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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

294     Material for Erewkon Revisited

so that their offspring may know something about the grave,
of which, otherwise, heredity could teach it nothing.

It has long been held that those constitutions are best
which promote most effectually the greatest happiness of the
greatest number. Now the greatest number are none too wise
and none too honest, and to arrange our systems with a view
to the greater happiness of sensible straightforward people—
indeed to give these people a chance at all if it can be avoided
—is to interfere with the greatest happiness of the greatest
number. Dull, slovenly and arrogant people do not like those
who are quick, painstaking and unassuming; how can we
then consistently with the first principles of either morality
or political economy encourage such people when we can
bring sincerity and modesty fairly home to them ?

Much we have to tolerate, partly because we cannot always
discover in time who are. really insincere and who are only
masking sincerity under a garb of flippancy, and partly also
because we wish to err on the side of letting the guilty escape
rather than of punishing the innocent. Thus many people
who are perfectly well known to belong to the straightforward
class are allowed to remain at large and may even be seen
hobnobbing and on the best of possible terms with the guar-
dians of public immorality. We all feel, as indeed has been
said in other nations, that the poor abuses of the time want
countenance, and this moreover in the interests of the uses
themselves, for the presence of a small modicum of sincerity
acts as a wholesome stimulant and irritant to the prevailing
spirit of academicism; moreover, we hold it useful to have
a certain number of melancholy examples whose notorious
failure shall serve as a warning to those who do not cultivate
a power of immoral self-control which shall prevent them from
saying, or indeed even thinking, anything that shall not be to
their immediate and palpable advantage with the greatest
number.

It is a point of good breeding with the Erewhonians to keep
their opinions as far as possible in the background in all cases
where controversy is even remotely possible, that is to say
whenever conversation gets beyond the discussion of the
weather. It is found necessary, however, to recognise some
means of ventilating points on which differences of opinion