentiment which lies at the root of democracy 
is nothing new. I am speaking always of a sentiment, a spirit, and 
not of a form of government; for this was but the outgrovrth of 
the other and not its cause. This sentiment is merely an expression 
of the natural wish of people to have a hand, if need be a controlling 
hand, in the management of their own affairs. What is new is that 
they are more and more gaining that control, and learning more 
and more how to be worthy of it. What we used to call the tendency 
or drift — what we are being taught to call more wisely the evolution 
of things — has for some time been setting steadily in this direction. 
There is no good in arguing with the inevitable. The only argument 
available with an east wind is to put on your overcoat. And in this 
case, also, the prudent will prepare themselves to encounter what 
they cannot prevent. Some people advise us to put on the brakes. 



458 LOWELL 

as if the movement of which we are conscious were that of a rail- 
way train running down an incline. But a metaphor is no argu- 
ment, though it be sometimes the gunpowder to drive one home 
and imbed it in the memory. Our disquiet comes of what nurses 
and other experienced persons call growing-pains, and need not 
seriously alarm us. They are what every generation before us — 
certainly every generation since the invention of printing — has gone 
through with more or less good fortune. To the door of every 
generation there comes a knocking, and unless the household, like 
the Thane of Cawdor and his wife, have been doing some deed 
without a name, they need not shudder. It turns out at worst to be 
a poor relation who wishes to come in out of the cold. The porter 
always grumbles and is slow to open. "Who's there, in the name 
of Beelzebub?" he mutters. Not a change for the better in our 
human housekeeping has ever taken place that wise and good men 
have not opposed it, — have not prophesied with the alderman that 
the world would wake up to find its throat cut in consequence of 
it. The world, on the contrary, wakes up, rubs its eyes, yawns, 
stretches itself, and goes about its business as if nothing had hap- 
pened. Suppression of the slave trade, abolition of slavery, trade 
unions, — at all of these excellent people shook their heads despond- 
ingly, and murmured "Ichabod." But the trade unions are now 
debating instead of conspiring, and we all read their discussions 
with comfort and hope, sure that they are learning the business of 
citizenship and the difficulties of practical legislation. 

One of the most curious of these frenzies of exclusion was that 
against the emancipation of the Jews. All share in the government 
of the world was denied for centuries to perhaps the ablest, cer- 
tainly the most tenacious, race that had ever lived in it — the race 
to whom we owed our religion and the purest spiritual stimulus 
and consolation to be found in all literature — a race in which ability 
seems as natural and hereditary as the curve of their noses, and 
whose blood, furtively mingling with the bluest bloods in Europe, 
has quickened them with its own indomitable impulsion. We drove 
them into a corner, but they had their revenge, as the wronged are 
always sure to have it sooner or later. They made their corner the 
counter and banking-house of the world, and thence they rule it 



DEMOCRACY 459 

and us with the ignobler sceptre of finance. Your grandfathers 
mobbed Priestley only that you might set up his statue and make 
Birmingham the headquarters of English Unitarianism. We hear 
it said sometimes that this is an age of transition, as if that made 
matters clearer; but can any one point us to an age that was not? 
If he could, he would show us an age of stagnation. The question 
for us, as it has been for all before us, is to make the transition 
gradual and easy, to see that our points are right so that the train 
may not come to grief. For we should remember that nothing is 
more natural for people whose education has been neglected than to 
spell evolution with an initial "r." A great man struggling with 
the storms of fate has been called a sublime spectacle; but surely a 
great man wrestling with these new forces that have come into the 
world, mastering them and controlling them to beneficent ends, 
would be a yet sublimer. Here is not a danger, and if there were it 
would be only a better school of manhood, a nobler scope for ambi- 
tion. I have hinted that what people are afraid of in democracy is 
less the thing itself than what they conceive to be its necessary 
adjuncts and consequences. It is supposed to reduce all mankind 
to a dead level of mediocrity in character and culture, to vulgarize 
men's conceptions of life, and therefore their code of morals, man- 
ners, and conduct — to endanger the rights of property and posses- 
sion. But I believe that the real gravamen of the charges lies in 
the habit it has of making itself generally disagreeable by asking 
the Powers that Be at the most inconvenient moment whether they 
are the powers that ought to be. If the powers that be are in a condi- 
tion to give a satisfactory answer to this inevitable question, they 
need feel in no way discomfited by it. 

Few people take the trouble of trying to find out what democ- 
racy really is. Yet this would be a great help, for it is our lawless 
and uncertain thoughts, it is the indefiniteness of our impressions, 
that fill darkness, whether mental or physical, with spectres and 
hobgoblins. Democracy is nothing more than an experiment in 
government, more likely to succeed in a new soil, but likely to be 
tried in all soils, which must stand or fall on its own merits as 
others have done before it. For there is no trick of perpetual motion 
in politics any more than in mechanics. President Lincoln defined 



460 LOWELL 

democracy to be "the government of the people by the people for 
the people." This is a sufficiently compact statement of it as a 
political arrangement. Theodore Parker said that "Democracy 
meant not 'I'm as good as you are,' but 'You're as good as I am.' " 
And this is the ethical conception of it, necessary as a complement of 
the other; a conception which, could it be made actual and practical, 
would easily solve all the riddles that the old sphinx of political and 
social economy who sits by the roadside has been proposing to 
mankind from the beginning, and which mankind have shown such 
a singular talent for answering wrongly. In this sense Christ was 
the first true democrat that ever breathed, as the old dramatist 
Dekker said he was the first true gentleman. The characters may 
be easily doubled, so strong is the likeness between them. A beautiful 
and profound parable of the Persian poet Jellaladeen tells us that 
"One knocked at the Beloved's door, and a voice asked from within 
'Who is there?' and he answered 'It is I.' Then the voice said, 'This 
house will not hold me and thee'; and the door was not opened. 
Then went the lover into the desert and fasted and prayed in soli- 
tude, and after a year he returned and knocked again at the door; 
and again the voice asked 'Who is there?' and he said 'It is thy- 
self;' and the door was opened to him." But that is idealism, you 
will say, and this is an only too practical world. I grant it; but I 
am one of those who believe that the real will never find an irre- 
movable basis till it rests on the ideal. It used to be thought that 
a democracy was possible only in a small territory, and this is doubt- 
less true of a democracy strictly defined, for in such all the citizens 
decide directly upon every question of public concern in a general 
assembly. An example still survives in the tiny Swiss canton of 
Appenzell. But this immediate intervention of the people in their 
own affairs is not of the essence of democracy; it is not necessary, 
nor indeed, in most cases, practicable. Democracies to which Mr. 
Lincoln's definition would fairly enough apply have existed, and 
now exist, in which, though the supreme authority reside in the 
people, yet they can act only indirectly on the national policy. This 
generation has seen a democracy with an imperial figurehead, and 
in all that have ever existed the body politic has never embraced all 



DEMOCRACY 46 1 

the inhabitants included within its territory, the right to share in 
the direction of affairs has been confined to citizens, and citizenship 
has been further restricted by various limitations, sometimes of 
property, sometimes of nativity, and always of age and sex. 

The framers of the American Constitution were far from wishing 
or intending to found a democracy in the strict sense of the word, 
though, as was inevitable, every expansion of the scheme of gov- 
ernment they elaborated has been in a democratical direction. But 
this has been generally the slow result of growth,and not the sudden 
innovation of theory; in fact, they had a profound disbelief in theory, 
and knew better than to commit the folly of breaking with the past. 
They were not seduced by the French fallacy that a new system of 
government could be ordered like a new suit of clothes. They would 
as soon have thought of ordering a new suit of flesh and skin. It is 
only on the roaring loom of time that the stuff is woven for such a 
vesture of their thought and experience as they were meditating. 
They recognized fully the value of tradition and habit as the great 
allies of permanence and stability. They all had that distaste for 
innovation which belonged to their race, and many of them a dis- 
trust of human nature derived from their creed. The day of senti- 
ment was over, and no dithyrambic affirmations or fine-drawn analy- 
ses of the Rights of Man would serve their present turn. This was 
a practical question, and they addressed themselves to it as men of 
knowledge and judgment should. Their problem was how to adapt 
English principles and precedents to the new conditions of American 
life, and they solved it with singular discretion. They put as many 
obstacles as they could contrive, not in the way of the people's will, 
but of their whim. With few exceptions they probably admitted the 
logic of the then accepted syllogism, — democracy, anarchy, despotism. 
But this formula was framed upon the experience of small cities 
shut up to stew w^ithin their narrow walls, where the number of 
citizens made but an inconsiderable fraction of the inhabitants, 
where every passion was reverberated from house to house and 
from man to man with gathering rumor till every impulse became 
gregarious and therefore inconsiderate, and every popular assembly 
needed but an infusion of eloquent sophistry to turn it into a mob. 



462 LOWELL 

all the more dangerous because sanctified with the formality of law.' 
Fortunately their case was wholly different. They were to legis- 
late for a widely scattered population and for States already practised 
in the discipline of a partial independence. They had an unequalled 
opportunity and enormous advantages. The material they had to 
work upon was already democratical by instinct and habitude. It 
was tempered to their hands by more than a century's schooling 
in self-government. They had but to give permanent and conserva- 
tive form to a ductile mass. In giving impulse and direction to 
their new institutions, especially in supplying them with checks 
and balances, they had a great help and safeguard in their federal 
organization. The different, sometimes conflicting, interests and 
social systems of the several States made existence as a Union and 
coalescence into a nation conditional on a constant practice of 
moderation and compromise. The very elements of disintegration 
were the best guides in political training. Their children learned 
the lesson of compromise only too well, and it was the application 
of it to a question of fundamental morals that cost us our civil war. 
We learned once for all that compromise makes a good umbrella 
but a poor roof; that it is a temporary expedient, often wise in party 
politics, almost sure to be unwise in statesmanship. 

Has not the trial of democracy in America proved, on the whole, 
successful? If it had not, would the Old World be vexed with any 
fears of its proving contagious? This trial would have been less 
severe could it have been made with a people homogeneous in race, 
language, and traditions, whereas the United States have been called 
on to absorb and assimilate enormous masses of foreign popula- 
tion, heterogeneous in all these respects, and drawn mainly from 
that class which might fairly say that the world was not their friend, 
nor the world's law. The previous condition too often justified the 
traditional Irishman, who, landing in New York and asked what 
his politics were, inquired if there was a Government there, and on 
being told that there was, retorted, "Thin I'm agin it!" We have taken 
from Europe the poorest, the most ignorant, the most turbulent of 
her people, and have made them over into good citizens, who have 

^ The effect of the electric telegraph in reproducing this trooping of emotion and 
perhaps of opinion is yet to be measured. The effect of Darwinism as a disintegrator 
of humanitarianism is also to be reckoned with. 



DEMOCRACY 463 

added to our wealth, and who are ready to die in defence of a 
country and of institutions which they know to be worth dying for. 
The exceptions have been (and they are lamentable exceptions) 
where these hordes of ignorance and poverty have coagulated in 
great cities. But the social system is yet to seek which has not to 
look the same terrible wolf in the eyes. On the other hand, at this 
very moment Irish peasants are buying up the worn-out farms of 
Massachusetts, and making them productive again by the same 
virtues of industry and thrift that once made them profitable to the 
English ancestors of the men who are deserting them. To have 
achieved even these prosaic results (if you choose to call them so), 
and that out of materials the most discordant, — I might say the most 
recalcitrant, — argues a certain beneficent virtue in the system that 
could do it, and is not to be accounted for by mere luck. 

Carlyle said scornfully that America meant only roast turkey 
every day for everybody. He forgot that States, as Bacon said of 
wars, go on their bellies. As for the security of property, it should 
be tolerably well secured in a country where every other man hopes 
to be rich, even though the only property qualification be the owner- 
ship of two hands that add to the general wealth. Is it not the best 
security for anything to interest the largest possible number of per- 
sons in its preservation and the smallest in its division? In point 
of fact, far-seeing men count the increasing power of wealth and its 
combinations as one of the chief dangers with which the institutions 
of the United States are threatened in the not distant future. The 
right of individual property is no doubt the very corner-stone of 
civilization as hitherto understood, but I am a little impatient of 
being told that property is entitled to exceptional consideration be- 
cause it bears all the burdens of the State. It bears those, indeed, 
which can most easily be borne, but poverty pays with its person 
the chief expenses of war, pestilence, and famine. Wealth should 
not forget this, for poverty is beginning to think of it now and then. 
Let me not be misunderstood. I see as clearly as any man possibly 
can, and rate as highly, the value of wealth, and of hereditary wealth, 
as the security of refinement, the feeder of all those arts that ennoble 
and beautify life, and as making a country worth living in. Many 
an ancestral hall here in England has been a nursery of that culture 



464 LOWELL 

which has been of example and benefit to all. Old gold has a civ- 
ilizing virtue which new gold must grow old to be capable of 
secreting. 

I should not think of coming before you to defend or to criticise 
any form of government. All have their virtues, all their defects, 
and all have illustrated one period or another in the history of the 
race, with signal services to humanity and culture. There is not 
one that could stand a cynical cross-examination by an experienced 
criminal lawyer, except that of a perfectly wise and perfectly good 
despot, such as the world has never seen, except in that white-haired 
king of Browning's who 

"Lived long ago 
In the morning of the world, 
When Earth was nearer Heaven than now." 

The English race, if they did not invent government by discussion, 
have at least carried it nearest to perfection in practice. It seems a 
very safe and reasonable contrivance for occupying the attention of 
the country, and is certainly a better way of settling questions than 
by push of pike. Yet, if one should ask it why it should not rather 
be called government by gabble, it would have to fumble in its 
pocket a good while before it found the change for a convincing 
reply. As matters stand, too, it is beginning to be doubtful whether 
Parliament and Congress sit at Westminster and Washington or 
in the editors' rooms of the leading journals, so thoroughly is every- 
thing debated before the authorized and responsible debaters get 
on their legs. And what shall we say of government by a majority 
of voices? To a person who in the last century would have called 
himself an Impartial Observer, a numerical preponderance seems, 
on the whole, as clumsy a way of arriving at truth as could well be 
devised, but experience has apparently shown it to be a convenient 
arrangement for determining what may be expedient or advisable or 
practicable at any given moment. Truth, after all, wears a different 
face to everybody, and it would be too tedious to wait till all were 
agreed. She is said to lie at the bottom of a well, for the very reason, 
perhaps, that whoever looks down in search of her sees his own 
image at the bottom, and is persuaded not only that he has seen the 



DEMOCRACY 465 

goddess, but that she is far better-looking than he had imagined. 
The arguments against universal suffrage are equally unanswer- 
able. "What," we exclaim, "shall Tom, Dick, and Harry have as 
much weight in the scale as I?" Of course, nothing could be more 
absurd. And yet universal suffrage has not been the instrument of 
greater unwisdom than contrivances of a more select description. 
Assemblies could be mentioned composed entirely of Masters of 
Arts and Doctors in Divinity which have sometimes shown traces 
of human passion or prejudice in their votes. Have the Serene 
Highnesses and Enlightened Classes carried on the business of 
Mankind so well, then, that there is no use in trying a less costly 
method? The democratic theory is that those Constitutions are 
likely to prove steadiest which have the broadest base, that the right 
to vote makes a safety-valve of every voter, and that the best way 
of teaching a man how to vote is to give him the chance of practice. 
For the question is no longer the academic one, "Is it wise to give 
every man the ballot?" but rather the practical one, "Is it prudent 
to deprive whole classes of it any longer?" It may be conjectured 
that it is cheaper in the long run to lift men up than to hold them 
down, and that the ballot in their hands is less dangerous to society 
than a sense of wrong in the