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This book should he returned on or before the date lust marked below 


Adams, John, 194 

Arnold, Matthew, 120 

Barzun, Jacques, 16 

Becker, Carl, 235 

Bible, The, 77 

Black, Max, 3 

Bos well, James, 358 

Brogan, D. W., 322 

Butler, Samuel, 455 

Canby, Tlcmy Scidcl, 37 

Carntt, K. F., 252 

Chesterfield, Philip Stanhope, Lord, 338 

Clemens, S. L. (Mark Twain), 426 

Commager, Henry Stccle, 300 

Conklin, Edwin Grant, 603 

Conrad, Joseph, 63 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 210 

Focrstcr, Norman, 138 

Franklin, Bcivamm, 293 

Cossc, Edmund, 467 

Higher, Gilbert, 166 

Hume, David, 370 

Huttoii, Graham, 177 

Huxley, Julian, 581 

James, William, 463, 523 

Jefferson, Thomas, 194 

Joad, C. E. M., 505 

Lamb, Charles, 376 

Landor, Walter Savage, 492 

Livingstone, Sir Richard, i 50 

Macaulay, Thomas Babmgton, 547 

Madison, James, 202 

Maugham, W. Somerset, 54 

Mill, John Stuart, 222, 405 

Monson, Samuel Kliot, 300 

Newman, John Henry, 1 1 o 

Russell, Bertram!, 517 

Santaj ana, George, 190, 532 

Sherwood, Robert E., 68, 499 

Stevenson, Robert Louis, 397 

Sullivan, J. W. N., 572 

Swift, Jonathan, 329 

Thorcau, Henry David, 28, 383 

Thurbcr, James, 481, 487 

Toynbcc, Arnold J., 282 

Trollope, Anthony, 442 

Twain, Mark, 426 

Whitchcad, A. N., 556 

Woodward, E. L., 266 

Woolf, Virginia, 43, 352 

Zinsscr, Hans, 561 


in Prose 












'If \ou wish to have a faculty for reading, read; if for writing, write/ This 
ancient precept of the philosopher Epictctus, when properly understood, 
is as sound today as it was more than eighteen centuries ago. Reading is a 
complex and deliberate discipline, an art acquired not by mere cursoiy 
attention but by thoughtful and critical, even at times laborious, practice. 
'Words are tyrannical things/ as Somerset Maugham reminds us; 'they 
exist for their meanings, and if you will not pay attention to these, you 
cannot pay attention at all/ Reading requires that we translate symbols 
that may have sharply different meanings in different contexts, that we 
know how to read between the lines, how to catch the tone of a passage 
or get the 'feel' of a phrase or a sentence; that we recognize the large out- 
lines and architecture of the whole writing in order to estimate the impor- 
tance of each detail. To read well is, as Thorcau says (in his essay, 'Read- 
ing/ reprinted in this book), an exercise that will 'task the reader more 
than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem/ Yet whatever the 
labor, the ability to read maturely puts us on the road to that goal which 
another of our authors, Cardinal Newman, assigns to university training as 
a whole: it enables us 'to see things as they arc, to go right to the point, to 
disentangle a skein of thought, to detect what is sophistical, and to discard 
what is irrelevant/ 

In selecting the materials for this volume of prose we have sought to 
provide sufficient variety of subject matter and interest in order that first- 
year college students might learn and practice mature reading. Our choice 
has been governed by our own experience with American freshmen and 
other undergraduates. It is unnecessary here to follow custom by deploring 
the weakness of such students as readers; to inquire whether this be due to 
the decline of classical studies in the schools, to 'progressive* education, or 
to vocational curricula; or to seek other scapegoats. Instead we might prof- 
itably remember that at least since the time of Quintilian, one of the best 

vi Preface 

professors of literature, teachers have always complained of their pupils* 
troubles with reading. 

Yet if reading, in the fullest sense, is by its nature difficult if, in fact, a 
lifetime is too short for complete mastery why shouldn't students have 
difficulty with it? Our hope is that they may come to see what critical read- 
ing means: namely, comprehension of the fundamental relations between 
logic and language, and of the complexities, levels, and methods of expres- 
sion in language. Above all, we hope that they may experience the excite- 
ment of intellectual discovery through language. For this they need prac- 
tice, and always more practice, in the patient analysis of words, sentences, 
paragraphs, and whole compositions. 'What else is our object in teaching/ 
asked Ouintihan, 'save that our pupils should not always require to be 
taught?' Other than this object, we have in this book no special axes to 
grind, no novel theories about reading or writing to propagate. 

The selections will appeal to different tastes, to be sure, but they are all 
well written and suggestive, and therefore instructive. Included arc speci- 
mens of biography, dramatic dialogue, historical narrative, fiction, personal 
essays, letters, and arguments. Some old favorites arc reprinted, but there 
are many writings fresh to anthologies. A good many deal with ethical, 
political, and other philosophical or near-philosophical topics. We hope 
these will recommend themselves to teachers who prefer something more 
substantial than the contemporary editorials, feature articles, and other 
journalistic pieces that occupy, or used to occupy, so much space in collegi- 
ate books of readings. That sort of writing has its place, but as a rule it is 
not demanding enough to be educational. Having been originally timely, it 
is too soon untimely. A reader needs to test himself against writing done in 
other generations and other societies than his own or he will never know 
how to read anything but today's newspaper and popular fiction and 
those badly. 

These selections can be, and will be, used in any order a teacher likes. 
While we admit the impossibility of imposing upon the collection any 
absolute arrangement, we call attention to the connections between selec- 
tions. No work exists or can be read in a vacuum. Every intelligent expres- 
sion of human thought and experience is part of a dense web of relationship 
between idea and idea. Each selection in this volume is a center from 
which radiate hues of relationship: directly with several other pieces, indi- 
rectly with all others. This principle we should like to stress. Illustrations 
of it will be found in the study questions as well as in the selections them- 

Preface vii 

Explanatory notes and questions for study are added for those who want 
them. We have no desire to come between the student and the instructor, 
who will use the book to suit his own methods and his own students. Some 
students may safely ignore the questions; others should find them helpful 
in mastering the texts. These questions, not oppressively numerous, deal 
for the most part with meanings, with ideas and relations between ideas, 
and with diction. They ought to enable readers to see more clearly the 
mam points in the text, to make more sense of words and structure. 

The notes explain enough of the allusions, proper names, and foreign 
phrases to help the student understand what he is reading without, we 
hope, explaining too much. Notes are a 'calculated risk' and may easily 
furnish too little or too much information. One cannot always assume 
that students of freshman age know any of the more useful foreign lan- 
guages ancient or modern, any classical mythology worth mentioning, or 
any but the commonest allusions to Shakespeare or the Bible. Worst of 
all is their ignorance of history. These are discouraging facts and might 
invite cynical reflections, like those of the Creek satirist who wondered 
how some people could have been so 'carefully miseducatcd.' Yet we must 
remember that students in every generation are 'up* on certain classes of 
knowledge while cheerfully unconcerned or unfamiliar with the depth of 
their ignorance in other realms. Aristotle himself would have needed a 
multitude of footnotes to understand many facts about the physical world 
which any freshman in our time takes for granted. Of history (all kinds), 
however, and of the great masterpieces of ethical and imaginative litera- 
ture, today's student usually knows much less than is creditable. If, there- 
fore, some of our explanatory notes seem elementary or superfluous at first 
glance, we arc nevertheless confident that they will prove useful to many 

The date at the foot of the first page of each selection is that of first 
publication. Most of our texts are taken from the first edition or an 
authoritative reprint of the first edition; some are from later editions 
ascertained to be reliable. Except in a very few places we have left spelling 
and punctuation as we found them. References in the notes to Shakes- 
peare's works use the numbering of the Oxford edition by W. J. Craig. 
We arc happy to thank those who have allowed us to use materials cov- 
ered by copyright; acknowledgment of each permission is given in an 
appropriate note. We arc grateful to colleagues and to the staff of the 
Oxford University Press for their advice and assistance. 

We hope this book will be serviceable to the teachers and students for 

viii Preface 

whom we made it. If a few of the extracts seem unusual in a book of read- 
ings for freshmen, let the critic remember the remarks of A. N. White- 
head: 'Whenever a textbook is written of real educational worth, you may 
be quite certain that some reviewer will say that it will be difficult to teach 
from it. Of course it will be difficult to teach from it. If it were easy, the 
book ought to be burned; for it cannot be educational. In education, as 
elsewhere, the broad primrose path leads to a nasty place/ 

Craig R. Thompson 
John Hicks 
January 1951 


1. Max Black, The Uses of Language, 3 

2. Jacques Barzun, How to Write and Be Read, 16 

3. Henry David Thorcau, Reading, 28 

4 Ilenry Scidcl Canby, Sentence Maker, 37 

5. Virginia Woolf, How Should One Read a Book?, 43 

6. W. Somerset Maugham, Writer and Reader, 54 

7. Joseph Conrad, Preface to THE NIGGER OF THE 'NARCISSUS/ 63 

8. Robert K. Sherwood, How F. D. R.'s Speeches Were Written, 68 

9. The Bible (translations of 1611 and 1927), The Story of Joseph, 77 
10. John Henry Newman, Liberal Knowledge, no 

n. Matthew Arnold, Literature and Science, 120 

12. Norman Focrster, Liberal Education, 138 

13. Sir Richard Livingstone, Education and the Training of Character, 150 

14. Gilbert Highct, The American Student as I See Him, 166 

15. Graham Hutton, The Cult of the Average, 177 

16. George Saiitayana, Classic Liberty, 190 

17. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, Natural Aristocracy, 194 

18. James Madison, The Federalist. No. X, 202 

19. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Politics, 210 

20. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 222 

21. Carl Becker, The Reality, 235 

22. E. F. Carritt, The Rights of Man, 252 

23. E. L. Woodward, U Inquietude religieuse, 266 

24. Arnold J. Toynbee, Civilization on Trial, 282 


x Contents 

25. Benjamin Franklin, Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America, 293 

26. Samuel Kliot Monson 

and Henry Stecle Commagcr, The United States in 1790, 300 

27. D. W. Brogan, American Climate, 322 

28. Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal, 329 

29. Lord Chesterfield, Letters to His Son, 338 

30. Virginia Woolf, Lord Chesterfield s Letters to His Son, 352 
31 James Boswell, Johnson, Chesterfield, and the DICTIONARY, 358 
32. David Hume, Of Qualities Immediately Agreeable to Others, 370 
33 Charles Lamb, The Superannuated Man, 376 

34. Henry David Thorcau, Where 1 Lived, and What I Lived For, 383 

35. Robert Louis Stevenson, Als Triplex, 397 

36 John Stuart Mill, Childhood and Early Education, 405 

37. Mark Twain (S. L. Clemens), Life on the Mississippi, 426 

38. Anthony Trollopc, The Bishop's Household, 442 

39. Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh, 455 

40. William James, Two Letters on Death, 463 

41. Edmund Gosse, Father and Son, 467 

42. James Thurbcr, University Days and Draft Board Nights, 481, 487 

43. Walter Savage Landor, Peter the Great and Alexis, 492 

44. Robert E. Sherwood, Abe Lincoln in Illinois, 499 

45. C. E. M. foad, What Do We Know of the Outside World?, 505 

46. Bertrand Russell, Individual and Social Knowledge, 517 

47. William James, Pragmatism's Conception of Truth, 523 

48. George Santayana, William James, 532 

49. 'lliomas Babmgton Macaulay, Plato and Bacon, 547 

50. A. N. Whitehead, The Abstract Nature of Mathematics, 556 
51 Hans Zinsscr, Rats and Men, 561 

52. J. W. N. Sullivan, The Values of Science, 572 

53. Julian Huxley, The Uniqueness of Man, 581 
154. Edwin Grant Conklm, Ideals as Goals, 603 



Max Black 

([These pages on the uses (and abuses) of language form the first 
chapter of the section on language in Max Black's Critical Thinking, 
a widely used introduction to logic. 

Mr. Black (1909 ), a graduate of the universities of Cambridge 
and London, has taught in this country at the University of Illinois 
and at Cornell University, where he is now Professor of Philosophy 
He has written The Nature of Mathematics (1933) and Language 
and Philosophy (1949), and has edited a volume of essays, Philo- 
sophical Analysis (1950). 

In every tongue- the speaker labours under great incon- 
veniences, especially on abstract questions, both fiom the 
paucity, obscurity, and ambiguity of the \\ords, on the one 
hand, and from his own misapprehensions, and imperfect 
acquaintance with them, on the other George Campbell, 


- INTRODUCTION. Ever since men began to reflect critically 
about their own thinking, the wisest of them have been acutely aware of the 
imperfections of the language in which their thought must be expressed. 
The greatest of the Greek philosophers J constantly returned to this theme, 
and centuries later we find that Francis Bacon echoes the ancient com- 
plaint and lists the 'false notions' generated b\ the 'common tongue* as 
one of the main hindrances to the advancement of knowledge. Every im- 
portant advance in science and scholarship has required a reform in 
terminology; and thinkers, as ingenious as they were public-spirited, have 
labored to invent artificial languages, systems of notations, and a bewilder- 
ing tangle of other symbolic aids to accurate thinking. Yet after thou- 
sands of years of criticism and improvement, the chorus of complaint con- 

t 1 Sec, for example, the story of Thcuth in Plato's Phaedrus, 274-5.] 

FROM Critical Thinking, 1946. Reprinted by permission of Prentice-Hall, Inc. 

4 Max Black 

tinucs; and experts insist today, more emphatically than ever, upon the 
importance of critical study of language and its relation to thought. The 
brave new science of 'semantics/ a discipline still in swaddling-clothes, 
already has many interesting results to its credit; and its many enthusiastic 
followers arc actively exploring its implications for logic, aesthetics, educa- 
tion, psychiatry, and other subjects. 

Semantics, for all its importance, is too intricate and controversial a 
subject for presentation in an elementary introduction to 'critical thinking/ 
We shall therefore not attempt any systematic account of the nature of 
language and its relation to the objects of thought. Nevertheless, our deal- 
ings with specimens of actual reasoning have shown us the importance of 
attention to the language in which ideas arc expressed, because ideas arc 
communicated to us in language, criticism of thought must also be criti- 
cism of its vehicle. We shall undertake the relatively modest task of devel- 
oping just so much theory of language (or 'semantics') as will be useful in 
(Titici/mg the t\pcs of reasoning we arc likely to encounter. 

This part of the book may therefore be regarded as a practical handbook 
to the linguistic problems which arise in the criticism of reasoning. 

2. 'I'm-. COMPLEXITY OF LANGUAGE. When we read a sentence, or under- 
stand conversation, we are responding to SIGNS. It is characteristic of a sign 
that a person who understands it is led to attend to something other than 
the sign itself; the headline '11UKRICANK DUE TOMORROW/ con- 
sidered as an object in its own right, is a mere string of blotches in ink; it 
is a sign for the reader because it leads him to think of something quite 
different from printer's ink the approaching storm, the precautions that 
need to be taken, and so forth 

Signs need not be linguistic. A herd of animals taking to flight on hearing 
a warning cry from a sentinel, a man entering a dining-room at the sound 
of a gong, a doctor diagnosing the visible symptoms of a disease, a spider 
set in motion by a twitch of its web, are all interpreting signs. These ex- 
amples also illustrate the point that quite primitive organisms can interpret 
non-1 inguis tic signs. 

If such instances of elementary sign-interpretation are contrasted with 
the process of reading a book, hearing a speech, or otherwise responding to 
complex uses of language, a number of important points of difference may 
be noted. 

i . Linguistic signs are artificial, 'while the simplest kinds of non-linguistic 
signs are natural. 

If a flash of lightning causes me to expect a clap of thunder, it is 


because the two kinds of event normally occur together; but the presence 
of pepper in a can would not result in the appearance of the word 'pepper* 
on the can but for human intervention. Men have to agree that certain 
noises and marks shall cause interpreters to attend to certain objects (their 
'meanings') before there can be language. We notice, however, that some 
non-linguistic signals (such as the cones hoisted to warn of the approach 
of a storm) can also be artificial. 

Let us agree to use the word SIGNAL as an abbreviation for the phrase 
'the simplest kind of sign/ (This agrees fairly well with the customary 
meaning of the word 'signal/) 

2. Response to signals is stereotyped and undifferentiated t while response 
to linguistic signs is variable and complex. 

The presence of a dog will cause a cat to bristle with anticipatory fear; 
but a man's response to the remark 'a lion has escaped from the circus' will 
vary with circumstances. The spoken sentence is constructed out of com- 
ponent signs (the words) arranged in a conventional order; and the man 
responds to the components and to their arrangement as well as to the 
sentence as a whole. He is able to understand an isolated word (such as 
the word 'lion' appearing alone on a sheet of paper); and he can interpret 
a sentence he has never seen before, if it is composed of known words in a 
known arrangement. The natural signals to which animals respond always 
occur in association with the things to which they refer; but the users of a 
language have learned to deploy and re-deploy linguistic signs in an endless 
variety of sign situations; they can therefore anticipate novelty and respond 
to situations of radically new types. 

3. Signals normally indicate a single object , while linguistic signs tend to 
serve a number of different purposes simultaneously. 

The spoor 2 of a wild animal may tell the skillful hunter a great deal 
about the beast that made it; yet consider how much more is conveyed to 
the sensitive listener by even the most trivial remark. If we hear a stranger 
say 'I've missed that tram again'' we may learn something about a tram, 
but we may sometimes learn even more about the speaker that she is 
annoyed, is not disposed to be friendly, is in a hurry to go somewhere, and 
was educated in the Middle West! Nor is this an exceptional case. Because 
men and women express their feelings and attitudes as well as their beliefs 
by means of language, all talk conveys information about much more than 
its ostensible subject. And because language is a social product, the result 
of interaction between persons sharing common purposes, any individual 

[ 2 Track.] 

6 Max Black 

utterance also conveys information about the community of language- 
users to which the speaker belongs. 

These three differences between fully developed language and the sim- 
plest kinds of non-linguistic signs give us but a glimpse of the full com- 
plexity of language. No doubt they are differences of degree, and 'the 
metaphysician,' as Anatolc France 3 said, 'has only the perfected cry of 
monkeys and dogs with which to construct the system of the World/ Yet 
the differences arc important: we shall find that failure to be aware of 
them, and to appreciate some of their consequences, is responsible for much 
fallacious reasoning. 

3. TIIK MANY PURPOSES SERVED BY LANGUAGE. Any spoken utterance will 
usually express feelings, attitudes, desires, and beliefs, and will convey 
information (cither true or false) about the speaker and other objects. 
But there is such a tremendous variety of human transactions in which 
language is used, that the appropriate response to a particular utterance 
may vary widely according to the circumstances of its use. Everybody 
understands that the spoken words 'Pass down the bus, please' arc pri- 
marily intended to cause the passengers to move and are not said for the 
purpose of giving information about the conductor; and it is equally obvi- 
ous that the remark 'This bus is over-loaded 7 is a statement, not a request 
or command, even though it, too, causes the passengers to move. When 
we contrast 'statements' with 'questions/ 'requests/ 'commands/ 'exclama- 
tions/ or 'prayers/ we are recognizing different ways in which language can 
be used. Such crude distinctions, however, hardly begin to do justice to the 
variety of different uses of language. 

In order to see how variable the correct response to language may be, 
let us examine the following two utterances, both of which are 'statements': 

(1) 'A body immersed in a fluid is acted upon by an upward force equal in 
magnitude to the weight of the fluid displaced' (from a text). 

( 2 ) The apples were falling like great drops of dew to bruise themselves an 
exit from themselves' (D. II. Lawrence). 

The first statement makes a certain claim concerning the behavior of 
solid bodies and fluids: it is intended to produce in us (the readers) a 
definite belief which can be tested and confirmed by actual observation of 
the weight of bodies immersed in a fluid. Should observation prove that 
the belief docs not accord with the facts, we should be justified in calling 
the writer a liar. In formulating a supposition to be tested against cxperi- 

[ 3 French novelist and critic (1844-1924) ] 


cncc in this way, we are behaving in the way intended by the scientist who 
made the statement. Since the statement ( i ) was used in order to produce 
such beliefs and testing procedures, our interpretation was appropriate. 

It would, of course, be absurdly inappropriate to interpret the second 
statement in similar fashion. Only a very stupid reader would ask 'What 
apples is he talking about? How big arc the drops of dew? How can an 
apple make an exit from itself' Such questions arc stupid because the poet 
has no intention of producing beliefs which could be tested in a manner 
appropriate to a scientific statement. And to call him a liar' because his 
statement could not be confirmed in the laboratory would serve only to 
reveal our own misunderstanding of what poctn 'is all about ' For the 
poet's intention, here as elsewhere, is to embody and communicate an 
aesthetic experience in words which will in turn create further aesthetic 

And there are many other ways in which language can be used Consider, 
for instance, these words, which might be spoken by any departing guest 
to his hostess: 

(3) 'Thank \ou foi a loxcly party we've had a delightful time/ 

Sometimes the guest has had anything but a pleasant time; * but he is 
not for that reason to be regarded as dishonest. To insist that 'a really 
truthful person' would, if necessary, say 'Good-b\c, I've had a very dull and 
uncomfortable time' would be to repeat the mistake which occurs when 
poetry is treated as if it were science. A formula of polite thanks is not 
intended, or understood, as a factual claim (nor as a snatch of poclr\i) 
Questions of truth and falsity arc no more applicable to such ceremonial 
uses of language than they arc to a handshake. 

The moral of such examples is that all intelligent criticism of any in 
stance of language m use must begin with understanding of the motives 
and purposes of the speaker in that situation. Unfortunately, the type of 
case which causes trouble m practice is that in which the kind of use made 
of language is not transparently clear, as in our examples. Language is often 
used to conceal motives and purposes; and human motives and purposes 
arc notoriously mixed. One and the same utterance may convey factual 
information (true or false), embody aesthetic insight, express social con- 
formity, or do a number of other things all at the same time. For this 
reason, any attempt to isolate 'pure' types of language uses (such as \sci- 

* The actress, Beatrice Lillic, is reported to have made the parting remark. 'Don't 
think I haven't had a wonderful time because I haxcn't'' 

8 Max Black 

entific/ 'poetic/ 'ceremonial/ and so on) would be of little help to us. In 
the next two sections we formulate distinctions applying, in varying degree, 
to all uses of language. 

4. SOME WORKING DISTINCTIONS. Personal and impersonal aspects of 
utterance. We have already said that any utterance normally gives some 
information about the speaker himself, as well as other matters. Let us, 
therefore, refer to the PERSONAL and IMPERSONAL ASPECTS of an utterance. 
By the first term we shall mean the information given about the speaker, 
and more especially about the attitudes, feelings, and wishes which caused 
him to make the utterance; by the second whatever other information may 
be conveyed by the utterance. The personal aspects may be further divided 
into EXPRESSIVE and DYNAMIC aspects. The utterance is expressive insofar 
as it is caused by the speaker's feelings or attitudes, -without any desired 
effect upon a hearer; an involuntary cry of pain or joy is markedly expres- 
sive in this sense. The utterance is dynamic insofar as it is caused by the 
speaker's desire to produce actions or other effects in a hearer; a command 
or a question is markedly dynamic in this sense. Actual utterances vary 
widely in the relative importance of their expressive, dynamic, and imper- 
sonal aspects. 

Statement and suggestion. No human utterance explicitly symbolizes all 
that it conveys to the hearer: we must constantly 'read between the lines/ 
One important consequence of this has already been mentioned. A speaker 
very rarely says: 'I want you to feel that I am a thoroughly likable person 
of the sort you can trust; I am not much interested in internationalism or 
state rights except in so far as some knowledge of these subjects is neces- 
sary to persuade you to trust me/ Such devastating frankness would be 
self-defeating; but many a speaker talks in such a way as to convey the same 
impression; and intelligent understanding of the utterance requires an 
awareness of much more than is 'said in so many words/ The general set- 
ting of the utterance (whether it be predominantly 'scientific' or 'poetic/ 
intended to produce approval, result in actions, and so on) is not usually 
symbolized explicitly. 

Let us examine a striking instance of 'reading between the lines/ In 
answering a letter recently, a certain Senator began his reply with the 
words 'My dear Wop f an action which led to considerable indignation on 
the part of his correspondent and many of the lady's sympathizers. Furious 
letters were written to Congress and the newspapers, and the Senator's 
action was denounced at meetings of protest as 'undemocratic' and 'un- 


Why all this fuss about three words? A foreigner, not thoroughly familiar 
with the subtleties of the English language, would find on enquiry, that 
'Wop' means about the same as 'Italian' or 'person of Italian origin/ 'Why, 
then/ he might wonder, in his naive way, 'is it so insulting to an American 
to be accused of having Italian ancestors?' The answer is, of course, that 
'Wop' is a term of powerful abuse, conventionally used as a way of expres- 
sing a high degree of contempt for the person addressed. The three words 
might be expanded in some such way as this: 'Madam, the usual rules of 
politeness require me to use the words "My dear so-and-so." I show my 
contempt for you and your opinions by refusing even to call you by your 
name. I am pretty sure that you can't be an American; I suspect that you 
are of Italian origin; and I regard Italians in general as inferior and degen- 

Yet the abusive Senator did not say all this 'in so many words' even 
though most of it is .quite clearly understood by his readers. Offense is 
properly taken at the insulting suggestions of the utterance, rather than at 
its explicitly formulated content. 

The unformulated implications and suggestions of an utterance arc not 
always abusive. Often we convey feelings of approval, enjoyment, or appre- 
ciation by gesture, tone of voice, and choice of words. The means employed 
are so flexible and variable that usually we are hardly aware of them, even 
while constantly responding to their influence. A large part of the infor- 
mation conveyed by utterance is suggested, not stated. 

When a purported fact, a wish, a judgment of value, and so forth, are 
conveyed by means of a symbol conventionally used for that purpose we 
shall say the fact, wish, and so on, has been STATED; when information is 
conveyed by means not conventionally reserved for that purpose we shall 
say that that information has been SUGGESTED. Thus, a STATEMENT is an 
explicitly formulated assertion, command, desire, judgment and so forth, 
while a SUGGESTION is understood, though not explicitly formulated. (It is, 
however, hard to draw a sharp line between suggestion and statement, as 
here defined. Sometimes, of course, there can be no doubt at all that an 
important part of a given utterance has been suggested, though not explic- 
itly symbolized. The man who asks 'when did you start smoking so heav- 
ily' has not actually said 'you are smoking heavily/) 

All human languages rely, to an astonishing degree, upon what is under- 
stood, though not said 'in so many words/ It has been reported of the 
Eskimoes that Their phrases are as sober as their faces. A gleam in an 
Eskimo's eye tells you more than half a dozen of our sentences concerning 

io Max Black 

desire, repugnance, or another emotion. Each Eskimo's word is like that 
gleam: it suggests at once what has happened and what is to come. . .' 
(Gontran de Poncins, Kabloona, page 247). The more articulate languages 
of Western civilization though not as suggestive as those of the Eskimo 
still retain a tremendous suggestive power. 

Emotive and neutral language. Among the most effective suggestions 
conveyed in human utterance arc those expressive of the speaker's feelings 
(and especially feelings of approval or disapproval). Not only feelings are 
conveyed by suggestion: Any statement about 'impersonal' matters of fact 
makes use of tacit assumptions, which arc suggested, not stated. Neverthe- 
less, the uses of suggestion to communicate the nature of a speaker's feel- 
ings are particularly important, for the following reasons: 

1. Suggested feelings concerning a person or object can powerfully influ- 
ence people's opinions. To call a man a 'Red' is already to turn an audience 
against him; to call him a 'dirty Red,' in certain contexts, is practically to 
condemn him outright. Such 'name-calling' is usually more successful than 
explicit statement or reasoned argument. 

2. Feelings, especially strong feelings, concerning a person or object spon- 
taneously find expression in the use of 'satisfying' symbols. (All praise and 
abuse tends to become poetic!) An angry man tends to show his anger 
rather than talk about it: thus the means by which he expresses his feelings 
will be a suggestion, not a statement. In general, suggestion is the most 
'natural' means of conveying a feeling. 

Much attention has accordingly been given, in recent times, to the use 
of those signs which particularly lend themselves to the expression and 
communication of feelings. Such symbols arc termed EMOTIVE, and arc con- 
trasted with NEUTRAL symbols. An emotive word, then, is one expressive of 
strong feelings (especially of approval or disapproval) on the part of the 
speaker. The use of emotive words has a tendency to produce similar feel- 
ings in the hearer. 

The English language has a few words reserved for the expression of feel- 
ing and used for no other purposeexclamations like 'Shame!' 'Hurrah!' 
'Encore!' While these words are highly emotive according to our definition, 
they express very generalized feelings. For this reason (and because they 
are so seldom used in discourse) they have negligible influence in determi- 
ning people's views concerning specific topics. 

If an advertiser wants to predispose the man in the street in favor of his 
product, he will probably adopt more subtle means to recommend it. Sup- 
pose he is selling a dentifrice consisting of powdered beef bone (an actual 


case) : the slogan 'Hurrah for powdered beef bone!' is unlikely to enlist 
many customers for the new product, even though repeated by the thou- 
sand in newspaper advertisements and on the radio. For the words 'pow- 
dered beef bone' have suggestions which are unfavorable to the advertiser's 
purpose: we have all seen raw beef bones, and we tend to think of an 
unappetizing mess of blood-stained splinters, not at all the sort of stuff we 
would choose for cleaning the teeth. How much better then from the adver- 
tiser's standpoint to label the product 'Numin' (the name actually chosen). 
Instead of the negative emotive force of 'powdered beef bone,' we have a 
positive emotive appeal of the substitute term, 'Numin.' For the latter has 
a scientific flavor, as of some new vitamin, and can therefore be relied upon 
to be attractive to the man in the street. 

The device used in this instance to stimulate a favorable reaction to a 
certain object (the dentifrice) consists in the choice of a name having 
agreeable associations. The English language is very rich in words approxi- 
mately equivalent in explicit meaning, while markedly divergent in their 
emotive associations and suggestions. 

The terms 'government official/ 'bureaucrat,' and 'public servant' have 
much the same explicit meaning, yet the first is neutral, the second abusive 
and the last honorific. 'Liquidation of the opposition' sounds a great deal 
more agreeable than 'torture and murder of the minority/ A man may 'talk 
eloquently' or 'jabber'; a statesman may 'have the gift of compromise' or 
be a 'slippery trimmer'; a friend is 'understandably confused,' an enemy 
'has gone a bit off his noodle'; all these examples having been found in a 
single newspaper editorial. 

The list of examples could be indefinitely extended, for nearly all the 
words we use are colored with some shade of respect or contempt, and every 
notion can be so worded as to make its subject seem cither admirable or 

The expression and influence of attitudes by means of such highly emo- 
tive words as those we have cited should be too obvious to escape notice. 
But these cases are not exceptional. The view that only in 'propaganda' 
and abuse is language used emotively is none the less profoundly mistaken 
for being widely held. We must insist, to the contrary, that language is 
normally used to express attitudes and exert influence as well as to convey 
explicit statement: it is as much of an exception for language to be 'un- 
colored' or neutral as for matter to be without odor. 

Since the emotive and suggestive influence of language is so strong, we 
must take account of it in our general program of establishing principles 

12 Max Black 

and standards of right thinking. (If on the other hand, we were to neglect 
these aspects of language, and to pay attention only to what is explicitly 
stated in neutral terms, we should be behaving like a pilot who refused to 
take account of any part of an iceberg that was not visible above the 
water.) By discussing a concrete example in detail, we shall now illustrate 
the types of critical procedure which are appropriate. 

paper editorial opened with this sentence: 

(A) 'A fabulously rich playboy, who got tired of his ponies, got the idea that 
he would like to repudiate the free enterprise that privileged his grand- 
father to endow him with so many million dollars he could never hope to 
count them. 1 

This passage tells us a great deal more about the editorial writer (or his 
employer) than about the millionaire who is the target of his abuse. Yet 
the passage does contain a little impersonal information (true or false); 
and the first step in analysis is to make this content explicit. An experienced 
journalist who happened to read (A) would immediately 'discount' much 
of what was said. What this probably means, he might comment, when 
you get down to the kernel of hard fact, is: 

(B) 'The rich man in question is supporting federal control of industry.' 

After the invective of (A), this partial translation appears very insipid: 
clearly the writer had little interest in conveying the information expressed 
by (B). 

We proceed, therefore, to identify the emotive suggestions of the origi- 
nal passage. A convenient way of doing this is to begin by picking out (say 
by underlining) all the words and phrases which seem to make a notable 
contribution to the total impression intended. After this has been done, 
we try to state explicitly the nature of the suggestion conveyed in each 
case. Proceeding in this fashion, we get the following analysis: 


'playboy,' 'ponies' X (the man in question) is an idler 

and gambler 

'fabulously rich' X is excessively wealthy 
'so many million dollars he could 
never hope to count them' 

'got tired of X is irresponsible makes decisions for 
'got the idea' no good reason 



'would like to repudiate' 

'privileged 9 X has received special and unearned 

'endow 9 favors 

It will be seen that these suggestions reinforce each other in painting 
the picture of a highly unattractive character. The malice of the writer's 
intention is obvious when the various suggestions are combined in a single 
explicit statement, in some such fashion as this: 

(C) The man in question is an idle gambler, who has far more money than he 
deserves, and is now irresponsibly using the vast financial power which he 
did nothing to earn. 

This last statement, if made explicitly, might well be libellous and expose 
its author to a legal suit for damages. Yet even so it would probably be less 
effective than the hints and innuendoes of the original passage (A). In 
all such cases the rule holds that the outspoken accusation is less danger- 
ous than the whispered calumny. 

A good way of neutralizing the suggestive power of the original passage 
is to replace the crucial emotive terms and phrases by others having oppo- 
site emotive tendency (but approximately the same explicit content). In 
this way we get the following substitute for (A) : 

(D) A very wealthy American sportsman has decided to oppose the system of 
unregulated commercial trading which enabled his grandfather to leave 
him his large fortune. 

(You would do well to compare versions A and D very carefully, in order 
to decide for yourself whether the latter can be regarded as a 'fair transla- 
tion' of the former.) 

It still remains for us to determine whether the suggestions contained 
in the original passage (and explicitly formulated in C) arc to be regarded 
as justified. We must guard carefully against assuming that the implicit 
suggestions of an utterance can be automatically rejected, without further 
examination, just because they are suggested and not explicitly stated. Such 
an assumption would be grossly mistaken; for there are many occasions on 
which the expression of our feelings is perfectly justified. 

We take as a second instance of highly emotive language, a passage from 
one of Garrison's 4 speeches: 

[ 4 William Lloyd Garrison (1805-79), abolitionist and journalist.] 

14 Max Black 

I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not 
cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. 
On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation; 
No! nol Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to 
moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to 
gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; But urge me 
not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest I will not 
equivocate I will not retreat a single inch, AND I WILL BE HEARD. 

This is the language of a man laboring under strong emotions conveyed 
in words well fitted to communicate indignation. Shall we say that he is 
wrong to have the feelings or to attempt to communicate them? Or that 
he ought to resort to the pallid and ineffective use of 'neutral' language? 
Surely not. But to grant the right of Garrison or anybody else to express 
feelings and attitudes towards a subject by the most effective means he can 
find to hand, is a very different thing from admitting without further exam- 
ination that the specific emotion or attitude is justified. The suggestions of 
eloquence, rhetoric or poetry, insofar as they consist of claims which might 
be true or false, must submit to enquiries into their evidence, general credi- 
bility, consistency; if their moving appeals to our feelings are justified, they 
should survive such examination without a stain on their character. 

Returning to our original example, then, we must ask -what evidence is 
provided for the claim formulated in (C). In this particular instance, the 
answer is quickly given: for no reasons at all are brought forward in sup- 
port of the scurrilous accusation. So while we admit the editorial writer's 
general privilege of accusing his subject of idleness, impractibility, and so 
forth, in the manner he has chosen, we may object strenuously that in the 
case at issue his accusation is presented as a bare assertion, destitute of any 
supporting evidence in its favor. Our summing up of the value of passage 
(A) might take some such form as this: 'The passage is intended to arouse 
prejudice against its subject, by representing him as idle, irresponsible, and 
undeservedly wealthy. It appeals successfully to the reader's presumed dis- 
like of these qualities. But it offers no particle of evidence in support of its 
hostile contention/ 

TONED UTTERANCE. The painstaking analysis illustrated in the last section 
will be too elaborate for everyday use: life is too short for us to be always 
ferreting out the full emotive implications of what we read and hear. It is 
nevertheless of great value as a training in critical awareness of the sugges- 
tive overtures of human utterance to perform a few such exercises in great 


detail. When this is done, the following suggestions for procedure may be 

1. Begin by reading the passage slowly, carefully, and calmly several times, 
noting any points in the utterance which seem to deserve further examination. 
(You will pardon this insistence upon so elementary and obvious a point. Expe- 
rience shows that once the excitement of the chase has been aroused, there is a 
tendency to 'discover' sinister or profound implications in a passage, before even 
reading it with any degree of attention!) 

2. State the general intention and context of the utterance. [E.g. 'This is a 
report of a new scientific discovery made to an audience thoroughly familiar 
with the general background, and made by a man who is trying to suppress all 
that is personal in the circumstances he is describing/ Or 'This is an advertise- 
ment whose main object is to arouse curiosity concerning a mysteriously labelled 
new product; it is designed to appeal especially to women to make them more 
receptive to later "follow-ups." ' It is useful also to try to determine the evi- 
dence used in arriving at this verdict concerning the general nature of the sym- 
bolic situation.] 

3. Extract the words and phrases in the passage which are particularly effec- 
tive in conveying the desired suggestion. [Crude instances of this, such as those 
discussed in the last section, arc easily detected. More subtle suggestion, e.g. 
those due to the general style of a passage, may easily escape notice. It is an 
excellent practice here, as throughout this training, to compare one's results 
with those of those working independently on the same passage. Hunting down 
the reason for disagreement will often bring to light unsuspected resources of 
the language used.] 

4. Make the suggestions of each word explicit, and combine the partial sug- 
gestions in a single statement. [This has been illustrated by the analysis preced- 
ing version (C) above. You will soon find, on trial, that the suggestions of a 
word or phrase can be made explicit only in a rough and approximate way. 
Paraphrasing the implicit content largely neutralizes its emotive influence. 
Instead of extracting the implicit content in this way, a useful variation is to 
rewrite the original passage reversing the emotive effect of the critical terms, as 
illustrated in statement (D) above.] 

5. Formulate, in neutral language, the impersonal content of the original 
passage. [The products of steps 4 and 5 should together approximate in inform- 
ative content to the original passage.] 

6. Determine the evidence in favor of the original passage, as now elab- 
orated. . . 

Jacques Barzun 

|[ Mr. Barzun's Teacher in America, first published in 1944 and 
reprinted four times in the following year, is a refreshing, sensible, 
and very readable book on teaching. Even a teacher can enjoy it. 
If perhaps it is bounded a little too much by Columbia, that is 
excusable, for Mr. Barzun is a Columbia graduate and now Professor 
of History there. His other works arc The French Race (1932), 
Race (1937), Of Human Freedom (1939), Darwin, Marx, Wagner 
(1941), Romanticism and the Modern Ego (1943), and Berlioz 
and the Romantic Century (1950). 

Here and there a touch of good grammar for picturesque- 
ness. Mark Twain. 



KITING comes before reading, in logic and also in the 
public mind. No one cares whether you read fast or slow, well or ill, but as 
soon as you put pen to paper, somebody may be puzzled, angry, bored, or 
ecstatic; and if the occasion permits, your reader is almost sure to exclairrf 
about the schools not doing their duty. This is the oldest literary tradition,, 
of which here is a modern instance: 



Recently a letter came into my office from a boy who described himself as a 

first-year high school student. He wanted information about Africia, because for 

his project in the social studies class he had chozen Africia. If we could not help 

him, were could he write? In closing, he was ours sinceerly. His handwriting 

was comparable to that of my 6-year-old nephew. 

Too bad, but I am not alarmed. This student of 'Africia' may or may not 
learn to spell: it is not nearly so important as his diction and his sentence 

FROM Teacher in America. Copyright 1944, 1945 by Jacques Barzun. Reprinted by 
permission of Little, Brown & Co. 


structure, which the plaintiff withheld, though they would have better 
enabled us to judge what the schools were really doing. What I fear about 
this boy is that when grown-up and provided with a secretary who can 
spell, he will write something like this: 


As you know, security prices have been advancing rapidly in the recent past 
in belated recognition of the favorable fundamentals that exist. [Italics mine] 

What is decadent about this I shall shortly explain. Meantime, the fact 
should be faced squarely that good writing is and has always been extremely 
rare. I do not mean fine writing, but the simple, clear kind that everyone 
always demands from others. The truth is that Simple English is no one's 
mother tongue. It has to be worked for. As an historian, I have plowed 
through state papers, memoirs, diaries, and letters, and I know that the 
ability to write has only a remote connection with either intelligence, or 
greatness, or schooling. Lincoln had no schooling yet became one of the 
great prose writers of the world. Cromwell went to Cambridge and was 
hardly ever able to frame an intelligible sentence. Another man of thought 
and action, Admiral Lord Howe, generally refrained from writing out his 
plan of battle, so as to save his captains from inevitable misunderstanding. 
Yet Howe managed to win the famous First of June * by tactics that revo- 
lutionized the art, and led directly to Nelson's Trafalgar plan itself a 
rather muddled piece of prose. Let us then start with no illusion of an 
imaginary golden age of writing. 

Which leaves the problem of doing the best with what nature gives us. 
And here I have some convictions born of long struggle, with myself and 
with others. First, I pass by all considerations of penmanship and elemen- 
tary spelling to remark only that I think it a mistake to start children writ- 
ing on typewriters, and worse yet to let them grow up unable to do anything 
but print capitals. 

Above the beginner's level, the important fact is that writing cannot be 
taught exclusively in a course called English Composition. Writing can 
only be taught by the united efforts of the entire teaching staff. This holds 
good of any school, college, or university. Joint effort is needed, not merely 
to 'enforce the rules'; it is needed to insure accuracy in every subject. How 
can an answer in physics or a translation from the French or an historical 

E 1 In a naval battle fought i June 1794 he won a great victory over the French. At 
Trafalgar in 1805 Nelson destroyed the French fleet.] 

i8 Jacques Barzun 

statement be called correct if the phrasing is loose or the key word wrong? 
Students argue that the reader of the paper knows perfectly well what is 
meant. Probably so, but a written exercise is designed to be read; it is not 
supposed to be a challenge to clairvoyance. My Italian-born tailor periodi- 
cally sends me a postcard which runs: Tour clothes is ready and should 
come down for a fitting/ I understand him, but the art I honor him for is 
cutting cloth, not precision of utterance. Now a student in college must be 
inspired to achieve in all subjects the utmost accuracy of perception com- 
bined with the utmost artistry of expression. The two merge and develop 
the sense of good workmanship, of preference for quality and truth, which 
is the chief mark of the genuinely educated man. 

This is obviously a collective task, in which every department and every 
faculty has a common stake. But it is not enough to give notice that these 
are the faculty's sentiments. Even supposing that all teachers were willing 
and able to exert vigilance over written work, there would still be many 
practical problems of detail. And first, what motive for writing well can the 
student be made to feel? There is only one valid motive: the desire to be 
read. You will say that most students have no urge either to write or to be 
read. True, but (a) they know that they have to write and (b) most of 
them want to be well thought of. They should accordingly be made to sec 
that reading the ordinary student paper can be a nuisance and a bore to 
the teacher, and that the proper aim of writing should be to make it a 
pleasure. This is another way of saying that most school writing is bad 
because student and teacher play at writing and reading instead of taking 
it seriously. The teacher expects second-rate hokum and the student sup- 
plies it. Let the teacher assert his rights just as the students do: in many 
college classes the men protest quite rightlywhen they are asked to read 
a dull or ill-organized book. Similarly, the instructor may warn the students 
that when they turn in filler and padding, jargon and lingo, stuff and non- 
sense, he will mark them down, not only in his grade book, but in his vio- 
lated soul. 

Naturally, this conscious brutality must go with a helping hand; in fact 
a revision of all usual practices is in order. The embargo on hokum will 
already work a healthy elimination of bad prose. Then the long Term 
Paper must be discarded and replaced with the short essay, not more than 
five typewritten pages in length. Students always ask how long a final paper 
should be and they are absolutely right in believing that most instructors 
are impressed by mere bulk. But when one knows how difficult it is to 
articulate even three measly thoughts around a single point, it is folly to 


ask eighteen-year-olds to produce thirty- or forty-page monographs that 
shall be readable. What they produce is an uncarded mattress of quota- 
tions, paraphrase, 'however's,' and Thus we see's/ Size being aimed at, 
there is no time for rewriting or reordering the material culled from half a 
dozen books, and the main effort goes into the irrelevant virtues of neat 
typing, plentiful footnotes, and the mannerisms of scholarship. 

The short paper and I speak from a large pile accumulated over twelve 
years aims and arrives at different ends. It answers the reader's eternal 
question: Just what are you trying to tell me? It is in that spirit that student 
writing must be read, corrected, and if need be rewritten. When first pre- 
sented, it must already be a second or third draft. The only reason I can 
think of for the somewhat higher average of good writing in France is that 
the brouillon is a national institution. The brouillon (literally: scrambled 
mess) is the first draft, and even the concierge 2 writing to the police about 
anarchists on the third floor begins with a bTouillon, later found by his 

Of course it is no use telling an American boy or girl that the essay must 
be written, laid aside, and rewritten at least once before handing in: the 
innocents do not know what to do after their first painful delivery. So the 
simplest thing is to ask early in the term for a good five-page essay, which 
turns out to be pretty bad. This is fully annotated by the reader and turned 
back before the next one is called for. But the corrections on it are not 
merely the conventional sp. y ref. 9 punc., and cnvfe. which the writers have 
seen in their margins from the seventh grade on. The comments are in- 
tensely and painfully personal, being the responses that an alert reader 
would feel if he were encountering the essay in print. The result is that 
even the best students feel abashed, if not actually resentful. To which 
one can only say that they should resent the neglect in which all their 
previous teachers have left them. 

This neglect has not damaged their grammar so much as their vocabu- 
lary. Since the last thing any writer learns is the uses of words, it is no 
wonder if untutored youths of ability write like the stockbroker whom I 
quoted about 'favorable fundamentals that exist' spineless, vague, and 
incoherent prose. Indeed, the exact parallel comes this moment under my 
hand, taken from a very able student's report on Newman's University 
Sketches: 'A University that rests on a firm financial foundation has the 
greater ability to unleash the minds of its students.' Despite the difference 
in names, the stockbroker is that boy's putative father. Their failure comes 

[ a Doorman.] 

20 Jacques Barzun 

from a like inattention to meaningtheir own and that of the words they 

This means that words and tone are the main things to be taught. Spell- 
ing, grammar, and punctuation do not precede but follow in the order of 
importance. They follow also quite naturally in the order of facility. 
Accordingly, the teacher-critic must slowly and carefully explain to the 
student what each word conveys in its particular context. I find that in the 
essay just cited I have written such comments as: 'I can't follow This 
repeats in disguise "avocational fruit" suggests alligator pears: why? 
We now have about eight "problems'' on hand: Begin! What! more issues 
and problems? Commercial lingo Who is "we"? Why "cradle": the 
metaphor is lost Who says this? "Patina" is not "clothing" Don't scold 
and then trail off in this way This is your point at last/ In addition, 
images are changed, synonyms proposed, and bad sentences recast, some- 
times in alternative ways, in order to show precisely how the original mis- 
leads and how clarity is to be reached. 

Tone grows naturally out of diction, but the choice of words betrays 
feelings of which the young writer is usually unaware. 'Are you pleading, 
denouncing, coaxing, or laughing? Do you back up this exaggeration? Why 
suddenly talk down, or turn pedant? If you want to change the mood inside 
the piece, you must modulate, otherwise your reader will stumble and you 
will lose him.' The student who learns to quiz himself in this fashion over 
his first draft is learning not only something about English, about writing, 
and about thinking, but about the human heart as well. 

At the risk of tediousness I repeat that what has to be done is to drama- 
tize the relation between writer and reader. The blunt comments are just a 
device to break the spell of routine, and though they administer an unpleas- 
ant shock at first, they are also flattering. 'Somebody cares about what I 
want to say.' The teacher is no longer a paid detective hunting stray 

To point these lessons up in minute detail to a student of average powers 
is of course time-consuming- but what else is the teacher there for? Time 
spent on reading and writing, in any subject, is never a waste, and the 
reward almost always comes, often astonishingly great. The excitement 
aroused by the discovery that words live is like finding that you can balance 
on skates. A new world of motion and of feeling is opened out to the stu- 
dent, a source of some anguish balanced by lifelong delight. George Gis- 
sing 3 writes somewhere that he saw an excursion steamer advertised as 

[ 3 English essayist and novelist (1857-1903).] 


being 'Replete with Ladies' Lavatories' and he comments on how many 
people could pass by the sign without a smile. My own favorite recollection 
is of a guarantee pasted on a modest shop window: 'Hats fitted to the head 
exclusively' fun in every ad and at the company's expense. 

The pleasure to be taken in words is as innocent and satisfying as the 
moral effect is clear: unless words are used deftly to set the imagination on 
its travels, language, literature, conversation, and friendship are full of 
snares. Much of our modern anxiety about the tyranny of words and of our 
desire for foolproof Basic 4 comes from the uneasy suspicion that we have 
lost the art of diction and with it the control over our own minds. This is 
more serious than it seems, for there is no doubt that the world outside the 
school largely checks what present instruction attempts, as we shall see. 
But having spoken of the imagination, let me first meet a likely objection 
to the advice here proposed. I can fancy some reader for whom school com- 
positions were torture shaking a skeptical head and saying: 'Most young 
children have very little to say and school assignments blot out even that 
little.' I agree and the second great practical problem is, What to ask boys 
and girls to write about? 

The don'ts are easy. Don't ask them for 'A vacation experience,' or 'My 
most embarrassing moment,' or 'I am the Mississippi River.' Such topics 
will only elicit the driest kind of hokum, though to be fair I must say that 
they are an improvement on the older practice of expecting infant moraliz- 
ing and 'What the flag means to me.' Although as a child I enjoyed writ- 
inghistory chiefly I can remember the blankness of mind that overtook 
me when we had to do a dissertation morale. I still have a school text with 
some of those themes checked as having been done for example: 'The 
Faithful Dog. A poor man has resolved to drown his dog. Thrown into 
the river, the dog tries to scramble up the bank, but his master lunges out 
to kill him with a stick. In so doing, he slips and falls. The dog saves him. 
Remorse of the owner.' 

I regret to say that French school life is stuffed with such thorns as these, 
but I am not sure that the opposite 'progressive* extreme of turning chil- 
dren into researchers on their own is desirable either. The eleven-year-old 
son of a friend of mine once told me that he was writing a 'project' on 
Papyrus. Why papyrus? Well, the class had been 'doing' Egypt and each 
child was assigned one aspect of Egyptian civilization. Where was the 

[ 4 A kind of English developed mainly to help foreigners learn something of the 
language. It has a vocabulary of about 850 'basic' words. Some books, including the 
Bible and Plato's Republic, have been entirely translated into Basic.] 

22 Jacques Barzun 

information to come from? From encyclopedias, museums, friends, and 
paper manufacturers hence such letters to strangers as the one about 
'Africia' quoted earlier. As I see it, two things are wrong with this scheme. 
One is that it gives a false freedom; the other is that it hardly trains in the 
art of composing. Did this boy care at all about Egypt, let alone about the 
technicalities of papyrology? A child should select a topic that truly engages 
his interest. To eliminate pretense he must be helped to do this by means 
of questions and suggestions. At any age, it is very reassuring to be told 
that you don't really want to write about the Tariff. After two or three 
casts a real subject emerges, satisfactory to both parties. 

Next should come into play the single good feature of the French disser- 
tation, namely its furnishing a plan or program. Depending on the child's 
a^e a briefer or longer table of contents should be set out for each theme, 
cither in logically organized form, or pell-mell for the student himself to 
disentangle. After all, what is wanted is prose, not a riot of fancy. In my 
experience, even examination questions are answered better when they 
consist of five or six sentences outlining a topic for discussion. This means 
further that brevity should never be accounted a fault in itself. After thirty, 
we can all spin tall tales, mostly secondhand,* but students, even of college 
age, have had very little conscious experience of life or books and it is no 
wonder their minds are bone dry. One should moreover keep in view the 
possibility that in some of them brevity may come from genius. American 
schoolmarms who relate the anecdote of Lincoln's 'failure' with the Gettys- 
burg Address are just as likely to say at one glance, 'Jane, this is too short.' 
How do they know? Perhaps they unwittingly agree with the Gettysburg 
crowd that Everett's speech, 5 being longer, was better. 

Some secondary schools, particularly the private ones, require the writing 
of verse as well as of prose. If the students are really shown how to go about 
versifying and are not expected to be 'poetic,' there is no harm in it. Verse 
writing is excellent practice for the prose writer and the striving for correct 

* No course, therefore, should ever be called Creative Writing. Let us have at least a 
collective modesty and leave to charlatans the advertising of 'How to Write Powerful 

[ s Edward Everett made a long speech on the same occasion (the dedication of the 
National Cemetery at Gettysburg) on which Lincoln delivered his famous address. Lin- 
coln's was so brief that it disappointed some people and some newspapers. But it should 
be remembered that many persons had traveled long distances to Gettysburg in order to 
hear the President; and that although long orations were the fashion then, Lincoln spoke 
only for a minute or two. It is easy to conjecture that he was finished before some 
members of his audience had settled down to listening to him; naturally they were dis- 


rhythm and rhyme gives the student of literature a feeling for words that 
may not otherwise be obtained. What can be done in this way before col- 
lege by a gifted teacher has been shown by the experience of my friend, 
the poet Dudley Fitts, formerly at Choate and now at Andover. In collegi- 
ate circles, it is now well knowri that a freshman prepared under him is a 
literate, sometimes a polished writer, who can be safely allowed to skip into 
advanced work. No doubt Fitts has had his failures like all of us, but it is 
the successes we are looking for and that count in leavening the mass. 

I am not so foolish as to think that carrying out my few suggestions 
would get rid of illiterate A.B.'s. I am too conscious of my initial point 
about 'Education/ which is that the school does not work in a vacuum but 
rather in a vortex of destructive forces. As regards writing, we in the twen- 
tieth century must offset not only the constant influence of careless speech 
and the indifference of parents, but the tremendous output of jargon issu- 
ing from the new mechanical means at man's disposal. Worst of all, cir- 
cumstances have conspired to put the most corrupting force at the very 
heart of the school system. It is not newspapers, radio scripts, and movies 
that spoil our tongue so much as textbooks, official documents, commence- 
ment speeches, and learned works.* 

The rise, at the turn of the century, of what James called 'the softer 
pedagogy' is responsible for a debasement of language beyond all bounds 
of forgiveness. The desire to be kind, to sound new, to foster useful atti- 
tudes, to appear 'scientific/ and chiefly also the need to produce rapidly, 
account for this hitherto unheard-of deliquescence. In the victims, the soft- 
ness goes to the very roots of the mind and turns it into mush. And among 
the 'new' educators thus afflicted, the Progressive vanguard has naturally 
outstripped the rest. I shall not multiply examples from catalogues, reports, 
and speeches, though over the years I have gathered a blush-making collec- 
tion. I want only to identify the evil because it spreads like the plague. 

It consists mainly of what our forefathers called 'cant phrases/ strung 
together without continuity, like wash on a line. At a faculty meeting, a 
teacher asks the Director of Admissions why there seem to be more music 
students applying than before. The Director replies, 'Well, I should say 
that the forces undergirding the process are societal/ Or a committee chair- 

* See Mr. Maury Maverick's excellent denunciation of what he calls Gobblcdygook 
in the New York Times for May 21, 1944. The rebuttals attempting to show that round- 
about expressions spare shocks to the sick are hardly to the point. The healthy ought to 
be able to stand directness and even mention of 'death and taxes/ 'Loss of life' and 
'fiscal levies' cost just as much in the end. 

24 Jacques Barzun 

man wants to know what we do next. 'I think/ says the secretary, 'that we 
should go on to institute actual implementation/ i 

Teachers steeped in this medium are bound to ooze it out themselves, 
particularly if weekly and daily they receive official instructions like these: 
"Specify the kinds of change or permanence the student seems to crave, 
reject, or fear; the reasons given for liking-disliking, giving up-persistence; 
complaining-boasting. . . It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the 
observations of characteristics associated with age and background are not 
being made in the general area of adolescent behavior but under specific 
and limited conditionsthose set by the aims, emphases, and assumptions 
of one particular faculty.* Moreover, the observations of what appear to be 
the interests of freshmen conceal a possible ambiguity. The term "interests" 
may refer to fairly superficial interests in the sense of surprise, pleasure, 
enjoyment, which are comparatively temporary; or "interests" may involve 
an awakening curiosity which leads to consistent inquiry along the lines of 
some project/ The reader must imagine not merely a paragraph taken at 
random, but pages and pages of similar woolly abstractions, mimeographed 
at the rate of nine and one-half pounds per person per semester. If the 
words 'specific* and 'objective' were blotted out of the English language, 
Progressive Education would have to shut up ... shop. 

As for students in teachers' colleges, the long climb up the ladder of 
learning comes to mean the mastering of this ghoulish Desperanto, so that 
with the attainment of the M.A. degree, we get the following utterance: 

In the proposed study I wish to describe and evaluate representative pro- 
grams in these fields as a means of documenting what seems to me a trend of 
increasing concern with the role of higher education in the improvement of 
interpersonal and intergroup relations and of calling attention in this way to 
outstanding contributions in practice. 

Some readers might think this quotation very learned and highbrow in- 
deed. But in fact it says nothing definite. It only embodies the disinclina- 
tion to think. This is a general truth, and nothing is more symptomatic of 
the whole jargon than the fantastic use and abuse it makes of the phrase 
'in terms of/ The fact is worth a moment's attention. 'In terms of used to 
refer to things that had terms, like algebra. Tut the problem in terms of 
<t and b' This makes sense. But in educational circles today 'in terms of 
means any connection between any two things. 'We should grade students 

* I regret to say that 'faculty* here means 'faculty member' a usage so far confined 
to the progressive schools. 


in terms of their effort' that is, for or according to their effort. The New 
York Public Library Bulletin prints: The first few months of employment 
would be easier . . . and more efficient in terms of service . . /that is, 
would yield more efficient service. But no one seems to care how or when 
or why his own two ideas are related. The gap in thought is plugged with 
'in terms of/ I have been asked, 'Will you have dinner with me, not tonight 
or tomorrow, but in terms of next week?' A modern Caesar would write: 
'All Gaul is to be considered in terms of three parts/ * 

From this Educator's patois, easily the worst English now spoken, we 
ought to pass to the idiom of textbooks, since they arc written either by 
educators or by teachers. Happily, there is a standard set by other books- 
trade books and it is not true that all textbooks are as badly written as 
those on education. On the contrary, it is very encouraging that the leading 
ones in every field are usually well planned and well written. The success 
of Morison and Commager's Growth of the American Republic 6 is only the 
most recent case in point. Students, nevertheless, are asked to read many 
ill-written books. There is no excuse for this, though it is by no means the 
only source of error. We must remember that students do not read only 
books; they read what every man reads, and this would do no harm it does 
no harm when the mind is trained to resilience by the kind of writing 
practice I have advocated. 

Unfortunately, with the vast increase in public schooling since 1870, an 
entirely new notion of what is good English has come to prevail. Awakened 
by free schooling, the people have shown worthy intentions. They want to 
be right and even elegant, and so become at once suspicious of plainness 
and pedantic. They purchase all sorts of handbooks that make a fetish of 
spelling, of avoiding split infinitives, of saying 'it is F (with the common 
result of 'between you and I') in short, dwell on trivialities or vulgar- 
isms which do not affect style or thought in the slightest. But with this 
intolerance towards crude and plain error goes a remarkable insensitivity 
to inflated nonsense. Most bad journalism is only highbrow verbosity, yet 
the popular mind continues to believe that the pedantry which it likes is 
simple and the simplicity which it finds hard is complex. Here is the open- 
ing of a serial thriller in a Boston paper: 

Strange things happen in Chinatown. But even that exotic and perverse dis- 
trict seldom presented drama as fantastic as the secret that hid among the silk 

* The objectionable phrase is now to be found in newspapers, business reports, and 
private correspondence. It is a menace in terms of the whole nation. 
[' A chapter of this work is reprinted on pp. 300-321.] 

26 Jacques Barzun 

and jade and porcelain splendors of the famous House of the Mandarin on 
Mulberry Lane. * 

There is a certain art in this, and I take note of 'porcelain splendors' as 
the mot juste for bathtubs on exhibit. But the passage as a whole contains 
nothing but arty and highfalutin words, joined by the good will of the 
reader rather than the mind of the writer. Still, every newspaper reader 
feels he understands it. Take now a well-known sentence composed of com- 
mon words, all but two of them single syllables: 'If there are more trees in 
the world than there arc leaves on any one tree, then there must be at least 
two trees with the same number of leaves/ Read this aloud and almost any 
listener will respond with Huh? Say that again/ For this sentence records 
a thought, and the Chinatown 'drama* did not. 

'I 'he close logic in the truly 'simple' sentence makes the contrast sharper, 
but it would be just as sharp between a feeling clearly put and a feeble 
attempt to thrill. Thus there is a superstition that the novels of Henry 
James arc written in a 'difficult style/ Yet if you examine them, you will 
find that the words and sentences in The Ambassadors, for example- 
arc in themselves quite usual. But the feelings they convey arc unusual and 
subtle, and require attention. At the same time they also compel it, which 
is all that an artist takes pains for in writing. 

Conversely, the only thing that can be asked of a writer is that he should 
know his own meaning and present it as forcibly as he can. The rule has 
not changed since Byron affirmed that 'easy writing makes damned hard 
reading/ Hence there is great value, as I think, in having college graduates 
recognize good prose when they sec it, know that a tolerable paragraph 
must have gone through six or seven versions, and be ready to follow ath- 
letically on the trail of articulate thoughts, rather than look for the soapy 
incline to muddled meaning. 

One does not have to go very far for the enjoyment of precise, sinewy 
writing. The same newspaper that furnishes tripe for the morning meal 
also brings such rarer tidbits as these: They [the robot bombs] arc of much 
the same shape and size as a small fighter plane, with stubby wings. They 
come over with tails aglow from the propelling rocket force, like little 
meteors moving at a nightmare pace by dark, and by day like little black 
planes with tails afire/ This is perfection; and here is poetry: 'Mr. McCaf- 
frey, himself the father of two children, and therefore schooled in appre- 
hension, ran across the street . . . shouting a warning/ 

When the daily reporter, harried by falling bombs or hustled by a city 


editor, can write like this, it is depressing to return to agencies closer to the 
school and find verbal laziness encouraged and imbecility taken for granted. 
One publisher of reference works sends out a circular stressing the fact that 
his books give the pronunciation of 'all difficult "hard-to-say" words/ Is 
this where we are after fifty years of quasi-universal literacy? Is the word 
'difficult' so difficult that it has to be translated in its own sentence? The 
question is one for readers, and it is to the subject of reading that I now 

Henry David Thoreau 

([ On Thoreau and Walden see p. 383. 


T f IT: 

' ITH a little more deliberation in the choice of their pur- 
suits, all men would perhaps become essentially students and observers, for 
certainly their nature and destiny are interesting to all alike. In accumu- 
lating property for ourselves or our posterity, in founding a family or a 
state, or acquiring fame even, we are mortal; but in dealing with truth we 
are immortal, and need fear no change nor accident. The oldest Egyptian 
or Hindoo philosopher raised a corner of the veil from the statue of the 
divinity; and still the trembling robe remains raised, and I gaze upon as 
fresh a glory as he did, since it was I in him that was then so bold, and it 
is he in me that now reviews the vision. No dust has settled on that robe; 
no time has elapsed since that divinity was revealed. That time which we 
really improve, or which is improvable, is neither past, present, nor future. 
My residence was more favorable, not only to thought, but to serious 
reading, than a university; and though I was beyond the range of the ordi- 
nary circulating library, I had more than ever come within the influence 
of those books which circulate round the world, whose sentences were first 
written on bark, and are now merely copied from time to time on to linen 
paper. Says the poet Mir Camar Uddin Mast, 'Being seated to run through 
the region of the spiritual world; I have had this advantage in books. To 
be intoxicated by a single glass of wine; I have experienced this pleasure 
when I have drunk the liquor of the esoteric doctrines/ I kept Homer's 
Iliad on my table through the summer, though I looked at his page only 
now and then. Incessant labor with my hands, at first, for I had my house 
to finish 1 and my beans to hoe at the same time, made more study impos- 

[> See 'Where I Lived, and What I Lived For' (pp. 383-88).] 
FROM Walden, 1854. 


sible. Yet I sustained myself by the prospect of such reading in future. I 
read one or two shallow books of travel in the intervals of my work, till that 
employment made me ashamed of myself, and I asked where it was then 
that I lived. 

The student may read Homer or dEschylus in the Greek without danger 
of dissipation or luxuriousness, for it implies that he in some measure emu- 
late their heroes, and consecrate morning hours 2 to their pages. The heroic 
books, even if printed in the character of our mother tongue, will always 
be in a language dead to degenerate times; and we must laboriously seek 
the meaning of each word and line, conjecturing a larger sense than com- 
mon use permits out of what wisdom and valor and generosity we have. 
The modern cheap and fertile press, with all its translations, has done little 
to bring us nearer to the heroic writers of antiquity. They seem as solitary, 
and the letter in which they are printed as rare and curious, as ever. It is 
worth the expense of youthful days and costly hours, if you learn only some 
words of an ancient language, which arc raised out of the trivialness of the 
street, to be perpetual suggestions and provocations. It is not in vain that 
the farmer remembers and repeats the few Latin words which he has heard. 
Men sometimes speak as if the study of the classics would at length make 
way for more modern and practical studies; 3 but the adventurous student 
will always study classics, in whatever language they may be written and 
however ancient they may be. For what are the classics but the noblest 
recorded thoughts of man? They are the only oracles which are not decayed, 
and there are such answers to the most modern inquiry in them as Delphi 
and Dodona 4 never gave. We might as well omit to study Nature because 
she is old. To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble 
exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the 
customs of the day esteem. It requires a training such as the athletes under- 
went, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object. 6 Books 
must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written. It is not 
enough even to be able to speak the language of that nation by which they 
are written, for there is a memorable interval between the spoken and the 
written language, the language heard and the language read. The one is 

[ a On the sacredness of morning see 'Where I Lived, and What I Lived For* (pp. 

[ 3 See selections by Arnold (pp. 120-37), Foerster (pp. 138-49), and Livingstone 
(pp. 150-65).] 

I 4 Two celebrated shrines where the oracles of Apollo and Zeus were delivered.] 

t a Compare this passage on the strenuousness of reading with that from his Journal 
(quoted on pp. 40-41 ) about the exacting discipline of writing.] 

30 Henry David Thoreau 

commonly transitory, a sound, a tongue, a dialect merely, almost brutish, 
and we learn it unconsciously, like the brutes, of our mothers. The other is 
the maturity and experience of that; if that is our mother tongue, this is our 
father tongue, a reserved and select expression, too significant to be heard 
by the ear, which we must be born again in order to speak. The crowds of 
men who merely spoke the Greek and Latin tongues in the middle ages 
were not entitled by the accident of birth to read the works of genius writ- 
ten in those languages; for these were not written in that Creek or Latin 
which they knew, but in the select language of literature. They had not 
learned the nobler dialects of Greece and Rome, but the very materials on 
which they were written were waste paper to them, and they prized instead 
a cheap contemporary literature. But when the several nations of Europe 
had acquired distinct though rude written languages of their own, sufficient 
for the purposes of their rising literatures, then first learning revived, and 
scholars were enabled to discern from that remoteness the treasures of 
antiquity. What the Roman and Grecian multitude could not hear, after 
the lapse of ages a few scholars ready and a few scholars only are still read- 
ing it. 

However much we may admire the orator's occasional bursts of elo- 
quence, the noblest written words are commonly as far behind or above 
the fleeting spoken language as the firmament with its stars is behind the 
clouds. There are the stars, and they who can may read them. The astrono- 
mers forever comment on and observe them. They are not exhalations like 
our daily colloquies and vaporous breath. What is called eloquence in the 
forum is commonly found to be rhetoric in the study. The orator yields to 
the inspiration of a transient occasion, and speaks to the mob before him, 
to those who can hear him; but the writer, whose more equable life is his 
occasion, and who would be distracted by the event and the crowd which 
inspire the orator, speaks to the intellect and heart of mankind, to all in 
any age who can understand him. 

No wonder that Alexander carried the Iliad with him on his expeditions 
in a precious casket. A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something 
at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of 
art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself. It may be translated into every 
language, and not only be read but actually breathed from all human lips; 
not be represented on canvas or in marble only, but be carved out of the 
breath of life itself. The symbol of an ancient man's thought becomes a 
modern man's speech. Two thousand summers have imparted to the monu- 
ments of Grecian literature, as to her marbles, only a maturer golden and 


autumnal tint, for they have carried their own serene and celestial atmos- 
phere into all lands to protect them against the corrosion of time. Books 
are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations 
and nations. Books, the oldest and the best, stand naturally and rightfully 
on the shelves of every cottage. They have no cause of their own to plead, 
but while they enlighten and sustain the reader his common sense will not 
refuse them. Their authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every 
society, and, more than kings or emperors, exert an influence on mankind. 
When the illiterate and perhaps scornful trader has earned by enterprise 
and industry his coveted leisure and independence, and is admitted to the 
circles of wealth and fashion, he turns inevitably at last to those still higher 
but yet inaccessible circles of intellect and genius, and is sensible only of 
the imperfection of his culture and the vanity and insufficiency of all his 
riches, and further proves his good sense by the pains which he takes to 
secure for his children that intellectual culture whose want he so keenly 
feels; and thus it is that he becomes the founder of a family. 

Those who have not learned to read the ancient classics in the language 
in which they were written must have a very imperfect knowledge of the 
history of the human race; for it is remarkable that no transcript of them 
has ever been made into any modern tongue, unless our civilization itself 
may be regarded as such a transcript. Homer has never yet been printed in 
English, nor jftschylus, nor Virgil even, works as refined, as solidly done, 
and as beautiful almost as the morning itself; for later writers, say what we 
will of their genius, have rarely, if ever, equalled the elaborate beauty and 
finish and the lifelong and heroic literary labors of the ancients. They only 
talk of forgetting them who never knew them. It will be soon enough to 
forget them when we have the learning and the genius which will enable 
us to attend to and appreciate them. That age will be rich indeed when 
those relics which we call Classics, and the still older and more than classic 
but even less known Scriptures of the nations, shall have still further accu- 
mulated, when the Vaticans shall be filled with Vedas and Zendavestas 6 
and Bibles, with Homers and Dantes and Shakspeares, and all the centuries 
to come shall have successively deposited their trophies in the forum of the 
world. By such a pile we may hope to scale heaven at last. 

The works of the great poets have never yet been read by mankind, for 
only great poets can read them. They have only been read as the multitude 
read the stars, at most astrologically, not astronomically. Most men have 

[ e Sacred scriptures of the ancient Hindus and Parsees. Like Emerson, Thoreau was 
deeply impressed by Onental poetry and philosophy.] 

52 Henry David Thoreau 

learned to read to serve a paltry convenience, as they have learned to cipher 
in order to keep accounts and not be cheated in trade; but of reading as a 
noble intellectual exercise they know little or nothing; yet this only is read- 
ing, in a high sense, not that which lulls us as a luxury and suffers the nobler 
faculties to sleep the while, but what we have to stand on tiptoe to read 
and devote our most alert and wakeful hours to. 

I think that having learned our letters we should read the best that is in 
literature, and not be forever repeating our a b abs, and words of one syl- 
lable, in the fourth or fifth classes, sitting on the lowest and foremost form 
all our lives. Most men are satisfied if they read or hear read, and perchance 
have been convicted by the wisdom of one good book, the Bible, and for 
the rest of their lives vegetate and dissipate their faculties in what is called 
easy reading. There is a work in several volumes in our Circulating Library 7 
entitled Little Reading, which I thought referred to a town of that name 
which I had not been to. There are those who, like cormorants and os- 
triches, can digest all sorts of this, even after the fullest dinner of meats and 
vegetables, for they suffer nothing to be wasted. If others are the machines 
to provide this provender, they are the machines to read it. They read the 
nine thousandth tale about Zebulon and Sephronia, and how they loved as 
none had ever loved before, and neither did the course of their true love 
run smooth, at any rate, how it did run and stumble, and get up again and 
go on! how some poor unfortunate got up on to a steeple, who had better 
never have gone up as far as the belfry; and then, having needlessly got him 
up there, the happy novelist rings the bell for all the world to come together 
and hear, O dear! how he did get down again! For my part, I think that 
they had better metamorphose all such aspiring heroes of universal novel- 
dom into man weathercocks, as they used to put heroes among the constel- 
lations, and let them swing round there till they are rusty, and not come 
down at all to bother honest men with their pranks. The next time the 
novelist rings the bell I will not stir though the meeting-house burn down. 
'The Skip of the Tip-Toe-Hop, a Romance of the Middle Ages, by the 
celebrated author of "Tittle-Tol-Tan," to appear in monthly parts; a great 
rush; don't all come together/ All this they read with saucer eyes, and erect 
and primitive curiosity, and with unwearied gizzard, whose corrugations 
even yet need no sharpening, just as some little four-year-old bencher his 
two-cent gilt-covered edition of Cinderella, without any improvement, 
that I can see, in the pronunciation, or accent, or emphasis, or any more 
skill in extracting or inserting the moral. The result is dulness of sight, a 

[ T In Concord.] 


stagnation of the vital circulations, and a general deliquium and sloughing 
off of all the intellectual faculties. This sort of gingerbread is baked daily 
and more sedulously than pure wheat or rye-and-Indian in almost every 
oven, and finds a surer market. 

The best books are not read even by those who are called good readers. 
What does our Concord culture amount to? There is in this town, with a 
very few exceptions, no taste for the best or for very good books even in 
English literature, whose words all can read and spell. Even the college- 
bred and so called liberally educated men here and elsewhere have really 
little or no acquaintance with the English classics; and as for the recorded 
wisdom of mankind, the ancient classics and Bibles, which are accessible 
to all who will know of them, there are the feeblest efforts any where made 
to become acquainted with them. I know a woodchopper, of middle age, 
who takes a French paper, not for news as he says, for he is above that, but 
to 'keep himself in practice/ he being a Canadian by birth; and when I ask 
him what he considers the best thing he can do in this world, he says, 
beside this, to keep up and add to his English. This is about as much as the 
college bred generally do or aspire to do, and they take an English paper 
for the purpose. One who has just come from reading perhaps one of the 
best English books will find how many with whom he can converse about 
it? Or suppose he comes from reading a Greek or Latin classic in the origi- 
nal, whose praises arc familiar even to the so called illiterate; he will find 
nobody at all to speak to, but must keep silence about it. Indeed, there is 
hardly the professor in our colleges, who, if he has mastered the difficulties 
of the language, has proportionally mastered the difficulties of the wit and 
poetry of a Greek poet, and has any sympathy to impart to the alert and 
heroic reader; and as for the sacred Scriptures, or Bibles of mankind, who 
in this town can tell me even their titles? Most men do not know that any 
nation but the Hebrews have had a scripture. A man, any man, will go con- 
siderably out of his way to pick up a silver dollar; but here are golden words, 
which the wisest men of antiquity have uttered, and whose worth the wise 
of every succeeding age have assured us of; and yet we learn to read only 
as far as Easy Reading, the primers and class-books, and when we leave 
school, the 'Little Reading/ and story books, which are for boys and begin- 
ners; and our reading, our conversation and thinking, are all on a very low 
level, worthy only of pygmies and manikins. 

I aspire to be acquainted with wiser men than this our Concord soil has 
produced, whose names are hardly known here. Or shall I hear the name 
of Plato and never read his book? As if Plato were my townsman and I 

34 Henry David Thoreau 

never saw him, my next neighbor and I never heard him speak or attended 
to the wisdom of his words. But how actually is it? His Dialogues, which 
contain what was immortal in him, lie on the next shelf, and yet I never 
read them. We are under-bred and low-lived and illiterate; and in this 
respect I confess I do not make any very broad distinction between the 
illiterateness of my townsman who cannot read at all, and the illiterateness 
of him who has learned to read only what is for children and feeble intel- 
lects. We should be as good as the worthies of antiquity, but partly by first 
knowing how good they were. We are a race of tit-men, and soar but little 
higher in our intellectual flights than the columns of the daily paper. 

It is not all books that arc as dull as their readers. There are probably 
words addressed to our condition exactly, which, if we could really hear 
and understand, would be more salutary than the morning or the spring to 
our lives, and possibly put a new aspect on the face of things for us. How 
many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. 
The book exists for us perchance which will explain our miracles and reveal 
new ones. The at present unutterable things we may find somewhere 
uttered. These same questions that disturb and puzzle and confound us 
have in their turn occurred to all the wise men; not one has been omitted; 
and each has answered them, according to his ability, by his words and his 
life. Moreover, with wisdom we shall learn liberality. The solitary hired 
man on a farm in the outskirts of Concord, who has had his second birth 
and peculiar religious experience, and is driven as he believes into silent 
gravity and exclusivencss by his faith, may think it is not true; but Zoro- 
aster, 8 thousands of years ago, travelled the same road and had the same 
experience; but he, being wise, knew it to be universal, and treated his 
neighbors accordingly, and is even said to have invented and established 
worship among men. Let him humbly commune with Zoroaster then, and 
through the liberalizing influence of all the worthies, with Jesus Christ 
himself, and let 'our church' go by the board. 

We boast that we belong to the nineteenth century and are making the 
most rapid strides of any nation. But consider how little this village does 
for its own culture. I do not wish to flatter my townsmen, nor to be flat- 
tered by them, for that will not advance either of us. We need to be pro- 
voked, goaded like oxen, as we are, into a trot. We have a comparatively 
decent system of common schools, schools for infants only; but excepting 

[ 8 Founder of the ancient Persian religion.] 
[ Thoreau never attended church.] 


the half-starved Lyceum 10 in the winter, and latterly the puny beginning 
of a library suggested by the state, no school for ourselves. We spend more 
on almost any article of bodily aliment or ailment than on our mental ali- 
ment. It is time that we had uncommon schools, that we did not leave off 
our education when we begin to be men and women. It is time that villages 
were universities, and their elder inhabitants the fellows of universities, 
with leisure if they are indeed so well off to pursue liberal studies the 
rest of their lives. Shall the world be confined to one Paris or one Oxford 
forever? Cannot students be boarded here and get a liberal education under 
the skies of Concord? Can we not hire some Abelard n to lecture to us? 
Alas! what with foddering the cattle and tending the store, we are kept 
from school too long, and our education is sadly neglected. In this country, 
the village should in some respects take the place of the nobleman of 
Europe. It should be the patron of the fine arts. It is rich enough. It wants 
only the magnanimity and refinement. It can spend money enough on such 
things as farmers and traders value, but it is thought Utopian to propose 
spending money for things which more intelligent men know to be of far 
more worth. This town has spent seventeen thousand dollars on a town- 
house, thank fortune or politics, but probably it will not spend so much 
on living wit, the true meat to put into that shell, in a hundred years. The 
one hundred and twenty-five dollars annually subscribed for a Lyceum in 
the winter is better spent than any other equal sum raised in the town. If 
we live in the nineteenth century, why should we not enjoy the advantages 
which the nineteenth century offers? Why should our life be in any respect 
provincial? If we will read newspapers, why not skip the gossip of Boston 
and take the best newspaper in the world at once? not be sucking the pap 
of 'neutral family* papers, or browsing 'Olive-Branches' here in New Eng- 
land. Let the reports of all the learned societies come to us, and we will see 
if they know any thing. Why should we leave it to Harper & Brothers and 
Redding & Co. to select our reading? As the nobleman of cultivated taste 
surrounds himself with whatever conduces to his culture, genius learn- 
ing wit books paintings statuary music philosophical instruments, 
and the like; so let the village do, not stop short at a pedagogue, a parson, 
a sexton, a parish library, and three selectmen, because our pilgrim fore- 
fathers got through a cold winter once on a bleak rock with these. To act 
collectively is according to the spirit of our institutions; and I am confident 

["Thoreau lectured occasionally at the Concord Lyceum.] 
[" French philosopher and theologian (1079-1142).] 

36 Henry David Thoreau 

that, as our circumstances are more flourishing, our means are greater than 
the nobleman's. New England can hire all the wise men in the world to 
come and teach her, and board them round the while, and not be provin- 
cial at all. That is the uncommon school we want. Instead of noblemen, 
let us have noble villages of men. If it is necessary, omit one bridge over the 
river, go round a little there, and throw one arch at least over the darker 
gulf of ignorance which surrounds us. 

Henry Seidel Canby 

([ Henry Seidel Ganby (1878 ) graduated from Yale and has been 
on the staff of that university, either as active teacher (1900-1922) 
or as occasional lecturer, for half a century. Since 1924 he has been 
associated also with The Saturday Review of Literature, first as editor 
and later as chairman of the board of editors. In addition to having 
written an excellent biography of Thoreau (1939), Mr. Canby has 
done a study of Walt Whitman (1943) and numerous books on 
writing; he is one of the editors of the Literary History of the 
United States (1948). His Alma Mater (1936) is a pleasant 
account of 'the Gothic Age of the American college.' American 
Memoir, a volume of reminiscences, appeared in 1947. 


JL HOREAU'S WRITING was to an unusual extent a by-product 
of his experience. His profession was living, yet, as with all those born to 
be men of letters, his life seemed incomplete until he had got it described 
satisfactorily in words. Tou . . . have the best of me in my books/ he wrote 
to an admirer in Michigan, Calvin H. Greene, and of course he was right. 
Therefore, as was natural, he took his writing seriously, and was rich in 
self-criticism as all writers should be, but are not. 

It took him most of the 1840*5 to get rid of Carlyle's religio-mystical 
view 1 of literature, which made preachers of the young men of Thoreau's 
generation. When, in the fifties, his reading swung from literature toward 
science, he shrugged off this stale generalizing, for there was neither time 

[* His Sartor Resartus had appeared in 1833-4, Heroes and Hero Worship in 1841, 
and Past and Present in 1843. Thoreau published an essay, 'Thomas Carlyle and His 
Works/ in 1847.] 

FROM Thoreau, 1939. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company and of 
(he author. 

38 Henry Seidel Canby 

nor inclination for it. It is only rarely that, after 1850, he writes about a 
literary masterpiece, for he was no longer studying in that school. Yet it is 
precisely in this last decade of his life that he makes the shrewdest com- 
ments on the art of writing which is natural, for he had then matured 
his own. And here he is worth listening to, as is any first-rate writer who 
tries to analyze his own processes. Not the most philosophic perhaps, but 
certainly the most valuable, criticism we have is the occasional comment 
of a good writer on how to writewhich means Almost invariably how he 
writes himself. 

It was a decade, as we have already seen, of crowded experiences for him 
with men, women, nature, and the state. There was plenty to write about, 
so that his Journal sometimes has sudden expansions for a day's thought 
and adventure which must have taken hours to set in order and express. 
The whole into which he hoped to fit his parts eluded his grasp, but his 
faith was firm that if he could reduce his observations to perfect sentences, 
somehow they would see the light, reach their mark, accomplish their des- 
tiny. This optimism has been justified, but only by the labor of many edi- 
tors, and the enthusiasm of readers searching the trackless Journal for his 

It was the sentence a sententia that most occupied his thought. The 
sentence was his medium whatever he docs and writes about, however 
often he rewrites or enriches, the fruit of it can be found ripened in a sen- 
tence. In the revision of 'Walden' for the press, it was doubtful sentences 
that he threw out, then looked them over, and took back the good ones. 
They smelled right, as he says, using quaintly his keenest sense as if it could 
extend itself to words. Naturally he writes best about writing when he is 
writing about sentences, and these remarks have a biographical value, for 
they describe as no one else can do the man's mind at work. Only in those 
deeply impassioned pages about his Sister, 2 so strongly felt as to be scarcely 
articulate, docs he fail to get sentences equal to the emotional intensity or 
the intellectual insight of his experience. And these, of course, were not 
meant for publication. With Bacon, Shakespeare, Pope, Doctor Johnson, 
the makers of the English Bible, and Benjamin Franklin, he belongs 
among the great makers of the English sentence. Therefore his account of 
his own practice is interesting. 

Two principles, especially, guided him in his writing as, sitting under a 
pasture oak, he set down his things seen or thought about, or, upstairs in 
the house on Main Street, worked his notes into his Journal. The first prin- 

[ a Emerson's second wife, Lidian. See Mr. Canby's biography, pp, 155-63, 348-53.] 


ciple might be called intuition made articulate, a favorite idea with all the 
romantic Transccndentalists: 3 

April i. Sunday. 1860 . . . The fruit a thinker bears is sentences, statements 
or opinions. He seeks to affirm something as true. I am surprised that my affir- 
mations or utterances come to me ready-made, not fore-thought, so that I 
occasionally awake in the night simply to let fall ripe a statement which I had 
never consciously considered before, and as surprising and novel and agreeable 
to me as anything can be. As if we only thought by sympathy with the universal 
mind, which thought while we were asleep. There is such a necessity [to] make 
a definite statement that our minds at length do it without our consciousness, 
just as we carry our food to our mouths. This occurred to me last night, but I 
was so surprised by the fact which I have just endeavored to report that I have 
entirely forgotten what the particular observation was. 

That is the difficulty, of course, with these flashes from a mind in which 
the heat of long brooding turns to light if they are not recorded on some 
sensitive film they are lost and gone, often irrevocably. It was Thoreau's 
practice to wait for the flash and then anxiously develop the impression 
until a sentence was made that was true to the original inspiration, yet 
communicable to the reader. There is no more Herculean task than to 
think a thought about this life and then get it expressed/ To write that 
way is dangerous, since the flow of thought is checked while expression is 
made perfect; yet it is hard not to believe that here is the secret of Tho- 
reau's durability. The rifle is more penetrating than the shotgun; the line 
is remembered when the poem is forgot. 

But these sudden luminosities of thought or irradiations of experience 
were seldom made articulate at the first trial: 

Jan. 26. 1852 . . . Whatever wit has been produced on the spur of the 
moment will bear to be reconsidered and reformed with phlegm. The arrow 
had best not be loosely shot. The most transient and passing remark must be 
. . . made sure and warranted, as if the earth had rested on its axle to back it, 
and all the natural forces lay behind it. The writer must direct his sentences as 
carefully and leisurely as the marksman his rifle. . . If you foresee that a part 

[ 3 A group of New England writers, including Emerson and Thoreau, who accepted 
and expressed in their writings the principles of transcendentalism. This was a species of 
the romantic, idealistic philosophy, stressing the authonty of the individual's mind and 
conscience and therefore the urgency of independence from custom, external authority, 
and society. 'What is popularly called Transcendentalism among us is Idealism; Ideal- 
ism as it appears in 1842.' This sentence is from Emerson's The Transcendentalist,' 
which is the best account. Thoreau wrote of himself: "The fact is I am a mystic, a tran- 
scendentalist, and a natural philosopher to boot' (Journal, 5 March 1853).] 

40 Henry Seidel Canby 

of your essay will topple down after the lapse of time, throw it down now 

Inspiration pricking him on, he writes several such sentences as these 
lines describe: 'I feel the spur of the moment thrust deep into my side. 
The present is an inexorable rider/ Then, with a shift of theme: 'The truest 
account of heaven is the fairest, and I will accept none which disappoints 
expectation/ Here are other comments: 

Nov. 12. 1851 . . . Those sentences are good and well discharged which are 
like so many little resiliencies from the spring floor of our life. . . Sentences 
uttered with your back to the wall. . . Sentences in which there is no strain. 

Aug. 22. 1851 ... It is the fault of some excellent writers DC Quincey's 
first impressions 4 on seeing London suggest it to me that they express them- 
selves with too great fullness and detail. They . . . lack moderation and senten- 
tiousness. They ... say all they mean. Their sentences are not concentrated 
and nutty. Sentences which suggest far more than they say, which have an 
atmosphere about them, which do not merely report an old, but make a new, 
impression ... to frame these, that is the art of writing. Sentences which are 
expensive, towards which so many volumes, so much life, went; which lie like 
boulders on the page, up and down or across; which contain the seed of other 
sentences, not mere repetition, but creation; which a man might sell his grounds 
and castles to build. If De Quinccy had suggested each of his pages in a sen- 
tence and passed on, it would have been far more excellent writing. His style is 
nowhere kinked and knotted up into something hard and significant, which 
you could swallow like a diamond, without digesting. 

That last sentence describes the way Thoreau wrote, and the reason for 
reading him deliberately. To skim his pages, except in parts of 'Cape Cod' 
or in The Maine Woods' or in some of the 'Excursions/ is like walking 
rapidly down a gallery of fine paintings. Even with every assistance from 
theme and narrative, as in 'Walden/ Thoreau's work reads slowly which 
is not always a virtue, but often a fault, like the faults of paradox and exag- 
geration, of which he accused himself. He favored his best sentences at the 
expense of his chapters and paragraphs. They contained the most of him. 

His second principle of writing was native to a man who put the art of 
life ahead of the art of literature. It was, to be vital: 

Sept. 2. 1851 . . . We cannot write well or truly but what we write with 
gusto. The body, the senses, must conspire with the mind. Expression is the 

[ 4 See the opening pages of 'The Nation of London' in De Quincey's Autobiographic 


act of the whole man, that our speech may be vascular. The intellect is power- 
less to express thought without the aid of the heart and liver and of every 

Jan. 30. Friday. 1852 ... It is in vain to write on chosen themes. We must 
wait till they have kindled a flame in our minds. There must be the copulating 
and generating force of love behind every effort destined to be successful. The 
cold resolve gives birth to, begets, nothing. . . Obey, report. 

July 14. 1852. A writer who does not speak out of a full experience uses tor- 
pid words, wooden or lifeless words, such words as 'human itary/ which have a 
paralysis in their tails. 

And finally, by way of warning, the original of Barrett Wendell's often 
quoted phrase, 'a diarrhoea of words and constipation of thought': 

010.31.1851 . . . The . . . creative moment . . . in the case of some too 
easy poets . . . becomes mere diarrhoea, mud and clay relaxed. The poet must 
not have something pass his bowels merely; that is women's poetry. He must 
have something pass his brain and heart and bowels, too. . . So he gets delivered. 

The rhetorical quality that many feel, even in Thoreau's best writing, is 
sometimes only a tone and attitude which he sustains, like a good lecturer, 
through all of such a book as the Week' or Walden/ Yet I think that the 
difficulty which the modern reader finds in what seems to him the stylized 
writing of 'Walden/ or even of the 'Excursions/ has a more important 
source in this habit of the packed and intensely expressive sentence. Our 
education in science, or its derivatives, has made us more inductive in our 
mental processes than were our immediate ancestors. We are accustomed 
to the kind of writing especially in newspapers and magazines that as- 
sembles facts, which we call news. The packed statement, which is a deduc- 
tion handed over for our thinking, is unfamiliar and inspires distrust. Our 
writing escapes the dogmatic by being dilute and often inconclusive. It is 
easy to abbreviate, as the success of such magazines as The Reader's Digest 
has shown. We write, not by sentences, not even by paragraphs, but in a 
stream directed at one outlet. The reading of poetry has decreased in pro- 
portion to the increase of this homeopathic way of writing, for the effec- 
tiveness of poetry is an effectiveness of charged words and lines. If it is not 
to have high specific gravity, it would be better to write it in prose. Tho- 
reau suffers from this changed habit of reading, since his sentences, with 
their backs to the wall, and their feet on Mother Earth, differ from poetry 
in this respect only in a freer rhythm. 

42 Henry Seidel Canby 

Yet there is no intentional obscurity. 'I am thinking/ he wrote one day, 
'by what long discipline and at what cost a man learns to speak simply at 
last/ Nor was there any literary affectation in his creed, although it cannot 
be denied that, like his contemporaries, he let his words strut and crow 
now and then with the Walden' cock. Why, the roots of letters,' he says 
aptly, 'are things. Natural objects and phenomena are the original symbols 
or types which express our thoughts and feelings, and yet American schol- 
ars, 5 having little or no root in the soil, commonly strive with all their 
might to confine themselves to the imported symbols alone. All the true 
growth and experience, the living speech, they would fain reject as "Ameri- 
canisms." ' 'It is a great art in the writer to improve from day to day just 
that soil and fertility which he has. . / Tour mind must not perspire,' 
which last, if said of walking out-of-doors, was surely meant for writing 
indoors also. 

The art of writing is much broader and more complex than Thoreau's 
remarks on sentence-making imply. There is no doubt, however, that his 
particular art has a survival value much greater than any novelty in his 
ideas. But, inevitably, it became a perfectionist art, and so a curb upon free 
writing. Whoever writes by sentences writes slowly, and will often follow 
his own nose instead of his theme. And being perfectionist, this art made 
the completion of any whole exceedingly difficult, because each sentence 
had to be a finished production. He used the spot light instead of the 
flood. No wonder, then, that, as a student of nature trying to put between 
the covers of a book an account of that age-old Concord scene in which 
man had found a new home, Thoreau's work was left half done. Never- 
theless, he mopped up his trenches as he crossed them, and left a noble 
sentence for each significant experience. 

[ 9 'No truer American existed than 'ITioreau. His preference of his country and condi- 
tion was genuine, and his aversation from English and European manners and tastes 
almost reached contempt 1 (Emerson, Thoreau').] 

Virginia Woo// 

<[ On Virginia Woolf and The Second Common Reader see p. 352. 


LN THE FIRST PLACE, I want to emphasise the note of interroga- 
tion at the end of my title. Even if I could answer the question for myself, 
the answer would apply only to me and not to you. The only advice, in- 
deed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, 
to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own 
conclusions. If this is agreed between us, then I feel at liberty to put for- 
ward a few ideas and suggestions because you will not allow them to fetter 
that independence which is the most important quality that a reader can 
possess. After all, what laws can be laid down about books? The battle of 
Waterloo was certainly fought on a certain day; but is Hamlet a better play 
than Lear? Nobody can say. Each must decide that question for himself. 
To admit authorities, however heavily furred and gowned, into our libraries 
and let them tell us how to read, what to read, what value to place upon 
what we read, is to destroy the spirit of freedom which is the breath of 
those sanctuaries. Everywhere else we may be bound by laws and conven- 
tionsthere we have none. 

But to enjoy freedom, if the platitude is pardonable, we have of course 
to control ourselves. We must not squander our powers, helplessly and 
ignorantly, squirting half the house in order to water a single rose-bush; 
we must train them, exactly and powerfully, here on the very spot. This, it 
may be, is one of the first difficulties that faces us in a library. What is 
'the very spot'? There may well seem to be nothing but a conglomeration 
and huddle of confusion. Poems and novels, histories and memoirs, diction- 

FROM The Second Common Reader, by Virginia Woolf. Copynght 1932 by Harcourt, 
Brace and Company, Inc. Repnnted by permission of Harcourt, Brace and Company, 
Inc., and of The Hogarth Press, Ltd. 

44 Virginia Woolf 

aries and blue-books; books written in all languages by men and women of 
all tempers, races, and ages jostle each other on the shelf. And outside the 
donkey brays, the women gossip at the pump, the colts gallop across the 
fields. Where are we to begin? How are we to bring order into this multi- 
tudinous chaos and so get the deepest and widest pleasure from what we 

It is simple enough to say that since books have classes fiction, biogra- 
phy, poetry we should separate them and take from each what it is right 
that each should give us. Yet few people ask from books what books can 
give us. Most commonly we come to books with blurred and divided minds, 
asking of fiction that it shall be true, of poetry that it shall be false, of 
biography that it shall be flattering, of history that it shall enforce our own 
prejudices. If we could banish all such preconceptions when we read, that 
would be an admirable beginning. Do not dictate to your author; try to 
become him. Be his fellow-worker and accomplice. If you hang back, and 
reserve and criticise at first, you are preventing yourself from getting the 
fullest possible value from what you read. But if you open your mind as 
widely as possible, then signs and hints of almost imperceptible fineness, 
from the twist and turn of the first sentences, will bring you into the pres- 
ence of a human being unlike any other. Steep yourself in this, acquaint 
yourself with this, and soon you will find that your author is giving you, or 
attempting to give you, something far more definite. The thirty-two chap- 
ters of a novel if we consider how to read a novel first are an attempt to 
make something as formed and controlled as a building: but words are 
more impalpable than bricks; reading is a longer and more complicated 
process than seeing. Perhaps the quickest way to understand the elements 
of what a novelist is doing is not to read, but to write; to make your own 
experiment with the dangers and difficulties of words. Recall, then, some 
event that has left a distinct impression on you how at the corner of the 
street, perhaps, you passed two people talking. A tree shook; an electric 
light danced; the tone of the talk was comic, but also tragic; a whole vision, 
an entire conception, seemed contained in that moment. 

But when you attempt to reconstruct it in words, you will find that it 
breaks into a thousand conflicting impressions. Some must be subdued; 
others emphasised; in the process you will lose, probably, all grasp upon the 
emotion itself. Then turn from your blurred and littered pages to the open- 
ing pages of some great novelist Defoe, Jane Austen, Hardy. Now you 
will be better able to appreciate their mastery. It is not merely that we are 
in the presence of a different person Defoe, Jane Austen, or Thomas 


Hardy but that we are living in a different world. Here, in Robinson 
Crusoe, we are trudging a plain high road; one thing happens after another; 
the fact and the order of the fact is enough. But if the open air and adven- 
ture mean everything to Defoe they mean nothing to Jane Austen. Hers is 
the drawing-room, and people talking, and by the many mirrors of their 
talk revealing their characters. And if, when we have accustomed ourselves 
to the drawing-room and its reflections, we turn to Hardy, we are once 
more spun round. The moors are round us and the stars are above our 
heads. The other side of the mind is now exposed the dark side that comes 
uppermost in solitude, not the li^ht side that shows in company. Our rela- 
tions are not towards people, but towards Nature and destiny. Yet different 
as these worlds are, each is consistent with itself. The maker of each is 
careful to observe the laws of his own perspective, and however great a 
strain they may put upon us they will never confuse us, as lesser writers so 
frequently do, by introducing two different kinds of reality into the same 
book. Thus to go from one great novelist to another from Jane Austen to 
Hardy, from Peacock to Trollope, from Scott to Meredith is to be 
wrenched and uprooted; to be thrown this way and then that. To read a 
novel is a difficult and complex art. You must be capable not only of great 
fineness of perception, but of great boldness of imagination if you are going 
to make use of all that the novelist the great artist gives you. 

But a glance at the heterogeneous company on the shelf will show you 
that writers are very seldom "great artists'; far more often a book makes no 
claim to be a work of art at all. These biographies and autobiographies, for 
example, lives of great men, of men long dead and forgotten, that stand 
cheek by jowl with the novels and poems, are we to refuse to read them 
because they are not 'art'? Or shall we read them, but read them in a dif- 
ferent way, with a different aim? Shall we read them in the first place to 
satisfy that curiosity which possesses us sometimes when in the evening we 
linger in front of a house where the lights are lit and the blinds not yet 
drawn, and each floor of the house shows us a different section of human 
life in being? Then we are consumed with curiosity about the lives of 
these people the servants gossiping, the gentlemen dining, the girl dress- 
ing for a party, the old woman at the window with her knitting. Who are 
they, what are they, what are their names, their occupations, their thoughts, 
and adventures? 

Biographies and memoirs answer such questions, light up innumerable 
such houses; they show us people going about their daily affairs, toiling, 
failing, succeeding, eating, hating, loving, until they die. And sometimes 

46 Virginia Woolf 

as we watch, the house fades and the iron railings vanish and we are out 
at sea; we are hunting, sailing, fighting; we are among savages and soldiers; 
we are taking part in great campaigns. Or if we like to stay here in Eng- 
land, in London, still the scene changes; the street narrows; the house 
becomes small, cramped, diamond-paned, and malodorous. We see a poet, 
Donne, driven from such a house because the walls were so thin that when 
the children cried their voices cut through them. 1 We can follow him, 
through the paths that lie in the pages of books, to Twickenham; 2 to Lady 
Bedford's Park, 3 a famous meeting-ground for nobles and poets; and then 
turn our steps to Wilton, the great house under the downs, and hear Sidney 
read the Arcadia to his sister; and ramble among the very marshes and see 
the very herons that figure in that famous romance; and then again travel 
north with that other Lady Pembroke, Anne Clifford, 4 to her wild moors, 
or plunge into the city and control our merriment at the sight of Gabriel 
Harvey B in his black velvet suit arguing about poetry with Spenser. Nothing 
is more fascinating than to grope and stumble in the alternate darkness 
and splendour of Elizabethan London. But there is no staying there. The 
Temples 6 and the Swifts, the Harleys 7 and the St. Johns 8 beckon us on; 
hour upon hour can be spent disentangling their quarrels and deciphering 
their characters; and when we tire of them we can stroll on, past a lady in 
black wearing diamonds, to Samuel Johnson and Goldsmith and Garrick; 
or cross the channel, if we like, and meet Voltaire and Diderot, 9 Madame 
du Deffand; 10 and so back to England and Twickenhamhow certain 
places repeat themselves and certain names! where Lady Bedford had her 
Park once and Pope lived later, to Walpole's home at Strawberry Hill. 

[* Donne had twelve children ] 

[ 2 In the eighteenth century Pope and Horace Walpole (see note 11) lived there.! 

[ a Lady Bedford is remembered for her friendship with the poets Jonson, Drayton, 
Chapman, Donne, and Damel.l 

I 4 Wife of the Earl of Dorset and later of the Earl of Pembroke. She died in 1676. 
Portions of her diary have been published.] 

[ B A Cambridge scholar, controversialist, and critic; friend of Spenser. There is an 
excellent account of him in Virginia Woolf s The Strange Elizabethans,' in The Second 
Common Reader.] 

[ 6 Sir William Temple (1628-99), important both as an author and as a diplomat. 
Swift lived in his house for a few years.] 

[ 7 Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford (1661-1724). See next note.] 

[ 8 Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751), Tory Secretary of State. He 
and Harley were leaders of the Tory government of 1710-14. Both were fnends of 

[ 9 French critic and philosopher (1715-84).] 

[ 10 French noblewoman; correspondent of Walpole, Voltaire, and other notables.] 


But Walpole 11 introduces us to such a swarm of new acquaintances, there 
are so many houses to visit and -bells to ring that we may well hesitate for 
a moment, on the Miss Berrys' doorstep, for example, when behold, up 
comes Thackeray; he is the friend of the woman whom Walpole loved; so 
that merely by going from friend to friend, from garden to garden, from 
house to house, we have passed from one end of English literature to 
another and wake to find ourselves here again in the present, if we can so 
differentiate this moment from all that have gone before. This, then, is one 
of the ways in which we can read these lives and letters; we can make them 
light up the many windows of the past; we can watch the famous dead in 
their familiar habits and fancy sometimes that we are very close and can 
surprise their secrets, and sometimes we may pull out a play or a poem that 
they have written and see whether it reads differently in the presence of the 
author. But this again rouses other questions. How far, we must ask our- 
selves, is a book influenced by its writer's life how far is it safe to let the 
man interpret the writer? How far shall we resist or give way to the sympa- 
thies and antipathies that the man himself rouses in us so sensitive are 
words, so receptive of the character of the author? These are questions that 
press upon us when we read lives and letters, and we must answer them 
for ourselves, for nothing can be more fatal than to be guided by the prefer- 
ences of others in a matter so personal. 

But also we can read such books with another aim, not to throw light on 
literature, not to become familiar with famous people, but to refresh and 
exercise our own creative powers. Is there not an open window on the right 
hand of the bookcase? How delightful to stop reading and look out! How 
stimulating the scene is, in its unconsciousness, its irrelevance, its perpetual 
movement the colts galloping round the field, the woman filling her pail 
at the well, the donkey throwing back his head and emitting his long, acrid 
moan. The greater part of any library is nothing but the record of such 
fleeting moments in the lives of men, women, and donkeys. Every litera- 
ture, as it grows old, has its rubbish-heap, its record of vanished moments 
and forgotten lives told in faltering and feeble accents that have perished. 
But if you give yourself up to the delight of rubbish-reading you will be 
surprised, indeed you will be overcome, by the relics of human life that 
have been cast out to moulder. It may be one letter but what a vision it 
givesl It may be a few sentences but what vistas they suggest! Sometimes 

[" Horace Walpole (1717-97), son of Sir Robert Walpole (Prime Minister, 1715- 
17, 1721-42); famous for his letters. The Berry sisters were friends and correspondents 
of his.] 

48 Virginia Wool/ 

a whole story will come together with such beautiful humour and pathos 
and completeness that it seems as if a great novelist had been at work, yet 
it is only an old actor, Tate Wilkinson, 12 remembering the strange story of 
Captain Jones; it is only a young subaltern 18 serving under Arthur Welles- 
ley 14 and falling in love with a pretty girl at Lisbon; it is only Maria 
Allen 1B letting fall her sewing in the empty drawing-room and sighing how 
she wishes she had taken Dr. Burney's good advice and had never eloped 
with her Rishy. None of this has any value; it is negligible in the extreme; 
yet how absorbing it is now and again to go through the rubbish-heaps and 
find rings and scissors and broken noses buried in the huge past and try to 
piece them together while the colt gallops round the field, the woman fills 
her pail at the well, and the donkey brays. 

But we tire of rubbish-reading in the long run. We tire of searching for 
what is needed to complete the half-truth which is all that the Wilkinsons, 
the Bunburys, 16 and the Maria Aliens are able to offer us. They had not the 
artist's power of mastering and eliminating; they could not tell the whole 
truth even about their own lives; they have disfigured the story that might 
have been so shapely. Facts are all that they can offer us, and facts are a 
very inferior form of fiction. Thus the desire grows upon us to have done 
with half-statements and approximations; to cease from searching out the 
minute shades of human character, to enjoy the greater abstractness, the 
purer truth of fiction. Thus we create the mood, intense and generalised, 
unaware of detail, but stressed by some regular, recurrent beat, whose nat- 
ural expression is poetry; and that is the time to read poetry when we are 
almost able to write it. 

Western wind, when wilt thou blow? 
The small rain down can rain. 
Christ, if my love were in my arms, 
And I in my bed again 1 

The impact of poetry is so hard and direct that for the moment there is 
no other sensation except that of the poem itself. What profound depths 

[ ia He published his Memoirs in 1790.] 

[ 18 See Philip Guedalla, Wellington (1931), p. 232.] 

[ 14 The Duke of Wellington.] 

[ 15 Dr. Burney's stepdaughter. When abroad she had married Martin Rishton 
('Rishy'), 1772. See Fanny Burney D'Arblay's Early Diary. Dr. Burney (1726-1814) 
was a noted musician and historian of music.] 

[ ie Sir Henry Edward Bunbury wrote valuable Narratives (1849, 1852) of the Napole- 
onic wars.] 


we visit then how sudden and complete is our immersion 1 There is noth- 
ing here to catch hold of; nothing to stay us in our flight. The illusion of 
fiction is gradual; its effects are prepared; but who when they read these 
four lines stops to ask who wrote them, or conjures up the thought of 
Donne's house or Sidney's secretary; or enmeshes them in the intricacy of 
the past and the succession of generations? The poet is always our con- 
temporary. Our being for the moment is centred and constricted, as in any 
violent shock of personal emotion. Afterwards, it is true, the sensation 
begins to spread in wider rings through our minds; remoter senses are 
reached; these begin to sound and to comment and we are aware of echoes 
and reflections. The intensity of poetry covers an immense range of emo- 
tion. We have only to compare the force and directness of 

I shall fall like a tree, and find my grave, 
Only remembering that I grieve, 

with the wavering modulation of 

Minutes arc numbered by the fall of sands, 
As by an hour glass; the span of time 
Doth waste us to our graves, and we look on it; 
An age of pleasure, revelled out, comes home 
At last, and ends in sorrow; but the life, 
Weary of riot, numbers every sand, 
Wailing in sighs, until the last drop down, 
So to conclude calamity in rest, 

or place the meditative calm of 

whether we be young or old, 
Our destiny, our being's heart and home, 
Is with infinitude, and only there; 
With hope it is, hope that can never die, 
Effort, and expectation, and desire, 
And something evermore about to be, 

beside the complete and inexhaustible loveliness of 

The moving Moon went up the sky, 
And no where did abide: 
Softly she was going up, 
And a star or two beside 

or the splendid fantasy of 

jo Virginia Woolf 

And the woodland haunter 
Shall not cease to saunter 

When, far down some glade, 
Of the great world's burning, 
One soft flame upturning 
Seems, to his discerning, 

Crocus in the shade. 

to bethink us of the varied art of the poet; his power to make us at once 
actors and spectators; his power to run his hand into character as if it were 
a glove, and be Falstaff or Lear; his power to condense, to widen, to state, 
once and for ever. 

'We have only to compare' with those words the cat is out of the bag, 
and the true complexity of reading is admitted. The first process, to receive 
impressions with the utmost understanding, is only half the process of read- 
ing; it must be completed, if we are to get the whole pleasure from a book, 
by another. We must pass judgment upon these multitudinous impressions; 
we must make of these fleeting shapes one that is hard and lasting. But 
not directly. Wait for the dust of reading to settle; for the conflict and the 
questioning to die down; walk, talk, pull the dead petals from a rose, or fall 
asleep. Then suddenly without our willing it, for it is thus that Nature 
undertakes these transitions, the book will return, but differently. It will 
float to the top of the mind as a whole. And the book as a whole is differ- 
ent from the book received currently in separate phrases. Details now fit 
themselves into their places. We see the shape from start to finish; it is a 
barn, a pig-sty, or a cathedral. Now then we can compare book with book 
as we compare building with building. But this act of comparison means 
that our attitude has changed; we are no longer the friends of the writer, 
but his judges; and just as we cannot be too sympathetic as friends, so as 
judges we cannot be too severe. Are they not criminals, books that have 
wasted our time and sympathy; are they not the most insidious enemies of 
society, corrupters, defilers, the writers of false books, faked books, books 
that fill the air with decay and disease? Let us then be severe in our judg- 
ments; let us compare each book with the greatest of its kind. There they 
hang in the mind the shapes of the books we have read solidified by the 
judgments we have passed on them Robinson Crusoe, Emma, The Return 
of the Native. Compare the novels with these even the latest and least of 
novels has a right to be judged with the best. And so with poetry when 
the intoxication of rhythm has died down and the splendour of words has 
faded a visionary shape will return to us and this must be compared with 


Lear, with Phedre, 17 with The Prelude; or if not with these, with whatever 
is the best or seems to us to be the best in its own kind. And we may be 
sure that the newness of new poetry and fiction is its most superficial qual- 
ity and that we have only to alter slightly, not to recast, the standards by 
which we have judged the old. 

It would be foolish, then, to pretend that the second part of reading, to 
judge, to compare, is as simple as the first to open the mind wide to the 
fast flocking of innumerable impressions. To continue reading without the 
book before you, to hold one shadow-shape against another, to have read 
widely enough and with enough understanding to make such comparisons 
alive and illuminating that is difficult; it is still more difficult to press 
further and to say, 'Not only is the book of this sort, but it is of this value; 
here it fails; here it succeeds; this is bad; that is good/ To carry out this 
part of a reader's duty needs such imagination, insight, and learning that 
it is hard to conceive any one mind sufficiently endowed; impossible for 
the most self-confident to find more than the seeds of such powers in him- 
self. Would it not be wiser, then, to remit this part of reading and to allow 
the critics, the gowned and furred authorities of the library, to decide the 
question of the book's absolute value for us? Yet how impossible! We may 
stress the value of sympathy; we may try to sink our own identity as we 
read. But we know that we cannot sympathise wholly or immerse ourselves 
wholly; there is always a demon in us who whispers, 'I hate, I love,' and we 
cannot silence him. Indeed, it is precisely because we hate and we love that 
our relation with the poets and novelists is so intimate that we find the 
presence of another person intolerable. And even if the results are abhor- 
rent and our judgments arc wrong, still our taste, the nerve of sensation 
that sends shocks through us, is our chief illuminant; we learn through 
feeling; we cannot suppress our own idiosyncrasy without impoverishing it. 
But as time goes on perhaps we can train our taste; perhaps we can make it 
submit to some control. When it has fed greedily and lavishly upon books 
of all sorts poetry, fiction, history, biography and has stopped reading 
and looked for long spaces upon the variety, the incongruity of the living 
world, we shall find that it is changing a little; it is not so greedy, it is more 
reflective. It will begin to bring us not merely judgments on particular 
books, but it will tell us that there is a quality common to certain books. 
Listen, it will say, what shall we call this? And it will read us perhaps Lear 
and then perhaps the Agamemnon 18 in order to bring out that common 

[ 17 Tragedy by Racine, 1677.] 

[ 18 Tragedy by Aeschylus, 458 B.C.] 

52 Virginia Woolf 

quality. Thus, with our taste to guide us, we shall venture beyond the par- 
ticular book in search of qualities that group books together; we shall give 
them names and thus frame a rule that brings order into our perceptions. 
We shall gain a further and a rarer pleasure from that discrimination. But 
as a rule only lives when it is perpetually broken by contact with the books 
themselvesnothing is easier and more stultifying than to make rules 
which exist out of touch with facts, in a vacuumnow at last, in order to 
steady ourselves in this difficult attempt, it may be well to turn to the very 
rare writers who are able to enlighten us upon literature as an art. Cole- 
ridge and Dryden and Johnson, in their considered criticism, the poets and 
novelists themselves in their unconsidered sayings, are often surprisingly 
relevant; they light up and solidify the vague ideas that have been tumbling 
in the misty depths of our minds. But they are only able to help us if we 
come to them laden with questions and suggestions won honestly in the 
course of our own reading. They can do nothing for us if we herd ourselves 
under their authority and lie down like sheep in the shade of a hedge. We 
can only understand their ruling when it comes in conflict with our own 
and vanquishes it. 

If this is so, if to read a book as it should be read calls for the rarest 
qualities of imagination, insight, and judgment, you may perhaps conclude 
that literature is a very complex art and that it is unlikely that we shall be 
able, even after a lifetime of reading, to make any valuable contribution to 
its criticism. We must remain readers; we shall not put on the further glory 
that belongs to those rare beings who are also critics. But still we have our 
responsibilities as readers and even our importance. The standards we raise 
and the judgments we pass steal into the air and become part of the atmos- 
phere which writers breathe as they work. An influence is created which 
tells upon them even if it never finds its way into print. And that influence, 
if it were well instructed, vigorous and individual and sincere, might be of 
great value now when criticism is necessarily in abeyance; when books pass 
in review like the procession of animals in a shooting gallery, and the critic 
has only one second in which to load and aim and shoot and may well be 
pardoned if he mistakes rabbits for tigers, eagles for barndoor fowls, or 
misses altogether and wastes his shot upon some peaceful cow grazing in a 
further field. If behind the erratic gunfire of the press the author felt that 
there was another kind of criticism, the opinion of people reading for the 
love of reading, slowly and unprofessionally, and judging with great sympa- 
thy and yet with great severity, might this not improve the quality of his 


work? And if by our means books were to become stronger, richer, and 
more varied, that would be an end worth reaching. 

Yet who reads to bring about an end however desirable? Are there not 
some pursuits that we practise because they are good in themselves, and 
some pleasures that are final? And is not this among them? I have some- 
times dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great 
conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards their 
crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable 
marble the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain 
envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, 'Look, these 
need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved 
reading/ 19 

[ 10 'You can never be wise unless you love reading' (Dr. Johnson, in a letter, 25 Sep- 
tember 1770).] 

W. Somerset Maugham 

([ To hear what a successful writer has to say about his art is always 
instructive and often enjoyable. Mr. Maugham's The Summing Up 
is as agreeable a book as his best plays and novels. Naturally it is of 
most interest to readers acquainted with those plays and novels, but 
even a person who had not read Of Human Bondage, Cakes and 
Ale, The Moon and Sixpence, Rain, The Circle, or Our Betters 
would find The Summing Up a provocative account of a writer's 
development, of his artistic principles, and of his philosophical 
reflections. It 'is not an autobiography nor is it a book of recollec- 
tions/ Mr. Maugham says. It is a summing up, written to 'give a 
coherent picture of my feelings and opinions/ 

Since this book appeared (1938), Mr. Maugham has published 
A Writer's Notebook (1949), a different sort of book, and a less 
considerable one, but not to be missed by anyone who likes The 
Summing Up. 


HAVE NEVER had much patience with the writers who claim 
from the reader an effort to understand their meaning. You have only to 
go to the great philosophers to see that it is possible to express with lucidity 
the most subtle reflections. You may find it difficult to understand the 
thought of Hume, 1 and if you have no philosophical training its implica- 
tions will doubtless escape you; but no one with any education at all can 
fail to understand exactly what the meaning of each sentence is. Few 
people have written English with more grace than Berkeley. 2 There are two 
sorts of obscurity that you find in writers. One is due to negligence and the 

[ l Scottish philosopher and historian (1711-76). See pp. 370-75.] 
[ a Irish divine and philosopher (1685-1753).] 

FROM The Summing Up, by W. Somerset Maugham. Copyright 1938 by W. Somer- 
set Maugham. Reprinted by permission of Doubleday & Company, Inc., and Messrs. 
Wm. Heinemann, Ltd. 


other to wilfulness. People often write obscurely because they have never 
taken the trouble to learn to write clearly. This sort of obscurity you find 
too often in modern philosophers, in men of science, and even in literary 
critics. Here it is indeed strange. You would have thought that men who 
passed their lives in the study of the great masters of literature would be 
sufficiently sensitive to the beauty of language to write if not beautifully 
at least with perspicuity. Yet you will find in their works sentence after 
sentence that you must read twice to discover the sense. Often you can 
only guess at it, for the writers have evidently not said what they intended. 
Another cause of obscurity is that the writer is himself not quite sure of 
his meaning. He has a vague impression of what he wants to say, but has 
not, either from lack of mental power or from laziness, exactly formulated 
it in his mind and it is natural enough that he should not find a precise 
expression for a confused idea. This is due largely to the fact that many 
writers think, not before, but as they write. The pen originates the thought. 
The disadvantage of this, and indeed it is a danger against which the author 
must be always on his guard, is that there is a sort of magic in the written 
word. The idea acquires substance by taking on a visible nature, and then 
stands in the way of its own clarification. But this sort of obscurity merges 
very easily into the wilful. Some writers who do not think clearly are in- 
clined to suppose that their thoughts have a significance greater than at 
first sight appears. It is flattering to believe that they are too profound to 
be expressed so clearly that all who run may read, and very naturally it does 
not occur to such writers that the fault is with their own minds which have 
not the faculty of precise reflection. Here again the magic of the written 
word obtains. It is very easy to persuade oneself that a phrase that one does 
not quite understand may mean a great deal more than one realizes. From 
this there is only a little way to go to fall into the habit of setting down 
one's impressions in all their original vagueness. Fools can always be found 
to discover a hidden sense in them. There is another form of wilful obscur- 
ity that masquerades as aristocratic exclusiveness. The author wraps his 
meaning in mystery so that the vulgar shall not participate in it. His soul 
is a secret garderf into which the elect may penetrate only after overcoming 
a number of perilous obstacles. But this kind of obscurity is not only pre- 
tentious; it is shortsighted. For time plays it an odd trick. If the sense is 
meagre time reduces it to a meaningless verbiage that no one thinks of 
reading. This is the fate that has befallen the lucubrations of those French 
writers who were seduced by the example of Guillaume Apollinaire. But 
occasionally it throws a sharp cold light on what had seemed profound and 

56 W. Somerset Maugham 

thus discloses the fact that these contortions of language disguised very 
commonplace notions. There are few of Mallarme*'s 8 poems now that are 
not clear; one cannot fail to notice that his thought singularly lacked origi- 
nality. Some of his phrases were beautiful; the materials of his verse were 
the poetic platitudes of his day. 


Simplicity is not such an obvious merit as lucidity. I have aimed at it 
because I have no gift for richness. Within limits I admire richness in 
others, though I find it difficult to digest in quantity. I can read one page 
of Ruskin with delight, but twenty only with weariness. The rolling period, 
the stately epithet, the noun rich in poetic associations, the subordinate 
clauses that give the sentence weight and magnificence, the grandeur like 
that of wave following wave in the open sea; there is no doubt that in all 
this there is something inspiring. Words thus strung together fall on the 
ear like music. The appeal is sensuous rather than intellectual, and the 
beauty of the sound leads you easily to conclude that you need not bother 
about the meaning. But words are tyrannical things, they exist for their 
meanings, and if you will not pay attention to these, you cannot pay atten- 
tion at all. Your mind wanders. This kind of writing demands a subject 
that will suit it. It is surely out of place to write in the grand style of incon- 
siderable things. No one wrote in this manner with greater success than 
Sir Thomas Browne, but even he did not always escape this pitfall. In the 
last chapter of Hydriotaphia the matter, which is the destiny of man, won- 
derfully fits the baroque splendour of the language, and here the Norwich 
doctor produced a piece of prose that has never been surpassed in our liter- 
ature; but when he describes the finding of his urns in the same splendid 
manner the effect (at least to my taste) is less happy. When a modern 
writer is grandiloquent to tell you whether or no a little trollop shall hop 
into bed with a commonplace young man you are right to be disgusted. 

But if richness needs gifts with which everyone is not endowed, simplic- 
ity by no means comes by nature. To achieve it needs rigid discipline. So 
far as I know ours is the only language in which it has been found neces- 
sary to give a name to the piece of prose which is described as the purple 
patch; it would not have been necessary to do so unless it were characteris- 
tic. English prose is elaborate rather than simple. It was not always so. 
Nothing could be more racy, straightforward and alive than the prose of 
Shakespeare; but it must be remembered that this was dialogue written to 

[ 8 Apollinaire (1880-1918) and Mallarml (1842-98) were influential French poets.] 


be spoken. We do not know how he would have written if like Corneille 
he had composed prefaces to his plays. It may be that they would have 
been as euphuistic as the letters of Queen Elizabeth. But earlier prose, the 
prose of Sir Thomas More, for instance, is neither ponderous, flowery nor 
oratorical. It smacks of the English soil. To my mind King James's Bible 
has been a very harmful influence on English prose. I am not so stupid as 
to deny its great beauty. It is majestical. But the Bible is an oriental book. 
Its alien imagery has nothing to do with us. Those hyperboles, those lus- 
cious metaphors, are foreign to our genius. I cannot but think that not the 
least of the misfortunes that the Secession from Rome brought upon the 
spiritual life of our country is that this work for so long a period became 
the daily, and with many the only, reading of our people. Those rhythms, 
that powerful vocabulary, that grandiloquence, became part and parcel of 
the national sensibility. The plain, honest English speech was overwhelmed 
with ornament. Blunt Englishmen twisted their tongues to speak like 
Hebrew prophets. There was evidently something in the English temper 
to which this was congenial, perhaps a native lack of precision in thought, 
perhaps a naive delight in fine words for their own sake, an innate eccen- 
tricity and love of embroidery, I do not know; but the fact remains that 
ever since, English prose has had to struggle against the tendency to luxuri- 
ance. When from time to time the spirit of the language has reasserted 
itself, as it did with Dryden and the writers of Queen Anne, it was only to 
be submerged once more by the pomposities of Gibbon and Dr. Johnson. 
When English prose recovered simplicity with Hazlitt, the Shelley of the 
letters and Charles Lamb at his best, it lost it again with De Quincey, 
Carlyle, Meredith and Walter Pater. It is obvious that the grand style is 
more striking than the plain. Indeed many people think that a style that 
does not attract notice is not style. They will admire Walter Pater's, but 
will read an essay by Matthew Arnold without giving a moment's atten- 
tion to the elegance, distinction and sobriety with which he set down what 
he had to say. 

The dictum that the style is the man is well known. It is one of those 
aphorisms that say too much to mean a great deal. Where is the man in 
Goethe, in his birdlike lyrics or in his clumsy prose? And Hazlitt? But I 
suppose that if a man has a confused mind he will write in a confused way, 
if his temper is capricious his prose will be fantastical, and if he has a 
quick, darting intelligence that is reminded by the matter in hand of a 
hundred things he will, unless he has great self-control, load his pages with 
metaphor and simile. There is a great difference between the magnilo- 

58 W. Somerset Maugham 

quence of the Jacobean writers, who were intoxicated with the new wealth 
that had lately been brought into the language, and the turgidity of Gibbon 
and Dr. Johnson, who were the victims of bad theories. I can read every 
word that Dr. Johnson wrote with delight, for he had good sense, charm 
and wit. No one could have written better if he had not wilfully set him- 
self to write in the grand style. He knew good English when he saw it. No 
critic has praised Dryden's prose more aptly. He said of him that he ap- 
peared to have no art other than that of expressing with clearness what he 
thought with vigour. And one of his Lives 4 he finished with the words: 
"Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and 
elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes 
of Addis on/ But when he himself sat down to write it was with a very dif- 
ferent aim. He mistook the orotund for the dignified. He had not the good 
breeding to see that simplicity and naturalness are the truest marks of 

For to write good prose is an affair of good manners. It is, unlike verse, a 
civil art. Poetry is baroque. Baroque is tragic, massive and mystical. It is 
elemental. It demands depth and insight. I cannot but feel that the prose 
writers of the baroque period, the authors of King James's Bible, Sir Thomas 
Browne, Glanville, 5 were poets who had lost their way. Prose is a rococo 
art. It needs taste rather than power, decorum rather than inspiration and 
vigour rather than grandeur. Form for the poet is the bit and the bridle 
without which (unless you are an acrobat) you cannot ride your horse; but 
for the writer of prose it is the chassis without which your car does not 
exist. It is not an accident that the best prose was written when rococo with 
its elegance and moderation, at its birth attained its greatest excellence. 
For rococo was evolved when baroque had become declamatory and the 
world, tired of the stupendous, asked for restraint. It was the natural ex- 
pression of persons who valued a civilized life. Humour, tolerance and 
horse sense made the great tragic issues that had preoccupied the first half 
of the seventeenth century seem excessive. The world was a more comfort- 
able place to live in and perhaps for the first time in centuries the culti- 
vated classes could sit back and enjoy their leisure. It has been said that 
good prose should resemble the conversation of a well-bred man. Conver- 
sation is only possible when men's minds are free from pressing anxieties. 

[ 4 'Addison/ in Lives of the Engfish Poets.] 

[ 8 Seventeenth-century divine. His Vanity of Dogmatizing (1661) is remembered 
because it contains the story from which Matthew Arnold made his poem The Scholar 


Their lives must be reasonably secure and they must have no grave con- 
cern about their souls. They must attach importance to the refinements of 
civilization. They must value courtesy, they must pay attention to their 
persons (and have we not also been told that good prose should be like 
the clothes of a well-dressed man, appropriate but unobtrusive?), they 
must fear to bore, they must be neither flippant nor solemn, but always 
apt; and they must look upon 'enthusiasm' with a critical glance. This is a 
soil very suitable for prose. It is not to be wondered at that it gave a fitting 
opportunity for the appearance of the best writer of prose that our modern 
world has seen, Voltaire. The writers of English, perhaps owing to the 
poetic nature of the language, have seldom reached the excellence that 
seems to have come so naturally to him. It is in so far as they have ap- 
proached the ease, sobriety and precision of the great French masters that 
they are admirable. 


I have read that Anatole France tried to use only the constructions and 
the vocabulary of the writers of the seventeenth century whom he so greatly 
admired. I do not know if it is true. If so, it may explain why there is some 
lack of vitality in his beautiful and simple French. But simplicity is false 
when you do not say a thing that you should say because you cannot say 
it in a certain way. One should write in the manner of one's period. The 
language is alive and constantly changing; to try to write like the authors 
of a distant past can only give rise to artificiality. I should not hesitate to 
use the common phrases of the day, knowing that their vogue was epheme- 
ral, or slang, though aware that in ten years it might be incomprehensible, 
if they gave vividness and actuality. If the style has a classical form it can 
support the discreet use of a phraseology that has only a local and tempo- 
rary aptness. I would sooner a writer were vulgar than mincing; for life is 
vulgar, and it is life he seeks. 

I think that we English authors have much to learn from our fellow 
authors in America. For American writing has escaped the tyranny of King 
James's Bible and American writers have been less affected by the old 
masters whose mode of writing is part of our culture. They have formed 
their style, unconsciously perhaps, more directly from the living speech 
that surrounds them; and at its best it has a directness, a vitality and a 
drive that give our more urbane manner an air of languor. It has been an 
advantage to American writers, many of whom at one time or another have 
been reporters, that their journalism has been written in a more trenchant, 

60 W. Somerset Maugham 

nervous, graphic English than ours. For we read the newspaper now as our 
ancestors read the Bible. Not without profit either; for the newspaper, 
especially when it is of the popular sort, offers us a part of experience that 
we writers cannot afford to miss. It is raw material straight from the knack- 
er's yard, and we are stupid if we turn up our noses because it smells of 
blood and sweat. We cannot, however willingly we would, escape the influ- 
ence of this workaday prose. But the journalism of a period has very much 
the same style; it might all have been written by the same hand; it is imper- 
sonal. It is well to counteract its effect by reading of another kind. One can 
do this only by keeping constantly in touch with the writing of an age not 
too remote from one's own. So can one have a standard by which to test 
one's own style and an ideal which in one's modern way one can aim at. 
For my part the two writers I have found most useful to study for this 
purpose are Hazlitt and Cardinal Newman. I would try to imitate neither. 
Hazlitt can be unduly rhetorical; and sometimes his decoration is as fussy 
as Victorian Gothic. Newman can be a trifle flowery. But at their best both 
are admirable. Time has little touched their style; it is almost contempo- 
rary. Hazlitt is vivid, bracing and energetic; he has strength and liveliness. 
You feel the man in his phrases, not the mean, querulous, disagreeable 
man that he appeared to the world that knew him, but the man within of 
his own ideal vision. (And the man within us is as true in reality as the 
man, pitiful and halting, of our outward seeming.) Newman had an exqui- 
site grace, music, playful sometimes and sometimes grave, a woodland 
beauty of phrase, dignity and mellowness. Both wrote with extreme lucid- 
ity. Neither is quite as simple as the purest taste demands. Here I think 
Matthew Arnold excels them. Both had a wonderful balance of phrase and 
both knew how to write sentences pleasing to the eye. Both had an ear of 
extreme sensitiveness. 

If anyone could combine their merits in the manner of writing of the 
present day he would write as well as it is possible for anyone to write. 


Young persons, who are anxious to write, sometimes pay me the com- 
pliment of asking me to tell them of certain books necessary for them to 
read. I do. They seldom read them, for they seem to have little curiosity. 
They do not care what their predecessors have done. They think they know 
everything that it is necessary to know of the art of fiction when they have 
read two or three novels by Mrs. Woolf, one by E. M. Forster, several by 

I 6 Slaughterhouse for useless horses.] 


D. H. Lawrence and, oddly enough, the Forsyte Saga. It is true that con- 
temporary literature has a vividness of appeal that classical literature can 
never have and it is well for a young writer to know what his contempo- 
raries are writing about and how. But there are fashions in literature and 
it is not easy to tell what intrinsic value there is in a style of writing that 
happens to be the vogue at the moment. An acquaintance with the great 
works of the past serves as a very good standard of comparison. I have 
sometimes wondered whether it is due to their ignorance that many young 
writers, notwithstanding their facility and cleverness, their skilful tech- 
nique, so frequently fizzle out. They write two or three books that are not 
only brilliant, but mature, and then they are done for. But that is not what 
enriches the literature of a country. For that you must have writers who 
can produce not just two or three books, but a great body of work. Of 
course it will be uneven, because so many fortunate circumstances must go 
together to produce a masterpiece; but a masterpiece is more likely to come 
as the culminating point of a laborious career than as the lucky fluke of 
untaught genius. The writer can only be fertile if he renews himself and 
he can only renew himself if his soul is constantly enriched by fresh expe- 
rience. There is no more fruitful source of this than the enchanting explor- 
ation of the great literatures of the past. 

For the production of a work of art is not the result of a miracle. It 
requires preparation. The soil, be it ever so rich, must be fed. By taking 
thought, by deliberate effort, the artist must enlarge, deepen and diversify 
his personality. Then the soil must lie fallow. Like the bride of Christ, the 
artist waits for the illumination that shall bring forth a new spiritual life. 
He goes about his ordinary avocations with patience; the subconscious does 
its mysterious business; and then, suddenly springing, you might think from 
nowhere, the idea is produced. But like the corn 7 that was sown on stony 
ground it may easily wither away; it must be tended with anxious care. All 
the power of the artist's mind must be set to work on it, all his technical 
skill, all his experience, and whatever he has in him of character and indi- 
viduality, so that with infinite pains he may present it with the complete- 
ness that is fitting to it. 

But I am not impatient with the young when, only at their request, I 
insist, I advise them to read Shakespeare and Swift, and they tell me that 
they read Gulliver's Travels in their nursery and Henry IV at school; and 
if they find Vanity Fair unendurable and Anna Karenina footling it is 
their own affair. No reading is worth while unless you enjoy it. There is at 

[ 7 Matthew, xiii, 3-23.] 

62 W. Somerset Maugham 

least this to be said for them that they do not suffer from the self-conceit 
of knowledge. They are not withdrawn by a wide culture from sympathy 
with the common run of men who are after all their material. They are 
nearer to their fellows and the art they practise is not a mystery, but a craft 
on the same footing as any other. They write novels and plays as unaffect- 
edly as other men build motorcars. This is much to the good. For the artist, 
the writer especially, in the solitariness of his own mind constructs a world 
that is different from other men's; the idiosyncrasy that makes him a 
writer separates him from them and the paradox emerges that though his 
aim is to describe them truthfully his gift prevents him from knowing 
them as they really are. It is as though he wanted urgently to see a certain 
thing and by the act of looking at it drew before it a veil that obscured it. 
The writer stands outside the very action he is engaged in. He is the come- 
dian who never quite loses himself in the part, for he is at the same time 
spectator and actor. It is all very well to say that poetry is emotion remem- 
bered in tranquillity; but a poet's emotion is specific, a poet's rather than a 
man's, and it is never quite disinterested. That is why women with their 
instinctive common sense have so often found the love of poets unsatisfy- 
ing. It may be that the writers of the present day, who seem to be so much 
nearer to their raw material, ordinary men among ordinary men, rather 
than artists in an alien crowd, may break down the barrier that their pecu- 
liar gift cannot but raise and so come nearer to the plain truth than has 
ever been done before. But then you have to make up your mind about the 
relations between truth and art. 

Joseph Conrad 

([ Few great artists have meditated more seriously or more wisely 
upon their art than Conrad did. He knew which novelists had most 
to teach him. But he knew, too, what he wanted to do as a writer, 
and his doctrine of art was his own; it came out of his own 
character and his own experience. 'My task which I am trying 
to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, 
to make you feel it is, before all, to make you see. That and no 
more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there accord- 
ing to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm all 
you demand and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you 
have forgotten to ask/ 

The best affirmation of Conrad's artistic creed was written near 
the beginning of his career. It appeared at the end of The Nigger of 
the 'Narcissus/ which was published serially in 1897 (his first novel, 
Almayer's Folly, came out in 1 89 5 ) . This postscript was later pub- 
lished as a preface to editions of The Nigger. 


WORK that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of 
art should carry its justification in every line. And art itself may be defined 
as a single-minded attempt to render the highest kind of justice to the 
visible universe, by bringing to light the truth, manifold and one, under- 
lying its every aspect. It is an attempt to find in its forms, in its colours, in 
its light, in its shadows, in the aspects of matter and in the facts of life, 
what of each is fundamental, what is enduring and essential their one 
illuminating and convincing quality the very truth of their existence. The 
artist, then, like the thinker or the scientist, seeks the truth and makes his 
appeal. Impressed by the aspect of the world the thinker plunges into ideas, 
the scientist into facts whence, presently, emerging they make their 
Reprinted by permission of J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd. 

64 Joseph Conrad 

appeal to those qualities of our being that fit us best for the hazardous 
enterprise of living. They speak authoritatively to our common-sense, to 
our intelligence, to our desire of peace or to our desire of unrest; not sel- 
dom to our prejudices, sometimes to our fears, often to our egoism but 
always to our credulity. And their words are heard with reverence, for their 
concern is with weighty matters; with the cultivation of our minds and the 
proper care of our bodies: with the attainment of our ambitions: with the 
perfection of the means and the glorification of our precious aims. 

It is otherwise with the artist. 

Confronted by the same enigmatical spectacle the artist descends within 
himself, and in that lonely region of stress and strife, if he be deserving and 
fortunate, he finds the terms of his appeal. His appeal is made to our less 
obvious capacities: to that part of our nature which, because of the war- 
like conditions of existence, is necessarily kept out of sight within the more 
resisting and hard qualities like the vulnerable body within a steel armour. 
His appeal is less loud, more profound, less distinct, more stirring and 
sooner forgotten. Yet its effect endures forever. The changing wisdom of 
successive generations discards ideas, questions facts, demolishes theories. 
But the artist appeals to that part of our being which is not dependent on 
wisdom; to that in us which is a gift and not an acquisition and, therefore, 
more permanently enduring. He speaks to our capacity for delight and 
wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives: to our sense of pity, 
and beauty, and pain: to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation 
and to the subtle but invincible, conviction of solidarity that knits together 
the loneliness of innumerable hearts to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in 
sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear, which binds men to 
each other, which binds together all humanity the dead to the living and 
the living to the unborn. 

It is only some such train of thought, or rather of feeling, that can in a 
measure explain the aim of the attempt, made in the tale which follows, 
to present an unrestful episode in the obscure lives of a few individuals 
out of all the disregarded multitude of the bewildered, the simple and the 
voiceless. For, if there is any part of truth in the belief confessed above, it 
becomes evident that there is not a place of splendour or a dark corner of 
the earth that does not deserve, if only a passing glance of wonder and pity. 
The motive, then, may be held to justify the matter of the work; but this 
preface, which is simply an avowal of endeavour, cannot end here for the 
avowal is not yet complete. 

Fiction if it at all aspires to be art appeals to temperament. And in 


truth it must be, like painting, like music, like all art, the appeal of one 
temperament to all the other innumerable temperaments whose subtle 
and resistless power endows passing events with their true meaning, and 
creates the moral, the emotional atmosphere of the place and time. Such 
an appeal to be effective must be an impression conveyed through the 
senses; and, in fact, it cannot be made in any other way, because tempera- 
ment, whether individual or collective, is not amenable to persuasion. All 
art, therefore, appeals primarily to the senses, and the artistic aim when 
expressing itself in written words must also make its appeal through the 
senses, if its high desire is to reach the secret spring of responsive emotions. 
It must strenuously aspire to the plasticity of sculpture, to the colour of 
painting, and to the magic suggestiveness of music which is the art of arts. 
And it is only through complete, unswerving devotion to the perfect blend- 
ing of form and substance; it is only through an unremitting never-dis- 
couraged care for the shape and ring of sentences that an approach can be 
made to plasticity, to colour; and the light of magic suggestiveness may be 
brought to play for an evanescent instant over the commonplace surface 
of words: of the old, old words, worn thin, defaced by ages of careless usage. 

The sincere endeavour to accomplish that creative task, to go as far on 
that road as his strength will carry him, to go undeterred by faltering, weari- 
ness or reproach, is the only valid justification for the worker in prose. And 
if his conscience is clear, his answer to those who, in the fulness of a wis- 
dom which looks for immediate profit, demand specifically to be edified, 
consoled, amused; who demand to be promptly improved, or encouraged, 
or frightened, or shocked, or charmed, must run thus: My task which I 
am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you 
hear, to make you feel it is, before all, to make you see. That and no 
more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there according to 
your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm all you demand 
and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask. 

To snatch in a moment of courage, from the remorseless rush of time, a 
passing phase of life, is only the beginning of the task. The task approached 
in tenderness and faith is to hold up unquestioningly, without choice and 
without fear, the rescued fragment before all eyes and in the light of a 
sincere mood. It is to show its vibration, its colour, its form; and through 
its movement, its form, and its colour, reveal the substance of its truth- 
disclose its inspiring secret: the stress and passion within the core of each 
convincing moment. In a single-minded attempt of that kind, if one be 
deserving and fortunate, one may perchance attain to such clearness of 

66 Joseph Conrad 

sincerity that at last the presented vision of regret or pity, of terror or 
mirth, shall awaken in the hearts of the beholders that feeling of unavoid- 
able solidarity; of the solidarity in mysterious origin, in toil, in joy, in hope, 
in uncertain fate, which binds men to each other and all mankind to the 
visible world. 

It is evident that he who, rightly or wrongly, holds by the convictions 
expressed above cannot be faithful to any one of the temporary formulas 
of his craft. The enduring part of them the truth which each only imper- 
fectly veils should abide with him as the most precious of his possessions, 
but they all: Realism, Romanticism, Naturalism, even the unofficial senti- 
mentalism (which like the poor, 1 is exceedingly difficult to get rid of,) all 
these gods must, after a short period of fellowship, abandon him even on 
the very threshold of the temple to the stammerings of his conscience 
and to the outspoken consciousness of the difficulties of his work. In that 
uneasy solitude the supreme cry of Art for Art, itself, loses the exciting 
ring of its apparent immorality. It sounds far off. It has ceased to be a cry, 
and is heard only as a whisper, often incomprehensible, but at times and 
faintly encouraging. 

Sometimes, stretched at ease in the shade of a roadside tree, we watch 
the motions of a labourer in a distant field, and after a time, begin to 
wonder languidly as to what the fellow may be at. We watch the move- 
ments of his body, the waving of his arms, we see him bend down, stand 
up, hesitate, begin again. It may add to the charm of an idle hour to be 
told the purpose of his exertions. If we know he is trying to lift a stone, to 
dig a ditch, to uproot a stump, we look with a more real interest at his 
efforts; we are disposed to condone the jar of his agitation upon the rest- 
fulness of the landscape; and even, if in a brotherly frame of mind, we may 
bring ourselves to forgive his failure. We understood his object, and, after 
all, the fellow has tried, and perhaps he had not the strength and perhaps 
he had not the knowledge. We forgive, go on our way and forget. 

And so it is with the workman of art. Art is long and life is short, 2 and 
success is very far off. And thus, doubtful of strength to travel so far, we 
talk a little about the aim the aim of art, which, like life itself, is inspiring, 
difficult obscured by mists. It is not in the clear logic of a triumphant con- 
clusion; it is not in the unveiling of one of those heartless secrets which are 
called the Laws of Nature. It is not less great, but only more difficult. 

To arrest, for the space of a breath, the hands busy about the work of 

[' John, xii, 8.] 

[ 9 This maxim is attributed to Hippocrates, fifth century B.C.] 


the earth, and compel men entranced by the sight of distant goals to glance 
for a moment at the surrounding vision of form and colour, of sunshine and 
shadows; to make them pause for a look, for a sigh, for a smile such is the 
aim, difficult and evanescent, and reserved only for a very few to achieve. 
But sometimes, by the deserving and the fortunate, even that task is 
accomplished. And when it is accomplished behold! all the truth of life 
is there: a moment of vision, a sigh, a smile and the return to an eternal 

Robert E. Sherwood 

([ In the notes to his Abe Lincoln in Illinois (a scene from which 
is reprinted on pp. 499-504 of this book) Mr. Sherwood, reminding 
us that after Lincoln's election in 1860 Stephen A. Douglas assisted 
in the composition of the First Inaugural Address, observes that 
There was ghost-writing in high places even then.' For nearly 
five years during the administration of President Franklin D. Roose- 
velt, Mr. Sherwood was playing the part of a useful ghost himself. 
Ghost-writing in high places is going to vex future historians, who 
will have to guess who wrote a statesman's works, but historians of 
the Roosevelt era will get invaluable assistance from Mr. Sherwood's 
record of F. D. R.'s speeches and how they were written. It seems 
clear that the main ideas and many of the memorable phrases of 
those speeches were the President's own; the task of working them 
into coherent discourse was performed by the 'ghosts.' 

These pages are from Mr. Sherwood's Roosevelt and Hopkins 
(1948), probably the most important of the numerous revelations 
so far published of the inner history of the Roosevelt adminis- 

I HAVE SAID, Hopkins did not originate policy and then 
convince Roosevelt it was right. He had too much intelligence as well as 
respect for his Chief to attempt the role of mastermind. He made it his job 
to provide a sounding board for discussions of the best means of attaining 
the goals that the President set for himself. Roosevelt liked to think out 
loud, but his greatest difficulty was finding a listener who was both under- 
standing and entirely trustworthy. That was Hopkins and this was the 
process that Rosenman 1 and I watched over and over again in the prepa- 

t 1 Judge Samuel I. Rosenman of New York, one of the President's most trusted unof- 
ficial aides.] 

FROM Roosevelt and Hopkins. Copyright 1948 by Robert E. Sherwood. Reprinted by 
permission of Harper & Brothers. 


ration of the speeches and messages in which Roosevelt made known his 
policies to the nation and to the world. The work that was put in on these 
speeches was prodigious, for Roosevelt with his acute sense of history knew 
that all of those words would constitute the bulk of the estate that he 
would leave to posterity and that his ultimate measurement would depend 
on the reconciliation of what he said with what he did. Therefore, utmost 
importance was attached to his public utterances and utmost care exer- 
cised in their preparation. In the previous chapter I have mentioned the 
Cleveland speech 2 which took a night and a day to prepare, but such speed 
in preparation was unusual, even for a campaign speech, which was neces- 
sarily a creature of the moment. The important speeches sometimes re- 
quired a week or more of hard labor, with a considerable amount of plan- 
ning before the intensive work started. I don't know what was the record 
number of distinct drafts of a single speech but it must have been well over 
twelve, and in the final draft there might not be one sentence that had 
survived from the first draft. There were of course numerous routine 
speeches of a ceremonial nature which were not considered of major sig- 
nificancebut, in wartime, even in these Roosevelt was aware that he had 
a world audience and that everything he said might be material for the 
propaganda which flooded the air waves. If such a speech were opening a 
Bond Drive, a first draft would be prepared in the Treasury Department; 
if it were launching a new campaign for funds for the Red Cross, the Com- 
munity Chest, National Brotherhood Week, etc., the organization con- 
cerned would send in suggestions as to what it wanted the President to say. 
This submitted material was almost always so rhetorical, so studiously lit- 
erary, that it did not sound at all like Roosevelt's normal style and it had 
to be subjected to the process of simplification or even oversimplification 
that he demanded. He was happiest when he could express himself in the 
homeliest, even tritest phrases, such as 'common or garden/ 'clear as crys- 
tal/ 'rule of thumb/ 'neither here nor there/ 'armchair strategists/ or 
'simple as ABC/ 

When he wanted to give a speech for some important purpose, whether 
it was connected with a special occasion or not, he would discuss it first at 
length with Hopkins, Rosenman and me, telling us what particular points 
he wanted to make, what sort of audience he wished primarily to reach and 
what the maximum word limit was to be (he generally put it far too low). 
He would dictate pages and pages, approaching his main topic, sometimes 
hitting it squarely on the nose with terrific impact, sometimes rambling so 

[* During the 1940 Presidential campaign.] 

jo Robert E. Sherwood 

far away from it that he couldn't get back, in which case he would say, 
Well something along those lines you boys can fix it up/ I think he 
greatly enjoyed these sessions, when he felt free to say anything he pleased, 
uttering all kinds of personal insults, with the knowledge that none of it 
need appear in the final version. When he stopped dictating, because an- 
other appointment was due or it was time to go to bed, we would go to the 
Cabinet Room in the West Wing and start reading through all the as- 
sembled material. The President kept a special 'Speech Folder' into which 
he put newspaper clippings that he had marked, indicating either his ap- 
proval of some sentiment expressed or indignation that such falsehood 
should get into print (he could not always remember what the marking 
signified) . There were also all sorts of letters from all sorts of people, known 
and unknown, containing suggestions as to what he should say, and there 
were random bits of his own dictation, thoughts that had suddenly oc- 
curred to him during preceding days and weeks which might be useful 
sometime. All of this material was sifted, and added to the newly dictated 
material with the aid of scissors and paste and. a few connecting clauses, 
until something resembling a coherent speech was put together and fair 
copies of it made. It was generally two or three times too long. When the 
President was free to see us again, we handed him this draft and he looked 
immediately at the last page to see its number, whereupon he announced 
that at least ninety-two per cent of it must be cut. He then started to read 
through it, pausing frequently to dictate 'Insert A,' 'Insert G,' etc. Each 
time he decided to dictate something he said, 'Grace take a law,' a line 
he gladly borrowed from the Kaufman-Hart-Rodgers musical show, 'I'd 
Rather Be Right,' in which George M. Cohan played the part of Franklin 
D. Roosevelt. The President himself had never seen this show but he 
enjoyed what he heard about it. 

When he had finished dictating inserts, the speech was far longer than 
it had been and farther from any coherent form. We then returned to the 
Cabinet Room and started a second draft. This process went on day and 
night. Sometimes, while the work was in progress, events would intervene 
for instance: on a Sunday evening in July, 1943, we were at Shangri-la 3 
finishing up a speech devoted primarily to home-front problems price sta- 
bilization, rationing, manpower, etc. when news came of the fall of Benito 
Mussolini, and the speech had to be started all over again; this, however, 
was a pleasure for all. 

Most of Roosevelt's work on speeches was done during the evening. We 

[* The President's country lodge in Maryland.] 


would gather for the standard cocktail ceremony in the Oval Study at 7:15. 
The President sat behind his desk, the tray before him. He mixed the ingre- 
dients with the deliberation of an alchemist but with what appeared to be 
a certain lack of precision since he carried on a steady conversation while 
doing it. His bourbon old-fashioneds were excellent, but I did not care for 
his Martinis, in which he used two kinds of vermouth (when he had them) 
and sometimes a dash of absinthe. Hopkins occasionally talked him into 
making Scotch whisky sours, although he didn't really like them. The usual 
canape's of cream cheese or fish paste on small circles of toast were served, 
also popcorn. Roosevelt was an extremely mild drinker he did not have 
wine with meals except at large, formal dinners, and I don't recall ever 
having seen him drink brandy or other liqueurs or a highball; but he cer- 
tainly loved the cocktail period and the stream of small talk that went 
with it. 

Dinner was generally served in the study about 7:45. It ill becomes a 
guest to say so, but the White House cuisine did not enjoy a very high 
reputation. The food was plentiful and, when simple, good but the chef 
had a tendency to run amuck on fancy salads. There was one favorite in 
particular which resembled the productions one finds in the flossier type of 
tea shoppe: it was a mountain of mayonnaise, slices of canned pineapple, 
carved radishes, etc. It was served frequently and each time the President 
merely looked at it and shook his head and murmured sadly, 'No, thank 
you/ Once when this happened, Sam Rosenman laughed and said, 'Mr. 
President, you've been in this House for eight years, and for all I know 
you'll be here eight years more but they'll never give up trying to persuade 
you to find out what that salad really tastes like/ Roosevelt was always 
grateful for delicacies, particularly game, which friends sent in to enliven 
his diet. I never heard him complain about food or anything else in the 
way of service, but he did complain bitterly about the security supervision 
of every article of food sent to him. Once he said, 'I happen to be very 
fond of roasted peanuts. But if somebody wanted to send me a bag of pea- 
nuts, the Secret Service would have to X-ray it and the Department of 
Agriculture would have to open every shell and test every kernel for poison 
or high explosives. So, to save trouble, they would just throw the bag away 
and never tell me about it/ Deeply moved by this, Rosenman and I went 
to the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and i;th Street and bought a large 
bag of peanuts and sneaked it in to the President. He put it under his 
coat and ate the whole contents. 

After dinner he sat on the couch to the left of the fireplace, his feet up 

72 Robert E. Sherwood 

on the stool specially built for him, and started reading the latest speech 
draft. Grace Tully sat next to him, taking more dictation until Dorothy 
Brady or Toinette Bachelder came in to relieve her. Sometimes Roosevelt 
read the speech out loud, to see how it sounded, for every word was judged 
not by its appearance in print but by its effectiveness over the radio. About 
10 o'clock, a tray with drinks was brought in. The President sometimes had 
a glass of beer but more often a horse's neck (ginger ale and lemon peel). 
He was by now yawning and losing interest in the speech and he usually 
went to bed before eleven. During these evening sessions, the telephone 
almost never rang. Now and then a dispatch might be brought in, which 
Roosevelt would read and pass on to Hopkins without a word or a change 
of expression, but otherwise one would have thought this house the most 
peaceful, remote retreat in a war-wracked world. 

After leaving the Study, we would spend most of the night in the Cabi- 
net Room producing another draft which would go to the President with 
his breakfast in the morning. Sometimes we would send a call for help to 
Archibald MacLeish, Librarian of Congress, who would come in late at 
night to help bring a diffuse speech into focus. More than once, before the 
White House windows were blacked out after Pearl Harbor, Mrs. Roose- 
velt saw the lights burning in the Cabinet Room at 3:00 A.M. and tele- 
phoned down to tell us we were working too hard and should go to bed. 
Of course, the fact was that she herself was sitting up working at that hour. 

We had to get up early in the morning to be ready for summons in case 
the President wanted to work on the speech before his first appointment. 
We generally had breakfast on trays in Hopkins' room and it was rarely a 
cheerful gathering. The draft that had been completed a few hours previ- 
ously looked awful in the morning light and the judgment on it that we 
most often expressed was, 'I only hope that the reputation of Franklin 
Delano Roosevelt does not depend on this terrible speech/ 

After the session in the President's bedroom, Rosenman and I went over 
to the Cabinet Room to await the summons. The signal bells announced 
the President's approach to his office and we stood by the French windows 
leading out to the colonnade and watched him go by in his armless, cush- 
ionless, uncomfortable wheelchair, pushed by his Negro valet,' Chief Petty 
Officer Arthur Prettyman. Accompanying him was the detail of Secret 
Service men, some of them carrying the large, overflowing wire baskets of 
papers on which he had been working the night before and the dispatches 
that had come in that morning. When Fala came abreast of the wheelchair 
as it rolled along, Roosevelt would reach down and scratch his neck. This 


progress to the day's work by a crippled man was a sight to stir the most 
torpid imagination; for here was a clear glimpse of the Roosevelt that the 
people believed him to be the chin up, the cigarette holder tilted at what 
was always described as 'a jaunty angle 7 and the air of irrepressible confi- 
dence that whatever problems the day might bring, he would find a way to 
handle them. The fact that this confidence was not always justified made 
it none the less authentic and reassuring. 

When I saw the President go by on these mornings, I felt that nobody 
who worked for him had a right to feel tired. That was not an unusual 
feeling: it went all through the wartime Administration in Washington, 
extending to all sorts of people, some of whom disagreed with him politi- 
cally and most of whom never laid eyes on him. It was, I think, Henry 
Pringle 4 who, when working in a government agency shortly after Pearl 
Harbor, suggested as a wall slogan for bureaucrats' offices: EXHAUSTION is 

The speeches had to be checked and counterchecked with various de- 
partments and agencies, most of all with the Army and Navy; many 
speeches that were sent over to the War Department came back with cor- 
rections and suggestions penciled in the handwriting of General Marshall. 
The work of the so-called 'ghost writers' consisted largely of the painstak- 
ing, arduous verification of facts and figures. We felt, The New York 
Times can make mistakes the World Almanac can make mistakesbut 
the President of the United States must not make mistakes/ This constant 
thought imposed a harrowing responsibility. After 1940, the White House 
had its resident statistician Isador Lubin, the Commissioner of Labor 
Statistics, who was constantly available and incalculably valuable to Roose- 
velt and to Hopkins in checking every decimal point. 

Although the speeches were usually seen in advance by the War and 
Navy Departments and sometimes (though not always) by the State De- 
partment, they were kept otherwise under close wraps of secrecy. There 
were always various eminent officials who wanted to know what the Presi- 
dent was going to say. They were particularly anxious to make sure that 
he was going to include the several pages of material that they had sub- 
mitted on their own particular departments. They knew they could get 
nowhere with Hopkins in their quest of inside information; so they con- 
centrated on Rosenman, who would fob them off with the misstatement 
that, 'The President is weighing that in his mind right now/ We used to 
derive enjoyment from the thought of various important personages around 

[ 4 Journalist and biographer.] 

74 Robert E. Sherwood 

Washington listening to the Presidential broadcasts and then, as the 

strains of 'The Star Spangled Banner' broke out at the finish, cursing, 'He 
didn't use a word of that stuff that I sent him.' It was even more enjoyable 
to picture the amazed expression of some anonymous citizen in Council 
Bluffs who had written a letter to the President and then heard something 
from that letter incorporated in a Fireside Chat. 

On the final two days of preparation of a speech Roosevelt would really 
buckle down to serious work and then what had seemed a formless, aim- 
less mess of words would begin to assume tautness and sharpness. He 
studied every implication for its effect on various groups in the nation and 
on allies and enemies and neutrals. He paid a great deal of attention to the 
punctuation, not for its correctness but for its aid or hindrance to him in 
reading the speech aloud. Grace Tully liked to insert a great many commas, 
and the President loved to strike them out. He once said to her, 'Grace! 
How many times do I have to tell you not to waste the taxpayers' commas?' 
He liked dashes, which were visual aids, and hated semicolons and paren- 
theses. I don't think he ever used the sonorous phrase, 'And I quote.' If 
he had to have quotation marks, he did not refer to them, knowing they 
would appear in the printed version. 

In the final draft of a speech, every word was counted and Roosevelt 
finally decided the precise number that he would be able to crowd into 
thirty minutes. His sense of timing was phenomenal. His normal rate was 
100 words a minute, but he would say, There are some paragraphs in this 
speech that I can take quickly so I can handle a total of 3,150 words' 
and that did not mean 3,162. At other times, he would feel that he had to 
be deliberate in his delivery and the words would have to be cut to 2,800. 
This cutting was the most difficult work of all because, by the time we had 
come to the ninth or tenth draft, we felt sure the speech had been boiled 
down to the ultimate monosyllable. Roosevelt's estimates were rarely off 
more than a split second on his broadcasts. Speeches before audiences were 
difficult to estimate, of course, because crowd responses are unpredictable, 
but he was generally accurate even on these. In the Teamsters' speech, 5 
the roars of laughter and applause were so frequent and prolonged that the 
speech ran some fifteen minutes overtime, but that did not upset Roosevelt 
at all despite the fact that, since it was a campaign speech, the Democratic 
National Committee had to pay the heavy excess charges. 

When a speech was finally closed up, about six o'clock in the evening, 

[ B A speech delivered during the 1944 campaign at a dinner of the International 
Brotherhood of Teamsters in Washington.] 


the President was wheeled over to Dr. Mclntire's office for the sinus treat- 
ments that were a regular part of his day. Then he went upstairs for cock- 
tails and dinner, after which he chatted or worked on his correspondence 
or his stamp albums, without seeming to give much attention to the final 
reading copy of his speech which was typed on special limp paper, to avoid 
rustling noises as he turned the pages, and bound in a black leather loose- 
leaf folder. But when he started to broadcast he seemed to know it by heart. 
When he looked down at his manuscript, he was usually not looking at the 
words he was then speaking but at the next paragraph to determine where 
he would put his pauses and which of his large assortment of inflections he 
would employ. As one who has had considerable experience in the theater, 
I marveled at the unfailing precision with which he made his points, his 
grace in reconciling the sublime with the ridiculous, as though he had been 
rehearsing these lines for weeks and delivering them before audiences for 
months. Those who worked with him on speeches were all too well aware 
that he was no slave to his prepared text. He could and did ad-lib at will, 
and that was something which always amused him greatly. During the days 
of preparation, Hopkins, Rosenman and I would sometimes unite in oppo- 
sition to some line, usually of a jocose nature, which the President wanted 
to include. It was our duty to make every effort to avoid being yes men and 
so we kept at him until we had persuaded him that the line should be cut 
out; but, if he really liked it well enough, he would keep it in mind and 
then ad-lib it, and later would be full of apologies to us for his 'unfortunate 
slip of the tongue/ He was almost always immensely good humored about 
the arguments we offered him he liked to appear persecuted and com- 
plain that They won't let me say anything of my own in my own speech/ 
There were times, however, when he was worn out and angered by some- 
thing else and then he would be cantankerous with us because we were the 
only convenient targets; we learned that on such occasions it was best to 
shut up and to revive our arguments later after he had had some rest and 
felt more amiable. Referring again to my experience in the theater, I can 
testify that he was normally the most untemperamental genius I have ever 
encountered. That is one of the reasons why he was able to sleep so well 
at night. 

During the campaign of 1940, Carl Sandburg came to call at the White 
House and had a long talk with the President who said to him, 'Why don't 
you go down to Missy LeHand's office and dictate some of the things 
you've just been saying to me?' Sandburg did so and said, among other 

76 Robert E. Sherwood 

The Gettysburg speech of Abraham Lincoln or the farewell address of Robert 
E. Lee to his Army, would be, in our American street talk, 'just a lot of words/ 
unless we look behind the words, unless we see words throwing long shadows 
and out of the shadows arises the mystery of man consecrated to mystic 
causes. . . 

If we go back across American history we find that as a nation among the 
other nations of the world this country has never kept silence as to what it 
stands for. For a hundred and fifty years and more we have told the world that 
the American Republic stands for a certain way of life. No matter what hap- 
pened to the map of Europe, no matter what changes of government and sys- 
tems went on there, no matter what old thrones and dynasties crashed to make 
way for something else, no matter what new philosophies and orbits of influ- 
ence were proclaimed, America never kept silence. 

Despite his strenuous avoidance of solemnity, and the frivolousness and 
irrelevance of his small talk when he was off the record, Roosevelt knew 
that he was the voice of America to the rest of the world. In the darkest 
days before and after Pearl Harbor he expressed the hopes of civilized 
humanity. Churchill's was the gallant voice of the unconquerable warrior, 
but Roosevelt's was the voice of liberation, the reassurance of the dignity 
of man. His buoyancy, his courage, his confidence renewed hope in those 
who feared that they had forever lost it. Roosevelt seemed to take his 
speeches lightly, but no one knew better than he that, once he had the 
microphone before him, he was speaking for the eternal record his words 
were, as Sandburg said, 'throwing long shadows/ 

In a foreword to an anthology of Roosevelt speeches, Harry Hopkins 

Roosevelt made many great speeches. But some were not so good. He occa- 
sionally did not try, because he was frankly bored. A President of the United 
States has to speak many times on subjects which do not interest him. He 
would prefer to read a book or go to bed. 

This was particularly true of the last two years of Roosevelt's life, when 
he made just as few speeches as possible and rarely appeared to take a great 
deal of interest in those that he did make. The time of challenge when 
words were the only weapons had at last passed and great and terrible 
events were speaking for themselves. He seemed to relax to save himself 
for the time when events would cease and words would again become the 
instruments of international politics. 


|[ It is safe to assert that more new English translations of the Bible were pub- 
lished in the first half of the twentieth century than in the preceding three 
hundred years. In some respects the gap between the King James Bible of 1611 
and its complete revision in 1885 was fortunate, for if the sixteenth- and early 
seventeenth-century versions were by modern standards of scholarship defective, 
they were nevertheless felicitous in style. Tyndale and Coverdale had an instinc- 
tive feeling for language as well as a passion to 'search the scriptures'; perhaps 
the two things are not unrelated. These men and the makers of the Geneva 
version of 1560 and Rheims-Douai of 1582-1609, and above all the committee 
that gave us the so-called Authorized or King James Bible of 1611 made the 
Bible popular literature in English. 

From the present standpoint all these translations had very serious faults. 
Textual criticism and textual and archaeological discoveries in the past century 
have so vastly advanced our knowledge of the Bible that new translations or 
drastic revisions become imperative. However splendid the phrases and rhythms 
of Tudor or Jacobean versions, accuracy and an idiom more intelligible to the 
plain reader of the present time are yet greater matters if the Bible is to be read 
and valued as it needs to be. 

Of the completely fresh translations of the whole Bible into English in the 
twentieth century, probably the most successful are those by Dr. James Moffatt, 
a Scot; by Monsignor Ronald Knox, an Englishman; and by five American and 
Canadian scholars (Professors J. M. Powis Smith, Edgar J. Goodspced, Theo- 
phile J. Meek, Alexander R. Gordon, and Lcroy Waterman), who called theirs 
the 'American' translation. Concerning their rendering of the Old Testament 
(1927), Dr. Smith writes: 'It tries to be American in the sense that the writings 
of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Wilson are American. This does not imply any limi- 
tation of our mother-tongue, but if anything an enrichment of it. Least of all 
does it mean that the translation is for Americans only; it aims at being easily 
understood wherever English is spoken. In general we have been loyal to the 
Hebrew in its use of symbolic and figurative language; occasionally where such 
figures would not be clear to the reader, we have translated the figure into more 
familiar terms/ 

The Authorized or King James Version of the Bible was the work of a com- 
mitteeone of the very few products of committee labor to have literary dis- 

78 The Bible 

tinction. It was suggested in 1604 by a Puritan divine, Dr. Reynolds, and spon- 
sored by the King. One subcommittee, as we should call it, worked at the project 
in London, another in Oxford, and a third in Cambridge. The fourth subcom- 
mittee, chosen from these three, revised their draft. The book was published in 

The King James Version was based directly on the earlier translations of 
William Tyndale (15256?.) and Miles Coverdale (1535), and on the revision 
of Coverdale's translation, the 'Great Bible' (1539). The Geneva Bible of 1560, 
which was the favorite version with the Puritans, and the Roman Catholic trans- 
lation, the Rheims-Douai of 1582-1609, were also consulted by the makers of 
the Authorized Version. But the Tyndale and Coverdale translations were by 
far their most important aids. 

. I 

JOSEPH, being seventeen years old, 
was feeding the flock with his 
brethren; and the lad was with 
the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons 
of Zilpah, his father's wives: and 
Joseph brought unto his father their 
evil report. 

Now Israel l loved Joseph more 
than all his children, because he was 
the son of his old age: and he made 
him a coat of many colours. And when 
his brethren saw that their father loved 
him more than all his brethren, they 
hated him, and could not speak 
peaceably unto him. 

And Joseph dreamed a dream, and 
he told it his brethren: and they 
hated him yet the more. And he said 
unto them, 

'Hear, I pray you, this dream which 
I have dreamed: for, behold, we were 
binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, 
my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; 
and, behold, your sheaves stood round 
about, and made obeisance to my 

I 1 Jacob.] 

FROM the Authorized Version of 1611. 

A THE age of seventeen Joseph 
used to accompany his brothers 
in looking after the flocks, be- 
ing a mere lad alongside the sons of 
Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's wives; 
and Joseph brought a bad report of 
them to their father. 

Now Israel loved Joseph more than 
any of his other sons, because he was 
the son of his old age; so he made a 
long cloak for him. When his brothers 
saw that their father loved him more 
than any of his brothers, they hated 
him, and could not say a good word 
about him. 

Joseph had a dream which he told 
to his brothers, so that they hated him 
all the more. He said to them, 

'Listen to this dream that I have 
had. While we were binding sheaves 
in the field, my sheaf rose up and re- 
mained standing, while your sheaves 
gathered round it, and made obeisance 
to my sheaf I' 

FROM The Complete Bible, An Ameri- 
can Translation, 1931. Reprinted by per- 
mission of the University of Chicago Press. 


And his brethren said to him, 

'Shalt thou indeed reign over us? 
or shalt thou indeed have dominion 
over us?' 

And they hated him yet the more 
for his dreams, and for his words. 

And he dreamed yet another dream, 
and told it his brethren, and said, 

'Behold, I have dreamed a dream 
more; and, behold, the sun and the 
moon and the eleven stars made obei- 
sance to me/ 

And he told it to his father, and to 
his brethren: and his father rebuked 
him, and said unto him, 

'What is this dream that thou hast 
dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and 
thy brethren indeed come to bow 
down ourselves to thce to the earth?' 

And his brethren envied him; but 
his father observed the saying. 

And his brethren went to feed their 
father's flock in Shechem. And Israel 
said unto Joseph, 

4 Do not thy brethren feed the flock 
in Shechem? come, and I will send 
thec unto them/ 

And he said to him, 'Here am I/ 

And he said to him, 

'Go, I pray thee, see whether it be 
well with thy brethren, and well with 
the flocks; and bring me word again/ 

So he sent him out of the vale of 
Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 
And a certain man found him, and, 
behold, he was wandering in the field: 
and the man asked him, saying, 

'What seekest thou?' 

And he said, 

'I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray 
thee, where they feed their flocks/ 


His brothers said to him, 
'Are you indeed to be king over 
us; would you actually rule us?' 

So they hated him all the more for 
his dreams and for his words. 

Then he had another dream which 
he recounted to his brothers. 

'I have just had another dream/ he 
said, 'and the sun, moon, and eleven 
stars made obeisance to me!' 

When he recounted it to his father 
and his brothers, his father reproved 
him, saying to him, 

'What is this dream that you have 
had? Am I actually to come with your 
mother and your brothers, and make 
obeisance to the earth to you?' 

But while his brothers became jeal- 
ous of him, his father kept the matter 
in mind. 

After his brothers had gone off to 
pasture their father's flocks at She- 
chem, Israel said to Joseph, 

'Are not your brothers pasturing the 
flocks at Shechem? Come, let me send 
you to them/ 

'I am ready/ he replied. 

So he said to him, 

'Go and see how your brothers are, 
and the flocks; and bring me back 

So he despatched him from the val- 
ley of Hebron; and he arrived at 
Shechem. But a man found him wan- 
dering about the country; so the man 
asked him, 

'What are you looking for?' 

'I am looking for my brothers,' he 
said; 'do tell me where they are pas- 
turing the flocks/ 


And the man said, 

"They are departed hence; for I 
heard them say, "Let us go to Do- 
than." ' 

And Joseph went after his brethren, 
and found them in Dothan. And when 
they saw him afar off, even before he 
came near unto them, they conspired 
against him to slay him. 

And they said one to another, 'Be- 
hold, this dreamer cometh. Come 
now therefore, and let us slay him, 
and cast him into some pit, and we 
will say, "Some evil beast hath de- 
voured him": and we shall sec what 
will become of his dreams/ 

And Reuben heard it, and he deliv- 
ered him out of their hands; and said, 

'Let us not kill him/ 

And Reuben said unto them, 'Shed 
no blood, but cast him into this pit 
that is in the wilderness, and lay no 
hand upon him 1 ; that he might rid 
him out of their hands, to deliver him 
to his father again. 

And it came to pass, when Joseph 
was come unto his brethren, that they 
stripped Joseph out of his coat, his 
coat of many colours that was on him; 
and they took him, and cast him into 
a pit: and the pit was empty, there 
was no water in it. 

And they sat down to eat bread: 
and they lifted up their eyes and 
looked, and, behold, a company of 
Ishmaclites came from Gilcad with 
their camels bearing spicery and balm 
and myrrh, going to carry it down to 
Egypt. And Judah said unto his breth- 

'What profit is it if we slay our 

The Bible 

The man said, 

'They have moved from here; for I 
heard them say, "Let us go to Do- 
than." ' 

So Joseph followed his brothers, and 
found them at Dothan. But they saw 
him in the distance, and before he 
could reach them, they plotted against 
him to kill him. 

'There comes the dreamer yonder!' 
they said to one another. 'Come now, 
let us kill him, and throw him into 
one of the pits. We can say that a 
wild beast devoured him. Then we 
shall see what his dreams will come 

But when Reuben heard this, he 
tried to save him from their hands; so 
he said, 

'Let us not take his life/ 

'Do not shed any blood/ Reuben 
said to them; 'throw him into the pit 
here in the wilderness, but do not lay 
hands on him' (his idea being to save 
him from their hands, and restore him 
to his father). 

As soon as Joseph reached his broth- 
ers, they stripped him of his cloak 
(the long cloak that he was wearing), 
and seizing him, they threw him into 
the pit. The pit, however, was empty, 
with no water in it. 

Then they sat down to eat a meal; 
but raising their eyes, they saw a cara- 
van of Ishmaelites coming from Gil- 
ead, with their camels carrying gum, 
balm, and laudanum, which they were 
engaged in taking down to Egypt. 
Thereupon Judah said to his brothers, 

'What is the good of killing our 


brother, and conceal his blood? Come 
and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, 
and let not our hand be upon him; 
for he is our brother and our flesh/ 

And his brethren were content. 
Then there passed by Midianites mer- 
chantmen; and they drew and lifted 
up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Jo- 
seph to the Ishmaelites for twenty 
pieces of silver: and they brought Jo- 
seph into Egypt. 

And Reuben returned unto the pit; 
and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; 
and he rent his clothes. And he re- 
turned unto his brethren, and said, 
'The child is not; and I, whither shall 

And they took Joseph's coat, and 
killed a kid of the goats, and dipped 
the coat m the blood; and they sent 
the coat of many colours, and they 
brought it to their father; and said, 

'This have we found: know now 
whether it be thy son's coat or no/ 

And he knew it, and said, 

'It is my son's coat; an evil beast 
hath devoured him; Joseph is without 
doubt rent in pieces/ 

And Jacob rent his clothes, and put 
sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned 
for his son many days. And all his sons 
and all his daughters rose up to com- 
fort him; but he refused to be com- 
forted; and he said, 

Tor I will go down into the grave 
unto my son mourning/ 

Thus his father wept for him. 

And Joseph was brought down to 
Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of 
Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an 
Egyptian, bought him of the hands of 


brother and covering up his blood* 
Come, let us sell him to the Ishmael- 
ites, and not lay hands on him; for 
after all he is our brother, our own 

His brothers agreed. Some Midian- 
ite traders passed by, so pulling Jo- 
seph up, they lifted him out of the pit. 
They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites 
for twenty shekels of silver; and they 
took him to Egypt. 

So when Reuben went back to the 
pit, there was no Joseph in the pit. 
Then he tore his clothes, and return- 
ing to his brothers, said, 

'The boy is gone! And I, how can I 
go home?' 

Then they took Joseph's cloak, and 
killing a goat, they dipped the cloak in 
the blood. So they soiled the long 
cloak, and then they brought it to 
their father, saying, 

'We found this; sec whether it is 
your son's cloak or not/ 

Examining it, he said, 

'It is my son's cloak! Some wild 
beast has devoured him; Joseph must 
be torn to pieces/ 

Then Jacob tore his clothes, and 
girded himself with sackcloth, and 
mourned for his son for a long time. 
His sons and daughters all tried to 
console him, but he would not be 

'No,' he said, 'I will go down mourn- 
ing to Shcol to my son/ 

Thus did his father weep for him. 

When Joseph was taken down to 
Egypt, Potiphar, an Egyptian, an offi- 
cer of Pharaoh, his head steward, 
bought him from the Ishmaelites who 


the Ishmaelites, which had brought 
him down thither. And the Lord was 
with Joseph, and he was a prosperous 
man; and he was in the house of his 
master the Egyptian. And his master 
saw that the Lord was with him, and 
that the Lord made all that he did to 
prosper in his hand. And Joseph found 
grace in his sight, and he served him: 
and he made him overseer over his 
house, and all that he had he put into 
his hand. And it came to pass from 
the time that he had made him over- 
seer in his house, and over all that he 
had, that the Lord blessed the Egyp- 
tian's house for Joseph's sake; and the 
blessing of the Lord was upon all that 
he had in the house, and in the field. 
And he left all that he had in Joseph's 
hand; and he knew not ought he had, 
save the bread which he did eat. 

And Joseph was a goodly person, 
and well favoured. And it came to 
pass after these things, that his mas- 
ter's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; 
and she said, 

'Lie with me/ 

But he refused, and said unto his 
master's wife, 

'Behold, my master wotteth not 
what is with me in the house, and he 
hath committed all that he hath to 
my hand! There is none greater in 
this house than I; neither hath he kept 
back any thing from me but thee, be- 
cause thou art his wife: how then can 
I do this great wickedness, and sin 
against Cod?' 

And it came to pass, as she spake to 
Joseph day by day, that he hearkened 

The Bible 

had taken him down there. The 
Lord was with Joseph, so that he be- 
came a prosperous man. He lived in 
the house of his master, the Egyptian; 
and his master noticed that the Lord 
was with him and that the Lord made 
everything prosper with him that he 
undertook; so Joseph found favor with 
him, and was made his personal at- 
tendant; then he made him superin- 
tendent of his household, and put 
him in charge of all his property. 
From the time that he made him su- 
perintendent of his household and all 
his property, the Lord blessed the 
house of the Egyptian for Joseph's 
sake, the Lord's blessing resting on 
everything that belonged to him, both 
indoors and outdoors. So he left 
everything that he had to Joseph's 
charge, and having him, gave no con- 
cern to anything, except the food that 
he ate. 

Now Joseph was so handsome and 
good-looking that some time later the 
wife of his master took a fancy to Jo- 
seph, and said, 

'Lie with me.' 

But he. refused, saying to his mas- 
ter's wife, 

'Having me, my master is giving no 
concern to anything in the house, but 
has committed all his property to my 
charge; there is no one in this house- 
hold greater than I; he has kept noth- 
ing from me except yourself, and that 
because you are his wife. How then 
can I commit this great crime, and sin 
against God?' 

Though she spoke to Joseph day 
after day, he would not listen to her 


not unto her, to lie by her, or to be 
with her. And it came to pass about 
this time, that Joseph went into the 
house to do his business; and there 
was none of the men of the house 
there within. And she caught him by 
his garment, saying, 

'Lie with me 1 : and he left his gar- 
ment in her hand, and fled, and got 
him out. 

And it came to pass, when she saw 
that he had left his gannent in her 
hand, and was fled forth, that she 
called unto the men of her house, and 
spake unto them, saying, 

'Sec, he hath brought in a Hebrew 
unto us to mock us; he came in unto 
me to lie with me, and I cried with a 
loud voice; and it came to pass, when 
he heard that I lifted up my voice and 
cried, that he left his garment with 
me, and fled, and got him out/ 

And she laid up his garment by her, 
until his lord came home. 

And she spake unto him according 
to these words, saying, 

'The Hebrew servant, which thou 
hast brought unto us, came in unto 
me to mock me; and it came to pass, 
as I lifted up my voice and cried, that 
he left his garment with me, and fled 

And it came to pass, when his mas- 
ter heard the words of his wife, which 
she spake unto him, saying, 'After this 
manner did thy servant to me'; that 
his wrath was kindled. And Joseph's 
master took him, and put him into 
the prison, a place where the king's 
prisoners were bound: and he was 
there in the prison. 

solicitations to lie with her, or be with 
her. One day, however, when he went 
into the house to do his work, none of 
the household servants being any- 
where in the house, she caught hold 
of his coat, saying, 

'Lie with me/ 

But he fled, 1 Caving the coat in her 
hands, and went outdoors. When she 
saw that he had fled outdoors, leaving 
his coat in her hands, she called her 
household servants, and said to 

'See how he has brought this He- 
brew fellow into our house to violate 
us! He came into my room to lie with 
me, but I screamed; and as soon as he 
heard me scream and call, he fled, 
leaving his coat beside me, and went 

So she left the coat beside her until 
his master came home, and then told 
him this same story. 

The Hebrew slave whom you 
brought into our house came into my 
room to violate me, but as soon as I 
screamed and called, he fled outdoors, 
leaving his coat beside me/ 

When Joseph's master heard the 
statements of his wife who said to 
him, 'This is the way your slave 
treated me/ his anger blazed, and Jo- 
seph's master took him and threw him 
into the prison where state prisoners 
were confined. So he lay there in 


But the Lord was with Joseph, and 
showed him mercy, and gave him fa- 
vour in the sight of the keeper of the 
prison. And the keeper of the prison 
committed to Joseph's hand all the 
prisoners that were in the prison; and 
whatsoever they did there, he was the 
doer of it. The keeper of the prison 
looked not to any thing that was un- 
der his hand; because the Lord was 
with him, and that which he did, the 
Lord made it to prosper. 

And it came to pass after these 
things that the butler of the king of 
Egypt and his baker had offended 
their lord the king of Egypt. And Pha- 
raoh was wroth against two of his offi- 
cers, against the chief of the butlers, 
and against the chief of the bakers. 
And he put them in ward in the house 
of the captain of the guard, into the 
prison, the place where Joseph was 
bound. And the captain of the guard 
charged Joseph with them, and he 
served them: and they continued a 
season in ward. And they dreamed a 
dream both of them, each man his 
dream in one night, each man accord- 
ing to the interpretation of his dream, 
the butler and the baker of the king 
of Egypt, which were bound in the 
prison. And Joseph came in unto them 
in the morning, and looked upon 
them, and, behold, they were sad. 
And he asked Pharaoh's officers that 
were with him in the ward of his 
lord's house, saying, 

'Wherefore look ye so sadly to-day?' 

And they said unto him, 'We have 
dreamed a dream, and there is no in- 
terpreter of it/ 

And Joseph said unto them, 

The Bible 

The Lord, however, was with Jo- 
seph and was kind to him, and got 
him into the good graces of the jailer, 
so that the jailer put Joseph in charge 
of all the prisoners who were in the 
jail, and he looked after everything 
that was done there. The jailer exer- 
cised no oversight over anything in his 
charge, because the Lord was with 
him, and the Lord made whatever he 
undertook prosper. 

Some time after these events the 
butler and the baker of the king of 
Egypt offended their lord, the king of 
Egypt, so that Pharaoh became angry 
with his two officers, the chief butler 
and the chief baker, and put them in 
custody in the head steward's house,, 
in the prison where Joseph was con- 
fined. The head steward intrusted Jo- 
seph with them, and he waited on 
them. After they had been in custody 
some time, they both had dreams on 
the same night, each having a dream 
of different meaning the butler and 
the baker of the king of Egypt who 
were confined in the prison. When 
Joseph came to them in the morning, 
he saw that they were worried, so he 
asked Pharaoh's officers who were in 
custody with him in his master's 

'Why do you look so gloomy to- 

'We have had dreams,' they replied, 
and there is no one to interpret them/ 

Joseph said to them, 


'Do not interpretations belong to 
God? tell me them, I pray you/ 

And the chief butler told his dream 
to Joseph, and said to him, 

'In my dream, behold, a vine was 
before me; and in the vine were three 
branches: and it was as though it 
budded, and her blossoms shot forth; 
and the clusters thereof brought forth 
ripe grapes; and Pharaoh's cup was in 
my hand: and I took the grapes, and 
pressed them into Pharaoh's cup, and 
I gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand/ 

And Joseph said unto him, 

'This is the interpretation of it. 
The three branches are three days. 
Yet within three days shall Pharaoh 
lift up thine head, and restore thee 
unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver 
Pharaoh's cup into his hand, after the 
former manner when thou wast his 
butler. But think on me when it shall 
be well with thcc, and show kindness, 
I pray thee, unto me, and make men- 
tion of me unto Pharaoh, and bring 
me out of this house: for indeed I was 
stolen away out of the land of the 
Hebrews: and here also have I done 
nothing that they should put me into 
the dungeon/ 

When the chief baker saw that the 
interpretation was good, he said unto 

'I also was in my dream, and, be- 
hold, I had three white baskets on my 
head: and in the uppermost basket 
there was of all manner of bakemeats 
for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat 
them out of the basket upon my head/ 

And Joseph answered and said, 

'This is the interpretation thereof. 


'Does not dream interpretation be 
long to God? Pray recount them to 

So the chief butler recounted his 
dream to Joseph. 

'In my dream/ he said to him, 
'there was a vine in front of me, and 
on the vine were three branches. As 
soon as it budded, its blossoms shot 
up, its clusters ripened into grapes. 
With Pharaoh's cup in my hand, I 
took the grapes, and squeezing them 
into Pharaoh's cup, I placed the cup 
in Pharaoh's hand.' 

Joseph said to him, 

This is its interpretation: the three 
branches represent three days; within 
three days Pharaoh shall summon you, 
and restore you to your position, so 
that you shall place Pharaoh's cup in 
his hand as you used to do when you 
were his butler; so, if you will be good 
enough to keep me in mind when 
prosperity comes to you, do me the 
kindness of mentioning me to Pha- 
raoh, and so liberate me from this 
house; for I was really kidnapped 
from the land of the Hebrews, and 
further, I have done nothing here 
that I should be put into a dungeon.' 

When the chief baker found that 
the interpretation was favorable, he 
said to Joseph, 

'I too had a dream; in mine there 
were three open-work baskets on my 
head, and in the top basket was some 
of every kind of baked food for Pha- 
raoh, but the birds were eating it out 
of the basket on my head/ 

Joseph answered, 

'This is its interpretation: the three 


The three baskets are three days. Yet 
within three days shall Pharaoh lift 
up thy head from off thee, and shall 
hang thee on a tree; and the birds 
shall cat thy flesh from off thec. f 

And it came to pass the third day, 
which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he 
made a feast unto all his servants: and 
he lifted up the head of the chief but- 
ler and of the chief baker among his 
servants. And he restored the chief 
butler unto his butlership again; and 
he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand. 
But he hanged the chief baker: as Jo- 
seph had interpreted to them. Yet did 
not the chief butler remember Joseph, 
but forgot him. 

And it came to pass at the end of 
two full years that Pharaoh dreamed: 
and, behold, he stood by the river. 
And, behold, there came up out of the 
river seven well favoured kine and fat- 
fleshed; and they fed in a meadow. 
And, behold, seven other kine came 
up after them out of the river, ill fa- 
voured and leanfleshed; and stood by 
the other kine upon the brink of the 
river. And the ill favoured and lean- 
fleshed kine did eat up the seven well 
favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh 
awoke. And he slept and dreamed the 
second time: and, behold, seven ears 
of corn came up upon one stalk, rank 
and good. And, behold, seven thin ears 
and blasted with the cast wind sprung 
up after them. And the seven thin ears 
devoured the seven rank and full ears. 
And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it 
was a dream. 

And it came to pass in the morning 
that his spirit was troubled; and he 
sent and called for all the magicians 

The Bible 

baskets represent three days; within 
three days Pharaoh shall summon you, 
and hang you on a tree, and the birds 
shall eat the flesh off you/ 

On the third day, which was Pha- 
raoh's birthday, he held a feast for all 
his officials; and among his officials he 
summoned the chief butler and the 
chief baker. The chief butler he re- 
stored to his duties, so that he again 
placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand; but 
the chief baker he hanged, as Joseph 
had told them in his interpretation. 
The chief butler, however, did not 
keep Joseph in mind, but forgot him. 

Two whole years later Pharaoh 
dreamed that he was standing beside 
the Nile, when seven beautiful, fat 
cows came up out of the Nile, and 
browsed in the sedge. After them 
seven other cows came up out of the 
Nile, ugly and thin, and stood beside 
the other cows on the bank of the 
Nile. Then the thin, ugly cows ate up 
the seven beautiful, fat cows, where- 
upon Pharaoh awoke. When he fell 
asleep again, he had a second dream: 
there were seven ears of grain growing 
on a single stalk, fine and plump, and 
after them there sprouted seven other 
ears, thin and blasted by the cast 
wind. Then the thin ears swallowed 
up the seven fine, full ears, whereupon 
Pharaoh awoke, only to find it a 

Next morning he was so perturbed 
that he sent for all the magicians and 
wise men of Egypt. To them Pharaoh 


of Egypt, and all the wise men there- 
of: and Pharaoh told them his dream; 
but there was none that could inter- 
pret them unto Pharaoh. Then spake 
the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, 

'I do remember my faults this day. 
Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, 
and put me in ward in the captain of 
the guard's house, both me and the 
chief baker: and we dreamed a dream 
in one night, I and he; we dreamed 
each man according to the interpreta- 
tion of his dream. And there was 
there with us a young man, a Hebrew, 
servant to the captain of the guard; 
and we told him, and he interpreted to 
us our dreams; to each man according 
to his dream he did interpret. And it 
came to pass, as he interpreted to us, 
so it was; me he restored unto mine 
office, and him he hanged/ 

Then Pharaoh sent and called Jo- 
seph, and they brought him hastily 
out of the dungeon: and he shaved 
himself, and changed his raiment, and 
came in unto Pharaoh. And Pharaoh 
said unto Joseph, 

'I have dreamed a dream, and there 
is none that can interpret it: and I 
have heard say of thee that thou canst 
understand a dream to interpret it/ 

And Joseph answered Pharaoh, say- 
ing, 'It is not in me: God shall give 
Pharaoh an answer of peace/ 
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, 
'In my dream, behold, I stood upon 
the bank of the river. And, behold, 
there came up out of the river seven 
kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and 
they fed in a meadow. And, behold, 
seven other kine came up after them, 


recounted his dreams, but no one 
could interpret them for Pharaoh. 
Then the chief butler said to Pharaoh, 

'I would today recall my offense, 
how Pharaoh became angry with his 
servants, and put them in custody in 
the house of the head steward, myself 
and the chief baker. On the same 
night we had dreams, he and I, each 
of us having a dream of different 
meaning. With us there was a He- 
brew youth, a slave belonging to the 
head steward, and when we recounted 
our dreams to him, he interpreted 
them for us, giving each the proper 
interpretation of his dream. And it 
fell out just as he had indicated in the 
interpretation; I was restored to my 
position, while the other was hanged/ 

Thereupon Pharaoh sent for Jo- 
seph, and he was brought hurriedly 
from the dungeon. When he had 
shaved and changed his clothes, he 
came into Pharaoh's presence. 

'I have had a dream,' Pharaoh said 
to Joseph, 'but there is no one to in- 
terpret it. However, I have heard it 
said of you that you know how to in- 
terpret dreams/ 

'Apart from God can Pharaoh be 
given a favorable response?' Joseph 
answered Pharaoh. 

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 

'I dreamed that I was standing on 
the bank of the Nile, when seven fat 
and beautiful cows came up out of 
the Nile, and browsed in the sedge. 
After them came up seven other cows, 
thin and very ugly and lean I have 


poor and very ill favoured and lean- 
fleshed, such a.s I never saw in all the 
land of Egypt for badness. And the 
lean and the ill favoured kinc did cat 
up the first seven fat kinc; and when 
they had eaten them up, it could not 
be known that they had eaten them; 
but they were still ill favoured, as at 
the beginning. So I awoke. And I saw 
in my dream, and, behold, seven ears 
came up in one stalk, full and good. 
And, behold, seven ears, withered, 
thin, and blasted with the cast wind, 
sprung up after them. And the thin 
ears devoured the seven good cars: 
and I told this unto the magicians; 
but there was none that could declare 
it to me/ 

And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, 
4 Thc dream of Pharaoh is one. God 
hath showed Pharaoh what he is 
about to do. The seven good kine are 
seven years; and the seven good ears 
arc seven years: the dream is one. And 
the seven thin and ill favoured kine 
that came up after them are seven 
years; and the seven empty cars blasted 
with the east wind shall be seven years 
of famine. This is the thing which I 
have spoken unto Pharaoh. What God 
is about to do he showcth unto Pha- 
raoh. Behold, there come seven years 
of great plenty throughout all the land 
of Egypt, and there shall arise after 
them seven years of famine; and all 
the plenty shall be forgotten in the 
land of Egypt; and the famine shall 
consume the land. And the plenty 
shall not be known in the land by 
reason of that famine following; for it 
shall be very grievous. And for that 
the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh 

The Bible 

never seen such poor cows in all the 
land of Egypt. Then the lean, ugly 
cows ate up the first seven fat cows; 
they passed right into them, but no 
one would have known that they had 
done so they looked just as bad as 
before. Then I awoke. 

'In another dream I saw seven cars 
of grain growing on a single stalk, full 
and plump, and after them there 
sprouted seven other cars, withered, 
thin, and blasted by the cast wind. 
Then the tljin cars swallowed up the 
seven plump ears. I told this to the 
magicians, but there was no one to ex- 
plain it to me/ 

Joseph said to Pharaoh, 

'Pharaoh's dream is simple; God 
would reveal to Pharaoh what he is 
about to do. The seven fat cows repre- 
sent seven years, and the seven plump 
ears represent seven years it is a 
single dream. The seven lean and ugly 
cows that came up after them repre- 
sent seven years, and so do the seven 
empty ears blasted by the cast wind; 
there are to be seven years of famine. 
It is as I told Pharaoh, God would 
show Pharaoh what he is about to do. 
Seven years of great plenty arc com- 
ing throughout all the land of Egypt, 
but following them there will be seven 
years of famine, so that the plenty will 
all be forgotten in the land of Egypt; 
the famine will devastate the land, 
and the plenty will become quite un- 
known in the land because of that 
famine which is to follow; for it will 
be very severe. The fact that the dream 
was sent twice to Pharaoh in two 


twice; it is because the thing is estab- 
lished by God, and God will shortly 
bring it to pass. Now therefore let 
Pharaoh look out a man discreet and 
wise, and set him over the land of 
Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let 
him appoint officers over the land, 
and take up the fifth part of the land 
of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. 
And let them gather all the food of 
those good years that come, and lay 
up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, 
and let them keep food in the cities. 
And that food shall be for store to the 
land against the seven years of famine, 
which shall be in the land of Egypt; 
that the land perish not through the 

And the thing was good in the eyes 
of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his 
servants. And Pharaoh said unto his 

'Can we find such a one as this is, 
a man in whom the Spirit of God 

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, 

'Forasmuch as God hath showed 
thee all this, there is none so discreet 
and wise as thou art. Thou shalt be 
over my house, and according unto 
thy word shall all my people be ruled: 
only in the throne will I be greater 
than thou/ 

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, 

'See, I have set thec over all the 
land of Egypt/ 

And Pharaoh took off his ring from 
his hand, and put it upon Joseph's 
hand, and arrayed him in vestures of 
fine linen, and put a gold chain about 
his neck; and he made him to ride in 
the second chariot which he had; and 

forms means that the matter is abso- 
lutely settled by God, and that God 
will soon bring it about. Now, then, 
let Pharaoh find a shrewd and prudent 
man, and put him in control of the 
land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed 
to appoint officials over the land to 
forearm the land of Egypt during the 
seven years of plenty; let them collect 
all the food of these good years that 
are coming, and under the authority 
of Pharaoh store up grain for food in 
the cities, and hold it there. The food 
shall serve as a reserve for the land 
against the seven years of famine that 
are to befall the land of Egypt, so that 
the land may not perish from the 

The proposal commended itself to 
Pharaoh and all his courtiers, and Pha- 
raoh said to his courtiers, 

'Can we find a man with the spirit 
of God in him like this one?' 

So Pharaoh said to Joseph, 
'Since God has made all this known 
to you, there is no one so shrewd and 
prudent as you; you shall be in charge 
of my palace, and all my people shall 
be obedient to your commands; it is 
only in the matter of the throne itself 
that I shall be your superior/ 
Thereupon Pharaoh said to Joseph, 
'I hereby put you in charge of the 
whole land of Egypt/ 

And taking the signet ring from his 
finger, Pharaoh put it on Joseph's 
finger; he dressed him in linen robes, 
put a gold chain round his neck, and 
had him ride in the second of his 
chariots, with people shouting 'Bow 

9 o 

they cried before him, 'Bow the knee': 
and he made him ruler over all the 
land of Egypt. 

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, 

'I am Pharaoh, and without thee 
shall no man lift his hand or foot in 
all the land of Egypt/ 

And Pharaoh called Joseph's name 
Zaphnath-paaneah; and he gave him 
to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti- 
phcrah priest of On. And Joseph went 
out over all the land of Egypt. 

And Joseph was thirty years old 
when he stood before Pharaoh king of 

And Joseph went out from the 
presence of Pharaoh, and went 
throughout all the land of Egypt. And 
in the seven plenteous years the earth 
brought forth by handfuls. And he 
gathered up all the food of the seven 
years, which were in the land of 
Egypt, and laid up the food in the 
cities: the food of the field, which 
was round about every city, laid he up 
in the same. And Joseph gathered 
corn as the sand of the sea, very much, 
until he left numbering; for it was 
without number. 

And unto Joseph were born two 
sons before the years of famine came, 
which Asenath the daughter of Poti- 
pherah priest of On bore unto him. 
And Joseph called the name of the 
first born Manassch. 'For Cod/ said 
he, 'hath made me forget all my toil, 
and all my father's house.' And the 
name of the second called he Eph- 
raim: 'For God hath caused me to be 
fruitful in the land of my affliction/ 

And the seven years of plenteous- 
ness, that was in the land of Egypt, 

The Bible 

down I' before him, thus putting him 
in charge of the whole land of Egypt. 

'Although I continue as Pharaoh,' 
said Pharaoh to Joseph, 'yet without 
your consent shall no one stir hand or 
foot in all the land of Egypt/ 

Then Pharaoh called Joseph's name 
Zaphcnath-pancah, and married him 
to Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, 
priest of On; and Joseph's fame spread 
throughout the land of Egypt. 

Joseph was thirty years old when he 
entered the service of Pharaoh, king 
of Egypt. 

After leaving the presence of Pha- 
raoh, Joseph made a tour through the 
whole land of Egypt. During the seven 
years of plenty the land produced 
abundant crops; so he collected all the 
food of the seven years when there 
was plenty in the land of Egypt, and 
thus stored food in the cities, storing 
in each city the food from the fields 
around it. Joseph stored up grain like 
the sands of the sea, in great quanti- 
ties, until he ceased to keep account 
of it; for it was past measuring. 

Before the years of famine came, 
two sons were born to Joseph by Ase- 
nath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest 
of On. Joseph called the name of the 
first-born Manasseh [forgctfulness]; 
'For,' said he, 'God has made me for- 
get all about my hardships and my 
father's home/ The name of the sec- 
ond he called Ephraim [fruitfulness]; 
'For God has made me fruitful in the 
land of my misfortune/ 

When the seven years of plenty that 
had prevailed in the land of Egypt 


were ended. And the seven years of 
dearth began to come, according as 
Joseph had said: and the dearth was 
in all lands; but in all the land of 
Egypt there was bread. 

And when all the land of Egypt was 
famished, the people cried to Pha- 
raoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto 
all the Egyptians, 

'Go unto Joseph; what he saith to 
you, do/ 

And the famine was over all the 
face of the earth. And Joseph opened 
all the storehouses, and sold unto the 
Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore 
in the land of Egypt. And all countries 
came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy 
corn; because that the famine was so 
sore in all lands. 

Now when Jacob saw that there 
was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his 

'Why do ye look one upon an- 
other?' And he said, 'Behold, I have 
heard that there is corn in Egypt: get 
you down thither, and buy for us from 
thence; that we may live, and not die.' 

And Joseph's ten brethren went 
down to buy corn in Egypt. But Ben- 
jamin, Joseph's brother, Jacob sent 
not with his brethren; for he said, 
'Lest peradventure mischief befall 
him.' And the sons of Israel came to 
buy corn among those that came: for 
the famine was in the land of Canaan. 

And Joseph was the governor over 
the land, and he it was that sold to all 
the people of the land: and Joseph's 
brethren came, and bowed down them- 
selves before him with their faces to 
the earth. And Joseph saw his breth- 
ren, and he knew them, but made 

9 1 

came to an end, the seven years of 
famine set in, as Joseph had said. 

There was famine in all lands, but 
throughout all the land of Egypt there 
was food. 

When all the land of Egypt became 
famished, the people cried to Pharaoh 
for food; so Pharaoh announced to all 


'Go to Joseph, and do what he tells 

The famine spread all over the land, 
so Joseph threw open all that he had 
locked up, and sold grain to the Egyp- 
tians, since the famine was severe in 
the land of Egypt. People from all 
lands came to Joseph in Egypt to buy 
grain; for the famine was severe all 
over the earth. 

When Jacob learned that there was 
grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, 

'Why do you stare at one another? 
I have just heard/ he said, 'that there 
is grain in Egypt; go down there, and 
buy some for us there, that we may 
live and not die. 1 

So ten of Joseph's brothers went 
down to buy grain in Egypt, since Ja- 
cob would not let Joseph's brother 
Benjamin go with his other brothers; 
'Lest,' thought he, 'harm should be- 
fall him.' Thus the Israelites came 
with the rest to buy grain; for the fam- 
ine was in the land of Canaan. 

Now Joseph was the vizier of the 
land; it was he who sold the grain to 
all the people of the land. So Joseph's 
brothers came and prostrated them- 
selves before him, with their faces to 
the ground. When Joseph saw his 
brothers, he recognized them, but he 

himself strange unto them, and spoke 
roughly unto them; and he said unto 
'Whence come ye?' 

And they said, 'From the land of 
Canaan to buy food/ 

And Joseph knew his brethren, but 
they knew not him. And Joseph re- 
membered the dreams which he 
dreamed of them, and said unto them, 

Te are spies; to see the nakedness 
of the land ye are come/ 

And they said unto him, 

'Nay, my lord, but to buy food are 
thy servants come. We are all one 
man's sons; we are true men, thy serv- 
ants are no spies/ 

And he said unto them, 'Nay, but 
to see the nakedness of the land ye 
are come/ 

And they said, 

'Thy servants are twelve brethren, 
the sons of one man in the land of 
Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is 
this day with our father, and one is 

And Joseph said unto them, 

'That is it that I spoke unto you, 
saying, "Ye are spies." Hereby ye shall 
be proved: by the life of Pharaoh ye 
shall not go forth hence, except your 
youngest brother come hither. Send 
one of you, and let him fetch your 
brother, and ye shall be kept in prison, 
that your words may be proved, 
whether there be any truth in you: or 
else by the life of Pharaoh surely ye 
are spies/ 

'And he put them all together into 

The Bible 

treated them as if he were a stranger, 
and spoke harshly to them. 

'Where have you come from?' he 
said to them. 

'From the land of Canaan to buy 
food,' they said. 

Joseph recognized his brothers, but 
they did not recognize him. Remem- 
bering the dreams that he had had 
about them, Joseph said to them, 

'You are spies; you have come to 
find out the condition of the land!' 

'No, my lord,' they said to him, 
'your servants have come to buy food. 
We are all sons of one man; we are 
honest men; your servants are not 

'Not so,' he said to them; 'but you 
have come to find out the condition 
of the land/ 

But they said, 

'Your servants arc brothers, twelve 
in all; we are sons of a certain man in 
the land of Canaan; the youngest is at 
present with our father, while the 
other is no more/ 

But Joseph said to them, 

'It is as I told you; you are spies. By 
this you shall be put to the proof: as 
Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this 
place unless your youngest brother 
comes here. Send one of your number 
to fetch your brother, while the rest 
of you remain in custody. Thus shall 
your statements be put to the proof as 
to whether you are truthful or not. As 
Pharaoh lives, you are spies!' 

So he bundled them off to prison 


ward three days. And Joseph said unto 
them the third day, 

'This do, and live; for I fear God. 
If ye be true men, let one of your 
brethren be bound in the house of 
your prison: go ye, carry corn for the 
famine of your houses: but bring your 
youngest brother unto me; so shall 
your words be verified, and ye shall 
not die/ 

And they did so. And they said one 
to another, 

'We are verily guilty concerning 
our brother, in that we saw the an- 
guish of his soul, when he besought us, 
and we would not hear; therefore is 
this distress come upon us/ 

And Reuben answered them, say- 

'Spake I not unto you, saying, "Do 
not sin against the child"; and ye 
would not hear? therefore, behold, 
also his blood is required/ 

And they knew not that Joseph un- 
derstood them; for he spake unto 
them by an interpreter. And he turned 
himself about from them, and wept; 
and returned to them again, and 
communed with them, and took from 
them Simeon, and bound him before 
their eyes. Then Joseph commanded 
to fill their sacks with corn, and to re- 
store every man's money into his sack, 
and to give them provision for the 
way: and thus did he unto them. And 
they laded their asses with the corn, 
and departed thence. 

And as one of them opened his 
sack to give his ass provender in the 


for three days, but on the third day 
Joseph said to them, 

'Since I am one who fears God, you 
may save your lives, if you do this: if 
you are honest men, let one of you 
brothers remain confined in your pris- 
on and then the rest of you, go and 
take grain home to your starving 
households; but you must bring me 
your youngest brother. Thus shall 
your words be verified, and you shall 
not die/ 

They proceeded to do so, saying to 
one another, 

'Unfortunately, we were to blame 
about our brother, upon whose dis- 
tress, when he pleaded with us for 
mercy, we gazed unmoved; that is why 
this distress has come to us/ 

Then Reuben spoke up and said to 

'Did I not say to you, "Do not sin 
against the lad"? But you paid no at- 
tention; so now comes a reckoning for 
his blood!' 

They did not know that Joseph 
heard them; for the intermediary was 
between them. He turned from them, 
and wept. On coming back to them, 
he spoke to them, took Simeon from 
them, and imprisoned him in their 
presence. Joseph then ordered their 
receptacles to be filled with grain, the 
money of each of them to be replaced 
in his sack, and provisions to be given 
them for the journey. This was done 
for them. Then they loaded their asses 
with their grain, and departed. 

At the camping-place for the night 
one of them opened his sack to give 


inn, he espied his money; for, behold, 

it was in his sack's mouth. 

And he said unto his brethren, 'My 
money is restored; and, lo, it is even 
in my sack': and their heart failed 
them, and they were afraid, saying one 
to another, 

'What is this that Cod hath done 
unto us?' 

And they came unto Jacob their 
father unto the land of Canaan, and 
told him all that befell unto them; 

'The man, who is the lord of the 
land, spake roughly to us, and took us 
for spies of the country. And we said 
unto him, "We are true men; we are 
no spies: we be twelve brethren, sons 
of our father; one is not, and the 
youngest is this day with our father 
in the land of Canaan." And the man, 
the lord of the country, said unto us, 
"Hereby shall I know that yc are true 
men; leave one of your brethren here 
with me, and take food for the famine 
of your households, and be gone: and 
bring your youngest brother unto me: 
then shall I know that ye are no spies, 
but that ye are true men: so will I de- 
liver you your brother, and ye shall 
traffick in the land." ' 

And it came to pass as they emptied 
their sacks, that, behold, every man's 
bundle of money was in his sack: and 
when both they and their father saw 
the bundles of money, they were 
afraid. And Jacob their father said 
unto them, 

'Me have ye bereaved of my chil- 
dren: Joseph is not, and Simeon is 

The Bible 

his ass some fodder, and there he saw 
his money in the mouth of his sackl 

'My money has been put back! It 
is right here inside my sack!' he said 
to his brothers. 

Thereupon their hearts sank, and 
they turned to one another in fear, 

'What is this that God has done to 

On reaching their father Jacob in 
the land of Canaan, they told him all 
that had befallen them: 

'The man, the lord of the land, 
talked harshly to us, making us out to 
be spies of the land. But we said to 
him, "We are honest men; we arc not 
spies. We are brothers on our father's 
side, twelve in all; one is no more, and 
the youngest is at present with our 
father in the land of Canaan." Then 
the man, the lord of the land, said to 
us, "By this I shall find out whether 
you arc honest men: leave one of your 
brothers with me, and taking some- 
thing for your famishing households, 
be off; and then bring me your young- 
est brother. Thus shall I know that 
you are not spies, but honest men. I 
will restore your brother to you, and 
you will be free to trade in the 
land." ' 

When they came to empty their 
sacks, there was the money-packet of 
each in his sack! On seeing their 
money-packets, both they and their 
father were dismayed, and their father 
Jacob said to them, 

'It is I that you bereave. Joseph is 
no more, Simeon is no more, and now 


not, and ye will take Benjamin away: 
all these things are against me/ 

And Reuben spoke unto his father, 

'Slay my two sons, if I bring him 
not to thee: deliver him into my hand, 
and I will bring him to thee again.' 

And he said, 

'My son shall not go down with 
you; for his brother is dead, and he is 
left alone: if mischief befall him by 
the way in the which ye go, then shall 
ye bring down my gray hairs wifli sor- 
row to the grave/ 

And the famine was sore in the 
land. And it came to pass, when they 
had eaten up the corn which they had 
brought out of Egypt, their father said 
unto them, 

'Go again, buy us a little food/ 
And Judah spake unto him, saying, 
The man did solemnly protest unto 
us, saying, "Ye shall not see my face, 
except your brother be with you." If 
thou wilt send our brother with us, we 
will go down and buy thee food. But 
if thou wilt not send him, we will not 
go down: for the man said unto us, 
"Ye shall not see my face, except 
your brother be with you." ' 

And Israel said, 'Wherefore dealt 
ye so ill with me, as to tell the man 
whether ye had yet a brother?' 

And they said, 'The man asked us 
straitly of our state, and of our kin- 
dred, saying, "Is your father yet alive? 
have ye another brother?" and we told 
him according to the tenor of these 
words: could we certainly know that 


you would take Benjamint It is on me 
that all this falls/ 
Reuben said to his father, 

'You may kill my two sons if I do 
not bring him home to youl Put him 
in my charge, and I will bring him 
back to you/ 

But he said, 

'My son shall not go down with 
you; for his brother is dead, and he 
alone is left. If harm were to befall 
him on the journey that you make, 
you would bring my gray hairs down 
to Sheol in sorrow/ 

The famine continued severe in the 
land, so when they had finished eating 
all the grain which they had brought 
from Egypt, their father said to them, 

'Go again, and buy us a little food/ 

But Judah said to him, 

'The man strictly warned us: "You 
cannot have audience with me unless 
your brother is with you." If you are 
ready to let our brother go with us, 
we will go down and buy food for 
you; but if you are not ready to let 
him go, we cannot go down; for the 
man said to us, "You cannot have au- 
dience with me unless your brother is 
with you." ' 

'Why did you bring this trouble on 
me/ said Israel, 'by telling the man 
that you had another brother?' 

They said, 

'The man persisted in asking about 
ourselves and our family "Is your 
father still living? Have you another 
brother?" We only gave him the in- 
formation demanded by these ques- 
tions of his. How could we possibly 


he would say, "Bring your brother 
down"? ' 

And Judah said unto Israel his 

'Send the lad with me, and we will 
arise and go; that we may live, and 
not die, both we, and thou, and also 
our little ones. I will be surety for 
him; of my hand shalt thou require 
him: if I bring him not unto thee, 
and set him before thcc, then let me 
bear the blame for ever: for except we 
had lingered, surely now we had re- 
turned this second time/ 

And their father Israel said unto 

4 If it must be so now, do this; take 
of the best fruits in the land in your 
vessels, and carry down the man a 
present, a little balm, and a little 
honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and 
almonds. And take double money in 
your hand; and the money that was 
brought again in the mouth of your 
sacks, carry it again in your hand; 
peradvcnture it was an oversight. Take 
also your brother, and arise, go again 
unto the man. And God Almighty 
give you mercy before the man, that 
he may send away your other brother, 
and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my 
children, I am bereaved/ 

And the men took that present, and 
they took double money in their hand, 
and Benjamin; and rose up, and went 
down to Egypt, and stood before Jo- 
seph. And when Joseph saw Benjamin 
with them, he said to the ruler of his 

'Bring these men home, and slay, 
and make ready; for these men shall 
dine with me at noon/ 

The Bible 

know that he would say, "Bring your 
brother down"?' 

'Let the lad go with me,' said Judah 
to his father Israel; 'but we must go at 
once, if we would save our lives and 
not die, both we, you, and our depend- 
ents. I will be surety for him; you may 
hold me responsible for him. If I do 
not bring him back to you and set 
him before you, you may blame me 
for it all my life; in fact if we had not 
wasted so much time, we could have 
made a second trip by now/ 

Then their father Israel said to 

'If it must be so, then do this: take 
some of the country's best in your re- 
ceptacles, and take it down to the man 
as a present a little balm, a little 
honey, gum, laudanum, pistachio nuts, 
and almonds. Also take double the 
money with you, and so take back with 
you the money that was replaced in 
the mouths of your sacks perhaps 
there was a mistake. Take your brother 
too, and go, return to the man. May 
Cod Almighty grant you such kind- 
ness with the man that he will release 
your other brother for you, as well as 
Benjamin. As for me, as I am be- 
reaved, I am bereaved/ 

So the men took this present, and 
taking double the money with them, 
as well as Benjamin, they started off, 
went down to Egypt, and stood in the 
presence of Joseph. When Joseph saw 
Benjamin with them, he said to his 

Take the men home, kill an ani- 
mal, and get it ready; for the men are 
to dine with me at noon/ 


And the man did as Joseph bade; 
and the man brought the men into 
Joseph's house. And the men were 
afraid, because they were brought into 
Joseph's house; and they said, 

'Because of the money that was re- 
turned in our sacks at the first time 
are we brought in; that he may seek 
occasion against us, and fall upon us, 
and take us for bondmen, and our 

And they came near to the steward 
of Joseph's house, and they communed 
with him at the door of the house, 
and said, 

'O sir, we came indeed down at the 
first time to buy food; and it came to 
pass, when we came to the inn, that 
we opened our sacks, and, behold, 
every man's money was in the mouth 
of his sack, our money in full weight: 
and we have brought it again in our 
hand. And other money have we 
brought down in our hands to buy 
food: we cannot tell who put our 
money in our sacks.' 

And he said, 'Peace be to you, fear 
not: your God, and the God of your 
father, hath given you treasure in 
your sacks: I had your money.' 

And he brought Simeon out unto 

And the man brought the men into 
Joseph's house, and gave them water, 
and they washed their feet; and he 
gave their asses provender. And they 
made ready the present against Jo- 
seph came at noon; for they heard 
that they should eat bread there. And 
when Joseph came home, they brought 
him the present which was in their 


The man did as Joseph said, and 
brought the men to Joseph's house. 
On being brought to Joseph's house, 
the men became frightened, saying, 

'It is because of the money which 
reappeared in our sacks the first time 
that we are being brought in, so that 
he may devise some pretext against us, 
and falling upon us, take us into slav- 
ery, together with our asses.' 

So they went up to Joseph's house- 
steward, and spoke to him at the door- 
way of the house. 

'If you please, sir,' they said, 'we 
came down the first time specially to 
buy food, but when we reached the 
camping-place for the night, and 
opened our sacks, there was each 
man's money in the mouth of his sack 
our money in full. Accordingly we 
have brought it back with us, and we 
have brought other money down with 
us to buy food. We do not know who 
put our money in our sacks.' 

'Be at case,' he said, 'do not be 
afraid! It must have been your God, 
the God of your fathers, who put 
treasure in your sacks for you. I re- 
ceived your money.' 

Then he brought Simeon out to 

After bringing the men into Joseph's 
house, the man gave them water to 
wash their feet, and he gave them fod- 
der for their asses. Then they set out 
the present in anticipation of Joseph's 
arrival at noon; for they had heard 
that they were to dine there. When 
Joseph came home, they brought him 
the present that they had carried into 

hand into the house, and bowed them- 
selves to him to the earth. And he 
asked them of their welfare, and said, 
'Is your father well, the old man of 
whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?' 

And they answered, 'Thy servant 
our father is in good health, he is yet 
alive/ And they bowed down their 
heads, and made obeisance. 

And he lifted up his eyes, and saw 
his brother Benjamin, his mother's 
son, and said, 

'Is this your younger brother, of 
whom yc spake unto me?' 

And he said, 'God be gracious unto 
thee, my son.' 

And Joseph made haste; for his 
bowels did yearn upon his brother: 
and he sought where to weep; and he 
entered into his chamber, and wept 
there. And he washed his face, and 
went out, and refrained himself and 

'Set on bread.' 

And they set on for him by himself, 
and for them by themselves, and for 
the Egyptians, which did eat with 
him, by themselves: because the 
Egyptians might not eat bread with 
the Hebrews; for that is an abomina- 
tion unto the Egyptians. And they sat 
before him, the firstborn according to 
his birthright, and the youngest ac- 
cording to his youth: and the men 
marvelled one at another. And he took 
and sent messes unto them from be- 
fore him: but Benjamin's mess was 
five times so much as any of theirs. 
And they drank, and were merry with 

And he commanded the steward of 
his house, saying, 

The Bible 

the house, and bowed to the ground 
before him. He asked after their 

'Is your father well,' he said, 'the 
old man of whom you spoke? Is he 
still living?' 

'Your servant, our father, is well; 
he is still living,' they said, bowing in 
homage to him. 

Raising his eyes, he saw his brother 
Benjamin, the son of his own mother, 
and said, 

'Is this your youngest brother, of 
whom you told me?' 

'May God be gracious to you, my 
son!' he said. 

Thereupon Joseph hastily sought a 
place to weep; for his heart was deeply 
stirred at sight of his brother; he re- 
tired to his room, and wept there. 
Then he bathed his face, and came 
out, and controlling himself, said, 

'Serve the meal.' 

The meal was served, separately for 
him, for them, and for the Egyptians 
that were dining with him; for the 
Egyptians could not cat with the He- 
brews, because that would be abhor- 
rent to the Egyptians. They were 
seated in his presence in order of age, 
from the oldest to the youngest, so 
that the men stared at one another in 
amazement. Portions were carried 
from his own table to them, but Ben- 
jamin's portion was five times as much 
as any other's. So they feasted, and 
drank with him. 

He then gave orders to his house- 


'Fill the men's sacks with food, as 
much as they can carry, and put every 
man's money in his sack's mouth. And 
put my cup, the silver cup, in the 
sack's mouth of the youngest, and his 
corn money.' 

And he did according to the word 
that Joseph had spoken. 

As soon as the morning was light, 
the men were sent away, they and 
their asses. And when they were gone 
out of the city, and not yet far off, 
Joseph said unto his steward, 

'Up, follow after the men; and 
when thou dost overtake them, say 
unto them, "Wherefore have ye re- 
warded evil for good? Is not this it in 
which my lord drinketh, and whereby 
indeed he divineth? ye have done evil 
in so doing." ' 

And he overtook them, and he 
spake unto them these same words. 
And they said unto him, 

'Wherefore saith my lord these 
words? God forbid that thy servants 
should do according to this thing. Be- 
hold, the money, which we found in 
our sacks' mouths, w,e brought again 
unto thee out of the land of Canaan: 
how then should we steal out of thy 
lord's house silver or gold? With 
whomsoever of thy servants it be 
found, both let him die, and we also 
will be my lord's bondmen.' 

And he said, 'Now also let it be 
according unto your words: he with 
whom it is found shall be my servant; 
and ye shall be blameless.' 

Then they speedily took down every 


'Fill the men's sacks as full as they 
will hold with food, and put each 
man's money in the mouth of his 
sack; in the mouth of the sack belong- 
ing to the youngest put my cup, the 
stiver cup, along with his money for 
the grain.' 

He followed the instructions which 
Joseph gave. 

With the dawn of morning the men 
with their asses were sent on their 
way. Although they had left the city, 
they had not gone far, when Joseph 
said to his house-steward, 

'Run at once after the men, and 
when you overtake them, say to them, 
"Why have you returned evil for 
good? Why have you stolen my silver 
cup? Is not this the one from which 
my lord drinks, which in fact he uses 
for divination? It is a wicked thing 
that you have done." ' 

So he overtook them, and addressed 
these words to them; but they said to 

'Why should my lord speak like 
this? Your servants would never think 
of doing such a thingl Why, we even 
brought you back from the land of 
Canaan the money that we found in 
the mouths of our sacks. How then 
could we steal silver or gold from your 
master's house? That one of your serv- 
ants in whose possession it is found 
shall die, and the rest of us will be- 
come slaves to my lord.' 

'Although it may indeed be just as 
you say,' he said, 'yet the one in whose 
possession it is found shall become my 
slave, but the rest of you shall be held 

Then each of them quickly lowered 


man his sack to the ground, and 
opened every man his sack. And he 
searched, and began at the eldest, and 
left at the youngest: and the cup was 
found in Benjamin's sack. Then they 
rent their clothes, and laded every 
man his ass, and returned to the city. 

And Judah and his brethren came 
to Joseph's house; for he was yet there: 
and they fell before him on the 

And Joseph said unto them, 

'What deed is this that ye have 
done? wot ye not that such a man as 
I can certainly divine?' 

And Judah said, 

'What shall we say unto my lord? 
what shall we speak? or how shall we 
clear ourselves? God hath found out 
the iniquity of thy servants: behold, 
we are my lord's servants, both we, 
and he also with whom the cup is 

And he said, 'God forbid that I 
should do so: but the man in whose 
hand the cup is found, he shall be my 
servant; and as for you, get you up in 
peace unto your father.' 

Then Judah came near unto him, 
and said, 

'Oh, my lord, let thy servant, I 
pray thee, speak a word in my lord's 
ears, and let not thine anger burn 
against thy servant: for thou art even 
as Pharaoh. My lord asked his serv- 
ants, saying, "Have ye a father, or a 
brother?" And we said unto my lord, 
"We have a father, an old man, and 
a child of his old age, a little one; and 
his brother is dead, and he alone is 
left of his mother, and his father lov- 
eth him." And thou saidst unto thy 

The Bible 

his sack to the ground, and opened it, 
and search being made, beginning 
with the oldest and ending with the 
youngest, the cup was found in Benja- 
min's sack. Thereupon they tore their 
clothes, and each having reloaded his 
ass, they returned to the city. 

Judah and his brothers arrived at 
the house of Joseph, while he was still 
there, so they flung themselves on the 
ground before him. 

'What is this that you have done?' 
Joseph said to them. 'Did you not 
know that a man like me would be 
sure to use divination?' 

Judah said, 

' What can we say to my lord? What 
can we urge? How can we prove our 
innocence? God has discovered the 
crime of your servants; here we are, 
the slaves of my lord, both we and he 
in whose possession the cup has been 

'I could not think of doing such a 
thing,' he said; 'only the man in whose 
possession the cup has been found 
shall be my slave; the rest of you are 
free to go back to your father.' 

Then Judah went up to him, and 

'If you please, my lord, let your 
servant speak a word in the ear of my 
lord, and your anger not blaze against 
your servant; for you are the equal of 
Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his 
servants, "Have you a father or a 
brother?" And we said to my lord, 
"We have an aged father, and a young 
brother, the child of his old age; his 
brother is dead, so that he alone is left 
of his mother's children, and his father 
loves him." Then you said to your 


servants, "Bring him down unto me, 
that I may set mine eyes upon him." 
And we said unto my lord, "The lad 
cannot leave his father: for if he 
should leave his father, his father 
would die." And thou saidst unto thy 
servants, "Except your youngest 
brother come down with you, ye shall 
see my face no more." 

'And it came to pass when we came 
up unto thy servant my father, we 
told him the words of my lord. And 
our father said, "Go again, and buy us 
a little food." And we said, "We can- 
not go down: if our youngest brother 
be with us, then will we go down: for 
we may not see the man's face, except 
our youngest brother be with us." 
And thy servant my father said unto 
us, "Ye know that my wife bore me 
two sons; and the one went out from 
me, and I said, "Surely he is torn in 
pieces'; and I saw him not since: and 
if ye take this also from me, and mis- 
chief befall him, yc shall bring down 
my gray hairs with sorrow to the 

'Now therefore when I come to thy 
servant my father, and the lad be not 
with us; seeing that his life is bound 
up in the lad's life; it shall come to 
pass, when he seeth that the lad is not 
with us, that he will die: and thy 
servants shall bring down the gray 
hairs of thy servant our father with 
sorrow to the grave. For thy servant 
became surety for the lad unto my 
father, saying, "If I bring him not 
unto thee, then I shall bear the blame 
to my father for ever." Now therefore, 
I pray thee, let thy servant abide in- 


servants, "Bring him down to me that 
I may see him." But we told my lord, 
"The boy cannot leave his father; his 
father would die if he were to leave 
him." Whereupon you said to your 
servants, "Unless your youngest 
brother comes down with you, you 
cannot have audience with me again." 

'When we went back to your serv- 
ant, my father, we reported to him the 
words of my lord. Then our father 
said, "Go again and buy a little food 
for us." But we said, "We cannot go 
down; if our youngest brother accom- 
panies us, we can go down; for we 
shall not be allowed to have audience 
with the man unless our youngest 
brother is with us." Then your servant, 
my father, said to us, "You know that 
my wife bore me only two children; 
then one of them left me, and I think 
he must surely have been torn to 
pieces; for I have never seen him since. 
If then you take this one from me too, 
and harm befall him, you will bring 
down my gray hairs to Shcol in trou- 

'And now, when I rejoin your serv- 
ant, my father, and the boy not with 
us, his life is so bound up with the 
boy's that he will die when he sees 
that there is no boy, and your servants 
will bring down the gray hairs of your 
servant, our father, to Sheol in sorrow; 
for your servant went surety for the 
boy to my father, saying, "If I do not 
bring him back to you, let my father 
blame me for it all my life." Now 
then, pray let your servant remain in 
the boy's place as my lord's slave, but 
let the boy go back with his brothers; 


stead of the lad a bondman to my 
lord; and let the lad go up with his 
brethren. For how shall I go up to my 
father, and the lad be not with me? 
lest peradventure I see the evil that 
shall come on my father.' 

Then Joseph could not refrain him* 
self before all them that stood by him; 
and he cried, 

'Cause every man to go out from 

And there stood no man with him, 
while Joseph made himself known 
unto his brethren. And he wept aloud: 
and the Egyptians and the house of 
Pharaoh heard. And Joseph said unto 
his brethren, 

'I am Joseph; doth my father yet 

And his brethren could not answer 
him; for they were troubled at his 
presence. And Joseph said unto his 

'Come near to me, I pray you.' 

And they came near. And he said, 

'I am Joseph your brother, whom 
ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be 
not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, 
that ye sold me hither: for Cod did 
send me before you to preserve life. 
For these two years hath the famine 
been in the land: and yet there are 
five years, in the which there shall 
neither be earing nor harvest. And 
God sent me before you to preserve 
you a posterity in the earth, and to 
save your lives by a great deliverance. 
So now it was not you that sent me 
hither, but Cod: and he hath made 
me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of 
all his house, and a ruler throughout 
all the land of Egypt. Haste ye, and 

The Bible 

for how can I go back to my father 
unless the boy is with me, and witness 
the agony that would come to my 

Joseph could no longer control him- 
self before all his attendants, so he 
cried out, 

'Have everyone withdraw from me.' 

So there was no one with Joseph 
when he made himself known to his 
brothers; but he wept so loudly that 
the Egyptians heard it, and Pharaoh's 
household heard it. Joseph said to his 

'I am Joseph. Is my father still liv- 

But his brothers could not answer 
him, because they were so dismayed 
at being in his presence. So Joseph 
said to his brothers, 

'Come nearer to me.' 

When they came nearer, he said, 

'I am your brother Joseph whom 
you sold into Egypt. Now do not be 
distressed nor angry with yourselves 
that you sold me here; for it was to 
save life that Cod sent me ahead of 
you; for it is two years now that the 
famine has prevailed in the land, but 
there are still five years in which there 
will be no plowing or reaping. Cod 
sent me ahead of you to insure you a 
remnant in the earth, and to be the 
means of a remarkable escape for you. 
So then it was not you, but Cod who 
sent me here, and made me a father 
to Pharaoh, lord of all his house, and 
ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry 
back to my father and say to him, 


go up to my father, and say unto him, 
"Thus saith thy son Joseph, 'God hath 
made me lord of all Egypt: come 
down unto me, tarry not: and thou 
shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and 
thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and 
thy children, and thy children's chil- 
dren, and thy flocks, and thy herds, 
and all thou hast: and there will I 
nourish thce; for yet there are five 
years of famine; lest thou, and thy 
household, and all that thou hast, 
come to poverty/ " And, behold, your 
eyes see, and the eyes of my brother 
Benjamin, that it is my mouth that 
speaketh unto you. And yc shall tell 
my father of all my glory in Egypt, 
and of all that ye have seen; and ye 
shall haste and bring down my father 

And he fell upon his brother Benja- 
min's neck, and wept; and Benjamin 
wept upon his neck. Moreover he 
kissed all his brethren, and wept upon 
them: and after that his brethren 
talked with him. 

And the fame thereof was heard in 
Pharaoh's house, saying, 

'Joseph's brethren arc come': and it 
pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants. 
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, 

4 Say unto thy brethren, "This do 
ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you 
unto the land of Canaan; and take 
your father and your households and 
come unto me: and I will give you the 
good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall 
eat the fat of the land. Now thou art 
commanded, this do ye; take your 
wagons out of the land of Egypt for 
your little ones, and for your wives, 
and bring your father, and come. Also 


"Thus speaks your son Joseph: 'Since 
Cod has made me lord of all Egypt, 
come down to me without delay. You 
shall live in the land of Coshen, and 
be near me, you, your sons, your 
grandsons, your flocks, your herds, 
and all that belong to you; and there 
I will provide for you, lest you, your 
household, and all that belong to you 
come to want; for there are still five 
years of famine to come/ " You can 
sec for yourselves and my brother Ben- 
jamin for himself that it is I who speak 
to you. You must tell my father all 
about my splendor in Egypt, and all 
that you have seen; hurry and bring 
my father here/ 

Then he fell on the neck of his 
brother Benjamin and wept, while 
Benjamin wept on his neck. He kissed 
all his brothers, and wept on their 
shoulders, after which his brothers 
talked with him. 

When the news was received at 
Pharaoh's palace that Joseph's broth- 
ers had arrived, Pharaoh was delighted, 
as were also his courtiers. Pharaoh said 
to Joseph, 

'Say to your brothers, "Do this: load 
your animals, go back to the land of 
Canaan, and taking your father and 
your households, come to me, and I 
will give you the best of the land of 
Egypt, so that you shall eat the fat of 
the land. Also, carry out this order: 
take wagons from the land of Egypt 
for your little ones and your wives; 
convey your father in them, and come 
back. Never mind your goods; for the 

io 4 

regard not your stuff; for the good of 
all the land of Egypt is yours/' ' 

And the children of Israel did so: 
and Joseph gave them wagons, accord- 
ing to the commandment of Pharaoh, 
and gave them provisions for the way. 
To all of them he gave each man 
changes of raiment; but to Benjamin 
he gave three hundred pieces of silver, 
and five changes of raiment. And to 
his father he sent after this manner; 
ten asses laden with the good things 
of Egypt, and ten she-asses laden with 
corn and bread and meat for his father 
by the way. So he sent his brethren 
away, and they departed: and he said 
unto them, 

'Sec that ye fall not out by the way/ 

And they went up out of Egypt, 
and came into the land of Canaan 
unto Jacob their father, and told him, 

'Joseph is yet alive, and he is gov- 
ernor over all the land of Egypt/ 

And Jacob's heart fainted, for he 
believed them not. And they told him 
all the words of Joseph, which he had 
said unto them: and when he saw the 
wagons which Joseph had sent to carry 
him, the spirit of Jacob their father 
revived. And Israel said, 

It is enough; Joseph my son is yet 
alive: I will go and see him before I 

And Israel took his journey with all 
that he had, and came to Bcer-sheba, 
and offered sacrifices unto the God of 
his father Isaac. And God spake unto 
Israel in the visions of the night, and 
said, 'J ac <>b> Jacob/ 

And he said, 'Here am I/ 

And he said, 'I am God, the God of 

The Bible 

' best of the whole land of Egypt will 
be yours." ' 

The sons of Israel did so. Joseph 
gave them wagons in accord with the 
command of Pharaoh, and he also 
gave them provisions for the journey. 
To each of them he gave a festal gar- 
ment, but to Benjamin he gave three 
hundred shekels of silver and five fes- 
tal garments. To his father he sent 
likewise ten asses loaded with the best 
products of Egypt, and ten she-asses 
loaded with grain, bread, and provi- 
sions for his father on the journey. 
Then he sent his brothers away; and 
as they left, he said to them, 

'Do not get too excited on the way/ 

So they went up from Egypt, and 
came to the land of Canaan, to their 
father Jacob. 

'Joseph is still living, and he is 
rule'' over all the land of Egypt/ they 
told him. 

But he was so stunned that he 
would not believe them. However, 
when they told him all that Joseph 
had said to them, and he saw the 
wagons that Joseph had sent to convey 
him, their father Jacob recovered. 

'Enough!' said Israel; 'my son Jo- 
seph is still living; I will go and see 
him before I die/ 

So Israel set out with all that be- 
longed to him. On reaching Bcer- 
shcba, he offered sacrifices to the God 
of his father Isaac. In a vision by night 
God spoke to Israel. 

'Jacob! Jacob!' he said. 

'Here I am/ he said. 

'I am El, the God of your father/ 


thy father: fear not to go down into 
Egypt; for I will there make of thee a 
great nation: I will go down with thee 
into Egypt; and I will also surely 
bring thee up again: and Joseph shall 
put his hand upon thine eyes/ 

And Jacob rose up from Beer-sheba: 
and the sons of Israel carried Jacob 
their father, and their little ones, and 
their wives, in the wagons which Pha- 
raoh had sent to carry him. And they 
took their cattle, and their goods, 
which they had gotten in the land of 
Ganaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, 
and all his seed with him: his sons, and 
his sons' sons with him, his daughters, 
and his sons' daughters, and all his 
seed brought he with him into Egypt. 

And he sent Judah before him unto 
Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen; 
and they came into the land of Go- 
shen. And Joseph made ready his 
chariot, and went up to meet Israel 
his father, to Goshen, and presented 
himself unto him; and he fell on his 
neck, and wept on his neck a good 

And Israel said unto Joseph, 'Now 
let me die, since I have seen thy face, 
because thou art yet alive/ 

And Joseph said unto his brethren, 
and unto his father's house, 

'I will go up, and shew Pharaoh, 
and say unto him, "My brethren, and 
my father's house, which were in the 
land of Ganaan, are come unto me; 
and the men are shepherds, for their 
trade hath been to feed cattle; and 
they have brought their flocks, and 
their herds, and all that they have/' 
And it shall come to pass, when Pha- 


he said; 'do not be afraid to go down 
to Egypt; for there I will make you a 
great nation. I will myself go down to 
Egypt with you yes, and I will bring 
you up again, when Joseph's hand 
shall close your eyes/ 

Then Jacob set out from Beersheba; 
and the sons of Israel conveyed their 
father Jacob, with their little ones and 
their wives, in the wagons which Pha- 
raoh had sent to convey him. Taking 
their live stock and the property 
which they had acquired in the land 
of Canaan, Jacob and all his family 
migrated to Egypt; his sons and his 
grandsons accompanied him, as well 
as his daughters and his grand-daugh- 
ters; he brought all his family with 
him into Egypt. 

Israel sent Judah ahead of him to 
Joseph in Goshen, to appear before 
him. On their arrival in the land of 
Goshen Joseph hitched the horses to 
his chariot, and went up to meet his 
father Israel in Goshen. When he pre- 
sented himself to him, he fell on his 
neck, weeping again and again on his 

'Now at last I may die/ Israel said 
to Joseph, 'after having seen from 
your very self that you are still alive/ 

Then Joseph said to his brothers 
and his father's household, 

'I will go and tell Pharaoh, and say 
to him, "My brothers and my father's 
household who used to live in the land 
of Ganaan have come to me. Since the 
men are shepherds, having to do with 
live stock, they have brought their 
flocks and herds and everything that 
they own/' Accordingly, when Pha- 
raoh summons you, and says to you, 


raoh shall call you, and shall say, 
"What is your occupation?" that ye 
shall say, "Thy servants' trade hath 
been about cattle from our youth even 
until now, both we, and .also our 
fathers": that yc may dwell in the 
land of Goshen; for every shepherd is 
an abomination unto the Egyptians/ 

Then Joseph came and told Pha- 
raoh, and said, 

'My father and my brethren, and 
their flocks, and their herds, and all 
that they have, are come out of the 
land of Canaan; and, behold, they are 
in the land of Goshen/ 

And he took some of his brethren, 
even five men, and presented them 
unto Pharaoh. 

And Pharaoh said unto his breth- 
ren, 'What is your occupation?' 

And they said unto Pharaoh, 'Thy 
servants are shepherds, both we, and 
also our fathers/ They said moreover 
unto Pharaoh, Tor to sojourn in the 
land are we come; for thy servants 
have no pasture for their flocks; for 
the famine is sore in the land of Ca- 
naan: now therefore, we pray thee, let 
thy servants dwell in the land of 

And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, 

'Thy father and thy brethren are 
come unto thee: The land of Egypt is 
before thee; in the best of the land 
make thy father and brethren to dwell; 
in the land of Goshen let them dwell: 
and if thou knowest any men of ac- 
tivity among them, then make them 
rulers over my cattle/ 

And Joseph brought in Jacob his 

The Bible 

"What is your occupation?" you must 
say, "Your servants have been con- 
cerned with live stock from our youth 
until now, both we and our fathers" 
in order that you may settle in the 
land of Goshen; for shepherds are all 
abhorrent to the Egyptians/ 

So Joseph came and told Pharaoh. 

'My father and brothers,' he said, 
'together with their flocks and herds 
and everything that they own, have 
come from the land of Canaan, and 
are now in the land of Goshen/ 

Taking five of the ablest of his 
brothers, he presented them to Pha- 

'What is your occupation?' Pha- 
raoh said to his brothers. 

Tour servants are shepherds,' they 
said to Pharaoh, 'both we and our 
fathers. We have come to settle as 
immigrants in the land,' they said to 
Pharaoh; 'for there is no pasture for 
the flocks belonging to your servants, 
because the famine is so severe in the 
land of Canaan. Pray let your servants 
settle, then, in the land of Goshen/ 

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 

'Now that your father and brothers 
have joined you, the land of Egypt is 
at your disposal; settle your father and 
brothers in the best part of the land; 
let them settle in the land of Goshen, 
and if you know of any competent 
men among them, put them in charge 
of my own live stock/ 

Then Joseph brought his father Ja- 


father, and set him before Pharaoh: 
and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. 

And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, 'How 
old art thou?' 

And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, 'The 
days of the years of my pilgrimage are 
an hundred and thirty years: few and 
evil have the days of the years of my 
life been, and have not attained unto 
the days of the years of the life of my 
fathers in the days of their pilgrim- 

And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and 
went out from before Pharaoh. 

And Joseph placed his father and 
his brethren, and gave them a posses- 
sion in the land of Egypt, in the best 
of the land, in the land of Rameses, 
as Pharaoh had commanded. And Jo- 
seph nourished his father, and his 
brethren, and all his father's house- 
hold, with bread, according to their 

And there was no bread in all the 
land; for the famine was very sore, so 
that the land of Egypt and all the land 
of Canaan fainted by reason of the 
famine. And Joseph gathered up all 
the money that was found in the land 
of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, 
for the corn which they bought: and 
Joseph brought the money into Pha- 
raoh's house. And when money failed 
in the land of Egypt, and in the land 
of Canaan, all the Egyptians came 
unto Joseph, and said, 

'Give us bread: for why should we 
die in thy presence? for the money 


cob and presented him to Pharaoh, 
and Jacob paid his respects to Pha- 

'How old are you?' Pharaoh said to 

'The length of my life as an immi- 
grant has been one hundred and thirty 
years,' Jacob said to Pharaoh; 'few 
and hard have been the years of my 
life; they have not equaled the num- 
ber of years that my fathers lived in 
their lifetime as immigrants/ 

After paying his respects to Pha- 
raoh, Jacob withdrew from the pres- 
ence of Pharaoh. 

So Joseph settled his father and 
brothers, giving them property in the 
land of Egypt in the very best part of 
the land, in the land of Rameses, as 
Pharaoh had commanded. Joseph pro- 
vided his father and brothers and all 
his father's household with food suffi- 
cient for the needs of the dependents. 

There was now no food anywhere 
in the land; for the famine was very 
severe, so that the lands of Egypt and 
Canaan were languishing because of 
the famine. Joseph had gathered up 
all the money that was to be found in 
the lands of Egypt and Canaan in 
payment for the grain which was 
bought, and had brought the money 
to Pharaoh's palace. So when the 
money was exhausted in the lands of 
Egypt and Canaan, all the Egyptians 
came to Joseph, saying, 

'Give us food; why should we die 
right under your eyes, just because 
our money is gone?' 


And Joseph said, 'Give your cattle; 
and I will give you for your cattle, if 
money fail/ 

And they brought their cattle unto 
Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in 
exchange for horses, and for the flocks, 
and for the cattle of the herds, and 
for the asses: and he fed them with 
bread for all their cattle for that year. 

When that year was ended, they 
came unto him the second year, and 
said unto him, 

4 We will not hide it from my lord, 
how that our money is spent; my lord 
also hath our herds of cattle; there is 
not ought left in the sight of my lord, 
but our bodies, and our lands: where- 
fore shall we die before thine eyes, 
both we and our land? buy us and our 
land for bread, and we and our land 
will be servants unto Pharaoh: and 
give us seed, that we may live, and not 
die, that the land be not desolate/ 

And Joseph bought all the land of 
Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians 
sold every man his field, because the 
famine prevailed over them: so the 
land became Pharaoh's. And as for the 
people, he removed them to cities 
from one end of the borders of Egypt 
even to the other end thereof. Only 
the land of the priests bought he not; 
for the priests had a portion assigned 
them of Pharaoh, and did eat their 
portion which Pharaoh gave them: 
wherefore they sold not their lands. 

Then Joseph said unto the people, 
'Behold, I have bought you this day 
and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is 

The Bible 

'Give me your live stock/ said Jo- 
seph; 'I will give you food in ex- 
change for your live stock, if your 
money is gone/ 

So they brought their live stock to 
Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in 
exchange for horses, sheep, cattle, and 
asses; thus he supported them with 
food that year in exchange for all their 
live stock. 

When that year was over, they 
came to him the next year, and said 
to him, 

'We would hide nothing from my 
lord; but our money is gone, and our 
live stock has come into the posses- 
sion of my lord; there is nothing left 
for my lord except our persons and 
our lands. Why should we perish be- 
fore your very eyes, both we and our 
land? Buy us and our land in exchange 
for food, and we and our land shall 
become feudatory to Pharaoh; but 
give us seed that we may live and not 
die, and the land not become a waste/ 

So Joseph bought all the land of 
Egypt for Pharaoh; for everyone of the 
Egyptians sold his field, because the 
famine was so severe on them. Thus 
the land became Pharaoh's, and the 
people themselves he transferred to 
the towns from one end of Egypt's 
domain to the other. It was only the 
priests' land that he did not buy; for 
the priests had a subvention from Pha- 
raoh, and lived off the subvention 
which Pharaoh gave them; that was 
why they did not have to sell their 

'Observe/ said Joseph to the people, 
'that I have today bought you and 
your land for Pharaoh. Here is seed 


seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. 
And it shall come to pass in the in- 
crease, that ye shall give the fifth part 
unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be 
your own, for seed of the field, and 
for your food, and for them of your 
household, and for food for your little 

And they said, Thou hast saved 
our lives: let us find grace in the sight 
of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's 

And Joseph made it a law over the 
land of Egypt unto this day, that 
Pharaoh should have the fifth part; 
except the land of the priests only, 
which became not Pharaoh's. 

And Israel dwelt in the land of 
Egypt, in the country of Goshcn; and 
they had possessions therein, and 
grew, and multiplied exceedingly. 

And Jacob lived in the land of 
Egypt seventeen years: so that the 
whole age of Jacob was an hundred 
forty and seven years. 


for you to sow the land; a fifth of the 
crop you shall give to Pharaoh, and 
four fifths shall go to yourselves as 
seed for the fields, and as food for 
yourselves and your households, and 
as food for your little ones.' 

Tou have saved our lives,' they 
said, 'we would thank my lord; and 
we will becomes slaves to Pharaoh.' 

So Joseph made it a statute for the 
land in Egypt, which continues to this 
day, that a fifth of the produce should 
go to Pharaoh, the land of the priests 
alone being exempt from Pharaoh's 

So the Israelites settled in the land 
of Egypt, in the land of Goshcn, 
where they acquired property, were 
prolific, and became very numerous. 

Jacob lived in the land of Egypt 
for seventeen years, so that the length 
of Jacob's life was one hundred and 
forty-seven years. 

John Henry Newman 

<[ In 1852 Newman published Discourses on the Scope and Nature 
of University Education, Addressed to the Catholics of Dublin. 
These discourses he delivered after he had been appointed Rector 
of the Irish Catholic University, to which he devoted seven years of 
his life and for which he had high hopes, although they finally came 
to nothing. In 1859 he revised the Discourses and limited the title 
to The Scope and Nature of University Education. In 1873 he made 
further changes and added ten essays, dividing the book into 'Uni- 
versity Teaching' and 'University Essays/ and gave the volume the 
title of The Idea of a University. 

Newman's conception of a university was in some respects star- 
tlingly unlike that prevalent today. He thought of it solely as a place 
of teaching. It was not, for him, a place of research, least of all sci- 
entific research. On the other hand, his idea of liberal knowledge, 
of intellectual training for its own sake, was one that is as valid 
today as ever. He held that liberal education has nothing to do per 
se with morality or religion. Its function is to train the mind. As 
Woodrow Wilson once said when he was president of Princeton, 
'The object of a university is intellect; as a university its only object 
is intellect.' Newman insists that liberal education, philosophy in 
short, is an end worth pursuing for itself. Religion and morality are 
more urgent, but they are the province of other agencies than the 

. . . KNOWLEDGE is one thing, virtue is another; good sense is 

not conscience, refinement is not humility, nor is largeness and justness of 

view faith. Philosophy, however enlightened, however profound, gives no 

command over the passions, no influential motives, no vivifying principles, 

FROM The Idea of a University, 1852, 1859, 1873. 


Liberal Education makes not the Christian, not the Catholic, but the 
gentleman. It is well to be a gentleman, it is well to have a cultivated intel- 
lect, a delicate taste, a candid, equitable, dispassionate mind, a noble and 
courteous bearing in the conduct of life; these are the connatural qualities 
of a large knowledge; they are the objects of a University; I am advocating, 
I shall illustrate and insist upon them; but still, I repeat, they are no guar- 
antee for sanctity or even for conscientiousness, they may attach to the 
man of the world, to the profligate, to the heartless, pleasant, alas, and 
attractive as he shows when decked out in them. Taken by themselves, 
they do but seem to be what they are not; they look like virtue at a dis- 
tance, but they are detected by close observers, and on the long run; and 
hence it is that they are popularly accused of pretence and hypocrisy, not, 
I repeat, from their own fault, but because their professors and their ad- 
mirers persist in taking them for what they are not, and are officious in 
arrogating for them a praise to which they have no claim. Quarry the gran- 
ite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you 
hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and 
human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride 
of man. 

Surely we are not driven to theories of this kind, in order to vindicate 
the value and dignity of Liberal Knowledge. Surely the real grounds on 
which its pretensions rest are not so very subtle or abstruse, so very strange 
or improbable. Surely it is very intelligible to say, and that is what I say 
here, that Liberal Education, viewed in itself, is simply the cultivation of 
the intellect, as such, and its object is nothing more or less than intellec- 
tual excellence. Every thing has its own perfection, be it higher or lower 
in the scale of things; and the perfection of one is not the perfection ot 
another. Things animate, inanimate, visible, invisible, all are good in their 
kind, and have a best of themselves, which is an object of pursuit. Why 
do you take such pains with your garden or your park? You see to your 
walks and turf and shrubberies; to your trees and drives; not as if you 
meant to make an orchard of the one, or corn or pasture land of the other, 
but because there is a special beauty in all that is goodly in wood, water, 
plain, and slope, brought all together by art into one shape, and grouped 
into one whole. Your cities are beautiful, your palaces, your public build- 
ings, your territorial mansions, your churches; and their beauty leads to 
nothing beyond itself. There is a physical beauty and a moral: there is a 
beauty of person, there is a beauty of our moral being, which is natural 
virtue; and in like manner there is a beauty, there is a perfection, of the 

112 John Henry Newman 

intellect. There is an ideal perfection in these various subject-matters, 
towards which individual instances are seen to rise, and which are the 
standards for all instances whatever. The Greek divinities and demigods, 
as the statuary has moulded them, with their symmetry of figure, and their 
high forehead and their regular features, are the perfection of physical 
beauty. The heroes, of whom history tells, Alexander, or Caesar, or Scipio, 
or Saladin, are the representatives of that magnanimity or self-mastery 
which is the greatness of human nature. Christianity too has its heroes, and 
in the supernatural order, and we call them Saints. The artist puts before 
him beauty of feature and form; the poet, beauty of mind; the preacher, 
the beauty of grace: then intellect too, I repeat, has its beauty, and it has 
those who aim at it. To open the mind, to correct it, to refine it, to enable 
it to know, and to digest, master, rule, and use its knowledge, to give it 
power over its own faculties, application, flexibility, method, critical exact- 
ness, sagacity, resource, address, eloquent expression, is an object as intel- 
ligible (for here we are inquiring, not what the object of a Liberal Educa- 
tion is worth, nor what use the Church makes of it, but what it is in itself), 
I say, an object as intelligible as the cultivation of virtue, while, at the 
same time, it is absolutely distinct from it. 

This indeed is but a temporal object, and a transitory possession; but so 
are other things in themselves which we make much of and pursue. The 
moralist will tell us that man, in all his functions, is but a flower which 
blossoms and fades, except so far as a higher principle breathes upon him, 
and makes him and what he is immortal. Body and mind are carried on 
into an eternal state of being by the gifts of Divine Munificence; but at 
first they do but fail in a failing world; and if the powers of intellect decay, 
the powers of the body have decayed before them, and, as an Hospital or 
an Almshouse, though its end be ephemeral, may be sanctified to the serv- 
ice of religion, so surely may a University, even were it nothing more than 
I have as yet described it. We attain to heaven by using this world well, 
though it is to pass away; we perfect our nature, not by undoing it, but by 
adding to it what is more than nature, and directing it towards aims higher 
than its own. . . 

. . . That training of the intellect, which is best for the individual him- 
self, best enables him to discharge his duties to society. The Philosopher, 
indeed, and the man of the world differ in their very notion, but the 
methods, by which they are respectively formed, are pretty much the same. 


The Philosopher has the same command of matters of thought, which the 
true citizen and gentleman has of matters of business and conduct. If then 
a practical end must be assigned to a University course, I say it is that of 
training good members of society. Its art is the art of social life, and its end 
is fitness for the world. It neither confines its views to particular professions 
on the one hand, nor creates heroes or inspires genius on the other. Works 
indeed of genius fall under no art; heroic minds come under no rule; a 
University is not a birthplace of poets or of immortal authors, of founders 
of schools, leaders of colonies, or conquerors of nations. It does not prom- 
ise a generation of Aristotles or Newtons, of Napoleons or Washingtons, 
of Raphaels or Shakespeares, though such miracles of nature it has before 
now contained within its precincts. Nor is it content on the other hand with 
forming the critic or the experimentalist, the economist or the engineer, 
though such too it includes within its scope. But a University training 
is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end; it aims at rais- 
ing the intellectual tone of society, at cultivating the public mind, at puri-* 
fying the national taste, at supplying true principles to popular enthusiasm 
and fixed aims to popular aspiration, at giving enlargement and sobriety to 
the ideas of the age, at facilitating the exercise of political power, and 
refining the intercourse of private life. It is the education which gives a man 
a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgments, a truth in devel- 
oping them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them. 
It teaches him to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disen- 
tangle a skein of thought, to detect what is sophistical, and to discard 
what is irrelevant. It prepares him to fill any post with credit, and to master 
any subject with facility. It shows him how to accommodate himself to 
others, how to throw himself into their state of mind, how to bring before 
them his own, how to influence them, how to come to an understanding 
with them, how to bear with them. He is at home in any society, he has 
common ground with every class; he knows when to speak and when to be 
silent; he is able to converse, he is able to listen; he can ask a question 
pertinently, and gain a lesson seasonably, when he has nothing to impart 
himself; he is ever ready, yet never in the way; he is a pleasant companion, 
and a comrade you can depend upon; he knows when to be serious and 
when to trifle, and he has a sure tact which enables him to trifle with 
gracefulness and to be serious with effect. He has the repose of a mind 
which lives in itself, while it lives in the world, and which has resources 
for its happiness at home when it cannot go abroad. He has a gift which 
serves him in public, and supports him in retirement, without which good 

114 John Henry Newman 

fortune is but vulgar, and with which failure and disappointment have a 
charm. The art which tends to make a man all this, is in the object which 
it pursues as useful as the art of wealth or the art of health, though it is 
less susceptible of method, and less tangible, less certain, less complete in 
its result. . . 


... At this day the 'gentleman' is the creation, not of Christianity, but 
of civilization. But the reason is obvious. The world is content with setting 
right the surface of things; the Church aims at regenerating the very 
depths of the heart. She ever begins with the beginning; and, as regards 
the multitude of her children, is never able to get beyond the beginning, 
but is continually employed in laying the foundation. She is engaged with 
what is essential, as previous and as introductory to the ornamental and 
the attractive. She is curing men and keeping them clear of mortal sin; 
she is 'treating of justice and chastity, and the judgment to come:' she is 
insisting on faith and hope, and devotion, and honesty, and the elements 
of charity; and has so much to do with precept, that she almost leaves it 
to inspirations from Heaven to suggest what is of counsel and perfection. 
She aims at what is necessary rather than at what is desirable. She is for 
the many as well as for the few. She is putting souls in the way of salva- 
tion, that they may then be in a condition, if they shall be called upon, to 
aspire to the heroic, and to attain the full proportions, as well as the rudi- 
ments, of the beautiful. 

Such is the method, or the policy (so to call it), of the Church; but 
Philosophy looks at the matter from a very different point of view: what 
have Philosophers to do with the terror of judgment or the saving of the 
soul? Lord Shaftesbury * calls the former a sort of 'panic fear/ Of the latter 
he scoffingly complains that 'the saVing of souls is now the heroic passion 
of exalted spirits/ Of course he is at liberty, on his principles, to pick and 
choose out of Christianity what he will; he discards the theological, the 
mysterious, the spiritual; he makes selection of the morally or esthetically 
beautiful. To him it matters not at all that he begins his teaching where 
he should end it; it matters not that, instead of planting the tree, he 
merely crops its flowers for his banquet; he only aims at the present life, 
his philosophy dies with him; if his flowers do but last to the end of his 

[* English philosopher (1671-1713). He held that virtue is a kind of beauty and is 
therefore governable by taste. Newman criticizes his opinions in the chapter from which 
this excerpt is taken, 'Liberal Knowledge Viewed in Relation to Religion/] 


revel, he has nothing more to seek. When night comes, the withered leaves 
may be mingled with his own ashes; he and they will have done theii work, 
he and they will be no more. Certainly, it costs little to make men virtuous 
on conditions such as these; it is like teaching them a language or an accom- 
plishment, to write Latin or to play on an instrument, the profession of 
an artist, not the commission of an Apostle. 

This embellishment of the exterior is almost the beginning and the end 
of philosophical morality. This is why it aims at being modest rather than 
humble; this is how it can be proud at the very time that it is unassuming. 
To humility indeed it does not even aspire; humility is one of the most 
difficult of virtues both to attain and to ascertain. It lies close upon the 
heart itself, and its tests are exceedingly delicate and subtle. Its counter- 
feits abound; however, we are little concerned with them here, for, I repeat, 
it is hardly professed even by name in the code of ethics which we are 
reviewing. As has been often observed, ancient civilization had not the idea, 
and had no word to express it: or rather, it had the idea, and considered it 
a defect of mind, not a virtue, so that the word which denoted it conveyed 
a reproach. As to the modern world, you may gather its ignorance of it by 
its perversion of the somewhat parallel term 'condescension/ Humility or 
condescension, viewed as a virtue of conduct, may be said to consist, as in 
other things, so in our placing ourselves in our thoughts on a level with 
our inferiors; it is not only a voluntary relinquishment of the privileges of 
our own station, but an actual participation or assumption of the condi- 
tion of those to whom we stoop. This is true humility, to feel and to behave 
as if we were low; not, to cherish a notion of our importance, while we 
affect a low position. Such was St. Paul's humility, 2 when he called himself 
'the least of the saints;' such the humility of those many holy men who 
have considered themselves the greatest of sinners. It is an abdication, as 
far as their own thoughts are concerned, of those prerogatives or privileges 
to which others deem them entitled. Now it is not a little instructive to 
contrast with this idea, Gentlemen, with this theological meaning of the 
word 'condescension/ its proper English sense; put them in juxta-position, 
and you will at once see the difference between the world's humility and 
the humility of the Gospel. As the world uses the word, 'condescension' is 
a stooping indeed of the person, but a bending forward, unattended with 
any the slightest effort to leave by a single inch the seat in which it is so 
firmly established. It is the act of a superior, who protests to himself, while 
he commits it, that he is superior still, and that he is doing nothing else 

[* See Ephesians, iii, 8.1 

n6 John Henry Newman 

but an act of grace towards those on whose level, in theory, he is placing 
himself. And this is the nearest idea which the philosopher can form of the 
virtue of self-abasement; to do more than this is to his mind a meanness or 
an hypocrisy, and at once excites his suspicion and disgust. What the world 
is, such it has ever been; we know the contempt which the educated pagans 
had for the martyrs and confessors of the Church; and it is shared by the 
anti-Catholic bodies of this day. 

Such are the ethics of Philosophy, when faithfully represented; but an 
age like this, not pagan, but professedly Christian, cannot venture to repro- 
bate humility in set terms, or to make a boast of pride. Accordingly, it looks 
out for some expedient by which it may blind itself to the real state of the 
case. Humility, with its grave and self-denying attributes, it cannot love; 
but what is more beautiful, what more winning, than modesty? what virtue, 
at first sight, simulates humility so well? though what in fact is more radi- 
cally distinct from it? In truth, great as is its charm, modesty is not the 
deepest or the most religious of virtues. Rather it is the advanced guard or 
sentinel of the soul militant, and watches continually over its nascent inter- 
course with the world about it. It goes the round of the senses; it mounts 
up into the countenance; it protects the eye and ear; it reigns in the voice 
and gesture. Its province is the outward deportment, as other virtues have 
relation to matters theological, others to society, and others to the mind 
itself. And being more superficial than other virtues, it is more easily dis- 
joined from their company; it admits of being associated with principles or 
qualities naturally foreign to it, and is often made the cloak of feelings or 
ends for which it was never given to us. So little is it the necessary index of 
humility, that it is even compatible with pride. The better for the purpose 
of Philosophy; humble it cannot be, so forthwith modesty becomes its 

Pride, under such training, instead of running to waste jn the education 
of the mind, is turned to account; it gets a new name; it is called self- 
respect; and ceases to be the disagreeable, uncompanionable quality which 
it is in itself. Though it be the motive principle of the soul, it seldom comes 
to view; and when it shows itself, then delicacy and gentleness are its attire, 
and good sense and sense of honour direct its motions. It is no longer a 
restless agent, without definite aim; it has a large field of exertion assigned 
to it, and it subserves those social interests which it would naturally trouble. 
It is directed into the channel of industry, frugality, honesty, and obedi- 
ence; and it becomes the very staple of the religion and morality held in 
honour in a day like our own. It becomes the safeguard of chastity, the 


guarantee of veracity, in high and low; it is the very household god of soci- 
ety, as at present constituted, inspiring neatness and decency in the servant 
girl, propriety of carriage and refined manners in her mistress, uprightness, 
manliness, and generosity in the head of the family. It diffuses a light over 
town and country; it covers the soil with handsome edifices and smiling 
gardens; it tills the field, it stocks and embellishes the shop. It is the stimu- 
lating principle of providence on the one hand, and of free expenditure on 
the other; of an honourable ambition, and of elegant enjoyment. It breathes 
upon the face of the community, and the hollow sepulchre is forthwith 
beautiful to look upon. 

Refined by the civilization which has brought it into activity, this self- 
respect infuses into the mind an intense horror of exposure, and a keen sen- 
sitiveness of notoriety and ridicule. It becomes the enemy of extravagances 
of any kind; it shrinks from what are called scenes; it has no mercy on the 
mock-heroic, on pretence or egotism, on verbosity in language, or what is 
called prosincss in conversation. It detests gross adulation; not that it tends 
at all to the eradication of the appetite to which the flatterer ministers, but 
it sees the absurdity of indulging it, it understands the annoyance thereby 
given to others, and if a tribute must be paid to the wealthy or the power- 
ful, it demands greater subtlety and art in the preparation. Thus vanity is 
changed into a more dangerous self-conceit, as being checked in its natural 
eruption. It teaches men to suppress their feelings, and to control their 
tempers, and to mitigate both the severity and the tone of their judgments. 
As Lord Shaftesbury would desire, it prefers playful wit and satire in put- 
ting down what is objectionable, as a more refined and good-natured, as 
well as a more effectual method, than the expedient which is natural to 
uneducated minds. It is from this impatience of the tragic and the bom- 
bastic that it is now quietly but energetically opposing itself to the unchris- 
tian practice of duelling, which it brands as simply out of taste, and as the 
remnant of a barbarous age; and certainly it seems likely to effect what 
Religion has aimed at abolishing in vain. 

Hence it is that it is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one 
who never inflicts pain. This description is both refined and, as far as it 
goes, accurate. He is mainly occupied in merely removing the obstacles 
which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about him; and 
he concurs with their movements rather than takes the initiative himself. 
His benefits may be considered as parallel to what are called comforts or 
conveniences in arrangements of a personal nature: like an easy chair or a 
good fire, which do their part in dispelling cold and fatigue, though nature 

n8 John Henry Newman 

provides both means of rest and animal heat without them. The true gen- 
tleman in like manner carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in 
the minds of those with whom he is cast; all clashing of opinion, or col- 
lision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; his 
great concern being to make every one at their ease and at home. He has 
his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle 
towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to 
whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics 
which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never 
wearisome. He makes light of favours while he does them, and seems to be 
receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when 
compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slan- 
der or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with 
him, and interprets every thing for the best. He is never mean or little in 
his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or 
sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out. 
From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, 3 
that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one 
day to be our friend. He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, 
he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear 
malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical principles; 
he submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is 
irreparable, and to death, because it is his destiny. If he engages in contro- 
versy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blunder- 
ing discourtesy of better, perhaps, but less educated minds; who, like blunt 
weapons, tear and hack instead of cutting clean, who mistake the point in 
argument, waste their strength on trifles, misconceive their adversary, and 
leave the question more involved than they find it. He may be right or 
wrong in his opinion, but he is too clear-headed to be unjust; he is as simple 
as he is forcible, and as brief as he is decisive. Nowhere shall we find greater 
candour, consideration, indulgence: he throws himself into the minds of 
his opponents, he accounts for their mistakes. He knows the weakness of 
human reason as well as its strength, its province and its limits. If he be an 
unbeliever, he will be too profound and large-minded to ridicule religion 
or to act against it; he is too wise to be a dogmatist or fanatic in his infidel- 
ity. He respects piety and devotion; he even supports institutions as vener- 
able, beautiful, or useful, 'to which he does not assent; he honours the min- 

[ 3 This maxim is attributed to Bias of Pirene, one of the Seven Sages of ancient 


isters of religion, and it contents him to decline its mysteries without assail- 
ing or denouncing them. He is a friend of religious toleration, and that, not 
only because his philosophy has taught him to look on all forms of faith 
with an impartial eye, but also from the gentleness and effeminacy of feel- 
ing, which is the attendant on civilization. 

Matthew Arnold 

<[ Arnold's 'Literature and Science' is a powerful 'defense of the 
role of letters in education. T. H. Huxley's 'Science and Culture/ 
to which it is in part a reply, was an equally clear and astute argu- 
ment for the educational value of physical science. To judge merely 
by the present ratio of students of Greek to students of physics, 
Huxley was at least the better prophet; yet we hear many voices 
warning us that the need for the humanities was never greater than 
it is now. In considering such questions we need to read the 'best 
that has been thought and said' about them. Arnold's essay is a 
contribution we should not omit. 

'Literature and Science' was originally a lecture delivered at the 
University of Cambridge. Arnold revised it for his American lecture 
tour of 1883-4 an ^ afterwards published it in Discourses in Amer- 
ica. The text printed here is this revised one. 


LRACTICAL people 1 talk with a smile of Plato and of his abso- 
lute ideas; and it is impossible to deny that Plato's ideas do often seem 
unpractical and impracticable, and especially when one views them in con- 
nection with the life of a great work-a-day world like the United States. 
The necessary staple of the life of such a world Plato regards with disdain; 
handicraft and trade and the working professions he regards with disdain; 
but what becomes of the life of an industrial modern community if you 
take handicraft and trade and the working professions out of it? The base 
mechanic arts and handicrafts, says Plato, bring about a natural weakness 
in the principle of excellence in a man, so that he cannot govern the ignoble 
growths in him, but nurses them, and cannot understand fostering any 
other. Those who exercise such arts and trades, as they have their bodies, he 

t 1 See the selection by Macaulay, pp. 547-55*] 
FROM Discourses in America, 1885. 


says, marred by their vulgar businesses, so they have their souls, too, bowed 
and broken by them. And if one of these uncomely people has a mind to 
seek self-culture and philosophy, Plato compares him to a bald little tinker, 2 
who has scraped together money, and has got his release from service, and 
has had a bath, and bought a new coat, and is rigged out like a bridegroom 
about to marry the daughter of his master who has fallen into poor and 
helpless estate. 

Nor do the working professions fare any better than trade at the hands 
of Plato. He draws for us an inimitable picture of the working lawyer, and 
of his life of bondage; he shows how this bondage from his youth up has 
stunted and warped him, and made him small and crooked of soul, encom- 
passing him with difficulties which he is not man enough to rely on justice 
and truth as means to encounter, but has recourse, for help out of them, to 
falsehood and wrong. And so, says Plato, this poor creature is bent and 
broken, and grows up from boy to man without a particle of soundness in 
him, although exceedingly smart and clever in his own esteem. 

One cannot refuse to admire the artist who draws these pictures. But we 
say to ourselves that his ideas show the influence of a primitive and obso- 
lete order of things, when the warrior caste and the priestly caste were alone 
in honour and the humble work of the world was done by slaves. We have 
now changed all that; the modern majority consists in work, as Emerson 
declares; and in work, we may add, principally of such plain and dusty kind 
as the work of cultivators of the ground, handicraftsmen, men of trade and 
business, men of the working professions. Above all is this true in a great 
industrious community such as that of the United States. 

Now education, many people go on to say, is still mainly governed by 
the ideas of men like Plato, who lived when the warrior caste and the 
priestly or philosophical class were alone in honour, and the really useful 
part of the community were slaves. It is an education fitted for persons of 
leisure in such a community. This education passed from Greece and Rome 
to the feudal communities of Europe, where also the warrior caste and the 
priestly caste were alone held in honour and where the really useful and 
working part of the community, though not nominally slaves as in the 
pagan world, were practically not much better off than slaves, and not more 
seriously regarded. And how absurd it is, people end by saying, to inflict 
this education upon an industrious modern community, where very few 
indeed are persons of leisure, and the mass to be considered has not leisure, 
but is bound, for its own great good, and for the great good of the world at 

[ a See Plato's Republic, vi, 495.] 

122 Matthew Arnold 

large, to plain labour and to industrial pursuits, and the education in ques- 
tion tends necessarily to make men dissatisfied with these pursuits and 
unfitted for them! 

That is what is said. So far I must defend Plato, as to plead that his view 
of education and studies is in the general, as it seems to me, sound enough, 
and fitted for all sorts and conditions of men, whatever their pursuits may 
be. 'An intelligent man/ says Plato, 'will prize those studies which result in 
his soul getting soberness, righteousness, and wisdom, and will less value 
the others/ I cannot consider that a bad description of the aim of educa- 
tion, and of the motives which should govern us in the choice of studies, 
whether we are preparing ourselves for a hereditary seat in the English 
House of Lords or for the pork trade in Chicago. 

Still I admit that Plato's world was not ours, that his scorn of trade and 
handicraft is fantastic, that he had no conception of a great industrial com- 
munity such as that of the United States, and that such a community must 
and will shape its education to suit its own needs. If the usual education 
handed down to it from the past does not suit it, it will certainly before 
long drop this and try another. The usual education in the past has been 
mainly literary. The question is whether the studies which were long sup- 
posed to be the best for all of us are practically the best now; whether 
others are not better. The tyranny of the past, many think, weighs on us 
injuriously in the predominance given to letters in education. The question 
is raised whether, to meet the needs of our modern life, the predominance 
ought not now to pass from letters to science; and naturally the question 
is nowhere raised with more energy than here in the United States. The 
design of abasing what is called 'mere literary instruction and education/ 
and of exalting what is called 'sound, extensive, and practical scientific 
knowledge/ 8 is, in this intensely modern world of the United States, even 
more perhaps than in Europe, a very popular design, and makes great and 
rapid progress. 

I am going to ask whether the present movement for ousting letters from 
their old predominance in education, and for transferring the predomi- 
nance in education to the natural sciences, whether this brisk and flourish- 
ing movement ought to prevail, and whether it is likely that in the end it 
really will prevail. An objection may be raised which I will anticipate. My 
own studies have been almost wholly in letters, and my visits to the field 
of the natural sciences have been very slight and inadequate, although 

[" These quotations are from the instructions of Sir Josiah Mason for the founding of 
a college in Birmingham (opened 1880), now part of the University of Birmingham.] 


those sciences have always strongly moved my curiosity. A man of letters, 
it will perhaps be said, is not competent to discuss the comparative merits 
of letters and natural science as means of education. To this objection I 
reply, first of all, that his incompetence, if he attempts the discussion but 
is really incompetent for it, will be abundantly visible; nobody will be taken 
in; he will have plenty of sharp observers and critics to save mankind from 
that danger. But the line I am going to follow is, as you will soon discover, 
so extremely simple, that perhaps it may be followed without failure even 
by one who for a more ambitious line of discussion would be quite incom- 

Some of you may possibly remember a phrase of mine which has been 
the object of a good deal of comment; an observation to the effect that in 
our culture, the aim being to know ourselves and the -world, we have, as 
the means to this end, to know the best which has been thought and said 
in the world* A man of science, who is also an excellent writer and the 
very prince of debaters, Professor Huxley, 5 in a discourse at the opening of 
Sir Josiah Mason's college at Birmingham, laying hold of this phrase, ex- 
panded it by quoting some more words of mine, which are these: The 
civilized world is to be regarded as now 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 proper outfit a knowl- 
edge of Creek, 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 progress, 
which most thoroughly carries out this programme/ 

Now on my phrase, thus enlarged, Professor Huxley remarks that when 
I speak of the above-mentioned knowledge as enabling us to know our- 
selves and the world, I assert literature to contain the materials which suf- 
fice for thus making us know ourselves and the world. But it is not by any 
means clear, says he, that after having learnt all which ancient and modern 
literatures have to tell us, we have laid a sufficiently broad and deep foun- 
dation for that criticism of life, that knowledge of ourselves and the world, 
which constitutes culture. On the contrary, Professor Huxlev declares that 
he finds himself 'wholly unable to admit that either nations or individuals 
will really advance, if their outfit draws nothing from the stores of physical 

[ 4 Arnold's quotations in this paragraph are from his 'The Function of Criticism at 
the Present Time' (1864).] 

[ 8 Thomas Henry Huxley, biologist, writer, and defender of Darwinism. See his lec- 
ture, 'Science and Culture' (1880).] 

124 Matthew Arnold 

science. An army without weapons of precision, and with no particular 
base of operations, might more hopefully enter upon a campaign on the 
Rhine, than a man, devoid of a knowledge of what physical science has 
done in the last century, upon a criticism of life/ 

This shows how needful it is for those who are to discuss any matter 
together, to have a common understanding as to the sense of the terms 
they employ, how needful, and how difficult. What Professor Huxley 
says, implies just the reproach which is so often brought against the study 
of belles lettres* as they are called: that the study is an elegant one, but 
slight and ineffectual; a smattering of Greek and Latin and other ornamen- 
tal things, of little use for any one whose object is to get at truth, and to be 
a practical man. So, too, M. Renan 7 talks of the 'superficial humanism' of 
a school-course which treats us as if we were all going to be poets, writers, 
preachers, orators, and he opposes this humanism to positive science, or 
the critical search after truth. And there is always a tendency in those who 
are remonstrating against the predominance of letters in education, to 
understand by letters belles lettres, and by belles lettres a superficial human- 
ism the opposite of science or true knowledge. 

But when we talk of knowing Greek and Roman antiquity, for instance, 
which is the knowledge people have called the humanities, 8 I for my part 
mean a knowledge which is something more than a superficial humanism, 
mainly decorative. 'I call all teaching scientific,' says Wolf, 9 the critic of 
Homer, 'which is systematically laid out and followed up to its original 
sources. For example: a knowledge of classical antiquity is scientific when 
the remains of classical antiquity arc correctly studied in the original lan- 
guages/ There can be no doubt that Wolf is perfectly right; that all learn- 
ing is scientific which is systematically laid out and followed up to its 
original sources, and that a genuine humanism is scientific. 

When I speak of knowing Greek and Roman antiquity, therefore, as a 
help to knowing ourselves and the world, I mean more than a knowledge 
of so much vocabulary, so much grammar, so many portions of authors in 
the Greek and Latin languages, I mean knowing the Greeks and Romans, 
and their life and genius, and what they were and did in the world; what 
we get from them, and what is its value. That, at least, is the ideal; and 

( e ln ordinary usage, literature; but as Arnold remarks in this same paragraph, the 
term 'belles lettres,' as sometimes used, implies an elegance or superficiality that he is 
careful to exclude from 'letters' and 'literature/ J 

f 7 French writer on history and religion (1823-1892).! 

[ 8 Compare the selections by Foerster (pp. 138-49) and Livingstone (pp. 150-65).] 

[ Eminent German classical scholar (1759-1824).] 


when we talk of endeavouring to know Creek and Roman antiquity, as a 
help to knowing ourselves and the world, we mean endeavouring so to know 
them as to satisfy this ideal, however much we may still fall short of it. 

The same also as to knowing our own and other modern nations, with 
the like aim of getting to understand ourselves and the world. To know the 
best that has been thought and said by the modern nations, is to know, 
says Professor Huxley, 'only what modern literatures have to tell us; it is 
the criticism of life contained in modern literature/ And yet 'the distinc- 
tive character of our times,' he urges, 'lies in the vast and constantly in- 
creasing part which is played by natural knowledge/ And how, therefore, 
can a man, devoid of knowledge of what physical science has done in the 
last century, enter hopefully upon a criticism of modern life? 

Let us, I say, be agreed about the meaning of the terms we are using. I 
talk of knowing the best which has been thought and uttered in the world; 
Professor Huxley says this means knowing literature. Literature is a large 
word; it may mean everything written with letters or printed in a book. 
Euclid's Elements and Newton's Principia are thus literature. All knowl- 
edge that reaches us through books is literature. But by literature Professor 
Huxley means belles lettres. He means to make me say, that knowing the 
best which has been thought and said by the modern nations is knowing 
their belles lettres and no more. And this is no sufficient equipment, he 
argues, for a criticism of modern life. But as I do not mean, by knowing 
ancient Rome, knowing merely more or less of Latin belles lettres, and 
taking no account of Rome's military, and political, and legal, and admin- 
istrative work in the world; and as, by knowing ancient Greece, I under- 
stand knowing her as the giver of Greek art, and the guide to a free and 
right use of reason and to scientific method, and the founder of our math- 
ematics and physics and astronomy and biology, I understand knowing 
her as all this, and not merely knowing certain Greek poems, and histories, 
and treatises, and speeches, so as to the knowledge of modern nations 
also. By knowing modern nations, I mean not merely knowing their belles 
lettres, but knowing also what has been done by such men as Gopernicus, 
Galileo, Newton, Darwin. 'Our ancestors learned/ says Professor Huxley, 
'that the earth is the centre of the visible universe, and that man is the 
cynosure of things terrestrial; and more especially was it inculcated that 
the course of nature had no fixed order, but that it could be, and constantly 
was, altered/ But for us now, continues Professor Huxley, '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 

126 Matthew Arnold 

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 interferes.' 'And yet/ he cries, 'the purely classical educa- 
tion advocated by the representatives of the humanists in our day gives no 
inkling of all this!' 

In due place and time I will just touch upon that vexed question of clas- 
sical education; but at present the question is as to what is meant by know- 
ing the best which modern nations have thought and said. It is not know- 
ing their belles lettres merely which is meant. To know Italian belles lettres, 
is not to know Italy, and to know English belles lettres is not to know 
England. Into knowing Italy and England there comes a great deal more, 
Galileo and Newton amongst it. The reproach of being a superficial 
humanism, a tincture of belles lettres, may attach rightly enough to some 
other disciplines; but to the particular discipline recommended when I 
proposed knowing the best that has been thought and said in the world, 
it does not apply. In that best I certainly include what in modern times 
has been thought and said by the great observers and knowers of nature. 

There is, therefore, really no question between Professor Huxley and me 
as to whether knowing the great results of the modern scientific study of 
nature is not required as a part of our culture, as well as knowing the prod- 
ucts of literature and art. But to follow the processes by which those results 
are reached, ought, say the friends of physical science, to be made the 
staple of education for the bulk of mankind. And here there does arise a 
question between those whom Professor Huxley calls with playful sar- 
casm 'the Levites 10 of culture,' and those whom the poor humanist is 
sometimes apt to regard as its Nebuchadnezzars. 11 

The great results of the scientific investigation of nature we are agreed 
upon knowing, but how much of our study are we bound to give to the 
processes by which those results are reached? The results have their visible 
bearing on human life. But all the processes, too, all the items of fact, by 
which those results are reached and established, are interesting. All knowl- 
edge is interesting to a wise man, and the knowledge of nature is interesting 
to all men. It is very interesting to know, that, from the albuminous white 
of the egg, the chick in the egg gets the materials for its flesh, bones, blood, 
and feathers; while from the fatty yolk of the egg, it gets the heat and 

[ 10 Members of the tribe of Levi had charge of the Hebrew temple and its sacred 

[" Enemies; tyrants over the chosen people. Nebuchadnezzar was a Babylonian king; 
see the stories about him in the Old Testament.] 


energy which enable it at length to break its shell and begin the world. It is 
less interesting, perhaps, but still it is interesting, to know that when a 
taper burns, the wax is converted into carbonic acid and water. Moreover, 
it is quite true that the habit of dealing with facts, which is given by the 
study of nature, is, as the friends of physical science praise it for being, an 
excellent discipline. The appeal, in the study of nature, is constantly to 
observation and experiment; not only is it said that the thing is so, but we 
can be made to see that it is so. Not only does a man tell us that when a 
taper burns the wax is converted into carbonic acid and water, as a man 
may tell us, if he likes, that Charon 12 is punting his ferry-boat on the river 
Styx, or that Victor Hugo 18 is a sublime poet, or Mr. Gladstone 14 the 
most admirable of statesmen; but we are made to see that the conversion 
into carbonic acid and water does actually happen. This reality of natural 
knowledge it is, which makes the friends of physical science contrast it, as 
a knowledge of things, with the humanist's knowledge, which is, say they, 
a knowledge of words. And hence Professor Huxley is moved to lay it down 
that, 'for the purpose of attaining real culture, an exclusively scientific edu- 
cation is at least as effectual as an exclusively literary education/ And a 
certain President of the Section for Mechanical Science in the British Asso- 
ciation 15 is, in Scripture phrase, Very bold/ and declares that if a man, in 
his mental training, 'has substituted literature and history for natural sci- 
ence, he has chosen the less useful alternative/ But whether we go these 
lengths or not, we must all admit that in natural science the habit gained 
of dealing with facts is a most valuable discipline, and that every one 
should have some experience of it. 

More than this, however, is demanded by the reformers. It is proposed 
to make the training in natural science the main part of education, for the 
great majority of mankind at any rate. And here, I confess, I part company 
with the friends of physical science, with whom up to this point I have 
been agreeing. In differing from them, however, I wish to proceed with the 
utmost caution and diffidence. The smallness of my own acquaintance with 
the disciplines of natural science is ever before my mind, and I am fearful 
of doing these disciplines an injustice. The ability and pugnacity of the 
partisans of natural science make them formidable persons to contradict. 
The tone of tentative inquiry, which befits a being of dim faculties and 

[ ia In classical mythology he ferried souls across the Styx.] 

[ 13 The French poet. Arnold disapproved of him and his works.] 

["Prime Minister, 1868-74, 1880-85, l886 1892-4.] 

I 15 The British Association for the Advancement of Science.] 

iz8 Matthew Arnold 

bounded knowledge, is the tone I would wish to take and not to depart 
from. At present it seems to me, that those who are for giving to natural 
knowledge, as they call it, the chief place in the education of the majority 
of mankind, leave one important thing out of their account: the constitu- 
tion of human nature. But I put this forward on the strength of some facts 
not at all recondite, very far from it; facts capable of being stated in the 
simplest possible fashion, and to which, if I so state them, the man of sci- 
ence will, I am sure, be willing to allow their due weight. 

Deny the facts altogether, I think, he hardly can. He can hardly deny, 
that when we set ourselves to enumerate the powers which go to the build- 
ing up of human life, and say that they arc the power of conduct, the 
power of intellect and knowledge, the power of beauty, and the power of 
social life and manners, he can hardly deny that this scheme, though 
drawn in rough and plain lines enough, and not pretending to scientific 
exactness, docs yet give a fairly true representation of the matter. Human 
nature is built up by these powers; we have the need for them all. When 
we have rightly met and adjusted the claims of them all, we shall then be 
in a fair way for getting soberness and righteousness, with wisdom. This is 
evident enough, and the friends of physical science would admit it. 

But perhaps they may not have sufficiently observed another thing: 
namely, that the several powers just mentioned are not isolated, but there 
is, in the generality of mankind, a perpetual tendency to relate them one 
to another in divers ways. With one such way of relating them I am par- 
ticularly concerned now. Following our instinct for intellect and knowl- 
edge, we acquire pieces of knowledge; and presently, in the generality of 
men, there arises the desire to relate these pieces of knowledge to our sense 
for conduct, to our sense for beauty, and there is weariness and dissatis- 
faction if the desire is baulked. Now in this desire lies, I think, the strength 
of that hold which letters have upon us. 

All knowledge is, as I said just now, interesting; and even items of knowl- 
edge which from the nature of the case cannot well be related, but must 
stand isolated in our thoughts, have their interest. Even lists of exceptions 
have their interest. If we are studying Greek accents it is interesting to 
know that pais and pas, and some other monosyllables of the same form 
of declension, do not take the circumflex upon the last syllable of the geni- 
tive plural, but vary, in this respect, from the common rule. If we are study- 
ing physiology, it is interesting to know that the pulmonary artery carries 
dark blood and the pulmonary vein carries bright blood, departing in this 
respect from the common rule for the division of labour between the veins 


and the arteries. But every one knows how we seek naturally to combine 
the pieces of our knowledge together, to bring them under general rules, 
to relate them to principles; and how unsatisfactory and tiresome it would 
be to go on forever learning lists of exceptions, or accumulating items of 
fact which must stand isolated. 

Well, that same need of relating our knowledge, which operates here 
within the sphere of our knowledge itself, we shall find operating, also, out- 
side that sphere. We experience, as we go on learning and knowing, the 
vast majority of us experience, the need of relating what we have learnt 
and known to the sense which we have in us for conduct, to the sense 
which we have in us for beauty. 

A certain Greek prophetess of Mantineia in Arcadia, Diotima le by name, 
once explained to the philosopher Socrates that love, and impulse, and 
bent of all kinds, is, in fact, nothing else but the desire in men that good 
should forever be present to them. This desire for good, Diotima assured 
Socrates, is our fundamental desire, of which fundamental desire every 
impulse in us is only some one particular form. And therefore this funda- 
mental desire it is, I suppose, this desire in men that good should be for- 
ever present to them, which acts in us when we feel the impulse for relat- 
ing our knowledge to our sense for conduct and to our sense for beauty. At 
any rate, with men in general the instinct exists. Such is human nature. 
And the instinct, it will be admitted, is innocent, and human nature is 
preserved by our following the lead of its innocent instincts. Therefore, in 
seeking to gratify this instinct in question, we are following the instinct of 
self-preservation in humanity. 

But, no doubt, some kinds of knowledge cannot be made to directly 
serve the instinct in question, cannot be directly related to the sense for 
beauty, to the sense for conduct. These are instrument-knowledges; they 
lead on to other knowledges, which can. A man who passes his life in 
instrument-knowledges is a specialist. They may be invaluable as instru- 
ments to something beyond, for those who have the gift thus to employ 
them; and they may be disciplines in themselves wherein it is useful for 
every one to have some schooling. But it is inconceivable that the general- 
ity of men should pass all their mental life with Greek accents or with 
formal logic. My friend Professor Sylvester, 17 who is one of the first mathe- 
maticians in the world, holds transcendental doctrines as to the virtue of 

[ 16 See Plato's Symposium.] 

[ 17 J. J. Sylvester (1814-97) was a professor at Johns Hopkins, 1877-83, and at 
Oxford, 1883-97.] 

130 Matthew Arnold 

mathematics, but those doctrines are not for common men. In the very 
Senate House and heart of our English Cambridge I once ventured, though 
not without an apology for my profaneness, to hazard the opinion that for 
the majority of mankind a little of mathematics, even, goes a long way. Of 
course this is quite consistent with their being of immense importance as 
an instrument to something else; but it is the few who have the aptitude 
for thus using them, not the bulk of mankind. 

The natural sciences do not, however, stand on the same footing with 
these instrument-knowledges. Experience shows us that the generality of 
men will find more interest in learning that, when a taper burns, the wax 
is converted into carbonic acid and water, or in learning the explanation 
of the phenomenon of dew, or in learning how the circulation of the blood 
is carried on, than they find in learning that the genitive plural of pais and 
pas does not take the circumflex on the termination. And one piece of 
natural knowledge is added to another, and others are added to that, and 
at last we come to propositions so interesting as Mr. Darwin's famous prop- 
osition 18 that 'our ancestor was a hairy quadruped furnished with a tail 
and pointed ears, probably arboreal in his habits/ Or we come to proposi- 
tions of such reach and magnitude as those which Professor Huxley delivers, 
when he says that the notions of our forefathers about the beginning and 
the end of the world were all wrong, and that nature is the expression of a 
definite order with which nothing interferes. 

Interesting, indeed, these results of science are, important they are, and 
we should all of us be acquainted with them. But what I now wish you to 
mark is, that we are still, when they are propounded to us and we receive 
them, we are still in the sphere of intellect and knowledge. And for the 
generality of men there will be found, I say, to arise, when they have duly 
taken in the proposition that their ancestor was "a hairy quadruped fur- 
nished with a tail and pointed cars, probably arboreal in his habits/ there 
will be found to arise an invincible desire to relate this proposition to the 
sense in us for conduct, and to the sense in us for beauty. But this the men 
of science will not do for us, and will hardly even profess to do. They will 
give us other pieces of knowledge, other facts, about other animals and 
their ancestors, or about plants, or about stones, or about stars; and they 
may finally bring us to those great 'general conceptions of the universe, 
which are forced upon us all/ says Professor Huxley, 'by the progress of 
physical science/ But still it will be knowledge only which they give us; 
knowledge not put for us into relation with our sense for conduct, our sense 

[" In The Descent of Man, part in, ch. xxi.] 


for beauty, and touched with emotion by being so put; not thus put for us, 
and therefore, to the majority of mankind, after a certain while, unsatisfy- 
ing, wearying. 

Not to the born naturalist, I admit. But what do we mean by a born 
naturalist? We mean a man in whom the zeal for observing nature is so 
uncommonly strong and eminent, that it marks him off from the bulk of 
mankind. Such a man will pass his life happily in collecting natural knowl- 
edge and reasoning upon it, and will ask for nothing, or hardly anything, 
more. I have heard it said that the sagacious and admirable naturalist whom 
we lost not very long ago, Mr. Darwin, 19 once owned to a friend that for 
his part he did not experience the necessity for two things which most men 
find so necessary to them, religion and poetry; science and the domestic 
affections, he thought, were enough. To a born naturalist, I can well under- 
stand that this should seem so. So absorbing is his occupation with nature, 
so strong his love for his occupation, that he goes on acquiring natural 
knowledge and reasoning upon it, and has little time or inclination for 
thinking about getting it related to the desire in man for conduct, the 
desire in man for beauty. He relates it to them for himself as he goes along, 
so far as he feels the need; and he draws from the domestic affections all 
the additional solace necessary. But then Darwins are extremely rare. 
Another great and admirable master of natural knowledge, Faraday, 20 was 
a Sandemanian. That is to say, he related his knowledge to his instinct for 
conduct and to his instinct for beauty, by the aid of that respectable Scot- 
tish sectary, Robert Sandeman. 21 And so strong, in general, is the demand 
of religion and poetry to have their share in a man, to associate themselves 
with his knowing, and to relieve and rejoice it, that, probably, for one man 
amongst us with the disposition to do as Darwin did in this respect, there 
are at least fifty with the disposition to do as Faraday. 

Education lays hold upon us, in fact, by satisfying this demand. Profes- 
sor Huxley holds up to scorn mediaeval education, with its neglect of the 
knowledge of nature, its poverty even of literary studies, its formal logic 
devoted to 'showing how and why that which the Church said was true 
must be true/ But the great mediaeval Universities were not brought into 

[" It is true that he had lost his taste for literature, but he affirmed that 'if I had to 
live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some 
music at least once every week' (Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin, 

[ 20 English physicist and chemist (1791-1867) who made revolutionary discoveries 
concerning electricity.] 

[ 21 Leader of a small sect of independent Presbyterians in the eighteenth century.] 

132 Matthew Arnold 

being, we may be sure, by the zeal for giving a jejune and contemptible 
education. Kings have been their nursing fathers, and queens have been 
their nursing mothers, but not for this. The mediaeval Universities came 
into being, because the supposed knowledge, delivered by Scripture and the 
Church, so deeply engaged men's hearts, by so simply, easily, and power- 
fully relating itself to their desire for conduct, their desire for beauty. All 
other knowledge was dominated by this supposed knowledge and was sub- 
ordinated to it, because of the surpassing strength of the hold which it 
gained upon the affections of men, by allying itself profoundly with their 
sense for conduct, their sense for beauty. 

But now, says Professor Huxley, conceptions of the universe fatal to the 
notions held by our forefathers have been forced upon us by physical sci- 
ence. Grant to him that they are thus fatal, that the new conceptions must 
and will soon become current everywhere, and that every one will finally 
perceive them to be fatal to the beliefs of our forefathers. The need of 
humane letters, as they are truly called, because they serve the paramount 
desire in men that good should be forever present to them, the need of 
humane letters, to establish a relation between the new conceptions, and 
our instinct for beauty, our instinct for conduct, is only the more visible. 
The Middle Age could do without humane letters, as it could do without 
the study of nature, because its supposed knowledge was made to engage 
its emotions so powerfully. Grant that the supposed knowledge disappears, 
its power of being made to engage the emotions will of course disappear 
along with it, but the emotions themselves, and their claim to be engaged 
and satisfied, will remain. Now if we find by experience that humane letters 
have an undeniable power of engaging the emotions, the importance of 
humane letters in a man's training becomes not less, but greater, in pro- 
portion to the success of modern science in extirpating what it calls 
'mediaeval thinking/ 

Have humane letters, then, have poetry and eloquence, the power here 
attributed to them of engaging the emotions, and do they exercise it? And 
if they have it and exercise it, how do they exercise it, so as to exert an influ- 
ence upon man's sense for conduct, his sense for beauty? Finally, even if 
they both can and do exert an influence upon the senses in question, how 
are they to relate to them the results, the modern results, of natural 
science? All these questions may be asked. First, have poetry and eloquence 
the power of calling out the emotions? The appeal is to experience. Experi- 
ence shows that for the vast majority of men, for mankind in general, they 


have the power. Next, do they exercise it? They do. But then, how do they 
exercise it so as to affect man's sense for conduct, his sense for beauty? 
And this is perhaps a case for applying the Preacher's words: Though a 
man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea, farther, though a wise 
man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it/ * Why should it 
be one thing, in its effect upon the emotions, to say, Taticnce is a virtue/ 
and quite another thing, in its effect upon the emotions, to say with Homer, 

ttafjTov y<*9 Moipai ^ujiov fleoav dvftQawtoioiv t 

'for an enduring heart have the destinies appointed to the children of 
men'? Why should it be one thing, in its effect upon the emotions, to say 
with the philosopher Spinoza, 22 Felicitas in ea consistit quod homo suum 
esse conservare potest 'Man's happiness consists in his being able to pre- 
serve his own essence/ and quite another thing, in its effect upon the emo- 
tions, to say with the Gospel, 23 What is a man advantaged, if he gain the 
whole world, and lose himself, forfeit himself?' How does this difference of 
effect arise? I cannot tell, and I am not much concerned to know; the im- 
portant thing is that it docs arise, and that we can profit by it. But how, 
finally, arc poetry and eloquence to exercise the power of relating the mod- 
ern results of natural science to man's instinct for conduct, his instinct for 
beauty? And here again I answer that I do not know /iow they will exercise 
it, but that they can and will exercise it I am sure. I do not mean that 
modern philosophical poets and modern philosophical moralists are to 
come and relate for us, in express terms, the results of modern scientific 
research to our instinct for conduct, our instinct for beauty. But I mean 
that we shall find, as a matter of experience, if we know the best that has 
been thought and uttered in the world, we shall find that the art and poetry 
and eloquence of men who lived, perhaps, long ago, who had the most 
limited natural knowledge, who had the most erroneous conceptions about 
many important matters, we shall find that this art, and poetry, and elo- 
quence, have in fact not only the power of refreshing and delighting us, 
they have also the power, such is the strength and worth, in essentials, of 
their authors' criticism of life, they have a fortifying, and elevating, and 
quickening, and suggestive power, capable of wonderfully helping us to 

* Ecclesiastes, vni, 1 7. 
t Iliad, xxiv, 49. 

[ aa Famous Dutch philosopher, of Jewish descent (1632-77).] 
[ a3 Matthew, xvi, 26.] 

134 Matthew Arnold 

relate the results of modern science to our need for conduct, our need for 
beauty. Homer's conceptions of the physical universe were, I imagine, gro- 
tesque; but really, under the shock of hearing from modern science that 
'the world is not subordinated to man's use, and that man is not the cyno- 
sure of things terrestrial/ I could, for my own part, desire no better com- 
fort than Homer's line which I quoted just now, 

'for an enduring heart have the destinies appointed to the children of men'! 

And the more that men's minds are cleared, the more that the results of 
science are frankly accepted, the more that poetry and eloquence come to 
be received and studied as what in truth they really are, the criticism of 
life by gifted men, alive and active with extraordinary power at an unusual 
number of points; so much the more will the value of humane letters, and 
of art also, which is an utterance having a like kind of power with theirs, 
be felt and acknowledged, and their place in education be secured. 

Let us therefore, all of us, avoid indeed as much as possible any invidious 
comparison between the merits of humane letters, as means of education, 
and the merits of the natural sciences. But when some President of a Sec- 
tion for Mechanical Science insists on making the comparison, and tells us 
that 'he who in his training has substituted literature and history for nat- 
ural science has chosen the less useful alternative/ let us make answer to 
him that the student of humane letters only, will, at least, know also the 
great general conceptions brought in by modern physical science; for sci- 
ence, as Professor Huxley says, forces them upon us all. But the student of 
the natural sciences only, will, by our very hypothesis, know nothing of 
humane letters; not to mention that in setting himself to be perpetually 
accumulating natural knowledge, he sets himself to do what only specialists 
have in general the gift for doing genially. And so he will probably be unsat- 
isfied, or at any rate incomplete, and even more incomplete than the stu- 
dent of humane letters only. 

I once mentioned in a school-report, how a young man in one of our 
English training colleges having to paraphrase the passage in Macbeth 

Can'st thou not minister to a mind diseased? 

turned this line into, 'Can you not wait upon the lunatic?' And I remarked 
what a curious state of things it would be, if every pupil of our national 
schools knew, let us say, that the moon is two thousand one hundred and 


sixty miles in diameter, and thought at the same time that a good para- 
phrase for 

Can'st thou not minister to a mind diseased? 

was, 'Can you not wait upon the lunatic?' If one is driven to choose, I 
think I would rather have a young person ignorant about the moon's diam- 
eter, but aware that 'Can you not wait upon the lunatic?' is bad, than a 
young person whose education had been such as to manage things the other 

Or to go higher than the pupils of our national schools. I have in my 
mind's eye a member of our British Parliament who comes to travel here 
in America, who afterwards relates his travels, and who shows a really 
masterly knowledge of the geology of this great country and of its mining 
capabilities, but who ends by gravely suggesting that the United States 
should borrow a prince from our Royal Family, and should make him their 
king, and should create a House of Lords of great landed proprietors after 
the pattern of ours; and then America, he thinks, would have her future 
happily and perfectly secured. Surely, in this case, the President of the 
Section for Mechanical Science would himself hardly say that our member 
of Parliament, by concentrating himself upon geology and mineralogy, and 
so on, and not attending to literature and history, had 'chosen the more 
useful alternative.' 

If then there is to be separation and option between humane letters on 
the one hand, and the natural sciences on the other, the great majority of 
mankind, all who have not exceptional and overpowering aptitudes for'the 
study of nature, would do well, I cannot but think, to choose to be edu- 
cated in humane letters rather than in the natural sciences. Letters will call 
out their being at more points, will make them live more. 

I said that before I ended I would just touch on the question of classical 
education, and I will keep my word. Even if literature is to retain a large 
place in our education, yet Latin and Greek, say the friends of progress, 
will certainly have to go. Greek is the grand offender in the eyes of these 
gentlemen. The attackers of the established course of study think that 
against Greek, at any rate, they have irresistible arguments. Literature may 
perhaps be needed in education, they say; but why on earth should it be 
Greek literature? Why not French or German? Nay, 'has not an English-, 
man models in his own literature of every kind of excellence?' 24 As before, 
it is not on any weak pleadings of my own that I rely for convincing the 

[ 94 An inexact quotation of Huxley's words.] 

156 Matthew Arnold 

gainsayers; it is on the constitution of human nature itself, and on the 
instinct of self-preservation in humanity. The instinct for beauty is set in 
human nature, as surely as the instinct for knowledge is set there, or the 
instinct for conduct. If the instinct for beauty is served by Greek litera- 
ture and art as it is served by no other literature and art, we may trust to 
the instinct of self-preservation in humanity for keeping Greek as part of 
our culture. We may trust to it for even making the study of Greek more 
prevalent than it is now. Greek will come, I hope, some day to be studied 
more rationally than at present; but it will be increasingly studied as men 
increasingly feel the need in them for beauty, and how powerfully Greek 
art and Greek literature can serve this need. Women will again study 
Greek, as Lady Jane Grey 2B did; I believe that in that chain of forts, with 
which the fair host of the Amazons are now engirdling our English univer- 
sities, I find that here in America, in colleges like Smith College in Massa- 
chusetts, and Vassar College in the State of New York, and in the happy 
families of the mixed universities out West, they are studying it already. 
Defuit una mihi symmetria prisca, The antique symmetry was the one 
thing wanting to me/ said Leonardo da Vinci; and he was an Italian. I will 
not presume to speak for the Americans, but I am sure that, in the Eng- 
lishman, the want of this admirable symmetry of the Greeks is a thousand 
times more great and crying than in any Italian. The results of the want 
show themselves most glaringly, perhaps, in our architecture, but they 
show themselves, also, in all our art. Fit details strictly combined, in view 
of a large general result nobly conceived; that is just the beautiful sym- 
metria prisca of the Greeks, and it is just where we English fail, where all 
our art fails. Striking ideas we have, and well executed details we have; but 
that high symmetry which, with satisfying and delightful effect, combines 
them, we seldom or never have. The glorious beauty of the Acropolis at 
Athens did not come from single fine things stuck about on that hill, a 
statue here, a gateway there; no, it arose from all things being perfectly 
combined for a supreme total effect. What must not an Englishman feel 
about our deficiencies in this respect, as the sense for beauty, whereof this 
symmetry is an essential element, awakens and strengthens within him! 
what will not one day be his respect and desire for Greece and its sym- 
metria prisca, when the scales drop from his eyes as he walks the London 
streets, and he sees such a lesson in meanness, as the Strand, for instance, 
in its true deformity! But here we are coming to our friend Mr. Ruskin's 

[ a5 Great-granddaughter of Henry VII. Executed in 1554 because of her husband's 
and her father's complicity in rebellion against Mary Tudor.] 


province, 20 and I will not intrude upon it, for he is its very sufficient 

And so we at last find, it seems, we find flowing in favour of the human- 
ities the natural and necessary stream of things, which seemed against them 
when we started. The 'hairy quadruped furnished with a tail and pointed 
ears, probably arboreal in his habits/ this good fellow carried hidden in his 
nature, apparently, something destined to develop into a necessity for 
humane letters. Nay, more; we seem finally to be even led to the further 
conclusion that our hairy ancestor carried in his nature, also, a necessity 
for Greek. 

And, therefore, to say the truth, I cannot really think that humane letters 
arc in much actual danger of being thrust out from their leading place in 
education, in spite of the array of authorities against them at this moment. 
So long as human nature is what it is, their attractions will remain irresist- 
ible. As with Greek, so with letters generally: they will some day come, we 
may hope, to be studied more rationally, but they will not lose their place. 
What will happen will rather be that there will be crowded into education 
other matters besides, far too many; there will be, perhaps, a period of 
unsettlcment and confusion and false tendency; but letters will not in the 
end lose their leading place. If they lose it for a time, they will get it back 
again. We shall be brought back to them by our wants and aspirations. 
And a poor humanist may possess his soul in patience, neither strive nor 
cry, admit the energy and brilliancy of the partisans of physical science, 
and their present favour with the public, to be far greater than his own, 
and still have a happy faith that the nature of things works silently on 
behalf of the studies which he loves, and that, while we shall all have to 
acquaint ourselves with the great results reached by modern science, and 
to give ourselves as much training in its disciplines as we can conveniently 
carry, yet the majority of men will always require humane letters; and so 
much the more, as they have the more and the greater results of science to 
relate to the need in man for conduct, and to the need in him for beauty. 

[ 20 Ruskin (1819-1900) often wrote about the ugliness of Victorian life and urged 
people to take a different attitude toward art from that which he found prevalent among 

Norman Foerster 

([ Norman Foerster (1878 ) has been for many years one of the 
best-known teachers of literature in the United States. Educated at 
Harvard, he taught at the universities of Wisconsin and North 
Carolina; afterward he was Director of the School of Letters at the 
University of Iowa, 1930-44. He is the author of works on literary 
criticism and American literature (American Criticism, 1928; The 
American Scholar, 1929; Towards Standards, 1931)* Deeply inter 
estcd in the humanities and their role in American collegiate educa- 
tion, he has written several books (The American State University, 
1937; The Future of the Liberal College, 1938; The Humanities 
and the Common Man, 1946) in which he argues cogently for the 
fundamental importance of 'humanistic' training. 


,N EDUCATION inspired by the humanistic ideal will be a 
liberal education. It alone is fully worthy of the dignity of man. Its object 
is clear: to liberate the young from ignorance, prejudice, foolishness, and 
the like; to aid them to attain freedom through realization of their capaci- 
ties as men and women. An education aiming at something less than the 
human is in so far barbarous, for example the slavish education of the 
totalitarian state, 1 or a vocational education which degrades men to tools. 
To be sure, men must have vocations, and therefore preparation ranging 
from a few weeks or months to a term of years, according to the calling 
selected, but such preparation, whether narrowly or broadly conceived, is 
not what we mean by liberal education. 

When liberal education arose in ancient Greece, it was the discipline of 
free men the unfree learned the vocations. Today the division is not 

[ l Compare Livingstone, 'Education and the Training of Character* (pp. 150-65), 
which has many observations relevant to this essay.] 

FROM The Humanities and the Common Man, 1946. Reprinted by permission of the 
University of North Carolina Press. 


between classes but within the individual. To make a living he works forty 
hours a week, more or less; to live he has all the rest, to live freely, as he 
chooses. Only a relatively few men can have vocations that exercise their 
full humanity. The vast majority can feel free only in their free time, and 
they want more and more free time. Whatever the value of their vocational 
work to themselves and to the state, the value of their free time is even 
greater both to themselves and to the state as well. For the state needs 
citizens 2 even more than it needs shopkeepers, carpenters, bankers, lawyers, 
needs men who are more than instruments in the work of the world, who 
experience life in many ways, develop many interests, play a role in the 
formation of that public opinion which is the real government of the dem- 
ocratic state, and attain a morale high enough to sustain the state in peace 
and war. The most civilized state will, if resources and manpower are equal, 
be the strongest, happiest, and most memorable. 

From the point of view of the American state, therefore, the function of 
liberal education, as President Roosevelt said at Jefferson's alma mater, 3 
is that of 'training men for citizenship in a great republic/ 'This,' he went 
on to say, 'was in the spirit of the old America, and it is, I believe, in the 
spirit of the America of today. The necessities of our time demand that 
men avoid being set in grooves, that they avoid the occupational predesti- 
nation of the older world. . . Every form of cooperative human endeavor 
cries out for men and women who, in their thinking processes, will know 
something of the broader aspects of any given problem/ Clearly, the states 
of the Union cannot afford, in their public universities, the multiplication 
of occupational curricula that offer what Edmund Burke 4 somewhere calls 
'tricking short-cuts and little fallacious facilities/ Even in the professions 
liberal training is gravely hindered by the motivation of the student, who, 
as another of our presidents Woodrow Wilson put it, 'will be immersed 
in the things that touch his profit and loss, and a man is not free to think 
inside that territory/ 

Liberal education is one thing and vocational education another, and no 
amount of sophistry about liberal education 'in a new sense of the term' 
will alter the fact. That they differ in principle has been recognized from 
ancient times to the present. As they were apart in ancient Greece, so they 
were in the Middle Ages, when an education in the seven liberal arts 5 was 

[ a See Newman, p. 113: 'If then a practical end must be assigned to a University 
course, I say it is that of training good members* of society/] 
[ 3 Jefferson attended the College of William and Mary.] 
[ 4 The great British orator and statesman (1729-97).] 
[ 5 Grammar, rhetoric, logic, music, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy.] 

140 Norman Foerster 

prescribed for every student before he turned to his professional prepara- 
tion. They were apart again in the Renaissance. In the Mantuan school of 
Vittorino, 8 for instance, which merits a few words here because it blended 
so well the classical and Christian traditions, the aim, as stated by W. H. 
Woodward, was 'to lay foundations in liberal culture to serve as the neces- 
sary preliminaries to specific training for careers/ As a humanist educator, 
Vittorino da Feltre sought to create 'the complete citizen/ or, to say the 
same thing another way, 'to secure the harmonious development of mind, 
body, and character/ The curriculum was limited by the meagre scientific 
knowledge then available, but it supplemented the humanities with mathe- 
matics and some natural science (astrology was discarded for astronomy). 
Ancient culture was not pursued in abstraction but focused earnestly on 
the needs of the present. As for individual differences, Vittorino consid- 
ered, 'almost with reverence, the tastes and bent of each of his pupils/ 
Before going on to professional study his pupils stayed with him 'until they 
had passed their twenty-first year/ On the whole, his school might well 
serve as a fruitful source of suggestion for the liberal college in modern 
America, as it has served for secondary education in modern Europe. Our 
high schools accomplish something in liberal education and could accom- 
plish more, but under our system it is the responsibility of the college to 
complete the program, postponing occupational training till it has been 
completed if necessary till the student has passed his twenty-first year. 

But the beguiling hope persists: Could not liberal education be attempted 
through vocational education? Many persons, like John Dewey 7 in his 
article in Fortune in 1944, have argued that liberal education as we have 
known it from ancient till recent times is a relic of the pre-democratic and 
pre-scientific past, and that today the appropriate education must be tech- 
nical and vocational. It is frankly admitted that our job-centered training 
has been too narrow and mechanical. So we should set about 'liberalizing 
our technical and vocational education/ How this is to be done has not 
been made very clear. One might suppose, to take a concrete example, that 
a course in Advanced Clothing would be so taught as to lead the student 
back to earlier conceptions of costume, eventually to Greek costume and 
hence to Greek art and hence to the whole Greek view of life, perhaps 
attracting the student to an elective in ancient civilization which he would 

'feed into' his vocational preparation. But this is not what Dr. Dewey 

[ 6 Compare Livingstone, 'Education and the Training of Character/ p. 159.] 
[ T Contemporary American philosopher whose writings have had considerable influ- 
ence on educational practices, especially in primary and secondary schools (see p. 146).] 


means. His great object is to make the student modern, that is, scientific. 
The past, lingering in our conceptions and standards, is only a clog that 
prevents our going forward with undivided zeal toward "the scientific way 
of life/ Vocational education must be liberalized by showing how modern 
industry rests on scientific processes. What this would seem to mean, in 
our course on Advanced Clothing, is that the student would be brought to 
'awareness of the scientific processes embodied* in designing, constructing, 
and preserving clothing and in relating contemporary clothing to contem- 
porary social forces. Whatever it means the net result might be the im- 
provement of vocational education but could not be the improvement of 
liberal education. 

If liberal education is not concerned with vocational skills, it is pro- 
foundly concerned with other skills and abilities. There are many things 
which the student, as a human being, should be able to do. He should be 
able to care for his body, his physical welfare. He should be able to speak, 
to read, to write, on a plane suited to his college years and later life. He 
should know how to think: how to think in the concrete terms of science, 
how to think in the abstract manner of mathematics and philosophy, and 
how to think (and feel and will) in the humanistic realm of value- judg- 
ments. He should be able to relate his growing abilities and knowledge in 
the gradual development of a philosophy of life to which he is willing pro- 
visionally to commit himself. He should be able to relate his developing 
philosophy to active experience in living, to complete the revolving circle 
of thought and action. Through the discipline of his entire nature he will 
come into ever fuller possession of himself as a human being and as a par- 
ticular person. 

Something like this set of skills and abilities is agreed upon by virtually 
all who profess belief in liberal education. The list may never be altogether 
the same, and differences in emphasis will appear, but on the whole the 
objectives are sufficiently agreed upon. There is a fundamental cleavage, 
however, between those who assert that liberal education is concerned only 
with abilities and those who assert that it involves both abilities and 

The tendency has been especially marked among educationists to limit 
the objectives to abilities, using knowledge only as means. What sort of 
person, they ask, do we want the student to be when we are through with 
him? What do we want to have happen to him in consequence of his edu- 
cation? Once we have decided upon the end-product, it will be easy to plan 
a curriculum and hire and fire teachers according to their success in chang- 

142 Norman Foerster 

ing the student as we want him changed. The student is to be conditioned, 
the teacher is to be approved or purged. This totalitarian parody of liberal 
education I have stated it crudely because I have heard it stated crudely 
shows some signs of becoming a menace in a society floundering for lack 
of assured values. America today has more reason than England had in 
1935 to heed the warning then sounded by John Murray, principal of Uni- 
versity College, Exeter. 'Any dictator/ he cried, 'might see his chance in 
the present state of the universities that have sold themselves to utility. If 
the universities have lost their humanism, or the prophetic and magisterial 
tones in preaching it, need a dictator hesitate? From him that hath not 
shall be taken away even that which he hath/ 

Protection against this perversion is offered by those who assert that 
liberal education involves not only abilities but common knowledge, com- 
mon knowledge not of anything at random but of the liberating best that 
man has said and done. Even if the goal were allowed to be abilities alone, 
it could be attained most effectively by the use of the best materials. After 
all is anyone so crass as to maintain that the history of Peru would do as 
well as the history of modern Europe, the literature of the Philippines as 
well as the literature of England, an African dialect as well as French, the 
science of numismatics as well as the science of biology? The knowledge to 
be learned may obviously be more or less relevant. Is there, then, a most 
relevant knowledge? Is there an indispensable best? If so, who shall say 
what it is? At this point the specialist professor will break down in utter 
helplessness. But even he, if he could drop his pose or his politics, would 
quickly begin a list of essentials, or of things so important that they might 
as well be called essentials. There is a large area of general agreement as to 
the best that man has said and done, large enough for the planning of a 
curriculum. This best will guard the student against conditioning to the 
intellectual fashions and veering passions of the day, fashions and passions 
to which the faculty itself is not immune. He will have at hand a standard 
by which to measure the instruction he is receiving. Even if the knowledge 
opened to him is not necessarily the best, it will have high value as com- 
mon knowledge, shared knowledge, tending to unite his and other students" 
minds in common experience, common duties, common memories. Liberal 
education based on common knowledge is social education; vocational 
education separating youth into groups according to special interests is 
unsocial education. 

When a common fund of knowledge has been selected, the liberal col- 
lege will begin to take on a definiteness of type comparable to that of the 


professional schools. Once this definiteness of type has been fully estab- 
lished in terms of objectives, curriculum and teaching methods, the uni- 
form requirement of specific knowledge will seem no more arbitrary than 
it does today in training for the professions. If something like half of the 
total Bachelor's program is made common, the other half will be available 
for election among advanced liberal studies, or for concentration upon a 
segment of the field of learning, to be chosen according to individual dif- 
ferences in interest and ability and to be studied in the same liberal 


What should the common studies be? In a humanistic reorientation, it 
goes without saying, the humanities will take on a new importance. But 
can we be satisfied with the thesis of President Conant 8 that a general 
education must be based on literature, the arts, and philosophy, even if we 
add history, which he has elsewhere predicted will be the most widely 
required study in the next fifty years? All these are humanities; is the 
humanistic spirit content to ignore science? The answer must be clear 
and unequivocal. 

Historically, the answer is plain: an education permeated with the 
humanistic spirit has always included science. In ancient Greece, science 
mathematics, astronomy, some natural history was a part of liberal edu- 
cation. In the Renaissance, in the school of Vittorino, for example, it was 
likewise included. That science was sometimes disparaged by the human- 
ists of the Renaissance is not surprising, in view of the scant knowledge of 
nature then existing. Science was little more than a promise or a hope, 
while the humanities had attained a dazzling achievement as far back as 
the fifth century B.C., indeed still earlier in the greatest of all poets, Homer. 
By the late nineteenth century this contrast had disappeared: science had 
arrived, it too had attained a dazzling achievement, and it claimed and 
won its place in education. If the zeal of its opponents was occasionally 
excessive, so was the zeal of its proponents. One must regret the mutual 
hostility of the two sides that attended the arrival of science in education 
and that lingers with us to this day, because it was not and is not jus- 

The hostility is the result of mistaken attitudes. On the one side, scien- 
tists have often depreciated the humanities as not concerned with knowl- 
edge, on the assumption that there is only one kind of knowledge, scien- 

[ Of Harvard.] 

144 Norman Foerster 

tific knowledge. They have believed that science is competent, and alone 
competent, to deal securely and fruitfully with everything natural and 
human. All fields of knowledge should be freed of unvalidated guesses, 
armchair philosophizing, the drag of superstition, and be duly scientized. 
'What knowledge is of most worth?' 9 The answer is alwaysScience/ 
This attitude, as I have already suggested, comes not from science but from 
philosophy, the philosophy of naturalism. On the other side: humanists 
have often depreciated the sciences as materialistic, as if they were respon- 
sible for the sordid world of the machine, of big business and little living, 
a world in which things are in the saddle and ride mankind. 10 When this 
has been their attitude, humanists have forgotten that the source of what 
they term materialism is, as Michael Pupin n rightly declared, not in 'any 
material structure raised by the genius of man,' but 'in the deepest depths 
of the human soul where selfishness and greed, hatred and fear* have dis- 
placed 'beauty and goodness/ The evil from which we suffer lies in the 
realm of the humanities. It was not caused by scientists and engineers and 
will never be destroyed by them. 

Between a naturalistic philosophy reducing man wholly to the flux of 
nature and a humanistic philosophy emphasizing his distinctive humanity 
the conflict is real and, in the end, irreconcilable. But between science and 
the humanities there can be no real conflict whatever. That men in these 
two broad domains can come together in mutual respect was indicated, 
for instance, a number of years ago in a public statement. Fifteen distin- 
guished American scientists (including such names as Walcott, Osborn, 
Conklin, Pupin, Mayo, Millikan) 12 issued a joint statement with a similar 
group of religious leaders and men of affairs, regretting the antagonism 
between men in the domains of science and the humanities, specifically 
religion. They declared: 'The purpose of science is to develop, without 
prejudice or preconception of any kind, a knowledge of the facts, the laws, 
and the processes of nature. The even more important task of religion, on 
the other hand, is to develop the consciences, the ideals, and the aspira- 
tions of mankind' The province of the one is natural knowledge; the prov- 
ince of the other is human values. So long as each stays within its bounds 
there can be no conflict. They are complementary, and should be co- 

[ Compare Arnold, 'Literature and Science/ pp. 120-37.] 

[ 10 From Emerson's 'Ode Inscribed to W. H. Channing/] 

["Physicist (1858-1935).] 

[ la C. D. Walcott (1850-1927), geologist; H. F. Osborn (1857-1935), paleontolo- 
gist; E. G. Conklin (1863), biologist; C. H. Mayo (1865-1939), surgeon; R. A. Mil- 
likan (1868 ), physicist. An essay by Conklin is repnnted in this volume, pp. 603-15.] 


operative. We need to know what is, we need to know what ought to be, 
and we need to know how they may be related. 

To say that science is concerned with judgments of fact and not with 
judgments of value is not, however, to deny that implications of value 
enter into science. It is precisely because of the value implications of sci- 
ence that the humanistic spirit wholeheartedly supports science. The 
human values implied and presupposed by science are twofold. 

First, it is animated by the passion to know, the quest of knowledge for 
its own sake. There is no science save as men produce it, and men produce 
it because they value it as men. Among the 'aspirations of mankind' men- 
tioned above, we must assign a high place to the desire for knowledge, 
including knowledge of nature the physical and biological constitution 
and environment of our species. To this aspiration science owes its exist- 
ence, as Dr. Einstein reminds us in a passage I have quoted. 13 To this aspira- 
tion science also owes its capacity to survive. Whenever the aspiration for 
truth for its own sake declines, science also declines. This happened, for 
instance, when a Nazi leadership sought to evoke the miracle of a 'German 
science/ American men of science were revolted by this perversion not as 
scientists (science revolts at nothing) but as humanists. The humanistic 
spirit has, as one of its first and finest attributes, a passion for the disinter- 
ested, impartial pursuit of truth. In the process of education it is commu- 
nicated with difficulty, and demands time and hard work. Yet innumerable 
college graduates can say of some scientist what one of them, for example, 
said of his beloved teacher of zoology, Henry V. Wilson, 14 who 'first re- 
vealed to my hazy young mind the fact that there was a vast field of knowl- 
edge where Truth, within certain recognizable limits, was not a matter of 
opinion, nor of taste, nor a recollection of historical facts, but a thing of 
demonstrable law. . . He is the embodiment of the scientific spirit which 
seeks Truth always, without prejudices, without preconceptions, not caring 
where the search leads but careful always that in the utmost detail the 
distinction be preserved between that which is known and that which is 
supposed/ Now, this distinction is one which is nowhere so impressively 

[ 13 Einstein said that whatever scientific method in the hand of man will produce 
'depends entirely on the nature of the aims alive in mankind. Once these aims exist, the 
scientific method furnishes means to realize them. But it cannot furnish the aims them- 
selves. The scientific method itself would not have led to anything, it would not even 
have been born at all without a passionate stnving for clear understanding. Perfection of 
means and confusion of aims seem, in my opinion, to characterize our age/] 

[ 14 Scientist (1863-1939), for many years a teacher at the University of North Caro- 

146 Norman Foerster 

communicated as in the sciences of nature, which consequently merit an 
important place in liberal education. 

Secondly, science is animated by the desire for use. Knowledge is not 
only an end in itself, but a means to further ends. As Francis Bacon taught, 
knowledge is power, and may be aimed at 'the relief of man's estate/ 
'inventions that may in some degree subdue and overcome the necessities 
and miseries of humanity' and also, we may add, contribute to man's 
chances of happiness. Science is thus instrumental in the achieving of 
values already defined by the humanistic spirit. For a hundred years the 
instrumental service of science has tended to obscure its intrinsic value, so 
that T. H. Huxley complained, as long ago as 1866, that science had been 
degraded to 'a sort of comfort-grinding machine/ On the intellectual plane 
the same tendency has led to a whole philosophy of instrumentalism, asso- 
ciated with the name of John Dewey. The motivation of this philosophy 
is human purpose, action, advantage, working experimentally in the over- 
coming of difficulties, and by a strange inversion truth itself is conceived 
as serviceability. This conclusion is not acceptable to the disinterested pur- 
suit of truth which we call science. As W. T. Stace 1B has said, 'The ideal of 
the scientific mind has been, throughout the history of the west from 
Greek times to the present day, not to appraise theories by their capacity 
for helping human beings, but by their correspondence with the facts of 
the objective world. Of course science has sought, among other things, to 
discover truths which shall be of service to men. But it is a monstrous per- 
version to suggest that the quality of being serviceable to men is what, in 
the opinion of science, has rendered its discoveries true/ 

The humanistic spirit, believing in the pursuit of truth as an end in itself, 
believing also in the use of truth as a means to further ends, must here- 
after give unstinted support to the great sciences of nature set in motion 
by the Hellenic mind and accelerated enormously by our own age. What 
is to be said of the so-called sciences of man? 

The social sciences are relatively new and undeveloped subjects. With 
the exception of political science, heir of a political philosophy already 
mature as far back as Plato and Aristotle, the sciences of man in society 
came into being only a century or two ago economics in the eighteenth 
century, anthropology, sociology, and social psychology in the late nine- 
teenth century. As a distinct group or academic division comparable to 
the natural sciences and the humanities, they date from the present cen- 
tury. They owe their existence, in the form in which we have them, mainly 

[ 15 Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University.] 


to a belief that the objectives and methods of the triumphant natural sci- 
ences should next be applied to the study of human society. In the words 
of a committee report, 'in social science, as in other sciences, an attempt 
is made to describe, rather than to evaluate, the subject matter. The goal 
is to understand the social order, to discover important concrete facts, and 
to find regularities that may be assumed to obtain beyond the cases ob- 
served and described/ A social scientist, emulating the impartiality of the 
natural scientist, is not in a position to choose, for example, between de- 
mocracy and fascism, either in his studies or in his teaching. He is per- 
mitted no preferences, no fixed standards, no absolute values. 'As a scien- 
tist/ says Robert M. Maclver, 10 'he must be content with his world of 
relative values. Whatever his own convictions may be, he must be con- 
stantly alert not to impose them on the changeful order of things/ 

The impulse is admirable, but the results have been disappointing, and 
the suspicion is growing that methods and concepts drawn from natural 
science will not suffice for social science. The 'wavering and incalculable 
behavior' of man, in the phrase of F. W. Taussig, 17 suggests the enormous 
difficulty of a true science of man. The concept of cause and effect, as it 
appears in natural science, seems not to carry over to social science. Unlike 
other animate beings man is purposive, with a will that seems like the 
wind's will 18 of the poet. Besides, while social behavior may be observed 
with a good deal of precision, the attempt to generalize the facts in the 
form of hypotheses cannot lead to positive results because the scientific 
method of controlled experiment and verification is not available. The 
result is a prevailing haziness and sense of frustration. Twenty years hence,' 
said Torrens 10 in regard to political economy, 'there will scarcely exist a 
doubt respecting any of its fundamental principles/ Twenty years passed, 
one hundred and twenty years passed, and today the air is filled with more 
doubts than ever. Perhaps the best summary of the struggle of the social 
sciences to find themselves is that of Roscoe Pound, 20 who begins by say- 
ing that he has no quarrel with them, having taught jurisprudence for forty 
years from the sociological standpoint. 'But I do not deceive myself/ he 
says, 'as to those so-called sciences. So far as they are not descriptive, they 
are in continual flux. In the nature of things they cannot be sciences in the 
sense of physics or chemistry or astronomy. They have been organized as 

[ 16 American sociologist (1882 ).] 

[ 1T American economist ( 1 8 59-1940 ) .] 

[ 18 'A boy's will is the wind's will' (Longfellow, 'My Lost Youth').] 

[ 19 English writer on economic and political subjects (1780-1864).] 

I 20 Former Dean of Harvard Law School.] 

148 Norman Foerster 

philosophies, have been worked out on the lines of geometry, have been 
remade to theories of history, have had their period of positivism, have 
turned to social psychology, and are now in an era of neo-Kantian 21 meth- 
odology in some hands and of economic determinism or psychological 
realism or relativist skepticism or phenomenonological intuitionism in 
other hands. They do not impart wisdom; they need to be approached 
with acquired wisdom. . . They are not foundation subjects. They belong 
in the superstructure/ 

How the social sciences are eventually to find themselves and to estab- 
lish themselves as an essential part of liberal education, I shall not venture 
to suggest. One thing, however, seems very clear. They will have to derive 
theii methodology from their own subject matter, rather than from the 
natural sciences. Since their subject matter is man, they may be expected 
to draw closer to the humanities. Even the 'dismal science' of economics 
dismal in its vicious circle of 'producing wealth to produce more wealth' 
is capable of taking on a profound human relevance in the hands of a man 
like John Ruskin, 22 who does not look so foolish as he did in the good old 
days of classical political economy. A university professor wrote to me: 
'We economists too often stress some mechanical adjustment of prices or 
production when the real need is men of character and insight who can 
direct and enlighten us/ Is there any reason why economists should not 
themselves be men of character and insight? In point of fact, the researches 
of our social scientists are largely directed by concepts of human values, 
despite professions of innocence. But the values are casually assumed, 
derived from the climate of opinion rather than earned by study and hard 
reflection. The social scientist of the future, one may venture to predict, 
will be obliged to bring his subject into more fruitful relation with the 
humanities, perhaps even to restore it to its humane matrix. 

The curriculum of foundation studies, then, will be drawn mainly from 
the natural sciences and the humanities: the physical and the biological 
sciences, history, literature, art, and philosophy. It will offer, not hasty 
encyclopedic surveys of these fields, but a rich and intimate knowledge 
and experience of the best that man has learned and said and done in 
them. It will address the student, not as a future technician and specialist, 
but as a human being interested in understanding himself and his world. 

[ ai Referring to the revival or refinement of principles and methods laid down by the 
German philosopher Kant (1724-1804).] 

["Ruskin (1819-1900) wrote voluminously on economics and social reform as well 
as on art and architecture.] 


In this new task it cannot be expected to succeed until scholars in each 
subject have reconceived their aims and methods in the manner proposed, 
for one subject, by a recent collaborative book on Literary Scholarship: Its 
Aims and Methods. Only then will it be possible for us to undertake profit- 
ably the search for the concrete program of subjects and courses which will 
constitute the modern Great Curriculum equal in solidity and authority to 
the great curricula of past ages. 

Reform within the subjects, if it has not advanced far, has at least begun. 
While it continues, we may welcome serious reflection upon the more gen- 
eral problem, as in the article by William C. DeVane 23 on 'American 
Education After the War/ the book entitled Liberal Education Re- 
Examined by a committee appointed by the American Council of Learned 
Societies, and the book on The Rebirth of Liberal Education written by 
Fred B. Millett 24 for the Rockefeller Foundation. We may welcome the 
ferment of curricular thought working everywhere today in our colleges 
and universities even though so much of it seems only frivolously modish 
and leads only to a meaningless tinkering dictated by political motives. 
Yet there is a danger that our preoccupation with curricula and organi- 
zation and teaching procedures, in a word with machinery, will obscure 
the real problem. That problem, as I have tried to show, is the spirit and 
aim of the men who do the teaching, the faculty's philosophy of life and 
of education, which should give direction to all the practical decisions that 
must be made. A naturalistic philosophy has led the modern world, in 
totalitarian and democratic nations alike, toward a materialistic chaos and 
a resurgence of barbarism. An age of science has become an age of the mis- 
use of science. 25 Whether the forces of darkness will be halted no man can 
say. But this one can affirm: that if America is to play a high and civilizing 
role in the rest of the twentieth century, it will need a humanistic philoso- 
phy of life based on the concept of the dignity of man, and a humanistic 
philosophy of education that will supply our democratic society with men 
and women of intelligence and character. 

[ a3 Of Yale University.] 

[ a4 Of Wesleyan University.! 

[ fl5 See Woodward, pp. 280-81 of this volume.] 

Sir Richard Livingstone 


([Sir Richard Livingstone (1880 ) has been president of Corpus 
Christi College, Oxford, since 1933, and when he wrote these pages 
he was vice-chancellor of the university. Throughout an honored 
career as scholar and educator he has labored to persuade more 
people to become more concerned with education, including the 
education of adults. A devoted Hellenist, he has emphasized in sea- 
son and out of season the value of Hellenic ideals for modern soci- 
ety. He is thus a true follower of Matthew Arnold, and his criti- 
cism of society and culture is as pertinent to the middle of the 
twentieth century as Arnold's was to Victorian England. A good 
Hellenist is always up to date. 

His books on Hellenism include The Greek Genius and Its Mean- 
ing to Us (1915), The Pageant of Greece (1923), The Mission of 
Greece (1928), Greek Ideals and Modern Life (1935); he edited 
The Legacy of Greece (1921). To discussions of education he has 
contributed The Future in Education (1941), Education for a 
World Adrift (1943), Some Tasks for Education (1946). The last- 
named book, from which the second chapter is reprinted here, origi- 
nated as lectures given at the University of Toronto in 1945. 

Types of Governments correspond to the types of human 
nature. States are made, not from rocks and trees, but 
from the characters of their citizens which turn the scale 
and draw everything after them. Plato. 


LF THERE WERE such things as Political Shows, machinery for 
the preservation of peace would be among the exhibits. There, in a row, 
would stand a succession of designs from the Holy Alliance * (and earlier) 

[ x Between Russia, Austria, and Prussia, 1815-22.] 

FROM Some Tasks for Education, 1946. Reprinted by permission of the Oxford Uni- 
versity Press. 


down to the League of Nations, Treaties, Pacts, Covenants, Concerts of 
Europe, Military Conventions, Disarmament Projects, all of which began 
in hope and ended in failure. Many of them are powerful, many ingenious, 
but none have worked. Are the projects of our generation for preserving 
peace to be equally unsuccessful? It depends on whether we diagnose 
rightly the cause of our past failures. 

Better institutions are greatly to be desired, but the efficiency of institu- 
tions, as of machines, depends on those who operate them. The fate of a 
new League or Concert of Nations will depend on those who work it. The 
evils of the world do not come, except in a minor degree, from bad political 
machinery and will not be cured by improving it. There is a truer philoso- 
phy in the Epistle of St. James. 2 'From whence/ he asks, 'come wars and 
fightings among you?' 'Because/ we answer, 'the Disarmament Conference 
failed, or the League of Nations was imperfect, or no one had thought of 
Federal Union, or Mr. Chamberlain's diplomacy 3 was weak/ St. James was 
not the most intellectual of the Apostles, but his reply is more to the 
point: 'Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 
Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have/ The language may be 
old-fashioned, but here is the plain truth. Fundamentally the political 
problem is a problem of human character. 

Let those who doubt this truism read any period of history in detail. I 
emphasize the words 'in detail/ It is one of our greatest errors in studying 
history that we generally study it on a small scale, in textbooks and out- 
lines of history. They have their value, but they leave us with little idea of 
what history is. In the textbook, history appears simple much too simple. 
It becomes an affair of years, not, as it is in the making, of weeks, days, 
hours. The struggles, agonies, passions, and uncertainties of the time dis- 
appear; the lines and wrinkles are smoothed out, leaving a characterless 
and rather uninteresting face. Issues which at the time were confused seem 
clear, denouements 4 obvious and inevitable, and we never realize how 
near to failure were triumphs that to us seem easy, or how close to success 
were complete and disastrous failures. The mischances and blunders of 
statesmen astonish us and we shut the book saying, like Puck, 'Lord, what 
fools these mortals be'/ 5 

Such is history, read even in the best textbooks and outlines. They show 

[ a Ch. iv, ij 

[ 3 The diplomacy of appeasement. Neville Chamberlain was Prime Minister from 
1937 until 1940.] 
[ 4 Final revelations, outcomes.] 
[ B A Midsummer Night's Dream, in, ii, 115.] 

152 Sir Richard Livingstone 

only tendencies, trends, movements, results; they give the scheme of events 
as an aerial photograph gives the shape and plan of a town, but they reveal 
no more of what really happens than such a photograph reveals of the 
human life actually lived in the streets and houses of the town. To know 
that, you must leave your aeroplane, walk through the streets, enter the 
houses, and meet and mix with the inhabitants. Read textbooks by all 
means; but you will learn infinitely more from reading Macaulay's History 
of England or the three volumes of Trevelyan's England Under Queen 
Anne. There you will see what h^tory is and what determines its course. 

There are many determining factors: geography and geology, climate, 
economic conditions, scientific discovery; but above all there is the too 
often forgotten element of human nature. Not merely the accident of indi- 
vidual genius the appearance of a Cromwell, a Chatham, 6 or a Churchill, 
a Frederick or a Napoleon, a Washington or a Lincoln but the working 
of more ordinary human nature: intellectual qualities wisdom, intelli- 
gence, judgment, foresight, and their opposites; but still more, moral quali- 
tiesdisinterestedness, courage, honesty, a sense of justice and fair play, 
patience and self-mastery and the power to endure and wait and persevere 
in a clearly seen purpose, and their opposites: greed, ambition, vanity, 
pride, jealousy, bad temper, the uncontrolled tongue, the faint heart, the 
desire for ease and comfort. All these factors, eliminated from outline his- 
tories, are revealed under the microscope of a detailed study and are seen 
to be main determinants of the course of the world for achievement or 
frustration, success or failure, good or evil. Man is the real problem, 7 the 
old, the modern problem; for the new world is not so new: humanity 
changes its clothes but not its nature; Adam puts on a more elaborate and 
complicated dress but remains the old Adam. 

At this point a reader may say: 'We have heard all this before: one can- 
not open a paper without finding someone saying that civilization is in 
danger of destruction because our growth in knowledge has far outstripped 
our growth in character. Why labour truisms which no one denies? You 
are preaching to the converted and boring them/ 

I admit the justice of the criticism: I am talking truisms. But do we 
believe them to be true? And if so, why do we not do more about it? Why 
do we not try to bring our characters up to the level of our knowledge? 
Why do we not take seriously the words of Ruskin: 8 'Education does not 

[William Pitt (1708-78), English statesman and orator.] 
[ 7 See Emerson's 'Politics/ pp. 210-21.] 
'[Seep. 148.] 


mean teaching people to know what they do not know; it means teaching 
them to behave as they do not behave/ As it is, though the future of civili- 
zation depends on an improvement in human character and conduct, we 
leave the problem almost untouched, and devote our energies to construct- 
ing political machinery, ignoring the brittle human nature which so easily 
snaps, throwing the whole factory out of working. 

Progress in engineering has come largely from improved metals; the 
maker of an aeroplane or an automobile knows that success depends on the 
quality of his materials as well as on his manufacturing technique. Equally, 
progress in politics and life depends on getting improved human material 
men who will keep the laws and covenants which are so easy to construct. 
The makers of states have yet to realize this, or at any rate to act as if they 
did. Innumerable books have been recently written about the future of the 
world and the problem of peace; they have discussed every conceivable 
economic and political project; but how many of them have shown any 
perception of the obvious truth that human character is the most impor- 
tant element in the problem, or devoted any thought to the question of its 

A complicated society quickly enslaves its members to its own creations: 
the characteristic creations of the age are its science and its elaborate 
machinery, economic, social, political; they demand and rightly much 
knowledge and close attention; and they can easily make men their slaves. 
Some people frankly embrace the slavery and think that we shall be cured 
by more science, more economics, better foreign languages and a dose of 
sociology. The past gives no colour to such dreams. The advance* of these 
studies, valuable in itself, has left us morally almost where we were before 
it began: men are not less greedy, less cruel, less false than they were hun- 
dreds of years ago. Even those who realize that this treatment is not im- 
proving the patient's health show little signs of appreciating the real dis- 
ease. Most proposals for 'the reform of the curriculum' aim at making the 
patient at home in the mechanism of civilization and adept in its tech- 
niques. In this vast frame the microscopic speck of spirit for which the frame 
exists is unnoticed and neglected. Yet an age rich in material resources is 
one where human beings most need strengthening in spiritual insight and 
self-control, so that they can dominate the forces which they have created, 
and say to them in the words of the Stoic, IXCD, otix fyopai, 'I am your 
master, you are not mine/ We talk wistfully of a moratorium for scientific 
invention. The only moratorium possible and needed is one on its misuse, 
which, if we were wise and good enough, we could ourselves impose. 

154 ^ r R^^ Livingstone 

The human problem is the more urgent at the moment because the 
whole moral basis of Western Civilization threatens to slide from under 
our feet. People talk, regretfully or lightly, of the decline of church-going, 
but hardly realize that it is the outward sign of the greatest change in the 
European view of life since the conversion of the Roman world to Chris- 
tianity. For more than a thousand years the West, with but occasional 
questioning, has accepted a creed which ruled its thought and deeply col- 
oured its conduct. That creed gave to what are called the Christian virtues 
and to the rights of the individual a supernatural sanction which is not 
found in the universe as interpreted by natural science. It inspired the 
shining examples of men and women who were the lights of their genera- 
tion; for the rebellious, the heedless and the indifferent it built up a solid 
framework of traditional decent conduct within which their lives were 
lived; it was a court of appeal which asserted its law and condemned any 
infractions of it, and made offenders, if not penitent, at least uneasy. We 
can hardly expect, if the inspiration is lost, the framework shattered, and 
the court disowned, that things will go on quite as before, or that virtues 
will last when their basis and sanction disappears. Science has helped man- 
kind greatly; but it gives no support to the theory of life commonly called 
humanism. 'The democratic liberalism of the late eighteenth and early 
nineteenth centuries was the triumph of the Stoic-Christian strain of 
thought/ But Darwin's theory of Natural Selection is, 'as it applies to 
human society, a challenge to the whole humanitarian movement. . . 
Instead of dwelling on the brotherhood of man, we are now directed to 
procure the extermination of the unfit. Again, the modern doctrines of 
heredity, gained partly from the experience of breeders of stock, partly from 
practical horticulturists, partly from the statistical researches of Francis 
Galton, Karl Pearson, and their school, partly from the laws of heredity 
discovered by Mendel, 9 these doctrines have all weakened the Stoic- 
Christian ideal of democratic brotherhood/ * 

We may not realize what we are losing but we can hardly mistake the 
effects of the loss. In the last twenty years the West, at the height of its 
civilization, has seen human nature guilty of crimes to which history has 
no parallel. The ruthless iniquity of Hitler's policy may be matched in the 

[ e Galton, (1822-1911), English meteorologist and anthropologist; Pearson (1857- 
1936), English scientist, known for his Grammar of Science; Abbot C. J. Mendel (1822- 
84), botanist, famous for cxpenments concerning heredity.] 

* A. N. Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, p. tft . 


past, but not the systematic extermination of the Jews or the horrors of the 
concentration camps. The cruelties of the Russian revolution exceed those 
of any other revolution in extent if not in degree, and are not less inhuman 
or shocking because they were associated with a great social reform. Less 
startling, though more significant, is the appearance in both countries of 
new philosophies to rule life Blood and Soil in Germany, in Russia some- 
thing more indeterminate which has not yet taken definite shape. Bolshe- 
vism and Nazism are sometimes called new 'religions/ Certainly they are 
the evidence of a void in the mind, of the need of some firm principle by 
which to govern life and conduct, a god to call upon, proclaim and wor- 
ship. One cannot too often recall the profound words of Pascal, 10 'It is the 
nature of man to believe and to love: if he has not the right objects for his 
belief and love, he will attach himself to wrong ones/ Are we providing our 
citizens with true objects of love and belief? If not, where will they fix 
their love and their belief? 

Education, it seems to me, is not enough concerned with these problems. 
Since the war, there has been a keener perception of its importance, a 
livelier interest in it; but the interest has been (at least in England) mainly 
in educational machinery types of schools, curricula, and so forth not in 
that major task of education, the improvement of character. Educators 
seem interested in providing for everything except the most important 
ingredient in life. Some schools, no doubt, do provide for it well; some do 
so moderately; none probably would disclaim it as one of their aims. But 
there is nothing in our modern educational theory comparable to Plato's 
Republic still the greatest of all books on education. For Plato saw what 
we ignore, not only that education is the basis of the state, but that the 
ultimate aim and essence of education is the training of character to be 
achieved by the discipline of the body, the will, and the intelligence; there- 
fore, he planned his whole scheme to this end, yet in such a manner that 
intellectual education was in no way distorted or ignored, that the intellec- 
tual and the moral coincided. We, where we attack the problem at all, do 
so in an amateur and haphazard way. 

It is not surprising that human character has not improved, for we have 
never taken its improvement seriously in hand. We have spent time and 
careful thought on physical health; but what have we done comparable 
for the health of the character? Our system of spiritual or ethical medicine 
(if I may so phrase it) is in much the same position as medicine itself in 

[ 10 French writer on mathematics and religion (1623-62).! 

156 Sir Richard Livingstone 

the eighteenth century: good in patches, but wholly inadequate and gen- 
erally unprogressive, and needing, if any real advance is to be made, hard 
thought, exact study, and methodical treatment. 

Three objections will probably be made to the suggestion that we should 
do more to train human character for its tasks in the world. It will be said 
that we already do it; that it cannot be done; that it is very dangerous to 
attempt it. 

Let us consider these objections in turn. Something has been done, it is 
true, to train human character; and here and there a success has been 
achieved which shows what immense advances are within our power if the 
problem is taken seriously. But in general the garden of school is tended by 
conscientious men, who are content with things as they are, but who have 
never considered whether methods of cultivation cannot be radically im- 
proved and better varieties of flowers produced. If anyone really thinks that 
we are tackling the problem effectively, he has only to open his eyes and 
look at the world, not ignoring his own people. 

But we need not therefore exchange complacency for despair, or agree 
with critics who say that nothing can be done, that character cannot be 
changed, that men are fettered in the prison of human nature. We are like 
the man in Mark Twain's story who spent sixteen years in jail and then 
opened the door, which had been unlocked all the time, and walked out; 
we are in a prison in which humanity has been content to serve a need- 
lessly long sentence and from which, with rather more effort, it could 
escape. For the remarkable thing is how easy it is to train character. Indeed, 
it is alarmingly easy. Consider what Hitler, who has justly been called an 
'arch-educationist/ did in six years with German youth. Or turning to the 
school, consider what Thomas Arnold n of Rugby did, partly by the force 
of his character, partly by means deliberately chosen, but without any 
elaborate study of the problem. 

I have much more sympathy with the third type of critic, who says that 
the moulding of character is too dangerous an operation to undertake. But 
I note that his attitude is that of the servant in the Parable of the Talents, 12 
who was alarmed at the adventurous methods of his fellow servants, took 
no risks with his talent, and was condemned for not making use of his 
opportunities. And in fact you cannot educate a child at all without form- 
ing its mind. Do sensible parents bring up their children as greedy, dirty, 

[" Famous headmaster of Rugby School. He was the father of Matthew Arnold.] 
[ la Matthew, xxv, 14-30.] 


cruel, selfish, false? Be as libertarian as you will, you are still 'prejudicing' 
the mind in a particular direction to libertarianism; the choice is yours r 
not the child's. You are 'conditioning' it to feel that a certain atmosphere, 
which you approve, is good, and that its opposite is bad. 

If we really wish a child to grow up unwarped by any external influence, 
we must take a leaf out of the book of the Egyptian king who, wishing to 
discover the natural language of men, "took two newborn children and gave 
them to a shepherd to bring up among his flocks. He gave charge that none 
should speak any word in their hearing; they were to lie by themselves in a 
lonely hut, and in due season the shepherd was to bring goats and give the 
children their milk. Psammetichus did this because he wished to hear what 
speech would first come from the children's lips, when they had passed the 
age of indistinct babbling.' * Our libertarians are less thorough in their 
experiments than Psammetichus. 

Of course, any attempt to train character is dangerous and must be 
undertaken with full perception of its danger. Many notes must be har- 
monized if the full music of the human instrument is to sound: gentleness 
and courage, boldness and prudence, inquisitiveness and reverence, toler- 
ance and firmness, confidence and humility, stability and freedom. It is a 
difficult and risky attempt to make a man, and it is tempting to turn aside 
from the task. But we have only to look round to see the disastrous results 
of declining it, as, for the most part, we have hitherto done. 

There is, I believe, a sign of coming change, no greater at the moment 
than the little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand,' which Elijah 1S 
saw in the rainless skies over Carmel. The last war produced the phrase, 
'self-determination,' out of which little good came. This war has produced 
another phrase, the 're-education' of enemy countries (in the last war we 
never talked of re-educating Germany), and the word has a significance 
beyond its surface meaning. It is the first sign that we are beginning to 
appreciate the true nature of the political problem, and to see that it is a 
question of human nature rather than of organization. It is only a hint: 
the idea at present is vague and limited to the re-education of our enemies. 
We have not yet decided what re-education means or how it is to be done, 
much less made any start with it; nor have we considered that we ourselves 
as well as Germany and Japan may need re-education. But the emergence 
of the phrase is significant of things to come. Re-education is what the 

* Herodotus n. 2. 

[ 13 1 Kings, xviii, 44.] 

158 Sir Richard Livingstone 

world needs. It can be achieved only if we attack it frontally with clear 
knowledge of the aim in view and exact consideration of the best means to 
achieve it. 

In a future not, one hopes, too distant, we may see something in educa- 
tion corresponding to the practice of medicine. If a person is inclined to 
bronchitis, if he is weak in some of his organs, his heart, say, or his lungs, 
a doctor prescribes for him a certain regimen. If he is rheumatic, he is 
warned not to do certain things and is told to do certain other things. In 
physical medicine a treatment is devised to preserve health and to guard 
against the particular disease to which the individual is inclined. Might we 
not, should we not, have a similar aim and comparable treatment in edu- 
cation to preserve the health of the character? Parents and, to some extent, 
schoolmasters try to produce antidotes to the undesirable tendencies of 
their pupils, but might not that practice be carried much further? Might 
we not devise a system of education which shall try to cure the weaknesses 
to which human beings are inclined and to encourage the virtues which 
they require? We do it to some extent, but might we not do it much more 
methodically and scientifically? No doubt a system of moral or spiritual 
medicine would be uncertain and tentative, but so also is physical 

How should we proceed? We should decide what virtues we require and 
the best way to develop them. We should note the merits and defects of 
our own and other nations and try to discover their origins. We should 
consider the special weaknesses of our own age, the peculiar temptations 
and dangers, moral and spiritual, to which it is exposed, and how to coun- 
teract them. We shall get increasing help from psychologists, indispen- 
sable though dangerous advisers, whose theories may be advantageously 
checked by common sense, by the practical knowledge of which a great 
store is locked up in the minds of active teachers, and by the study of 
actual experiments in 'teaching men to behave as they do not behave/ in 
the making of character. 

All great educational thinkers have been interested in the problem, but 
experiments are more instructive than theories, because theories show what 
is hoped, experiments what is achieved. Some of these experiments show 
how much can be done when a real attempt is made to mould character. 
One of the most interesting examples comes from England. It is unfortu- 
nate that Thomas Arnold, the great headmaster of Rugby, is best known 
in the present age from Lytton Strachey's caricature. 14 A real introduction 

[ 14 In his Eminent Victorians.] 


to the man and his work can be found in the Life written by one of his 
pupils, Dean Stanley. There we see an educator who knew what he wanted 
to do, held that education is, above all, concerned with character, and 
believed that character must be trained through the intellect as well as in 
other ways. 

Arnold was as wholehearted in his aim as Plato, but his methods are less 
thought out, and they belong more to his own time. He is the greatest 
figure in English education, and he created an ideal, a type, and a method 
which have profoundly influenced the nation and still persist. One would 
study also such different experiments in character-making as that of Vit- 
torino da Feltre, 15 and the training of a Jesuit, and many more, past and 
present. They must be studied objectively and without prejudice, with an 
eye to their failures and defects as well as to their success, that we may 
know not only what to imitate but what to avoid. Nor should we omit 
experiments that we may mistrust or condemn, such as those of Soviet 
Russia (of which we know very little at first hand) or of Nazi Ger- 

Finally, we may learn something from a remarkable experiment to which 
England has recently been forcibly submitted. Since 1939 we have had an 
education in behaviour which may have done little for our knowledge or 
brains but has had a powerful and mainly beneficial effect on our charac- 
ters. It has been given outside our schools and universities and by a rough 
teacher the war. Britain between 1940 and 1945 was a better country than 
in 1939. There was infinitely less 'passive barbarism'; there was some of the 
littleness of man but far more of his greatness, in both sexes and in all 
classes and ranks of life. That is suggestive and instructive. The effect of 
the war on human character' would make a good subject of study for any- 
one interested in our problem. If we note what has given us this new spirit 
in war, we might devise means that would keep it alive in the difficult 
world of peace. 

War gives a twofold education. It imposes a great common purpose on a 
nation, which burns up minor and meaner forces in its consuming flame. 
And it imposes the attitude and conduct which result from a common 
purpose. The nation becomes something like a society a band of com- 
panions; in fact it becomes a nation. What lessons can our post-war edu- 
cation learn from the schoolmaster, war? How can we retain in peace these 
two things which war has temporarily taught us: a great common aim and 
the spirit of fellowship? 

[ 15 Compare p. 140.] 

160 Sir Richard Livingstone 

I am proposing a methodical and thorough preparation for an impor- 
tant operation, and the following remarks are not intended to be anything 
but very elementary first aid. I suggest that there are two main elements 
of character training and that the work is incomplete if either is neglected; 
and I ask you to consider whether we take much trouble about either. 

The first element is training in social behaviour, a difficult and generally 
neglected task. Self-centered, self-willed creatures as most of us naturally 
are, it is our fate to be citizens, members of a community. Men are born 
to four citizenships: they should be able to live as good members of their 
family, of their community, of their nation, and of the whole human soci- 
ety. How many of the world's troubles can be traced to a failure in one or 
other of these citizenships to our never mastering the art of living with 
others, in the family, in the community, in the nation, in international 
relations! I have put them in order of ascending difficulty; in the art of 
living as good members of the human race, men have almost everything 
to learn. 

Here I am speaking only of citizenship in the accepted sensemember- 
ship of a nation. It means that we must learn to live with others and respect 
their rights and feelings. It also means that we have to play a part in the 
community, make a contribution to it, often accept the decision of a ma- 
jority which goes against our private interests, opinions, and desires. Other- 
wise the community will not prosper and may not survive, and in its ship- 
wreck we shall be drowned. 

Democracy, more than any other form of government, needs good citi- 
zenship. Under an absolutism or a dictatorship, men are forced to fall into 
line. But in a democracy things are not so simple. Freedom is of the essence 
of democracy: the completer the democracy, the completer the freedom. 
But it has to be the freedom of service self-chosen and sometimes of sacri- 
fice self-imposed. That is not the instinct of the natural man; yet somehow 
that habit has to be acquired. If it is not acquired, the state goes to pieces, 
and in the end the autocrat appears who coerces its citizens into the duties 
which they were not willing of themselves to assume. 

Here is the explanation of the breakdown of democracy in so many coun- 
tries of the world. If citizenship does not exist, it has to be imposed. That 
is a stage through which every nation has to pass. At some time of its his- 
tory it must go to school and learn the discipline, self-control, team spirit, 
and other qualities necessary if liberty is to be enjoyed. Hence certain 
aspects of Fascism, Nazism, Communism, and the authoritarian element 
in the present government of China. They are stages in the making of 


national character, a training in qualities indispensable for national ex- 

When I say this I may be accused of being a Nazi or a Fascist, these 
being at the moment, naturally enough, terms of popular abuse. But the 
charge will be unjust. I have no doubt that democracy is incomparably 
better than Fascism or Nazism, and that the human race will always move 
towards it, as the highest form of human society. But it is the most difficult 
form and it needs certain qualities whose rarity is shown by its frequent 
collapse. The Anglo-Saxon democracies seem perhaps to possess them. We 
seem to have acquired a sufficient quantum of public spirit, justice, fair 
play, consideration for others, to make democracy work. 

Yet I doubt if there is much margin to spare. In England we are justly 
proud when we think of the men in the Forces, of the spontaneous self- 
creation of the Home Guard and Air Raid Wardens services, of the con- 
duct of the ordinary person in a queue, of the general law-abiding spirit of 
the people. We feel less comfortable when we reflect on the black market, 
pilfering, profiteering both by employers and by employed, workers absent- 
ing themselves from work necessary to the economic recovery of the coun- 
try for fear that they may earn enough money to be liable for income tax. 
How can we confirm our virtues and cure our weaknesses and make liberty 
and democracy secure? What is education doing about it? What can it do? 

There is only one way to learn social habits: by living a life in which such 
habits automatically develop. Live in a society and in most cases you will 
become a social being. That is the secret of the British boarding school, 
hitherto the finest factory of citizenship in existence. Boarding schools, like 
everything else, have their defects, but they do train people to be members 
of a society; in them the egotist and careerist are discouraged; the individu- 
alist discovers the existence of other pebbles on the beach and learns how 
to fit in with them. A boy finds himself a member of something greater 
than himself and learns loyalty and service to it. These are the qualities of 
the good citizen. 

Unfortunately in England we have given this or any other training to 
only a tiny minority, and have turned 80 per cent of the population out on 
the world at fourteen. The miracle is that they are in general so good; for 
their defects we are more to blame than they. We should give to the many 
some equivalent of the training that we have given to a few. Then we need 
have no fears for democracy. 

We are beginning to give such a training. Let me mention some in- 
stances and suggest some possibilities. First in time and high in importance 

162 Sir Richard Livingstone 

is the nursery school, where in infant years the child learns to live in a 
community. Then the day school, through school societies and common 
activities, makes its contribution, though in the nature of things it can do 
much less than the boarding school. The more democratic its internal gov- 
ernment, the more its pupils learn to manage their own lives, the better. 
May not some day schools in the future develop boarding departments, 
where a boy can spend some part of his school life? But, without this, 
school camps and camp schools can do valuable work. Scouts and Guides 
and Youth Movements are important schools of citizenship. Churches, 
guilds, trade and professional associations, trade-unions all organizations 
in which men live as part of something greater than themselves contribute. 
A period of national service bringing all classes together in a common life 
would carry it on. Finally, it would be crowned by residential adult col- 
leges where people would live together, united in common interests and 

So far I have argued that we should give everyone a training in the habit 
of citizenship, I have suggested that we have neglected to do this, and I 
have roughly indicated some means by which it might be done. It is an 
indispensable part of the equipment needed by every citizen. But it is not 
the only equipment that he needs. Good citizenship and low civilization 
can go together. The Spartans in the ancient world, the Nazis in the mod- 
ern, are examples of admirable public spirit and complete devotion to the 
state. Yet Sparta was not a high civilization, nor do we wish to become a 
second Nazi Germany. 

Without social training no character is prepared for life. But by itself 
such training is incomplete and even dangerous, unless concurrently men 
learn to take a master, and the right master. If you ask what I mean by 
this, I will point to an example where civilized men have taken a master, 
to their great advantage and advancement. He can be found, presiding, 
unseen, in any true law court. For in accepting law, men disregard private 
prejudices and preferences, to serve voluntarily a master called Justice, who 
is the independent voice of Reason, that judge and litigant alike obey. It is 
the highest spiritual achievement of collective humanity; 'great as are the 
evils which society still owes to lawyers, the lawyer class has always been a 
civilizing agency. Their power represents at least the triumph of reason and 
education over caprice and brute force. 1 * 

But law governs only a part of human life, and outside its kingdom 
anarchy reigns. To bring more of life under a great master is a major prob- 

* Rashdall. Mediaeval Universities u. 457. 


lem of our time. It hardly arises in societies where the mere burden of 
making a living masters a man's whole life. It hardly arises in totalitarian 
states, where a dictator tells his subjects whom and what they are to serve. 
It is less serious in societies governed by good fixed traditions, which no one 
questions or criticizes. But it is urgent in a world where the basic needs are 
satisfied. If it takes no master, the marks of such a world, however prosper- 
ous it may be, are lack of purpose and drive, a cynical scepticism unsure of 
itself, a disabling pessimism; if it takes the wrong master, it may exchange 
these for more spectacular disasters. The second type is a common phe 
nomenon in history; the first is found only in prosperous civilizations, such 
as the Roman Empire and the advanced nations of our day. 

Some men do take a master and serve it with devotion: religion, public 
or social service, art, literature, science or other activities of the mind, poli- 
tics, power, money. They tend to be contented and, within the limits of 
their own powers and of their particular master's kingdom, successfulat 
least they have a clear purpose to occupy their energies and fortify their 
minds. Others are masterless men, drifting from one allegiance to another, 
according to the whim and impulse of the moment; there are two classical 
portraits in literature of this type Ibsen's Peer Gynt, 10 and Plato's picture, 
in the Republic, 17 of what he calls the 'democratic' man. This type is inef- 
fective, ignoble, in the end unhappy, and, as Plato saw and as the rise of 
Hitler illustrates, the material out of which, by reaction, dictatorships are 
made. Most of us probably fall between the two extremes. In judging any 
individual or nation, the most searching question that can be asked is: 
'Whom has he taken for master, and how faithful is his service?' 

What master should we take? Whom, even when we do not obey him, 
should we admit to be the legitimate sovereign over the whole of life? I 
would suggest that we might accept excellence as master. You may dismiss 
such an idea as a high-brow fancy. But in fact it is a general human instinct 
and practice to pursue excellence. No woman and few men would be 
pleased if you said that they did not know the difference between good and 
bad in dress. People interested in baseball or football are not satisfied with 
the second-rate. People engaged in commerce and industry would be an- 
noyed if you suggested that their methods and organization were inferior. 
In everything from games to religion, from gardening to politics, there is a 
quest for excellence, for the first-rate. 

A surgeqn or a physician is trained by watching masters of the art at 

r 16 In the drama of the same name.] 
[" Bk. viii.l 

164 Sir Richard Livingstone 

work, and learns from their excellence something unforgettable, not to be 
learned from lectures or books. In a school of architecture or painting, the 
pupil is shown in reproduction or otherwise the masterpieces of the art. 
The same principle holds for the teaching of law, of engineering, of every 
occupation, whether professional or technical: the learner is or should be 
brought in touch with the best practice of his art or trade, so that he has a 
standard to judge by, a mark at which to aim. In everything, we think it 
essential to know the best, however much we may come short of it. Always, 
soon or late, humanity turns to excellence as naturally as a flower turns to 
the sun: mankind crucifies Christ and executes Socrates, and they die amid 
derision and hatred; but in the end they receive the homage of the world. 
The first-rate is the accepted goal of humanity. 

There are four fields in which excellence is the concern of everyone. 
First, a man should know the highest standards and best methods in his 
own job, so that he may do it as well as he can: professional pride, a sense 
of craftsmanship, are acknowledged virtues. But if he goes no further than 
this, he is a limited human being. Important parts of civilization are art 
and architecture, music and literature flowers that grow out of the nature 
of man, reveal his character and adorn it; there too we should know what 
is first-rate and not be taken in by the second- or third-rate. 

Next, if we are to have a first-rate community, everyone should know 
what is first-rate in national life and have an idea of the kind of state the 
Divine Architect might create with perfect human beings; then he will 
have an overruling ideal to guide him. With such an ideal, slums, disease, 
uneducated masses, hideous industrial towns, a disfigured countryside, 
would never have been or would have vanished long ago. It is common to 
sing Blake's words: 18 

I will not cease from mental fight, 

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, 

Till we have built Jerusalem 

In England's green and pleasant land. 

An excellent ambition; but the building of Jerusalem needs mastery of 
design as well as laudable aspirations. It is part of patriotism to love the 
country one has, but part also to know how to make it really worthy of love. 

Finally, everybne should know what is first-rate in human character and 
conduct, for on the achievement of this everything turns. Most people are 
fortunate enough to meet living examples of the first-rate in character. But 

[" In his Mi/ton.] 


the great sources of our knowledge in this field are religion and the sub- 
sidiary realms of literature, history, and the arts. A school or university 
which fails to show its students something of these models of human excel- 
lence sends them into life ignorant of the knowledge which they need most, 
and neglects the chief duty of education. 

To sum up: my thesis has been that in most modern educational schemes 
the training of character, if not neglected, has been given a subordinate 
place; that we have very little, if anything, like the concentration on it in 
Plato's thought and in Arnold's practice; that nowhere have the tactics of 
attack been methodically thought out, though it is the crucial point, and 
should therefore be the centre of our system; that it needs exact and thor- 
ough study; and that we ought to undertake this study without delay, for 
time presses. When the atomic bombs fell on Japan, we had a glimpse of 
the precipice on whose edge we stand. 

Our task in character training falls under two heads. We have to develop 
the qualities necessary for life in a community. But, by itself, such training 
has two dangers: it might produce either a world of human bees or ants, 
efficient but limited and static, or a highly disciplined mass like the Nazi 
youth, whose social virtues were directed to disastrous ends. Hence the 
importance of knowing the right end; and the right end is the first-rate in 
every province of life. This is the greatest of all branches of knowledge, and 
it should be the centre, though it is not the whole, of education. 

May not the desire to make first-rate human beings and a first-rate soci- 
ety replace, or rather carry on, the spirit which united and inspired us in the 
war and be a master whom all would accept? Is not that in itself a sufficient 
motive for life? To see the vision of excellence, so far as our limitations 
allow; to get at least a glimpse of the unchanging values of the eternal 
world as they are revealed in whatever is beautiful and good in the material 
world of earth; to attempt to make one's infinitesimal contribution towards 
a society which will embody them more fully than does our own to do 
that is to take seriously the tremendpus words of Christ: 'Be ye therefore 
perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect/ 19 

[ le Matthew, v, 48.] 

Gilbert Highet 

<[ Gilbert Ilighet (1906 ), a native of Scotland and a graduate of 
Glasgow and Oxford, has been Professor of Greek and Latin at 
Columbia University since 1938 except for wartime service in the 
British Army. His recent book, The Classical Tradition (1949), is a 
stimulating survey of the Greek and Latin influences on Western 
literature. Earlier he had translated Werner Jaeger's imposing work 
on Greek culture, Paideia (1939-44). 

It might not be unfair to remark that the present essay was based 
on the experience of two or three years in one metropolitan univer- 
sity. Mr. Ilighet writes that he would not say the same things if he 
were writing it today. For all that, it remains an excellent record of 
how the American student (or perhaps we should say the American 
student of the day before yesterday) impressed a European scholar 
who came here to teach him classics. 

For Mr. Highct's ideas on teaching and teachers, see his The Art 
of Teaching (1950). 



.HE AMERICAN SCHOLAR I have long known and long re- 
spected. The American student I met first as an ambitious but depressed 
graduate working in the bard Scottish medical schools; then as an exotic 
graft 1 on Oxford's gnarled trunk (like Vergil's tree, 'admiring strange new 
leaves and fruit unlike her own' 2 ); and finally in several of the great uni- 
versities of his own country. I like studying him, and he, by now inured to 
the fads of his preceptors, supports with surprising affability the endless 
process of being studied. 
As far as I can judge, he is unlike any other student in the whole world. 

C 1 Rhodes scholars, apparently.] 
[ a Georgics, 11, 82.] 

FROM The American Scholar, Autumn, 1941. Copynght 1941 by The American 
Scholar. Reprinted by permission of The American Scholar and of the author. 


For one thing, he often works three or four hours a day at some job which 
is at least extra-curricular, if not extra-mural. 8 My friends at St. Andrews 
and Glasgow were often poor much poorer than the freshmen whom I see 
cheerfully filing clippings or toting luncheon trays but in term-time they 
never worked at anything outside their studies. The vast mythology of Scot- 
tish education is full of stories about the crofter's son who lived all term in 
half a room on a barrel of oatmeal and a barrel of herrings brought from 
home, and then walked a hundred miles back to Inverquharity with the 
gold medal. And that ideal still persists. Occasionally British and French 
undergraduates do a little tutoring, and a dozen or two arc book-shifters in 
the libraries or demonstrators in the labs; but they don't 'work. James 
Joyce's miserable Stephen Dedalus 4 in Dublin, drinking watery tea and 
eating fried bread while he fingered his parents' pawn tickets, would have 
been far better for a decent meal earned by honest work. 

But it is not, or seldom, done. The feeling is that it would interfere with 
real work and equally real play: that it would keep the undergraduate from 
having his full share in the life of the university. And there is some truth 
in this. To spend three or four hours a day on something wholly unaca- 
demic nearly always narrows the student's interest in his academic work. 
He is apt to feel that it too can be done in the same way: two lectures, four 
hours at his job, four hours' study, and then stop. This therefore is one of 
the reasons why so few undergraduates in the universities here aspire to 
honors, compete for prizes, carry their interest in their courses further than 
the term paper. In France and Britain, on the other hand, it is common 
for lecturers to get notes from their undergraduate hearers questioning some 
statement, seeking a reference, asking for extended treatment of some dif- 
ficulty. A not very intelligent pupil of my own at Oxford handed me a verse 
translation of six idylls of Theocritus, which he had made in his spare time 
during the two winter terms; in Jules Remains' Les Hommes de Bonne 
Volontc a student at the ficole Normale Superieure translates and anno- 
tates the choric odes of Sophocles, just for fun; and, at all the British uni- 
versities, essay and poem competitions are nearly always burdensome to 
mark, there are so many competitors. But they would not have the energy, 
or even the interest, to do all that, if they had to manage a laundry agency 
for four hours a day. 

The American student himself feels this; for when he becomes a gradu- 
ate student, a radical change comes over him a change far greater than 

[ 3 Compare Hutton, 'The Cult of the Average/ p. 180.] 
[ 4 In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.] 

168 Gilbert Highet 

the corresponding change in other countries. He will doggedly set himself 
to read and classify every Elizabethan sonnet, or memorize every decision 
arising out of the Snite Act; he will plunge into labyrinthine bibliographies, 
from whose depths he can be heard faintly crying, as if he battled with 
unseen monsters, and from which he emerges through the gate of ivory, 
pale but uplifted, like Aeneas 5 from the world of the dead; and when you 
and I make jokes to him, he will copy them and write 'laughter' in the 
margin. It is scarcely too much to say that he then feels himself for the 
first time to be a whole-time student; and the only thing to be regretted 
about this metamorphosis is that it often keeps him from being a whole- 
time member of the university, that he is so often debarred by it from 
games and societies and other junior academic activities. He feels, not with- 
out a certain justice, that he is paying for the comparative diffuseness of his 
undergraduate days. There is another way of putting this. No European 
country thinks that education is, or ought to be, wholly democratic. Not 
even the United States does, in the last resort for, in awarding fellowships 
and scholarships, its universities base their distribution not on need but on 
achievement. The principle of competition, thus tacitly acknowledged, is 
carried much further in Europe. In France * the A. B. examination is a 
national contest, whose winners are rewarded not only with the civic trib- 
utes which the French know so well how to dispense, but with prizes, 
money, trips to Cambodia and certainty of a favorable start in their careers. 
The bad side of this is obvious suicides are not at all uncommon among 
disappointed or overworked candidates, and a man's whole life can be 
darkened by a sense of his own inescapable inferiority, publicly and com- 
petitively demonstrated. But it makes the students read, and read hard. 
All scholarships in Britain (except a very few assigned to localities or fam- 
ily names) are awarded on the basis of a long and difficult competitive ex- 
amination. And there are very many more scholarships there than there are 
in this country: scholarships are endowed and awarded by cities, counties, 
prep schools, 'public' schools, colleges, universities, alumni societies, guilds 
and national associations. Besides those, there are hundreds upon hundreds 
of rich scholarships dependent on the wills of long-dead benefactors. I went 
through one university on money left by a thread manufacturer who died 
about 1850, and through another on the rentals of farms bequeathed for 

[*Aeneid, vi, 893-8.] 

* This refers of course to France before it was invaded by the Germans, and before 
its government determined to assist its conqueror in attaining his own ideal, die Ver- 
nichtung Frankreichs, 'the destruction of France/ 


the purpose by a Court official of King James the First. It would not be too 
much to say that the rich man who, in the United States, gives $50,000 
for cancer research, gives 10,000 in Britain to support 'a student who 
desires to enter the medical profession, said student to be selected by an 
examination on the fundamentals of . . .' The University of Oxford is 
thought to be full of the leisure class. Yet in 1937 60 per cent of its stu- 
dents were wholly or partially supported by scholarships; and all those 
scholarships had to be won by keen and difficult competition. From a cer- 
tain Scots university there is one, and only one, scholarship which will take 
you to Oxford; and it is competed for by every student who wants it: prc- 
lawyers, chemists, historians, economists, mathematicians, philologists, 
they all sit there glowering at one another in the same examination room, 
and furiously laboring at the twelve three-hour papers on which their future 
depends. It is a painful ordeal; but it makes you study! Not only in France 
but in Britain too, enormous emphasis is laid on the exact position of a 
student in his class. Those who simply collect their grades and their clubs 
and leave are little regarded; must, practically speaking, have jobs waiting 
for them; find the higher careers closed. Those who try for honors find 
themselves arranged into a natural hierarchy, which, ceteris paribus* rep- 
resents their comparative chances of getting a good position when they 

The American student, if I know him, would not care for this system. 
He would, I think, feel that it too highly rewarded the 'grind' and under- 
valued the character-building and social qualities of college life; he would 
conclude it was unfair to boys who happened to attend schools which gave 
them less careful preparation for academic competition; ultimately he 
would think that, by subjecting him to a constant implied pressure, it de- 
prived him of a good deal of his liberty. And yet, it seems to me that it 
would do him good, and improve the service of schools and universities to 
individuals and to the state. 

Take only one broad consideration. The development of government all 
over the world, in the democracies as well as in the despotisms, is towards 
a more numerous, more elaborate, and more highly trained bureaucracy. 
For good or bad, every national government now interests itself in the lives 
of its citizens far more closely than at any time since the Byzantine empire. 
Therefore it is necessary, year by year, for it to command a great supply of 
diverse and well-trained officials, mostly specialists of one kind or another. 
In the despotisms these officials are produced by the Party machine, 

[ 6 Other things being equal.] 

170 Gilbert Highet 

selected and trained by a system which is at least methodically similar to 
education. In the democracies they are at present produced and trained by 
no system, except in a few fields like jurisprudence and public health. In 
Great Britain the diplomatic service, the higher branches of the civil serv- 
ice, and certain other administrative departments are recruited by rigorous 
competitive examinations for which, in practice, candidates prepare 
throughout the universities and even during their last years at school. That 
system is thought to work well, although it is limited in extent. But many 
educators feel that the bureaucracies, both local and national, ought to be 
wholly staffed by men and women trained on purpose, and that in the 
democracies the schools and universities ought to be the organizations 
which produce and train them. Many a large store will not engage salesmen 
and saleswomen unless they arc college graduates with noticeably good 
records; it is ludicrous that states and colleges should be less careful about 
choosing their executives. If we arc to have a mandarinate, let us be as 
sensible as the Chinese in selecting our mandarins. If we want intelligent 
officials let us train them and discipline them and sift them by competitive 
examination and reward them with good, appropriate jobs, instead of let- 
ting our universities annually pour out a huge undiffcrentiated mass of 
graduates, from which only luck or exceptional perseverance will direct the 
right man to the right place in the social machine. 

However, at present that is not done; and the American student, except 
in a few eccentric universities, estimates his achievement by time spent, 
which is quantitative, rather than by competitive achievement, which is 
qualitative. And yet he is at heart emulous. If it is presented civilly and 
winningly to him, he will welcome authority. He would welcome it still 
more if it were organized: if he felt that in school and at college its con- 
sistent purpose was to make him fit for a career which depended not en- 
tirely on his own whim, but on a long series of tests of his abilities and a 
constructive estimate of his character and capacity. 

Another unique attribute characterizes the American student: his huge 
numbers. Can four real universities exist in one city? Can it be possible that 
in one state fifty or sixty thousand youths and maidens are capable of the 
activity required to absorb a university education? Are the inhabitants of 
California (whose very name derives from a romance describing the Earthly 
Paradise) so talented that they can every year produce a myriad of univer- 
sity graduates? And what educators could be at once so inspiring and so 
industrious as to teach, effectively, this enormous horde? Or, finally, can 


the vast multitudes of adolescents in the United States all be so much more 
talented than their coevals in Canada, in France, in Sweden? 

The paradox, of course, conceals a dichotomy. To put it bluntly and 
generally, the American student who is not preparing for a profession does 
not often go to the university in pursuit of higher education. He goes to 
complete the education which his school left incomplete. He has been 
badly schooled. It is not his fault, and not wholly the fault of the school. 
But it is a pity. It sometimes strikes me with a sense of pathos to read the 
grave works on education, ranging all the way from Mortimer Adler's How 
to Read a Book to the bulletins of the Carnegie Institute for Educational 
Research, which treat the American school system in total detachment 
from all others, as if it could learn nothing from Europe, and teach Europe 
nothing still less other continents. Mr. Adler, in his efforts to teach his 
patients how to read boob, makes one or two cursory references to the situ- 
ation in Europe, and throughout the rest of his prescription treats the 
American student as a chimera bombinating in the void. But of course he 
finds it difficult to read Locke or Dante when he gets to college. He has 
seldom been compelled to read anything difficult in school. And a com- 
parison, however invidious, would demonstrate that. I went to a perfectly 
ordinary school in Scotland, P.S-93 as it were. In my last three years (ages 
15-18) we were forced to read and understand Hamlet, Macbeth, Henry 
IV, Chaucer's Prologue and Knighfs Tale, Polyeucte, Le Cid, Le Misan- 
thrope, Eug6nie Grandet, Seven Against Thebes, The Persians, Iliad xvi 
and xvm, Aeneid n, rv, and vi, Livy ix and several other books. And we 
read them. (Dickens and Scott and Thackeray and so on, we had read 
long before.) We had to, under that stringent discipline. We could write 
a character of Macduff or Cclimene, we could reproduce the various ex- 
planations and emendations of the 'dram of eale' in Hamlet, we could 
compare the shields of Achilles and Aeneas, we could write little essays on 
Balzac's idea of realism. They were not very good; but they proved that we 
had read the books. And we were not alone. In Edinburgh they were doing 
the same. Bristol Grammar School was doing even more. Sheffield and 
Manchester and London and Newcastle were doing at least as much. 
French schools are still more arduous, although they concentrate more 
closely on the classics of their own tongue; and so, in a more limited way, 
were Scandinavian and Dutch schools, and even German schools before 
the despotism. 
Now why does the average American student need to learn how to read 

172 Gilbert Higfiet 

a book? Why does he approach Hamlet or Crime and Punishment with a 
mixture of awe and bravado, and usually look up from it with such puzzled 
delight and half-understood emotion? Manifestly because he has been ill 
taught at school. And, so far, that is nobody's fault: certainly not his; but 
there are two main reasons for the fact. 

For one thing, the system of mass-education has nowhere else been 
applied to a population so huge and so various. Only a nation so gallant 
and so confident as the United States would have dreamt of administering 
approximately the same education to the children of long-settled western 
Europeans, recent central European immigrants, and many millions of 
emancipated Negroes, of whom Bigger Thomas 7 with his revolt and his 
tragedy may well be partially symbolic. Whenever I ask my pupils about 
their schooling they invariably say, if they went to public school, that they 
were held back by the size of the classes or by lazy and recalcitrant class- 
mates. One of the best students I have ever had praised the history master 
at his public school most highly, but added that he was forced to devote 
himself almost wholly to the upper one third of his class. In one of his more 
frankly autobiographical essays Mr. James Thurber describes a tough school 
in Columbus, Ohio, as it was a generation ago; and even if we allow for 
humorous exaggeration there is still the ring of truth in the sentence about 
his enormous Negro protector, Floyd: 'I was one of the ten or fifteen male 
pupils in Sullivant School who always, or almost always, knew their les- 
sons, and I believe Floyd admired the mental prowess of a youngster who 
knew how many continents there were and whether or not the sun was 
inhabited/ And the problem is complicated by the almost inevitable rigid- 
ity of the school system. It is true that many high schools have recently 
endeavored to work out special courses of study for pupils who are more 
intelligent than the average; but such readjustments are not yet common, 
are nearly everywhere tentative, and often meet with opposition. It is a 
task of almost inconceivable difficulty to raise the educational standards of 
an entire population; for at least two thirds of the boys and girls now leav- 
ing American schools are much more highly educated than their parents 
were. This difficulty does not exist in western European countries, and it 
fills me with admiration to see the courage and tenacity with which it is 
being faced here. But, in education more than in other things, each genera- 
tion stands on the shoulders of its predecessor, and in another decade or so 
a great part of this difficulty will have been removed. 

The other reason is the comparatively lax discipline of schools in the 

[ T Principal character in Richard Wright's novel, Native Son.] 


United States. High school pupils spend appreciably less time in school 
here than they do in Britain, and much less than they do in France. In 
school they spend less time on actual study, because of the surprising 
amount of attention paid to extra-curricular activities. They spend far less 
time on preparation at home. And there is much less drive behind their 
learning than there is in western European schools. In the last two years 
at an ordinary British city school, corresponding to a good high school here, 
the ordinary pupil averages at least five and a half hours of actual classroom 
work in school and three hours' preparation at home, with a minimum of 
six hours' preparation at week ends. The working hours of two good pro- 
vincial lyce'es in France, where friends of mine taught during the early '305, 
are literally almost double those of an American high school.* Any extra- 
curricular occupation, like producing the school magazine, or football prac- 
tice, or rehearsing in the school orchestra, takes place outside working 
hours. And there is a constant disciplinary pressure to keep the pupils at 
work, to keep them actively attentive, to pull up the laggards and push on 
the leaders. Attendances are rigidly kept: an incident such as that reported 
in the New York papers in 1940, when a squad of policemen and truant 
officers 'combed' the cinemas on two different mornings and rounded up 
nearly two thousand school children A.W.O.L., is frankly inconceivable. 
If anything like it occurred in Europe it would be instantly followed by the 
discharge or demotion of dozens of school teachers. It may not be unfair 
to suggest that some of the laxity observable in American schools is due to 
the much higher proportion of women acting as teachers. Adolescent boys 
cannot be properly disciplined by women, and adolescent girls only with 
much difficulty. But there are other reasons, which are too well known or 
too controversial to be discussed here. The fact remains. The American 
high school student has a far better time, but he does far less work than his 
European counterpart. 

Accordingly the American student, when he reaches college, is not so 
well prepared as the average European freshman. He has not read so much, 
and he docs not know how to read and write so well. He does not buy 
nearly so many books for his own enjoyment, if indeed he buys any at all. 
One distinction seems to me particularly significant. English and French 
undergraduates are apt to publish little magazines in which they practise 
fine writing: the first sonnet, the first political manifesto, chapters from 

* The same system at an earlier date is admirably described by the Abbe* Ernest Dim- 
net in his autobiography, My Old World (Simon and Schuster, New York: 1935). 
Arduous as it was, he has nothing but praise for it. 

174 Gilbert Highet 

the first autobiographical novel and so on. The American student hardly 
ever produces an imitation literary review. Instead, he produces an imita- 
tion of a daily newspaper, or occasionally an imitation of a comic weekly. 
Almost every distinguished contemporary French and British writer wrote 
his first publishable work when he was an undergraduate; almost no distin- 
guished American writer wrote anything at college which in any way 
prefigured his later work. 

If I have not misunderstood the fairly widespread movement towards 
establishing 'junior colleges' and the frequently emphasized distinction 
between the first bicnnium of college work and the second, they are based 
on this same fact: that some fairly intensive work is required to make up 
the deficiencies of the schools. Viewed in this light, the multitudinousness 
of the American student becomes (although still a little bewildering) 
intelligible and sympathetic. 

The third quality which forces itself on the observer of the American 
student is his freedom. He will, without great heart-searching, move from 
one university to another a thing almost never done in France or Britain, 
and in Germany chiefly by very earnest undergraduates in search of a par- 
ticular kind of specialized teaching or even of a particular professor. He will 
give up college altogether with a facility which still amazes me, although 
the dean's office usually knows exactly what proportion of the student body 
can be expected to drop out annually. He will in college drop subjects on 
which he spent four years in school; and he will take eccentric subjects or 
anomalous combinations ot subjects with complete nonchalance. He is 
inhnitely less cut to pattern (even allowing tor his numbers) than the 
European student. In an English university it is often possible to tell what 
particular college an undergraduate attends, and even what school he came 
from, after five minutes' general conversation; but seldom in the United 

This has its good side and its bad. It makes the American student far 
more self-reliant one of my chief difficulties in Oxford was handling the 
timid, sheltered, hampered boy who might prove to be brilliant and might 
almost equally well be defeated and crushed; such difficulties hardly ever 
present themselves here. But, on the other hand, it makes him rather irre- 
sponsible, and even restless and discontented. Far too much is left to his 
own choice, at a time when he is scarcely capable of making a choice. 
Thanks to the kindly laxity initiated by President Eliot, 8 he is free to take 
astronomy 17, comparative religion i, government 33, Spanish drama in 

[ 8 Of Harvard, 1869-1909. Pic championed the elective curriculum.] 


translation 21 and hygiene 2A (hygiene 2A is compulsory). A semester of 
that would, at best, produce a healthy cross between Sir Isaac Newton and 
the Duke of Plaza-Toro. It is no wonder that the mixture sometimes fails 
to act, and discourages him that gives and him that takes. The opposite 
extreme is seen in the English 'public' schools, where a schoolboy good at 
history will be tutored from the age of fifteen till the age of eighteen to win 
a history scholarship at a good college specializing in history, will spend 
three or four years reading history for a first class in the final examinations, 
and then take history at his examination for entrance to the home civil 
service. (Usually, he will spend most of his time on the same period of 
history e.g. medieval history, with special emphasis on the izth century.) * 
Both extremes are dangerous. The British extreme is often as narrowing as 
the other is bewildering: it needs, as an offset, the manifold external inter- 
ests which only a great university and experienced tutors can give. But it 
has one merit in itself: it sets a premium on unremitting hard work and 
the long view. The other extreme broadens the student's mind; but it often 
broadens it without deepening it. 

Thus it is that the American student in his last two years at school does 
not often know what he is going to be, and still less often knows what he 
will learn in his university; and in the first two years at the university (if he 
is not firmly steered by his parents into a profession) seldom knows how 
he will spend his junior and senior years, and how they will dovetail into 
his future. From one point of view, this shows a genuine, disinterested love 
of learning, a magnificent belief in the virtues of the university; but from 
another it means waste of good effort, waste of priceless time, waste of 
irreplaceable enthusiasm. The task of the university is to cast such a light 
on a man's youth as will illuminate him through his life, and yet to keep 
the light unblurred by the shadows of the temporary and the inessential. 
This task is always supremely difficult, but its difficulty is here enhanced 
by the inadequateness of the liaison between schools and universities and 
the lack of emphasis on the essentials of education. The schools have more 
than enough to do. They cannot tackle this job. It is for the American 
universities to look, like the wise man. before and after: to induce the stu- 
dent to surrender most of his freedom of choice for a more stable set of 
patterns in education. Wherever such compulsory patterns have been intro- 
duced he needs little persuasion to accept them; at Columbia he looks back 
on the arduous humanities course with feelings of pleasure and gratitude, 

* An interesting document showing one boy's revolt against this system is Christopher 
Isheiwood's autobiography, Lions and Shadows, Hogarth Press, London: 1938. 

176 Gilbert Highet 

not unmingled with surprise. He is a good fellow, the American student: 
he is energetic and ambitious; but he lacks direction, as the young do 
everywhere. Tor/ says Thomas Burton, 'as he that plays for nothing will 
not heed his game; no more will voluntary employment so thoroughly affect 
a student, except he be very intent of himself/ And, in these bad days, few 
of us are very intent of ourselves. 

Graham Hutton 

|[ The scope and purpose of Graham Hutton's excellent book, Mid- 
west at Noon, from which The Cult of the Average* is taken, arc 
best described in his own words: 'In the middle of the journey of 
my life and by the accident of war, I came to live in the Middle 
West. It was the region of America which I had always liked best, 
where I felt and was made to feel most at home, and where I spent 
the most absorbing, interesting, and happy years of a not uneventful 
life. The longer I lived there, the more I became convinced that the 
Midwest and its people were largely unknown, widely misinter- 
preted, and greatly misunderstood. I also came to believe that the 
Midwest today was not what it had been and what American folk- 
lore makes it out to be/ He felt this so strongly, he adds, that he 
had to write a book. 

Unlike some of his predecessors among foreign observers of the 
Midwest, Mr. Hutton knows thoroughly the region he writes about. 
He went everywhere in it, talked to everybody, and enjoyed himself. 
'There has not been one unpleasant experience in my journeyings. 
. . I have never lost a dime or anything else not even my British 



. o THE GREAT majority of midwesterners, however and wher- 
ever they live, the education of their children is most important. It arouses 
much private and public discussion in political circles, in the home, and 
in many voluntary associations. It is the charter for the equality of children, 
for which so many immigrants came to the region. The teaching of 'the 
young idea' 1 is not a social institution which 'just growed' with Midwest 
society and is viewed as part of the order of Nature. It is one of those recent 
[ l To teach the young idea how to shoot* (Thomson, The Seasons) .] 
FROM Midwest at Noon, 1946. Reprinted by permission of the University of Chicago 

178 Graham Hutton 

man-made institutions which, like much else in the region, is periodically 
taken out, examined, transformed, and set to work anew. Political changes 
or voluntary movements see to that, even if the transformations are not as 
complete as the majority would like them to be. 

It is recent; very recent. Public education on any ordered scale in the 
region is scarcely more than a hundred years old. It was called forth from a 
busy people mainly by the great efforts of women, New Englanders, minis- 
ters, and a few leading citizens. It has had to change vastly and frequently 
to fit new peoples with new ideas as they populated the region. It has had 
to assimilate their children and equip them with Americanism. It achieved 
the widest regional literacy in America before 1914. It has had to keep pace 
with big changes as the various new forms of transport and the quicker 
communication of ideas transformed a region of insulated agricultural 
settlers into one of the greatest industrial regions of the world, if not the 
greatest. And as they are all still changing, still in the process of 'becom- 
ing/ so is Midwest public education. It is as complex and as varied as the 
life of the people. 

As in many countries a long time ago, and in most today, the main prob- 
lem of Midwest education was that of teaching the 'three RY to the chil- 
dren of farmers. It was at this stage that many men and women with a little 
learning, much zeal for the young, and natural teaching ability started rudi- 
mentary classes in an attic, a store, a 'church/ or in their own cabins. Lin- 
coln learned eagerly, arduously, and therefore well from such teachers.* 
But this rudimentary education was unorganized. It was education for the 
necessarily ignored and ignorant children of a rural, segregated, and hard- 
working people. When railroads were built and roads were made, waves of 
immigrants and settlers came both to towns and to country, and then edu- 
cational institutions multiplied exceedingly. The individual teachers re- 
mained, but in little red schoolhouses built for them. These schoolhouses 
are fresh in the memory of many midwcsterners today, and they are still a 
majority of the schools out in the countryside. They are the monument of 
the vanishing Old Midwest. But they arc still important. The United States 
Office of Education in 1938 stated that more than half the public-school 
buildings in America consisted of one room and that most individual teach- 
ers were teaching the children through eight grades of study. The problem 

* See Kunigunde Duncan and D. F. Nichols, Mentor Graham, the Man Who Taught 
Lincoln (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1944). This book gives a valuable and 
fascinating account of the beginnings of education in Indiana and Illinois. See al*o Lloyd 
Lewis, John S. Wright, Prophet of the Prairies (Chicago: Prairie Farmer Publishing 
Co., 1941). 


reflected by these figures is mainly that of the South, Southwest, and Great 
Plains regions; but in the Old Midwest today it is apparent as soon as you 
enter purely agricultural counties and townships. 

The majority of midwesterners today view problems of the public edu- 
cation of young people up to the age of eighteen under four main head- 
ings. These headings correspond to the four main purposes which educa- 
tion of all kinds must serve. First in order of importance, education must 
assimilate different children from widely differing economic or family back- 
grounds to 'the American way/ Whether the school is private or public, in 
city or town or country, the first aim is to make good American citizens out 
of widely differing young people. This means that it must iron out dispari- 
ties, establish an American average to which pupils must conform, and 
necessarily must also to a substantial degree standardize them. All educa- 
tion does that, everywhere; but in the Midwest there are clear reasons why 
it must do it to a greater extent. A Swiss, Swedish, Dutch, French, or Brit- 
ish child comes to school in those European countries from a family which 
is already long and closely assimilated to a national or folk pattern of life 
and thought. That is not so in most of America; and in the Midwest it is 
less so than in the East and South. Education is therefore from the outset 
not just, nor even first, a matter of mere learning; not a matter of 'leading 
forth from 7 the pupil the capacities he or she may possess. It is more a 
matter of 'putting in' standards of good Americanism and of general knowl- 
edge. But as that is by no means all it is in the Midwest, in education we 
also find extremes, contrasts, paradoxes, problems, and difficulties not 
found in other regions and lands, or not found to the same extent. 

Secondly, education must mold or establish the individual's character 
and temperament. It must make the pupil self-dependent at the same time 
as it makes him a 'good mixer/ a member of the community, and a playing 
member of the all- American team. It must make him adaptable in a coun- 
try and region of great differences, extremes, and rapid change. It must also 
make him resourceful in a region of marked individualism, initiative, and 
enterprise. Clearly, the task facing the teacher is exacting. He, or more fre- 
quently she, must reconcile the accent on individual character with the 
accent on the average, the pattern, and the community. 

Thirdly, education must provide a general, average standard of learning 
as the young person's start in life he and she are entitled to it on the basis 
of equality. The adult citizen, which the pupil will become, will find adap- 
tation, understanding of society, and mixing with his fellows much easier if 
all of them, when young, share in the same broad pattern and elements of 

180 Graham Hutton 

learning. This third aim of education is the most distinctively midwestern. 
It comes down, in clear and unbroken descent from the earliest days of 
primitive education in the Old Midwest, tinged with strong feelings of 
equality and democracy. 

Fourthly, and only as far as is compatible with the attainment of these 
other three aims, education must be selective. It must provide courses in 
anything for which pupils show a desire or an aptitude. In other words, it 
must sieve out the pupils who will best profit from a college education, it 
must spot the able individuals who stand out from the average, and it must 
give them as much individual tuition or as great an opportunity to become 
more outstanding as it can affordbut always giving priority to the first 
three aims. 

The midwesterner always distrusted intellectually outstanding people, 
geniuses of the mind (though not of 'practical affairs'), nonconformists in 
general, and the abnormal. To this extent he showed, and still shows, a 
remarkable similarity to the Englishman who dislikes things that 'are not 
done/ But, unlike most Englishmen, he believed and still believes that all 
young people, until their majority, have an equal right to a university edu- 
cation and the ability equally to profit from it, even if he knows the results 
are bound to be unequal. Accordingly, almost as early and as fast as private 
colleges were founded in the Midwest- mainly by easterners midwestern- 
ers themselves set up state universities. Later, the leading citizens in big 
cities founded and endowed city colleges which added to the number avail- 
able to young people. The standards of many of these had to be pitched 
low, to suit anyone who came to them. 

Any student can 'work his or her way* through college, if the student 
wants to. A greater proportion of public high-school students than in any 
other land, or than in most other regions of America, want a 'college edu- 
cation* badly enough to work their way through. Those whose parents are 
able and willing to pay for them, send them 'through college/ It is the 
sacrifice by modest Midwest parents which is made with the least question- 
ing. The extent of that sacrifice is largely unseen, especially by the chil- 
dren; but it is ungrudgingly made in hundreds of thousands of little homes. 
Thanks to rich benefactors, alumni, or state funds, the universities charge 
proportionately lower fees than the universities of Europe; but for parents 
who send their children through college, it is costly. To keep a young per- 
son there until he or she is twenty or twenty-one is bound to be so. And 
that, again, is why so many young people 'work their way through/ 

Yet, to a smaller but still to a large extent, college education is viewed 


by the majority of midwesterners in much the same way as education in 
the public schools. The aims are much the same and certainly rank in the 
same order. The standards are very 'practical' in the midwestcrner's under- 
standing of that word. The student is there to gain accomplishments that 
will make of him a worthy citizen. He is there to learn social arts and graces, 
the common life of sports and games, and the vocabulary of adult life. He 
is there to acquire knowledge, to take it in. He is there to acquire a train- 
ing which will prove both practical and profitable in getting his living; to 
acquire 'basic skills/ And a minority are there to nourish genius, secure as 
much individual tuition as they can, enter the tantalizing portals of the life 
of the mind, and make their own individual contributions to it. Learning 
is still the 'basic skills' or 'book-larnin' ' that mark the public grade and high 
schools, as it marked the old midwesterners' idea of education in general. 

In school and college alike there is what seems to a European a strange 
reverence for books and the printed word. It may not be entirely fanciful 
to ascribe this to the wide extent of illiteracy in the region until one long 
lifetime ago; and to the reverence for 'the Word' and the few men who 
could read and expound it in those days. Yet it is found all through Ameri- 
can educational life. Certainly the heavy dependence of the first Midwest 
colleges upon religion and churches made their presidents and faculties 
rather dogmatic. It confined teachers within restraints from which they 
only began to break free in the 1890'$ and 1900'$. Not all of them are free 
now. And if they are free from religious restraint, they certainly are not free 
from political and ideological restraints. But, to whatever it is due, 'book- 
larnin' ' seems to bulk inordinately large in Midwest universities with 
notable exceptions. 

The notable exceptions are famous throughout the world of learning: 
to name but a few, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University in 
Evanston, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the University of 
Wisconsin at Madison, the State University of Iowa at Iowa City, and the 
University of Minnesota at Minneapolis. The region is equally rich in 
smaller private or denominational colleges of sound tradition, great learn- 
ing, and much influence in the humanities: Grinnell * and Cornell in Iowa, 
Lawrence in Wisconsin, Knox in Illinois, Carleton in Minnesota, Oberlin 
in Ohio, and many others. 

But within varying limits it seems to the stranger that the Midwest, and 
to a smaller extent the American, high school's and college's emphasis is 

* It was to the Reverend J. B. Grinnell that Horace Greeley in 1853 said, 'Go West, 
young man, go West and grow up with the country.' 

182 Graham Hutton 

heavily upon indoctrination rather than on education in the strict Latin 
meaning of those words; on putting in rather than on bringing out; upon 
instilling the ideas of others rather than on criticizing them or getting the 
student to form ideas of his own; upon examinations of the student's 
absorptive capacity rather than of his originality or exposition; upon assimi- 
lation rather than on an independent, critical power to reason and to dis- 
criminate. These may seem like hard sayings, and this is not a treatise on 
education. But these observations are those of the leading educators of 
America who began and still lead a revolt, much of which borrowed its 
force and its leading exponents from great and exceptional Midwest col- 
leges and schools. What Harper of the University of Chicago disliked and 
tried, with success, to change, Hutchins of the same university tries, in dif- 
ferent ways, to change today. And there are many such men in the private 
or state universities of the region now dedicated to the task of reducing 
emphasis on mass-produced learning, on papers and textbooks and exami- 
nations, on grading and 'points' and classification systems which treat 
young minds like sides of beef, counts of yarn, or qualities of tobacco. 

In many high schools and colleges the student is graded by credits and 
marks not on his originality but on knowledge of facts, lectures, and books. 
Even the examination papers are questionnaires or quizzes by which the 
student's rank or grade is established. And the teachers are so overworked, 
giving lectures and grading or marking innumerable papers, that there is 
little time for individual tuition or seminars. All this results in a standard- 
ized pattern of college or high-school education open to all, the same for 
all, but hard on teacher and student alike. It is highly significant that the 
leading universities of ihe region are famous for their postgraduate depart- 
ments and professors and that only among these can the outstanding grad- 
uate, the young man or woman who departs from the average or mass, find 
the necessary individual tuition, cherishing, and nourishment. 

In the main, the best of European high-school and college education 
aims to make the student critical, both of his teacher and of what is being 
taught. It aims to discover and then develop the original and independent 
qualities or capacities of the young mind. The only outstanding exceptions 
were in the universities of the old Germany, in which the professors deliv- 
ered their lectures, devoted themselves to postgraduate work and research, 
were a great force in public life, enjoyed high social status, and gave indi- 
vidual tuition to a favored few. American universities were vastly influ- 
enced by those of Germany between 1840 and 1900. Much of that influ- 


ence, despite the revolt against it which began at the close of last century, 
still remains particularly in the Midwest. 

Clearly, here are the sources of some of those characteristics which we 
have already noted of the bulk of adult midwesterners: respect for and 
devotion to the average, a lack of discrimination, a passion for facts, and 
less ability to manipulate them. Here, once more, is another instance of a 
Midwest paradox of extremes: emphasis on individualism but also on a 
standardized average, the greatest tolerance in the world but equally great 
emphasis on conformity. What is taught as fact from an approved textbook 
to large classes of different young midwesterners in high schools, with the 
aim of making them one and indivisible, often ends either by crystallizing 
prejudices or by creating terrible problems for those university professors 
who later on try to develop an original, independent, and critical faculty in 
those same young minds. What the public schools do, many of the best 
universities, both state and private, have to try to undo. It was the esprit de 
corps which Emerson 2 found and liked in England a century ago. But 
American educators visiting England since 1918, and especially today, find 
more striking, and commend more, the individual originality of young 
Britishers in high schools and universities. And the visitors are not by any 
means all easterners. 

From the outset, midwesterners firmly believed that all human knowl- 
edge could be reduced to the level of popular understanding. The forerun- 
ner of the 'digest' of today, and of the textbooks that tell all about every- 
thing, was the Midwest man's and woman's 'Companion to Knowledge' of 
the 1830'$ to i86o's. It was a thoroughly laudable aim that all knowledge 
should be 'understanded of the people'; and in a society of settlers and 
small towns largely inhabited by a homogeneous population, it was almost 
feasible. It did not, however, become feasible when the population changed 
and became bewilderingly diverse. The average of Americanism to which 
the children of alien immigrants had to conform naturally suggested an 
average level of understanding, an average of potted knowledge which 
should be each child's birthright. But the average had to be lower in terms 
of knowledge, wider in terms of social accomplishments, behavior, and 
'basic skills/ And, as each child was democratically equal, it followed that 
the pace of the class should be set within the average pupil's range of ability 
often, indeed, within that of the slightly backward pupils, to be on the 
safe side. The great differences among the children's families and the new- 

[ 2 See his English Traits.} 

184 Graham Button 

ness of the Midwest naturally resulted in the deliberate 'patterning' of 
young Americans. The pledge to the flag filled the gap made by the absence 
of any formal religious instruction or prayers. The teaching of patriotism 
and what it means to be an American was bound up with the teaching of 
history from textbooks approved, and even commissioned on well-defined 
lines, by politicians. The results are not always good for a sound concep- 
tion of history or of other peoples, or for independent and critical judg- 
ment. But they are doubtless good for Americanism. The Midwest has 
proved that. 

The children of alien immigrants, and the immigrants' votes, have 
altered the content of education to a large extent. It is surprising to a 
European today to find that most pupils in Midwest high schools and 
many at college can read, but cannot understand, the great speeches of 
Calhoun, Webster, Clay, and Douglas. It is doubtful if Midwest schools 
and colleges today can teach their masterly style and logic; and many mid- 
westerners themselves deplore the passing of the clear simplicity of Lin- 
coln's English, as shown not in his great orations but in his letter to Gen- 
eral Hooker. 3 The generation of midwesterners which passed from the 
scene in the 1920'$ certainly could comprehend the language of its fathers' 
day and age. To the pupils in high schools and to many students in college 
since 1920, that language and the fine logic and reason in those speeches 
are alien, archaic, and well-nigh incomprehensible. The American, the 
Americanism, and the American language of today are all very different 
from those of 1860. They are changing fast; and this is reflected in edu- 

Whatever schools and colleges may lack in developing an independent 
critical faculty or originality in their young people, they offset by develop- 
ing practical and technical skills. The great inventors, industrialists, and 
businessmen of the region have richly endowed technical institutions, sepa- 
rately or as parts of a university, which are the envy of scientists all over 
the world. It is in branches of technique that the Midwest boy or girl most 
easily and naturally achieves self-expression: for in these fields of practical 
knowledge or skill, formulas or a technical vocabulary are manipulated 
instead of 'abstract ideas.' The midwesterners' emphasis on the practical, 
their insistent query, 'Will it work?' and their readiness to try anything 
once have more than justified themselves in the fields of natural science, 
medicine, transport, psychology, agriculture, meteorology, and commerce. 

[ 3 Presumably Lincoln's letter of 26 January 1863, appointing General Hooker to the 
command of the Army of the Potomac.] 


It is natural that this emphasis should spill over into social studies. It leads 
not only many businessmen but also many principals, presidents, and pro- 
fessors to believe that departments dedicated to what are misleadingly 
termed 'the social sciences' 4 can be, or should be, as practical, precise, and 
prophetical as those concerned with the natural sciences. It is natural, too, 
that they cannot be so practical. But it is also imperative that they should 
be encouraged in every way to undertake fearless and impartial research. 
Yet there are still great difficulties for historians, political scientists, econo- 
mists, and sociologists. 

These studies of human society are greatly influenced by currents of con- 
temporary political thought. Principals, presidents, and professors have to 
tread with extreme delicacy along these dangerous paths, for they have the 
care of students whose parents have strong political convictions, much dis- 
trust of what is called 'pure speculation/ and a consuming hatred for what 
is termed 'advanced thought' or described as 'radicalism/ The situation of 
these teachers in public high schools, and especially in state universities, is 
not particularly enviable. It accounts for the colorlessness of much that is 
taught in the social studies. Neutrality must be preserved. In these subjects 
teaching goes on under limitations and restraints imposed by intolerance 
or the fear of it. It is just another of the contrasts in the region. The con- 
trast is heightened by the extreme brilliance of achievements in the more 
'practical' fields of study and research. But it has a bearing on the tendency 
of many great or promising thinkers and teachers to quit the region and 
its colleges. The brilliance and originality seem fated, in the main, to be 
nourished and developed in 'practical' studies and skills. The young sense 
this as quickly as the teachers, and the ship sails forward with a heavy list 
to one side. The master and his crew do all they can to redress the balance. 
But it is on the side of the humanities, arts, and social studies that the 
vessel lacks equipoise. 

In all the leading high schools and universities of the region this struggle 
is going on with characteristic nobility of purpose and vigor. But it would 
be wrong to say that it is nearly settled, that it is easy, or that the issue is 
beyond question. And that, too, is not the problem of educators in the 
Midwest alone. What one can say is that if the outcome is successful there, 
it will more affect the Midwest way of life, and be more fruitful there, than 
it will anywhere else in America; and that all Americans will then be aston- 
ished at the richness of promise and performance. For the latent talent is 

[ 4 See Foerster, pp. 146-8.] 

186 Graham Hutton 


If you turn away from the current disputes between educators in all 
countries to look at young people themselves, you are greatly encouraged 
and comforted. Whatever Midwest education's problems may be, whatever 
it may lack, its results in making good American citizens are great and 
undeniable. It is natural that midwesterners should want it to be better 
than it is. But they need not make the best the enemy of the good. The 
good is all around them. 

Midwest boys and girls, young men and women, are more like those of 
democratic Sweden and Switzerland than any others in Europe. The East 
of America may still place more of a premium on sheer intellectual and 
cultural abilities, it may still be the mirror of fashion and mold of form 5 
in these fields, but it is in the Midwest schools that you can best study the 
educational system as it turns out sturdy, convivial, generous, and human 
young Americans. Not a little of the gallantry and intrepidity of the very 
young Midwest boys in the second World War is due to their schools and 
teachers; and a surprisingly large number of those who returned recognized 
it and went back to the school to tell the teachers so. 

For this, the nonintellectual side of the school curriculum and of school 
life in general is responsible. Whether in a one-room schoolhouse or in the 
most up-to-date and beautifully appointed schools in the world and both 
are numerous in the region the accent is as much on the young pupils as 
potential members of the community as it is on what they can be made to 
absorb, what mental capacities they possess, or what intellectual faculties 
they can develop. Who dare say, today, in our vexed age, that this is wrong? 
Humanity has suffered more from frustrated intellectuals than from low- 
brows or hearties. The latter are social; the former antisocial. 

The pupils are encouraged to run their own social life in their own way 
and by their own elected nominees. Not all schools, least of all those in the 
countryside, can afford teachers and* facilities to make this social side of 
school life resemble what it is in the best schools of the region. But in many 
schools in well-to-do suburban communities, big cities, large towns, and 
smaller towns, the high-school pupils of both sexes are now social types 
with a life and lingo of their own. In many high schools I know, I found 
that the seniors had balloted for the following choices among their num- 
ber and in each sex: best-looking, most popular, most original, best person- 
ality, best dancer, biggest flirt, most bashful, best leader, best athlete, best 

[ B See Hamlet, in, i, 162.] 


dressed, funniest laugh, most* industrious, most sophisticated, most naive, 
blushing beauty, most conceited, biggest show-off, best mannered, most 
photogenic, most business-like, best natured, teacher's pet, most sportsman- 
like, biggest eater, wittiest, biggest bluffer, laziest, peppiest, and most likely 
to succeed. The names were all published in the newspaper edited, man- 
aged, and run by the pupils themselves. The average age of seniors in these 
schools would be a little under seventeen and a half; but among juniors, 
sophomores, and freshmen a corresponding independence, sense of humor, 
community spirit, and readiness to give and take as members of the com- 
munity were as well marked. The emphasis of the young everywhere is on 
good comradeship; but these lists show a remarkably heavy emphasis on 
the social achievements and a remarkably light one on anything else. They 
are typical in that. 

Coeducation is responsible for much of this. If it interferes with purely 
intellectual learning, and if it leads to more sex problems for the young in 
the cities than out in the country, it results in an enormous net gain. In 
school hours the constant comradeship between the sexes, the differences 
of ability, and the scholastic competition between them are all to the good. 
This is most noticeable out in the country, where the smaller numbers of 
pupils of both sexes, in groups, form a little nation of their own. They have 
easy access to sports and open-air games, winter and summer. They work 
and play together virtually year in, year out. In the towns and cities this 
comradeship in active relaxation is rarer. 

The young people have acute problems of their own. They are generally 
adept at solving them. But there is now a rift between both teachers and 
parents, on the one hand, and children on the other, which may grow wider. 
Already it is causing much concern, and in the Midwest it is particularly 
obvious. For decades, indeed for generations, children in the Midwest have 
been taught in school, and often in the home, that their region is the most 
go-ahead in America and, therefore, in the world; that the past is dead; 
that the future alone is important, for it is made into today. 

While all this is natural enough in the Midwest, it is also natural that it 
should have the widespread effect of making young people identify their 
parents with a remote past, as if those parents had been pioneers who 
cleared the ground for their homes, from the forest primeval and shot 
Indians off it. It has made Midwest youth more impatient of advice and 
of counsel drawn from both teachers' and parents' experience (they are 
of almost the same generation) than most of the youth of America and 
that, by European standards, is saying a lot. It has probably helped to make 

i88 Graham Hutton 

them the extraordinarily self-reliant, capable,* and resourceful young people 
they are. But now the social problems of America, nowhere more extreme 
than in the Midwest, are forcing teachers and parents alike to look around 
them, to examine their own institutions, the foundations of their beliefs 
and ideas, and even to look backward to the past. 

The young people sense the prevailing confusion of beliefs, the extremes 
and opposites, the divisions and frictions, but are as impatient as ever of 
'old-fashioned ideas/ Teachers and parents are in a quandary, for they are 
divided among themselves on great social, political, or economic issues. 
What are they to tell the young? The parents can make their own deci- 
sions what version or what gloss they put upon these issues at home when 
they talk with the young people or before them. But the teachers and the 
schools are "on the spot/ If a teacher ventures anything like an opinion on 
any of these issues, or says anything that could be taken as an opinion, he 
or she may lose a job. The control of education by the immediate locality 
and its opinion is far stronger in the Midwest than it is almost anywhere 
else. It is far stronger than the influence of local opinion on law and the 
enforcement of it. This results not in giving 'the young idea' a lead toward 
clarity but in ignoring or soft-pedaling many vital and interesting questions 
of the day. 

It is noteworthy that the young people debate these questions in clubs 
and discussion groups which they run for themselves; but to get help and 
guidance from impartial adults is both rare and difficult. Many American 
parents and teachers were worried in the second World War about boys of 
nineteen fighting for their country and others, merely because Uncle Sam 
told them to. American correspondents abroad testified that many young 
men had only the vaguest ideas of America's foreign policy, her relation- 
ships with other countries including those of South America, and of eco- 
nomics, labor relations, or political institutions in general. This is not isola- 
tionism, nor is it due to it. It can be found in the armies of all belligerents 
in varying degrees. It reflects educational problems. It is the outcome of a 
public education which makes boys mature early and treats them as men 
in almost all respects, but agrees in the main not to teach them anything 
on controversial issues or to teach it in such a neutral way that no judg- 
ment or conclusion can be reached. It forms one of the most vexing of post- 
war problems. It is one on which the veterans who choose to take their 
college education after the war will have a profound influence. That 
influence is already apparent. 

Many of the parents' problems do not, however, arise from the teaching 


curriculum. They arise from the emphasis on social life at school. In no 
schools is this social life more organized, or better provision for it made, 
than in many Midwest educational institutions. But it produces problems. 
The life is that of a mature and adult group with freedoms, codes of behav- 
ior, personal relationships, rules of conformity, fashions, and a vocabulary 
of its own. Parents want their children to mature young, and both parents 
and teachers do all they can to insure it. The greatest proof of that is the 
extent of liberty allowed to the young. But that liberty, like all liberty, 
cannot easily or safely be cut into neat slices and kept in iceboxes, to be 
brought out at school time or for well-defined occasions. 

Liberty is the most pervasive of all atmospheres. In many if not most 
cities and towns of the region the social liberty and self-government of 
young people at school, which are means to maturity, often become means 
to revolt; and revolt does not break out at school or college. It breaks out 
in the home. Social life, when baulked, deteriorates into the rule of gangs 
among boys and girls. Some of the worst of the juvenile gangs were com- 
posed of girls in their teens. More frequently, and less harmfully, it becomes 
the domination of the group by exclusive cliques, which makes problems 
for many children and their parents. In the small rural towns the heavy 
wine of personal and group liberty makes young people even more restless, 
for parental, conventional, and religious restraints are far greater there. The 
standardization of all-American relaxations and diversions by the movies, 
radio, magazines, and comic strips affects the young in towns and country 
alike. Their chafings against parental control become more acute and fre- 
quent. And naturally this all-pervading atmosphere affects the schoolwork 
of many pupils. 

Nevertheless, the pattern of good Americanism which the schools set 
before their pupils is sound. Like many Midwest characteristics, it is flexible 
and adaptable. It can take a lot of beating. Like their parents, the young 
people carry a heavy cargo of common sense. They can see an adult's view- 
point because they are more mature. They are the freest, most natural, 
most poised young people in all countries of the Western world; and that 
is true from kindergarten or nursery school through college. No young 
people anywhere are more attractive. Nowhere else can a grown-up get as 
much enjoyment from being among the younger generation. That is an 
enormous tribute to parents, teachers, and young people alike. Alongside 
this the costs, the exceptions, and the problems seem minor and manage- 
able: which is true of so much in the Midwest. 

George Santayana 

([George Santayana was born in Spain (1863) but grew up in the 
United States. He was educated at Harvard, where he taught phi- 
losophy as the colleague of Josiah Royce and William James from 
1889 until 1912. He resigned in 1912, after (we are told) receiving 
a legacy, which freed him from teaching; as Dr. Johnson observed, 
'a man who has enough without teaching, will probably not teach/ 
He has lived in Europe ever since; of late years in Rome. 

His Life of Reason (1905), Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923), 
The Realm of Essence (1928), The Realm of Matter (1930), The 
Realm of Truth (1937) arc familiar to students of philosophy. 
Better known to most readers are his Character and Opinion in the 
United States (1920), Soliloquies in England (1922), Obiter 
Scripta (1935), ana " n * s nove ^ The Last Puritan (1935). Two vol- 
umes of an autobiography, Persons and Places (1944) and The 
Middle Span (1945), have appeared. 

Soliloquies in England and The Last Puritan arc products of 
those periods in his life when he was 'attracted into an unfeigned 
participation in social pleasures and in political hopes/ He believes 
that they arc therefore 'the most approachable of my writings for 
the general reader; but even here, though some interest may be 
aroused, I doubt that the unconverted or unconvertible will find 
much ultimate satisfaction/ Most of the Soliloquies were written 
during the war years of 1914-18. 



'HEN ancient peoples defended what they called their 
liberty, the word stood for a plain and urgent interest of theirs: that their 
cities should not be destroyed, their territory pillaged, and they themselves 
sold into slavery. For the Greeks in particular liberty meant even more than 
this. Perhaps the deepest assumption of classic philosophy is that nature 
FROM Soliloquies in England, 1922, published by Charles Scribner's Sons. 


and the gods on the one hand and man on the other, both have a fixed 
character; that there is consequently a necessary piety, a true philosophy, 
a standard happiness, a normal art. The Greeks believed, not without 
reason, that they had grasped these permanent principles better than other 
peoples. They had largely dispelled superstition, experimented in govern- 
ment, and turned life into a rational art. Therefore when they defended 
their liberty what they defended was not merely freedom to live. It was 
freedom to live well, to live as other nations did not, in the public experi- 
mental study of the world and of human nature. This liberty to discover 
and pursue a natural happiness, this liberty to grow wise and to live in 
friendship with the gods and with one another, was the liberty vindicated 
at Thermopylae 1 by martyrdom and at Salamis 2 by victory. 

As Greek cities stood for liberty in the world, so philosophers stood for 
liberty in the Greek cities. In both cases it was the same kind of liberty, 
not freedom to wander at hazard or to let things slip, but on the contrary 
freedom to legislate more precisely, at least for oneself, and to discover and 
codify the means to true happiness. Many of these pioneers in wisdom were 
audacious radicals and recoiled from no paradox. Some condemned what 
was most Greek: mythology, athletics, even multiplicity and physical mo- 
tion. In the heart of those thriving, loquacious, festive little ant-hills, they 
preached impassibility and abstraction, the unanswerable scepticism of 
silence. Others practised a musical and priestly refinement of life, filled 
with metaphysical mysteries, and formed secret societies, not without a 
tendency to political domination. The cynics railed at the conventions, 
making themselves as comfortable as possible in the role of beggars and 
mocking parasites. The conservatives themselves were radical, so intelligent 
were they, and Plato wrote the charter 8 of the most extreme militarism and 
communism, for the sake of preserving the free state. It was the swan-song 
of liberty, a prescription to a diseased old man to become young again and 
try a second life of superhuman virtue. The old man preferred simply to die. 

Many laughed then, as we may be tempted to do, at all those absolute 
physicians of the soul, each with his panacea. Yet beneath their quarrels 
the wranglers had a common faith. They all believed there was a single 
solid natural wisdom to be found, that reason could find it, and that man- 

[ z The Greeks under Leonidas of Sparta made a heroic defense against the Persians 
at the narrow pass of Thermopylae, in eastern Greece, in 480 B.C., but were defeated 
through treachery.! 

[ a An island off the southwestern coast of Attica, where in 480 B.C. the Greeks won 
a great victory over the Persian fleet.] 

[ 3 His Republic! 

192 George Santayana 

kind, sobered by reason, could put it in practice. Mankind has continued 
to run wild and like barbarians to place freedom in their very wildness, till 
we can hardly conceive the classic assumption of Greek philosophers and 
cities, that true liberty is bound up with an institution, a corporate scien- 
tific discipline, necessary to set free the perfect man, or the god, within us. 

Upon the dissolution of paganism the Christian church adopted the 
classic conception of liberty. Of course, the field in which the higher poli- 
tics had to operate was now conceived differently, and there was a new 
experience of the sort of happiness appropriate and possible to man; but 
the assumption remained unchallenged that Providence, as well as the 
human soul, had a fixed discoverable scope, and that the business of edu- 
cation, law, and religion was to bring them to operate in harmony. The 
aim of life, salvation, was involved in the nature of the soul itself, and the 
means of salvation had been ascertained by a positive science which the 
church was possessed of, partly revealed and partly experimental. Salva- 
tion was simply what, on a broad view, we should see to be health, and 
religion was nothing but a sort of universal hygiene. 

The church, therefore, little as it tolerated heretical liberty, the liberty 
of moral and intellectual dispersion, felt that it had come into the world 
to set men free, and constantly demanded liberty for itself, that it might 
fulfil this mission. It was divinely commissioned to teach, guide, and con- 
sole all nations and all ages by the self-same means, and to promote at all 
costs what it conceived to be human perfection. There should be saints 
and as many saints as possible. The church never admitted, any more than 
did any sect of ancient philosophers, that its teaching might represent only 
an eccentric view of the world, or that its guidance and consolations might 
be suitable only at one stage of human development. To waver in the pur- 
suit of the orthodox ideal could only betray frivolity and want of self- 
knowledge. The truth of things and the happiness of each man could not 
lie elsewhere than where the church, summing up all human experience 
and all divine revelation, had placed it once for all and for everybody. The 
liberty of the church to fulfil its mission was accordingly hostile to any 
liberty of dispersion, to any radical consecutive independence, in the life 
of individuals or of nations. 

When it came to full fruition this orthodox freedom was far from gay; 
it was called sanctity. The freedom of pagan philosophers too had turned 
out to be rather a stiff and severe pose; but in the Christian dispensation 
this austerity of true happiness was less to be wondered at, since life on 
earth was reputed to be abnormal from the beginning, and infected with 


hereditary disease. The full beauty and joy of restored liberty could hardly 
become evident in this life. Nevertheless a certain beauty and joy did radi- 
ate visibly from the saints; and while we may well think their renunciations 
and penances misguided or excessive, it is certain that, like the Spartans 
and the philosophers, they got something for their pains. Their bodies and 
souls were transfigured, as none now found upon earth. If we admire with- 
out imitating them we shall perhaps have done their philosophy exact jus- 
tice. Classic liberty was a sort of forced and artificial liberty, a poor perfec- 
tion reserved for an ascetic aristocracy in whom heroism and refinement 
were touched with perversity and slowly starved themselves to death. 

Since those days we have discovered how much larger the universe is, 
and we have lost our way in it. Any day it may come over us again that our 
modern liberty to drift in the dark is the most terrible negation of freedom. 
Nothing happens to us as we would. We want peace and make war. We 
need science and obey the will to believe, we love art and flounder among 
whimsicalities, we believe in general comfort and equality and we strain 
every nerve to become millionaires. After all, antiquity must have been 
right in thinking that reasonable self-direction must rest on having a deter- 
minate character and knowing what it is, and that only the truth about 
God and happiness, if we somehow found it, could make us free. But the 
truth is not to be found by guessing at it, as religious prophets and men 
of genius have done, and then damning every one who does not agree. 
Human nature, for all its substantial fixity, is a living thing with many 
varieties and variations. All diversity of opinion is therefore not founded on 
ignorance; it may express a legitimate change of habit or interest. The 
classic and Christian synthesis from which we have broken loose was cer- 
tainly premature, even if the only issue of our liberal experiments should 
be to lead us back to some such equilibrium. Let us hope at least that the 
new morality, when it comes, may be more broadly based than the old on 
knowledge of the world, not so absolute, not so meticulous, and not chanted 
so much in the monotone of an abstracted sage. 

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams 

|[ Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826; President, 1801-9) and John 
Adams (1735-1826; President, 1797-1801) had been acquainted 
since the days of the Continental Congress, to which Jefferson was 
a delegate from Virginia and Adams from Massachusetts. This 
acquaintance soon became one of mutual respect and then, more 
slowly, ripened into friendship. Despite serious estrangements caused 
by differences in political philosophy and by party conflicts, the 
friendship grew stronger with the years; for, as Jefferson wrote to 
Adams in 1812, they had been 'fellow laborers in the same cause, 
struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right of self-gov- 
ernment; laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever 
ahead, threatening to overwhelm us, yet passing harmless under our 
bark we knew not how, we rode through the storm with heart and 
hand, and made a happy port/ Some years after their retirement 
from the turmoils of public life, their memories, sympathies, and 
ideas found expression in letters exchanged between Monticello and 
Qumcy. This correspondence, opened by Adams in 1812, continued 
until their deaths. The two friends died on the same day, 4 July 
(appropriately enough) 1826. 

Jefferson to Adams 
Monticello, October 28, 1813. 

... I AGREE with you that there is a natural aristocracy among 
men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. Formerly, bodily powers 
gave place among the aristoi. 1 But since the invention of gunpowder has 
armed the weak as well as the strong with missile death, bodily strength, 
like beauty, good humor, politeness and other accomplishments, has become 
but an auxiliary ground for distinction. There is also an artificial aristocracy, 
founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents; for with these 
it would belong to the first class. The natural aristocracy I consider as the 
[' Aristocrats.] 


most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts, and govern- 
ment of society. And indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation 
to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue 
and wisdom enough to manage the concerns ot the society. May we not 
even say, that that form of government is the best, which provides the most 
effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of 
government? The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in gov- 
ernment, and provision should be made to prevent its ascendency. On the 
question, what is the best provision, you and I differ; but we differ as 
rational friends, using the free exercise of our reason, and mutually indulg- 
ing its errors. You think it best to put the pseudo-aristoi into a separate 
chamber of legislation, where they may be hindered from doing mischief 
by their co-ordinate branches, and where, also, they may be a protection to 
wealth against the agrarian and plundering enterprises of the majority of 
the people. I think that to give them power in order to prevent them from 
doing mischief is arming them for it, and increasing instead of remedying 
the evil. For if the co-ordinate branches can arrest their action, so may they 
that of the co-ordinates. Mischief may be done negatively as well as posi- 
tively. Of this, a cabal in the Senate 2 of the United States has furnished 
many proofs. Nor do I believe them necessary to protect the wealthy; 
because enough of these will find their way into every branch of the legis- 
lature to protect themselves. From fifteen to twenty legislatures of our own, 
in action for thirty years past, have proved that no fears of an equalization 
of property are to be apprehended from them. I think the best remedy is 
exactly that provided by all our constitutions, to leave to the citizens the 
free election and separation of the aristoi from the pseudo-aristoi, of the 
wheat from the chaff. In general they will elect the really good and wise. 
In some instances, wealth may corrupt, and birth blind them; but not in 
sufficient degree to endanger the society. 

It is probable that our difference of opinion may, in some measure, be 
produced by a difference of character in those among whom we live. From 
what I have seen of Massachusetts and Connecticut 3 myself, and still more 
from what I have heard, and the character given of the former by yourself, 
who know them so much better, there seems to be in those States a tradi- 
tionary reverence for certain families, which has rendered the offices of the 

[ 2 It is not clear which cabal Jefferson alludes to. Like most Presidents, he and Adams 
(cf. p. 200) were vexed by Congressional opposition to their policies.] 

[ a New England Federalists, especially Connecticut ones, were extremely hostile to 
Jefferson throughout his Presidency.] 

196 Thomas Jefferson and John Adams 

government nearly hereditary in those families. I presume that from an 
early period of your history, members of those families happening to pos- 
sess virtue and talents have honestly exercised them for the good of the 
people, and by their services have endeared their names to them. In coup- 
ling Connecticut with you, I mean it politically only, not morally. For 
having made the Bible the common law of their land, they seem to have 
modeled their morality on the story of Jacob and Laban. 4 But although 
this hereditary succession to office with you may, in some degree, be 
founded in real family merit, yet in a much higher degree it has proceeded 
from your strict alliance of Church and State. 5 These families are canon- 
ised in the eyes of the people on common principles, 'you tickle me, and I 
will tickle you/ In Virginia we have nothing of this. Our clergy, before the 
revolution, having been secured against rivalship by fixed salaries, did not 
give themselves the trouble of acquiring influence over the people. Of 
wealth, there were great accumulations in particular families, handed down 
from generation to generation, under the English law of entails. 6 But the 
only object of ambition for the wealthy was a seat in the King's Council. 
All their court was paid to the crown and its creatures; and they Philipised 7 
in all collisions between the King and the people. Hence they were unpop- 
ular; and that unpopularity continues attached to their names. A Ran- 
dolph, a Carter, or a Burwell must have great personal superiority over a 
common competitor to be elected by the people even at this day. At the 
first session of our legislature after the Declaration of Independence, we 
passed a law abolishing entails. And this was followed by one abolishing 
the privilege of primogeniture, 8 and dividing the lands of intestates equally 
among all their children, or other representatives. These laws, drawn by 
myself, laid the axe to the root of pseudo-aristocracy. And had another 

[ 4 Sec Genesis, chs. xxix-xxxi.] 

[ 5 In Massachusetts and Connecticut the Congregational Churches possessed special 
privileges, as the Anglican Church once had in the Southern states. Massachusetts and 
Connecticut were many years behind the other states in severing official ties between 
Church and State.] 

[*This law permitted landed estates (and slaves attached to them) to be settled 
inalienably; the estate could not, ordinarily, be broken up. Jefferson's bill abolishing 
entails made landed property easily distributable and negotiable, like any other property. 
Some of the wealthy landowners strongly opposed Jefferson's successful attempt to 
depnve them of an ancient privilege.] 

[ 7 Supported the aims and policies of a foreign power rather than those of their own 
country, as some Athenians did in the days of Philip of Macedon.] 

[ 8 The law of primogeniture gave all the inheritance to the eldest son. Jefferson him- 
self was an eldest son.] 


which I prepared been adopted by the legislature, our work would have 
been complete. It was a bill for the more general diffusion of learning. 9 
This proposed to divide every county into wards of five or six miles square, 
like your townships; to establish in each ward a free school for reading, 
writing and common arithmetic; to provide for the annual selection of the 
best subjects 10 from these schools, who might receive, at the public ex- 
pense, a higher degree of education at a district school; and from these 
district schools to select a certain number of the most promising subjects, 
to be completed at an University, where all the most useful sciences should 
be taught. Worth and genius would thus have been sought out from every 
condition of life, and completely prepared by education for defeating the 
competition of wealth and birth for public trusts. My proposition had, for 
a further object, to impart to these wards those portions of self-government 
for which they are best qualified, by confiding to them the care of their 
poor, their roads, police, elections, the nomination of jurors, administration 
of justice in small cases, elementary exercises of militia; in short to have 
made them little republics, with a warden at the head of each, for all those 
concerns which, being under their eye, they would better manage than the 
larger republics of the county or State. A general call of ward meetings by 
their wardens on the same day through the State would at any time pro- 
duce the genuine sense of the people on any required point, and would 
enable the State to act in mass, as your people have so often done, and 
with so much effect, by their town meetings. The law for religious free- 
dom, 11 which made a part of this system, having put down the aristocracy 
of the clergy, and restored to the citizen the freedom of the mind, and 
those of entails and descents nurturing an equality of condition among 
them, this on education would have raised the mass of the people to the 
high ground of moral respectability necessary to their own safety, and to 
orderly government; and would have completed the great object of quali- 
fying them to select the veritable aristoi, for the trusts of government, to 
the exclusion of the pseudalists; and the same Theognis 12 who has fur- 

[ 9 This bill did not pass, but public education continued to be one of Jefferson's 
strongest interests. Under his leadership the University of Virginia was established in 
1819. He laid out its grounds, designed its buildings, planned its curriculum, and selected 
its first faculty.] 

[ 10 The best students.] 

[" The law entirely separated Church and State in Virginia, where all taxpayers had 
been taxed to support the Anglican Church whether members of that Church or not. 
Jefferson considered his long struggle for this law one of his greatest services to his state.] 

[ ia Greek poet, sixth century B.C.] 

198 Thomas Jefferson and John Adams 

nished the epigraphs of your two letters, assures us that ["Good men, 
Cyrnus, have never ruined a state']. Although this law has not yet been 
acted on but in a small and inefficient degree, it is still considered as before 
the legislature, with other bills of the revised code, not yet taken up, and 
I have great hope that some patriotic spirit will, at a favorable moment, 
call it up, and make it the key-stone of the arch of our government. 

With respect to aristocracy, we should further consider, that before the 
establishment of the American States, nothing was known to history but 
the man of the old world, crowded within limits either small or over- 
charged, and steeped in the vices which that situation generates. A gov- 
ernment adapted to such men would be one thing; but a very different 
one, that for the man of these States. Here every one may have land to 
labor for himself, if he chooses; or, preferring the exercise of any other 
industry, may exact for it such compensation as not only to afford a com* 
fortable subsistence, but wherewith to provide for a cessation from labor in 
old age. Every one, by his property, or by his satisfactory situation, is inter- 
ested in the support of law and order. And such men may safely and advan- 
tageously reserve to themselves a wholesome control over their public 
affairs, and a degree of freedom, which, in the hands of the canaille 18 of 
the cities of Europe, would be instantly perverted to the demolition and 
destruction of everything public and private. The history of the last 
twenty-five years of France, and of the last forty years in America, nay of 
its last two hundred years, proves the truth of both parts of this observation. 

But even in Europe a change has sensibly taken place in the mind of 
man. 14 Science has liberated the ideas of those who read and reflect, and 
the American example has kindled feelings of right in the people. An 
insurrection has consequently begun, of science, talents, and courage, 
against rank and birth, which have fallen into contempt. It has failed in 
its first effort, because the mobs of the cities, the instrument used for its 
accomplishment, debased by ignorance, poverty, and vice, could not be 
restrained to rational action. But the world will recover from the panic of 
this first catastrophe. Science is progressive, and talents and enterprise on 
the alert. Resort may be had to the people of the country, a more govern- 
able power from their principles and subordination; and rank, and birth, 
and tinsel-aristocracy will finally shrink into insignificance, even there. 

F 13 Rabble.] 

[ 14 Referring to the French Revolution and its consequences. As our Minister to 
France from 1785 to 1789, Jefferson witnessed the outbreak of the Revolution. His 
account of it can be read in his Autobiography.} 


This, however, we have no right to meddle with. It suffices for us, if the 
moral and physical condition of our own citizens qualifies them to select 
the able and good for the direction of their government, with a recurrence 
of elections at such short periods as will enable them to displace an unfaith- 
ful servant, before the mischief he meditates may be irremediable. 

I have stated my opinion on a point on which we differ, not with a view 
to controversy, for we are both too old to change opinions which are the 
result of a long life of inquiry and reflection; but on the suggestions of a 
former letter of yours, that we ought not to die before we have explained 
ourselves to each other. We acted in perfect harmony, through a long and 
perilous contest for our liberty and independence. A constitution has been 
acquired, which, though neither of us thinks perfect, yet both consider as 
competent to render our fellow citizens the happiest and the securest on 
whom the sun has ever shone. If we do not think exactly alike as to its 
imperfections, it matters little to our country, which, after devoting to it 
long lives of disinterested labor, we have delivered over to our successors in 
life, who will be able to take care of it and of themselves. 

From Adams's Reply 
Quincy, November 15, 1813. 

We are now explicitly agreed upon one important point, viz., that there 
is a natural aristocracy among men, the grounds of which are virtue and 
talents. You very justly indulge a little merriment upon this solemn subject 
of aristocracy. I often laugh at it too, for there is nothing in this world more 
ridiculous than the management of it by all the nations of the earth; but 
while we smile, mankind have reason to say to us, as the frogs said to boys, 
what is sport 'to you are wounds and death to us. When I consider the 
weakness, the folly, the pride, the vanity, the selfishness, the artifice, the 
low craft and mean cunning, the want of principle, the avarice, the un- 
bounded ambition, the unfeeling cruelty of a majority of those (in all 
nations) who are allowed an aristocratical influence, and, on the other 
hand, the stupidity with which the more numerous multitude not only 
become their dupes, but even love to be taken in by their tricks, I feel a 
stronger disposition to weep at their destiny, than to laugh at their folly. 
But though we have agreed in one point, in words, it is not yet certain that 
we are perfectly agreed in sense. Fashion has introduced an indeterminate 
use of the word talents. Education, wealth, strength, beauty, stature, birth, 
marriage, graceful attitudes and motions, gait, air, complexion, physiog- 
nomy, are talents, as well as genius, science, and learning. Any one of these 

200 Thomas Jefferson and John Adams 

talents that in fact commands or influences two votes in society gives to the 
man who possesses it the character of an aristocrat, in my sense of the 
word. Pick up the first hundred men you meet, and make a republic. Every 
man will have an equal vote; but when deliberations and discussions are 
opened, it will be found that twenty-five, by their talents, virtues being 
equal, will be able to carry fifty votes. Every one of these twenty-five is an 
aristocrat in my sense of the word, whether he obtains his one vote in addi- 
tion to his own by his birth, fortune, figure, eloquence, science, learning, 
craft, cunning, or even his character for good fellowship, and a bon vivant. . . 
Your distinction between natural and artificial aristocracy does not 
appear to me founded. Birth and wealth are conferred upon some men as 
imperiously by nature as genius, strength, or beauty. The heir to honors, 
and riches, and power, has often no more merit in procuring these advan- 
tages than he has in obtaining a handsome face or an elegant figure. When 
aristocracies are established by human laws, and honor, wealth, and power 
are made hereditary by municipal laws and political institutions, then I 
acknowledge artificial aristocracy to commence; but this never commences 
till corruption in elections become dominant and uncontrollable. But this 
artificial aristocracy can never last. The everlasting envies, jealousies, rival- 
ries, and quarrels among them; their cruel rapacity upon the poor ignorant 
people, their followers, compel them to set up Caesar, a demagogue, to be 
a monarch, a master; pour mettre chacun & sa place. Here you have the 
origin of all artificial aristocracy, which is the origin of all monarchies. And 
both artificial aristocracy and monarchy, and civil, military, political, and 
hierarchical despotism have all grown out of the natural aristocracy of 
virtues and talents. We, to be sure, are far remote from this. Many hun- 
dred years must roll away before we shall be corrupted. Our pure, virtuous, 
public-spirited, federative republic will last forever, govern the globe, and 
introduce the perfection of man; his perfectibility being already proved by 
Price, Priestley, Condorcet, Rousseau, Diderot, and Godwin. 16 Mischief 
has been done by the Senate of the United States. I have known and felt 
more of this mischief than Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, all to- 
gether. But this has been all caused by the constitutional power of the 
Senate, in executive business, which ought to be immediately, totally, and 
essentially abolished. Your distinction between the [aristoi] and [pseudo- 

[ 15 To put eveiyone in his place.') 

[ ie Adams was skeptical, and at times scornful, of the pretensions of the writers he 
names in this ironical passage. Price, Priestley, and Godwin were English radicals and 
controversialists; Priestley was a correspondent of Jefferson's. Condorcet, Rousseau, and 
Diderot were important French writers on moral, political, and philosophical topics.] 


aristoi] will not help the matter. I would trust one as well as the other with 
unlimited power. The law wisely refuses an oath as a witness in his own 
case, to the saint as well as the sinner. . . 

You suppose a difference of opinion between you and me on the subject 
of aristocracy. I can find none. I dislike and detest hereditary honors, offices, 
emoluments, established by law. So do you. I am for excluding legal, heredi- 
tary distinctions from the United States as long as possible. So are you. I 
only say that mankind have not yet discovered any remedy against irresis- 
tible corruption in elections to offices of great power and profit, but making 
them hereditary. 

James Madison 

([ The Convention of May-September 1787 adopted a Constitution 
of the United States to replace the Articles of Confederation and 
'form a more perfect Union.' But to be in force, the new Constitu- 
tion had to be ratified by nine of the thirteen states, and ratification 
was far from assured. In the months after the Convention Alexan- 
der Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote a scries of articles 
designed to win public support for the Constitution by explaining 
and defending it. These Federalist papers became, and have re- 
mained, the classic commentary on the Constitutional foundations 
of American government. 

Of the 85 Federalist papers, 79 appeared in New York news- 
papers. Madison is believed to have written at least 24 of them in 
addition to Number x (printed in The New York Packet, 23 No- 
vember 1787), which is his best-known contribution to the series. 

The Constitution was ratified in 1788. 

To the People of the State of New York: 


.MONO the numerous advantages promised by a well- 
constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than 
its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of 
popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their char- 
acter and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous 
vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, with- 
out violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure 
for it. The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public 
councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular 
governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite 
and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most 
specious declamations. The valuable improvements made by the American 


constitutions 1 on the popular models, both ancient and modern, cannot 
certainly be too much admired; but it would be an unwarrantable partial- 
ity, to contend that they have as effectually obviated the danger on this 
side, as was wished and expected. Complaints are everywhere heard from 
our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public 
and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments 
are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival 
parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules 
of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an 
interested and overbearing majority. However anxiously we may wish that 
these complaints had no foundation, the evidence of known facts will not 
permit us to deny that they are in some degree true. It will be found, 
indeed, on a candid review of our situation, that some of the distresses 
under which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of 
our governments; but it will be found, at the same time, that other causes 
will not alone account for many of our heaviest misfortunes; and, particu- 
larly, for that prevailing and increasing distrust of public engagements, 
and alarm for private rights, which are echoed from one end of the conti- 
nent to the other. 2 These must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the 
unsteadiness and injustice with which a factious spirit has tainted our pub- 
lic administrations. 

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to 
a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some 
common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other 
citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community. 

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by 
removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects. 

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, 
by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by 
giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same 

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was 
worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment 
without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish 
liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than 

[* The Articles of Confederation (which the Constitution adopted in 1787 was to 
supersede) seem to be meant, but probably Madison also has in mind the constitutions 
of the various states.] 

[ a This may refer to Shays's Rebellion in Massachusetts, in the autumn of 1786, which 
shocked the country and which was not forgotten by the framers of the Constitution.] 

204 James Madison 

it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, 
because it imparts to fire its destructive agency. 

The Second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. 
As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exer- 
cise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists 
between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have 
a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to 
which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of 
men, from which the rights of property 3 originate, is not less an insuper- 
able obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties 
is the first object of government. From the protection of different and 
unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees 
and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these 
on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division 
of the society into different interests and parties. 

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and 
we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, accord- 
ing to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opin- 
ions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, 
as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders 
ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other 
descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, 
have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual 
animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each 
other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propen- 
sity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial 
occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have 
been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most 
violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has 
been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold 
and those who are without property have, ever formed distinct interests in 
society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a 
like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercan- 
tile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of 
necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actu- 
ated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and 
interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and 

[ 3 Compare Madison's ideas on property with those of Emerson ('Politics'), Jefferson, 
and Carritt ('The Rights of Man').] 


involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary opera- 
tions of the government. 

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest 
would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integ- 
rity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men arc unfit to be 
both judges and parties at the same time; yet what are many of the most 
important acts of legislation, but so many judicial determinations, not 
indeed concerning the rights of single persons, but concerning the rights 
of large bodies of citizens? And what are the different classes of legis- 
lators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine? 
Is a law proposed concerning private debts? It is a question to which 
the creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other. Jus- 
tice ought to hold the balance between them. Yet the parties are, and 
must be, themselves the judges; and the most numerous party, or, in 
other words, the most powerful faction must be expected to prevail. Shall 
domestic manufactures be encouraged, and in what degree, by restrictions 
on foreign manufactures? are questions which would be differently decided 
by the landed and the manufacturing classes, and probably by neither with 
a sole regard to justice and the public good. The apportionment of taxes 
on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the 
most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which 
greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to 
trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden 
the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets. 

It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these 
clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. 
Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, 
can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect 
and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate 
interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or 
the good of the whole. 

The inference to which we are brought is, that the causes of faction 
cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of 
controlling its effects. 

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the 
republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views 
by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; 
but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of 
the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of 

206 James Madison 

popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling 
passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. 
To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a 
faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular 
government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed. 
Let me add that it is the great desideratum by which this form of govern- 
ment can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has so long 
labored, and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind. 

By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. 
Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the 
same time must be prevented, or the majority, having such coexistent pas- 
sion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, 
unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression. If the im- 
pulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that 
neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate con- 
trol. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of indi- 
viduals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined 
together, that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful. 

From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democ- 
racy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, 
who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no 
cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in 
almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication 
and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing 
to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious 
individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of 
turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with per- 
sonal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short 
in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politi- 
cians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously 
supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political 
rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated 
in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions. 

A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of rep- 
resentation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure 
for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from 
pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure 
and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union. 

The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic 


are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small num- 
ber of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, 
and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended. 

The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge 
the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body 
of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their coun- 
try, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacri- 
fice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it 
may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives 
of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pro- 
nounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose. On the other 
hand, the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local preju- 
dices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other 
means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the 
people. The question resulting is, whether small or extensive republics are 
more favorable to the election of proper guardians of the public weal; and 
it is clearly decided in favor of the latter by two obvious considerations: 

In the first place, it is to be remarked that, however small the republic 
may be, the representatives must be raised to a certain number, in order to 
guard against the cabals of a few; 4 and that, however large it may be, they 
must be limited to a certain number, in order to guard against the con- 
fusion of a multitude. Hence, the number of representatives in the two 
cases not being in proportion to that of the two constituents, and being 
proportionally greater in the small republic, it follows that, if the propor- 
tion of fit characters be not less in the large than in the small republic, the 
former will present a greater option, and consequently a greater probability 
of a fit choice. 

In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater num- 
ber of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more diffi- 
cult for unworthy candidates to practise with success the vicious arts by 
which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being 
more free, will be more likely to centre in men who possess the most 
attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters. 

It must be confessed that in this, as in most other cases, there is a mean, 
on both sides of which inconveniences will be found to lie. By enlarging 
too much the number of electors, you render the representative too little 
acquainted with all their local circumstances and lesser interests; as by 

[ 4 On the danger of obstruction by strongly organized minorities see also the Jefferson- 
Adams letters, pp. 194-201.] 

2o8 James Madison 

reducing it too much, you render him unduly attached to these, and too 
little fit to comprehend and pursue great and national objects. The federal 
Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and 
aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular 
to the State legislatures. 

The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens and 
extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican 
than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally 
which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than 
in the latter. The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the dis- 
tinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and 
interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; 
and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the 
smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they 
concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you 
take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable 
that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the 
rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more 
difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in 
unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be remarked 
that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, 
communication is always checked by distrust in proportion to the number 
whose concurrence is necessary. 

Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a republic has 
over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a 
large over a small republic, -is enjoyed by the Union over the States com- 
posing it. Does the advantage consist in the substitution of representatives 
whose enlightened views and virtuous sentiments render them superior to 
local prejudices and to schemes of injustice? It will not be denied that the 
representation of the Union will be most likely to possess these requisite 
endowments. Does it consist in the greater security afforded by a greater 
variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnum- 
ber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the increased variety of 
parties comprised within the Union, increase this security. Does it, in fine, 
consist in the greater obstacles opposed to the concert and accomplish- 
ment of the secret wishes of an unjust and interested majority? Here, again, 
the extent of the Union gives it the most palpable advantage. 

The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particu- 
lar States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the 


other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a 
part of the Confederacy; 5 but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire 
face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that 
source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal 
division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be 
less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member 
of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a par- 
ticular county or district, than an entire State. 

In the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we behold a 
republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican govern- 
ment. And according to the degree of pleasure and pride we feel in being 
republicans, ought to be our zeal in cherishing the spirit and supporting 
the character of Federalists. PUBLIUS. 

[ s 'Confederacy' here and 'Federalists' in the next paragraph do not, of course, have 
the restricted meanings familiar to students of nineteenth-century American history. 
'Confederacy* here means merely the association of states existent when Madison was 
wnting. 'Federalists' is not the name of an organized political party but a term denoting 
those who wanted the Constitution to be ratified and who supported the kind of federal 
union advocated by the Federalist papers.] 

Ralph Wddo Emerson 

([A good many readers in this generation may find Emerson's 
'Polities' quaint if nothing worse. If they approve of his doubts 
about property, they will nevertheless think that his exaltation of 
the individual above the State is somewhat remote from the way 
the world goes now. 'Good men must not obey the laws too well/ 
'A party is perpetually corrupted by personality/ 'The less govern- 
ment we have, the better/ 'The appearance of character makes the 
State unnecessary/ These are not maxims of the modern State, in 
either its democratic or its totalitarian manifestations. 'If men can 
be educated, the institutions will share their improvement, and the 
moral sentiment will write the law of the land/ Emerson insists. 
His 'Polities' remains an uncompromising affirmation of faith in 
idealism, in the supreme worth of the individual, and of conviction 
that in the long run it is individuals who make States good, not 
States that make individuals good. 

'Polities' was first published in the second scries of Emerson's 
Essays, 1844. 


IN DEALING with the State, we ought to remember that its insti- 
tutions are not aboriginal, though they existed before we were born: that 
they are not superior to the citizen: that every one of them was once the 
act of a single man: every law and usage was a man's expedient to meet a 
particular case: that they all are imitable, all alterable; we may make as 
good; we may make better. Society is an illusion to the young citizen. It lies 
before him in rigid repose, with certain names, men, and institutions, 
rooted like oak-trees to the centre, round which all arrange themselves the 
best they can. But the old statesman knows that society is fluid; there are 
no such roots and centres; but any particle may suddenly become the centre 

FROM Essays, Second Series, 1844. 


of the movement, and compel the system to gyrate round it, as every man 
of strong will, like Pisistratus, 1 or Cromwell, does for a time, and every 
man of truth, like Plato, or Paul, does forever. But politics rest on necessary 
foundations, and cannot be treated with levity. Republics abound in young 
civilians, who believe that the laws make the city, that grave modifications 
of the policy and modes of living, and employments of the population, that 
commerce, education, and religion, may be voted in or out; and that any 
measure, though it were absurd, may be imposed on a people, if only you 
can get sufficient voices to make it a law. But the wise know that foolish 
legislation is a rope of sand, which perishes in the twisting; that the State 
must follow, and not lead the character and progress of the citizen; the 
strongest usurper is quickly got rid of; and they only who build on Ideas, 
build for eternity; and that the form of government which prevails, is the 
expression of what cultivation exists in the population which permits it. 
The law is only a memorandum. We are superstitious, and esteem the 
statute somewhat: so much life as it has in the character of living men, is 
its force. The statute stands there to say, yesterday we agreed so and so, 
but how feel ye this article to-day? Our statute is a currency, which we 
stamp with our own portrait: it soon becomes unrecognizable, and in proc- 
ess of time will return to the mint. Nature is not democratic, nor limited- 
monarchical, but despotic, and will not be fooled or abated of any jot of 
her authority, by the pertest of her sons: and as fast as the public mind is 
opened to more intelligence, the code is seen to be brute and stammering. 
It speaks not articulately, and must be made to. Meantime the education 
of the general mind never stops. The reveries of the true and simple are 
prophetic. What the tender poetic youth dreams, and prays, and paints 
to-day, but shuns the ridicule of saying aloud, shall presently be the resolu- 
tions of public bodies, then shall be carried as grievance and bill of rights 
through conflict and war, and then shall be triumphant law and establish- 
ment for a hundred years, until it gives place, in turn, to new prayers and 
pictures. The history of the State sketches in coarse outline the progress 
of thought, and follows at a distance the delicacy of culture and of aspi- 

The theory of politics, which has possessed the mind of men, and which 
they have expressed the best they could in their laws and in their revolu- 
tions, considers persons and property 2 as the two objects for whose protec- 

C 1 Ruler of Athens, 560-527 B c.] 

[ a See Carritt, "The Rights of Man/ pp. 252-65; Madison, Federalist, No. x, pp. 202-9; 
Becker, The Reality/ pp. 235-51.] 

212 Rdph Waldo Emerson 

tion government exists. Of persons, all have equal rights, in virtue of being 
identical in nature. This interest, of course, with its whole power demands 
a democracy. Whilst the rights of all as persons are equal, in virtue of their 
access to reason, their rights in property are very unequal. One man owns 
his clothes, and another owns a county. This accident, depending, primar- 
ily, on the skill and virtue of the parties, of which there is every degree, 
and, secondarily, on patrimony, falls unequally, and its rights, of course, 
are unequal. Personal rights, universally the same, demand a government 
framed on the ratio of the census: property demands a government framed 
on the ratio of owners and of owning. Laban, 3 who has flocks and herds, 
wishes them looked after by an officer on the frontiers, lest the Midianites 
shall drive them off, and pays a tax to that end. Jacob has no flocks or 
herds, and no fear of the Midianites, and pays no tax to the officer. It 
seemed fit that Laban and Jacob should have equal rights to elect the 
officer, who is to defend their persons, but that Laban, and not Jacob, 
should elect the officer who is to guard the sheep and cattle. And, if ques- 
tion arise whether additional officers or watch-towers should be provided, 
must not Laban and Isaac, and those who must sell part of their herds to 
buy protection for the rest, judge better of this, and with more right, than 
Jacob, who, because he is a youth and a traveller, eats their bread and not 
his own? 

In the earliest society the proprietors made their own wealth, and so long 
as it comes to the owners in the direct way, no other opinion would arise 
in any equitable community, than that property should make the law for 
property, and persons the law for persons. 

But property passes through donation or inheritance to those who do not 
create it. Gift, in one case, makes it as really the new owner's, as labor made 
it the first owner's: in the other case, of patrimony, the law makes an own- 
ership, which will be valid in each man's view according to the estimate 
which he sets on the public tranquillity. 

It was not, however, found easy to embody the readily admitted prin- 
ciple, that property should make law for property, and persons for persons: 
since persons and property mixed themselves in every transaction. At last 
it seemed settled, that the rightful distinction was, that the proprietors 
should have more elective franchise than non-proprietors, on the Spartan 
principle of 'calling that which is just, equal; not that which is equal, just/ 

That principle 4 no longer looks so self-evident as it appeared in former 

[ 3 See Genesis, xxix-xxxi.] 

I 4 Property qualifications for voting existed in many states until the 1820'$.] 


times, partly, because doubts have arisen whether too much weight had not 
been allowed in the laws, to property, and such a structure given to our 
usages, as allowed the rich to encroach on the poor, and to keep them poor; 
but mainly, because there is an instinctive sense, however obscure and yet 
inarticulate, that the whole constitution of property, on its present tenures, 
is injurious, and its influence on persons deteriorating and degrading; that 
truly, the only interest for the consideration of the State, is persons: that 
property will always follow persons; that the highest end of government is 
the culture of men: and if men can be educated, the institutions will share 
their improvement, and the moral sentiment will write the law of the land. 

If it be not easy to settle the equity of this question, the peril is less 
when we take note of our natural defences. We are kept by better guards 
than the vigilance of such magistrates as we commonly elect. Society 
always consists, in greatest part, of young and foolish persons. The old, 
who have seen through the hypocrisy of courts and statesmen, die, and 
leave no wisdom to their sons. They believe their own newspaper, as their 
fathers did at their age. With such an ignorant and deceivablc majority, 
States would soon run to ruin, but that there are limitations, beyond which 
the folly and ambition of governors cannot go. Things have their laws, as 
well as men; and things refuse to be trifled with. Property will be protected. 
Corn will not grow, unless it is planted and manured; but the farmer will 
not plant or hoe it, unless the chances are a hundred to one, that he will 
cut and harvest it. Under any forms, persons and property must and will 
have their just sway. They exert their power, as steadily as matter its attrac- 
tion. Cover up a pound of earth never so cunningly, divide and subdivide 
it; melt it to liquid, convert it to gas; it will always weigh a pound: it will 
always attract and resist other matter, by the full virtue of one pound 
weight; and the attributes of a person, his wit and his moral energy, will 
exercise, under any law or extinguishing tyranny, their proper force, if not 
overtly, then covertly; if not for the law, then against it; if not wholesomely, 
then poisonously; with right, or by might. 

The boundaries of personal influence it is impossible to fix, as persons 
are organs of moral or supernatural force. Under the dominion of an idea, 
which possesses the minds of multitudes, as civil freedom, or the religious 
sentiment, the powers of persons are no longer subjects of calculation. A 
nation of men unanimously bent on freedom, or conquest, can easily 
confound the arithmetic of statists, and achieve extravagant actions, out 
of all proportion to their means; as, the Greeks, the Saracens, the Swiss, 
the Americans, and the French have done. 

214 Ralph Waldo Emerson 

In like manner, to every particle of property belongs its own attraction. 
A cent is the representative of a certain quantity of corn or other commod- 
ity. Its value is in the necessities of the animal man. It is so much warmth, 
so much bread, so much water, so much land. The law may do what it will 
with the owner of property, its just power will still attach to the cent. The 
law may in a mad freak say, that all shall have power except the owners of 
property: they shall have no vote. Nevertheless, by a higher law, the prop- 
erty will, year after year, write every statute that respects property. The 
non-proprietor will be the scribe of the proprietor. What the owners wish 
to do, the whole power of property will do, either through the law, or else 
in defiance of it. Of course, I speak of all the property, not merely of the 
great estates. When the rich are outvoted, as frequently happens, it is the 
joint treasury of the poor which exceeds their accumulations. Every man 
owns something, if it is only a cow, or a wheelbarrow, or his arms, and so 
has that property to dispose of. 

The same necessity which secures the rights of person and property 
against the malignity or folly of the magistrate, determines the form and 
methods of governing, which are proper to each nation, and to its habit 
of thought, and nowise transferable to other states of society. In this coun- 
try, we are very vain of our political institutions, which are singular in this, 
that they sprung, within the memory of living men, from the character 
and condition of the people, which they still express with sufficient fidelity, 
and we ostentatiously prefer them to any other in history. They are not 
better, but only fitter for us. We may be wise in asserting the advantage in 
modern times of the democratic form, but to other states of society, in 
which religion consecrated the monarchical, that and not this was expedi- 
ent. Democracy is better for us, because the religious sentiment of the pres- 
ent time accords better with it. Born democrats, we are nowise qualified 
to judge of monarchy, which, to our fathers living in the monarchical idea, 
was also relatively right. But our institutions, though in coincidence with 
the spirit of the age, have not any exemption from the practical defects 
which have discredited other forms. Every actual State is corrupt. Good 
men must not obey the laws too well. What satire on government can 
equal the severity of censure conveyed in the word politic, which now for 
ages has signified cunning, intimating that the State is a trick? 

The same benign necessity and the same practical abuse appear in the 
parties into which each State divides itself, of opponents and defenders of 
the administration of the government. Parties are also founded on instincts, 
and have better guides to their own humble aims than the sagacity of their 


leaders. They have nothing perverse in their origin, but rudely mark some 
real and lasting relation. We might as wisely reprove the east wind, or the 
frost, as a political party,, whose members, for the most part, could give no 
account of their position, but stand for the defence of those interests in 
which they find themselves. Our quarrel with them begins, when they quit 
this deep natural ground at the bidding of some leader, and, obeying per- 
sonal considerations, throw themselves into the maintenance and defence 
of points, nowise belonging to their system. A party is perpetually cor- 
rupted by personality. Whilst we absolve the association from dishonesty, 
we cannot extend the same charity to their leaders. They reap the rewards 
of the docility and zeal of the masses which they direct. Ordinarily, our 
parties are parties of circumstance, and not of principle; as, the planting 
interest in conflict with the commercial; the party of capitalists, and that 
of operatives; parties which are identical in their moral character, and 
which can easily change ground with each other, in the support of many 
of their measures. Parties of principle, as, religious sects, or the party of 
free-trade, of universal suffrage, of abolition of slavery, of abolition of capi- 
tal punishment, degenerate into personalities, or would inspire enthusiasm. 
The vice of our leading parties in this country (which may be cited as a 
fair specimen of these societies of opinion) is, that they do not plant them- 
selves on the deep and necessary grounds to which they are respectively 
entitled, but lash themselves to fury in the carrying of some local and 
momentary measure, nowise useful to the commonwealth. Of the two great 
parties, 5 which, at this hour, almost share the nation between them, I 
should say, that, one has the best cause, and the other contains the best 
men. The philosopher, the poet, or the religious man, will, of course, wish 
to cast his vote with the democrat, for free-trade, for wide suffrage, for the 
abolition of legal cruelties in the penal code, and for facilitating in every 
manner the access of the young and the poor to the sources of wealth and 
power. But he can rarely accept the persons whom the so-called popular 
party propose to him as representatives of these liberalities. They have not 
at heart the ends which give to the name of democracy what hope and 
virtue are in it. The spirit of our American radicalism is destructive and 
aimless: it is not loving; it has no ulterior and divine ends; but is destruc- 
tive only out of hatred and selfishness. On the other side, the conservative 
party, composed of the most moderate, able, and cultivated part of the 
population, is timid, and merely defensive of property. It vindicates no 
right, it aspires to no real good, it brands no crime, it proposes no generous 
[ 5 The Democratic and the Whig.] 

2i 6 Ralph Waldo Emerson 

policy, it does not build, nor write, nor cherish the arts, nor foster religion, 
nor establish schools, nor encourage science, nor emancipate the slave, nor 
befriend the poor, or the Indian, or the immigrant. From neither party, 
when in power, has the world any benefit to expect in science, art, or 
humanity, at all commensurate with the resources of the nation. 

I do not for these defects despair of our republic. We are not at the 
mercy of any waves of chance. In the strife of ferocious parties, human 
nature always finds itself cherished, as the children of the convicts at Bot- 
any Bay G arc found to have as healthy a moral sentiment as other children. 
Citizens of feudal states are alarmed at our democratic institutions lapsing 
into anarchy; and the older and more cautious among ourselves are learn- 
ing from Europeans to look with some terror at our turbulent freedom. It 
is said that in our license of construing the Constitution, and in the despo- 
tism of public opinion, we have no anchor; and one foreign observer thinks 
he has found the safeguard in the sanctity of Marriage among us; and 
another thinks he has found it in our Calvinism. Fisher Ames 7 expressed 
the popular security more wisely, when he compared a monarchy and a 
republic, saying, 'that a monarchy is a merchantman, which sails well, but 
will sometimes strike on a rock, and go to the bottom; whilst a republic is 
a raft, which would never sink, but then your feet are always in water/ No 
forms can have any dangerous importance, whilst we are befriended by the 
laws of things. It makes no difference how many tons weight of atmos- 
phere presses on our heads, so long as the same pressure resists it within 
the lungs. Augment the mass a thousand fold, it cannot begin to crush us, 
as long as reaction is equal to action. The fact of two poles, of two forces, 
centripetal and centrifugal, is universal, and each force by its own activity 
develops the other. Wild liberty develops iron conscience. Want of liberty, 
by strengthening law and decorum, stupefies conscience. 'Lynch-law* pre- 
vails only where there is greater hardihood and self-subsistency in the 
leaders. A mob cannot be a permanency: everybody's interest requires that 
it should not exist, and only justice satisfies all. 

We must trust infinitely to the beneficent necessity which shines through 
all laws. Human nature expresses itself in them as characteristically as in 
statues, or songs, or railroads, and an abstract of the codes of nations would 
be a transcript of the common conscience. Governments have their origin 
in the moral identity of men. Reason for one is seen to be reason for an- 

[ e British penal colony off New South Wales.] 

[ 7 Massachusetts Federalist (1758-1808), prominent in the politics of the Washing- 
ton administration, 1789-97.] 


other, and for every other. There is a middle measure which satisfies all 
parties, be they never so many, or so resolute for their own. Every man finds 
a sanction for his simplest claims and deeds in decisions of his own mind, 
which he calls Truth and Holiness. In these decisions all the citizens find 
a perfect agreement, and only in these; not in what is good to eat, good to 
wear, good use of time, or what amount of land, or of public aid, each is 
entitled to claim. This truth and justice men presently endeavor to make 
application of, to the measuring of land, the apportionment of service, the 
protection of life and property. Their first endeavors, no doubt, are very 
awkward. Yet absolute right is the first governor; or, every government is 
an impure theocracy. The idea, after which each community is aiming to 
make and mend its law, is, the will of the wise man. The wise man, it can- 
not find in natuie, and it makes awkward but earnest efforts to secure his 
government by contrivance; as, by causing the entire people to give their 
voices on every measure; or, by a double choice to get the representation 
of the whole; or, by a selection of the best citizens; or, to secure the advan- 
tages of efficiency and internal peace, by confiding the government to one, 
who may himself select his agents. All forms of government symbolize an 
immortal government, common to all dynasties and independent of num- 
bers, perfect where two men exist, perfect where there is only one man. 

Every man's nature is a sufficient advertisement to him of the character 
of his fellows. My right and my wrong, is their right and their wrong. 
Whilst I do what is fit for me, and abstain from what is unfit, my neighbor 
and I shall often agree in our means, and work together for a time to one 
end. But whenever I find my dominion over myself not sufficient for me, 
and undertake the direction of him also, I overstep the truth, and come into 
false relations to him. I may have so much more skill or strength than he, 
that he cannot express adequately his sense of wrong, but it is a lie, and 
hurts like a lie both him and me. Love and nature cannot maintain the 
assumption: it must be executed by a practical lie, namely, by force. This 
undertaking for another, is the blunder which stands in colossal ugliness 
in the governments of the world. It is the same thing in numbers, as in a 
pair, only not quite so intelligible. I can see well enough a great difference 
between my setting myself down to a self-control, and my going to make 
somebody else act after my views: but when a quarter of the human race 
assume to tell me what I must do, I may be too much disturbed by the cir- 
cumstances to see so clearly the absurdity of their command. Therefore, all 
public ends look vague and quixotic beside private ones. For, any laws but 
those which men make for themselves, are laughable. If I put myself in the 

2i 8 Ralph Waldo Emerson 

place of my child, and we stand in one thought, and see that things are 
thus or thus, that perception is law for him and me. We are both there, 
both act. But if, without carrying him into the thought, I look over into 
his plot, and, guessing how it is with him, ordain this or that, he will never 
obey me. This is the history of governments, one man does something 
which is to bind another. A man who cannot be acquainted with me, 
taxes me; looking from afar at me, ordains that a part of my labor shall 
go to this or that whimsical end, not as I, but as he happens to fancy. Be- 
hold the consequence. Of all debts, men are least willing to pay the taxes. 
What a satire is this on government! Everywhere they think they get their 
money's worth, except for these. 

Hence, the less government we have, the better, the fewer laws, and 
the less confided power. The antidote to this abuse of formal Government, 
is, the influence of private character, the growth of the Individual; the 
appearance of the principal to supersede the proxy; the appearance of the 
wise man, of whom the existing government is, it must be owned, but a 
shabby imitation. That which all things tend to educe, which freedom, 
cultivation, intercourse, revolutions, go to form and deliver, is character; 
that is the end of nature, to reach unto this coronation of her king. To 
educate the wise man, the State exists; and with the appearance of the 
wise man, the State expires. The appearance of character makes the State 
unnecessary. The wise man is the State. He needs no army, fort, or navy, 
he loves men too well; no bribe, or feast, or palace, to draw friends to him; 
no vantage ground, no favorable circumstance. He needs no library, for he 
has not done thinking; no church, for he is a prophet; no statute book, for 
he has the lawgiver; no money, for he is value; no road, for he is at home 
where he is; no experience, for the life of the creator shoots through him, 
and looks from his eyes. He has no personal friends, for he who has the 
spell to draw the prayer and piety of all men unto him, needs not husband 
and educate a few, to share with him a select and poetic life. His relation 
to men is angelic; his memory is myrrh to them; his presence, frankincense 
and flowers. 

We think our civilization near its meridian, but we are yet only at the 
cock-crowing and the morning star. In our barbarous society the influence 
of character is in its infancy. As a political power, as the rightful lord who 
is to tumble all rulers from their chairs, its presence is hardly yet suspected. 
Malthus and Ricardo 8 quite omit it; the Annual Register is silent; in the 

[Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) and David Ricardo (1772-1823), celebrated Eng- 
lish economists.] 


Conversations' Lexicon, it is not set down; the President's Message, the 
Queen's Speech, have not mentioned it; and yet it is never nothing. Every 
thought which genius and piety throw into the world, alters the world. The 
gladiators in the lists of power feel, through all their frocks of force and 
simulation, the presence of worth. I think the very strife of trade and 
ambition are confession of this divinity; and successes in those fields are the 
poor amends, the fig-leaf with which the shamed soul attempts to hide 
its nakedness. I find the like unwilling homage in all quarters. It is because 
we know how much is due from us, that we are impatient to show some 
petty talent as a substitute for worth. We are haunted by a conscience of 
this right to grandeur of character, and are false to it. But each of us has 
some talent, can do somewhat useful, or graceful, or formidable, or amus- 
ing, or lucrative. That we do, as an apology to others and to ourselves, for 
not reaching the mark of a good and equal life. But it does not satisfy 
us, whilst we thrust it on the notice of our companions. It may throw dust 
in their eyes, but does not smooth our own brow, or give us the tranquillity 
of the strong when we walk abroad. We do penance as we go. Our talent 
is a sort of expiation, and we are constrained to reflect on our splendid 
moment, with a certain humiliation, as somewhat too fine, and not as one 
act of many acts, a fair expression of our permanent energy. Most persons 
of ability meet in society with a kind of tacit appeal. Each seems to say, 'I 
am not all here/ Senators and presidents have climbed so high with pain 
enough, not because they think the place specially agreeable, but as an 
apology for real worth, and to vindicate their manhood in our eyes. This 
conspicuous chair is their compensation to themselves for being of a poor, 
cold, hard nature. They must do what they can. Like one class of forest 
animals, they have nothing but a prehensile tail: climb they must, or 
crawl. If a man found himself so rich-natured that he could enter into 
strict relations with the best persons, and make life serene around him by 
the dignity and sweetness of his behavior, could he afford to circumvent 
the favor of the caucus and the press, and covet relations so hollow and 
pompous, as those of a politician? Surely nobody would be a charlatan, who 
could afford to be sincere. 

The tendencies of the times favor the idea of self-government, and leave 
the individual, for all code, to the rewards and penalties of his own con- 
stitution, which work with more energy than we believe, whilst we depend 
on artificial restraints. The movement in this direction has been very 
marked in modern history. Much has been blind and discreditable, but the 
nature of the revolution is not affected by the vices of the revolters; for this 

220 Ralph Waldo Emerson 

is a purely moral force. It was never adopted by any party in history, neither 
can be. It separates the individual from all party, and unites him, at the 
same time, to the race. It promises a recognition of higher rights than those 
of personal freedom, or the security of property. A man has a right to be 
employed, to be trusted, to be loved, to be revered. The power of love, as 
the basis of a State, has never been tried. We must not imagine that all 
things are lapsing into confusion, if every tender protestant be not com- 
pelled to bear his part in certain social conventions: nor doubt that roads 
can be built, letters carried, and the fruit of labor secured, when the govern- 
ment of force is at an end. Are our methods now so excellent that all com- 
petition is hopeless? could not a nation of friends even devise better ways? 
On the other hand, let not the most conservative and timid fear anything 
from a premature surrender of the bayonet, and the system of force. For, 
according to the order of nature, which is quite superior to our will, it 
stands thus; there will always be a government of force, where men are 
selfish; and when they are pure enough to abjure the code of force, they 
will be wise enough to see how these public ends of the post-office, of the 
highway, of commerce, and the exchange of property, of museums and 
libraries, of institutions of art and science, can be answered. 

We live in a very low state of the world, and pay unwilling tribute to 
governments founded on force. There is not, among the most religious and 
instructed men of the most religious and civil nations, a reliance on the 
moral sentiment, and a sufficient belief in the unity of things to persuade 
them that society can be maintained without artificial restraints, as well as 
the solar system; or that the private citizen might be reasonable, and a 
good neighbor, without the hint of a jail or a confiscation. What is strange 
too, there never was in any man sufficient faith in the power of rectitude, 
to inspire him with the broad design of renovating the State on the prin- 
ciple of right and love. All those who have pretended this design, have 
been partial reformers, and have admitted in some manner the supremacy 
of the bad State. I do not call to mind a single human being who has 
steadily denied the authority of the laws, on the simple ground of his own 
moral nature. Such designs, full of genius and full of fate as they are, are 
not entertained except avowedly as air-pictures. If the individual who 
exhibits them, dare to think them practicable, he disgusts scholars and 
churchmen; and men of talent, and women of superior sentiments, cannot 
hide their contempt. Not the less does nature continue to fill the heart of 
youth with suggestions of this enthusiasm, and there are now men, if 

Carl Becker 

{[Carl Becker (1873-1945) taught history at Dartmouth College, 
at the University of Kansas, and, from 1917 until his death, at 
Cornell University. His best-known books are The Declaration of 
Independence (1922), The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Cen- 
tury Philosophers (1932), Everyman His Own Historian (1935), 
Modern Democracy (1941), and New Liberties for Old (1942). 
Modern Democracy consists of lectures delivered at the University 
of Virginia in 1940. The first lecture, The Ideal/ sketched the 
theory of democratic society. The lecture reprinted here was the 
second one. 

'Research, though laborious, is easy; imagination, though delight- 
ful, is difficult/ Becker's books have in them both the labors of 
research and the play of imagination. Among recent historians he 
was unusual for the ease and clarity of his style. 

Men mistook the pernicious channels in which selfish pro- 
pensities had been flowing for the propensities themselves, 
which were sure to find new channels when the old had 
been destroyed. James Bryce. 1 

Those who own the country ought to govern it. John Jay. 9 


LN THE preceding lecture we were concerned with the ideal 
form of democracy. It is obvious that the reality does not strictly conform 
to this ideal. There is nothing remarkable in that. The ideal is always better 

t 1 British scholar and diplomat (1838-1922). His The American Commonwealth was 
the best book of its time, and one of the best of any time, on America.] 

[ a Statesman (1745-1829); first Chief Justice of the United States. He wrote some 
of the Federalist papers (see p. 202).] 

FROM Modern Democracy, 1941. Reprinted by permission of the Yale University 

236 Carl Becker 

than the real otherwise there would be no need for ideals. We have been 
told, as if it were a surprising thing, that in Russia the Revolution has been 
betrayed. But it was bound to be betrayed. It is in the nature of revolutions 
to be betrayed, 3 since life and history have an inveterate habit of betraying 
the ideal aspirations of men. In this sense the liberal-democratic revolution 4 
was likewise bound to be betrayed men were sure to be neither so rational 
nor so well-intentioned as the ideology conceived them to be. But while a 
little betrayal is a normal thing, too much is something that calls for 
explanation. The liberal-democratic revolution has been so far betrayed, 
the ideal so imperfectly portrayed in the course of events, that its charac- 
teristic features cannot easily be recognized in any democratic society today. 
In this lecture I shall attempt to disclose some of the essential reasons for 
the profound discord between democracy as it was ideally projected and 
democracy as a going concern. 

Stated in general terms the essential reason is that the idea of liberty, 
as formulated in the eighteenth century, although valid enough for that 
time, has in one fundamental respect ceased to be applicable to the situation 
in which we find ourselves. In the eighteenth century the most obvious 
oppressions from which men suffered derived from governmental restraints 
on the free activity of the individual. Liberty was therefore naturally con- 
ceived in terms of the emancipation of the individual from such restraints. 
In the economic realm this meant the elimination of governmental re- 
straints on the individual in choosing his occupation, in contracting for the 
acquisition and disposal of property, and the purchase and sale of personal 
services. But in our time, as a result of the growing complexities of a tech' 
nological society, the emancipation of the individual from governmental 
restraint in his economic activities has created new oppressions, so that for 
the majority of men liberty can be achieved only by an extension of gov- 
ernmental regulation of competitive business enterprise. It is in the eco- 
nomic realm that the traditional idea of liberty is no longer applicable; in 
the economic realm, accordingly, that the discord between democracy as 
an ideal and democracy as a going concern is most flagrant, most disil- 
lusioning, and most dangerous. 

In order to elaborate this statement it will be well, first of all, to note 
the chief characteristics of the social situation in the eighteenth century 

[ 3 See Jefferson on the French Revolution, p. 198.] 

[ 4 That realized politically by the American and French revolutions and, so far as the 
United States was concerned, expressed doctrinally in the Declaration of Independence, 
the Constitution, and the Federalist papers.] 


the situation against which the liberal-democratic revolution was directed, 
and from which the eighteenth-century conception of liberty emerged as 
an obvious and valid rationalization. 

From the twelfth to the seventeenth century the cardinal economic fact 
in western Europe was the rise of an industrial capitalist class in the towns; 
the cardinal political fact was the consolidation of royal power over all 
classes and corporations within definite territorial limits. The chief obstacles 
encountered by kings in this political process were two: first, the feudal 
vassals who claimed, and often exercised, virtual independence within their 
domains; second, the Roman Church, which claimed to be superior to the 
civil power, was in large part a self-governing institution, and exercised in 
fact over the king's subjects an authority independent of, and often in con- 
flict with, the authority of the king. 

In this three-cornered struggle for power, kings were sometimes supported 
by the church against the nobles, sometimes by the nobles against the 
church; but the persistent and effective support against both church and 
nobility came from the rising industrial class. Merchants and traders always 
found the turbulence of the nobility bad for business, and were usually 
willing, however painful it may have been, to supply the king with some 
of the money he needed to establish orderly government. Thus in the 
course of centuries, chiefly with the aid of the industrial bourgeois class, 
kings gradually reduced the nobles to the status of landed proprietors who 
retained, as the price of submission, the distinctions and prerogatives of a 
superior social class. 

Meantime, the long struggle for the subordination of the church to royal 
power was virtually completed by the upheaval known as the Protestant 
Reformation, and it was the growing power and heretical ideas of the indus- 
trial classes that made the Reformation successful. Everywhere stronger in 
the towns than in the country, stronger in industrialized than in nonindus- 
trialized countries, the Protestant Reformation was in effect a revolt of 
the middle classes against a church which, being controlled by a landed 
aristocracy, enforced ethical standards and religious practices unsuited to 
the temper and contrary to the interests of an industrial society. The chief 
political result of the Reformation was that by breaking the power of Rome 
it enhanced the power of kings, and by enhancing the power of kings it 
subordinated the church to the state, and thereby reduced the clergy, like 
the nobility, to the status of a privileged social class. 

Thus in the seventeenth century, as a result of the rise of an industrial 
capitalist class, the consolidation of royal power, and the survival of nobles 

238 (Jdr/ Becker 

and clergy as privileged classes within the state, there emerged in western 
Europe a social system that was everywhere much the same. The prevailing 
form of government was absolute monarchy. In theory the power of the 
king rested upon the doctrine of divine right, supplemented by the Roman 
Law precept 'What the Prince wills has the force of law/ In practice the 
power of the king rested upon the support of nobles, clergy, and the rich 
bourgeois industrialists and financiers, and functioned for the most part 
to their advantage by exploiting an underlying population of peasants and 

It was what we should call a highly regimented systema system in 
which the rights and obligations of the individual, always subject to the 
arbitrary will of the king, were normally determined by the rights and 
obligations appertaining to the class in which he was born. Generally speak- 
ing, there was for the individual neither freedom of occupation, nor of 
opinion or religion, nor any recognized method by which he might initiate 
or modify the law and custom by which his thought and conduct were 
controlled. The character of the liberal-democratic revolution which 
occurred from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries was conditioned 
by this fact. Dispensing with verbal refinements, all revolutions are made 
in behalf of liberty freedom from some sort of real or fancied oppression; 
and in a social situation in which the individual was so obviously restrained 
and oppressed by law and custom not of his own making, it was inevitable 
that liberty should be conceived in terms of the emancipation of the indi- 
vidual from social and political control. 

The revolution was initiated and directed, not by those who were most 
oppressed, but by those who were most aware of oppression and most 
competent to denounce and resist it that is to say, not by the brutalized 
and ignorant peasants and workers, but by the educated and well-to-do 
middle classes. The bourgeoisie derived their power neither from birth nor 
office, but from money, that abstract and supple measure of the material 
value of all things. They acquired the education, cultivated the virtues, 
and developed the mentality appropriate to the occupations that engaged 
them. Occupied with practical affairs, with defined and determinable rela- 
tions, with concrete things and their disposal and calculable cash value, 
they cultivated the virtues of thrift and prudence, dependability and sound 
judgment, and developed a pragmatic and skeptical temper, averse to the 
mystical and other-worldly, little disposed to slavish adherence to tradi- 
tion, easily adaptable to the new and the experimental. 

In every country the liberal-democratic revolution developed, with occa- 


sional violent upheavals, in the measure that the bourgeoisie acquired 
power and became class conscious became aware, that is to say, of their 
peculiar class interests and virtues; and of the frustration of their interests 
and virtues by rococo class distinctions, and by arbitrary royal decrees which 
hampered business enterprise and deprived them of their property for the 
benefit of an aristocracy which they regarded as less intelligent, less moral, 
and less socially useful than themselves. The central, dramatic episode in 
the rise of liberal-democracy was the French Revolution; and it was in 
connection with this episode that there appeared in western Europe an 
exceptionally able group of intellectuals who rationalized the social situa- 
tion by identifying the middle-class interests and virtues with the rights of 
all menthe right of all men to equality of status and of opportunity, to 
freedom of occupation and of economic enterprise, to freedom of opinion 
and of religion, and to freedom from arbitrary political authority. 

Fortunately for the bourgeoisie and for the revolution, the interests of 
the middle classes wore, in one respect, identical with the interests of the 
great majority. The liberal-democratic revolution could not have been 
won if it had been fought on behalf of bourgeois class interests alone. Of 
all the liberties demanded, freedom of economic enterprise was the one 
least stressed by Ac Philosophers 5 and of least importance for the purposes 
of revolutionary propaganda. The liberty which could be demanded with 
most assurance and denied with least grace was liberty of person and of 
opinion freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the press, freedom 
of learning and of teaching, freedom from the insane brutalities practiced 
in the civil and ecclesiastical administration of justice and in the punish- 
ment of crimes. In proclaiming the worth and dignity of the individual, in 
demanding the emancipation of men from the inhumanity of man to man, 
the bourgeois spokesmen were appealing to interests transcending all class 
lines. They were appealing to the spirit of Christianity against its practices, 
and espousing the cause with which all the saints and sages of the world 
had been identified. In doing so they injected into the liberal-democratic 
revolution the quality of a religious crusade, and thereby enlisted the wide- 
spread support which alone could assure its success. 

[ 5 Name given to a number of eighteenth-century French writers on philosophical and 
political topics; Diderot, D'Alembert, and Condorcet belong to this group. They were 
skeptical, anticlerical, and antimonarchical. Through their advocacy of liberty they 
helped to prepare the way for the French Revolution. See Becker's study, The Heavenly 
City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers.] 

240 Carl Becker 

The political and economic interests of the bourgeoisie could not, un- 
fortunately, be thus identified with the interests of all. On the contrary, the 
interests of the bourgeoisie, both in the political and the economic realm, 
proved in the long run to be in sharp conflict with the interests of the 
masses. It was the interest of the bourgeoisie to deny to the masses the 
political privileges which they demanded for themselves; while the freedom 
of economic enterprise which enriched bourgeois employers turned out 
to be, for the proletarian peasants and workers, no more than the old sub- 
jection under new forms. As liberal-democracy emerged into the light of 
day, this conflict of class interests became more obvious and more disas- 
trous; and it is this conflict which in our time has created those profound 
social discords which so largely nullify the theory and threaten to under- 
mine the stability of democratic institutions. 

In the earlier stages of the revolution, when the chief task was to deprive 
kings and aristocrats of political power and social privilege, this latent con- 
flict between middle- and lower-class interests was not apparent. For the 
time being, indeed, it did not exist. The tyranny of kings and aristocrats, 
so effectively denounced by the Philosophers, was real enough, and so long 
as it existed all the unprivileged, bourgeois and people alike, had a common 
interest in resisting it. The doctrine that all men had a natural right to 
govern themselves seemed then but a simple truth, and the bourgeoisie 
could accept it without bothering too much about its practical application, 
all the more so since only by accepting it could they enlist the support of 
the people in destroying absolute monarchy and class privilege. In all the 
great 'revolutionary days' the English civil wars in the seventeenth century, 
the American and the French revolutions at the close of the eighteenth, 
the South American wars of independence, the revolutions of 1830 and 
1848 in all these crucial struggles in which the tyranny of kings and aris- 
tocrats was still the central issue, the bourgeoisie and the people are found 
united in the effort to win political freedom by overthrowing the existing 
regime. They differed only in the respective parts which they played in 
the struggle: the function of the bourgeoisie was to take the initiative and 
supply the ideas; the function of the people was to erect the barricades 
and supply the necessary force. 

It is always easier for diverse groups to unite for the destruction of an 
existing regime than it is to unite for the construction of a new one. Having 
united to destroy the tyranny of kings and aristocrats, the bourgeoisie and 
the people were divided on the question of what political liberty should 
mean in practice. The doctrine that all men had a natural right to govern 


themselves was interpreted by the people to mean that all adult male 
citizens should share in choosing the magistrates and shaping the laws by 
which the community was governed. By the bourgeoisie it was interpreted 
to mean, as John Jay put it, that 'those who own the country ought to gov- 
ern it/ In this respect the first result of the revolution was everywhere 
essentially a victory for the bourgeoisie. Kings lost their absolute power, 
aristocrats lost their special privileges, or most of them; but political liberty 
the right to choose the magistrates and enact the laws by which the 
community was governed was limited to the people of property; the 
masses, having served their purpose by erecting the barricades, found 
themselves still excluded from what Guizot 7 called 'the political country/ 

Having thus, with the aid of the people, elbowed kings and aristocrats 
out of the seats of power, the bourgeoisie promptly united with the aris- 
tocrats to control the state. They had a common interest in excluding the 
people from political privilege, but in the competition for votes and power 
within the political country their interests were opposed. There accordingly 
emerged, for the promotion of their respective interests, two political 
parties which, although known by different names in different countries, 
we may call conservative and liberal. Conservative parties were composed 
for the most part of the landed aristocracy, the clergy of the established 
churches, high-placed bureaucrats, and hangers-on of royal courts. In some 
countries, more royalist than the king, they at first entertained the vain 
hope of restoring the ancient regime; but in any case they defended the 
interests of land against capital, the established church against dissenting 
religions, and old social distinctions and aristocratic prestige against the 
leveling influence of democratic customs. Liberal parties were composed 
of the educated and well-to-do middle classes businessmen, professional 
people, middle-class intellectuals, perhaps a few liberalized aristocrats. 
Occupying a middle position, the liberal parties fought on two fronts: 
equally opposed to absolutism and democracy, they were defenders of lib- 
erty against kings and aristocrats, but defenders of their own newly 
acquired privilege against the people. 

In this situation, there emerged a third political party variously called 
republican, progressive liberal, radical which for convenience we may call 
democratic. The democratic party represented those who were still excluded 
from the political country at first more particularly the industrial workers, 
who were most oppressed and the first to become class conscious. They 

[ e See Carntt, pp. 261-5.! 

[ 7 French statesman and historian (1787-1874).] 

242 Carl Becker 

were commonly led by middle-class intellectuals, who formulated for them 
a doctrine and a program. The doctrine was the pure liberal-democratic 
ideology which middle-class liberals professed in theory but denied in 
practice the doctrine that all men had a natural right to govern them- 
selves; and the chief point in the program was accordingly the extension 
of the suffrage to all adult male citizens, in the confident belief that the 
workers, once possessed of the right to vote for those who made the laws, 
could correct by legislation the economic inequalities that oppressed them. 

In the course of time, after much fruitless effort and some abortive up- 
risings, the people were admitted to the political country in the United 
States during the period from about 1830 to 1840, in European countries 
for the most part during the last three decades of the century. To this result 
both logic and political tactics contributed. In point of logic, it was diffi- 
cult for middle-class Liberals, who had won political privilege by advocat- 
ing the right of all men to govern themselves, to refute the argument that 
the masses as well as the classes should enjoy that right. But it was less 
the logic of the ideology than of political strategy that determined the 
outcome. As the fear of kings declined and the revolution was accepted as 
an accomplished fact, the opposition between upper-class Liberal and Con- 
servative parties declined also. Agreeing upon fundamentals, they were 
chiefly divided by the competitive struggle for votes; and it seemed obvious 
that the party which first pleased the masses by giving them the right to 
vote would stand the best chance of winning their support at the polls. Gen- 
erally speaking, therefore, at least so far as European countries are con- 
cerned, it can hardly be said that the people forced their way into the 
political country. Quite as often as not they were admitted by Conservative 
or Liberal party governments, each of which, in the particular instance, 
hoped to increase its voting strength by enlarging the electorate. 

The adoption of universal manhood suffrage was thought at the time 
to be a signal triumph for democracy. And it did in fact add something to 
the power of the people, since it compelled upper-class parties to take 
account of popular opinion in formulating policies and devising measures 
that would appeal to the mass of the voters. But on the whole, the admis- 
sion of the people to the political country did very little to increase their 
power or improve the conditions under which they lived. Political control 
remained, as before, essentially in the hands of upper-class political parties. 

Many reasons may be advanced for the failure of the people to profit by 
their apparent victory. When they entered the political country they found 
the upper classes intrenched in all the strategic positions. The forms and 


procedure of representative institutions were already established; political 
parties, representing for the most part the upper classes, were well organ- 
ized; and the technique for selecting candidates and manipulating elections 
was such that politics was a profession only men of property and social 
position could enter with much chance of success. In theory the masses 
were free to present to the electorate the measures that seemed to them 
desirable for the public good; in fact the means of propaganda were freely 
available only to the educated and well-to-do. In theory the poor man could 
vote for candidates of his own choosing; in fact his choice was limited to 
candidates who represented the dominant upper-class parties. It is true that 
in the course of time the people organized working-class socialist parties 
of their own; but while such parties often obtained from conservative or 
liberal governments measures designed to protect the interests of the poor, 
effective political control still remained in the hands of those who could 
easily afford the expensive luxury of self-government. 

These are the superficial reasons for the failure of political equality to 
safeguard the interests of the people. The more fundamental reason is to be 
found in the economic structure of the society that emerged from the 
liberal-democratic revolution. Individual liberty in the political realm proved 
inadequate because individual liberty in the economic realm failed to bring 
about even that minimum degree of equality of possessions and of oppor- 
tunity without which political equality is scarcely more than an empty 
form. This point, since it is fundamental, calls for some elaboration. 


The principle of individual freedom in the economic realm, although 
not much stressed in the propaganda of the great crusading days, was 
always an integral part of the liberal-democratic ideology. For the needed 
emancipation of industry from the hampering restraints of monopolistic 
privilege and petty governmental regulation, it was a sound working prin- 
ciple; but applied without qualifications it could only benefit the industrial 
bourgeoisie at the expense of the underlying population of peasants and 
workers. As set forth in the Wealth of Nations, 8 and in the more rigorous 
and apparently more scientific works of the English classical economists, 
the principle was indeed scarcely more than pure rationalization of the 
business interests of capitalist employers; but this ominous fact was long 
concealed because the principle was formulated in terms of the word 
liberty, the magic of which was sufficient at that time to give a general 
[ 8 An extremely influential treatise on economics by Adam Smith, published in 1776.] 


sanction even to the brutalities of cutthroat competition and the systematic 
degradation of women and children. The present misery of the workers 
could be more easily contemplated and dismissed because it could be re- 
garded as a necessary but temporary phase in the operation of a divinely 
ordained law of progress. The average humane middle-class man, whether 
employer or not, could therefore accept the principle of individual free- 
dom in the economic realm, along with the other great freedoms, since it so 
happily enabled him to reconcile his selfish with his altruistic impulses by 
assuring him that he could best serve God and his neighbor by doing as he 
pleased. 'Private advantage a public benefit' such was the succinct for- 
mula by which the prosperous middle classes justified their amiable expec- 
tation that when everyone was free all would presently be equal, when all 
were equal everyone would presently have enough, when all had enough no 
one would any longer be unjust or inhumane. 

The expectation was surely naive, in no sort of harmony with the relevant 
facts of social experience. Even under the most favorable circumstances, a 
society of uprooted and freely competing individuals must have functioned 
to the advantage of the few who by good fortune, intelligence, or lack of 
scruple were able to acquire wealth and employ it to advance their interests 
through the mechanism of politics: the times would always be ripe for a 
sufficient number of not-too-good men to come to the aid of the party. But 
this result was greatly accelerated and intensified by those changes in the 
economic and material conditions of life which, effected without blare of 
trumpets and scarcely perceived at the time, are now known as the indus- 
trial or technological revolution of modern times. 

Technological is the better term. Industrial is wholly inadequate to de- 
note one of the two or three major revolutions in the history of the human 
race. Man is a tool-using animal, and all civilization is conditioned by the 
sources of natural power known to him and the mechanical appliances he 
can invent to make such power available for use. The first great epoch of 
discovery and invention takes us back before the time of recorded history. 
All the more obvious sources of natural power gravitation, fire, wind and 
water, domesticated animals, the fertility of the soil and the simple hand 
tools, weapons, utensils, and appliances for making such power available 
were known to primitive man. From the time of the invention of writing, 
some five or six thousand years ago, until comparatively recent times few if 
any new sources of natural power, except crude explosives and magnetic 
force, were discovered; and during all that long time the mechanical appli- 


ances available, although more numerous and greatly perfected, were essen- 
tially of the same order as those employed from time immemorial. 

But we are now living in the second great epoch of discovery and inven- 
tion. Since the seventeenth century, the discovery of steam power, gas, 
electricity, and radiation have made possible those innumerable tools and 
appliances, those complicated and powerful machines, and those delicate 
instruments of precision which elicit our wonder and our admiration. The 
result has been that the new technology, by giving men unprecedented con- 
trol over material things, has transformed the relatively simple agricultural 
communities of the eighteenth century into societies far more complex and 
impersonal than anything the prophets of liberal-democracy could have 
imagined mechanized Leviathans which Thomas Jefferson at least would 
have regarded as unreal and fantastic and altogether unsuitcd to the prin- 
ciples of liberty and equality as he understood them. 

I need not say that the influence of the technological revolution has not 
been confined to any particular aspect of social life. On the contrary, it 
has exerted and still exerts a decisive influence in modifying all the habit- 
ual patterns of thought and conduct. But I am here concerned with the 
influence of the technological revolution in accelerating and intensifying 
that concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few which the 
principles of individual freedom in the economic realm would in any case 
have tended to bring about. 

The first and most obvious result of the technological revolution has been 
to increase the amount of wealth in the form of material things which can 
be produced in a given time by a given population. For example, in 1913 
there was produced in Great Britain seven billion yards of cotton cloth for 
export alone. In 1750 the total population of Great Britain, working with 
the mechanical appliances then available, could have produced only a small 
fraction of that amount. A second result of the technological revolution is 
that, as machines are perfected and become more automatic, man power 
plays a relatively less important part in the production of a given amount 
of wealth in a given time. Fifty years ago, when all type was set by hand, 
the labor of several men was required to print, fold, and arrange in piles 
the signatures of a book. Today machines can do it all, and far more 
rapidly; little man power is required, except that a mechanic, who may 
pass the time sitting in a chair, must be present in case anything goes 
wrong with the machine. And finally, a third result of the technological 
revolution is that, under the system of private property in the means of 

246 Carl Becker 

production and the price system as a method of distributing wealth, the 
greater part of the wealth produced, since it is produced by the machines, 
goes to those who own or control the machines, while those who work the 
machines receive that part only which can be exacted by selling their 
services in a market where wages are impersonally adjusted to the neces- 
sities of the machine process. 

I use the phrase 'own or control the machines' for the reason that, as a 
result of modern technology and business organization, those who own 
private property in the means of production do not necessarily control it. 
The ownership of property is now a highly intangible and illusive concept. 
Mass production calls for enormous industrial plants which are commonly 
managed by corporations and financed by selling corporation stock to the 
investing public. If I buy ten shares of General Motors I may be said to 
own that amount of General Motors property, but I have no control of it. 
The property is controlled by those who own a majority of the stock, and 
the majority of the stock is commonly owned by a few persons. Ownership, 
as far as I am concerned, consists in the possession of a slip of paper which 
gives me a lively hope that those who control the property will periodically 
send me a check for a certain sum of money: if they fail to do so there is 
nothing I can do about it. By the intricate device of the holding company, 
control may be still further concentrated and still further divorced from 
ownership: several corporations may be controlled by a few persons who 
have little or no interest in the operating companies except to manipulate 
and exploit them for financial gain. Thus it happens that while the owner- 
ship of private property in the means of production may be widely dis- 
tributed, the effective control of that property is likely to be concentrated 
in the hands of a few. 

If the concept of ownership is intangible and illusive, the concept of 
property is no less so. The value of General Motors property resides, not in 
the physical plant and the financial assets alone, but essentially in the 
business as a going concern. To be a prosperous going concern, the cor- 
poration must be able to purchase labor and supplies at a cost that will 
enable it to sell its products throughout the entire community at a profit. 
For this reason General Motors cannot live or die to itself alone. Its pros- 
perity, and therefore the value of its property, conditions and is condi- 
tioned by the prosperity of innumerable individuals and business enter- 
prisesthe enterprises, large and small throughout the community and 
even throughout the world, which sell its cars and supply it with raw 
material, fuel, and equipment; the individuals who, as laborers or stock- 


holders, are associated with General Motors and with the many enterprises 
that are integrated with it. 

The value of private property in the means of production is thus not a 
private matter. It is both cause and effect in the functioning of a highly 
integrated and delicately adjusted industrial structure that touches the 
public interest at every point. That the few who control private property in 
the means of production should be wealthy men is no great matter. What 
matters is that their control of the means of production gives them an inde- 
terminate and impersonal power over the lives and fortunes of millions of 
people unknown to them power which they are sometimes unwilling but 
far more often quite unable to use for the public good. 

In any society there is bound to be a close connection between economic 
and political power. In any society those who possess economic power, like 
other people, are disposed to identify their economic interests with the 
general good, and to promote their interests through the mechanism of 
politics and propaganda. But in modern industrial societies, based upon 
democratic political control and the principle of free economic enterprise, 
the beneficiaries of private property in the means of production are in a 
peculiarly advantageous position for molding opinion and shaping legis- 
lation. Their advantage arises less from the fact that they can and do spend 
money freely for those purposes, than from the fact that political procedure 
and the instruments of propaganda are so integrated with the industrial 
system that legislation and opinion more or less automatically respond to 
the pressure of the system of free enterprise from which their economic 
power is derived. 

In democratic societies political power is mediated through political 
parties organized primarily for the purpose of obtaining control of the 
government by winning elections. To win elections a political party must 
of course formulate a program of legislation that will appeal to the voters. 
But elections are not won on the merits of a program alone. The winning 
of an election is a practical business enterprise, which calls for a capital 
investment in the form of a campaign fund, and for an intricate organiza- 
tion of employees a political machine managed by professional politicians 
whose business it is to deliver the vote. Contributions to the campaign 
fund may be made from interested or disinterested motives; but the largest 
contributions will commonly be made by wealthy men or corporations ex- 
pecting in return that the party will not, at the very least, be altogether in- 
different to the kind of legislation they desire. 

The professional politician, whose business it is to deliver the vote, is 

248 Carl Becker 

concerned primarily with the vote of those whose loyalty to the party is 
determined less by the merits of the party program than by the dispo- 
sition of the party to confer tangible benefits upon them. The function 
of the highest species of politician is to handle the patronage, to dis- 
tribute appointive offices to those who can best serve the party. The 
function of the lowest species of politicianthe declasse 9 ward heeler- 
is to do what respectable statesmen know must be done but are pre- 
vented by the mores 10 from doing themselves, namely, to see to it that 
the poor and dispossessed are provided with a minimum of subsistence, 
and not too much hampered in their private enterprises, even sometimes 
if they happen to be on the wrong side of the fence, by the majesty of the 
law. In delivering the vote, the ward heeler is the henchman of the polit- 
ical boss, the political boss has the necessary contacts with the party leaders 
who hold elective or appointive offices, and the political leaders have the 
necessary personal and social contacts with the businessmen who contribute 
so generously to the campaign fund. In every community, large or small, 
there is this unavowed, undercover integration of economic and political 
power; and apart from some unanticipated ethical disturbance in the 
climate of opinion, legislation, always defended by statesmen in terms of 
the common good, is always insensibly influenced by the pressure of the 
predominant industrial interest. 

In molding opinion, no less than in shaping legislation, those who possess 
economic power have a great advantage over the general run of citizens. 
This is not to say that freedom of speech and the press does not exist in 
democratic societies. One has only to compare nondemocratic with dem- 
ocratic societies to realize that, in a very real and important sense, it does 
exist. In democratic societies any man may freely express his opinion with- 
out first looking furtively over his shoulder to see if a government spy is 
in the offing; any man may publish a book or a newspaper without first sub- 
mitting it to an official censor. This is the fundamentally important priv- 
ilege; and no cataloguing of incidental violations of civil liberties, serious 
and deplorable as they are, can obscure the fact that through the press and 
the radio detailed information about events, and the most diverse opinions, 
are with little let or hindrance daily and hourly presented to the people. 

Nevertheless, the average individual, although free to express his ideas, 
plays a distinctly minor role in the molding of opinion: his role is not to 
initiate, but passively to receive information and ideas presented to him 

[ Said of one who has lost social standing.] 
[ 10 Customs.] 


by others. The propaganda of social or political opinion, to be effective 
under modern conditions, must be organized; and its promoters will have 
an indifferent success unless they resort to mass production and distribu- 
tion of their wares. The chief instruments of propaganda the press and 
broadcasting stations are not readily available to the average individual 
for conveying his ideas: they can be effectively used only by the govern- 
ment, political parties and party leaders, prominent organizations, wealthy 
men and business corporations, associations organized for specific purposes, 
and the writers of books which publishing houses find it worth while to 

Even more important is the fact that the instruments of propaganda are 
themselves business corporations organized and financed for profit, and as 
such subject to those influences that condition and are conditioned by the 
system of free economic enterprise. Newspapers are free to print all the 
news that's fit to print; but they cannot consistently propagate ideas that 
will alienate the business interests whose paid advertisements enable them 
to distribute profits to the stockholders. Broadcasting corporations are free 
from government censorship, or reasonably so, reasonably free to broad- 
cast what they will; but in the last analysis they will not broadcast that 
which seriously offends the prevailing mores, or the business enterprises 
which, in this country at least, sponsor and finance their programs of enter- 
tainment. In democratic societies free and impartial discussion, from which 
the truth is supposed to emerge, is permitted and does occur. But the 
thinking of the average man is largely shaped by a wealth of factual infor- 
mation and the conflicting opinions which the selective process of competi- 
tive business enterprise presents to him for consideration: information, the 
truth of which he cannot verify; ideas, formulated by persons he does not 
know, and too often inspired by private economic interests that are never 

Such, in broad outline, are the circumstances that may serve to explain 
the profound discord between democracy as an ideal and as a reality. In 
terms of the ideal there should have emerged from the liberal-democratic 
revolution a relatively simple society of free, equal, and prosperous citizens, 
fraternally cooperating to effect, by rational discussion and mutual conces- 
sion, fhe common good. In fact there emerged an extremely complex soci- 
ety in which highly intricate and impersonal economic forces, stronger than 
good will or deliberate intention or rational direction, brought about an 
increasing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the fortunate 
few, and thereby nullified, for the majority of the people, many of those 

250 Carl Becker 

essential liberties which provide both the theoretical justification and the 
necessary conditions for the practical success of democratic institutions. 

This discord, long since perceived by the discerning, has in our time 
become so flagrant that in many countries the ideal has been abandoned 
as an illusion. In these countries new social philosophies now prevail which 
maintain that the attempt to apply the principles of individual liberty, not 
only in the economic but in the political and the intellectual realm, was a 
fundamental error, and is responsible for the social and international con- 
flicts which now bewilder and distress the world. 

To accept this view implies the end of democratic institutions as we 
know them, and the renunciation of that faith in the worth and dignity of 
the individual which we have cherished even if we have not always justi- 
fied it in action. I do not accept this view. 1 believe that in the long run it 
will prove mistaken fatal to any way of life that can rightly be called 
civilized. But I also believe that if the democratic way of life is to survive 
we must give to the traditional concept of freedom a more positive content. 
r l*he traditional concept of individual liberty is essentially negative. The 
freedom it emphasizes is freedom from constraint, and indeed from a par- 
ticular kind of constraint, that is to say, governmental constraint. In the 
economic realm the result of freeing the individual from governmental 
constraint is that today far too many people arc always in danger of losing 
those positive goods without which freedom from governmental constraint 
is of no value. What the average man now needs is the opportunity to 
acquire by his own effort, in an occupation for which he is fitted, the eco- 
nomic security which is essential to decent and independent living. This 
opportunity has now disappeared for something like a quarter of the work- 
ing population. In my opinion it can only be restored, if at all, by such 
governmental regulations of our economy as may be necessary to enable 
private economic enterprise to function effectively and for the common 

If then the democratic way of life is to survive we must distinguish the 
kinds of individual freedom that are essential to it from those that are 
unessential or disastrous. Broadly speaking, the kinds that are essential 
are those which the individual enjoys in his intellectual and political activi- 
ties; the kinds that are unessential are the relatively unrestrained liberties 
he has hitherto enjoyed in his economic activities. The distinction is com- 
paratively easy to make in theory, but will be extremely difficult to effect 
in practice. Not the least of the difficulties arises from the fact that in the 
traditional ideology the freedom of the individual in the political, the 


intellectual, and the economic realms are so intimately associated that they 
seem to stand or fall together. The result is that any proposal to regulate 
by governmental authority the system of free economic enterprise is sure 
to be opposed on the ground that if the system of free economic enter- 
prise cannot be maintained the other freedoms of democracy, freedom of 
thought and political freedom, must in the end be abandoned also. 
Whether this is true can only be determined by the event. Whatever the 
event may be, the difficult but essential task which confronts all democratic 
societies today may be formulated as follows: how in practice to curtail the 
freedom of the individual in economic enterprise sufficiently to effect that 
equality of opportunity and of possessions without which democracy is 
an empty form, and at the same time to preserve that measure of individual 
freedom in intellectual and political life without which it cannot exist. 

E. F. Ccrritt 

|[Mr. Carritt (1873), Emeritus Fellow of University College, 
Oxford, spent many years in the study and teaching of aesthetics 
and ethics, and is the author of some well-known books on his spe- 
cialties (The Theory of Beauty, 1914, 1923; What is Beauty, 1932; 
The Theory of Morals, 1928). He says of Ethical and Political 
Thinking: The title I have chosen is intended to indicate that I 
would claim better qualifications for reporting the way in which 
intelligent peoples' minds work and progress upon these topics than 
for establishing any novel conclusions. I would not claim particu- 
larly wide reading in the subject, but I have probably had as good 
opportunities as any man for serious discussion with both novices 
and experts. For nearly fifty years, most of the time as an Oxford 
tutor, I have spent some twelve hours weekly each term in discus- 
sing moral, political, and aesthetic philosophy with pupils and with 
colleagues either singly or in very small groups. This gives in round 
numbers nearly 1 5,000 hours of opportunity for mass observation of 
Ethical and Political Thinking.' 


DEMOCRACY may no doubt be defended on utilitarian 
grounds since even 'a tyrannical majority aims at the happiness of the 
greater number though not necessarily at the greatest total amount, nor 
necessarily counting every man as one, if that means endeavouring to dis- 
tribute happiness equally or fairly. I think its more indisputable claim to 
be the best form of government is as being most likely to defend the rights 
of the individual. 

Life, liberty (including freedom of speech and 'freedom of conscience'), 
'property/ and the pursuit of happiness have commonly been enumerated 

FROM Ethical and Political Thinking, 1947. Reprinted by permission of the Claren- 
don Press, Oxford. 


as natural rights and so sometimes have the right to vote and the right to 
work. Against the utilitarian view that our only political duty can be to 
increase happiness it has been maintained that it is to defend such rights. 

As was said before, natural rights have been prejudiced by the attempt 
to give a list of them as 'inalienable/ * But every right, like its correspond- 
ing duty, depends upon the situation; it is natural as being no fiction but 
something naturally arising out of that situation, and inalienable so long, 
but only so long, as that situation does not relevantly change. This preju- 
dicial language may be excused by the need for rebutting the suggestion 
that 'rights are made by recognition/ 1 What is recognized must already 
exist. If the absurd phrase means that rights cannot be respected till they 
are recognized it is a platitude; if it be more significantly interpreted as 
meaning that every man has a right only to what it is generally recognized 
to be for the 'common good' that he should have, t this would imply that 
the majority can do no wrong. But if, as I maintain, we have obligations of 
justice towards individuals as well as to improve and benefit mankind in 
general, then those to whom we have these objective obligations must have 
just claims that they should be fulfilled, and the strongest obligation in 
any situation will constitute a duty, to which must correspond a right on 
their part whether recognized or not. Duties and the corresponding rights 
cannot be willed, nor can they objectively depend upon anybody's opinion 
about them; subjectively speaking, my duties would depend upon my be- 
liefs about the situation and your rights upon yours; putatively they would 
depend severally upon our several opinions about what the situation, as 
each of us supposes it to be, morally demands. 

J 2. The mistake has been to speak of natural rights, which would be 
absolute, rather than of natural claims, which might conflict so that only 
the strongest would be a right; and also to call them inalienable, which 
would seem to make them not depend upon the situation. If every man 
had a right to life, no criminal might ever be killed either in self-defence 
or to prevent a massacre; no man might be compelled to risk his life in any 
cause; every member of a starving group would have a right to the sub- 
sistence rations which were not obtainable, and every patient to a full dose 
of penicillin; it could never be our painful duty to let one man die to save 
a thousand. And all such difficulties apply yet more clearly to the alleged 

* Locke, Essay on Civil Government; Paine, The Rights of Man; and more emphati- 
cally Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence (U.S.A.), and the Declaration of the 
Rights of Man (French National Assembly) . 

t T. H. Green, Political Obligation, J 136. Cf. Austin, Lectures on Jurisprudence, vi. 

t Green seems to hint at this interpretation. 

2 54 E - F - Carritt 

rights of liberty, of possessions, of improvement, and of the means to hap- 
piness. Thought is no doubt always free as it cannot be coerced, though it 
may be persuaded by argument or irrational propaganda and suppression 
of facts, and in most situations a man has a claim not to be deceived. Con- 
science is always free if that means that a man can always do what he 
thinks he ought in the situation however circumscribed. If it is meant that 
a man should always be free to perform what he considers religious duties, 
which might include human sacrifice, the extermination of heretics, or the 
destruction of unorthodox literature, such a claim is easily overridden. 
Freedom to affect others as conscience may dictate must always, like all 
freedoms, be limited by other claims and especially by the claims of others 
to a like amount of freedom. If one man had complete freedom to do as he 
chose, he would probably leave little to the rest. Men could only have a 
right to equal freedom, as they could only have a right to equal means of 
subsistence. Indeed, equality of consideration is the only thing to the whole 
of which men have a right. 

The value of democracy resides then chiefly, as I think, in the fact that 
it seems the most probable means of securing to every individual equality 
of consideration, which involves that it would secure him a fair share of all 
those things to which he has, as a man, natural claims. First would come 
freedom, the power of doing what he chooses without coercion or intimi- 
dation; and since he would certainly choose to have the means of happi- 
ness, including possessions, and the power freely to speak his mind, it 
implies all the so-called natural and inalienable rights of man. Perhaps free- 
dom of speech is the only natural claim which is always a right, for it is 
difficult to see how one man by talking and writing can prevent others from 
doing so or from doing anything whatever. If they were compelled to come 
to his lecture or read his books, that, of course, would be a different story. 

J 3. The most fundamental natural right, then, is to equality; but equal- 
ity itself must be defined by the situation. It does not imply the same 
ration for an infant and a heavy worker, nor the same education for a 
genius and a fool, nor the same amenities for a criminal and a hero. The 
Creek formula 'equals to equals' * as a description of justice t requires to 
be qualified as 'equal treatment of those who are equal in relevant respects/ 
It is just to treat men as equal until some reason, other than preference, 
such as need, capacity, or desert, has been shown to the contrary. 

* toot TOIS toots i-e. certeris paribus; or XOLT' dgCav (in accordance with desert), Aris- 
totle, Eth. Nic. 1158*30- 
t Ibid. 


J 4. There does seem to be some fundamental and constant respect in 
which men are equal, equally set above the sentient animals, as well as the 
vegetable and lifeless world; capable of morality, of affection, of degrees 
and kinds of happiness and misery peculiar to their species; 'how noble in 
reason, how infinite in faculty, in apprehension how like a god, the beauty 
of the world/ * This, I think, was what was meant by the dark saying that 
we should treat all rational beings as ends, never as means only, and by 
the unexpected inference that this implied making their ends, among which 
would always be their happiness, our own.t 

J 5. It is also, I think, fair to commend equality ethically on purely utili- 
tarian grounds, since the pain of approaching the subsistence level is greater 
than the pleasure of luxury, and it is also likely that irritation at one's own 
inferior treatment is greater than the pleasant pride of superiority. Against 
this last point has been instanced the gloating of many poor and humble 
over the extravagance of the wild rich. But such romantic sentimentality 
need not be taken very seriously. Most housewives who revel in the fashion- 
gossip of society papers would more gladly read of a rise in their husband's 
wages, as girls who vicariously luxuriate in the thwarted passions of high 
life often accept a good offer of marriage. 

Perhaps the strongest evidence that there is a fundamental belief in the 
obligation to treat men equally or fairly is the almost universal doctrine 
that all men are equal in the sight of God, who is no respecter of persons, 
and that the inequality of their states below is a result of or a concession 
to their wickedness. 

ii. LIBERTY t 

J 6. Among the things men claim, after equality comes liberty. Equality 
must come first as the condition of all others because, as has been said, it 
is only to an equal or fair share of available goods that a man can have a 
right, and only to as much liberty as does not interfere with the like liberty 
of others. J Liberty must come next because so far as a man has liberty to 
do what he likes he will be able to get most of the things he wants, includ- 

* Shakespeare, Hamlet, n, ii. 

t Kant, Grundfegung, trans, by Abbott, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of 
Morals, ii. 

t See Maitland, 'Libert/ (Collected Papers, i). See also my article in Law Quarterly, 
January 1940. 

J Mill, Liberty. Or perhaps we should say that men have a claim to complete liberty 
nearly always overridden by the superior claims of others to an equal share or by different 

256 E. F. Carritt 

ing those to which he has claims. What most men want most is life, which 
can only be destroyed against their will by violent infraction of their liberty. 

J 7. The words 'liberty' and 'freedom/ which I do not distinguish, are 
sometimes used with qualifying phrases such as 'freedom from disease/ 
'free from rain/ but when used absolutely they always mean social freedom, 
which I define as 'the power of doing what one would choose unaffected 
by the action (coercion or intimidation) of other persons.' The only excep- 
tion to this usage is, I think, in what may be called the philosophical or 
moral sense of freedom of choice,* that is, the capacity to choose undeter- 
mined by one's own past history, and with this we have at present no 

The words are sometimes, however, used in a narrower and I think im- 
proper, that is unusual, sense. Freedom is sometimes identified with what 
should be called legal freedom, that is to say the unimpeded power of 
doing what the law does not forbid, t as if it were impossible for laws them- 
selves by enforcing slavery to diminish liberty; and in the same sense it has 
been identified with obedience to the laws of my state, t Perhaps by obedi- 
ence here was meant willing obedience, but willing obedience to anybody, 
say to my pirate captain, is of course liberty. I do not think it is so common 
to mistake 'equality before the law/ which may consist in legal serfdom, 
with equality. 

J 8. But the meaning of the word has also been narrowed in the opposite 
direction, so that men are called free in proportion as they are not re- 
strained and protected by law from mutual oppression. Different travellers 
often bring strangely inconsistent reports of the amount of freedom enjoyed 
in some country with a social system unlike their own; those who look only 
at legal restriction may call it very unfree, but those who consider its legal 
prevention of the possibilities for private and economic oppression may call 
it the home of freedom. Perhaps it is because any wide distribution of free- 
dom depends upon a strong constraint over potentially oppressive classes 
and individuals that constraint and freedom have been identified. But this 

* Moral and social freedom seem to be confused by Croce in his discussion of liberty, 
to the detriment of the argument. Discorsi di varia filosofia, especially xvii, 'Liberia e 
giustizia.' His reply to this criticism (Quaderni della Critica, March 1945) is that man 
is only free, either morally or politically, when he does his duty. This usage I cannot 
understand. It removes responsibility for wrong acts. No doubt it derives from Hegel. 

t Libertas est potestas faciendi id quod jure licet. 

J Hegel, Philosophic des Rechts, trans, by Knox, JJ 15, 140 (e), 206. But, slipping 
back to the usual meaning, he argued that this is always what I really want to do. Cf . 
Bradley, Ethical Studies, 'My Station and its Duties/ and Bosanquet, Philosophical 
Theory of the State, pp. 107, 127. 


is like identifying plenty with ration cards, which are only a device for 
securing an equal approach to it. 

J 9. A third and allied misuse of the word 'liberty' is to confine it to the 
power of doing what we ought,* the power of doing other things being 
then dyslogistically * called licence. It might be convenient to restrict 
'liberty' to the power of doing what we choose so long as that does not 
impede the like liberty of others, and to call any individual freedom exceed- 
ing that 'licence'; but this is not the normal usage. There is already a name 
'discipline' for the forcible equalization of liberty. 

The prevention of both morally indifferent and criminal acts impairs the 
liberty of those who wish to do them. It would be monstrous to call me 
quite free if I were prevented by the police from smoking or even from 
oversmoking, though I do not claim that I have any obligation to do either. 
I think in our definition of liberty we ought to abandon all moral terms; 
otherwise we could not ask how much liberty children or weak-minded 
persons ought to have. It has indeed been asked: 'What crimes have not 
been committed in the name of freedom?' as if this implied a misnomer. 
But of course, no crime was ever committed when the criminal was unfree, 
through physical restraint or fear, to commit it, though most crimes dimin- 
ish general liberty. It is not true that liberty is best beloved by best men, 
though other people's liberty may be; the old lag 2 abandons hope on enter- 
ing a life sentence, while a very good man might take a cage for a hermit- 
age. Laws are always meant to restrict somebody's freedom and are good 
laws when, though not only when, they do this in order to secure a greater 
freedom for others. They succeed in this object when they are strictly and 
efficiently executed. 

J 10. By the definition offered the maximum interference with my liberty 
would be imprisonment in close manacles; a minimum the exclusion from 
one spot or locked safe which I wished to enter. The most free man would 
be one solitary on an island, who would certainly find his unchartered 
freedom tiresome and gladly sacrifice it by coming under captain's orders, 
for while the unfree must be unhappy, the free may be more so. After him, 
most freedom is enjoyed by the quite irresponsible despot who, unlike the 
shipwrecked sailor, very much diminishes the freedom of many other per- 
sons. As compared with a close prisoner, a slave always has much freedom 
in his hours of rest, and even at labour he can probably work left- or right- 

* T. H. Green, Political Obligation. 
[' Disapprovingly.] 
[ a Convict.] 

258 E. F. Carritt 

handed as he pleases; even a convict if unchained has a good deal; and, as 
with most of us, his freedom is less limited by stone walls and iron bars 
than by fear of them. If laws are disobeyed we may be merely fined, but if 
we do not pay we shall be haled to prison. 

J 11. I will now try to justify the terms of my definition, which was 'the 
power of doing what one would choose unaffected by the action (coercion 
or intimidation) of other persons/ 

(1) Doing, (a) As I have said, our thinking cannot be constrained, 
though it may be influenced by others in rational or irrational ways, such 
as argument, false propaganda, or suppression of facts and valid arguments. 
Silent thought is always free, (b) Our feelings can be painfully influenced 
by others when they smack us or whistle out of tune or, if we love them, 
by their indifference or neglect. If I want to read or to sleep, noises forced 
upon me diminish my freedom. The parent or lover is not free from 
anxiety, but he is (socially) free. 

(2) What one "would choose. If I am forbidden under penalty to do 
what I should not choose, for instance to bait bears on Sunday, or am 
prevented, for instance by fences, from walking over a cliff in the dark, my 
freedom is not impaired. A penal law against murder only limits the free- 
dom of would-be murderers. It might seem to follow that no law which a 
man obeys willingly, that is when he could escape detection, makes him 
less free. We often obey inconvenient laws, by whose repeal we should 
choose to profit, either from a blind habit of law-abiding * or from the 
reflection that any known general law, however bad, interferes less with 
freedom than private war and scramble or arbitrary and unforeseen deci- 
sions, and that our disobedience might lead to such anarchy. t A slave or 
convict who refused emancipation because of habit and inertia must, I 
think, be called a free fool at least until he repents. The man who resists 
his desire to trespass on a deer-forest from reflective conscience and not 
from fear must be called free, and this applies to a hungry man who simi- 
larly would not steal when detection is impossible. The degree of detriment 
to my freedom depends upon the strength of the wish frustrated; a starving 
man prevented from taking food is less free than a smoker denied tobacco, 
so that laws safeguarding possessions diminish the freedom of the poor 

* See Hume, Essays, i. iv, 'Antiquity always begets opinion of right/ When our con- 
servative fear of instability through innovation conflicts with our reforming fear of op- 
pression through obsolescence, Hume thinks anarchy the worse evil but oppression the 
more likely. 

t The best reasoned defence of anarchy is Godwin's Political Justice, vn, viii, much 
modified, however, in vm. li. 


much more than that of the rich,* though a man may, on other grounds, 
have a claim to superior possessions which overrides the claim to arithmeti- 
cal equality. 

These considerations will lead us presently to a discussion of the next 
'natural right/ that of property. 

(3) Other persons. I have given reasons for confining 'liberty' and 'free- 
dom/ when the words are not qualified, to the absence of restraint by other 
persons.t A man prevented from doing what he would otherwise choose 
by fear of the supernatural may not be free from superstition, but he is 
socially free. 

Any persons may restrict my freedom, a neighbour, a dictator, a major- 
ity; and my having voted for the law makes no difference if I should now 
choose to break it but for fear. Ulysses* sailors impaired his freedom by his 
own orders when they prevented him from joining the Sirens. 3 I can even 
limit my own freedom by locking myself in an upper story and throwing 
out the key, but not by vows or promises without enforceable penalty. I 
am free to break them. 

(4) Interference. So far as our action is restricted not by other people's 
action but by their failure to act, I do not think we should say our freedom 
is impaired. To block my path seems to limit my freedom; failure to clear 
or repair it does not. But the distinction is difficult to draw: 'Thou shalt 
not kill, but need'st not strive Officiously to keep alive/ 4 I suppose that if 
I fail to remove obstructions erected rightly or wrongfully on land I have 
inherited, I am rightly or wrongfully diminishing the freedom of those who 
rightly or wrongfully wish to pass. And if I do not try to remove economic 
and legal restrictions by which I profit, the same seems to hold good. 

(5) Action, (a) I mean action here to include credible threat of action, 
which is the most usual diminution of liberty, but not deception or refusal 
of information. I think to drug a man or (if possible) to hypnotize him 
against his will would deprive him of freedom, but rhetorical or other emo- 
tional propaganda would not, though to forbid his access to contrary propa- 
ganda, if he wished to enjoy it, or to force him to listen to me, would. 

(b) Bribes and promises, unlike threats and punishments, do not impair 
freedom. The man likes earning the bribe better than not being offered it, 

* 'Whenever we depart from equality we rob the poor of more satisfaction than the 
nch' (Hume, Enquiry, iii) and 'Property when united causes more dependence [i.e. less 
freedom] than when dispersed" (Essays, i. vii). 

t 7 above. 

[ 3 In bk. xii of the Odyssey.] 

[ 4 A. H. Clough, "The Latest Decalogue.'] 

260 E. F. Carritt 

whereas the man moved by threats would have preferred to act otherwise 
could he have done so fearlessly. 

J 12. My definition, thus explained, seems to me the most consonant 
with the usage of the words 'freedom' and 'liberty/ It makes clear the fol- 
lowing two points: ' 

(a) There are other good things and other things to which men have 
claims besides liberty, which may conflict with it, such as those to educa- 
tion and security and hygiene; * Robinson Crusoe may .have had a claim 
as well as a wish to be restored to the restraints of society. 

(b) One man's liberty is apt to be inimical to his neighbour's and a man 
has a claim to equal liberty only, or to as much as does not impair the like 
liberty of others. Almost the only freedom which never does this is free- 
dom of speech and writing when there is no compulsion on hearers or 

It remains to ask how far equal liberty is favoured or endangered by 
other kinds of equality. 

(1) I have argued that 'political equality' or democracy does not guaran- 
tee liberty any more than docs minority government, but is generally more 
favourable to it. 

(2) 'Equality before the law,' if that means law effectively carried out 
and legally administered, is implied in the very notion of law, and almost 
any such system is preferable to anarchy or despotic edict. But it is ques- 
tionable how far the laws regulating property in some communities make 
so well for the maximum of liberty as do, say, the laws against murder and 
assault. This leads to the subject of the next chapter, but a few points 
about liberty may first be mentioned. 

J 13. Liberty, like equality, can be defended on utilitarian grounds both 
as a constituent of happiness and as a means to it. I The argument would 
be that our duty is to increase general happiness and improvement and 
that, since all men have a strong desire to be happy and some desire to be 
improved, this duty is generally best fulfilled by allowing the greatest 
amount of equal liberty. I am not sure whether it is more correct to say 
that every man has a claim to do whatever he would choose free from 
coercion and intimidation, but a claim which is generally overridden by 

* A Sumerian king claims fame as having given his people 'equal justice and canals' 
(Woolley, Abraham). Cf. Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution. 

t See J 14, below. 

* J. S. Mill in Liberty mainly pleads for freedom of speech as the surest means to the 
attainment of useful truth and to progress, but he sometimes passes to the other argu- 
ment and treats it as something to which men have equal claims for its own sake. 


the claims of other people not to be coerced and intimidated by him, or 
that no man has a claim to more than an equal amount of such freedom. 
In either case his claim may conflict with other claims and cannot there- 
fore, as such, be 'absolute/ but is 'inalienable/ The strongest of conflicting 
claims is a right, which is absolute, since there are no conflicting rights, but 
alienable if the situation alters. To either claim would correspond an obli- 
gation and to every right a duty. 

J 14. Freedom of speech is a claim perhaps less often overridden than 
any other. It is seldom overridden by the like claim of others, since my 
long-windedness, except in special circumstances of debate, shortens no- 
body else's, nor even by any claim to general liberty, since my lecture, when 
attention is not compulsory, prevents nobody from doing what he would 
choose. The only plausible exceptions appear to be 'careless talk/ 'slander/ 
and 'incitements to violence/ In general my own view would be that argu- 
ment (as distinct from incitements) for intolerance should be tolerated as 
'monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated 
where reason is left free to combat it/ * Yet it seems paradoxical that we 
ought to allow arguments for persecution but resist persecution itself. 

The distinction legally recognized between cool argument and incite- 
ment to violence is no doubt often very hard to draw, but seems even more 
necessary to the moralist than to the lawyer. To argue that since a man 
extremely diminishes the freedom of many others he ought to be forcibly 
prevented is to argue, rightly or wrongly, in favour of general liberty. To 
incite violence against anybody by false accusations, or by emotional stimu- 
lus which cannot claim to be 'true/ is certainly wrong and does appear to 
be an attempt to infringe his liberty though not that of the dupes. 

iii. PROPERTY t 

J 15. It seems otiose to speak of the right to property, for we mean by 
property those physical things which a man has a right to use. I can hardly 
think of anything which a man has the right to use in any way he chooses; 
I may not fire my gun in the high street; I may not use my money for 
bribery, nor even my hands for assault or larceny. Whether or when we 
have a right to transfer property will need to be discussed. I do not think 
the word is usually applied to things not physical, which I might in a sense 
'possess' and 'use/ such as skill, information, reputation, affection, good 

* Ascribed to Jefferson; I do not know the reference. [It is from Jefferson's First 
Inaugural Address, 4 March 1801.] 
t Cf. my article in Law Quarterly, January 1940. 

262 E. F. Carritt 

looks. We do not even call a man's life his property. The right to services 
is not called property, unless we think that a man can have a right to slaves. 
Whether the name should be applied to benefices, royalties, patents, copy- 
rights, is arguable; if it is the profits or emoluments that are in question, 
these, I suppose, in the long run are rights to control physical things; if it 
is anything else, I suppose it must be reputation. 

That there is such a thing as property so defined seems unquestioned. 
So far as a man has a right or a claim to live he has one to food, and 'con- 
sumption necessitates appropriation/ * No duty is more incumbent on all 
who as voters have any voice in legislation than to consider what posses- 
sions ought to be secured to men by law so as to approximate their legal 
to their moral property, to secure them in the possession of those things 
to which they have a right. For 'no regulation is more constant, more radi- 
cal and severe than that which is involved in property and the police/ t 

jj 16. We have already indicated some of the claims which would have 
to be weighed in such a consideration: the claim to equality, the claim to 
liberty, the claim of desert, the claim of need, the claim to have undertak- 
ings kept, the claim to happiness, the claim to improvement. Our principal 
attention here will be due to the first two, equality and liberty, for it has 
been often contended that regulation with a view to the former is incom- 
patible with the latter. t My own opinion is that general (that is to say 
equal) liberty and an equality of possessions would approximately coincide, 
though of course they might conflict with other claims. 

jj 17. Consider the extreme case of unequal possession, where one man 
had the monopoly of something necessary to all, say of water-supply upon 
an island. It would also be an extreme case of unfreedom, for all the other 
inhabitants might be prevented by actual barriers or by fear of death from 
satisfying their most pressing want. The owner, with adequate police pro- 
tection, could either let them die or exact any service in exchange for water; 
they would in fact be enslaved to him merely by inequality of possessions. 
No doubt if he were a sane human being he would stand drinks, J but an 
institution is not justified by being one which nobody can live down to. 
Just in proportion as the possession of water were equalized the prohibition 
of water-theft would become less oppressive even though nobody had as 

* Locke, Civil Government, ii. 25-51. 
t L. Dickinson, Justice and Liberty. 

t But cf. Croce, 'Libert e Giustizia' (Discern di varia filosofia, xvii), and see footnote 
to J 18, below. 

J Non prohibere aqua profluenti. 


much as he wanted; it would be less obstructive of what each desired to do; 
the only one who had less liberty would be the original monopolist, and his 
loss of liberty would not be so great as the gain of even any one of his 
neighbours, since he could hardly have desired to use his superfluity of 
water, say in cultivating orchids, so passionately as the other desired to 
moisten his tongue. To be forcibly expropriated from superabundance or 
even from convenience impairs liberty less than to be forbidden under 
penalty to appropriate necessaries. Monopoly of any necessary thing such 
as house-room may remove all liberty. 

If, then, we consider the laws and institutions of property merely as they 
affect liberty, we must conclude that those are most favourable to it which 
produce equality in proportion to need. Against such equality there may of 
course be other claims. 

J 18. Those who think that liberty and equality are incompatible * have 
probably assumed that institutions of their own time and country with 
regard to property and inheritance are eternally founded in the nature of 
things and are no limitation to the freedom of those who suffer by them. 
They only consider liberty of action within that legal framework, and any 
reframing which would secure a greater equality of liberty and thereby a 
greater amount to a greater number they condemn as oppressive. Within 
the sacred system laissez-faire 5 is divinely guided to maximum liberty, but 
if we do not enforce just that system providence will lead us to servitude. 

But that inequalities of possession should be unregulated and that the 
right of bequest should be unlimited was not generally the belief of the 
ancients and has not always been recognized in modern states. And such 
regulation has been defended not only as favourable to liberty or to natural 
rights but on purely utilitarian grounds.! 

What, then, are the conflicting claims to possessions which might some- 
times override the claims to equality and to liberty? Those which are valid 
can, I think, all be reduced to desert and to general utility, since allowance 
for need is only in order to secure real equality. A man who has worked 
has earned or deserved by that very fact more than the man who has been 
idle when he had the opportunity to work; he has a claim which cannot be 

* E.g. Acton, Lectures on Liberty; Lecky, Democracy and Liberty, i. 212-15; Bagchot, 
The English Constitution; Erskine May, Democracy in Europe, 11. 333; De Tocqueville, 
UAncien Regime. 

[ 5 Freedom from governmental interference in economic matters.] 

[ 6 See note to Jefferson on the law of entails, p. 196.] 

t M. Arnold, 'Equality' (in Mixed Essays) : 'On the one side inequality harms by 
pampering, on the other by vulgansing and depressing/ 

264 E- V. Carritt 

reduced to the claim for equality and may conflict with and override it.* 
If, moreover, he can be induced by rewards to satisfy some need of others, 
they may have a claim either on the ground of equality or on the ground 
of general beneficence that he should be so rewarded. His own clain:, I 
think, is only to have a bargain kept. The claim put forward to greater pos- 
sessions or to other advantages on the ground of greater capacity can be 
reduced, I think, to a claim of others that a man's capacity to increase gen- 
eral happiness or improvement should be realized. The claim to profit by 
mere displays of talent or by chance discoveries or inventions which are 
useful but involved no labour, if there are any such, is also reducible to 

J 19. The purely lucky find, as when the schoolbody says 'Bags I, I saw 
it first/ seems nothing more than a device, like tossing up, to avoid quarrels 
where nobody has any claim. The law does not always recognize property 
in the finder of treasure-trove. 

The claim founded on a long possession which never had any of the 
grounds already mentioned seems to have nothing in its favour except that 
a man suffers more by losing what he is accustomed to than by not acquir- 
ing novelties, and against this might be set the consideration that it is now 
somebody else's turn. 

I have never felt sure whether the emphatic justification of possession 
on the ground of 'prescription' really means that what a man has got into 
his hands, no matter how, gradually becomes his right by the flux of time; t 
or whether it is a rather cynical recognition that people are readier to put 
up with injustice of long standing than with an act of unexpected justice 
which confiscates old and ill-gotten gains, so that the path of least resist- 
ance is to let sleeping wrongs lie.t Of course, if what is meant is that legal 
recognition of possessions gives a man legal right and consequently some 
moral claim to them, this has been allowed already. If long possession in 

* Locke, Essay on Civil Government. Whatever a man by his labour makes out of a 
natural product is his 'where there is as much and as good left for others/ 'As much as 
any man can make use of to any advantage of life before it spoils so much he may by 
labour fix a property in; whatever is beyond this is more than his share.' 

t 'Prescription is the most solid of all titles not only to property, but, what is to secure 
that property, to government' (Burke, Present Discontents). It is 'part of the Law of 
Nature' (French Revolution; cf. To R. Burke). This might seem to justify slavery. Burke 
applies the same doctrine to religion (To W. Smith). 

I Hume, Essays, i. iv, says: 'Antiquity always begets the opinion of right/ but some- 
what inconsistently with his general doctrine he condemns this opinion as 'not reason' 
(n. xvi). Paine remarks that Burke has 'a contemptible opinion of mankind a herd of 
beings that must be governed by fraud/ 


itself gave a claim, I think it would always be overridden by any of the 
claims I have admitted. Perhaps the new version of Beati possidentes, 7 that 
what a man now possesses he must in obscure antiquity have deserved, is 
the homage paid by conservatism to virtue. 

J 20. It remains to ask how far property, or the right to possessions, is 
transferable or heritable. Men and women not only may but ought to pro- 
vide for the nurture and education of their children who may survive them, 
so far as these services are not provided by the state. Children, with whom 
so long as they are infants there can be no question of desert, have a claim 
to equal opportunities of life, happiness, improvement, and freedom, which 
implies a claim to the power of using things, which is a property-claim. If 
these claims would not be satisfied in any other way there is an obligation 
on the parents to satisfy them, and, in such circumstances, a legal right of 
bequest to strangers, which contravenes this obligation, is difficult to de- 
fend. On the other hand, if the grounds of any claim to possessions have 
been rightly enumerated (as claims to equality of liberty and of the means 
to improvement and happiness, claims in respect of desert, and general 
claims that generally useful capacities should be developed) it is difficult to 
see that a child with no special merits or capacities has any claim to inherit 
from its parents what will raise it above the level of equality. It could, of 
course, be suggested that the power to make such a bequest to one's 
children or to other persons is much coveted and is an incentive to industry 
which is generally useful, and that the general claim to increase happiness 
may override all claims to equality. 

Even if we think that a man has a claim to transfer in his life or after 
death rights of property which he has himself earned by his labour, this is 
a claim which might easily be overridden by the claims of other persons to 
equal liberty and opportunities of happiness or improvement, and to the 
fruits of their own labours, so long as there is not 'so much and so good left 
for air or so long as they can make better use of the property "to any advan- 
tage of life/ * Titles, lucrative posts, and pensions are supposed to be the 
rewards of merit, but it is never regarded as unjust that no titles should be 
bequeathed and some not inherited, nor that posts and pensions should 
terminate with the first holder. 

[ 7 'Blessed are they that have/] 

* Locke, Essay on Civil Government, v. 27-31. On the Qth of February 1946, the 
Tuan Muda (heii to the throne) of Sarawak had a letter in The Times complaining that 
the Rajah had no right to cede the sovereignty without his consent (as well as that of 
the people). 

E. L. Woodward 

<[ Although E. L. Woodward is best known as a professional his- 
torian, his little essay in reminiscence, Short Journey, which he 
wrote during the war, should make him known to many readers 
who may not be acquainted with his Age of Reform (a history of 
England during the nineteenth century) and other writings on 
modern history. Short Journey is an excellently written book un- 
fortunately its excellence has not yet been recognized as widely as 
it deserves to be about the intellectual and personal history of a 
scholar who is as sensitive to the present as he is learned about the 

Mr. Woodward has spent most of his mature life at Oxford, 
where he is Professor of Modern History and Fellow of Worcester 
College. He is at present co-editor of Documents on British 
Foreign Policy, 191 9-39. 


" URING THE years between the two wars I had work l which 
I enjoyed doing. I had all the leisure which I wanted. I had chances 
of travel in Europe and outside Europe. In the course of time I outgrew 
most of the effects of my illness in 1918. I could work for more hours at a 
stretch, and feel less tired at forty than I had felt at thirty. I never had to 
bother about money; my income was large enough for me to set aside a 
sum each year to supplement a pension which, for accidental reasons, 
would be smaller than I might normally have expected to receive. It would 
therefore be make-believe to say that I was unhappy, or that the troubles 
and unsolved mystery of the world weighed like a great stone on me. 

Nevertheless there was no day in all this talc of days in which I did not 
feel, as I had felt in boyhood and early youth, the sense of waiting, an 

[* As an Oxford tutor.] 

FROM Short Journey, 1942. Reprinted by permission of the Oxford University Press. 


awareness that something was happening outside my immediate range of 
consciousness, and yet not so far beyond me that I could never hope to 
understand it. 1 was like a man kept below decks on a ship. I could hear 
the sound of footsteps above my cabin. I could hear the beat of the ship's 
engines. I did not know the ship's course. I did not know the purpose of 
the voyage. 

I had always tried to piece together my knowledge. I was interested in 
'detail/ but hungry for general conclusions. I could not see things without 
arranging them into a pattern; nevertheless, the grand design of the world 
eluded me. I had given up reading metaphysics because it seemed to me 
that for over two thousand years philosophers had asked more or less the 
same questions. During this period the questions had been framed more 
sharply, but I did not expect them to be answered in my lifetime. I had 
turned to history, hoping against hope that, by observation of what had 
happened over a long period of time, I might find these answers, or a hint 
of the form which the answers would take. Although long study of the 
past had deepened and widened my sympathies, and liberated me from 
the tyranny of the immediate present, I was no nearer in late middle age 
than in early youth to solving the problems which bewildered and in- 
trigued me. I knew, or rather, I was sure, that the answers were to be found; 
that they were almost within my reach. 

Hence my life was divided. I enjoyed the details of living. I held fast to 
the deepest personal relationships, my marriage, the memory of my home. 
In such personal relationships I came nearest to reality. I wanted to extend 
this understanding of reality until there was no separation between myself 
and the universe. I wanted to be immersed in the ocean of time, past, 
present, and future, and not to look only at discrete moments. Until I 
had attained this freedom, which could come only by breaking down the 
barrier raised by my own personality, I knew that I should remain always 
unquiet, always unsatisfied. I can explain my meaning by using again the 
phrase which I used about certain most vivid and never forgotten moments 
in my boyhood: These fields and trees they and I are one and the same 
thing/ The same thing; yet I can never pass a door which is not ever fully 
closed, but which shuts me off from the 'otherness* beyond my compre- 

For a few years after the war, I maintained the practice of the Chris- 
tian religion. I had given up, for good and all, the idea of taking Orders. 2 
I did not realize how far I had traveled from this possibility until, a month 

[ a Becoming a priest.] 

268 E. L. Woodward 

or two after my election to a fellowship at All Souls, I was offered a col- 
lege chaplaincy. I still counted myself a Christian. I was never bothered by 
quibbles about the validity of Anglican orders, and similar details of eccle- 
siastical tradition. I regarded the sacraments administered in the Church 
of England as valid. I thought that the detached position and attitude of 
the Church were historically justified, and also compatible with a belief 
in the ultimate reunion of Christendom. Nevertheless, when the question 
was put to me, and put in the most favorable conditions from every other 
point of view: will you read the liturgy, administer the sacraments, accept 
the doctrinal philosophy of the Christian Church, there was no convincing 
reason why I should say 'no/ but I could not possibly have said 'yes/ 

I have explained that I could not give any date for this change in my in- 
tention. Similarly, I am not able to point to any day or month on which I 
ceased to call myself a Christian. I did not pass through any special crisis of 
mind. I was neither depressed nor elated; there was no question of casting 
off a burden or of recovering a lost liberty. In a sense, I suppose that I am 
still a member of the Church of England. I attend my college chapel as a 
matter of formality on set services of commemoration. I find no incon- 
gruity in so doing. I regard these services (which are, incidentally, not those 
enjoined by the founder of the college) as possessing a significance, but a 
significance outside the range of my powers of interpretation. I feel about 
them as I felt when in a Moslem country I listened with respect to a circle 
of devout men reciting the Koran. I do not doubt the rightness of such acts 
of piety. Only the sea has come in 3 between me and this known and well- 
explored country of personal religion, cutting me off from intercourse with 
long familiar things. I repeat that this flood has not risen in the thunder of 
a tempest, but quietly, almost imperceptibly; I can measure the volume of 
the tide not by sound or tumult, but merely if I look at the increasing 
distance between myself and the mainland on which I once walked, and 
from which I am now cut off. 

Nevertheless, although I have never known the conflict which men of 
deeply religious mind have recorded of themselves, there have been long 
periods of time during which I have felt this separation from a church 
militant here on earth with an acuteness not far removed from physical 
pain. At these times I have also felt that I must put into words what such 
a separation means for the generation to which I belong, since my own 
experience has nothing unique about it. Indeed, if there is anything excep- 

[ 3 See Matthew Arnold's poem, 'Dover Beach/] 


tional about my own case, the differentiating factor is that the severance 
was so long delayed. 

I cannot envisage a society of human beings without religion, and yet 
possessing an art, a literature, and a way of life not entirely and funda- 
mentally futile. I cannot believe that for millions of years hence men will 
endure this sense of unsatisfied awareness which is the fate of my own 
generation. I have read a good deal of the literature of modern materialism; 
I find it unconvincing often to the point of silliness. It has not endured for 
a century without becoming ignoble. I do not expect it to endure at all for 
more than another century or two. 

On the other hand I should be equally false to the conviction of my 
whole being and to the conclusions reached over many years if I did not 
also say that, as far as I am concerned, and, as far as most men of my gen- 
eration are concerned, Christian theology is a hindrance to understanding. 
It is impossible for anyone brought up as I was brought up, and living in 
my environment, not to be moved very deeply by the gospels and by the 
preaching of St. Paul. I cannot read the chapter in St. Luke describing the 
Nativity without thinking that, if things had happened so, there would be 
no unsolved secret to elude mankind century after century. I do not know 
any ceremony on earth more profound, more humble, and more magnifi- 
cent in hope than the Christian mass. It would be, as I say, impossible for 
me to think otherwise. 

'And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, 
keeping watch over their flocks by night. 

'And lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the 
Lord shone round them. . . 

'And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host 
praising Cod and saying, Glory to Cod in the highest, and on earth peace, 
good will toward men. 

'And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into 
heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Beth- 
lehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made 
known unto us. 

'And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe 
lying in a manger/ 

There is no record in the world like this record. And yet what is the 
answer to the question in the liturgy: Quern vidistis, pastores, dicite, annun- 
ciate nobis in terris quis apparuit? 4 

[ 4 'Whom saw ye, shepherds? Tell, proclaim to us, who hath appeared on the earth?') 

270 E. L. Woodward 

It is not merely because I do not believe in astrology that I reject the 
narrative of the star in the east which went before the wise men 'till it 
came and stood over where the young child was/ Within the last few gen- 
erations, and only within the last few generations, the guidance of many 
centuries has failed us; the interlocked structure of history and logic upon 
which Christian doctrine is based and the visible church is founded can 
no longer satisfy the mind. Kenan s wrote that in his youth the ordinary 
man had no intellectual right to doubt the truth of Catholic dogma. In 
Kenan's own lifetime the change had begun. The tide of disruption is 
now at full flood. No apologetics, no 'modernism/ no 'jettisoning of non- 
essentials/ can turn this cosmic movement. There is no remedy. 

Tor the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and 
the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it. 

'For the Lord shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be as wroth 
as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and 
bring to pass his act, his strange act/ * 

I know that this conclusion appears negative. I am unable to give it a 
more positive form. I cannot say what will follow the disappearance of 
'historical Christianity/ I do not think that the answer to this question 
can be given in my lifetime. 

I wrote these paragraphs on Christmas Eve. At midnight I listened on 
my wireless to the mass sung by the monks of Ampleforth Abbey. I knew 
that I was listening to the purest and most confident invocation of God. 
I knew that the monks who were singing this mass, the celebrant, the gos- 
peler, the monastic choir had taken vows of renunciation which I would 
fear to take, and that they had so acted because they believed in a timeless 
and everlasting sacrifice. 

I heard the very words which I had written down, a few hours earlier. 
Et subito erat cum angelo multitude militiae caelestis laudentis Deum et 
dicentis: gloria Deo in excelsis et in terra pax. . . 6 It is no easy thing to 
surrender a belief that this company of the Heavenly Host was seen and 
heard, at a certain time, on the hills outside Bethlehem by certain shep- 
herds. In my lifetime I have been witness of enough destruction, but I can 
use no other term to describe the loss of the accumulated treasures of Chris- 

[ 8 Eminent French writer on religion (1823-92).] 
* Isaiah xxviii. 20-1. 

[ 6 'And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising 
God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace . . .'] 


tian piety. It seems to me a delusion to suggest that, if people cease to be- 
lieve that God is present in the consecrated Host, they can listen equally 
well to the words and setting of the mass; that there need be no difference 
between a Christian and a non-Christian attitude towards the sacrifice on 
Calvary. There is a whole world of difference, just as there is a world of 
difference between taking part in a battle and reading a chapter of military 
history. The destruction is there; the loss is real, and not to be explained 
away in comfortable terms. I find no explanation; I merely record what 
must happen. The Lord shall rise up as in mount Perazim, that he may do 
his v^ork, his strange work, and bring to pass his act, his strange act. 

I remember also that this act of destruction has been envisaged by others 
who also saw that for their time there was no remedy. Twelve years ago I 
read words written in 1692 by one of the greatest of the figures of Port 
Royal. 7 These words have stayed in my mind, because they have seemed 
to me to describe the age in which I live. 

'II me scmble que jc suis nc* dans une glise e*claire*e de diverses lampes 
et de divers flambeaux et que Dieu permet que je les voic Iteindre les uns 
apres les autres, sans qu'il paraisse qu'on y en substitue de nouveaux. Ainsi 
il me semble que Fair s'obscurcit de plus en plus, parce que nous ne mdritons 
pas que Dieu rcparc les vides qu'il fait lui-me'me dans son figlise.' 8 

In 1930, halfway between the two wars, I wrote a short book in order to 
express what I had continually in mind about the extinction of these great 
lights in heaven. I also tried to record my own ever-present awareness of 
the two-fold significance of things. I wrote this book, which I called The 
Twelve-Winded Sky, because I wanted to write it. In a queer sense, I 
could not help writing it. I published it because I thought that there 
might be, perhaps, twenty or thirty people who would be glad that I had 
written it. I did not feel any compunction or scruple about publishing it; 
as far as a man can judge his skill in his own craft, I thought that the book 
was what I wanted it to be. 

The publication of this book had a curious and absurd sequel. One Sun- 
day morning I met a senior fellow of All Souls on his way back from the 
university sermon. He told me that he had just heard some book or other 

[ 7 Headquarters of an influential religious movement (Jansenism) in seventeenth- 
century France.] 

f 8 'It seems to me that I was born in a Church lighted by various lamps and torches, 
and that God allows me to see them extinguished one after the other without it appear- 
ing that new ones replace them. So it seems to me that the air darkens more and more, 
because we do not deserve that God fill the void which he himself made in his Church.'] 

272 E. L. Woodward 

denounced from the pulpit. I discovered that it was my book which had 
been denounced. 

Throughout these years during which I have come later than most of 
my contemporaries to acknowledge the disruption of Christian belief 
and of ancient modes of piety, I have known that such a change would 
affect the political and economic order of society. Even the disestablish- 
ment and disendowment of the Church of England would bring with it 
far-reaching social consequences, especially in country towns and villages. 
The disappearance of the authority of the Roman See over millions of 
Catholics throughout the world would have a much greater effect. There 
would be, among other consequences, a sharpening of civil conflict in every 
modern state, since it is impossible to overlook the fact that, whatever may 
come in the future to take the place of the Christian Church in Western 
civilization, there must be a difficult interregnum; a phase of popular 
materialism and intellectual anarchy. 

These dangers are no argument against a clear and deep breach with the 
past. The longer the destructive revolution is delayed, the more prolonged 
and difficult will be the interregnum. I do not forget the sharp words of the 
French socialist Jaur&s that the French radicals, in their attack on the Cath- 
olic Church, had silenced the old song which had brought resignation to 
human misery; that the disinherited were now awake, and that they would 
demand their rights with more urgency in this world if they had lost hope 
of a future world in which the balance would be redressed. 

I knew also that the Christian conscience had done much more, per- 
haps, in the last few generations than the governing authorities of the 
Christian Church to awaken the imagination of the possessing classes to 
the misery of masses of men and women and children in modern society. 
I was not foolish enough to judge the conscience of Christians by the bleak 
record of the Anglican bishops in the House of Lords, or by the alliance 
between the papal court and the most reactionary governments of nine- 
teenth-century Europe. I knew that there was some risk of a weakening of 
this new sense of social justice among large numbers of people if the frame- 
work of organized Christianity were to dissolve. I knew also that there was 
now in Europe a political movement which accepted and even welcomed 
the sharpening of the social conflict, or regarded this conflict as inevitable 
and looked forward to it not with apprehension but rather with great 

What attitude was I to take up towards this political movement? In 


matters of religion I was unwilling to accept an intellectual compromise 
of a 'modernist* kind. Could I accept such a compromise in relation to the 
political and economic order? Here I come back to those political accidents 
which I described earlier as among the unfortunate features of English 
public life after 1919. The liberal party, as a great party, was extinct. Such 
a fate, as far as the leaders of the party were concerned, was well deserved. 
As long as these leaders held their positions, there was no hope of a re- 
vival of the party. I also saw no practical chance of displacing the leaders. 
I thought at times of the story of the Anglican bishop who, on hearing 
complaints about the evil caused to his diocese by the spiritual sloth of 
some of his leading clergy, answered: 'We must look to that great Christian 
worker, Death/ 

This long view might be right. Some time or other the way might be 
clear for a revival, under a new name, and with a new program, of the 
liberal party of the generation before 1914. Meanwhile I, and hundreds 
like me, had to choose between parties as they were. The choice meant very 
little. There was not much to distinguish the policy of conservatives in 
office from that of socialists in office; one man, Ramsay MacDonald, 9 
indeed, passed in fact though not altogether in name, from one party to 
the other without much change in the policy which he asked the electors 
to allow him to put into effect. Indeed, with a large electorate afraid of 
far-reaching changes and indifferent to new ideas, but responding in the 
main to 'left-center' programs, there could not be a very wide gap between 
the policy of a conservative and that of a labor cabinet. 

What were these 'left-center* ideas? Two generations ago William 
Morris summed up, a little unfairly, what he called the 'middle-class liberal 
ideal of reformed society/ 

'There is to be a large class of industrious people not too much refined 
(or they could not do the rough work wanted of them) who are to live in 
comfort (not, however, meaning our middle-class comfort), and receive 
a kind of education (if they can) and not be overworked; that is, not 
overworked for a working man; his light day's work would be rather heavy 
for the refined classes. This class is to be the basis of society, and its exis- 
tence will leave the consciences of the refined class quite free and at rest. 
From this refined class will come the directors or captains of labor (in other 
words the usurers), the directors of people's consciences religious and lit- 
erary (clergy, philosophers, newspaper-writers) and lastly, if that be thought 
of at all, the directors of art; these two classes . . . will live together with 

[ British Labor leader; Prime Minister, 1924, 1929-35.] 

274 ^- k- Woodward 

the greatest goodwill; the upper helping the lower without sense of con- 
descension on one side or humiliation on the other; the lower are to be 
perfectly content with their position, and there is to be no grain of antag- 
onism between the classes: although (even Utopian ism of this kind being 
unable to shake off the idea of the necessity of competition between indi- 
viduals) the lower class, blessed and respected as it is, will have moreover 
the additional blessing of hope held out to it; the hope of each man rising 
into the upper class, and leaving the chrysalis of labor behind him; nor, 
if that matters, is the lower class to lack due political or parliamentary 
power; all men (or nearly all) being equal before the ballot-box, except so 
far as they may be bought like other things. . . All the world turned 
bourgeois big and little, peace under the rule of competitive commerce, 
ease of mind and a good conscience to all and several under the rule of 
the devil take the hindmost/ * 

This summary was not altogether fair in the year in which it was made 
(1883). It ignored the immense social achievement of the nineteenth 
century. It ignored the amazing contrast between the condition of the 
people of England in the early years of the eighteenth and the later years of 
the nineteenth centuries, and did not face the stubborn fact that a classless 
society was hardly possible until there had been a much greater rise in 
'average* standards of living, a softening of manners, an improvement in 
material conditions. The age of high capitalism did not create the social 
evils against which the middle-class reformers of capitalism protested. 
Dirt and disease were not new; drains and a good water supply were new. 
The exploitation of children's labor was not new; factory laws were new. 
Every town, and not merely the great cities, of every European country in 
the eighteenth century contained a majority a majority, not a 'residuum' 
of human beings unfit for the exercise of political liberty. The age of 
machinery did not brutalize men; the grinding wheels were, in fact, wheels 
of liberation. 

William Morris's indictment was too harsh and unhistorical, and in 
some respects ungenerous, as far as his own time was concerned. Neverthe- 
less this indictment applied with greater force to the political parties of 
my own age. In the years after Waterloo, and even in the last two decades 
of the nineteenth century, the essential postulates of a 'classless society* 
were lacking. The work of the nineteenth-century reformers had been on 
so great a scale that, after the last war, it was not by any means certain that 
an attempt to found this 'classless' society would end in catastrophe and 

* W. Morris, Architecture, Industry, and Wealth: Collected Papers. 


a general lowering of standards. Indeed the mistake of liberals after 1918 
was that they seemed to take no account of the changes for which liber- 
alism had been largely responsible, and that they were content with the 
kind of society William Morris had described. In a strange way, the polit- 
ical and parliamentary leaders of the labor party seemed equally content 
with this type of society, if the center of gravity could be moved a little 
further to the left. There was not very much to choose between the type 
of earthly paradise envisaged by trade union officials and that desired by 
local chambers of commerce. 

This very fact that, in practice, the two political parties were almost in- 
terchangeable forced me to ask myself whether the time had not come for 
a real political and social revolution. I knew enough history to be sceptical 
about the results of revolutions, but I also knew that there were times 
when revolution, like war, was a political necessity in the sense that it 
was an unavoidable choice between greater and lesser evils. 

I have already mentioned, and, indeed, the fact is obvious, that I did not 
have to work out for myself a theory of revolutionary socialism (if I may 
use a vague term which covers, conveniently, a number of different and 
mutually incompatible theories). The theory was ready for me to accept 
One of the largest states 10 in the modern world had attempted to put 
the theory into effect. Scores, almost hundreds of books, offered me an 
exposition of the revolutionary theory. A little to my bewilderment, num- 
bers of young poets exulted in this theory, as though it were something new, 
whereas, to my knowledge, it had existed for a hundred years, and the most 
disquieting feature about it was that during this hundred years it had re- 
mained in essentials unchanged, immutable as the Koran. 

I found that I could not accept the revolutionary theory. It is, of course, 
possible that, in coining to this conclusion, I was biased by a wish not to 
lose my own comfort and my privileged position in society. I do not think 
that this consideration weighed overmuch with me, for the simple reason 
that, whatever I might hope or fear in the matter, I had few grounds for 
expecting a social revolution to take place in England during my lifetime. 
If I had wanted to be cynical, I could have adopted the most extreme 
form of revolutionary anarchism, with the comfortable assurance of per- 
sonal immunity in the words 'apres moi le deluge.' * 

I 10 Russia.] 

* So I have thought until this winter of 1941-2. I am not sure now that, if 1 survive 
this war, I may not see revolution in England. It is also certain that, revolution or no 
revolution, my own personal economic security is gone. The deluge is here. 

276 E. L. Woodward 

I found it more difficult to avoid another kind of bias. One expects a 
revolutionary party to include the social misfits, the failures, the d6racin6s n 
of the existing order; there is also a certain morbid type of mind, resentful 
of superiority, and finding relief or satisfaction only in the contemplation 
of large-scale destruction. I am bound to say that the parties of social revo- 
lution, at least in western Europe, have included a high percentage of such 
types. It is indeed one of the counts against modern conditions that they 
tend to produce d&acin&s in large numbers. Many of these people have 
'gone over' to fascism, the opposite pole of revolutionary thought. Fascism 
as 'socialism for fools' can be ignored in a long count. Revolutionary social- 
ism, in the proper sense of the term, cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, it is 
not mere fastidiousness on the part of the comfortably-placed to point out 
that a judgement of the revolutionary cause must be affected by the tones 
of hate in which this cause is proclaimed. 

The revolutionaries of 1789 included morbid types (Marat, for example), 
but the movement in favor of a 'classless' society, considered in the large, 
did not take on a bleak and nagging character until the time of Karl Marx. 
The apologists for Marx as a person speak of his passion for social righteous- 
ness; I find it hard to credit him with any passions except hatred, resent- 
ment, and a desire for domination. The only people whom he appeared to 
admire were Prussian aristocrats, and he hated them as much as he hated 
everyone else. He hated most of his fellow-socialists hardly less than he 
hated the bourgeoisie. He hated nearly all those who befriended him quite 
as bitterly as he hated his persecutors. 

Marx gave to revolutionary socialism a psychological twist from which it 
suffers to this day; a meanness and pettiness of outlook which even large- 
hearted men like Jaures 12 have been powerless to eradicate. A quarrelsome 
meanness, which drove a man like William Morris out of practical col- 
laboration with the socialist movement; a perpetual jeering at others; a re- 
fusal to attribute to opponents any fine or generous motives. I find this 
corrosion even in the mild-mannered English socialists. The playboys of 
the movement, like Bernard Shaw, often mock at sincerity as much as at 
humbug. Patient and quiet scholars like the Webbs 13 seem at times to 
approve of that type of ordered society which moved Rousseau to write the 
words 'on vit tranquille aussi dans les cachots.' 14 

[ n The uprooted (the 'disinherited' of p. 272).] 
[" French socialist (1859-1914).] 

[ 13 Beatrice and Sidney Webb, English writers on socialism and leaders in the social- 
ist movement during the first half of the twentieth century.] 
[ 14 'One can live at peace in dungeons, too.'] 


This curdled intellectualism did not encourage me to look forward with 
pleasure to the fulfillment of the revolutionary program. None the less, 
the revolutionaries might be right. I could not reject the revolutionary 
thesis because a few of its supporters were louche 1B and tricky characters, 
others had a touch of morbidity, and nearly all of them lacked good man- 
ners in controversy. There were other types than the embusqu6s 16 of the 
revolutionary army. Since 1936 I have known men who were prepared to 
die, and not merely to live spitefully or selfishly, for the cause of social 
justice. Furthermore, however much I might discount many of the details 
in the picture of the age of high capitalism as drawn by the outcasts and 
the rebels, I could not deny the main truth of their assertions. I could deny 
it the less because they seemed to me to exaggerate the material evils of 
the age. The indictment was really much deeper if one admitted that there 
had been a general material advance; that the standard of life had risen, 
and that the hours of painful labor (something entirely different from the 
pleasure which I called work) had lessened, and there was a greater and 
more widely diffused sense of ease. 

In these years, and especially after 1930, I went back very often to 
William Morris. Here was a man of generous mind, with none of the petty 
resentments and petty hates and nagging which I found so tiresome; a man 
without any sense of failure and inferiority; a man who could make things 
with his hands, manage a large business, direct and invent technical 
processes in the decorative arts. This man, who enjoyed every hour of his 
work (and who had indeed defined all art as an 'expression of joy in work 1 ), 
had given up his leisure to fight against the vulgarity and ugliness of the 
times. Want and misery, grim and evil as they were, might be cured, and 
were, in fact, being cured. What remedy was there for the vulgarity of 
modern civilization? 'If civilization is to go no further than this it had 
better not have gone so far ... it is ... so much the worse than that 
which has gone before it, as its pretensions are higher, its slavery subtler, 
its mastery harder to overthrow, because supported by such a dense mass 
of commonplace well-being and comfort/ * 

Nevertheless, I could not see in any one of the theories of revolutionary 
socialism a way of escape from the plush-seated, ignoble society in which I 
lived. These revolutionary theories, in spite of a certain amount of dressing 
up in new coats, were variations on an eighteenth-century philosophical 

* W. Morris. 

278 E. L. Woodward 

theme. Such of them as were not built on sand rested on a foundation of 
materialistic determinism. The theory of the 'inevitability' of the class war 
had arisen as a superstructure upon this foundation. The superstructure 
itself was a rickety affair; it depended upon an interpretation of history 
which was both arbitrary and fantastic (though less arbitrary and fantastic 
to an eighteenth-century thinker than it appears today). The reduction and 
subordination of all motives to the economic motive can be accepted even 
as a postulate (it cannot be proved) only if you are willing to believe that 
men rarely mean what they say, and that in war they have rarely known 
what they were fighting about, or in peace what was the object of their 

The absurdities which exponents of this school of thought allow them- 
selves can be explained by the contradictions upon which the theory is 
based. The odd thing about the materialist philosophy, regarded merely 
as a theory, is that it is, of course, incompatible with any belief in social 
justice or indeed in any kind of justice (except as a sort of shadow by- 
play) or in the ethical rightness or wrongness of any kind of human society. 
There is neither justice nor injustice in the relations between animals; the 
jackal and the lion act as the jackal and the lion must act. In human society, 
the bourgeois and the proletarian act as the bourgeois and the proletarian 
must act. Every living creature after his kind pursues his own interest; every 
interest is material; all history is reduced to economic history, and this, 
in turn, is merely a statement of 'natural' fact, giving no grounds for asser- 
tions of Messianic hope. 

It may be, as Marx thought, that the success of the proletarian revolu- 
tion is inevitable; an assertion of this inevitability depended, in Marx's time, 
upon the validity of a number of postulates, or rather of a number of tech- 
nical economic conclusions and forecasts. The greater part of these conclu- 
sions and forecasts have turned out to be wrong. Even if the proletarian 
revolution is a part of the nature of things, there is no sign of evidence or 
hope, on the materialist assumptions, that this revolution will begin a 
golden age. Homo homini lupus; 17 the bourgeois turned by force into 
proletarians will still be men. Thomas Hobbes, 18 with more logic than the 
revolutionary socialists, accepted this conclusion. He drew from it the corol- 
laries that no revolution was worth while, and that men had better make 
the best of the botched planet upon which they live by sheltering them- 
selves under the protection of a despotic power. If one such shelter col- 

[" 'Man is a wolf to man/] 

[ 18 Seventeenth-century English writer and philosopher. See his Leviathan.] 


lapsed on their heads, the)' were wise to seek another. Otherwise they had 
better not shake the kaleidoscope of change.* I have always thought that 
Bruce Bairnsfather's picture of Old Bill 10 and the 'better 'ole' is an excel- 
lent summary of Hobbes's philosophy. 

Such a philosophy of negation is not likely to inspire men to die at the 
barricades. One need not be surprised that the revolutionary faith as held 
by the proletariat and not by their self-appointed philosophers is in direct 
contradiction with a materialistic theory which admits of no 'eminences' in 
history, no heroic virtues, nothing but the sacro egoismo of individuals 
merged into groups. The 'class-war' as a myth, as a fighting creed, is some- 
thing entirely different from the class war in the books of revolutionary 
theory. It is a good righting creed. As a statement of fact, it is on much 
the same level as the cry 'Saint George for England' or 'Saint Denis for 

In the years after the last war I was 'sick of shadows.' I wanted no more 
'myths/ For this reason I had given up the myths of the Christian religion. 
It was unlikely that I should accept the myth of the class-war if I had re- 
jected the myth of the angelic salutation. I wanted the truth, not myths, 
and I did not think that anything short of the truth would avail to cure 
and not merely to change the names of the evil things in the body politic. 

In rejecting myths, religious, economic, or political, I do not claim 
originality of thought for myself. Except in matters purely historical, I 
was dependent to a very considerable extent upon the intellectual integrity 
of others. It would be tedious to recount here in detail these arguments 
analyzing and exposing the philosophical fallacies upon which, for all their 
variations, the theories of revolutionary socialism were based, just as it 
would be out of place to retrace the steps by which I was convinced of the 
untenability first of an orthodox position, and next of a 'modernist' posi- 
tion in religion. In each of these cases, I have tried to read what the best 
authorities have had to say, but I could judge as a layman and not as an 
expert. Even if I were an expert, I might well be wrong; as a layman, in 

* I, a child of the 1890'$, belong to the age of kaleidoscopes. I found one in my 
grandfather's house, and the pleasure I obtained from it, on the hedonistic calculus, was 
equal to the pleasure of an aesthete in the windows of Chartres Cathedral. But I may 
have learned, all too precociously, from this instrument that, in a materialistic universe, 
'plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose/ ['The more it changes, the more it is the same 

C 19 Soldier in a famous cartoon published during World War I; preferring his present 
situation, dangerous as it was, to others that might prove even more dangerous, he said, 
'If you know a better 'ole, go to it/] 

280 E. L. Woodward 

spheres outside my own subject, it would be rash to affirm my own convic- 
tions as the last word; I can say only that I have reached these convictions. 

I would record one other relevant fact which concerns many of my 
contemporaries as well as myself. I have said that, for my generation, re- 
jection of the received tradition of Christianity was negative, in the sense 
that it did not lead to immediate action. A new religion can come into 
being only in the process of time, after the ripening of the fruit of a tree 
of knowledge which men have but lately planted. On the other hand, re- 
jection both of the existing form of political society and of the revolution- 
ary theories (and their accompanying 'battle-myths') did not mean absten- 
tion from political action. On the contrary, the premises upon which right 
political action could be based were within reach of everyone. I have 
mentioned earlier the fact that, if they had had the imagination, the bold- 
ness, and the mental equipment to take it, the liberal leaders after the last 
war had ready to hand a new political program which could have been 
based on the scientific knowledge and technology of the twentieth century. 
There was nothing esoteric about this knowledge. For years past it has been 
possible for a layman in economics to point to the fact that we have hardly 
begun to consider the political implications of the 'economics of plenty/ 
It has been possible for a layman in the physical and biological sciences to 
know to know, not merely to hope that we have within our reach the 
means of improving beyond any dream of past thinkers the standards of 
human life and also the quality of human beings. In order to use these 
opportunities which already exist, we need a revolution, but it is a revolu- 
tion in our attitude of mind towards scientific knowledge.* 

An English historian has written these words about the mentality of the 
German National Socialists as shown in their attitude towards their 
neighbors. 'In the full tide of the age of Abundance and Interdependence 
they use the language of the long ages of Drudgery, Penury, and Isolation. 

* I can well understand the impatience of those scientists who know the social* value 
of their knowledge, and the smallness of the adjustments really necessary for the practical 
application of this knowledge to the solution of political problems. It is perhaps easier 
for a historian to be patient; the accumulated practical wisdom of the centuries does not 
amount to a very large sum, and one cannot expect as rapid or unbroken a rate of prog- 
ress in statecraft as in other fields of human activity. In spite of appearances to the con- 
trary, the pace has indeed quickened in the last three hundred years; perhaps it has been 
too fast, and we are now paying the penalty. The heaviness of this penalty again, tak- 
ing a historical viewpoint is not such as to make us despair, or to suspect that our 
'progress' cannot be assessed in terms of values and that it is merely another of the 
'battle-myths' of human beings. 


Power for them still means the power of man over man rather than the 
power of man over Nature. A neighbor for them is still a potential enemy, 
spying for an opportunity of loot. Two neighbors constitute two enemies 
and a possible war on two fronts, which, with a little exaggeration, becomes 
an "encirclement." Countries endowed with natural resources which their 
inhabitants are only too anxious to sell in the world market are stores of 
treasure jealously withheld from a hungry warrior tribe. . . Political Econ- 
omy, as we have understood it in the West for 150 years, is discarded or 
rather, it is treated as an annex to the art of war/ * 

The National Socialist Party, and other large sections of the German 
people, may be taken as pathological examples of political blindness, but 
few readers of this indictment can escape from an uneasy feeling that, if 
their own society has been free of the worst pathological symptoms to be 
found in Germany, at least we have not distinguished ourselves by our 
foresight and common sense in accepting the gifts which are there for us 
to take. Bundles and bundles of carrots have been dangled before our silly 
eyes, and yet we go hungry. 20 We too have been afraid of our own liberty, 
and too timid to use our own powers. 

* Sir A. Zimmern, The Prospects of Civilization (Oxford Pamphlets on World Af- 
fairs, No. i, p. 30). 
L a Seepp. 505-6, 597.] 

Arnold /. Toynbee 

([ In the English-speaking world, at least, Arnold J. Toynbee is 
undoubtedly the most influential of contemporary historians. This 
eminence is due mainly to his A Study of History, which began to 
appear in 1933 but did not become widely known outside of Great 
Britain until the Second World War shocked many common read- 
ers into a more serious consideration of the nature of history than 
they had been accustomed to. Six volumes of A Study of History 
were published between 1933 and 1939, and three more are still 
(as this note is written) to come. Other historians have surveyed 
the decline of the Roman Empire and the West; Mr. Toynbee's 
inquiry includes civilizations dead before Rome was heard of. As 
both a history and a philosophy of history it is one of the most 
original and most important books of its time. 

After a few years as Fellow and Tutor of Balliol College, Oxford, 
Mr. Toynbee was Professor of Byzantine and Modern Greek Lan- 
guage, Literature, and History at the University of London, 1919 to 
1924, and since 1925 has been Director of Studies at the Royal 
Institute of International Affairs. From 1915 to 1919 and again 
from 1939 to 1943 he was engaged in war work. 

'Civilization on Trial' is from a volume of essays and lectures 
published in 1948. 


'UR PRESENT Western outlook on history is an extraordin- 
arily contradictory one. While our historical horizon* has been expanding 
vastly in both the space dimension and the time dimension, our historical 
vision what we actually do see, in contrast to what we now could see if 
we chosehas been contracting rapidly to the narrow field of what a horse 

FROM Civilization on Trial, copynght 1948 by Oxford University Prem, Inc. Reprinted 
by permission of the publishers. 


sees between its blinkers or what a U-boat commander sees through his 

This is certainly extraordinary; yet it is only one of a number of contra- 
dictions of this kind that seem to be characteristic of the times in which we 
are living. There are other examples that probably loom larger in the minds 
of most of us. For instance, our world has risen to an unprecedented degree 
of humanitarian feeling. There is now a recognition of the human rights 
of people of all classes, nations and races; yet at the same time we have sunk 
to perhaps unheard-of depths of class warfare, nationalism, and racialism. 
These bad passions find vent in cold-blooded, scientifically planned cruel- 
ties; and the two incompatible states of mind and standards of conduct arc 
to be seen to-day, side by side, not merely in the same world, but some- 
times in the same country and even in the same soul. 

Again, we now have an unprecedented power of production side by side 
with unprecedented shortages. We have invented machines to work for 
us, but have less spare labour than ever before for human service even 
for such an essential and elementary service as helping mothers to look 
after their babies. We have persistent alternations of widespread unemploy- 
ment with famines of man-power. Undoubtedly, the contrast between 
our expanding historical horizon and our contracting historical vision is 
something characteristic of our age. Yet, looked at in itself, what an aston- 
ishing contradiction it is! 

Let us remind ourselves first of the recent expansion of our horizon. In 
space, our Western field of vision has expanded to take in the whole of 
mankind over all the habitable and traversable surface of this planet, and 
the whole stellar universe in which this planet is an infinitesimally small 
speck of dust. In time, our Western field of vision has expanded to take 
in all the civilizations that have risen and fallen during these last 6000 
years; the previous history of the human race back to its genesis between 
600,000 and a million years ago; the history of life on this planet back to 
perhaps 800 million years ago. What a marvelous widening of our historical 
horizon! Yet, at the same time, our field of historical vision has been con- 
tracting; it has been tending to shrink within the narrow limits in time 
and space of the particular republic or kingdom of which each of us 
happens to be a citizen. The oldest surviving Western states say France 
or England have so far had no more than a thousand years of continuous 
political existence; the largest existing Western state say Brazil or the 
United States embraces only a very small fraction of the total inhabited 
surface of the Earth. 

284 Arnold J. Toynbee 

Before the widening of our horizon beganbefore our Western seamen 
circumnavigated the globe, and before our Western cosmogonists and geol- 
ogists pushed out the bounds of our universe in both time and space our 
pre-nationalist mediaeval ancestors had a broader and juster historical 
vision than we have to-day. For them, history did not mean the history of 
one's own parochial community; it meant the history of Israel, Greece, and 
Rome. And even if they were mistaken in believing that the world was 
created in 4004 B.C., it is at any rate better to look as far back as 4004 B.C. 
than to look back no farther than the Declaration of Independence or the 
voyages of the Mayflower or Columbus or Hengist and Horsa. 1 ( As a matter 
of fact, 4004 B.C. happens, though our ancestors did not know this, to be a 
quite important date: it approximately marks the first appearance of rep- 
resentatives of the species of human society called civilizations.) 

Again, for our ancestors, Rome and Jerusalem meant much more than 
their own home towns. When our Anglo-Saxon ancestors were converted 
to Roman Christianity at the end of the sixth century of the Christian 
era, they learned Latin, studied the treasures of sacred and profane lit- 
erature to which a knowledge of the Latin language gives access, and went 
on pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem and this in an age when the diffi- 
culties and dangers of travelling were such as to make modern war-time 
travelling seem child's play. Our ancestors seem to have been big-minded, 
and this is a great intellectual virtue as well as a great moral one, for 
national histories are unintelligible within their own time limits and space 


In the time dimension, you cannot understand the history of England if 
you begin only at the coming of the English to Britain, any better than 
you can understand the history of the United States if you begin only at 
the coming of the English to North America. In the space dimension, 
likewise, you cannot understand the history of a country if you cut its out- 
lines out of the map of the world and rule out of consideration anything 
that has originated outside that particular country's frontiers. 

What are the epoch-making events in the national histories of the 
United States and the United Kingdom? Working back from the present 
towards the past, I should say they were the two world wars, the Industrial 
Revolution, the Reformation, the Western voyages of discovery, the Renais- 
sance, the conversion to Christianity. Now I defy anyone to tell the history 

I 1 Hengist and Horsa were leaders of the Jutish invasion of England, c. A.D. 449.] 


of cither the United States or the United Kingdom without making these 
events the cardinal ones, or to explain these events as local American or 
local English affairs. To explain these major events in the history of any 
Western country, the smallest unit that one can take into account is the 
whole of Western Christendom. By Western Christendom I mean the 
Roman Catholic and Protestant world the adherents of the Patriarchate 
of Rome who have maintained their allegiance to the Papacy, together 
with the former adherents who have repudiated it. 

But the history of Western Christendom, too, is unintelligible within its 
own time limits and space limits. While Western Christendom is a much 
better unit than the United States or the United Kingdom or France for 
a historian to operate with, it too turns out, on inspection, to be inadequate. 
In the time dimension, it goes back only to the close of the Dark Ages fol- 
lowing the collapse of the western part of the Roman Empire; that is, it 
goes back less than 1300 years, and 1300 years is less than a quarter of the 
6000 years during which the species of society represented by Western 
Christendom has been in existence. Western Christendom is a civilization 
belonging to the third of the three generations of civilizations that there 
have been so far. 

In the space dimension, the narrowness of the limits of Western Chris- 
tendom is still more striking. If you look at the physical map of the world 
as a whole, you will see that the small part of it which is dry land consists 
of a single continent Asia which has a number of peninsulas and off- 
lying islands. Now, what are the farthest limits to which Western Chris- 
tendom has managed to expand? You will find them at Alaska and Chile 
on the west and at Finland and Dalmatia on the east. What lies between 
those four points is Western Christendom's domain at its widest. And what 
does that domain amount to? Just the tip of Asia's European peninsula, 
together with a couple of large islands. (By these two large islands, I mean, 
of course, North and South America.) Even if you add in the outlying and 
precarious footholds of the Western world in South Africa, Australia, and 
New Zealand, its total habitable present area amounts to only a very 
minor part of the total habitable area of the surface of the planet. And you 
cannot understand the history of Western Christendom within its own 
geographical limits. 

Western Christendom is a product of Christianity, but Christianity did 
not arise in the Western world; it arose outside the bounds of Western 
Christendom, in a district that lies today within the domain of a different 
civilization: Islam. We Western Christians did once try to capture from 

286 Arnold J. Toynbee 

the Muslims the cradle of our religion in Palestine. If the Crusades had 
succeeded, Western Christendom would have slightly broadened its foot- 
ing on the all-important Asiatic mainland. But the Crusades ended in 

Western Christendom is merely one of five civilizations that survive in 
the world to-day; and these are merely five out of about nineteen that one 
can identify as having come into existence since the first appearance of 
representatives of this species of society about 6000 years ago. 


To take the four other surviving civilizations first: if the firmness of a 
civilization's foothold on the continent by which I mean the solid land- 
mass of Asiamay be taken as giving a rough indication of that civiliza- 
tion's relative expectation of life, then the other four surviving civilizations 
are 'better lives' in the jargon of the life insurance business than our 
own Western Christendom. 

Our sister civilization, Orthodox Christendom, straddles the continent 
from the Baltic to the Pacific and from the Mediterranean to the Arctic 
Ocean: it occupies the northern half of Asia and the eastern half of Asia's 
European peninsula. Russia overlooks the back doors of all the other civ- 
ilizations; from White Russia and North-Eastern Siberia she overlooks the 
Polish and Alaskan back doors of our own Western world; from the Cau- 
casus and Central Asia she overlooks the back doors of the Islamic and 
Hindu worlds; from Central and Eastern Siberia she overlooks the back 
door of the Far Eastern world. 

.Our half-sister civilization, Islam, also has a firm footing on the continent. 
The domain of Islam stretches from the heart of the Asiatic continent in 
North-Western China all the way to the west coast of Asia's African penin- 
sula. At Dakar, the Islamic world commands the continental approaches 
to the straits that divide Asia's African peninsula from the island of South 
America. Islam also has a firm footing in Asia's Indian peninsula. 

As for the Hindu society and the Far Eastern society, it needs no dem- 
onstration to show that the 400 million Hindus and the 400 or 500 million 
Chinese have a firm foothold on the continent. 

But we must not exaggerate the importance of any of these surviving 
civilizations just because, at this moment, they happen to be survivors. If, 
instead of thinking in terms of 'expectation of life,' we think in terms of 
achievement, a rough indication of relative achievement may be found in 


the giving of birth to individual souls that have conferred lasting blessings 
on the human race. 

Now who are the individuals who are the greatest benefactors of the 
living generation of mankind? I should say: Confucius and Lao-tse; 2 the 
Buddha; the Prophets of Israel and Judah; Zoroaster, Jesus, and Muham- 
mad; and Socrates. And not one of these lasting benefactors of mankind 
happens to be a child of any of the five living civilizations. Confucius and 
Lao-tse were children of a now extinct Far Eastern civilization of an earlier 
generation; the Buddha was the child of a now extinct Indian civilization 
of an earlier generation. Hosea, Zoroaster, Jesus, and Muhammad were 
children of a now extinct Syrian civilization. Socrates was the child of a 
now extinct Greek civilization. 

Within the last 400 years, all the five surviving civilizations have been 
brought into contact with each other as a result of the enterprise of two 
of them: the expansion of Western Christendom from the tip of Asia's 
European peninsula over the ocean, and the expansion of Orthodox Chris- 
tendom overland across the whole breadth of the Asiatic continent. 

The expansion of Western Christendom displays two special features: 
being oceanic, it is the only expansion of a civilization to date that has 
been literally world-wide in the sense of extending over the whole habitable 
portion of the Earth's surface; and, owing to the 'conquest of space and 
time 1 by modern mechanical means, the spread of the network of Western 
material civilization has brought the different parts of the world into far 
closer physical contact than ever before. But, even in these points, the 
expansion of the Western civilization differs in degree only, and not in 
kind, from the contemporary overland expansion of Russian Orthodox 
Christendom, and from similar expansions of other civilizations at earlier 

There are earlier expansions that have made important contributions 
towards the present unification of mankind with its corollary, the unifica- 
tion of our vision of human history. The now extinct Syrian civilization 
was propagated to the Atlantic coasts of Asia's European and African 
peninsulas westward by the Phoenicians, to the tip of Asia's Indian penin- 
sula south-eastwards by the Himyarites 8 and Nestorians, 4 and to the Pacific 

[ a Founder (sixth century B.C.) of Taoism, one of the main religions (along with 
Buddhism and Confucianism) of China.] 

[ 3 A group of ancient South Arabian tribes.] 

[ 4 Fifth-century Christians who were deemed heretical because of their views on the 
nature of Christ. They flourished until the fourteenth century; there are still Nestorian 
Christians in the East.] 

288 Arnold /. Toynbee 

north-eastwards by the Manichaeans B and Nestorians. It expanded in two 
directions overseas and in a third direction overland. Any visitor to Peking 
will have seen a striking monument of the Syrian civilization's overland 
cultural conquests. In the trilingual inscriptions of the Manchu Dynasty 
of China at Peking, the Manchu and Mongol texts are inscribed in the 
Syriac form of our alphabet, not in Chinese characters. 

Other examples of the expansion of now extinct civilizations are the 
propagation of the Greek civilization overseas westwards to Marseilles by 
the Greeks themselves, overland northwards to the Rhine and Danube by 
the Romans, and overland eastwards to the interiors of India and China 
by the Macedonians; and the expansion of the Sumerian civilization in all 
directions overland from its cradle in 'Iraq. 


As a result of these successive expansions of particular civilizations, the 
whole habitable world has now been unified into a single great society. The 
movement through which this process has been finally consummated is 
the modern expansion of Western Christendom. But we have to bear in 
mind, first, that this expansion of Western Christendom has merely com- 
pleted the unification of the world and has not been the agency that 
has produced more than the last stage of the process; and, second, that, 
though the unification of the world has been finally achieved within a 
Western framework, the present Western ascendancy in the world is cer- 
tain not to last. 

In a unified world, the eighteen non-Western civilizations four of them 
living, fourteen of them extinct will assuredly reassert their influence. 
And as, in the course of generations and centuries, a unified world grad- 
ually works its way toward an equilibrium between its diverse component 
cultures, the Western component will gradually be relegated to the modest 
place which is all that it can expect to retain in virtue of its intrinsic worth 
by comparison with those other cultures surviving and extinct which the 
Western society, through its modern expansion, has brought into associa- 
tion with itself and with one another. 

History, seen in this perspective, makes, I feel, the following call upon 
historians of our generation and of the generations that will come after 
ours. If we are to perform the full service that we have the power to per- 
form for our fellow human beings the important service of helping them 

[ B The Manichaean religion, a mixture of Christianity and Zoroastrianism, was wide- 
spread in both East and West in the fourth and fifth centuries of this era.] 


to find their bearings in a unified world we must make the necessary 
effort of imagination and effort of will to break our way out of the prison 
walls of the local and short-lived histories of our own countries and our 
own cultures, and we must accustom ourselves to taking a synoptic view 
of history as a whole. 

Our first task is to perceive, and to present to other people, the history 
of all the known civilizations, surviving and extinct, as a unity. There are, 
I believe, two ways in which this can be done. 

One way is to study the encounters between civilizations, of which I 
have mentioned four outstanding examples. These encounters between 
civilizations are historically illuminating, not only because they bring a 
number of civilizations into a single focus of vision, but also because, out 
of encounters between civilizations, the higher religions have been born- 
the worship, perhaps originally Sumerian, of the Great Mother and her 
Son who suffers and dies and rises again; Judaism and Zoroastrianism, 
which sprang from an encounter between the Syrian and Babylonian civ- 
ilizations; Christianity and Islam, which sprang from an encounter between 
the Syrian and Creek civilizations; the Mahayana form of Buddhism and 
Hinduism, which sprang from an encounter between the Indian and Greek 
civilizations. The future of mankind in this world if mankind is going 
to have a future in this world lies, I believe, with these higher religions 
that have appeared within the last 4000 years (and all but the first within 
the last 3000 years), and not with the civilizations whose encounters 
have provided opportunities for the higher religions to come to birth. 

A second way of studying the history of all the known civilizations as 
a unity is to make a comparative study of their individual histories, look- 
ing at them as so many representatives of one particular species of the 
genus Human Society. If we map out the principal phases in the histories 
of civilizations their births, growths, breakdowns, and declines we can 
compare their experiences phase by phase; and by this method of study we 
shall perhaps be able to sort out their common experiences, which are 
specific, from their unique experiences, which are individual. In this way 
we may be able to work out a morphology of the species of society called 

If, by the use of these two methods of study, we can arrive at a unified 
vision of history, we shall probably find that we need to make very far- 
going adjustments of the perspective in which the histories of divers civ- 
ilizations and peoples appear when looked at through our peculiar present- 
day Western spectacles. 

290 Arnold J. Toynbee 

In setting out to adjust our perspective, we shall be wise, I suggest, to 
proceed simultaneously on two alternative assumptions. One of these alter- 
natives is that the future of mankind may not, after all, be going to be 
catastrophic and that, even if the Second World War prove not to have 
been the last, we shall survive the rest of this batch of world wars as we 
survived the first two bouts, and shall eventually win our way out into 
calmer waters. The other possibility is that these first two world wars may 
be merely overtures to some supreme catastrophe that we are going to 
bring on ourselves. 

This second, more unpleasant, alternative has been made a very prac- 
tical possibility by mankind's unfortunately having discovered how to tap 
atomic energy before we have succeeded in abolishing the institution of 
war. Those contradictions and paradoxes in the life of the world in our 
time, which I took as my starting point, also look like symptoms of serious 
social and spiritual sickness, and their existencewhich is one of the por- 
tentous features in the landscape of contemporary history is another 
indication that we ought to take the more unpleasant of our alternatives 
as a serious possibility, and not just as a bad joke. 

On either alternative, I suggest that we historians ought to concentrate 
our own attention and direct the attention of our listeners and readers 
upon the histories of those civilizations and peoples which, in the light of 
their past performances, seem likely, in a unified world, to come to the 
front in the long run in one or other of the alternative futures that may be 
lying in wait for mankind. 

If the future of mankind in a unified world is going to be on the whole 
a happy one, then I would prophesy that there is a future in the Old 
World for the Chinese, and in the island of North America for the 
Canadiens. Whatever the future of mankind in North America, I feel 
pretty confident that these French-speaking Canadians, at any rate, will 
be there at the end of the story. 

On the assumption that the future of mankind is to be very catastrophic, 
I should have prophesied, even as lately as a few years ago, that whatever 
future we might be going to have would lie with the Tibetans and the 
Eskimos, because each of these peoples occupied, till quite lately, an un- 
usually sheltered position. 'Sheltered 7 means, of course, sheltered from the 
dangers arising from human folly and wickedness, not sheltered from the 
rigors of the physical environment. Mankind has been master of its physical 


environment, sufficiently for practical purposes, since the middle palaeo- 
lithic age; since that time, man's only dangers but these have been deadly 
dangers have come from man himself. But the homes of the Tibetans 
and the Eskimos are sheltered no longer, because we are on the point of 
managing to fly over the North Pole and over the Himalayas, and both 
Northern Canada and Tibet would (I think) be likely to be theatres of a 
future Russo-American war. 

If mankind is going to run amok with atom bombs, I personally should 
look to the Negrito Pygmies of Central Africa to salvage some fraction of 
the present heritage of mankind. (Their eastern cousins in the Philippines 
and in the Malay Peninsula would probably perish with the rest of us, as 
they both live in what have now come to be dangerously exposed positions.) 

The African Negritos are said by our anthropologists to have an unex- 
pectedly pure and lofty conception of the nature of God and of God's re- 
lation to man. They might be able to give mankind a fresh start; and, 
though we should then have lost the achievements of the last 6000 to 
10,000 years, what are 10,000 years compared to the 600,000 or a million 
years for which the human race has already been in existence? 

The extreme possibility of catastrophe is that we might succeed in ex- 
terminating the whole human race, African Negritos and all. 

On the evidence of the past history of life on this planet, even that is 
not entirely unlikely. After all, the reign of man on the Earth, if we are 
right in thinking that man established his present ascendancy in the middle 
palaeolithic age, is so far only about 100,000 years old, and what is that 
compared to the 500 million or 800 million years during which life has been 
in existence on the surface of this planet? In the past, other forms of life 
have enjoyed reigns which have lasted for almost inconceivably longer 
periods and which yet at last have come to an end. There was a reign 
of the giant armored reptiles which may have lasted about 80 million years; 
say from about the year 130 million to the year 50 million before the 
present day. But the reptiles' reign came to an end. Long before that 
perhaps 300 million years ago there was a reign of giant armoured fishes- 
creatures that had already accomplished the tremendous achievement of 
growing a movable lower jaw. But the reign of the fishes came to an end. 

The winged insects are believed to have come into existence about 250 
million years ago. Perhaps the higher winger insects the social insects 
that have anticipated mankind in creating an institutional life are still 
waiting for their reign on Earth to come. If the ants and bees were one 
day to acquire even that glimmer of intellectual understanding that man 

292 Arnold /. Toynbee 

has possessed in his day, and if they were then to make their own shot at 
seeing history in perspective, they might see the advent of the mammals, 
and the brief reign of the human mammal, as almost irrelevant episodes, 
'full of sound and fury, signifying nothing/ 6 

The challenge to us, in our generation, is to sec to it that this interpre- 
tation of history shall not become the true one. 

["Macbeth, v, v, 27-8.] 

Benjamin Franklin 



([ Franklin's skill in political and social satire is attested by the 
many short pieces, most of them journalistic, that he wrote in the 
odd moments of his long and extraordinarily busy life. 'An Edict of 
the King of Prussia/ 'Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be 
Reduced to a Small One/ 'A Dialogue Between Britain, France, 
Spain, Holland, Saxony, and America/ and the one reprinted here 
arc among the most familiar. 

He was long interested in Indian affairs, a subject of no small 
importance to a Pennsylvanian in the eighteenth century, and he 
had a firsthand knowledge of the Indians themselves. In 1753 he 
was one of three commissioners appointed by the Governor to go to 
Carlisle, then a frontier post, to make a treaty with the chiefs of the 
Six Nations. The account of this episode in his Autobiography (not 
wholly accurate) relates that the Indians behaved well until the 
treaty was concluded because they were denied rum while official 
business was attended to. Then they all got drunk on rum furnished 
by the whites, and caused a great tumult. On the following day 
they apologized for their conduct. This backwoods mission of 1753 
was the beginning of Franklin's career in diplomacy* (Carl Van 
Dorcn, Benjamin Franklin, ch. vii). 

Europeans of the eighteenth century idealized the 'noble sav- 
age/ whereas there is an American saying that 'The best Indian 
is a dead Indian/ Franklin knew both good and bad ones, but was 
consistently sympathetic with Indians and, like William Pcnn, 
thought they and the white men could live in mutual peace and 
justice. It was the whites who all too often broke the treaties and 
who took advantage of the red men's fatal weakness for alcohol. In 
'Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America* (1784 or 
earlier) Franklin amusingly contrasts the manners of the two races, 
with a permissible exaggeration and an ironic sobriety that recall 
Gulliver's Travels. The description of the white men going to 
church to hear 'good things' is worthy of Swift at his best. 

REPRINTED FROM The Writing? of Benjamin Franklin, ed. A. H. Smyth, 1907, by 
permission of Mr. Howard C. Myers, Jr. 



"AVAGES we call them, because their Manners differ from ours, 
which we think the Perfection of Civility; they think the same of theirs. 

Perhaps, if we could examine the Manners of different Nations with 
Impartiality, we should find no People so rude, as to be without any Rules 
of Politeness; nor any so polite, as not to have some Remains of Rudeness. 

The Indian Men, when young, are Hunters and Warriors; when old, 
Counsellors; for all their Government is by Counsel of the Sages; there is 
no Force, there are no Prisons, no Officers to compel Obedience, or inflict 
Punishment. Hence they generally study Oratory, the best Speaker having 
the most Influence. The Indian Women till the Ground, dress the Food, 
nurse and bring up the Children, and preserve and hand down to Posterity 
the Memory of public Transactions. These Employments of Men and 
Women are accounted natural and honourable. Having few artificial 
Wants, they have abundance of Leisure for Improvement by Conversa- 
tion. Our laborious Manner of Life, compared with theirs, they esteem 
slavish and base; and the Learning, on which we value ourselves, they regard 
as frivolous and useless. An Instance of this occurred at the Treaty of Lan- 
caster, 1 in Pennsylvania, anno 1744, between the Government of Virginia 
and the Six Nations. After the principal Business was settled, the Commis- 
sioners from Virginia acquainted the Indians by a Speech, that there was 
at Williamsburg a College, 2 with a Fund for Educating Indian youth; and 
that, if the Six Nations would send down half a dozen of their young Lads 
to that College, the Government would take care that they should be well 
provided for, and instructed in all the Learning of the White People. It is 
one of the Indian Rules of Politeness not to answer a public Proposition 
the same day that it is made; they think it would be treating it as a light 
matter, and that they show it Respect by taking time to consider it, as of a 
Matter important. They therefore deferred their Answer till the Day fol- 
lowing; when their Speaker began, by expressing their deep Sense of the 
kindness of the Virginia Government, in making them that Offer; 'for we 
know/ says he, "that you highly esteem the kind of Learning taught in those 

[* In a letter written 4 July 1744, Franklin describes it in slightly different terms as a 
treaty 'between the governments of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania on one side, 
and the United Five Nations of Indians on the other/] 

[ a The College of William and Mary.] 


Colleges, and that the Maintenance of our young Men, while with you, 
would be very expensive to you. We are convinced, therefore, that you 
mean to do us Good by your Proposal; and we thank you heartily. But you, 
who are wise, must know that different Nations have different Conceptions 
of things; and you will therefore not take it amiss, if our Ideas of this kind 
of Education happen not to be the same with yours. We have had some 
Experience of it; Several of our young People were formerly brought up at 
the Colleges of the Northern Provinces; they were instructed in all your 
Sciences; but, when they came back to us, they were bad Runners, ignorant 
of every means of living in the Woods, unable to bear either Cold or 
Hunger, knew neither how to build a Cabin, take a Deer, or kill an Enemy, 
spoke our Language imperfectly, were therefore neither fit for Hunters, 
Warriors, nor Counsellors; they were totally good for nothing. We are how- 
ever not the less oblig'd by your kind Offer, tho' we decline accepting ifc 
and, to show our grateful Sense of it, if the Gentlemen of Virginia will 
send us a Dozen of their Sons, we will take great Care of their Education, 
instruct them in all we know, and make Men of them/ 

Having frequent Occasions to hold public Councils, they have acquired 
great Order and Decency in conducting them. The old Men sit in the fore- 
most Ranks, the Warriors in the next, and the Women and Children in 
the hindmost. The Business of the Women is to take exact Notice of what 
passes, imprint it in their Memories (for they have no Writing), and com- 
municate it to their Children. They are the Records of the Council, and 
they preserve Traditions of the Stipulations in Treaties 100 Years back; 
which, when we compare with our Writings, we always find exact. He that 
would speak, rises. The rest observe a profound Silence. When he has 
finish'd and sits down, they leave him 5 or 6 Minutes to recollect, that, if 
he has omitted any thing lie intended to say, or has any thing to add, he 
may rise again and deliver it. To interrupt another, even in common Con- 
versation, is reckoned highly indecent. How different this is from the con- 
duct of a polite British House of Commons, where scarce a day passes with- 
out some Confusion, that makes the Speaker hoarse in calling to Order; 
and how different from the Mode of Conversation in many polite Com- 
panies of Europe, where, if you do not deliver your Sentence with great 
Rapidity, you are cut off in the middle of it by the Impatient Loquacity of 
those you converse with, and never suffer' d to finish it! 

The Politeness of these Savages in Conversation is indeed carried to 
Excess, since it does not permit them to contradict or deny the Truth of 
what is asserted in their Presence. By this means they indeed avoid Dis- 

296 Benjamin Franklin 

putes; but then it becomes difficult to know their Minds, or what Impres- 
sion you make upon them. The Missionaries who have attempted to con- 
vert them to Christianity, all complain of this as one of the great Difficul- 
ties of their Mission. The Indians hear with Patience the Truths of the 
Gospel explained to them, and give their usual Tokens of Assent and Ap- 
probation; you would think they were convinced. No such matter. It is 
mere Civility. 

A Swedish Minister, having assembled the chiefs of the Susquehanah 
Indians, made a Sermon to them, acquainting them with the principal his- 
torical Facts on which our Religion is founded; such as the Fall of our first 
Parents by eating an Apple, the coming of Christ to repair the Mischief, 
his Miracles and Suffering, &c. When he had finished, an Indian Orator 
stood up to thank him. 'What you have told us/ says he, 'is all very good. 
It is indeed bad to eat Apples. It is better to make them all into Cyder. 
We are much oblig'd by your kindness in coming so far, to tell us these 
Things which you have heard from your Mothers. In return, I will tell you 
some of those we have heard from ours. In the Beginning, our Fathers had 
only the Flesh of Animals to subsist on; and if their Hunting was unsuc- 
cessful, they were starving. Two of our young Hunters, having kill'd a Deer, 
made a Fire in the Woods to broil some Part of it. When they were about 
to satisfy their Hunger, they beheld a beautiful young Woman descend 
from the Clouds, and seat herself on that Hill, which you see yonder 
among the blue Mountains. They said to each other, it is a Spirit that has 
smelt our broiling Venison, and wishes to eat of it; let us offer some to her. 
They presented her with the Tongue; she was pleas'd with the Taste of it, 
and said, "Your kindness shall be rewarded; come to this Place after thir- 
teen Moons, and you shall find something that will be of great Benefit in 
nourishing you and your Children to the latest Generations." They did so, 
and, to their Surprise, found Plants they had never seen before; but which, 
from that ancient time, have been constantly cultivated among us, to our 
great Advantage. Where her right Hand had touched the Ground, they 
found Maize; where her left hand had touch'd it, they found Kidney-Beans; 
and where her Backside had sat on it, they found Tobacco/ The good Mis- 
sionary, disgusted with this idle Tale, said, 'What I delivered to you were 
sacred Truths; but what you tell me is mere Fable, Fiction, and Falshood/ 
The Indian, offended, reply'd, 'My brother, it seems your Friends have not 
done you Justice in your Education; they have not well instructed you in 
the Rules of common Civility. You saw that we, who understand and prac- 
tise those Rules, believ'd all your stories; why do you refuse to believe ours?' 


When any of them come into our Towns, our People are apt to crowd 
round them, gaze upon them, and incommode them, where they desire to 
be private; this they esteem great Rudeness, and the Effect of the Want of 
Instruction in the Rules of Civility and good Manners. 'We have/ say they, 
'as much Curiosity as you, and when you come into our Towns, we wish 
for Opportunities of looking at you; but for this purpose we hide ourselves 
behind Bushes, where you are to pass, and never intrude ourselves into 
your Company/ 

Their Manner of entring one another's village has likewise its Rules. It 
is reckoned uncivil in travelling Strangers to enter a Village abruptly, with- 
out giving Notice of their Approach. Therefore, as soon as they arrive 
within hearing, they stop and hollow, remaining there till invited to enter. 
Two old Men usually come out to them, and lead them in. There is in 
every Village a vacant Dwelling, called the Strangers' House. Here they 
are plac'd, while the old Men go round from Hut to Hut, acquainting the 
Inhabitants, that Strangers are arriv'd, who are probably hungry and 
weary; and every one sends them what he can spare of Victuals, and Skins 
to repose on. When the Strangers are refreshed, Pipes and Tobacco are 
brought; and then, but not before, Conversation begins, with Enquiries 
who they are, whither bound, what News, &c.; and it usually ends with 
offers of Service, if the Strangers have occasion of Guides, or any Neces- 
saries for continuing their Journey; and nothing is exacted for the Enter- 

The same Hospitality, esteemed among them as a principal Virtue, is 
practised by Private Persons; of which Conrad Weiser, 8 our Interpreter, 
gave me the following Instance. He had been naturalized among the Six 
Nations, and spoke well the Mohock Language. In going thro' the Indian 
Country, to carry a Message from our Governor to the Council at Onon- 
daga, 4 he call'd at the Habitation of Canassatego, an old Acquaintance, 
who embraced him, spread Furs for him to sit on, plac'd before him some 
boil'd Beans and Venison, and mix'd some Rum and Water for his Drink. 
When he was well refreshed, and had lit his Pipe, Canassatego began to 
converse with him; ask'd how he had far'd the many Years since they had 
seen each other; whence he then came; what occasioned the Journey, &c. 
Conrad answered all his Questions; and when the Discourse began to flag, 
the Indian, to continue it, said, 'Conrad, you have lived long among the 

[ 3 He was the chief interpreter between the Indians and the Pennsylvania govern- 

[ 4 In New York, near the present Syracuse.] 

298 Benjamin Franklin 

white People, and know something of their Customs; I have been some- 
times at Albany, and have observed, that once in Seven Days they shut up 
their Shops, and assemble all in the great House; tell me what it is for? 
What do they do there?' They meet there/ says Conrad, 'to hear and learn 
good Things' '1 do not doubt/ says the Indian, 'that they tell you so; they 
have told me the same; but I doubt the Truth of what they say, and I will 
tell you my Reasons. I went lately to Albany to sell my Skins and buy 
Blankets, Knives, Powder, Rum, &c. You know I us'd generally to deal with 
Hans Hanson; but I was a little inclin'd this time to try some other Mer- 
chant. However, I call'd first upon Hans, and asked him what he would 
give for Beaver. He said he could not give any more than four Shillings a 
Pound; "but," says he, "I cannot talk on Business now; this is the Day when 
we meet together to learn Good Things, and I am going to the Meeting." 
So I thought to myself, "Since we cannot do any Business to-day, I may 
as well go to the meeting too," and I went with him. There stood up a 
Man in Black, and began to talk to the People very angrily. I did not under- 
stand what he said; but, perceiving that he look'd much at me and at 
Hanson, I imagined he was angry at seeing me there; so I went out, sat 
down near the House, struck Fire, and lit my Pipe, waiting till the Meeting 
should break up. I thought too, that the Man had mentioned something of 
Beaver, and I suspected it might be the Subject of their Meeting. So, when 
they came out, I accosted my Merchant. "Well, Hans/' says I, "I hope you 
have agreed to give more than four Shillings a Pound." "No," says he, "I 
cannot give so much; I cannot give more than three shillings and sixpence." 
I then spoke to several other Dealers, but they all sung the same song, 
Three and sixpence, Three and sixpence. This made it clear to me, that 
my Suspicion was right; and, that whatever they pretended of meeting to 
learn good Things, the real purpose was to consult how to cheat Indians in 
the Price of Beaver. Consider but a little, Conrad, and you must be of my 
Opinion. If they met so often to learn good Things, they would certainly 
have learnt some before this time. But they are still ignorant. You know 
our Practice. If a white Man, in travelling thro' our Country, enters one of 
our Cabins, we all treat him as I treat you; we dry him if he is wet, we warm 
him if he is cold, we give him Meat and Drink, that he may allay his Thirst 
and Hunger; and we spread soft Furs for him to rest and sleep on; we 
demand nothing in return. But, if I go into a white Man's House at Albany, 
and ask for Victuals and Drink, they say, "Where is your Money?" and if 
I have none, they say, "Get out, you Indian Dog." You see they have not 
yet learned those little Good Things, that we need no Meetings to be in- 


structed in, because our Mothers taught them to us when we were Chil- 
dren; and therefore it is impossible their Meetings should be, as they say, 
for any such purpose, or have any such Effect; they are only to contrive 
the Cheating of Indians in the Price of Beaver J 

NOTE. It is remarkable that in all Ages and Countries Hospitality has been allow'd 
as the Virtue of those whom the civihz'd were plcas'd to call Barbarians. The Creeks 
celebrated the Scythians for it The Saracens possess'd it eminently, and it is to this day 
the reigning Virtue of the wild Arabs. St. Paul, 5 too, in the Relation of his Voyage and 
Shipwreck on the Island of Melita says the Barbarous People shewed us no little kind- 
ness; for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present Rain, and 
because of the Cold. F. 

[ See Acts, xxvin, 1-2.] 

Samuel Eliot Morison 
and Henry Steele Commager 


([ The Growth of the American Republic, from which these pages 
are taken, is without question the most popular, as it is probably 
the best, short history of the United States. When first published in 
1930 it was a one-volume work but has been expanded in successive 
editions until it is now more than twice its original length. 

Samuel Eliot Morison (1887 ), Professor of American History 
in Harvard University, wrote his first history of the United States 
while teaching at Oxford (The Oxford History of the United 
States, 1927). He is author of The Maritime History of Massachu- 
setts (1921), The Puritan Pronaos (1936), and Admiral of the 
Ocean Sea (1942), a life of Columbus, which received a Pulitzer 
Prize. As historian of the United States Navy in World War II, he 
has written several volumes of the History of United States Naval 
Operations in World War II, and more are to follow. But some 
will regard as his most important work his Tercentennial History of 
Harvard University, which won international honors. In concep- 
tion and scope it is unrivaled as a history of a university. 

Henry Steele Commager (1902 ) is, like Mr. Morison, a pro- 
lific and popular writer on American history. His books include 
Theodore Parker (1936), Majority Rule and Minority Rights 
(1943), and The American Mind (1950); he has collaborated in 
and edited many other publications. He is Professor of History in 
Columbia University. 


"NLY twenty-five years since the Stamp Act; only fourteen 
years since the Thirteen Colonies declared 'to a candid world* that they 
were 'and of right ought to be, free and independent States.' It is already 

* We have taken the year 1790, rather than 1789, as the central point of this descrip- 
tion, because it was the year of the first federal census, which supplies the first statistics, 
incomplete to be sure and not very accurate, for the United States. 

FROM The Growth of the American Republic, revised and enlarged edition, 1950. 
Copyright 1930, 1937, X 94 a J 95> by Oxford University Press, Inc. Reprinted by per- 
mission of the publishers. 


time to take stock, and see what sort of country it was when the Federal 
Constitution was newly established, and Washington had been President 
for less than a year. 

Much had been said in the debates over the Constitution about the 
enhanced prestige that it would give to the United States. Official Europe 
was not impressed. Not that they perceived danger in American republican- 
ism. With Washington's army disbanded, and the navy dismantled, the 
United States was hardly a feather in the balance of power. Merchants and 
traders, however, were not so indifferent to the new nation, if it could be 
called a nation. As a source of raw materials for Europe, the United States 
was not yet in a class with the West Indies; but for a country of such vast 
empty spaces, it was an important market. Even with the Mississippi as its 
western boundary, the United States was equal in area to the British Isles, 
France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. Less than half this territory had yet 
come under the effective jurisdiction of the United States or of any state; 
and the population of four millions, including seven hundred thousand 
Negro slaves, was dispersed over an expanse of coastal plain and upland 
slightly more extensive than France. But if the trans-Appalachian country 
were ever settled, it would surely break off from the Thirteen States. So at 
least believed the few Europeans who gave the matter a thought. 

Whatever the future might promise the United States in wealth and 
power seemed to be denied by political vagaries. America was attempting 
simultaneously three political experiments, which the accumulated wisdom 
of Europe deemed likely to fail: independence, republicanism, and federal 
union. While the British and the Spanish empires touched the states on 
three sides, their independence could hardly be maintained without more 
of that European aid by which it had been won; and an independence so 
maintained would be only nominal. Republicanism promised instability; 
and federalism, dissolution. Since the Renaissance, the uniform tendency 
in Europe had been towards centralized monarchy; federal republics had 
maintained themselves only in small areas, such as the Netherlands and 
Switzerland. Most European observers believed that the history of the 
American Union would be short and stormy. 

It was still too early to aver that the Americans had conquered the forest. 
Volney 1 wrote that during his journey in 1796 through the length and 
breadth of the United States, he scarcely travelled for more than three 
miles together on open and cleared land. 'Compared with France, the entire 

[* French scholar (1757-1820). He spent three years, 1795-8, in the United States 
and in 1803 published a narrative of his experiences.] 

502 Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager 

country is one vast wood/ Only in southern New England, and the eastern 
portion of the Middle States, did the cultivated area exceed the woodland; 
and the clearings became less frequent as one approached the Appalachians. 

The larger part of the American people then lived under isolated condi- 
tions, but in a land of such plenty that exertion had no attraction for the 
unambitious. The ocean and its shores yielded plenty of fish; the tidal 
rivers teemed with salmon, sturgeon, herring, and shad in due season, and 
the upland streams with trout; every kind of game was plentiful, from quail 
and raccoon to wild turkey and deer; and at times the flights of wild pigeon 
darkened the air. Cattle and swine throve on the woodland herbage and 
mast; Indian corn ripened quickly in the hot summer nights; even sugar 
could be obtained from the maple, or honey from wild bees. The American 
of the interior, glutted with nature's bounty and remote from a market, had 
no immediate incentive to produce much beyond his own actual needs; yet 
the knowledge that easier life could be had often pressed him westward to 
more fertile lands, or to a higher scale of living. Hence the note of personal 
independence that was, and'in the main still is, dominant in American life. 
The means of subsistence being so easy in the country/ wrote an English 
observer in 1796, "and their dependence on each other consequently so 
trifling, that spirit of servility to those above them so prevalent in Euro- 
pean manners, is wholly unknown to them; and they pass their lives with- 
out any regard to the smiles or the frowns of men in power/ 

However independent of those above him the average American might 
be, he was dependent on those about him for help in harvest, in raising 
his house-frame, and in illness. In a new country you turn to your neighbors 
for many offices and functions that, in a riper community, are performed 
by government or by specialists. Hence the dual nature of the American: 
individualism and herd instinct, indifference and kindliness. Isolation in 
American foreign policy is an authentic outcome of community isolation, 
as are the recent American relief organizations of primitive interdependence. 

In 1790 there were only six cities (Philadelphia, New York, Boston, 
Charleston, Baltimore, and Salem) in the United States with a population 
of eight thousand or over; and their combined numbers included only three 
per cent of the total population.* Their aspect was not unlike that of pro- 
vincial towns in Great Britain, for a native American architectural style 
had not yet been invented. Brick houses in the Georgian style, often de- 
tached and surrounded with gardens and shrubbery; inns with capacious 

* The proportion of urban to rural population did not pass ten per cent until after 


yards and stables; shops and stores with overhanging signs; places of wor- 
ship with graceful spires after Sir Christopher Wren; market houses or city 
halls of the same style, often placed in the middle of a broad street or 
square, with arcades to serve as stalls or merchants' exchange; somewhat 
ramshackle unpainted wooden houses where the poorer people lived, but 
hardly one without a bit of garden or yard. Wealth was not a conspicuous 
feature of the United States in 1790. Almost a century had to elapse before 
a European could find here anything impressive in the way of shops, man- 
sions, architecture, or high living. Nor was there anything to match the 
poverty of a European city; and even the slave population of the Carolina 
rice-fields was less wretched than the contemporary Irish peasant. 2 

Except for iron, the vast mineral resources of the country were practically- 
untouched, and iron smelting remained primitive, owing to the abundance 
of wood, long after the British had made technical improvements. Agricul- 
ture was the main occupation of nine-tenths of the people. Except along 
the Hudson, practically every farmer was a freeholder. Except among the 
Pennsylvania Germans and the more enlightened country gentry of the 
South, the methods of agriculture were incredibly wasteful and primitive, 
with little sign of the improved culture and implements that were then 
transforming rural England. Wheat bread was largely an upper-class luxury. 
Indian corn was the principal food crop, with rye a poor second. Brown 'rye 
and Injun* bread, corn-pone or hoe-cake, and hasty-pudding or hominy, 
with salt pork or codfish, washed down by rum, cider, or whisky, according 
to locality, formed the farmer's staple diet from Maine to Georgia. As early 
as 1780 the Marquis de Chastellux noted the prevalence of hot biscuits, the 
bountiful breakfasts of the South, and 'the American custom of drinking 
coffee with meat, vegetables, or other food/ Frontier conditions still pre- 
vailed over the larger part of the 'Old West' which had been settled within 
the last fifty years. The houses were commonly log cabins of one or two 
rooms and a cock-loft; the fields were full of stumps, and acres of dead trees 
strangled by girdling were a depressing sight to travellers. 

Bad roads were one of the penalties that Americans paid for their dis- 
persed settlement and aversion from taxation. In 1790 the difficulties of 
communication were so great that a detour of several hundred miles by 
river and ocean was often preferable to an overland journey of fifty miles. 
It was almost as difficult to assemble the first Congress of the United States 
as to convene church councils in the Middle Ages. There was a main post- 
road from Wiscasset in Maine to Savannah in Georgia, over which passen- 
[ a See Swift's A Modest Proposal (pp. 329-37) .] 

304 Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager 

gers and mails were transported by light open stage-wagons, in approxi- 
mately so many days as the railway now requires hours. It took twenty-nine 
days for the news of the Declaration of Independence to reach Charleston 
from Philadelphia. Bridges were few, even over the rivers and streams that 
were unfordable; the wooden pile structure across the Charles at Boston 
was considered an immense feat of engineering. Washington managed to 
visit almost every state in the Union in his own coach without serious mis- 
hap; but he had to choose a season when the roads were passable, and to 
undergo discomforts and even dangers. Most of the roads were merely wide 
tracks through the forest, full of rocks and stumps and enormous holes. 
Many that are marked on the early maps were mere bridle-paths or Indian 
trails, that would admit no wheeled vehicle. Northern farmers reserved 
their heavy hauling for winter, when snow made even the worst trace prac- 
ticable for sledges; whilst upland Southerners got their tobacco to tidewater 
by pivoting a pair of shafts to a hogshead, and rolling it down on the bilge. 
Inns were to be found at frequent intervals along the main roads; but they 
commonly fulfilled the function of neighborhood pot-house better than 
resting-place for the weary wayfarer. The food was cheap and plentiful, but 
meals could be had only at stated hours as in the largest American hotels 
within recent memory. A traveller was fortunate to secure a bed to himself, 
or to arrive on the first evening after the sheets were changed. Lieutenant 
Anburey, late of Burgoyne's army, regretted that he could not safely horse- 
whip the landlord who overcharged him. He might have fought the land- 
lord, however, with bare fists, and been thought a better man for it. 

Now that America has become famous for its sanitation, and for hotels 
with as many thousand baths as bedrooms, it is worth noting that in the 
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries America impressed European 
tourists as an uncommonly dirty country. From persons at that time accus- 
tomed to London or Paris, this meant a good deal. Even in the larger 
towns streets were seldom paved and never cleaned, offal was deposited in 
the docks, and, without wire screens, houses were defenseless against the 
swarms of flies and other winged pests that summer brought. As no one had 
yet heard of disease germs, there were intermittent outbreaks of typhoid 
and yellow fever in the seaports as far north as New Hampshire; and the 
frontiersmen were racked every summer by malarial fevers and agues, 8 
transmitted by mosquitoes. Flower gardens were rare; and the pioneer, 
regarding trees as enemies, neither spared them nor planted them for pur- 
poses of shade. Country farmhouses in the older-settled region were almost 

[ 3 See Brogan (pp. 322-3).] 


invariably of wood, usually unpainted, resembling dingy boxes surrounded 
by unseemly household litter. Stoutly and honestly built as they were, the 
colonial houses that have survived long enough to acquire white paint, 
green blinds, lawns, shrubs, and century-old shade trees, are seen to have 
both distinction and beauty. In the eighteenth century, however, no one 
found much to admire in America in the works of man; and few Ameri- 
cans had the taste or leisure to appreciate the rugged grandeur of their 
mountains and forests, and their majestic rivers, swift rapids, and mighty 

The United States of 1790 was not a nation, by any modern standard. 
Materials of a nation were present, but cohesive force was wanting. An 
English origin for the bulk of the people made a certain cultural homo- 
geneity; the Maine fisherman could understand the Georgian planter much 
more readily than a Kentishman could understand a Yorkshireman, or an 
Alsatian a Breton. Political institutions, though decentralized, were fairly 
constant in form through the length and breadth of the land. But there 
was no tradition of union behind the War of Independence, and it was 
difficult to discover a common interest upon which union could be built. 
Most citizens of the United States in 1790, if asked their country or nation, 
would not have answered American, but Carolinian, Virginian, Pennsylva- 
nian, Jerseyman, New Yorker, or New Englander. A political nexus had 
been found, but unless a national tradition were soon established, the 
United States would develop a particularism similar to the states of Ger- 
many and Italy. Already the problem was becoming complicated by the 
formation of settlements on the western waters, beyond the Appalachians. 
In the meantime, it would require the highest statesmanship to keep the 
thirteen commonwealths together, so widely did they differ in origin, tra- 
dition, religion, and economic interests. The Federal Constitution made it 
possible; but few observers in 1790 thought it probable. 


In New England, climate, soil, and religion had produced in a century and 
a half a strongly individualized type, the Yankee, perhaps the most per- 
sistent ingredient of the American mixture. 

The Yankee was the American Scot; and New England was an eight- 
eenth-century Scotland without the lairds. A severe climate, a grudging 
soil that had to be cleared of boulders as well as trees, and a stern puritan 
faith, dictated the four gospels of education, thrift, ingenuity, and right- 
eousness. By necessity rather than choice, the New Englanders had ac- 

306 Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager 

quired an aptitude for maritime enterprise and trading. They hailed with 
joy the new and wider opportunities for seafaring opened by freedom from 
the Acts of Trade. The seamen of Salem had already ventured to the East 
Indies with much success when Boston, in 1790, celebrated the return of 
her ship Columbia, laden with tea, silk, and porcelain, from a voyage 
around the world. On her next voyage the Columbia sailed up a great river 
that Vancouver had passed by, gave it her name, and to its banks her 

The five New England States were divided, politically, into townships, 
about thirty square miles on an average, containing from a hundred to sev- 
eral thousand people. Each was a unit for purposes of local government, 
conducting its own affairs by town meeting and selectmen, supporting 
common schools by local taxes, and electing annually to the state legisla- 
ture a representative, whose votes and doings were keenly scrutinized by 
his constituents. The nucleus of every township was the meeting-house, 
part town hall, part place of worship, bordering on the village green. Out- 
lying farms, by 1790, in most places outnumbered those with a village 
house-plot; and the common fields had been divided in severally, and en- 
closed by uncemented stone walls. There was plenty of wood to supply the 
large open fireplaces. Families were large, but estates were seldom divided 
below a hundred acres; a Yankee farmer hoped to make a scholar or min- 
ister out of one son, to provide for a second with a tract of wilderness, and 
let the rest earn their living by working for hire, going to sea, or learning a 
trade. Until 1830 or thereabouts the American merchant marine was 
manned largely by New England lads who were seeking the wherewithal 
to purchase land and set up housekeeping. 

Puritanism had become less grim than in the seventeenth, less petty than 
in the nineteenth century. 'Holy days' were still proscribed, and the puritan 
Sabbath was still observed; but there was plenty of frisking at rural barn- 
raisings and corn-huskings; and much drinking on public occasions such as 
ship-launchings, ordinations, college commencements, and Thanksgiving 
Day the puritan substitute for Christmas, which in course of time became 
an additional day of merry-making. On the whole, living was plain in New 
England; and the ample, generous tone of new countries was little in evi- 
dence. Even in the family of President Adams, we are told, the children 
were urged to a double portion of hasty-pudding, in order to spare the meat 
that was to follow. Idleness was the cardinal sin. If a Yankee had nothing 
else to do, he whittled barrel-bungs from a pine stick, or carved a model of 
his latest ship; and he usually had much else to do. New England house- 


wives spun, wove, and tailored their woolen garments, and made cloth for 
sale. Small fulling mills and paper mills were established at the numerous 
waterfalls, and distilleries in the seaports turned West India molasses into 
that grateful if dangerous beverage, New England rum. Wooden ware was 
made by snow-bound farmers for export to the West Indies, nails were cut 
and headed from wrought iron rods at fireside forges, and in some parts 
there was a domestic industry of shoemaking. Connecticut, in particular, 
had attained a nice balance between farming, seafaring, and handicraft, 
which made the people of that state renowned for steady habits and 
mechanical ingenuity. Before the century was out, Eli Whitney of New 
Haven devised the cotton gin and interchangeable parts for firearms: inven- 
tions which, for weal or woe, have deeply affected the human race. New 
England was ripe for an abrupt transition from handicraft to the factory 
system; but the success of her seafarers, and the facility of emigration, post- 
poned industrial revolution for another generation. The intellectual flower- 
ing was all in the future. 

For a good inside view of New England by an outsider, we are indebted 
to the South American patriot Francisco de Miranda, who travelled through 
that region in the summer of 1784. An intelligent member of an old Span- 
ish family, brought up in Caracas and familiar with Spain, Miranda found 
much in New England that was kindly, pleasant, and in good taste. At 
New Haven he is taken over Yale College by President Stiles, converses 
with a classically educated miller who had been a cavalry captain in the 
late war, and views the famous Blue Laws in the town archives. Proceeding 
to Wethersfield, he attends Sabbath meeting, and admires the manner in 
which the psalms and responses arc sung by the congregation, trained by 
a music master. At Windsor, the men are ill-dressed and the women ill- 
favored, but he enjoys a lively literary conversation with John Trumbull, 
as well as with the innkeeper. This worthy is discovered reading Rollings 
Ancient History, and discusses with Miranda the comparative merits of 
the ancients and the moderns, stoutly maintaining Ben Franklin to be a 
better man than Aristides. 4 Thence to Middletown, and a boat excursion 
on the river with General Parsons and other good fellows, drinking copi- 
ously of punch 'in pure republican style/ which was probably not so dif- 
ferent from the present style. Newport he thought justly called the para- 
dise of New England, containing, besides hospitable natives, a large com- 
pany of ladies and gentlemen from Charleston, S. C., who were already 
using the place as a summer resort. The leading lights of Providence, on 

[ 4 'The Just'; Athenian statesman and general, fifth century B.C.] 

308 Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager 

the other hand, were provincial and vulgar, Commodore Esek Hopkins 
even insisting that there was no such place as the City of Mexico. 

Miranda entered Boston armed with letters of introduction to the 'best 
people/ whose ladies he found vain, luxurious, and too much given to the 
use of cosmetics. Boston society was so fast, in that year of post-war extrava- 
gance, that he predicted bankruptcy within twenty years. Samuel Adams, 
however, was still faithful to republican simplicity. After carefully inspect- 
ing Harvard College, Miranda reports it better suited to turn out Protestant 
clergymen than intelligent and liberal citizens. He visits the studio of the 
self-taught painter, Edward Savage, and predicts that with a European edu- 
cation his talent will take him far. (Savage never visited Europe, but his 
portrait of Washington is the best likeness we have of that great man.) 
From Boston, Miranda takes the eastward road to Portsmouth, N. H., and 
is much impressed by the thrift and prosperity of the North Shore of Mas- 
sachusetts. 'Liberty inspires such intelligence and industry in these towns 
. . . that the people out of their slender resources maintain their large 
families, pay heavy taxes, and live with comfort and taste, a thousand times 
happier than the proprietors of the rich mines and fertile lands of Mexico, 
Peru, Buenos Aires, Caracas, and the whole Spanish-American continent/ 

The New Englanders were very well satisfied with themselves in 1790, 
and had reason to be; for they had struck root in a region where nature was 
not lavish, and produced a homogeneous, cohesive, and happy society. Dis- 
orderly as colonists when royal governors attempted to thwart their will, 
the Yankees quickly passed through the cruder phases of democracy. For 
another generation the leadership of their clergy, well-to-do merchants, 
and conservative lawyers would not be successfully challenged. Outside 
New England, where they were familiar as traders and pedlars, the Yan- 
kees were regarded much as Scotchmen then were by the English: often 
envied, sometimes respected, but generally disliked. 


New York State was heterogeneous in 1790, and was never destined to 
attain homogeneity. The Dutch 'Knickerbocker' families shared a social 
ascendancy with the descendants of English and Huguenot merchants. 
There were many villages where Dutch was still spoken, and Albany was 
still thoroughly Dutch, ruled by mynheers who lived in substantial brick 
houses with stepped gables. But the Netherlandish element comprised 
only one-sixth of the three hundred thousand inhabitants of New York 
State. For the rest, there were Germans in the Mohawk valley and Ulster 


county; a few families of Sephardic 5 Jews at New York City; an appreciable 
element of Scotch and Irishmen, and a strong majority of English, among 
whom the Yankee element was fast increasing. 

New York was only the fifth state in population in 1790; a fourfold in- 
crease in thirty years made it first in 1820. It was the settlement of the 
interior that made the difference. In 1790 the inhabited area of New York 
followed the Hudson river from New York City to Albany, whence one 
branch of settlement continued up the Mohawk towards Lake Erie, and 
a thin line of clearings pushed up by Lake George and Lake Champlain, 
which Burgoyne had found a wilderness. There were also a few islands of 
settlement such as Cooperstown, where James Fenimore Cooper was 
cradled in the midst of the former hunting grounds of the Six Nations. 
Socially, New York was still the most aristocratic of the states, in spite of 
the extensive confiscation and subdividing of loyalists' estates; for most 
of the patroons managed to retain their vast properties. One out of every 
seven New York families held slaves in 1790, and nine more years elapsed 
before gradual emancipation began. The qualifications for voting and for 
office were high. For a generation the story of New York politics was to be, 
in the main, a struggle for the prestige and profit of office between the 
great whig families, struggles waged by the means familiar to English poli- 
tics of the time. These landlords were wont to improve their fortunes 
through alliances with mercantile families, with lawyer-statesmen like 
Hamilton and Rufus King, and by speculation in Western land. 

New York City owed its prosperity, and its thirty-three thousand inhabi- 
tants, to a unique position at the mouth of the Hudson river, the greatest 
tidal inlet between the St. Lawrence and the Plata. It was the natural 
gateway to the Iroquois country, which was settled between 1790 and 1820; 
and in 1825 the Erie Canal, following the lowest watershed between the 
Atlantic States and the Lakes, made New York City the principal gateway 
to the West, and the financial center of the Union. The merchants did not 
need to be so venturesome as those of New England and Baltimore, and 
they spent more on good living than on churches and schools. They too 
had a family collegeColumbia (late King's); but while Boston was form- 
ing learned institutions, and Philadelphia supporting a literary journal and 
a Philosophical Society, New York was founding the Columbian Order, 
better known as Tammany Hall. Yet it was in the midst of this wealthy, 
gay, and somewhat cynical society that Alexander Hamilton reached man- 
hood, and Washington Irving was born. 

E 5 Spanish and Portuguese.] 

310 Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager 

New Jersey, a farming state of less than two hundred thousand people, 
has been compared with a barrel tapped at both ends by New York and 
Philadelphia. Travellers along the road between these two cities admired 
the Jersey apple orchards, the well-cultivated farms, and, at the pleasant 
village of Princeton, the College of New Jersey whose Nassau Hall, 180 
feet long and four stones high, was reputed to be the largest building in the 
Thirteen States. At the falls of the Passaic river, near Newark, an incorpo- 
rated company had just founded Paterson, the first factory village in Amer- 
ica. South of this main road was a region of pine barrens and malarial 

Pennsylvania, the second largest state in the Union, with a population 
of 435,000, had acquired a certain uniformity in diversity. Her racial hetero- 
geneity, democratic polity, and social structure, ranging from wealthy and 
sophisticated merchants to the wildest frontiersmen, made Pennsylvania a 
microcosm of the America to be. Philadelphia, with its evenly spaced and 
numbered streets crossing at right angles, had been the principal port of 
immigration for a century previous to 1825; and the boat-shaped Conestoga 
wagons of the Pennsylvania Dutch needed but slight improvement to 
become the 'prairie schooner* of westward advance. 

Pennsylvania was still in the throes of democratic experiments. Her radi- 
cal state constitution, with a unicameral legislature and a plural executive, 
had become notoriously factious and incompetent. In 1790 a new constitu- 
tion with a bicameral legislature was adopted, but manhood suffrage was 
retained; and this laid a firm foundation for subsequent democratization 
of Pennsylvania. 

Philadelphia, admirably situated at the junction of the Delaware and 
Schuylkill rivers, and with a population of forty-five thousand in 1790, was 
easily the first city in the United States for commerce, architecture, and 
culture. During the next ten years it was the seat of the Federal Govern- 
ment and of a more brilliant republican court than the city of Washington 
was to show for a century to come. Owing largely to Quaker influence, 
Philadelphia was well provided with penal and charitable institutions, ama- 
teur scientists and budding literati. It was 'by Delaware's green banks' that 
Tom Moore in 1804 found Dennie and Ingersoll and Brockden Brown, 6 
but for whom 

[ 6 Joseph Dennie (1768-1812), 'the American Addison,' published two volumes of 
essays. Jared Ingersoll (1782-1862) wrote fiction, history, and poetry; his novel, Inchi- 
quin (1810) received some European attention. Brockden Brown (1771-1810), the 
most important of these three early American writers, is remembered for his novels, 
\VieJand (1798), Arthur Mervyn (1799), Ormond (1799), and Edgar Huntly (1799).] 


Columbia's days were done, 

Rank without ripeness, quickened without sun. 

These 'sacred few* were producing pallid imitations of the Spectator, dreary 
tragedies of medieval Europe, novels of mystery and horror. Hugh Brack- 
enridge of Pittsburgh alone expressed the rich color and wilderness flavor 
of youthful Pennsylvania. 

A few miles from Philadelphia one reached the garden spot of eight- 
eenth-century America, a belt of rich limestone soil that crossed the Sus- 
quehanna river, and extended into Maryland and the Valley of Virginia. 
The fortunate inhabitants of this region were reaping huge profits in 1790 
by reason of the European crop failures of 1789; and were to prosper still 
more through the wars that flowed from the French Revolution. 'The 
whole country is well cultivated/ wrote a Dutch financier who passed 
through this region in 1794, 'and what forests the farmers keep are stocked 
with trees of the right kind chestnut, locust, walnut, maple, white oak. 
It is a succession of hills, not too high, and the aspect of the country is very 
beautiful/ Lancaster, with four thousand inhabitants, was the largest 
inland town in the United States. Here and in the limestone belt, the bulk 
of the farmers and townspeople were German. They were by far the best 
husbandmen in America, using a proper rotation, with clover and root 
crops. Their houses were commonly of stone, and heated by stoves; their 
fences of stout posts and rails; but what most impressed strangers were the 
great barns, with huge gable-end doors, through which a loaded wagon 
could drive onto a wide threshing-floor, flanked by spacious hay-lofts, cattle 
and sheep pens, and horse stables. The Germans were divided into a num- 
ber of sects, some of which, like the Amish Mennonites, have retained 
their quaint costumes and puritanism into the twentieth century. They 
supported six weekly newspapers in their own language, and were as keen 
household manufacturers as the Yankees; but Chastellux found them lack- 
ing in public spirit, compared with the English-speaking Americans, 'con- 
tent . . . with being only the spectators of their own wealth/ and with the 
standards of a German peasant. 

Lancaster was the parting point for two streams of westward emigration. 
One wagon road took a southwesterly direction, crossed the Potomac at 
Harper's Ferry, and entered the Shenandoah valley of Virginia, between 
the Blue Ridge and the Unakas. The Pittsburgh wagon road struck out 
northwesterly, crossed the Susquehanna by ford or ferry at Harrisburg (the 
future capital of Pennsylvania), and followed the beautiful wooded valley 

312 Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager 

of the Juniata to its headwaters. This region was inhabited mainly by 
Ulstermen, although in the easternmost section they were rapidly being 
bought out by the more thrifty and land-hungry Germans. North of it, and 
west of the upper Susquehanna, Pennsylvania was still a mountainous 
virgin forest. After a long, painful pull up the rocky, rutty wagon road, to 
an elevation of some 2,500 feet, you attained the Alleghany front, an escarp- 
ment from which, by a rolling, densely wooded plateau, you descended 
westward to where the Alleghany and Monongahela rivers come together 
to form the Ohio. At this point you reached Pittsburgh, a thriving village 
in the midst of virgin coal and iron deposits, the most important of three 
inner gateways to the far West. Already fleets of covered wagons were 
bringing in settlers destined for Kentucky, and goods to be distributed 
down the mighty valley of the Ohio and Mississippi. 


Twenty-five miles south of Philadelphia the post-road crossed the Mason 
and Dixon line,* an internal boundary that bulks large in American his- 
tory. Originally drawn to divide Pennsylvania from Delaware and Mary- 
land, in 1790 it was already recognized as the boundary between the farm- 
ing, or commercial, and the plantation states. From 1804 * ^5 it divided 
the free and the slave states; and even yet it is the boundary of sentiment 
between North and South. 

Delaware, formerly an autonomous portion of the Penn proprietary, was 
the least populous state of the Union; and apart from the flour-milling 
regions about Wilmington, a farming community, steadfastly conservative 
in politics. Maryland, with 320,000 souls, one-third of them slaves, was the 
northernmost state where slavery was an essential part of the economic 
system. The old English Catholic families still retained some of the better 
plantations on both shores of Chesapeake Bay; the Irish Carrolls of Carroll- 
ton provided a 'signer/ a United States Senator, and the first Roman Cath- 
olic bishop in the United States. Maryland produced the best wheat flour 
in America, and a variety of tobacco chiefly appreciated by the French. 
The lowland planters were famous for hospitality, and for the various and 

* The Mason and Dixon line is the parallel latitude of 39 43' 26.3" between the 
southwestern corner of Pennsylvania and the arc of a circle of twelve miles' radius drawn 
from Newcastle (Delaware) as a center; and along that arc to the Delaware river. It 
was run in 1763-1767 by two English surveyors named Mason and Dixon, in conse- 
quence of Lord Hardwicke's decision, in 1750, of a long-standing controversy between 
the proprietors of Maryland and Pennsylvania. But there have been interstate contro- 
versies about parts of it even in the present century. 


delicious methods devised by their black cooks for preparing the oysters, 
soft-shell crabs, terrapin, shad, canvasback ducks, and other delicacies 
afforded by Chesapeake Bay. Annapolis, the pleasant and hospitable state 
capital, had just been made the seat of St. John's College. Later, the town 
was to be saved from decay by the United States Naval Academy. 

Baltimore, a mere village before the War of Independence, was ap- 
proaching Boston in population. A deep harbor on Chesapeake Bay, water- 
driven flour mills, and proximity to wheat-growing regions made it the 
metropolis for an important section of Pennsylvania, in preference to Phila- 
delphia. Baltimore was already famous for belles, one of whom married 
Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Jerome, and for swift schooners, the Balti- 
more clippers that made excellent privateers and successful pirates. The 
Maryland Piedmont was much like the limestone belt of Pennsylvania: a 
rich rolling grain country tilled by English and German farmers, with the 
aid of a few slaves. This region, in combination with Baltimore, neutralized 
the Tidewater aristocracy, and gradually drew Maryland into the social 
and economic orbit of the Northern states. 

From Baltimore a road that long remained the despair of travellers tra- 
versed Maryland to Georgetown, just below the Great Falls of the Poto- 
mac. Here, at the head of navigation, the City of Washington was being 
planned. Crossing the river, one entered the Old Dominion, with a popu- 
lation of 748,000, of which forty per cent were slaves.* 

Virginia is today but a fragment of the imperial domain that was granted 
to the Virginia Company in 1606; and less than half the size of the state 
in 1790. Kentucky was lopped off as a separate state of the Union in 1792, 
and West Virginia in 1863. But even without Kentucky, Virginia was the 
most populous, proud, and wealthy American commonwealth. 

The Tidewater or coastal plain of Virginia, east of the fall line which 
passes through Washington, Richmond, and Petersburg, consists of a series 
of long narrow peninsulas separated by the navigable estuaries of the 
Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James rivers. There were no towns 
excepting Portsmouth and Norfolk, and scarcely even a village. County 
seats were merely a court house, church, and tavern at some convenient 
cross-roads. Tobacco warehouse-receipts, and bills of exchange on your 
London merchant, who did your shopping in the metropolis, served as cur- 
rency. 'Even now/ wrote John Randolph in 1813, 'the old folks talk of 
"going home to England/' ' But by 1790 the Tidewater had seen its best 
days. The state capital had been transferred to Richmond, at the falls of 

* Not including the 74,000 in Kentucky (17 per cent slaves). 

314 Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager 

the James; only William and Mary College kept Williamsburg alive. Nor- 
folk, not yet recovered from the fire of 1776, was a poor-looking seaport of 
less than thirty-five hundred people. The forest was reconquering exhausted 
tobacco fields, the wiser planters were laying down their lands to wheat and 
grass, and the wisest were emigrating to Kentucky. One of the best planta- 
tions of the Virginia Tidewater, Davies Randolph's Tresqu'ile' at Bermuda 
Hundred on the James, was described by the Due de la Rochefoucauld- 
Liancourt, in 1795. It contained 750 acres, of which 400 were wood and 
marsh, and 350 were cultivated by eight Negroes, two horses, and four 
oxen. This area was divided into forty-acre fields by the usual Virginia or 
worm fence, made of split rails, notched near the ends, and intersected in 
a zigzag pattern in order to dispense with posts. 'No sort of fencing is 
more expensive or wasteful of timber/ wrote Washington; but those im- 
proving farmers who attempted hedges were thwarted by the enterprise of 
American hogs and cattle. Mr. Randolph used manure on but one of his 
fields. His system of rotation was corn, oats, wheat, rye, fallow: an im- 
provement over the customary one of com, wheat, and pasturage, which 
John Taylor called a scheme of tillage founded in contempt of the earth 
and terminating in its murder. With a modest average yield of ten to 
twelve bushels per acre, Presqu'ile brought its owner from $1,800 to $3,500 
annually; and he valued the plantation at $20,000. The proportion of labor 
to acreage was so small that the condition of the land compared Very indif- 
ferently with the most ordinary husbandry of Europe/ Apart from the 
mansion houses, the appearance of Virginia plantations, with their ill- 
cultivated fields, straggling fences, and dilapidated Negroes' cabins, was 
slovenly in the extreme. A traveller going south from Pennsylvania looked 
in vain for tidy agriculture until he reached the rice plantations of South 

By 1790 the Virginia Piedmont between the fall line and the Blue Ridge, 
for the most part a fruitful, rolling country, had become the seat of all that 
was healthy and vigorous in the plantation system; and Richmond, as the 
principal outlet of the James river valley, was flourishing. Most of the great 
Virginia statesmen of the revolutionary and early republican eras were 
either born in this region or grew to manhood in its wilder margins. The 
'First Families of Virginia/ a rural aristocracy of native origin, reproduced 
the high sense of honor and public spirit of the English aristocracy, as well 
as the amenities of English country life. They frequently combined plant- 
ing with the practice of law, but left trade to their inferiors, commerce to 
the agents of British mercantile firms, and navigation to the Yankees. Pre- 


pared by private tutors or at schools kept by Scotch clergymen for Prince- 
ton or William and Mary, trained to administration by managing their 
large estates, and to politics by representing their counties in the Virginia 
Assembly, the planters stepped naturally and gracefully into the leadership 
of the nation. It was no accident that Jefferson of Virginia drafted the 
Declaration of Independence, that Washington of Virginia led the army 
and became the first President, that Madison of Virginia fathered the 
Federal Constitution, that Marshall of Virginia became the greatest Ameri- 
can jurist, and that he and Taylor of Virginia 7 led the two opposing 
schools of American political thought. 

If the proper object of society be to produce and maintain an aristocracy, 
Virginia had achieved it. If it be to maintain a high general level of com- 
fort and intelligence, she had not. Below the 'first families/ but continu- 
ally pushing into their level by marriage, was a class of lesser planters, to 
which Patrick Henry belonged: a class generous and hospitable, but unedu- 
cated, provincial, and rude. Below them was an unstable and uneasy class 
of yeomen, outnumbering the planters in the Piedmont. Descended largely 
from indentured servants and deported convicts, these peasants, as the 
gentry called them, were illiterate, ferocious, and quarrelsome. Self-con- 
tained plantations, with slave artisans and mechanics, left small demand 
for skilled white labor, and made small farms unprofitable. Hence the 
Virginia yeoman had but the alternative of migrating westward, or of 
becoming 'poor white trash* despised even by the slaves. It was already 
doubtful in 1790 that any community could endure half slave and half 
free; 8 presently it would be doubtful if the nation could thus endure. 

In the lowlands the slaves outnumbered the whites; in the Piedmont 
they comprised about one-third of the total population. They supported 
the economic system, and contributed much to the quality of Virginia 
leadership. Jefferson's oft-quoted passage, that 'the whole commerce be- 
tween master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous pas- 
sions/ can only have applied to new and inexperienced members of the 
planter class; for the successful management of Negroes required tact, 
patience, forbearance, an even temper, and a sense of humor. Few denied 
that slavery was a moral evil and a menace to the country. Almost every 
educated Virginian hoped to make real the opening words of his Bill of 
Rights 'that all men are by nature free and independent/ But a state whose 
population was forty per cent black naturally quailed before such a social 

[ 7 John Taylor of Caroline (1753-1824).] 
[Seep. 504.] 

316 Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager 

revolution. Jefferson counted on the young abolitionists that Chancellor 
Wythe was making in William and Mary College. But in a few years' time 
the cotton gin gave chattel slavery a new lease of life; and, shortly after 
Jefferson died, a young professor of William and Mary began to preach the 
doctrine that Negro slavery was justified by history and ordained by God. 

As one rode westward across the Virginia Piedmont, with the crest-line 
of the Blue Ridge looming in the distance, the forest became more dense, 
the large plantations less numerous, the farms of independent yeomen 
more frequent, and the cultivation of tobacco gave place to corn and graz- 
ing. Between the Blue Ridge and the higher folds of the Appalachians lies 
the Shenandoah valley peopled as we have seen by Scotch and Germans, 
and feeling itself a province apart from lowland and Piedmont until 1861. 
It was here, in Rockingham county, that Abraham Lincoln, grandfather 
of the President, lived until 1784; and at Staunton in Augusta county, 
Woodrow Wilson was born in 1856. Still less did the traps-Appalachian 
part of Virginia, a densely wooded plateau sloping to the upper Ohio, 
resemble the Virginia of the planters. In 1790 it was a frontier more primi- 
tive even than Kentucky. In 1861 it refused to follow the Old Dominion 
out of the Union, and became the State of West Virginia. 

South from Petersburg in Virginia, through a level, sandy country of 
pine forest, a two days' journey took you to Halifax, one of several petty 
seaports of North Carolina. This 'tar-heel state 7 possessed a very different 
character from her neighbors on either side. Her population was the result 
of two distinct streams of secondary and fairly recent colonization: Vir- 
ginia yeomen who settled in the coastal plain; those who followed the 
Shenandoah valley into the Piedmont and the Great Smoky mountains. 
Along the Roanoke river there was an overflow of plantations from Vir- 
ginia; but the greater part of the coastal plain, a hundred miles or more 
wide, consisted of pine barrens with soil too sandy for wheat or tobacco, 
and extensive marshes like the Dismal Swamp. The river mouths were 
landlocked against vessels drawing above ten feet by the barrier beaches 
that enclosed Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. This region, therefore, was 
sparsely settled, and its chief exports were naval stores: tar, turpentine, and 
pine timber. President Washington, travelling through it in 1791, found 
it 'the most barren country he ever beheld/ without 'a single house of an 
elegant appearance/ 

The Piedmont of North Carolina was a thriving region of upland farms, 
supporting a large population of Germans, Ulstermen, English, and High- 
land Scotch. There was little communication between coast and Piedmont 


through the pine barrens, and less sympathy. Petersburg, Va., and Charles- 
ton, S. C., were nearer or more convenient markets for the upland farmers 
than the petty ports of their own state. Local particularism was so strong 
that the legislature abandoned Governor Tryon's 'palace' at Newbern, and 
became peripatetic. Only by creating a new state capital, at Raleigh on the 
falls of the Neuse river, could it manage to settle down. 

The plantation system never obtained a strong foothold in North Caro- 
lina; the state remained a farming democracy, aided by rather than based 
upon chattel slavery. Among its white population of three hundred thou- 
sand in 1790, less than one- third owned slaves; and the proportion was 
even smaller in 1860.* For such a community a democratic policy was nat- 
ural and inevitable; but without the leaven of popular education, a land- 
locked region was not apt to make much progress. Honest mediocrity was 
typical of North Carolina statesmanship from the eighteenth century to 
the twentieth, when the industrial revolution brought wealth, material 
progress, enthusiasm for learning, and accomplishment in the arts. 

There was no such dearth of great figures, as we have seen, in South 
Carolina. The coastal plain of that state has a sub-tropical climate. In 
Charleston, its only city, the ravages of war were quickly repaired and the 
gay old life was resumed; in 1790, with a population of sixteen thousand, 
it was the fourth city in America, and metropolis of the lower South.t 
The Rev. Jedidiah Morse in his American Geography (1789) wrote, 'In no 
part of America are the social blessings enjoyed more rationally and liber- 
ally than in Charleston. Unaffected hospitality, affability, ease in manners 
and address, and a disposition to make their guests welcome, easy and 
pleased with themselves, are characteristics of the respectable people of 
Charleston/ One can well imagine that stiff New England Calvinist suc- 
cumbing to the graceful attentions of a Charleston family, while he sipped 
their Madeira wine on a spacious verandah overlooking a tropical garden. 

The South Carolina planters went to their country houses in November, 
when the first frosts removed the danger of fever; and took their families 
back to Charleston for the gay season from January to March. Early spring, 
a most anxious period in rice culture, was passed in the plantation man- 

* With a total population of 400,000 in 1790 (one-quarter slave), North Carolina 
was the fourth state in the Union, just ahead of New York. But North Carolina's interior 
had already been settled, and New York's had not. New York reached the million mark 
in 1810; North Carolina only in 1870; m 1920 North Carolina had three million to New 
York's twelve and a half; and its largest city fell short of a hundred thousand. 

t In 1940 Charleston had only 71,275 inhabitants, but more distinction and flavor 
than any one of the hundred American cities that exceeded it in size. 

ji 8 Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commoner 

sion shaded by a classic portico, and surrounded by groves of live oaks, 
hung with Spanish moss. The hot months would be spent at a summer 
house in the pine hills, or at Newport. Popular education was little 
attended to, but the College of Charleston was established in 1785, and 
the more opulent families continued to send their sons to Old England 
or New England for higher education. 

Rice, the economic basis of the lower country, required intensive culti- 
vation, along such parts of the tidal rivers as permitted artificial flooding 
with fresh water. These regions were so unhealthy for white people that 
black labor, immune from malaria, was a necessity; and in no part of the 
United States were slaves so numerous. Out of sixteen hundred heads of 
families in the rural part of the Charleston district, in 1790, thirteen 
hundred held slaves to the number of forty-three thousand. South Carolina 
not only blocked abolition of the African slave trade in the Federal Consti- 
tution, but reopened traffic by state law in 1803. 

Indigo culture had been abandoned with the loss of the Parliamentary 
bounty; but the South Carolina planters, in 1790, were experimenting with 
the long staple sea-island cotton; and the next year Robert Owen spun 
into yarn the first two bags of it that were sent to England. The short 
staple upland cotton, which could be grown inland, was so difficult to 
separate from its seed as to be unmarketable until after the cotton gin was 
invented in 1793. One effect of this momentous discovery was to extend 
the plantation system into the Piedmont, the more populous section. In 
1790 the upland people had just won their first victory by transferring the 
state capital up-country, to Columbia; but the Piedmont was still under- 
represented in the legislature, and poor men were denied office by high 
property qualifications. John C. Calhoun, who was destined to weld the 
South and divide the Union, was a boy of eight in the upper country, 
in 1790. 

Across the Savannah river from South Carolina lay Georgia, which re- 
tained few traces of General Oglethorpe's pious experiment. The objects 
of his benevolence, poor debtors and Scotch highlanders, wedged between 
hostile Indians on one side and a plantation colony on the other, had 
led a miserable existence. As soon as the prohibition of rum, slaves, and 
large holdings was removed, Georgia developed, as had South Carolina, a 
slave-holding rice coast, a belt of infertile pine barrens, and a rolling, wooded 
Piedmont of hunters and frontier farmers, who racially belonged to the 
usual Southern mixed upland stock. These Georgia 'crackers' were vigorous 
and lawless, hard drinkers and rough fighters. Desperately eager to despoil 


the Creek Indians of their fertile cornfields across the Oconee river, the 
up-country Georgians gave constant trouble to the Federal Government. 


Such, in their broader outlines, were the Thirteen States, and the people 
thereof, seven years after the war. They were singularly fortunate and 
happy. Of such a people, so circumstanced, the friends of liberty in Europe 
had high expectations. The French statesman Turgot wrote in his famous 
letter of 1778 to Dr. Price: 9 

This people is the hope of the human race. It may become the model. It 
ought to show the world by facts, that men can be free and yet peaceful, and 
may dispense with the chains in which tyrants and knaves of every colour have 
presumed to bind them, under pretext of the public good. The Americans should 
be an example of political, religious, commercial and industrial liberty. The 
asylum they offer to the oppressed of every nation, the avenue of escape they 
open, will compel governments to be just and enlightened; and the rest of the 
world in due time will see through the empty illusions in which policy is con- 
ceived. But to obtain these ends for us, America must secure them to herself; 
and must not become, as so many of your ministerial writers have predicted, a 
mass of divided powers, contending for territory and trade, cementing the slavery 
of peoples by their own blood. 

Dr. Price printed Turgot's letter in 1785, together with some hundred 
pages of his own advice to the young republic. Slavery must be abolished. 
America must adopt a system of education that will 'teach ftow to think, 
rather than -what to think, or to lead into the best way of searching for 
truth, rather than to instruct in truth itself.' The American States should 
foster an equal distribution of property; and to this end they must re- 
nounce foreign trade, as well as foreign alliances. 

The Atlantic must be crossed before they can be attacked. . . Thus singu- 
larly happy, why should they seek connexions with Europe, and expose them- 
selves to the danger of being involved in its quarrels? What have they to do 
with its politics? Is there anything very important to them which they can 
draw from thence except infection? indeed, I tremble when I think of that 
rage for trade which is likely to prevail among them. 

Here is the policy of isolation, laid down in terms that America found 
too Spartan; and something more than a suggestion of the political system 

[Clergyman, philosopher, and political controversialist (1723-91). He supported 
the American and French revolutions.] 

320 Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager 

later known as Jeffersonian democracy. But there was one dominant force 
in United States history that few foresaw in 1785: the expansive force. 
With such a prize as the West at their back doors, the people of the 
United States would have been more than human had they been content 
with a 'state of nature' between the Atlantic and the Appalachians. For a 
century to come, the subduing of the temperate regions of North America 
to the purposes of civilized life was to be the main business of the United 
States. In 1790 the boundaries of the republic included eight hundred thou- 
sand, in 1860 three million square miles. In 1790 the population was four 
million; in 1950 one hundred and forty-nine million. This folk move- 
ment, comparable only with the barbaric invasions of Europe, gives the his- 
tory of the United States a different quality from that of modern Europe; 
different even from that of Canada and Australia, by reason of the absence 
of exterior control. The advancing frontier, with growing industrialism, set 
the rhythm of American society, colored its politics, and rendered more 
difficult the problem of union. Yet, as Turgot warned us, only union could 
secure the gain and fulfil the promise of the American Revolution. 

Thomas Bland Hollis, another English radical who looked to the rising 
star in the West, wrote to the President of Harvard College in 1788: 'Our 
papers mention that there is an intention of having the Olympic games 
revived in America. All her friends wish it and say she is capable of it: 
having acted upon Greek principles you should have Greek exercises.' 
Her friends saw no reason why literature and the arts should not spring 
into new life in a new world, fostered by liberty. One of them, ten years 
later, recorded with his disappointment the popular excuse: 'We are but 
a young people let us grow.' How often has that excuse been repeated, and 
how constantly has it been true! Grow they did; but not as Rome, neither 
as Greece. Their astounding expansion was a continuous adventure in 
pioneering, a constant renewal of the nation's youth through fresh con- 
tact with a receding frontier. The American of today, with all his wealth, 
pride, and power, is still unmistakably young and inexperienced in the ways 
of the world that he is now called upon to set right for the second time 
in one generation. 

The frontier has vanished with the wild Indian, and America's youth is 
waning fast. Some thought, during the great depression, that it had alto- 
gether gone, and that a premature old age was settling over American 
society. They were wrong. It is the story of a youthful people that you are 
to read; of a people constantly in movement, expanding and upheaving, 
blithely accepting new forces that were to strain their body politic, seeking 


to assimilate them to the democratic principle and to recover equilibrium 
between liberty and order, or security. And, as we write, America, with all 
the confidence and idealism of youth, is organizing her resources as never 
before to restore the peace, the productivity and the freedom of the Western 
World. Possibly that effort will destroy her youthfulness forever. We be- 
lieve not; that, on the contrary, the faith and energy of the United States 
are still, in an even deeper sense than in 1778, 'the hope of the human race/ 

D. W. Brogan 

([ Mr. Brogan's description of what passes for climate in America is 
a typical chapter from his The American Character (1944), a 
shrewd and entertaining account of the United States by an ob- 
server who knows the land and its people better than most Ameri- 
cans do. The author (1900 ) is now Professor of Political Science 
at the University of Cambridge. Besides this and other books on the 
United States (including Government of the People, a study of the 
American political system, 1933, and 17. S. A., 1941), he has writ- 
ten The English People (1943), The Development of Modern 
France, 1870-1939 (1940), and The Free State (1945). 


LT WAS NOT surprising that the Americans, at the end of their 
long march from ocean to ocean, should have too hastily assumed that 
they 'had America licked/ But it was an error, all the same. The continent 
remained not so much hostile as capricious; the gorgeous West, pouring 
out wealth with lavish hand, often had more than a hand inside the glove. 
The settlers in the South and in the Mississippi Valley had had to deal with 
diseases that, to northern Europeans, were very hard to manage. There was 
yellow fever, coming in from the West Indies; there was pellagra; there 
was hookworm; there was malaria. Some of these diseases became man- 
ageable as modern medical technology developed; Gorgas and Manson and 
Pasteur and Ross * not only made the Panama Canal a possibilitythey 

t 1 W. C. Gorgas (1854-1920) did much to free Cuba and, later, Panama from yellow 
fever. He was chief sanitary officer of the Panama Canal Commission. Sir Patrick Man- 
son (1844-1922), 'the father of tropical medicine/ was the first to suggest that malana 
is carried by mosquitoes. Louis Pasteur (1822-95) was the founder of modem bacteri- 
ology. Sir Ronald Ross (1857-1932) specialized in the study of tropical diseases, notably 

REPRINTED FROM The American Character, by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 
Copyright 1944 by Denis W. Brogan. 


also made an easier and safer life possible in the continental United States. 
Pellagra is curable mainly through a rise in economic standards, and so 
far as that has come about pellagra has been cured; although in the pov- 
erty-stricken and decaying regions of the South it is still a menace to white 
and black poor alike and a disease that makes life disagreeable in Umbria 
has even less to make it' tolerable in the derelict regions of Georgia. Malaria 
needs fighting by cleanliness, and this, too, involves economic factors, .for 
it is far harder for the poor to be clean than for the rich. Hookworm is 
highly debilitating, but you are much less likely to get it if you wear shoes 
and shoes cost money; there is nothing romantic about being a barefoot boy 
in the hookworm belt. Improved water supply, improved medical services, 
even the rudiments of organized sanitation were necessary to turn the de- 
pressed and despised 'mudsills' of the South once denounced for their quite 
sensible habit of eating 'dirt' (i.e., earth) as a remedy for the deficiencies 
caused by hookworm into healthy and energetic citizens. The work of the 
Rockefeller Foundation and of the state and federal governments did more 
for this southern problem than cubic miles of southern oratory although 
some excellent oratory was devoted to getting the South to accept northern 
aid. . . 

But the South was especially handicapped, climatically, historically, 
racially, economically. The problem of making the Middle West hab- 
itable was much easier; it required wealth and energy and scientific knowl- 
edge, which the region acquired in abiundance. It also required a high de- 
gree of political efficiency, which was not so abundant. The Chicago drain- 
age canal, though a reasonably adequate solution for Chicago, was less 
attractive to her downstream neighbors. But other breakdowns only prove 
that human institutions are human; a local collapse of sanitary efficiency 
is no more to be wondered at in Chicago than in Croydon. 

Even the most favored regions had their drawbacks. The first settlers who 
moved into the Pacific slope were richly rewarded. Oregon, reasonably 
warm, well wooded, well watered, was more like Devon than like Illinois. 
And California, to the pioneers coming over the High Sierra or round the 
Horn, was a new Canaan. Indeed, as the first Americans began to visit the 
California coast, the great empty land with its scattered Mexican ranches 
was more like the world of Abraham than like the new machine world that 
already existed on the other side of the Atlantic. California cried out for 
more energetic settlers, and a swarm of Moses appeared to seize the land 
where, in its last spasm of imperial energy, Spain had created the little mis- 
sions of San Francisco, Santa Barbara, San Luis Key, San Luis Obispo, San 

324 D. W. Brogan 

Diego, anddestined to a highly paradoxical destiny the village called 
after 'Our Lady, Queen of the Angels/ California had many attractions, 
but one struck home in the Great Valley: it had no malaria; 'the shakes* 
were unknown. But, as the unkind Frenchman said of New Zealand, There 
are no snakes, but a great many Scotchmen/ and even California had its 
drawbacks. It had no weather, only the most perfect climate in the world, 
where season followed season in perfect regularity, with hardly an excep- 
tional day. It seemed to be too good to be true. It was. The most regular 
feature of San Francisco weather was the summer fog, and in even more 
favored Southern California (as a saboteur from Florida put it in The 
New Yorker), 'there is no rain, but the heavy dew sometimes washes away 
the railroad bridges/ All around Los Angeles, the justification for this hit 
below the belt can be seen; empty river beds lined with concrete, provided 
with admirable bridges, recalling the Manzanares at Madrid. But the old 
joke to the effect that the Madrilenos 2 ought to sell the bridges and buy 
a river is pointless in the California outpost of New Spain, for when the 
rains do come, they come down with a speed and exuberance that are 
worthy of the Golden State; seven inches in two days makes very neces- 
sary indeed the bridges and parapets that control the arroyos 9 turned 
torrents. Nor are floods the only trouble in California. The State has no 
equivalent of those terrible lightning storms of the Middle West, but it 
does have earthquakes. Significantly, it is still a little tactless to refer (in 
San Francisco) to 'the earthquake of 1906' you should say 'the Fire/ be- 
cause that result of the natural catastrophe is less painful to recall. Fire is 
a manageable enemy of man and an old one, but when the foundations 
of the earth move, the most optimistic Californian is reminded of the un- 
tamable nature of the American land. 

And at the other side of the continent, the rival paradise of Florida 
has had its bad shocks: in sudden frosts that kill the citrus crops; in devas- 
tating tornadoes that wreck the Miami waterfront as thoroughly as a 
second-class air raid could, or sweep the sea over such bold works of man 
as the road across the Atlantic to Key West. 

In the other parts of America, the savage possibilities of the climate 
are never forgotten. All Ohio remembers the great flood year of 1913, 
whose impact on Columbus Mr. Thurber 4 has made familiar to English 
readers. From that disaster came an elaborate and expensive system of flood 

[ a Citizens of Madrid.] 

[ 3 Rivulets.] 

[ 4 See his 'The Day the Dam Broke* in My Life and Hard Times.] 


control in Columbus, in Dayton, in all southwestern Ohio. But other river 
towns in other states have had their own and much more recent disasters. 
The Wabash does not, alas for the citizens of Indiana, always stay within 
its banks; and when we get to the Mississippi, we are faced with the great- 
est engineering problem in the western world. Only the great rivers of 
China have so bad a record. The floods starting when the ice and snow 
melt, fifteen hundred miles away from the subtropical delta, present a prob- 
lem every year. And the news that is flashed down the river has the urgency 
of an air-raid alert, for ten feet of extra water at Paducah may mean 
disaster if something is not done at once at Vicksburg. So men and boys, 
white and black, are called out to pile cotton bales and sandbags on the 
threatened levees; women and children get ready to flee from the rising 
wall of water being funneled down the river. And somewhere the sides 
of the funnel give way and tens of thousands are made homeless, hun- 
dreds arc drowned, and an economic catastrophe that would ruin a minor 
European state has to be coped with. 

Even in the long-settled East, the water is still restive. The Connecticut 
River, normally as placid as the Thames at Teddington, sometimes goes 
on the rampage, reminding the inhabitants of cities like Hartford that 
life and property are still insecure. Great storms drive the sea over the 
summer cottages of Block Island. And there was an historical appropriate- 
ness in the comment Nature provided for the end of the tercentenary cele- 
bration at Harvard, for on the last day the great 'storm wind of the 
equinox* that had been rushing up the coast from Florida struck Cam- 
bridge (Massachusetts) with a force unknown to Cambridge (England). 
It showed that for the sons of the Puritans the God of their Fathers was 
still an angry God of storm and rain like Him who had smitten the army 
of Sisera 5 and had later toughened the New Englanders. 

Even when there are no catastrophes, there are constant climatic prob- 
lems. The mere range of temperature is a problem. How do you plan your 
life in a place like Bismarck, North Dakota, where the July temperatures 
have ranged between 32 F. and 108, and the January temperatures be- 
tween 45 below zero and 60 above? What do you do, even in nor- 
mally kindly New Orleans, where the January temperatures have ranged 
between 15 and 82 and the July temperatures between 35 and 102? 
In Wyoming at the source of the Colorado River, there is frost in every 
month of the year; over many states there is never any frost at all for 
decades at a time. But no part of the United Statesnot Texas, not Florida, 

[ 8 See Judges, iv, v.] 

326 D. W. Brogcm 

not California is free from frost that will, when by a freak it does come, 
kill lemons and oranges and avocados and break the hearts or strain the 
consciences of local boosters. 

It seems likely that not until this century did the Americans really 
adjust themselves to the climate as far as it is humanly possible to do 
do. Those who were of British origin were especially handicapped, coming 
as they did from an island where no one had been really comfortable in 
winter between the departure of the Romans and the coming of the more 
exigent type of American tourist. It is worth noting that one of the most 
important inventions of that most representative of Americans, Franklin, 
was an efficient stove (another was the lightning conductor). But to make 
houses even reasonably airtight was a problem; the log cabin, whether or 
not it was of Finnish origin, was a solution better than any that English 
practice would suggest. The continuous series of farm buildings house, 
stables, barn, all in line so that the farmer could pass from the kitchen to 
the horses and on to the cattle without going into the bitter air was an- 
other necessary adjustment; moreover, it provided a fine range of buildings 
that could be turned into rumpus rooms, garages, etc., when city folk took 
over the New Hampshire countryside. With primitive central heating, 
the last lap was entered on. It is possibly no accident, again, that the most 
modern thermostatic systems of central heating owe their essential equip- 
ment to a firm in Minneapolis where the winter cold can kill ten times as 
often as it can on the milder Atlantic. An Iowa farm, painted in midwinter 
by Grant Wood, with its red barn and dominating silo is highly func- 
tional: devoted to the job of keeping men and stock alive and food and 
feed usable through the long siege of winter. No American farm-bred boy 
or girl is likely to think that he or she has America licked. 

Nor, indeed, is the town boy, who, as he grows up, will have at least one 
memory of a great and killing cold spell, even if it does not become so 
legendary as the great New York freezes of 1837 an( * l &&%- Gardeners will 
long remember the late winter of 1933-34 which killed so many plants 
and shrubs on Long Island; and all regions of America, except the South and 
the Pacific Coast, have their own stories of death by cold, of stalled buggies 
or sleighs or even cars, of the dangers of bad chains or defective car-heaters, 
of a winter climate that always bears watching. 

And summer demands it even more. For the early settlers were even less 
acclimated (as Americans put it) to heat than to cold. For one thing, as 
Professor S. E. Morison has pointed out, they wore far too many and too 
thick clothes. Even the Andalusians of Columbus' crews wore too many gar- 


ments for a Caribbean summer. North Europeans did worse. There were 
economic obstacles, of course; until cotton textiles became cheap and 
abundant around 1800, linen was expensive and woolens uncomfortable. 
But there was more in it than that. Long after adequate textiles were 
abundant and cheap, fashionnot merely style but moral fashion kept 
too many clothes on the American man and still more on the American 
woman. Men might wear 'dusters' like Lincoln, or 'seersuckers' like the 
prosperous middle class of the eighties. If they were prepared to be con- 
spicuous, they might wear white linen suits like Mark Twain. But they still 
wore too much and, for dress occasions, they had to wear Trince Alberts' 
(i.e., frock coats), tall hats, broadcloth, and starched collars and shirts. 
Theodore Roosevelt was regarded as pretty eccentric and reckless of the 
conventions, yet his typical costume was very formal and very uncomfort- 
able indeed, compared with that of his niece's husband, the President of 
the United States today. It was still thought worthy of note when William 
Jennings Bryan took his coat off at Dayton, Tennessee, and defended 
Genesis in his shirt-sleeves 6 and that was not quite twenty years ago. And 
the uniform of the American army that went to France in 1917-18 included 
a stiff cloth collar that made the British officer's uniform the envy of his 
semi-strangled comrades in arms. 

As for the women, to look at fashion magazines of 1900, to read in 
Middletown of the clothes worn in Indiana in the summer a generation 
ago, even to recall the fuss made about the length of bathing-suit skirts and 
other problems of sartorial morals twenty years ago, is to be struck with 
astonishment as were the Greeks who learned from Herodotus that among 
the Lydians it was thought shameful even for men to be seen naked. 
No one, least of all a woman, need be overclothed in an American 
summer today. Indeed, unless she is clever with the needle or can afford 
custom-made clothes, any American woman who resolved to wear at least 
half as much as her mother used to would be baffled in any department 
store however big. The South Sea Islanders, put into 'Mother Hubbards' 
by American missionaries and in consequence suffering discomfort, or even 
death, have been thoroughly avenged. 

It is not only the American house that has at last been adapted to the 
American climate. American food has, too. Although Americans have 
always, by European standards, been abundantly fed, they have not until 
recently been well fed. One early difficulty of adjustment was that of diet; 
the average pioneer wanted the roast beef of old England or its equivalent, 

[ e At the famous 'Monkey Trial* in 1925.] 

328 D. W. Brogtm 

and was not to be put off with such new-fangled dishes as turkeys, tomatoes, 
corn, etc. He did adjust himself fairly quickly, but only in the sense of 
adding American items to European, not of balancing his diet or making 
it suit the climate and the work he had to do. 

Of course some classes and some regions have been badly fed for eco- 
nomic reasons. 'Hog and hominy/ the diet of the Confederate army, was 
bad, but any other diet would have been a novelty to Southern poor 
whites. Negroes were and often are badly fed from any point of view. But 
travelers and critical Americans alike long lamented the monotony of 
American food, the good food ruined in that enemy to the pursuit of hap- 
piness, the frying-pan; the saleratus 7 bread which was debited with the 
American sallow complexion and the melancholy view of life characteristic 
of many Americans in middle age. Until modern storage methods came in, 
the severity of both winter and summer made variety in diet difficult. Ice, 
indeed, was an early American passion; in water, in coffee, in juleps and 
other alcoholic concoctions. But it was ice cut and stored in a New England 
winter and shipped to South Carolina and India in a highly speculative 
voyage. For if most of your cargo arrived safe, your fortune was made, 
while if your ship was becalmed, all you had was extra water ballast of no 
market value. One of the minor hardships of the Southern gentry in the 
War between the States was the shortage of ice, no laughing matter in the 
mint- julep country of tidewater Virginia. 

With the coming of artificial ice, the worst was over and ice in summer 
became almost as necessary as coal in winter. European pioneers made 
refrigerator cars possible, to the profit of the meat-packers of Chicago and 
the fruit-growers of California and Florida. But American men still ate 
too much meat, ate it too often, and did not balance it with sufficient fruit 
and vegetables. It is only in modem times, very modern times, that the 
American diet has become varied, light, and suitable for the climate. The 
electric refrigerator is becoming a necessity; deep freezing promises new 
culinary resources, and air conditioning promises a new climate indoors, 
at any rate. There is no visible prospect of any method of obviating the 
Turkish-bath sensation that hits the person who goes out from an air- 
conditioned train or store or movie house on a very hot day. It is still too 
early to relax. America has always managed to keep her children on their 
toes; she still manages to do so. But the day is not in sight on which science 
and business together will be able to guarantee the climate and natural 
resources of California to the whole Union or even to California. 
[ 7 Baking soda.] 

Jonathan Swift 


|[ One of the minor ironies of Swift's life was his popularity with 
the Irish, despite his reluctance to be an Irishman. He had served 
the Irish Church well as a negotiator for concessions from the Eng- 
lish government, but after his pamphleteering for the Tories be- 
tween 1710 and 1714 he hoped to be rewarded by an ecclesiastical 
appointment in England. This hope failed (according to tradition, 
because Queen Anne had been offended by A Tale of a Tub, 1704); 
the best he could get was the deanery of St. Patrick's Cathedral, 
Dublin. To Dublin he went (1714), but he was a disappointed 
man. He visited London in 1726 and 1727, but after that never 
again left Ireland. 

The 'sacva indignatio' of his genius, plus political circumstances, 
made Swift on several occasions the champion of Irish protest 
against economic exploitation by England. In 1720 he advised the 
Irish in a pamphlet, The Universal Use of Irish Manufacture, to 
boycott English goods and buy those of Irish manufacture instead. 
By his Drapier's Letters of 1724 he forced the English government 
to drop a scheme of allowing one William Wood to mint copper 
coins for Irish use. Swift convinced his readers that the money 
would be ruinous to Ireland. 

Some of his most striking and most somber descriptions of human 
depravity, those of the Yahoos in the fourth book of Gulliver's 
Travels, must have been suggested, in part, by the miserable condi- 
tion of the Irish peasantry. But for indignation at man's callous 
inhumanity to man nothing in literature surpasses A Modest Pro- 
posal. The masterly and terrible irony of this tract accomplishes 
what anger alone could never do. It shocks, and it was meant to 
shock, as few writings have done. 


LT is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great 
town, 1 or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and 
cabin-doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, 
four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an 
alms. These mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest liveli- 
hood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for 
their helpless infants; who, as they grow up, either turn thieves for want of 
work, or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender 2 in 
Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes. 3 

I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious number of children 
in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and fre- 
quently of their fathers, is, in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, 
a very great additional grievance; and, therefore, whoever could find out 
a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound, useful 
members of the commonwealth, would deserve so well of the public, as to 
have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation. 

But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the 
children of professed beggars; it is of a much greater extent, and shall take 
in the whole number of infants at a certain age, who are born of parents 
in effect as little able to support them, as those who demand our charity 
in the streets. 

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this 
important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our 
projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computa- 
tion. It is true, a child, just dropped from its dam, may be supported by her 
milk for a solar year, with little other nourishment; at most, not above the 
value of two shillings, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in 
scraps, by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old 
that I propose to provide for them in such a manner, as, instead of being 
a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for 

[' Dublin. When Swift wrote this tract, Ireland had had three years of famine.] 
[* The Old Pretender, James Stuart, son of James II (who was deposed by the 'Glori- 
ous Revolution' of 1688) and claimant of the throne of Great Britain. He and his fol- 
lowers were constantly plotting to invade England.] 
[ 3 As laborers on the West Indian plantations.] 


the rest of their lives, they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding 
and partly to the clothing, 4 of many thousands. 

There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will pre- 
vent those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering 
their bastard children, alas, too frequent among us! sacrificing the poor 
innocent babes, I doubt 5 more to avoid the expense than the shame, which 
would move tears and pity in the most savage and inhuman breast. 

The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one mil- 
lion and a half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thou- 
sand couple whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract thirty 
thousand couple, who are able to maintain their own children, (although I 
apprehend there cannot be so many, under the present distresses of the 
kingdom;) but this being granted, there will remain a hundred and seventy 
thousand breeders. I again subtract fifty thousand, for those women who 
miscarry, or whose children die by accident or disease within the year. 
There only remain a hundred and twenty thousand children of poor parents 
annually born. The question therefore is, How this number shall be reared 
and provided for? which, as I have already said, under the present situation 
of affairs, is utterly impossible by all the methods hitherto proposed. For 
we can neither employ them in handicraft or agriculture; we neither build 
houses (I mean in the country,) nor cultivate land: they can very seldom 
pick up a livelihood by stealing, till they arrive at six years old, except where 
they are of towardly parts; e although I confess they learn the rudiments 
much earlier; during which time they can, however, be properly looked 
upon only as probationers; as I have been informed by a principal gentle- 
man in the county of Cavan, who protested to me, that he never knew 
above one or two instances under the age of six, even in a part of the king- 
dom so renowned for the quickest proficiency in that art. 

I have reckoned, upon a medium, that a child just born will weigh twelve 
pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, will increase to twenty- 
eight pounds. 

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for 
landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem 
to have the best title to the children. 

Infants' flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentifully 

[ 4 When Gulliver lived among the Houyhnhnms, he repaired his shoes with 'the skins 
of Yahoos dried in the sun/] 
[ 5 Suspect.] 
[ e Bright, talented.] 

332 Jonathan Swift 

in March, and a little before and after: for we are told by a grave author, 
an eminent French physician, that fish being a prolific diet, there are more 
children born in Roman Catholic countries about nine months after Lent, 
than at any other season; therefore, reckoning a year after Lent, the markets 
will be more glutted than usual, because the number of Popish infants is 
at least three to one in this kingdom; and therefore it will have one other 
collateral advantage, by lessening the number of Papists among us. 

I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar's child (in which 
list I reckon all cottagers, labourers, and four-fifths of the farmers) to be 
about two shillings per annum, rags included; and I believe no gentleman 
would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child, which, 
as I have said, will make four dishes of excellent nutritive meat, when he 
has only some particular friend, or his own family, to dine with him. Thus 
the squire will learn to be a good landlord, and grow popular among his 
tenants; the mother will have eight shillings net profit, and be fit for work 
till she produces another child. 

Those who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may 
flay the carcass; the skin of which, artificially dressed, will make admirable 
gloves for ladies, and summer-boots for fine gentlemen. 

I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before twelve years 
old is no saleable commodity; and even when they come to this age they 
will not yield above three pounds, or three pounds and half-a-crown at 
most, on the exchange; which cannot turn to account either to the parents 
or kingdom, the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four 
times that value. 

I shall now, therefore, humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope 
will not be liable to the least objection. 

I have been assured by a very knowing American 7 of my acquaintance 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 that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a 

I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration, that of the hun- 
dred and twenty thousand children already computed, twenty thousand 
may be reserved for breed, whereof only one-fourth part to be males; which 
is more than we allow to sheep, black-cattle, or swine; and my reason is, 
that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not 
much regarded by our savages, therefore one male will be sufficient to serve 

[ 7 Some of the Indians were supposed by Europeans to be cannibals.] 


four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be 
offered in sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; 
always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, 
so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make 
two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines 
alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and, seasoned 
with a little pepper or salt, will be very good boiled on the fourth day, 
especially in winter. 

As to our city of Dublin, shambles 8 may be appointed for this purpose 
in the most convenient parts of it, and butchers, we may be assured, will 
not be wanting; although I rather recommend buying the children alive, 
then dressing them hot from the knife, as we do roasting pigs. 

A very worthy person, a true lover of his country, and whose virtues I 
highly esteem, was lately pleased, in discoursing on this matter, to offer 
a refinement upon my scheme. He said, that many gentlemen of this king- 
dom, having of late destroyed their deer, he conceived that the want of 
venison might be well supplied by the bodies of young lads and maidens, 
not exceeding fourteen years of age, nor under twelve; so great a number 
of both sexes in every country being now ready to starve for want of work 
and service; and these to be disposed of by their parents, if alive, or other- 
wise by their nearest relations. But, with due deference to so excellent a 
friend, and so deserving a patriot, I cannot be altogether in his sentiments; 
for as to the males, my American acquaintance assured me, from frequent 
experience, that their flesh was generally tough and lean, like that of our 
schoolboys, by continual exercise, and their taste disagreeable; and to fatten 
them would not answer the charge. Then as to the females, it would, I 
think, with humble submission, be a loss to the public, because they soon 
would become breeders themselves: and besides, it is not improbable that 
some scrupulous people might be apt to censure such a practice, (although 
indeed very unjustly,) as a little bordering upon cruelty; which, I confess, 
has always been with me the strongest objection against any project, how 
well soever intended. 

But in order to justify my friend, he confessed that this expedient was 
put into his head by the famous Psalmanazar, a native of the island For- 
mosa, who came from thence to London above twenty years ago; and in 
conversation told my friend, that in his country, when any young person 

I 8 Slaughterhouses.! 

[ One George Psalmanazar posed as a native of Formosa and published a spurious 
Description of that island.] 

334 Jonathan Swift 

happened to be put to death, the executioner sold the carcass to persons of 
quality as a prime dainty; and that in his time the body of a plump girl 
of fifteen, who was crucified for an attempt to poison the emperor, was sold 
to his imperial majesty's prime minister of state, and other great man- 
darins of the court, in joints from the gibbet, at four hundred crowns. 
Neither indeed can I deny, that, if the same use were made of several 
plump young girls in this town, who, without one single groat to their 
fortunes, cannot stir abroad without a chair, and appear at playhouse 
and assemblies in foreign fineries which they never will pay for, the king- 
dom would not be the worse. 

Some persons of a desponding spirit are in great concern about that vast 
number of poor people, who are aged, diseased, or maimed; and I have 
been desired to employ my thoughts, what course may be taken to ease 
the nation of so grievous an encumbrance. But I am not in the least pain 
upon that matter, because it is very well known, that they are every day 
dying, and rotting, by cold and famine, and filth and vermin, as fast as can 
be reasonably expected. And as to the young labourers, they are now in 
almost as hopeful a condition: they cannot get work, and consequently 
pine away for want of nourishment, to a degree, that if at any time they 
are accidentally hired to common labour, they have not strength to perform 
it; and thus the country and themselves are happily delivered from the evils 
to come. 

I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my subject. I think 
the advantages by the proposal which I have made are obvious and many, 
as well as of the highest importance. 

For first, as I have already observed, it would greatly lessen the number of 
Papists, with whom we are yearly over-run, being the principal breeders of 
the nation, as well as our most dangerous enemies; and who stay at home 
on purpose to deliver the kingdom to the Pretender, hoping to take 
their advantage by the absence of so many good Protestants, 10 who have 
chosen rather to leave their country than stay at home and pay tithes against 
their conscience to an Episcopal curate. 

Secondly, The poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own, 
which by law may be made liable to distress, and help to pay their land- 
lord's rent; their corn and cattle being already seized, and money a thing 

["This refers to Irish Dissenters, i.e. Protestants who did not belong to the Church 
of Ireland (the counterpart in that country of the Church of England, which, of course, 
was an established, official institution) but who were nevertheless taxed to support it.] 


Thirdly, Whereas the maintenance of a hundred thousand children, 
from two years old and upward, cannot be computed at less than ten 
shillings a piece per annum, the nation's stock will be thereby increased 
fifty thousand pounds per annum, beside the profit of a new dish intro- 
duced to the tables of all gentlemen of fortune in the kingdom, who have 
any refinement in taste. And the money will circulate among ourselves, 11 
the goods being entirely of our own growth and manufacture. 

Fourthly, The constant breeders, beside the gain of eight shillings ster- 
ling per annum by the sale of their children, will be rid of the charge of 
maintaining them after the first year. 

Fifthly, This food would likewise bring great custom rj to taverns; where 
the vintners will certainly be so prudent as to procure the best receipts for 
dressing it to perfection, and, consequently, have their houses frequented 
by all the fine gentlemen, who justly value themselves upon their knowl- 
edge in good eating: and a skilful cook, who understands how to oblige 
his guests, will contrive to make it as expensive as they please. 

Sixthly, This would be a great inducement to marriage, which all wise 
nations have either encouraged by rewards, or enforced by laws and penal- 
ties. It would increase the care and tenderness of mothers toward their 
children, when they were sure of a settlement for life to the poor babes, 
provided in some sort by the public, to their annual profit or expense. We 
should sec an honest emulation among the married women, which of 
them could bring the fattest child to the market. Men would become as 
fond of their wives during the time of their pregnancy as they are now of 
their mares in foal, their cows in calf, their sows when they are ready to 
farrow; nor offer to beat or kick them (as is too frequent a practice) for 
fear of a miscarriage. 

Many other advantages might be enumerated. For instance, the addition 
of some thousand carcasses in our exportation of barrelled beef; the propa- 
gation of swine's flesh, and improvement in the art of making good bacon, 
so much wanted among us by the great destruction of pigs, too frequent 
at our table; which are no way comparable in taste or magnificence to a 
well-grown, fat, yearling child, which, roasted whole, will make a consid- 
erable figure at a lord mayor's feast, or any other public entertainment. 
But this, and many others, I omit, being studious of brevity. 

Supposing that one thousand families in this city would be constant 
customers for infants' flesh, beside others who might have it at merry- 

[" See introductory note.] 
[ ia Trade, patronage.] 

356 Jonathan Swift 

meetings, particularly at weddings and christenings, I compute that Dublin 
would take off annually about twenty thousand carcasses; and the rest 
of the kingdom (where probably they will be sold somewhat cheaper) the 
remaining eighty thousand. 

I can think of no one objection, that will possibly be raised against this 
proposal, unless it should be urged, that the number of people will be 
thereby much lessened in the kingdom. This I freely own, and it was indeed 
one principal design in offering it to the world. I desire the reader will 
observe, that I calculate my remedy for this one individual kingdom of 
Ireland, and for no other that ever was, is, or I think ever can be, upon 
earth. Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: of taxing our 
absentees at five shillings a pound: of using neither clothes, nor household 
furniture, except what is our own growth and manufacture: of utterly re- 
jecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: of 
curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our 
women: of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence, and temperance: 
of learning to love our country, in the want of which we differ even from 
LAPLANDERS, and the inhabitants of TOPINAMBOO: 13 of quitting our animos- 
ities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering 
one another at the very moment their city was taken: of being a little 
cautious not to sell our country and conscience for nothing: of teaching 
landlords to have at least one degree of mercy toward their tenants: lastly, 
of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our shopkeepers; 
who, if a resolution could now be taken to buy only our native goods, 
would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the price, the 
measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one 
fair proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it. 

Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expe- 
dients, till he has at least some glimpse of hope, that there will be ever 
some hearty and sincere attempt to put them in practice. 

But, as to myself, having been wearied out for many years with offering 
vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, 
I fortunately fell upon this proposal; which, as it is wholly new, so it has 
something solid and real, of no expense and little trouble, full in our 
own power, and whereby we can incur no danger in disobliging ENGLAND. 
For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, the flesh being of 
too tender a consistence to admit a long continuance in salt, although per- 

[" In Brazil.] 


haps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole 
nation without it. 

After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject 
any offer proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, 
cheap, easy and effectual. But before something of that kind shall be 
advanced in contradiction to my scheme, and offering a better, I desire 
the author, or authors, will be pleased maturely to consider two points. 
First, as things now stand, how they will be able to find food and raiment 
for a hundred thousand useless mouths and backs. And, secondly, there 
being a round million of creatures in human figure throughout this king- 
dom, whose whole subsistence put into a common stock would leave them 
in debt two millions of pounds sterling, adding those who are beggars by 
profession, to the bulk of farmers, cottagers, and labourers, with the wives 
and children who are beggars in effect; I desire those politicians who dis- 
like my overture, and may perhaps be so bold as to attempt an answer, 
that they will first ask the parents of these mortals, whether they would not 
at this day think it a great happiness to have been sold for food at a year 
old, in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have avoided such a perpetual 
scene of misfortunes, as they have since gone through, by the oppression 
of landlords, the impossibility of paying rent without money or trade, the 
want of common sustenance, with neither house nor clothes to cover them 
from the inclemencies of the weather, and the most inevitable prospect of 
entailing the like, or greater miseries, upon their breed for ever. 

I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal 
interest in endeavouring to promote this necessary work, having no other 
motive than the public good of my country, by advancing our trade, provid- 
ing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. I 
have no children by which I can propose to get a single penny; the youngest 
being nine years old, and my wife past child-bearing. 

Lord Chesterfield 

([ Chesterfield's reputation is lower than it deserves to be. Because 
his name became synonymous with correct and elegant taste, it has 
been vulgarized by attachment to cigarettes, overcoats, and other 
commodities, suggesting that he was a fop. Because he was the 
object of a celebrated letter by Dr. Johnson, it has been assumed 
by careless readers of Boswell that he was a prig. Because his tastes 
differed from Victorian ones, he has been considered completely 
immoral and hypocritical. 

The reader of the letters will gain a somewhat different impres- 
sion of Chesterfield. He was an efficient diplomat, a thoughtful 
friend everybody knows his dying words, 'Give Dayrolles a chair' 
an agreeable companion, and an uncomplaining victim of bad 
health. To understand him we should judge his letters by the stand- 
ards not of Renaissance courtesy books, Victorian delineations of 
the gentleman, or the precepts of St. Paul, but of their own age. 
They express the aristocratic sentiment of that age, with its empha- 
sis on polish, manners, form. Their ideal is Ciceronian decorum, 
restraint: Tray read frequently/ he writes to his son, 'nay, get by 
heart, if you can, that incomparable chapter in Cicero's Offices, 
upon the 16 itQtnov, or the Decorum. It contains whatever is neces- 
sary for the dignity of manners/ 'Sacrifice to the Graces/ he is for- 
ever admonishing. Virtue is the companion of the Graces. 'Merit 
and good-breeding will make their way everywhere . . . politeness 
and good-breeding are absolutely necessary to adorn any, or all other 
good qualities or talents. Without them, no knowledge, no perfec- 
tion whatever, is seen in its best light. The scholar, without good- 
breeding, is a pedant; the philosopher, a cynic; the soldier, a brute; 
and every man disagreeable/ Granted that these worldly, urbane 
standards are not the highest; but they are within their limits 
decent, in Chesterfield's sense of the word, and civilized. 

FROM Letters of Lord Chesterfield, World's Classics Edition, Oxford University Press, 


LONDON, MARCH 27, os. 1 1747 
Dear Boy, 

LLEASURE is the rock which most young people split upon: 
they launch out with crowded sails in quest of it, but without a com- 
pass to direct their course, or reason sufficient to steer* the vessel; for 
want of which, pain and shame, instead of pleasure, are the returns of 
their voyage. Do not think that I mean to snarl at pleasure, like a Stoic, 2 
or to preach against it, like a parson; no, I mean to point it out, and recom- 
mend it to you, like an Epicurean: I wish you a great deal; and my only 
view is to hinder you from mistaking it. 

The character which most young men first aim at is, that of a man 
of pleasure; but they generally take it upon trust; and instead of consulting 
their own taste and inclinations, they blindly adopt whatever those with 
whom they chiefly converse, are pleased to call by the name of pleasure; 
and a man of pleasure, in the vulgar acceptation of that phrase, means only 
a beastly drunkard, an abandoned whore-master, and a profligate swearer 
and curser. As it may be of use to you, I am not unwilling, though at the 
same time ashamed, to own, that the vices of my youth proceeded much 
more from my silly resolution of being what I heard called a man of pleas- 
ure, than from my own inclinations. I always naturally hated drinking; and 
yet I have often drunk, with disgust at the time, attended by great sickness 
the next day, only because I then considered drinking as a necessary quali- 
fication for a fine gentleman, and a man of pleasure. 

The same as to gaming. I did not want 3 money, and consequently had 
no occasion to play for it; but I thought play another necessary ingredient 
in the composition of a man of pleasure, and accordingly I plunged into it 
without desire, at first; sacrificed a thousand real pleasures to it; and made 
myself solidly uneasy by it, for thirty the best years of my life. 

t 1 For 'Old Style/ that is, according to the Julian calendar. The Gregorian calendar, 
which corrected an error in the Julian, was adopted in Great Britain in 1752; hence 
many eighteenth-century writers added 'O.S/ or 'N.S/ to dates. Chesterfield himself 
introduced in the House of Lords the bill for changing the calendar.] 

[ a The ancient Stoic philosophers preached fortitude and austerity. The Epicureans 
thought, or were popularly (and somewhat erroneously) accused of thinking, that pleas- 
ure is the chief good.] 

[ 3 Lack, need.] 

340 Lord Chesterfield 

I was even absurd enough, for a little while, to swear, by way of adorning 
and completing the shining character which I affected; but this folly I 
soon laid aside, upon finding both the guilt and the indecency of it. 

Thus seduced by fashion, and blindly adopting nominal pleasures, I 
lost real ones; and my fortune impaired, and my constitution shattered, are, 
I must confess, the just punishment of my errors. 

Take warning then by them; choose your pleasures for yourself, and do 
not let them be imposed upon you. Follow nature and not fashion: weigh 
the present enjoyment of your pleasures against the necessary consequences 
of them, and then let your own common sense determine your choice. 

Were I to begin the world again, with the experience which I now have 
of it, I would lead a life of real, not of imaginary pleasure. I would enjoy 
the pleasures of the table, and of wine; but stop short of the pains insep- 
arably annexed to an excess in either. I would not, at twenty years, be a 
preaching missionary of abstemiousness and sobriety; and I should let other 
people do as they would, without formally and sententiously rebuking 
them for it: but I would be most firmly resolved not to destroy my own 
faculties and constitution; in complaisance to those who have no regard 
to their own. I would play to give me pleasure, but not to give me pain; 
that is, I would play for trifles, in mixed companies, to amuse myself, and 
conform to custom; but I would take care not to venture for sums which, 
if I won, I should not be the better for; but, if I lost, should be under a 
difficulty to pay; and when paid, would oblige me to retrench in several 
other articles. Not to mention the quarrels which deep play commonly 

I would pass some of my time in reading, and the rest in the company of 
people of sense and learning, and chiefly those above me; and I would fre- 
quent the mixed companies of men and women of fashion, which, though 
often frivolous, yet they unbend and refresh the mind, not uselessly, be- 
cause they certainly polish and soften the manners. 

These would be my pleasures and amusements, if I were to live the last 
thirty years over again: they are rational ones; and moreover, I will tell 
you, they are really the fashionable ones: for the others are not, in truth, 
the pleasures of what I call people of fashion, but of those who only call 
themselves so. Does good company care to have a man reeling drunk 
among them? or to see another tearing his hair, and blaspheming, for 
having lost at play, more than he is able to pay? or a whore-master with 
half a nose, and crippled by coarse and infamous debauchery? No; those 
who practise, and much more those who brag of them, make no part of 


good company; and are most unwillingly, if ever, admitted into it. A real 
man of fashion and pleasures observes decency: at least neither borrows 
nor affects vices; and if he unfortunately has any, he gratifies them with 
choice, delicacy, and secrecy. 

I have not mentioned the pleasures of the mind (which are the solid 
and permanent ones), because they do not come under the head of what 
people commonly call pleasures; which they seem to confine to the senses. 
1 The pleasure of virtue, of charity, and of learning, is true and lasting pleas- 
ure; with which I hope you will be well and long acquainted. Adieu! 

LONDON, OCTOBER 9, o.s. 1747 

People of your age have, commonly, an unguarded frankness about 
them; which makes them the easy prey and bubbles of the artful and the 
experienced: they look upon every knave or fool, who tells them that he is 
their friend, to be really so; and pay that profession of simulated friendship 
with an indiscreet and unbounded confidence, always to their loss, often 
to their ruin. Beware, therefore, now that you are coming into the world, 
of these proffered friendships. Receive them with great civility, but with 
great incredulity too; and pay them with compliments, but not with con- 
fidence. Do not let your vanity and self-love make you suppose that people 
become your friends at first sight, or even upon a short acquaintance. Real 
friendship is a slow grower; and never thrives, unless ingrafted upon a stock 
of known and reciprocal merit. There is another kind of nominal friend- 
ship among young people, which is warm for the time, but, by good luck, 
of short duration. This friendship is hastily produced, by their being acci- 
dentally thrown together, and pursuing the same course of riot and de- 
bauchery. A fine friendship, truly; and well cemented by drunkenness and 
lewdness. It should rather be called a conspiracy against morals and good 
manners, and be punished as such by the civil magistrate. However, they 
have the impudence and folly to call this confederacy a friendship. They 
lend one another money, for bad purposes; they engage in quarrels, offensive 
and defensive, for their accomplices; they tell one another all they know, 
and often more too, when, of a sudden, some accident disperses them, and 
they think no more of each other, unless it be to betray and laugh at their 
imprudent confidence. Remember to make a great difference between com- 
panions and friends; for a very complaisant and agreeable companion may, 
and often does, prove a very improper and a very dangerous friend. People 
will, in a great degree, and not without reason, form their opinion of you, 

342 Lord Chesterfield 

upon that which they have of your friends; and there is a Spanish proverb, 
which says very justly, Tell me whom you live with, and I will tell you who 
you are. One may fairly suppose, that a man, who makes a knave or a fool 
his friend, has something very bad to do or to conceal. But, at the 
same time that you carefully decline the friendship of knaves and fools, if 
it can be called friendship, there is no occasion to make either of them your 
enemies, wantonly, and unprovoked; for they are numerous bodies: and I 
would rather choose a secure neutrality, than alliance, or war, with either 
of them. You may be a declared enemy to their vices and follies, without 
being marked out by them as a personal one. Their enmity is the next 
dangerous thing to their friendship. Have a real reserve with almost every- 
body; and have a seeming reserve with almost nobody; for it is very dis- 
agreeable to seem reserved, and very dangerous not to be so. Few people 
find the true medium; many are ridiculously mysterious and reserved upon 
trifles; and many imprudently communicative of all they know. 

The next thing to the choice of your friends, is the choice of your com- 
pany. Endeavor, as much as you can, to keep company with people above 
you: there you rise, as much as you sink with people below you; for (as I 
have mentioned before) you are whatever the company you keep is. Do not 
mistake, when I say company above you, and think that I mean with re- 
gard to their birth: that is the least consideration; but I mean with regard 
to their merit, and the light in which the world considers them. 

There are two sorts of good company; one, which is called the beau 
monde* and consists of those people who have the lead in courts, and 
in the gay part of life; the other consists of those who are distinguished 
by some peculiar merit, or who excel in some particular and valuable art or 
science. For my own part, I used to think myself in company as much 
above me, when I was with Mr. Addison and Mr. Pope, as if I had been 
with all the Princes in Europe. What I mean by low company, which 
should by all means be avoided, is the company of those, who, absolutely 
insignificant and contemptible in themselves, think they are honoured 
by being in your company, and who flatter every vice and every folly you 
have, in order to engage you to converse with them. The pride of being 
the first of the company is but too common; but it is very silly, and very 
prejudicial. Nothing in the world lets down a character more than that 
wrong turn. 

You may possibly ask me, whether a man has it always in his power to 
get into the best company? and how? I say, Yes, he has, by deserving it; 

[ 4 Polite society.] 


provided he is but in circumstances which enable him to appear upon the 
footing of a gentleman. Merit and good-breeding will make their way 
everywhere. Knowledge will introduce him, and good-breeding will endear 
him to the best companies; for, as I have often told you, politeness and 
good-breeding are absolutely necessary to adorn any, or all other good 
qualities or talents. Without them, no knowledge, no perfection whatever, 
is seen in its best light. The scholar, without good-breeding, is a pedant; 
the philosopher, a cynic; the soldier, a brute; and every man disagreeable. 

I long to hear, from my several correspondents at Leipsig, of your arrival 
there, and what impression you make on them at first; for I have Arguses, 5 
with an hundred eyes each, who will watch you narrowly, and relate to me 
faithfully. My accounts will certainly be true; it depends upon you, entirely, 
of what kind they shall be. Adieu. 

LONDON, OCTOBER 16, o.s. 1747 


The art of pleasing is a very necessary one to possess; but a very difficult 
one to acquire. It can hardly be reduced to rules; and your own good sense 
and observation will teach you more of it than I can. Do as you would 
be done by, is the surest method that I know of pleasing. Observe carefully 
what pleases you in others, and probably the same things in you will please 
others. If you are pleased with the complaisance and attention of others 
to your humours, your tastes, or your weaknesses, depend upon it the same 
complaisance and attention, on your part to theirs, will equally please them. 
Take the tone of the company that you are in, and do not pretend to give 
it; be serious, gay, or even trifling, as you find the present humour of the 
company; this is an attention due from every individual to the majority. Do 
not tell stories in company; there is nothing more tedious and disagreeable; 
if by chance you know a very short story, and exceedingly applicable to the 
present subject of conversation, tell it in as few words as possible; and 
even then, throw out that you do not love to tell stories, but that the short- 
ness of it tempted you. Of all things, banish the egotism out of your conversa- 
tion, and never think of entertaining people with your own personal con- 
cerns or private affairs; though they are interesting to you they are tedious 
and impertinent to everybody else; besides that, one cannot keep one's own 
private affairs too secret. Whatever you think your own excellencies may be, 
do not affectedly display them in company; nor labour, as many people do, 
to give that turn to the conversation, which may supply you with an oppor- 
[ 5 Argus was the hundred-eyed guardian of lo, whom Zeus had changed into a heifer.] 

344 Lord Chesterfield 

tunity of exhibiting them. If they are real, they will infallibly be discovered, 
without your pointing them out yourself, and with much more advantage. 
Never maintain an argument with heat and clamour, though you think or 
know yourself to be in the right; but give your opinion modestly and coolly, 
which is the only way to convince; and, if that does not do, try to change 
the conversation, by saying, with good-humour, 'We shall hardly convince 
one another; nor is it necessary that we should, so let us talk of something 

Remember that there is a local propriety to be observed in all companies; 
and that what is extremely proper in one company, may be, and often is, 
highly improper in another. 

The jokes, the bons mots, 6 the little adventures, which may do very well 
in one company, will seem flat and tedious when related in another. The 
particular character, the habits, the cant of one company, may give credit 
to a word, or a gesture, which would have none at all if divested of those 
accidental circumstances. Here people very commonly err; and fond of 
something that has entertained them in one company, and in certain cir- 
cumstances, repeat it with emphasis in another, where it is either insipid, 
or, it may be, offensive, by being ill-timed or misplaced. Nay, they often do 
it with this silly preamble: 'I will tell you an excellent thing'; or, 'the best 
thing in the world/ This raises expectations, which, when absolutely dis- 
appointed, make the relator of this excellent thing look, very deservedly, 
like a fool. 

If you would particularly gain the affection and friendship of particular 
people, whether men or women, endeavour to find out their predominant 
excellency, if they have one, and their prevailing weakness, which every- 
body has; and do justice to the one, and something more than justice to 
the other. Men have various objects in which they may excel, or at least 
would be thought to excel; and, though they love to hear justice done to 
them, where they know that they excel, yet they are most and best flat- 
tered upon those points where they wish to excel, and yet are doubtful 
whether they do or not. As, for example: Cardinal Richelieu, 7 who was 
undoubtedly the ablest statesman of his time, or perhaps of any other, had 
the idle vanity of being thought the best poet too: he envied the great 
Corneille * his reputation, and ordered a criticism to be written upon the 
Cid. Those, therefore, who flattered skilfully, said little to him of his abili- 

[' Epigrams, witticisms.] 

[ 7 He controlled the government of Louis XIII, 1624-42.] 

[One of the greatest of French dramatists (1606-84).] 


ties in state affairs, or at least but en passant? and as it might naturally 
occur. But the incense which they gave him, the smoke of which they 
knew would turn his head in their favour, was as a bel esprit 10 and a poet. 
Why? Because he was sure of one excellency, and distrustful as to the other. 
You will easily discover every man's prevailing vanity, by observing his 
favourite topic of conversation; for every man talks most of what he has 
most a mind to be thought to excel in. Touch him but there, and you touch 
him to the quick. The late Sir Robert Walpole n (who was certainly an 
able man) was little open to flattery upon that head; for he was in no 
doubt himself about it; but his prevailing weakness was, to be thought to 
have a polite and happy turn to gallantry; of which he had undoubtedly 
less than any man living: it was his favourite and frequent subject of con- 
versation; which proved, to those who had any penetration, that it was his 
prevailing weakness. And they applied to it with success. 

Women have, in general, but one object, which is their beauty; upon 
which, scarce any flattery is too gross for them to swallow. Nature has 
hardly formed a woman ugly enough to be insensible to flattery upon her 
person; if her face is so shocking, that she must in some degree be con- 
scious of it, her figure and air, she trusts, make ample amends for it. If her 
figure is deformed, her face, she thinks, counterbalances it. If they are both 
bad, she comforts herself that she has graces; a certain manner; a je ne s$ais 
(/uoi, 12 still more engaging than beauty. This truth is evident, from the 
studied and elaborate dress of the ugliest women in the world. An un- 
doubted, uncontested, conscious beauty is, of all women, the least sensible 
of flattery upon that head; she knows that it is her due, and is therefore 
obliged to nobody for giving it her. She must be flattered upon her under- 
standing; which, though she may possibly not doubt of herself, yet she 
suspects that men may distrust. 

Do not mistake me, and think that I mean to recommend to you abject 
and criminal flattery: no; flatter nobody's vices or crimes: on the contrary, 
abhor and discourage them. But there is no living/ in the world without a 
complaisant indulgence for people's weaknesses, and innocent, though 
ridiculous vanities. If a man has a mind to be thought wiser, and a woman 
handsomer, than they really are, their error is a comfortable one to them- 
selves, and an innocent one with regard to other people; and I would rather 

[ Incidentally.] 

[ 10 Person of wit, grace, and intelligence.] 
[ ll Prime Minister, 1715-17, 1721-42.] 
[ ia I know not what.] 

346 Lord Chesterfield 

make them my friends, by indulging them in it, than my enemies, by 
endeavouring (and that to no purpose) to undeceive them. 

There are little attentions likewise, which are infinitely engaging, and 
which sensibly affect that degree of pride and self-love, which is inseparable 
from human nature; as they are unquestionable proofs of the regard and 
consideration which we have for the persons to whom we pay them. As, for 
example, to observe the little habits, the likings, the antipathies, and the 
tastes of those whom we would gain; and then take care to provide them 
with the one, and to secure them from the other; giving them, genteelly, 
to understand, that you had observed they liked such a dish, or such a 
room; for which reason you had prepared it: or, on the contrary, that hav- 
ing observed they had an aversion to such a dish, a dislike to such a person, 
etc., you had taken care to avoid presenting them. Such attention to such 
trifles flatters self-love much more than greater things, as it makes people 
think themselves almost the only objects of your thoughts and care. 

These are some of the arcana 13 necessary for your initiation in the great 
society of the world. I wish I had known them better at your age; I have 
paid the price of three and fifty years for them, and shall not grudge it, if 
you reap the advantage. Adieu. 

BATH, FEBRUARY 22, o.s. 1748 


Every excellency, and every virtue, has its kindred vice or weakness; and 
if carried beyond certain bounds, sinks into the one or the other. Generos- 
ity often runs into profusion, oeconomy into avarice, courage into rashness, 
caution into timidity, and so on;- insomuch that, I believe, there is more 
judgment required, for the proper conduct of our virtues, than for avoiding 
their opposite vices. Vice in its true light, is so deformed, that it shocks us 
at first sight, and would hardly ever seduce us, if it did not, at first, wear 
the mask of some virtue. But virtue is, in itself, so beautiful, that it charms 
us at first sight; engages us more and more upon farther acquaintance; and 
as with other beauties, we think excess impossible; it is here that judgment 
is necessary, to moderate and direct the effects of an excellent cause. I shall 
apply this reasoning, at present, not to any particular virtue, but to an 
excellency, which, for want of judgment, is often the cause of ridiculous 
and blameable effects; I mean, great learning; which, if not accompanied 
with sound judgment, frequently carries us into error, pride, and pedantry. 
As, I hope, you will possess that excellency in its utmost extent, and yet 
[ ia Secrets.] 


without its too common failings, the hints, which my experience can sug- 
gest, may probably not be useless to you. 

Some learned men, proud of their knowledge, only speak to decide, and 
give judgment without appeal; the consequence of which is, that mankind, 
provoked by the insult, and injured by the oppression, revolt; and in order 
to shake off the tyranny, even call the lawful authority in question. The 
more you know, the modester you should be: and (by-thc-bye) that mod- 
esty is the surest way of gratifying your vanity. Even where you arc sure, 
seem rather doubtful; represent, but do not pronounce, and if you would 
convince others, seem open to conviction yourself. 

Others, to show their learning, or often from the prejudices of a school 
education, where they hear nothing else, are always talking of the ancients, 14 
as something more than men, and of the moderns, as something less. They 
are never without a classic or two in their pockets; they stick to the old 
good sense; they read none of the modern trash; and will show you, plainly, 
that no improvement has been made, in any one art or science, these last 
seventeen hundred years. I would by no means have you disown your 
acquaintance with the ancients: but still less would I have you brag of an 
exclusive intimacy with them. Speak of the moderns without contempt, 
and of the ancients without idolatry; judge them all by their merits, but 
not by their ages; and if you happen to have an Elzevir classic 1B in your 
pocket, neither show it nor mention it. 

Some great scholars, most absurdly, draw all their maxims, both for 
public and private life, from what they call parallel cases in the ancient 
authors; without considering that in the first place, there never were, since 
the creation of the world, two cases exactly parallel; and in the next place, 
that there never was a case stated, or even known, by any historian, with 
every one of its circumstances; which, however, ought to be known, in 
order to be reasoned from. Reason upon the case itself, and the several 
circumstances that attend it, and act accordingly; but not from the author- 
ity of ancient poets, or historians. Take into your consideration, if you 
please, cases seemingly analogous; but take them as helps only, not as 
guides. We are really so prejudiced by our education, that, as the ancients 
deified their heroes, we deify their mad-men; of which, with all due regard 

[ 14 During the last part of the seventeenth and the first part of the eighteenth cen- 
turies there was a famous controversy in the literary world over the comparative merits 
of ancients and modems. Swift's Battle of the Books was inspired by it.] 

[ 15 A series of small, cheap editions of classics, somewhat like the modern Everyman's 
Library or Oxford World's Classics series.] 

348 Lord Chesterfield 

for antiquity, I take Leonidas and Curtius la to have been two distinguished 
ones. And yet a solid pedant would, in a speech in parliament, relative to 
a tax of twopence in the pound upon some commodity or other, quote 
those two heroes as examples of what we ought to do and suffer for our 
country. I have known these absurdities carried so far by people of injudi- 
cious learning, that I should not be surprised, if some of them were to 
propose, while we are at war with the Gauls, that a number of geese should 
be kept in the Tower, upon account of the infinite advantage which Rome 
received in a parallel case, from a certain number of geese in the Capitol. 17 
This way of reasoning, and this way of speaking, will always form a poor 
politician, and a puerile dcclaimer. 

There is another species of learned men who, though less dogmatical 
and supercilious, are not less impertinent. These are the communicative 
and shining pedants, who adorn their conversation, even with women, by 
happy quotations of Greek and Latin; and who have contracted such a 
familiarity with the Greek and Roman authors, that they call them by 
certain names or epithets denoting intimacy. As old Homer; that sly rogue 
Horace; Maro, instead of Virgil; and Ndso, instead of Ovid. These are 
often imitated by coxcombs, who have no learning at all; but who have 
got some names and some scraps of ancient authors by heart, which they 
improperly and impertinently retail in all companies, in hopes of passing 
for scholars. If, therefore, you would avoid the accusation of pedantry on 
one hand, or the suspicion of ignorance on the other, abstain from learned 
ostentation. Speak the language of the company you are in; speak it purely, 
and unlarded with any other. Never seem wiser, nor more learned, than the 
people you are with. Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private 
pocket: and do not merely pull it out and strike it; merely to show that 
you have one. If you are asked what o'clock it is, tell it; but do not pro- 
claim it hourly and unasked, like the watchman. 

Upon the whole, remember that learning (I mean Greek and Roman 
learning) is a most useful and necessary ornament, which it is shameful not 
to be master of; but, at the same time, most carefully avoid those errors 
and abuses which I have mentioned, and which too often attend it. Re- 

[ 1A Leonidas of Sparta defended Thermopylae against the Persian host in 480 B.C. A 
Roman legend told how, when the soothsayers proclaimed that a great crack in the 
Forum could be closed only by the sacrifice of Rome's greatest treasure, Curtius rode 
into the chasm. See Stevenson, p. 399.] 

[" The cackling of geese awakened Manlius Capitolinus when the Gauls began an 
attack on the Capitol (390 B.C.). He saved the Capitol, and ever afterward sacred geese 
were kept at public expense.] 


member, too, that great modern knowledge is still more necessary than 
ancient; and that you had better know perfectly the present, than the 
old state of Europe; though I would have you well acquainted with 

I have this moment received your letter of the iyth, N.S. Though, I con- 
fess, there is no great variety in your present manner of life, yet materials 
can never be wanting for a letter; you see, you hear, or you read something 
new every day; a short account of which, with your own reflections there- 
upon, will make out a letter very well. But since you desire a subject, pray 
send me an account of the Lutheran establishment in Germany; their 
religious tenets, their church government, the maintenance, authority, and 
titles of their clergy. . . 

LONDON, SEPTEMBER 5, o.s. 1748 

... As women are a considerable, or at least a pretty numerous part of 
company; and as their suffrages go a great way towards establishing a man's 
character in the fashionable part of the world (which is of great importance 
to the fortune and figure he proposes to make in it), it is necessary to please 
them. I will therefore, upon this subject, let you into certain Arcana, that 
will be very useful for you to know, but which you must, with the utmost 
care, conceal; and never seem to know. Women, then, are only children of 
a larger growth; they have an entertaining tattle, and sometimes wit; but 
for solid, reasoning good-sense, I never knew in my life one that had it, or 
who reasoned or acted consequentially for four and twenty hours together. 
Some little passion or humour always breaV* in upon their best resolutions. 
Their beauty neglected or controverted their age increased, or their sup- 
posed understandings depreciated, instantly kindles their little passions, 
and overturns any system of consequential conduct, that in their most rea- 
sonable moments they might have been capable of forming. A man of 
sense only trifles with them, plays with them, humours and flatters them, 
as he does with a sprightly, forward child; but he neither consults them 
about, nor trusts them with serious matters; though he often makes them 
believe that he does both; which is the thing in the world that they are 
proud of; for they love mightily to be dabbling in business (which, by the 
way, they always spoil); and being justly distrustful, that men in general 
look upon them in a trifling light, they almost adore that man who talks 
more seriously to them, and who seems to consult and trust them; I say, 
who seems; for weak men really do, but wise ones only seem to do it. No 
flattery is either too high or too low for them. They will greedily swallow 

550 Lord Chesterfield 

the highest, and gratefully accept of the lowest; and you may safely flatter 
any woman, from her understanding down to the exquisite taste of her fan. 
Women who are either indisputably beautiful, or indisputably ugly, are 
best flattered upon the score of their understandings; but those who are in 
a state of mediocrity, are best flattered upon their beauty, or at least their 
graces; for every woman, who is not absolutely ugly, thinks herself hand- 
some; but not hearing often that she is so, is the more grateful, and the 
more obliged to the few who tell her so; whereas a decided and conscious 
beauty looks upon every tribute paid to her beauty only as her due; but 
wants to shine, and to be considered on the side of her understanding; and 
a woman who is ugly enough to know that she is so, knows that she has 
nothing left for it but her understanding, which is consequently (and prob- 
ably in more senses than one) her weak side. But these are secrets, which 
you must keep inviolably, if you would not, like Orpheus, 18 be torn to 
pieces by the whole sex: on the contrary, a man who thinks of living in the 
great world, must be gallant, polite and attentive to please the women. 
They have, from the weakness of men, more or less influence in all courts; 
they absolutely stamp every man's character in the beau monde, and make 
it either current, or cry it down, and stop it in payments. It is, therefore, 
absolutely necessary to manage, please and flatter them: and never to dis- 
cover the least mark of contempt, which is what they never forgive; but in 
this they are not singular, for it is the same with men; who will much 
sooner forgive an injustice than an insult. Every man is not ambitious, or 
covetous, or passionate; but every man has pride enough in his composition 
to feel and resent the least slight and contempt. Remember, therefore, 
most carefully to conceal your contempt, however just, wherever you would 
not make an implacable enemy. Men are much more unwilling to have 
their weaknesses and their imperfections known, than their crimes; and, 
if you hint to a man that you think him silly, ignorant, or even ill bred or 
awkward, he will hate you more and longer, than if you tell him plainly, 
that you think him a rogue. Never yield to that temptation, which to most 
young men is very strong, of exposing other people's weaknesses and in- 
firmities, for the sake either of diverting the company, or showing your own 
superiority. You may get the laugh on your side by it for the present; but 
you will make enemies by it for ever; and even those who laugh with you 
then will, upon reflection fear, and consequently hate you: besides that it 
is ill natured, and a good heart desires rather to conceal than expose other 
people's weaknesses or misfortunes. If you have wit, use it to please, and 
[ 18 He was torn to pieces by Thracian women.] 


not to hurt: you may shine, like the sun in the temperate zones, without 
scorching. Here it is wished for: under the Line 19 it is dreaded. 

These are some of the hints which my long experience in the great world 
enables me to give you; and which, if you attend to them, may prove useful 
to you, in your journey through it. I wish it may be a prosperous one; at 
least, I am sure that it must be your own fault if it is not. 

Make my compliments to Mr. Harte, 20 who, I am very sorry to hear, is 
not well. I hope by this time he is recovered. 


[ 19 The Equator.] 

[ ao His son's tutor and tzaveling companion.] 

Virginia Woolf 



([ The subtle penetration into the minds and lives of the characters 
she creates in her novels likewise distinguishes Virginia Woolf s 
biographical and critical essays. These are perhaps less widely known 
than Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, The Waves, Between the 
Acts, and the other novels. Most of them arc brief, some hardly 
more than miniatures; but they are all sharply focused and illumi- 
nating. Like expert miniatures, they frequently disclose the soul of 
the subject better than a full-length portrait could. 

Mrs. Woolf's essays were collected in The Common Reader 
(1925), The Second Common Reader (1932), and three post- 
humous volumes, The Death of the Moth (1942), The Moment 
(1948), and The Captain's Death Bed (1950). 


Y ? HI 

HEN Lord Mahon edited the letters of Lord Chester- 
field he thought it necessary to warn the intending reader that they are 
'by no means fitted for early or indiscriminate perusal.' Only 'those people 
whose understandings are fixed and whose principles are matured' can, so 
his Lordship said, read them with impunity. But that was in 1845. And 
1845 looks a little distant now. It seems to us now the age of enormous 
houses without any bathrooms. Men smoke in the kitchen after the cook 
has gone to bed. Albums lie upon drawing-room tables. The curtains arc 
very thick and the women are very pure. But the eighteenth century also 
has undergone a change. To us in 1930 it looks less strange, less remote 
than those early Victorian years. Its civilisation seems more rational and 
more complete than the civilisation of Lord Mahon and his contempo- 

FROM The Second Common Reader, by Virginia Woolf. Copyright 1932 by Har- 
court, Brace, and Company, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Harcourt, Brace, and Com- 
pany, Inc., and of The Hogarth Press, Ltd. 


raries. Then at any rate a small group of highly educated people lived up 
to their ideals. If the world was smaller it was also more compact; it knew 
its own mind; it had its own standards. Its poetry is affected by the same 
security. When we read the Rape of the Lock we seem to find ourselves in 
an age so settled and so circumscribed that masterpieces were possible. 
Then, we say to ourselves, a poet could address himself whole-heartedly to 
his task and keep his mind upon it, so that the little boxes on a lady's 
dressing-table are fixed among the solid possessions of our imaginations. 
A game at cards or a summer's boating party upon the Thames has power 
to suggest the same beauty and the same sense of things vanishing that we 
receive from poems aimed directly at our deepest emotions. And just as the 
poet could spend all his powers upon a pair of scissors and a lock of hair, 
so too, secure in his world and its values, the aristocrat could lay down 
precise laws for the education of his son. In that world also there was a 
certainty, a security that we are now without. What with one thing and 
another times have changed. We can now read Lord Chesterfield's letters 
without blushing, or, if we do blush, we blush in the twentieth century at 
passages that caused Lord Mahon no discomfort whatever. 

When the letters begin, Philip Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield's natural 
son by a Dutch governess, was a little boy of seven. And if we are to make 
any complaint against the father's moral teaching, it is that the standard is 
too high for such tender years. 'Let us return to oratory, or the art of speak- 
ing well; which should never be entirely out of our thoughts/ he writes to 
the boy of seven. 'A man can make no figure without it in Parliament, or 
the Church, or in the law/ he continues, as if the little boy were already 
considering his career. It seems, indeed, that the father's fault, if fault it 
be, is one common to distinguished men who have not themselves suc- 
ceeded as they should have done and are determined to give their children 
and Philip was an only child the chances that they have lacked. Indeed, 
as the letters go on one may suppose that Lord Chesterfield wrote as much 
to amuse himself by turning over the stores of his experience, his reading, 
his knowledge of the world, as to instruct his son. The letters show an 
eagerness, an animation which prove that to write to Philip was not a task, 
but a delight. Tired, perhaps, with the duties of office and disillusioned 
with its disappointments, he takes up his pen and, in the relief of free 
communication at last, forgets that his correspondent is, after all, only a 
schoolboy who cannot understand half the things that his father says to 
him. But, even so, there is nothing to repel us in Lord Chesterfield's pre- 
liminary sketch of the unknown world. He is all on the side of moderation, 

354 Virginia Woo// 

toleration, ratiocination. Never abuse whole bodies of people, he counsels; 
frequent all churches, laugh at none; inform yourself about all things. 
Devote your mornings to study, your evenings to good society. Dress as the 
best people dress, behave as they behave, never be eccentric, egotistical, or 
absent-minded. Observe the laws of proportion, and live every moment to 
the full. 

So, step by step, he builds up the figure of the perfect man the man 
that Philip may become, he is persuaded, if he will only and here Lord 
Chesterfield lets fall the words which are to colour his teaching through 
and through cultivate the Graces. These ladies are, at first, kept discreetly 
in the background. It is well that the boy should be indulged in fine senti- 
ments about women and poets to begin with. Lord Chesterfield adjures 
him to respect them both. Tor my own part, I used to think myself in 
company as much above me when I was with Mr. Addison and Mr. Pope, 
as if I had been with all the Princes in Europe/ he writes. But as time goes 
on the Virtues are more and more taken for granted. They can be left to 
take care of themselves. But the Graces assume tremendous proportions. 
The Graces dominate the life of man in this world. Their service cannot 
for an instant be neglected. And the service is certainly exacting. For con- 
sider what it implies, this art of pleasing. To begin with, one must know 
how to come into a room and then how to go out again. As human arms 
and legs are notoriously perverse, this by itself is a matter needing consid- 
erable dexterity. Then one must be dressed so that one's clothes seem per- 
fectly fashionable without being new or striking; one's teeth must be per- 
fect; one's wig beyond reproach; one's finger-nails cut in the segment of a 
circle; one must be able to carve, able to dance, and, what is almost as 
great an art, able to sit gracefully in a chair. These things are the alphabet 
of the art of pleasing. We now come to speech. It is necessary to speak at 
least three languages to perfection. But before we open our lips we must 
take a further precaution we must be on our guard never to laugh. Lord 
Chesterfield himself never laughed. He always smiled. When at length the 
young man is pronounced capable of speech he must avoid all proverbs 
and vulgar expressions; he must enunciate clearly and use perfect grammar; 
he must not argue; he must not tell stories; he must not talk about him- 
self. Then, at last, the young man may begin to practise the finest of the 
arts of pleasing the art of flattery. For every man and every woman has 
some prevailing vanity. Watch, wait, pry, seek out their weakness 'and you 
will then know what to bait your hook with to catch them/ For that is the 
secret of success in the world. 


It is at this point, such is the idiosyncrasy of our age, that we begin to 
feel uneasy. Lord Chesterfield's views upon success are far more question- 
able than his views upon love. For what is to be the prize of this endless 
effort and self-abnegation? What do we gain when we have learnt to come 
into rooms and to go out again; to pry into people's secrets; to hold our 
tongues and to flatter, to forsake the society of low-born people which cor- 
rupts and the society of clever people which perverts? What is the prize 
which is to reward us? It is simply that we shall rise in the world. Press for 
a further definition, and it amounts perhaps to this: one will be popular 
with the best people. But if we are so exacting as to demand who the best 
people are we become involved in a labyrinth from which there is no return- 
ing. Nothing exists in itself. What is good society? It is the society that the 
best people believe to be good. What is wit? It is what the best people 
think to be witty. All value depends upon somebody else's opinion. For it 
is the essence of this philosophy that things have no independent existence, 
but live only in the eyes of other people. It is a looking-glass world, this, to 
which we climb so slowly; and its prizes are all reflections. That may 
account for our baffled feeling as we shuffle, and shuffle vainly, among these 
urbane pages for something hard to lay our hands upon. Hardness is the 
last thing we shall find. But, granted the deficiency, how much that is 
ignored by sterner moralists is here seized upon, and who shall deny, at 
least while Lord Chesterfield's enchantment is upon him, that these im- 
ponderable qualities have their value and these shining Graces have their 
radiance? Consider for a moment what the Graces have done for their 
devoted servant, the Earl. 

Here is a disillusioned politician, who is prematurely aged, who has lost 
his office, who is losing his teeth, who, worst fate of all, is growing deafer 
day by day. Yet he never allows a groan to escape him. He is never dull; he 
is never boring; he is never slovenly. His mind is as well groomed as his 
body. Never for a second does he 'welter in an easy-chair/ Private though 
these letters are, and apparently spontaneous, they play with such ease in 
and about the single subject which absorbs them that it never becomes 
tedious or, what is still more remarkable, never becomes ridiculous. It may 
be that the art of pleasing has some connection with the art of writing. 
To be polite, considerate, controlled, to sink one's egotism, to conceal 
rather than to obtrude one's personality may profit the writer even as they 
profit the man of fashion. 

Certainly there is much to be said in favour of the training, however we 
define it, which helped Lord Chesterfield to write his Characters. The little 

356 Virginia Woolf 

papers have the precision and formality of some old-fashioned minuet. Yet 
the symmetry is so natural to the artist that he can break it where he likes; 
it never becomes pinched and formal, as it would in the hands of an imi- 
tator. He can be sly; he can be witty; he can be sententious, but never for 
an instant does he lose his sense of time, and when the tune is over he calls 
a halt. 'Some succeeded, and others burst' he says of George the First's 
mistresses: the King liked them fat. Again, 'He was fixed in the house of 
lords, that hospital of incurables/ He smiles: he does not laugh. Here the 
eighteenth century, of course, came to his help. Lord Chesterfield, though 
he was polite to everything, even to the stars and Bishop Berkeley's * phi- 
losophy, firmly refused, as became a son of his age, to dally with infinity 
or to suppose that things are not quite as solid as they seem. The world 
was good enough and the world was big enough as it was. This prosaic 
temper, while it keeps him within the bounds of impeccable common 
sense, limits his outlook. No single phrase of his reverberates or penetrates 
as so many of La Bruyere's 2 do. But he would have been the first to depre- 
cate any comparison with that great writer; besides, to write as La Bruyere 
wrote, one must perhaps believe in something, and then how difficult to 
observe the Graces 1 One might perhaps laugh; one might perhaps cry. 
Both are equally deplorable. 

But while we amuse ourselves with this brilliant nobleman and his views 
on life we are aware, and the letters owe much of their fascination to this 
consciousness, of a dumb yet substantial figure on the farther side of the 
page. Philip Stanhope is always there. It is true that he says nothing, but 
we feel his presence in Dresden, in Berlin, in Paris, opening the letters and 
poring over them and looking dolefully at the thick packets which have 
been accumulating year after year since he was a child of seven. He had 
grown into a rather serious, rather stout, rather short young man. He had 
a taste for foreign politics. A little serious reading was rather to his liking. 
And by every post the letters came urbane, polished, brilliant, imploring 
and. commanding him to learn to dance, to learn to carve, to consider the 
management of his legs, and to seduce a lady of fashion. He did his best. 
He worked very hard in the school of the Graces, but their service was too 
exacting. He sat down half-way up the steep stairs which lead to the glit- 
tering hall with all the mirrors. He could not do it. He failed in the House 
of Commons; he subsided into some small post in Ratisbon; he died 

t 1 Irish philosopher (1685-1753). See the selection by Joad, pp. 505-11.] 
[French author (1645-96) of Caract&res, concise delineations of different human 


untimely. He left it to his widow to break the news which he had lacked 
the heart or the courage to tell his father that he had been married all 
these years to a lady of low birth, who had borne him children. 

The Earl took the blow like a gentleman. His letter to his daughter-in- 
law is a model of urbanity. He began the education of his grandsons. But 
he seems to have become a little indifferent to what happened to himself 
after that. He did not care greatly if he lived or died. But still to the very 
end he cared for the Graces. His last words were a tribute of respect to 
those goddesses. Some one 3 came into the room when he was dying; he 
roused himself: 'Give Dayrolles a chair/ he said, and said no more. 

[ 3 Dayrolles was Chesterfield's godson, his secretary when Chesterfield was British 
Ambassador at The Hague, and his close friend.] 

James Boswett 


([ Boswell's Life of Johnson has for a long time been adjudged the 
greatest biography in the English language. Boswell affirmed of his 
hero that 'he will be seen in this work more completely than any 
man who has ever yet lived/ Until a generation ago Johnson was, 
quite properly and quite naturally, the main subject of interest to 
students of Boswell's book. This is no longer true. Much of the 
interest and study has shifted to Boswell himself. Thanks to the 
astonishing number of Boswell's journals and papers discovered 
in recent years, we now know more about Boswell than about 
Johnson; in fact, more about Boswell than about any other writer in 
history. It is he, not Dr. Johnson, who, when these documents are 
published, will be seen 'more completely than any man who has 
ever yet lived/ As a man of letters Boswell has been frequently 
reappraised in recent years. These reappraisals arc incomplete, but 
it seems agreed that his stature as biographer and literary artist will, 
in the future, be higher than ever. 


JORD CHESTERFIELD, 1 to whom Johnson had paid the high 
compliment of addressing to his Lordship the Plan of his Dictionary, had 
behaved to him in such a manner as to excite his contempt and indigna- 
tion. The world has been for many years amused with a story confidently 
told, and as confidently repeated with additional circumstances, that a 
sudden disgust was taken by Johnson upon occasion of his having been 
one day kept long in waiting in his Lordship's antechamber, for which the 
reason assigned was. that he had company with him; and that at last, when 
the door opened, out walked Colley Gibber; 2 and that Johnson was so 

C 1 See pp. 

[ a Playwright and poet (1671-1757); Poet Laureate from 1730. Pope ridiculed him 
in the Dunciad.] 

FROM Boswell's Life of Johnson, 1791. 


violently provoked when he found for whom he had been so long excluded, 
that he went away in a passion, and never would return. I remember hav- 
ing mentioned this story to George Lord Lyttelton, who told me, he was 
very intimate with Lord Chesterfield; and holding it as a well-known truth, 
defended Lord Chesterfield by saying, that 'Gibber, who had been intro- 
duced familiarly by the backstairs, had probably not been there above ten 
minutes/ It may seem strange even to entertain a doubt concerning a story 
so long and so widely current, and thus implicitly adopted, if not sanc- 
tioned, by the authority which I have mentioned; but Johnson himself 
assured me, that there was not the least foundation for it. He told me, that 
there never was any particular incident which produced a quarrel between 
Lord Chesterfield and him; but that his Lordship's continued neglect was 
the reason why he resolved to have no connection with him. When the 
Dictionary was upon the eve of publication, Lord Chesterfield, who, it is 
said, had flattered himself with expectations that Johnson would dedicate 
the work to him, attempted, in a courtly manner, to soothe and insinuate 
himself with the Sage, conscious, as it should seem, of the cold indifference 
with which he had treated its learned authour; and further attempted to 
conciliate him, by writing two papers in The World/ in recommendation 
of the work; and it must be confessed, that they contain some studied 
compliments, so finely turned, that if there had been no previous offence, 
it is probable that Johnson would have been highly delighted. Praise, in 
general, was pleasing to him; but by praise from a man of rank and elegant 
accomplishments, he was peculiarly gratified. 

His Lordship says, 'I think the publick in general, and the republick of 
letters in particular, are greatly obliged to Mr. Johnson, for having under- 
taken, and executed so great and desirable a work. Perfection is not to be 
expected from man; but if we are to judge by the various works of Johnson 
already published, we have good reason to believe, that he will bring this 
as near to perfection as any man could do. The Plan of it, which he pub- 
lished some years ago, seems to me to be a proof of it. Nothing can be 
more rationally imagined, or more accurately and elegantly expressed. I 
therefore recommend the previous perusal of it to all those who intend to 
buy the Dictionary, and who, I suppose, are all those who can afford it/ 

'It must be owned, that our language is, at present, in a state of anarchy, 
and hitherto, perhaps, it may not have been the worse for it. During our 
free and open trade, many words and expressions have been imported, 
adopted, and naturalized from other languages, which have greatly enriched 

360 James Boswett 

our own. Let it still preserve what real strength and beauty it may have 
borrowed from others; but let it not, like the Tarpeian maid, 8 be over* 
whelmed and crushed by unnecessary ornaments. The time for discrimina- 
tion seems to be now come. Toleration, adoption, and naturalization have 
run their lengths. Good order and authority are now necessary. But where 
shall we find them, and at the same time, the obedience due to them? 
We must have recourse to the old Roman expedient in times of confusion, 
and chuse a dictator. Upon this principle, I give my vote for Mr. Johnson 
to fill that great and arduous post. And I hereby declare, that I make a 
total surrender of all my rights and privileges in the English language, as 
a free-born British subject, to the said Mr. Johnson, during the term of his 
dictatorship. Nay more, I will not only obey him like an old Roman, as my 
dictator, but, like a modern Roman, I will implicitly believe in him as my 
Pope, and hold him to be infallible while in the chair, but no longer. More 
than this he cannot well require; for, I presume, that obedience can never 
be expected, where there is neither terrour to enforce, nor interest to 
invite it/ 

'But a Grammar, a Dictionary, and a History of our Language, through 
its several stages, were still wanting at home, and importunately called for 
from abroad. Mr. Johnson's labours will now, I dare say, very fully supply 
that want, and greatly contribute to the farther spreading of our language 
in other countries. Learners were discouraged, by finding no standard to 
resort to; and, consequently, thought it incapable of any. They will now 
be undeceived and encouraged/ 

This courtly device failed of its effect. Johnson, who thought that 'all was 
false and hollow/ 4 despised the honeyed words, and was even indignant 
that Lord Chesterfield should, for a moment, imagine, that he could be 
the dupe of such an artifice. His expression to me concerning Lord Chester- 
field, upon this occasion, was, 'Sir, after making great professions, he had, 
for many years, taken no notice of me; but when my Dictionary was com- 
ing out, he fell a scribbling in "The World" about it. Upon which, I wrote 
him a letter expressed in civil terms, but such as might shew him that I 
did not mind what he said or wrote, and that I had done with him/ 

This is that celebrated letter of which so much has been said, and about 

[ 9 Taipeia treacherously opened the gates of Rome to the Sabines in return for their 
promise to give her what they had on their left arms, i.e. their bracelets. When the 
Sabine king entered the city, he threw his shield as well as his bracelet on her. His fol- 
lowers did the same, and she was killed by the weight of the shields.] 

[ 4 Milton, Paradise Lost, n, 112.] 


which curiosity has been so long excited, without being gratified. I for 
many years solicited Johnson to favour me with a copy of it, that so excel- 
lent a composition might not be lost to posterity. He delayed from time to 
time to give it me; * till at last in 1781, when we were on a visit at Mr. 
Dilly's, at Southill in Bedfordshire, he was pleased to dictate it to me from 
memory. He afterwards found among his papers a copy of it, which he had 
dictated to Mr. Baretti, with its title and corrections, in his own hand- 
writing. This he gave to Mr. Langton; adding that if it were to come into 
print, he wished it to be from that copy. By Mr. Langton's kindness, I am 
enabled to enrich my work with a perfect transcript of what the world has 
so eagerly desired to see. 

*MY LORD, FEBRUARY 7, 1755. 

'I have been lately informed, by the proprietor of the World, that two 
papers, in which my Dictionary is recommended to the publick, were writ- 
ten by your Lordship. To be so distinguished, is an honour, which, being 
very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well how to 
receive, or in what terms to acknowledge. 

'When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your Lordship, 
I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your 
address, and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself Le 
vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre; 6 that I might obtain that regard for 
which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so little 
encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue 
it. When I had once addressed your Lordship in publick, I had exhausted 
all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly scholar can possess. I 
had done all that I could; and no man is well pleased to have his all 
neglected, be it ever so little. 

'Seven years, my Lord, have now past, since I waited in your outward 
rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been 

* Dr. Johnson appeared to have had a remarkable delicacy with respect to the circu- 
lation of this letter; for Dr. Douglas, Bishop of Salisbury, informs me that having many 
years ago pressed him to be allowed to read it to the second Lord Hardwicke, who was 
very desirous to hear it (promising at the same time, that no copy of it should be taken), 
Johnson seemed much pleased that it had attracted the attention of a nobleman of such 
a respectable character; but after pausing some time, declined to comply with the re- 
quest, saying, with a smile, 'No, Sir; I have hurt the dog too much already'; or words to 
that purpose. 

[ 'The conqueror of the conqueror of the earth/] 

362 James Boswell 

pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to com- 
plain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication, without one 
act of assistance, * one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. 
Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a Patron before. 

The shepherd in Virgil 6 grew at last acquainted with Love, and found 
him a native of the rocks. 

'Is not a Patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man 
struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encum- 
bers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of 
my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I 
am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart 
it; * till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical as- 
perity not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to- 
be unwilling that the Publick should consider me as owing that to a Patron, 
which Providence has enabled me to do for myself. 

'Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any 
favourer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclude 
it, if less be possible, with less; for I have been long wakened from that 
dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation, 

'My Lord, 

'Your Lordship's most humble 
'Most obedient servant, 


* The following note is subjoined by Mr. Langton. 'Dr. Johnson, when he gave me 
this copy of his letter, desired that I would annex to it his information to me, that 
whereas it is said in the letter that "no assistance has been received," he did once receive 
from Lord Chesterfield the sum of ten pounds, but as that was so inconsiderable a sum, 
he thought the mention of it could not properly find a place in a letter of the kind that 
this was/ 

1 Eclogues, VIH, 43-5 ] 

* In this passage Dr. Johnson evidently alludes to the loss of his wife. We find the 
same tender recollection recurring to his mind upon innumerable occasions; and, per- 
haps no man ever more forcibly felt the truth of the sentiment so elegantly expressed by 
my friend Mr. Malone, in his Prologue to Mr. Jeph son's tragedy of JULIA: 

'Vain wealth, and fame, and fortune's fostering care, 

'If no fond breast the splendid blessings share; 

'And, each day's bustling pageantry once past, 

"There, only there, our bliss is found at last/ 

t Upon comparing this copy with that which Dr. Johnson dictated to me from recol- 
lection, the variations are found to be so slight, that this must be added to the many 
other proofs which he gave of the wonderful extent and accuracy of his memory. To 
gratify the curious in composition, I have deposited both the copies in the British 


There is a curious minute circumstance which struck me, in comparing 
the various editions of Johnson's Imitations of Juvenal. In the tenth Satire 
one of the couplets upon the vanity of wishes even for literary distinction 
stood thus: 

'Yet think what ills the scholar's life assail, 
Toil, envy, want, the garret, and the jail.' 

But after experiencing the uneasiness which Lord Chesterfield's fallacious 
patronage made him feel, he dismissed the word garret from the sad group, 
and in all the subsequent editions the line stands, 

Toil, envy, want, the Patron, and the jail.' 

That Lord Chesterfield must have been mortified by the lofty contempt, 
and polite, yet keen, satire with which Johnson exhibited him to himself 
in this letter, it is impossible to doubt. He, however, with that glossy duplic- 
ity which was his constant study, affected to be quite unconcerned. Dr. 
Adams mentioned to Mr. Robert Dodsley 7 that he was sorry Johnson had 
written his letter to Lord Chesterfield. Dodsley, with the true feelings of 
trade, said 'he was very sorry too; for that he had a property in the Diction- 
ary, to which his Lordship's patronage might have been of consequence/ 
He then told Dr. Adams, that Lord Chesterfield had shewn him the letter. 
'I should have imagined (replied Dr. Adams) that Lord Chesterfield would 
have concealed it/ Toll! (said Dodsley) do you think a letter from John- 
son could hurt Lord Chesterfield? Not at all, Sir. It lay upon his table, 
where any body might see it. He read it to me; said, "this man has great 
powers," pointed out the severest passages, and observed how well they 
were expressed/ This air of indifference, which imposed upon the worthy 
Dodsley, was certainly nothing but a specimen of that dissimulation which 
Lord Chesterfield inculcated as one of the most essential lessons for the 
conduct of life. His Lordship endeavoured to justify himself to Dodsley 
from the charges brought against him by Johnson; but we may judge of the 
flimsiness of his defence, from his having excused his neglect of Johnson, 
by saying, that "he had heard he had changed his lodgings, and did not 
know where he lived'; as if there could have been the smallest difficulty to 
inform himself of that circumstance, by enquiring in the literary circle with 
which his Lordship was well acquainted, and was, indeed, himself, one of 
its ornaments. 

Dr. Adams expostulated with Johnson, and suggested, that his not being 

[ 7 A prominent bookseller.] 

364 James Bcswett 

admitted when he called on him, was probably not to be imputed to Lord 
Chesterfield; for his Lordship had declared to Dodsley, that 'he would have 
turned off the best servant he ever had, if he had known that he denied 
him to a man who would have been always more than welcome'; and in 
confirmation of this, he insisted on Lord Chesterfield's general affability 
and easiness of access, especially to literary men. 'Sir, (said Johnson) that 
is not Lord Chesterfield; he is the proudest man this day existing/ 'No, 
(said Dr. Adams) there is one person, at least, as proud; I think, by your 
own account you are the prouder man of the two/ 'But mine (replied 
Johnson instantly) was defensive pride/ This, as Dr. Adams well observed, 
was one of those happy turns for which he was so remarkably ready. 

Johnson having now explicitly avowed his opinion of Lord Chesterfield, 
did not refrain from expressing himself concerning that nobleman with 
pointed freedom: 'This man (said he) I thought had been a Lord among 
wits; but, I find, he is only a wit among Lords!' And when his Letters to 
his natural son were published, he observed, that 'they teach the morals of 
a whore, and the manners of a dancing-master/ * 

The Dictionary, with a Grammar and History of the English Language, 
being now at length published, in two volumes folio, the world contem- 
plated with wonder so stupendous a work achieved by one man, while 
other countries had thought such undertakings fit only for whole acade- 
mies. Vast as his powers were, I cannot but think that his imagination 
deceived him, when he supposed that by constant application he might 

* That collection of letters cannot be vindicated from the serious charge, of encourag- 
ing, in some passages, one of the vices most destructive to the good order and comfort 
of society, which his Lordship represents as mere fashionable gallantry; and, in others, of 
inculcating the base practice of dissimulation, and recommending, with disproportionate 
anxiety, a perpetual attention to external elegance of manners. But it must, at the same 
time, be allowed, that they contain many good precepts of conduct, and much genuine 
information upon life and manners, very happily expressed; and that there was consid- 
erable merit in paying so much attention to the improvement of one who was dependent 
upon his Lordship's protection; it has, probably, been exceeded in no instance by the 
most exemplary parent; and though I can by no means approve of confounding the dis- 
tinction between lawful and illicit offspring, which is, in effect, insulting the civil estab- 
lishment of our country, to look no higher; I cannot help thinking it laudable to be 
kindly attentive to those, of whose existence we have, in any way, been the cause. Mr. 
Stanhope's character has been unjustly represented as diametrically opposite to what 
Lord Chesterfield wished him to be. He has been called dull, gross, and aukward: but I 
knew him at Dresden, when he was Envoy to that court; and though he could not boast 
of the graces, he was, in truth, a sensible, civil, well-behaved man. 


have performed the task in three years. Let the Preface be attentively 
perused, in which is given, in a clear, strong, and glowing style, a compre- 
hensive, yet particular view of what he had done; and it will be evident, 
that the time he employed upon it was comparatively short. I am unwilling 
to swell my book with long quotations from what is in every body's hands, 
and I believe there are few prose compositions in the English language 
that are read with more delight, or are more impressed upon the memory, 
than that preliminary discourse. One of its excellencies has always struck 
me with peculiar admiration; I mean the perspicuity with which he has 
expressed abstract scientifick notions. As an instance of this, I shall quote 
the following sentence: 'When the radical idea branches out into parallel 
ramifications, how can a consecutive series be formed of senses in their 
own nature collateral?' We have here an example of what has been often 
said, and I believe with justice, that there is for every thought a certain 
nice adaptation of words which none other could equal, and which, when 
a man has been so fortunate as to hit, he has attained, in that particular 
case, the perfection of language. 

The extensive reading which was absolutely necessary for the accumu- 
lation of authorities, and which alone may account for Johnson's retentive 
mind being enriched with a very large and various store of knowledge and 
imagery, must have occupied several years. The Preface furnishes an emi- 
nent instance of a double talent, of which Johnson was fully conscious. 
Sir Joshua Reynolds 8 heard him say, There are two things which I am 
confident I can do very well: one is an introduction to any literary work, 
stating what it is to contain, and how it should be executed in the most 
perfect manner: the other is a conclusion, shewing from various causes why 
the execution has not been equal to what the authour promised to himself 
and to the publick.' 

How should puny scribblers be abashed and disappointed, when they 
find him displaying a perfect theory of lexicographical excellence, yet at the 
same time candidly and modestly allowing that he 'had not satisfied his 
own expectations/ Here was a fair occasion for the exercise of Johnson's 
modesty, when he was called upon to compare his own arduous perform- 
ance, not with those of other individuals, (in which case his inflexible 
regard to truth would have been violated had he affected diffidence,) but 
with speculative perfection; as he, who can outstrip all his competitors in 
the race, may yet be sensible of his deficiency when he runs against time, 

[ 8 The famous painter. He was a close friend of Dr. Johnson.] 

j66 James Boswell 

Well might he say, that 'the English Dictionary was written with little 
assistance of the learned'; for he told me, that the only aid which he re- 
ceived was a paper containing twenty etymologies, sent to him by a person 
then unknown, who he was afterwards informed was Dr. Pearce, Bishop of 
Rochester. The etymologies, though they exhibit learning and judgement, 
are not, I think, entitled to the first praise amongst the various parts of this 
immense work. The definitions have always appeared to me such astonish- 
ing proofs of acuteness of intellect and precision of language, as indicate 
a genius of the highest rank. This it is which marks the superior excellence 
of Johnson's Dictionary over others equally or even more voluminous, and 
must have made it a work of much greater mental labour than mere Lexi- 
cons, or Word-Books, as the Dutch call them. They, who will make the 
experiment of trying how they can define a few words of whatever nature, 
will soon be satisfied of the unquestionable justice of this observation, 
which I can assure my readers is founded upon much study, and upon 
communication with more minds than my own. 

A few of his definitions must be admitted to be erroneous. Thus, Wind- 
ward and Leeward, though directly of opposite meaning, are defined iden- 
tically the same way; as to which inconsiderable specks it is enough to 
observe, that his Preface announces that he was aware there might be many 
such in so immense a work; nor was he at all disconcerted when an instance 
was pointed out to him. A lady once asked him how he came to define 
Pastern the knee of a horse: instead of making an elaborate defence, as 
she expected, he at once answered, 'Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance/ 
His definition of Network has been often quoted with sportive malignity, 
as obscuring a thing in itself very plain. But to these frivolous censures no 
other answer is necessary than that with which we are furnished by his 
own Preface. To explain, requires the use of terms less abstruse than that 
which is to be explained, and such terms cannot always be found. For as 
nothing can be proved but by supposing something intuitively known, and 
evident without proof, so nothing can be defined but by the use of words 
too plain to admit of definition. Sometimes easier words are changed into 
harder; as burial, into sepulture or interment; dry, into desiccative; dryness, 
into siccity, or aridity; fit, into paroxism; for, the easiest word, whatever it 
be, can never be translated into one more easy/ 

His introducing his own opinions, and even prejudices, under general 
definitions of words, while at the same time the original meaning of the 

[ 9 'Network. Anything reticulated or decussated, at equal distances, with interstices 
between the intersections/] 


words is not explained, as his Tory, Whig, Pension, Oats, Excise,* and a 
few more, cannot be fully defended, and must be placed to the account of 
capricious and humourous indulgence. Talking to me upon this subject 
when we were at Ashbourne in 1777, he mentioned a still stronger instance 
of the predominance of his private feelings in the composition of this work, 
than any now to be found in it. Tou know, Sir, Lord Gower forsook the 
old Jacobite interest. When I came to the Renegado, after telling that it 
meant "one who deserts to the enemy, a revolter," I added, Sometimes -we 
say a GOWER. Thus it went to the press: but the printer had more wit than 
I, and struck it out/ 

Let it, however, be remembered, that this indulgence does not display 
itself only in sarcasm towards others, but sometimes in playful allusion to 
the notions commonly entertained of his own laborious task. Thus: 'Grub- 
street, the name of a street in London, much inhabited by writers of small 
histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems; whence any mean production 
is called Grub-street. 9 'Lexicographer, a writer of dictionaries, a harmless 

At the time when he was concluding his very eloquent Preface, John- 
son's mind appears to have been in such a state of depression, that we can- 
not contemplate without wonder the vigourous and splendid thoughts 
which so highly distinguish that performance. 'I (says he) may surely be 
contented without the praise of perfection, which if I could obtain in this 
gloom of solitude, what would it avail me? I have protracted my work till 
most of those whom I wished to please have sunk into the grave; and suc- 
cess and miscarriage are empty sounds. I therefore dismiss it with frigid 
tranquillity, having little to fear or hope from censure or from praise/ That 

* He thus defines Excise: 'A hateful tax levied upon commodities, and adjudged not 
by the common judges of property, but wretches hired by those to whom Excise is paid/ 
The Commissioners of Excise being offended by this severe reflection, consulted Mr. 
Murray, then Attorney-General, to know whether redress could be legally obtained. I 
wished to have procured for my readers a copy of the opinion which he gave, and which 
may now be justly considered as history but the mysterious sccresy of office it seems 
would not permit it. I am, however, informed by very good authority, that its import 
was, that the passage might be considered as actionable; but that it would be more pru- 
dent in the board not to prosecute. Johnson never made the smallest alteration in this 
passage. We find he still retained his early prejudice against Excise; for in 'The Idler, 
No. 65,' there is the following very extraordinary paragraph: "The authenticity of 
Clarendon's history, though pnnted with the sanction of one of the first Universities of 
the world, had not an unexpected manuscript been happily discovered, would, with the 
help of factious credulity, have been brought into question, by the two lowest of all 
human beings, a Scribbler for a party, and a Commissioner of Excise/ The persons to 
whom he alludes were Mr. John Oldmixon, and George Ducket, Esq. 

568 James Boswell 

this indifference was racner a temporary than an habitual feeling, appears, 
I think, from his letters to Mr. Warton; and however he may have been 
affected for the moment, certain it is that the honours which his great work 
procured him, both at home and abroad, were very grateful to him. His 
friend the Earl of Corke and Orrery, being at Florence, presented it to the 
Academia delta Crusca. That Academy sent Johnson their Vocabulario, 
and the French Academy sent him their Dictionnaire, which Mr. Langton 
had the pleasure to convey to him. 

It must undoubtedly seem strange, that the conclusion of his Preface 
should be expressed in terms so desponding, when it is considered that the 
authour was then only in his forty-sixth year. But we must ascribe its gloom 
to that miserable dejection of spirits to which he was constitutionally sub- 
ject, and which was aggravated by the death of his wife two years before. I 
have heard it ingeniously observed by a lady of rank and elegance, that 'his 
melancholy was then at its meridian/ It pleased God to grant him almost 
thirty years of life after this time; and once when he was in a placid frame 
of mind, he was obliged to own to me that he had enjoyed happier days, 
and had many more friends, since that gloomy hour, than before. 

It is a sad saying, that "most of those whom he wished to please had sunk 
into the grave'; and his case at forty-five was singularly unhappy, unless the 
circle of his friends was very narrow. I have often thought, that as longevity 
is generally desired, and I believe, generally expected, it would be wise to 
be continually adding to the number of our friends, that the loss of some 
may be supplied by others. Friendship, 'the wine of life/ should, like a well- 
stocked cellar, be thus continually renewed; and it is consolatory to think, 
that although we can seldom add what will equal the generous first-growths 
of our youth, yet friendship becomes insensibly old in much less time than 
is commonly imagined, and not many years are required to make it very 
mellow and pleasant. Warmth will, no doubt, make a considerable differ- 
ence. Men of affectionate temper and bright fancy will coalesce a great deal 
sooner than those who are cold and dull. 

The proposition which I have now endeavoured to illustrate was, at a 
subsequent period of his life, the opinion of Johnson himself. He said to 
Sir Joshua Reynolds, 'If a man does not make new acquaintance as he 
advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, 
should keep his friendship in constant repair. 9 

The celebrated Mr. Wilkes, whose notions and habits of life were very 
opposite to his, but who was ever eminent for literature and vivacity, sallied 
forth with a little Jeu ff Esprit upon the following passage in his Grammar 


of the English Tongue, prefixed to the Dictionary: 'H seldom, perhaps 
never, begins any but the first syllable/ In an essay printed in 'the Public 
Advertiser/ this lively writer enumerated many instances in opposition to 
this remark; for example, The authour of this observation must be a man 
of a quick appre-hension, and of a most compre-hensive genius/ The posi- 
tion is undoubtedly expressed with too much latitude. 

This light sally, we may suppose, made no great impression on our Lexi- 
cographer; for we find that he did not alter the passage till many years 

He had the pleasure of being treated in a very different manner by his 
old pupil Mr. Garrick, in the following complimentary Epigram: 


TALK of war with a Briton, he'll boldly advance, 

'That one English soldier will beat ten of France; 

'Would we alter the boast from the sword to the pen, 

'Our odds are still greater, still greater our men; 

'In the deep mines of science though Frenchmen may toil, 

'Can their strength be compared to Locke, Newton, and Boyle? 

'Let them rally their heroes, send forth all their pow'rs, 

'Their verse-men and prose-men, then match them with ours! 

'First Shakspeare and Milton, like Cods in the fight, 

'Have put their whole drama and epick to flight; 

'In satires, epistles, and odes, would they cope, 

'Their numbers retreat before Dryden and Pope; 

'And Johnson, well-arm'd like a hero of yore, 

'Has beat forty French, f and will beat forty more!' 

* In the third edition, published in 1773, he left out the words perhaps never, and 
added the following paragraph: 

'It sometimes begins middle or final syllables in words compounded, as block-head, or 
derived from the Latin, as comprehended.' 

t The number of the French Academy employed in settling their language. 

David Hume 


|[ Hume is famous in the history of philosophy for the perplexing 
questions he asked in his Treatise of Human Nature (1739) and 
Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) about the 
nature of knowledge, and for his skeptical answers to those ques- 
tions. He liked to think of himself as a man of letters rather than 
as a 'philosopher/ however, and he was as much concerned about 
the success of his History of Great Britain (1754-61) and his 
Essays as about the treatises on knowledge. 

His Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals was, in his 
own judgment, 'of all my writings, historical, philosophical, or lit- 
erary, incomparably the best/ He finds morality to be based on 
experience and utility; a custom is good because it is useful. And if 
it is useful, it receives our approbation. Hence 'Whatever is valu- 
able in any kind so naturally classifies itself under the division of 
useful or agreeable, the utile or the dulce, that it is not easy to 
imagine why we should ever seek further, or consider the question 
as a matter of nice research or enquiry/ In the chapter on qualities 
agreeable to others, Hume's outlook is characteristic of much of 
the ethics and criticism of his age. Decorum is the ideal; in life, as 
in art, 'disproportions hurt the eye/ He himself was an example of 
agreeableness: 'a man/ as he says, 'of mild disposition, of com- 
mand of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable 
of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great moder- 
ation in all my passions/ 

* It is the nature and, indeed, the definition of virtue, that it is a quality of the mind 
agreeable to or approved of by every one who considers or contemplates it. But some 
qualities produce pleasure, because they are useful to society, or useful or agreeable to 
the person himself; others produce it more immediately, which is the case with the class 
of virtues here considered. 

FROM An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, 1751. 

THE mutual shocks, in society, and the oppositions of 
interest and self-love have constrained mankind to establish the laws of 
justice, in order to preserve the advantages of mutual assistance and pro- 
tection: in like manner, the eternal contrarieties, in company, of men's 
pride and self-conceit, have introduced the rules of Good Manners or 
Politeness, in order to facilitate the intercourse of minds, and an undis- 
turbed commerce and conversation. Among well-bred people, a mutual 
deference is affected; contempt of others disguised; authority concealed; 
attention given to each in his turn; and an easy stream of conversation 
maintained, without vehemence, without interruption, without eagerness 
for victory, and without any airs of superiority. These attentions and re- 
gards are immediately agreeable to others, abstracted from any considera- 
tion of utility or beneficial tendencies: they conciliate affection, promote 
esteem, and extremely enhance the merit of the person who regulates his 
behaviour by them. 

Many of the forms of breeding are arbitrary and casual; but the thing 
expressed by them is still the same. A Spaniard goes out of his own house 
before his guest, to signify that he leaves him master of all. In other coun- 
tries, the landlord walks out last, as a common mark of deference and 

But, in order to render a man perfect good company, he must have Wit 
and Ingenuity as well as good manners. What wit is, it may not be easy to 
define; but it is easy surely to determine that it is a quality immediately 
agreeable to others, and communicating, on its first appearance, a lively 
joy and satisfaction to every one who has any comprehension of it. The 
most profound metaphysics, indeed, might be employed in explaining the 
various kinds and species of wit; and many classes of it, which are now 
received on the sole testimony of taste and sentiment, might, perhaps, be 
resolved into more general principles. But this is sufficient for our present 
purpose, that it does affect taste and sentiment, and bestowing an imme- 
diate enjoyment, is a sure source of approbation and affection. 

In countries where men pass most of their time in conversation, and 
visits, and assemblies, these companionable qualities, so to speak, are of 
high estimation, and form a chief part of personal merit. In countries 
where men live a more domestic life, and either are employed in business, 

372 David Hume 

or amuse themselves in a narrower circle of acquaintance, the more solid 
qualities are chiefly regarded. Thus, I have often observed that among the 
French * the first questions with regard to a stranger are, Is he polite? Has 
he wit? In our own country, the chief praise bestowed is always that of a 
good-natured, sensible fellow. 

In conversation, the lively spirit of dialogue is agreeable, even to those 
who desire not to have any share in the discourse: hence the teller of long 
stories, or the pompous declaimer, is very little approved of. But most men 
desire likewise their turn in the conversation, and regard, with a very evil 
eye, that loquacity which deprives them of a right they are naturally so 
jealous of. 

There is a sort of harmless liars, frequently to be met with in company, 
who deal much in the marvellous. Their usual intention is to please and 
entertain; but as men are most delighted with what they conceive to be 
truth, these people mistake extremely the means of pleasing, and incur 
universal blame. Some indulgence, however, to lying or fiction is given in 
humorous stories; because it is there really agreeable and entertaining, and 
truth is not of any importance. 

Eloquence, genius of all kinds, even good sense, and sound reasoning, 
when it rises to an eminent degree, and is employed upon subjects of any 
considerable dignity and nice discernment; all these endowments seem 
immediately agreeable, and have a merit distinct from their usefulness. 
Rarity, likewise, which so much enhances the price of every thing, must 
set an additional value on these noble talents of the human mind. 

Modesty may be understood in different senses, even abstracted from 
chastity, which has been already treated of. It sometimes means that ten- 
derness and nicety of honour, that apprehension of blame, that dread of 
intrusion or injury towards others, that Pudor, which is the proper guard- 
ian of every kind of virtue, and a sure preservative against vice and corrup- 
tion. But its most usual meaning is when it is opposed to impudence and 
arrogance, and expresses a diffidence of our own judgement, and a due atten- 
tion and regard for others. In young men chiefly, this quality is a sure sign 
of good sense; and is also the certain means of augmenting that endow- 
ment, by preserving their ears open to instruction, and making them still 
grasp after new attainments. But it has a further charm to every spectator; 
by flattering every man's vanity, and presenting the appearance of a docile 
pupil, who receives, with proper attention and respect, every word they 

I 1 Hume lived in Fiance from 1734 to 1737 and from 1763 to 1765.] 


Men have, in general, a much greater propensity to overvalue than 
undervalue themselves; notwithstanding the opinion of Aristotle.* This 
makes us more jealous of the excess on the former side, and causes us to 
regard, with a peculiar indulgence, all tendency to modesty and self-diffi- 
dence; as esteeming the danger less of falling into any vicious extreme of 
that nature. It is thus in countries where men's bodies are apt to exceed in 
corpulency, personal beauty is placed in a much greater degree of slender- 
ness, than in countries where that is the most usual defect. Being so often 
struck with instances of one species of deformity, men think they can 
never keep at too great a distance from it, and wish always to have a lean- 
ing to the opposite side. In like manner, were the door opened to self- 
praise, and were Montaigne's 8 maxim observed, that one should say as 
frankly, I have sense, I have learning, I have courage, beauty, or wit, as it 
is sure we often think so; were this the case, I say, every one is sensible that 
such a flood of impertinence would break in upon us, as would render 
society wholly intolerable. For this reason custom has established it as a 
rule, in common societies, that men should not indulge themselves in self- 
praise, or even speak much of themselves; and it is only among intimate 
friends or people of very manly behaviour, that one is allowed to do him- 
self justice. Nobody finds fault with Maurice. 4 Prince of Orange, for his 
reply to one who asked him, whom he esteemed the first general of the 
age, The Marquis of Spinola, said he, is the second. Though it is observable, 
that the self-praise implied is here better implied, than if it had been 
directly expressed, without any cover or disguise. 

He must be a very superficial thinker, who imagines that all instances of 
mutual deference are to be understood in earnest, and that a man would 
be more esteemable for being ignorant of his own merits and accomplish- 
ments. A small bias towards modesty, even in the internal sentiment, is 
favourably regarded, especially in young people; and a strong bias is re- 
quired in the outward behaviour; but this excludes not a noble pride and 
spirit, which may openly display itself in its full extent, when one lies under 
calumny or oppression of any kind. The generous contumacy of Socrates, 
as Cicero calls it, has been highly celebrated in all ages; and when joined 
to the usual modesty of his behaviour, forms a shining character. Iphi- 
crates, the Athenian, being accused of betraying the interests of his coun- 

* Ethic, ad Nicomachum. a 

[ a It is not clear which passage in the Nicomackean Ethics Hume alludes to. Com- 
pare xv, vii; ix, iv; xx, viii, 1-8.] 

[ 3 Miguel de Montaigne (1533-92), famous for his Essais.] 
[ 4 Maurice of Nassau (1567-1625).] 

374 David Hume 

try, asked his accuser, Would you, says he, have, on a like occasion, been 
guilty of that crime? By no means, replied the other. And can you then 
imagine, cried the hero, that Iphicrates -would be guilty? * In short, a gen- 
erous spirit and self-value, well founded, decently disguised, and coura- 
geously supported under distress and calumny, is a great excellency, and 
seems to derive its merit from the noble elevation of its sentiment, or its 
immediate agreeablcness to its possessor. In ordinary characters, we approve 
of a bias towards modesty, which is a quality immediately agreeable to 
others: the vicious excess of the former virtue, namely, insolence or haughti- 
ness, is immediately disagreeable to others; the excess of the latter is so to 
the possessor. Thus are the boundaries of these duties adjusted. 

A desire of fame, reputation, or a character with others, is so far from 
being blameable, that it seems inseparable from virtue, genius, capacity, 
and a generous or noble disposition. An attention even to trivial matters, 
in order to please, is also expected and demanded by society; and no one 
is surprised, if he find a man in company to observe a greater elegance of 
dress and more pleasant flow of conversation, than when he passes his time 
at home, and with his own family. Wherein, then, consists Vanity, which 
is so justly regarded as a fault or imperfection. It seems to consist chiefly in 
such an intemperate display of our advantages, honours, and accomplish- 
ments; in such an importunate and open demand of praise and admiration, 
as is offensive to others, and encroaches too far on their secret vanity and 
ambition. It is besides a sure symptom of the want of true dignity and ele- 
vation of mind, which is so great an ornament in any character. For why 
that impatient desire of applause; as if you were not justly entitled to it, 
and might not reasonably expect that it would for ever attend you? Why 
so anxious to inform us of the great company which you have kept; the 
obliging things which were said to you; the honours, the distinctions which 
you met with; as if these were not things of course, and what we could 
readily, of ourselves, have imagined, without being told of them? 

Decency, or a proper regard to age, sex, character, and station in the 
world, may be ranked among the qualities which are immediately agreeable 
to others, and which, by that means, acquire praise and approbation. An 
effeminate behaviour in a man, a rough manner in a woman; these are ugly 
because unsuitable to each character, and different from the qualities which 
we expect in the sexes. It is as if a tragedy abounded in comic beauties, or 

* Quinctil. lib. v. cap. iz. 5 

[ 8 Quintilian, whose Institutio Oratoria is the best exposition of the ideals and prac- 
tice of Roman education.] 


a comedy in tragic. The disproportions hurt the eye, and convey a disagree- 
able sentiment to the spectators, the source of blame and disapprobation. 
This is that indecorum, which is explained so much at large by Cicero in 
his Offices. 6 

Among the other virtues, we may also give Cleanliness a place; since it 
naturally renders us agreeable to others, and is no inconsiderable source of 
love and affection. No one will deny, that a negligence in this particular is 
a fault; and as faults are nothing but smaller vices, and this fault can have 
no other origin than the uneasy sensation which it excites in others; we 
may, in this instance, seemingly so trivial, clearly discover the origin of 
moral distinctions, about which the learned have involved themselves in 
such mazes of perplexity and error. 

But besides all the agreeable qualities, the origin of whose beauty we 
can, in some degree, explain and account for, there still remains something 
mysterious and inexplicable, which conveys an immediate satisfaction to 
the spectator, but how, or why, or for what reason, he cannot pretend to 
determine. There is a manner, a grace, an ease, a genteelness, and I-know- 
not-what, which some men possess above others, which is very different 
from external beauty and comeliness, and which, however, catches our 
affection almost as suddenly and powerfully. And though this manner be 
chiefly talked of in the passion between the sexes, where the concealed 
magic is easily explained, yet surely much of it prevails in all our estima- 
tion of characters, and forms no inconsiderable part of personal merit. This 
class of accomplishments, therefore, must be trusted entirely to the blind, 
but sure testimony of taste and sentiment; and must be considered as a 
part of ethics, left by nature to baffle all the pride of philosophy, and make 
her sensible of her narrow boundaries and slender acquisitions. 

We approve of another, because of his wit, politeness, modesty, decency, 
or any agreeable quality which he possesses; although he be not of our 
acquaintance, nor has ever given us any entertainment, by means of these 
accomplishments. The idea, which we form of their effect on his acquaint- 
ance, has an agreeable influence on our imagination, and gives us the senti- 
ment of approbation. This principle enters into all the judgements which we 
form concerning manners and characters. 

[ Cicero's De Ofliciis, a treatise on moral duties, addressed to his son. One of the 
most influential books ever written.] 

Charles Lamb 

<[ The Essays of Elia (Elia was the name of one of Lamb's fellow- 
clerks) were begun in 1820 and first appeared in The London Mag- 
azine. They were collected and republished in two series, 1823 and 

Because of its informal and conversational style and its freedom 
from restrictions of subject, the familiar essay was a form perfectly 
suited to Lamb's temperament, to his insatiable curiosity about the 
oddities of human beings and customs and places: 'the cheerful 
cries of London, the music, and the ballad-singers the buzz and 
stirring murmur of the streets/ Yet not all the essays deal with his 
beloved London. Like Montaigne, he treats of any topic that hap- 
pens to interest him. His essays and his letters delight us because he 
himself delights us. 


Sera tamen respexit 

Libertas. Virgil 1 

A Clerk I was in London gay. O'Keefe. 

LF PERADVENTURE, Reader, it has been thy lot to waste the 
golden years of thy life thy shining youth in the irksome confinement 
of an office; to have thy prison days prolonged through inidcLe age down 
to decrepitude and silver hairs, without hope of release or respite; to have 
lived to forget that there are such things as holidays, or to remember 
them but as the prerogatives of childhood; then, and then only, will you 
be able to appreciate my deliverance. 

It is now six-and-thirty years since I took my seat at the desk 2 in Mincing 
Lane. Melancholy was the transition at fourteen from the abundant play- 

[* 'Yet freedom at length regarded (me).' Eclogues, i, 28.] 

[* Lamb was a clerk at the South Sea House from 1789 to 1792, and at the East 
India House from 1792 to 1825. See note to p. 407.] 
FROM Last Essays of Elia, 1833. 


time, and the frequently-intervening vacations of school days, to the eight, 
nine, and sometimes ten hours 7 a-day attendance at the counting-house. 
But time partially reconciles us to anything. I gradually became content- 
doggedly contented, as wild animals in cages. 

It is true I had my Sundays to myself; but Sundays, admirable as the 
institution of them is for purposes of worship, are for that very reason the 
very worst adapted for days of unbending and recreation. In particular, 
there is a gloom for me attendant upon a city Sunday, a weight in the air. 
I miss the cheerful cries of London, the music, and the ballad-singers 
the buzz and stirring murmur of the streets. Those eternal bells depress 
me. The closed shops repel me. Prints, pictures, all the glittering and end- 
less succession of knacks and gewgaws, and ostentatiously displayed wares 
of tradesmen, which make a weekday saunter through the less busy parts 
of the metropolis so delightful are shut out. No bookstalls deliriously to 
idle over no busy faces to recreate the idle man who contemplates them 
ever passing by the very face of business a charm by contrast to his tem- 
porary relaxation from it. Nothing to be seen but unhappy countenances 
or half-happy at best of emancipated 'prentices and little tradesfolks, with 
here and there a servant-maid that has got leave to go out, who, slaving all 
the week, with the habit has lost almost the capacity of enjoying a free 
hour; and livelily expressing the hollowness of a day's pleasuring. The very 
strollers in the fields on that day look anything but comfortable. 

But besides Sundays, I had a day at Easter, and a day at Christmas, with 
a full week in the summer to go and air myself in my native fields of Hert- 
fordshire. This last was a great indulgence; and the prospect of its recur- 
rence, I believe, alone kept me up through the year, and made my durance 
tolerable. But when the week came round, did the glittering phantom of 
the distance keep touch with me? or rather was it not a series of seven 
uneasy days, spent in restless pursuit of pleasure, and a wearisome anxiety 
to find out how to make the most of them? Where was the quiet, where 
the promised rest? Before I had a taste of it, it was vanished. I was at the 
desk again, counting upon the fifty-one tedious weeks that must intervene 
before such another snatch would come. Still the prospect of its coming 
threw something of an illumination upon the darker side of my captivity. 
Without it, as I have said, I could scarcely have sustained my thral- 

Independently of the rigours of attendance, I have ever been haunted 
with a sense (perhaps a mere caprice) of incapacity for business. This, dur- 
ing my latter years, had increased to such a degree, that it was visible in all 

378 Charles Lamb 

the lines of my countenance. My health and my good spirits flagged. I had 
perpetually a dread of some crisis, to which I should be found unequal. 
Besides my daylight servitude, I served over again all night in my sleep, 
and would awake with terrors of imaginary false entries, errors in my 
accounts, and the like. I was fifty years of age, and no prospect of emanci- 
pation presented itself. I had grown to my desk, as it were; and the wood 
had entered into my soul. 

My fellows in the office would sometimes rally me upon the trouble 
legible in my countenance; but I did not know that it had raised the 
suspicions of any of my employers, when, on the fifth of last month, a day 

ever to be remembered by me, L , the junior partner in the firm, calling 

me on one side, directly taxed me with my bad looks, and frankly inquired 
the cause of them. So taxed, I honestly made confession of my infirmity, 
and added that I was afraid I should eventually be obliged to resign his 
service. He spoke some words of course to hearten me, and there the matter 
rested. A whole week I remained labouring under the impression that I had 
acted imprudently in my disclosure; that I had foolishly given a handle 
against myself, and had been anticipating my own dismissal. A week passed 
in this manner the most anxious one, I verily believe, in my whole life 
when on the evening of the 12th of April, just as I was about quitting my 
desk to go home (it might be about eight o'clock), I received an awful 
summons to attend the presence of the whole assembled firm in the for- 
midable back parlour. I thought, now my time is surely come, I have done 
for myself, I am going to be told that they have no longer occasion for me. 

L , I could see, smiled at the terror I was in, which was a little relief to 

me, when to my utter astonishment B , the eldest partner, began a 

formal harangue to me on the length of my services, my very meritorious 
conduct during the whole of the time (the deuce, thought I, how did he 
find out that? I protest I never had the confidence to think as much). He 
went on to descant on the expediency of retiring at a certain time of life, 
(how my heart panted!) and asking me a few questions as to the amount 
of my own property, of which I have a little, ended with a proposal, to 
which his three partners nodded a grave assent, that I should accept from 
the house, which I had served so well, a pension for life to the amount of 
two-thirds of my accustomed salary a magnificent offer! I do not know 
what I answered between surprise and gratitude, but it was understood that 
I accepted their proposal, and I was told that I was free from that hour to 
leave their service. I stammered out a bow, and at just ten minutes after 
eight I went home for ever. This noble benefit gratitude forbids me 


to conceal their names I owe to the kindness of the most munificent firm 
in the worldthe house of Boldero, Merryweather, Bosanquet, and Lacy. 

Esto perpetual* 

For the first day or two I felt stunned overwhelmed. I could only appre- 
hend my felicity; I was too confused to taste it sincerely. I wandered about, 
thinking I was happy, and knowing that I was not. I was in the condition 
of a prisoner in the old Bastilc, 4 suddenly let loose after a forty years' con- 
finement. I could scarce trust myself with myself. It was like passing out of 
Time into Eternity for it is a sort of Eternity for a man to have all his 
Time to himself. It seemed to me that I had more time on my hands than 
I could ever manage. From a poor man, poor in Time, I was suddenly lifted 
up into a vast revenue; I could see no end of my possessions; I wanted some 
steward, or judicious bailiff, to manage my estates in Time for me. And 
here let me caution persons grown old in active business, not lightly nor 
without weighing their own resources, to forego their customary employ- 
ment all at once, for there may be danger in it. I feel it by myself, but I 
know that my resources are sufficient; and now that those first giddy rap- 
tures have subsided, I have a quiet home-feeling of the blessedness of my 
condition. I am in no hurry. Having all holidays, I am as though I had 
none. If Time hung heavy upon me, I could walk it away; but I do not 
walk all day long, as I used to do in those old transient holidays, thirty 
miles a day, to make the most of them. If Time were troublesome, I could 
read it away; but I do not read in that violent measure, with which, having 
no Time my own but candlelight Time, I used to weary out my head and 
eyesight in bygone winters. I walk, read, or scribble (as now) just when the 
fit seizes me. I no longer hunt after pleasure; I let it come to me. I am like 
the man 

that's born and has his years come to him, 
In some green desert. 

'Years!' you will say; 'what is this superannuated simpleton calculating 
upon? He has already told us he is past fifty/ 

I have indeed lived nominally fifty years, but deduct out of them the 
hours which I have lived to other people, and not to myself, and you will 
find me still a young fellow. For that is the only true Time, which a man 

[ 3 'Be thou eternall'] 

[ 4 A prison in Paris, destroyed by the mob on 14 July 1789, now the chief national 
anniversary in France.] 

380 Charles Lamb 

can properly call his own that which he has all to himself; the rest, though 
in some sense he may be said to live it, is other people's Time, not his. The 
remnant of my poor days, long or short, is at least multiplied for me three- 
fold. My next ten years, if I stretch so far, will be as long as any preceding 
thirty. Tis a fair rule-of-three sum. 

Among the strange fantasies which beset me at the commencement of 
my freedom, and of which all traces are not yet gone, one was, that a vast 
tract of time had intervened since I quitted the Counting House. I could 
not conceive of it as an affair of yesterday. The partners, and the clerks 
with whom I had for so many years, and for so many hours in each day of 
the year, been closely associated being suddenly removed from them 
they seemed as dead to me. There is a fine passage, which may serve to 
illustrate this fancy, in a Tragedy by Sir Robert Howard, speaking of a 
friend's death: 

T was but just now he went away; 
I have not since had time to shed a tear; 
And yet the distance does the same appear 
As if he had been a thousand years from me. 
Time takes no measure in Eternity. 

To dissipate this awkward feeling, I have been fain to go among them 
once or twice since; to visit my old desk-fellows my co-brethren of the 
quill that I had left below in the state militant. Not all the kindness with 
which they received me could quite restore to me that pleasant familiarity, 
which I had heretofore enjoyed among them. We cracked some of our old 
jokes, but methought they went off but faintly. My old desk; the peg where I 
hung my hat, were appropriated to another. I knew it must be, but I could 

not take it kindly. D 1 take me, if I did not feel some remorse beast, 

if I had not at quitting my old compeers, the faithful partners of my 
toils for six-and-thirty years, that soothed for me with their jokes and 
conundrums the ruggedness of my professional road. Had it been so rugged 
then, after all? or was I a coward simply? Well, it is too late to repent; and 
I also know that these suggestions are a common fallacy of the mind on 
such occasions. But my heart smote me. I had violently broken the bands 
betwixt us. It was at least not courteous. I shall be some time before I get 
quite reconciled to the separation. Farewell, old cronies, yet not for long, 
for again and again I will come among ye, if I shall have your leave. Fare- 
well, Ch , dry, sarcastic, and friendly! Do , mild, slow to move, and 

gentlemanly! PI -, officious to do, and to volunteer, good services! and 


thou, thou dreary pile, fit mansion for a Gresham or a Whittington 5 of 
old, stately house of Merchants; with thy labyrinthine passages, and light- 
excluding, pent-up offices, where candles for one-half the year supplied the 
place of the sun's light; unhealthy contributor to my weal, stern fosterer of 
my living, farewell! In thee remain, and not in the obscure collection of 
some wandering bookseller, my 'worksl' There let them rest, as I do from 
my labours, piled on thy massy shelves, more MSS. in folio than ever Aqui- 
nas 6 left, and full as usefull My mantle I bequeath among ye. 

A fortnight has passed since the date of my first communication. At that 
period I was approaching to tranquillity, but had not reached it. I boasted 
of a calm indeed, but it was comparative only. Something of the first 
flutter was left; an unsettling sense of novelty; the dazzle to weak eyes of 
unaccustomed light. I missed my old chains, forsooth, as if they had been 
some necessary part of my apparel. I was a poor Carthusian, 7 from strict 
cellular discipline suddenly by some revolution returned upon the world. 
I am now as if I had never been other than my own master. It is natural 
for me to go where I please, to do what I please. I find myself at 11 o'clock 
in the day in Bond Street, and it seems to me that I have been sauntering 
there at that very hour for years past. I digress into Soho, to explore a book- 
stall. Methinks I have been thirty years a collector. There is nothing strange 
nor new in it. I find myself before a fine picture in the morning. Was it 
ever otherwise? What is become of Fish Street Hill? Where is Fenchurch 
Street? Stones of old Mincing Lane, which I have worn with my daily 
pilgrimage for six-and-thirty years, to the footsteps of what toil-worn clerk 
are your everlasting flints now vocal? I indent the gayer flags of Pall Mall. 
It is 'Change time, and I am strangely among the Elgin marbles. 8 It was no 
hyperbole when I ventured to compare the change in my condition to 
passing into another world. Time stands still in a manner to me. I have lost 
all distinction of season. I do not know the day of the week or of the 
month. Each day used to be individually felt by me in its reference to the 
foreign post days; in its distance from, or propinquity to, the next Sunday. 
I had my Wednesday feelings, my Saturday nights' sensations. The genius 
of each day was upon me distinctly during the whole of it, affecting my 

[ 5 Sir Thomas Gresham was an important financier in Elizabethan times. Sir Richard 
Whittington was Lord Mayor of London in 1397-8, 1406-7, and 1419-20.] 

[St Thomas Aquinas (1225-74), the greatest of medieval philosophers and theo- 

[ 7 One of the stricter orders of monks.] 

[ B Ancient sculptures from the Parthenon, collected by the Earl of Elgin and placed 
in the British Museum in 1816.] 

382 Charles Lamb 

appetite, spirits, etc. The phantom of the next day, with the dreary five to 
follow, sate as a load upon my poor Sabbath recreations. What charm has 
washed that Ethiop white? What is gone of Black Monday? All days are 
the same. Sunday itself that unfortunate failure of a holiday, as it too 
often proved, what with my sense of its fugitiveness, and over-care to get 
the greatest quantity of pleasure out of it is melted down into a week-day. 
I can spare to go to church now, without grudging the huge cantle 9 which 
it used to seem to cut out of the holiday. I have time for everything. I can 
visit a sick friend. I can interrupt the man of much occupation when he is 
busiest. I can insult over him with an invitation to take a day's pleasure 
with me to Windsor this fine May-morning. It is Lucretian pleasure 10 to 
behold the poor drudges, whom I have left behind in the world, carking 
and caring; like horses in a mill, drudging on in the same eternal round 
and what is it all for? A man can never have too much Time to himself, 
nor too little to do. Had I a little son, I would christen him NOTHING-TO-DO; 
he should do nothing. Man, I verily believe, is out of his element as long 
as he is operative. I am altogether for the life contemplative. Will no 
kindly earthquake come and swallow up those accursed cotton-mills? Take 
me that lumber of a desk there, and bowl it down 

As low as to the fiends. 11 

I am no longer ******, c i er k to the Firm of, etc. I am Retired 
Leisure. 12 I am to be met with in trim gardens. I am already come to be 
known by my vacant face and careless gesture, perambulating at no fixed 
pace, nor with any settled purpose. I walk about; not to and from. They 
tell me, a certain cum dignitate 18 air, that has been buried so Ion* with 
my other good parts, has begun to shoot forth in my person. I grow into 
gentility perceptibly. When I take up a newspaper, it is to read the state 
of the opera. Opus operatum est. 1 * I have done all that I came into this 
world to do. I have worked task-work, and have the rest of the day to 


[ 10 A celebrated passage at the opening of the second book of Lucretius' poem De 
Return Natura tells of the agreeable feeling one has when, safe himself, he watches the 
straggles of others. He pities them but rejoices that he is out of danger.] 

[" Hamlet, n, ii, 527.] 

[" See Milton, 11 Penseroso, 49-50.] 

C 18 Dignified.] 

14 The task is performed.] 

Henry David Thoreau 

([ Thoreau's narrative of his building a cabin by Walden Pond, near 
Concord, Massachusetts, and of his natural and spiritual life there 
is an indisputable classic, familiar today to many who never heard 
of his other writings and who perhaps never read even a page by 
his famous neighbor Emerson. Walden is unique; there is nothing 
to compare it with; it had no model, no predecessor. It is as genu- 
ine as Thoreau himself, as American as Concord. 

Thoreau lived at Walden Pond for little more than two years, 
from July 1845 to September 1847. His was not a hermit's existence 
there by any means, nor was it intended to be one; he had callers 
now and then, and he frequently went to the village. When his 
'experiment' satisfied him, he returned to Concord to live. 'I left 
the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed 
to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any 
more time for that one/ 

Most of Walden was written in 1846 or thereabouts, but parts 
of it were made not only from the journal Thoreau kept while he 
lived beside the pond but from his earlier journals as well. It was 
published in 1854. 

L T A CERTAIN season of our life we are accustomed to 
consider every spot as the possible site of a house. I have thus surveyed the 
country on every side within a dozen miles of where I live. In imagination 
I have bought all the farms in succession, for all were to be bought, and I 
knew their price. I walked over each farmer's premises, tasted his wild 
apples, discoursed on husbandry with him, took his farm at his price, at 
any price, mortgaging it to him in my mind; even put a higher price on it, 
took every thing but a deed of it, took his word for his deed, for I dearly 
FROM Walden, 1854. 

384 Henry David Thoreau 

love to talk, cultivated it, and him too to some extent, I trust, and with- 
drew when I had enjoyed it long enough, leaving him to carry it on. This 
experience entitled me to be regarded as a sort of real-estate broker by my 
friends. Wherever I sat, there I might live, and the landscape radiated 
from me accordingly. What is a house but a sedes, a seat? better if a 
country seat. I discovered many a site for a house not likely to be soon 
improved, which some might have thought too far from the village, but to 
my eyes the village was too far from it. Well, there I might live, I said; and 
there I did live, for an hour, a summer and a winter life; saw how I could 
let the years run off, buffet the winter through, and see the spring come in. 
The future inhabitants of this region, wherever they may place their houses, 
may be sure that they have been anticipated. An afternoon sufficed to lay 
out the land into orchard, woodlot, and pasture, and to decide what fine 
oaks or pines should be left to stand before the door, and whence each 
blasted tree could be seen to the best advantage; and then I let it lie, fal- 
low perchance, for a man is rich in proportion to the number of things 
which he can afford to let alone. 1 

My imagination carried me so far that I even had the refusal of several 
farms, the refusal was all I wanted, but I never got my fingers burned by 
actual possession. The nearest that I came to actual possession was when I 
bought the Hollowell place, and had begun to sort my seeds, and collected 
materials with which to make a wheelbarrow to carry it on or off with; but 
before the owner gave me a deed of it, his wife every man has such a wife 
changed her mind and wished to keep it, and he offered me ten dollars 
to release him. Now, to speak the truth, I had but ten cents in the world, 
and it surpassed my arithmetic to tell, if I was that man who had ten cents, 
or who had a farm, or ten dollars, or all together. However, I let him keep 
the ten dollars and the farm too, for I had carried it far enough; or rather, 
to be generous, I sold him the farm for just what I gave for it, and, as he 
was not a rich man, made him a present of ten dollars, and still had my ten 
cents, and seeds, and materials for a wheelbarrow left. I found thus that I 
had been a rich man without any damage to my poverty. But I retained 
the landscape, and I have since annually carried off what it yielded without 
a wheelbarrow. With respect to landscapes, 

'I am monarch of all I survey, 
My right there is none to dispute/ a 

[ a Compare Luke, xii, 15.] 

[ Cowper, Verses Supposed to be Written by Alexander Selkirk.} 


I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valu- 
able part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few 
wild apples only. Why, the owner does not know it for many years when 
a poet has put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible 
fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed it, and got all the cream, 
and left the farmer only the skimmed milk. 

The real attractions of the Hollowell farm, to me, were: its complete 
retirement, being about two miles from the village, half a mile from the 
nearest neighbor, and separated from the highway by a broad field; its 
bounding on the river, which the owner said protected it by its fogs from 
frosts in the spring, though that was nothing to me; the gray color and 
ruinous state of the house and barn, and the dilapidated fences, which put 
such an interval between me and the last occupant; the hollow and lichen- 
covered apple trees, gnawed by rabbits, showing what kind of neighbors I 
should have; but above all, the recollection I had of it from my earliest 
voyages up the river, when the house was concealed behind a dense grove 
of red maples, through which I heard the house-dog bark. I was in haste to 
buy it, before the proprietor finished getting out some rocks, cutting down 
the hollow apple trees, and grubbing up some young birches which had 
sprung up in the pasture, or, in short, had made any more of his improve- 
ments. To enjoy these advantages I was ready to carry it on; like Atlas, to 
take the world on my shoulders, I never heard what compensation he 
received for that, and do all those things which had no other motive or 
excuse but that I might pay for it and be unmolested in my possession of 
it; for I knew all the while that it would yield the most abundant crop of 
the kind I wanted if I could only afford to let it alone. But it turned out 
as I have said. 

All that I could say, then, with respect to farming on a large scale (I have 
always cultivated a garden) was, that I had had my seeds ready. Many 
think that seeds improve with age. I have no doubt that time discriminates 
between the good and the bad; and when at last I shall plant, I shall be 
less likely to be disappointed. But I would say to my fellows, once for all, 
As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference 
whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail. 

Old Cato, 8 whose 'De Re Rustic^' is my 'Cultivator/ says, and the only 
translation I have seen makes sheer nonsense of the passage, 'When you 
think of getting a farm, turn it thus in your mind, not to buy greedily; nor 
spare your pains to look at it, and do not think it enough to go round it 

[ 3 Cato the Elder, the Censor (234-149 B.C.); see Plutarch's life of him.] 

586 Henry David Thoreau 

once. The oftcner you go there the more it will please you, if it is good.' I 
think I shall not buy greedily, but go round and round it as long as I live, 
and be buried in it hrst, that it may please me the more at last. 

The present was my next experiment of this kind, which I purpose to 
describe more at length, for convenience, putting the experience of two 
years into one. As I have said, I do not propose to write an ode to dejec- 
tion, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his 
roost, if only to wake my neighbors up. 4 

When first I took up my abode in the woods, that is, began to spend my 
nights as well as days there, which, by accident, was on Independence day, 
or the fourth of July, 1845, my house 5 was not finished for winter, but was 
merely a defence against the rain, without plastering or chimney, the walls 
being of rough weather-stained boards, with wide chinks, which made it 
cool at night. The upright white hewn studs and freshly planed door and 
window casings gave it a clean and airy look, especially in the morning, 
when its timbers were saturated with dew, so that I fancied that by noon 
some sweet gum would exude from them. To my imagination it retained 
throughout the day more or less of this auroral character, reminding me of 
a certain house on a mountain which I had visited the year before. This 
was an airy and unplastered cabin, fit to entertain a travelling god, and 
where a goddess might trail her garments. The winds which passed over 
my dwelling were such as sweep over the ridges of mountains, bearing the 
broken strains, or celestial parts only, of terrestrial music. The morning 
wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted; but few are the 
ears that hear it. Olympus 8 is but the outside of the earth every where. 

The only house I had been the owner of before, if I except a boat, was a 
tent, which I used occasionally when making excursions in the summer, 
and this is still rolled up in my garret; but the boat, after passing from hand 
to hand, has gone down the stream of time. With this more substantial 
shelter about me, I had made some progress toward settling in the world. 
This frame, so slightly clad, was a sort of crystallization around me, and 
reacted on the builder. It was suggestive somewhat as a picture in outlines. 
I did not need to go out doors to take the air, for the atmosphere within 
had lost none of its freshness. It was not so much within doors as behind 
a door where I sat, even in the rainiest weather. The Harivansa 7 says, 'An 

I 4 This sentence appeared on the title page of the early editions of W olden.} 
[ 5 See the first chapter of Wd/den, which descnbes the building of the house.] 
[ e In classical mythology, the abode of the gods.] 
[ 7 Supplement to the Hindu epic poem Mahabharata.] 


abode without birds is like a meat without seasoning/ Such was not my 
abode, for I found myself suddenly neighbor to the birds; not by having 
imprisoned one, but having caged myself near them. I was not only nearer 
to some of those which commonly frequent the garden and the orchard, 
but to those wilder and more thrilling songsters of the forest which never, 
or rarely, serenade a villager, the wood-thrush, the veery, the scarlet tan- 
ager, the field-sparrow, the whippoorwill, and many others. 

I was seated 8 by the shore of a small pond, about a mile and a half south 
of the village of Concord and somewhat higher than it, in the midst of an 
extensive wood between that town and Lincoln, and about two miles south 
of that our only field known to fame, Concord Battle Ground; but I was so 
low in the woods that the opposite shore, half a mile off, like the rest, cov- 
ered with wood, was my most distant horizon. For the first week, whenever 
I looked out on the pond it impressed me like a tarn high up on the side 
of a mountain, its bottom far above the surface of other lakes, and, as the 
sun arose, I saw it throwing off its nightly clothing of mist, and here and 
there, by degrees, its soft ripples or its smooth reflecting surface was re- 
vealed, while the mists, like ghosts, were stealthily withdrawing in every 
direction into the woods, as at the breaking up of some nocturnal conven- 
ticle. The very dew seemed to hang upon the trees later into the day than 
usual, as on the sides of mountains. 

This small lake was of most value as a neighbor in the intervals of a 
gentle rain storm in August, when, both air and water being perfectly still, 
but the sky overcast, mid-afternoon had all the serenity of evening, and the 
wood-thrush sang around, and was heard from shore to shore. A lake like 
this is never smoother than at such a time; and the clear portion of the air 
above it being shallow and darkened by clouds, the water, full of light and 
reflections, becomes a lower heaven itself so much the more important. 
From a hill top near by, where the wood had been recently cut off, there 
was a pleasing vista southward across the pond, through a wide indentation 
in the hills which form the shore there, where their opposite sides sloping 
toward each other suggested a stream flowing out in that direction through 
a wooded valley, but stream there was none. That way I looked between 
and over the near green hills to some distant and higher ones in the horizon, 
tinged with blue. Indeed, by standing on tiptoe I could catch a glimpse of 
some of the peaks of the still bluer and more distant mountain ranges in 
the north-west, those true-blue coins from heaven's own mint, and also of 
some portion of the village. But in other directions, even from this point, I 

[ 8 See p. 384.] 

388 Henry David Thoreau 

could not see over or beyond the woods which surrounded me. It is well to 
have some water in your neighborhood, to give buoyancy to and float the 
earth. One value even of the smallest well is, that when you look into it you 
see that earth is not continent but insular. This is as important as that it 
keeps butter cool. When I looked across the pond from this peak toward 
the Sudbury meadows, which in time of flood I distinguished elevated per- 
haps by a mirage in their seething valley, like a coin in a basin, all the earth 
beyond the pond appeared like a thin crust insulated and floated even by 
this small sheet of intervening water, and I was reminded that this on 
which I dwelt was but dry land. 

Though the view from my door was still more contracted, I did not feel 
crowded or confined in the least. There was pasture enough for my imagi- 
nation. The low shrub-oak plateau to which the opposite shore arose, 
stretched away toward the prairies of the West and the steppes of Tartary, 
affording ample room for all the roving families of men. 'There are none 
happy in the world but beings who enjoy freely a vast horizon/ said 
Damodara, 9 when his herds required new and larger pastures. 

Both place and time were changed, and I dwelt nearer to those parts of 
the universe and to those eras in history which had most attracted me. 
Where I lived was as far off as many a region viewed nightly by astrono- 
mers. We are wont to imagine rare and delectable places in some remote 
and more celestial corner of the system, behind the constellation of Cassio- 
peia's Chair, far from noise and disturbance. I discovered that my house 
actually had its site in such a withdrawn, but forever new and unprofaned, 
part of the universe. If it were worth the while to settle in those parts near 
to the Pleiades or the Hyades, to Aldebaran or Altair, then I was really 
there, or at an equal remoteness from the life which I had left behind, 
dwindled and twinkling with as fine a ray to my nearest neighbor, and to 
be seen only in moonless nights by him. Such was that part of creation 
where I had squatted; 

'There was a shepherd that did live, 

And held his thoughts as high 
As were the mounts whereon his flocks 

Did hourly feed him by/ 

What should we think of the shepherd's life if his flocks always wandered 
to higher pastures than his thoughts? 

Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal sim- 

[ Vishnu, the Preserver god in Hindu mythology.] 


plicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself. I have been as sin- 
cere a worshipper of Aurora as the Greeks. I got up early and bathed in the 
pond; that was a religious exercise, and one of the best things which I did. 
They say that characters were engraven on the bathing tub of king Tching- 
thang to this effect: 'Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and 
again, and forever again/ I can understand that. Morning brings back the 
heroic ages. I was as much affected by the faint hum of a mosquito making 
its invisible and unimaginable tour through my apartment at earliest dawn, 
when I was sitting with door and windows open, as I could be by any 
trumpet that ever sang of fame. It was Homer's requiem; itself an Iliad and 
Odyssey in the air, singing its own wrath and wanderings. There was some- 
thing cosmical about it; a standing advertisement, till forbidden, of the 
everlasting vigor and fertility of the world. The morning, which is the most 
memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour. Then there is least 
somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes which 
slumbers all the rest of the day and night. Little is to be expected of that 
day, if it can be called a day, to which we are not awakened by our Genius, 
but by the mechanical nudgings of some servitor, are not awakened by our 
own newly-acquired force and aspirations from within, accompanied by 
the undulations of celestial music, instead of factory bells, and a fragrance 
rilling the air -to a higher life than we fell asleep from; and thus the dark- 
ness bear its fruit, and prove itself to be good, no less than the light. That 
man who does not believe that each day contains an earlier, more sacred, 
and auroral hour than he has yet profaned, has despaired of life, and is 
pursuing a descending and darkening way. After a partial cessation of his 
sensuous life, the soul of man, or its organs rather, are reinvigorated each 
day, and his Genius tries again what noble life it can make. All memorable 
events, I should say, transpire in morning time and in a morning atmos- 
phere. The Vedas 10 say, 'All intelligences awake with the morning/ Poetry 
and art, and the fairest and most memorable of the actions of men, date 
from such an hour. All poets and heroes, like Memnon, 11 are the children 
of Aurora, and emit their music at sunrise. To him whose elastic and vigor- 
ous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning. It 
matters not what the clocks say or the attitudes and labors of men. Morn- 
ing is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me. Moral reform is the 
effort to throw off sleep. Why is it that men give so poor an account of 

[ 10 Ancient Hindu scriptures.] 

["A gigantic statue near Thebes, in Egypt, supposedly that of the hero Memnon, 
was said to utter musical sounds in the morning.] 

3QO Henry David Thoreau 

their day if they have not been slumbering? They are not such poor calcu- 
lators. If they had not been overcome with drowsiness they would have 
performed something. The millions are awake enough for physical labor; 
but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exer- 
tion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake 
is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could 
I have looked him in the face? 

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechani- 
cal aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not for- 
sake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the 
unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. 
It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, 
and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve 
and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which 
morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of 
arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the 
contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or 
rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would dis- 
tinctly inform us how this might be done. 

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only 
the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, 
and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish 
to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resigna- 
tion, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all 
the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all 
that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a 
corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why 
then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness 
to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to 
give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to 
me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of 
God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man 
here to 'glorify God and enjoy him forever/ 12 

Still we live meanly, like ants; though the fable tells us that we were 
long ago changed into men; like pygmies we fight with cranes; 1S it is error 
upon error, and clout upon clout, and our best virtue has for its occasion a 
superfluous and evitable wretchedness. Our life is frittered away by detail. 

["From the Westminster (Presbyterian) Catechism.] 

[ 13 According to an ancient fable the pygmies and cranes fought annually.] 


An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in 
extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, sim- 
plicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hun- 
dred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your 
accounts on your thumb nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized 
life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one 
items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder 
and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and 
he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. 
Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a 
hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion. Our life is like 
a German Confederacy, 14 made up of petty states, with its boundary for- 
ever fluctuating, so that even a German cannot tell you how it is bounded 
at any moment. The nation itself, with all its so-called internal improve- 
ments, which, by the way, are all external and superficial, is just such an 
unwieldy and overgrown establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped 
up by its own traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense, by want of 
calculation and a worthy aim, as the million households in the land; and 
the only cure for it as for them is in a rigid economy, a stern and more than 
Spartan simplicity of life and elevation of purpose. It lives too fast. Men 
think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and