Memoirs of a Social Atom (12)

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CHAPTER LVI

BLANQUI


THE mention of Blanqui in the last chapter induces me to turn aside for the purpose of recording particulars of the career of one of the most remarkable revolutionary characters even France has ever produced.  That career was strange and stormy—perhaps the strangest and stormiest of the nineteenth century.  It came to a close on New Year's Day, 1881.  Louis Auguste Blanqui, whose name had been familiar to every democrat in Europe for fifty years before, ceased that day to trouble the world more.  "After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well."  Never were words so appropriate as in Blanqui's case.  His life, indeed, was one long "fitful fever."  From the time that he was wounded on a barricade in 1827, down to the agitation in which he was concerned a few days before he died, he had been conspicuous in every revolution and in almost every disturbance that had taken place in Paris.  Blanqui was nothing if not a revolutionist.  One half of his long life was spent in prison; the other half was spent in conspiring or agitating against the various Governments of France.  Not untruly did his friends describe him as "the martyr of every reaction."  The type of a class which is not even yet extinct, and which will perhaps never be extinct till society has been transformed, all that was kindly and amiable in the old revolutionist was at the time of his death revived to his credit.  Whatever was fierce or repellent about Blanqui perished with him.  Enemies and admirers alike said little but what was good of the dead.

    Garibaldi and Blanqui were born in the same city—Nice.  The one attached himself to Italy, the other to France.  Garibaldi made a nation; but Blanqui left little behind him except an austere and turbulent fame.  Blanqui's father, a deputy for Nice in the great French Convention, had two sons.  Both became eminent, though in totally different walks of life.  The elder brother, a pupil of Jean Baptiste Say, acquired great distinction as a writer on political economy.  Louis Auguste himself was at first a private tutor; then he studied both law and medicine in Paris; lastly, he became alternately a political propagandist and a political prisoner.  It was while studying law in 1827 that he was wounded in a political disturbance.  Three years later the Revolution of July overturned the throne of the elder Bourbons.  For his share in that memorable event Blanqui was rewarded with a cross of honour.  But Louis Philippe was naturally no more acceptable to Blanqui than was Charles the Tenth, whom he had helped to dethrone.  Associated with his friends Armand Barbès and Martin Bernard, he planned the insurrection which broke out in May, 1839.  The rising was abortive; Barbès was condemned to death; and Blanqui, after being concealed for some time in the house of the famous sculptor, David, was awarded the same sentence.  Victor Hugo, making powerful use of a birth and a death in Louis Philippe's family, appealed for mercy in a pathetic poem—"Mercy in the name of the tomb, mercy in the name of the cradle."  This touching appeal was successful.  Barbès and Blanqui, their lives spared, were ordered to be imprisoned for the rest of their days.  The treatment of the prisoners was so frightful—it resembled the treatment of Pellico in Spielburg and Poerio in Naples—that Blanqui nearly died under it.  But the Revolution of 1848 restored him to liberty.  Lamartine appealed to him to serve instead of harassing the Republic.  Blanqui, impressed by the poet's arguments, seemed inclined to yield, but he was soon afterwards engaged in a plot to overthrow the Provisional Government.  The demonstration he had organized, which was discountenanced by Barbès, Cabet, and Louis Blanc, came to nothing.  A later attempt to invade the National Assembly, which was frustrated by Ledru Rollin, resulted in Blanqui's condemnation to ten years' imprisonment.  Some time after his release he set himself to propagate his doctrines among the refugees in London.  Visiting Paris in 1861, he was incarcerated again—this time for a term of four years.  When the Empire was beginning to reel, Blanqui concocted a scheme to capture the arms of the Pompiers Barracks.  For this he was condemned to death in default.  The fall of the Empire, annulling the judgment, enabled him to reappear in Paris.  But the Government of National Defence was as little to his liking as the Provisional Government of 1848.  A rising of his adherents took place on October 31, 1870; the new Ministers were captured; and Blanqui was actually for a few hours installed in the Hotel de Ville.  It was this incident which inspired Bismarck with the hope that internal dissensions would enable the invaders to dictate terms of peace within the walls of Paris.  When the capital, after an unavailing resistance, surrendered to the Germans, Blanqui retired to the provinces.  During his absence, two events of moment occurred: he was elected a member of the Commune, and he was condemned to death for the third time.  The sentence was afterwards commuted to imprisonment in a fortress for life.  Old and infirm, the veteran revolutionist, who was for once well treated in prison, devoted his time to the study of astronomy.  The result of his studies was a speculative work entitled "Eternity in the Stars."  Blanqui, it was thought, was now too advanced in years to be any longer a danger to the State; wherefore he was once more released.  But he was still vigorous enough to commence a new paper, to which he gave the characteristic name Ni Dieu ni Maitre (Neither God nor Master).  The paper, however, which had a very small circulation, practically expired before its author.  Blanqui died as he had lived—irreconcilable to the last.

    The extraordinary career whose salient features I have here summarised was remarkable even in France.  It is doubtful whether the whole history of revolutionary enterprises can furnish another such example of romantic endurance, of inveterate hostility to established systems, of sincere and persistent attachment to impracticable ideas.  Blanqui was extreme in all things.  He was not only a Republican, but a Red Republican—not only a Democrat, but a Social Democrat—not only a Communalist, but a Communist.  No form of Government yet established appeared to satisfy him.  He was as much the enemy of the Republic of Jules Grévy as he was of the Empire of Louis Bonaparte.  The circumstance that the people were free to work out their own emancipation never seemed to concern him.  What was the value of liberty so long as there were any poor in the land?  The only use of liberty was to enable those who enjoyed it to agitate and conspire for social equality.  There was a touch of eccentricity or extravagance in almost everything he did.  Even when a tutor, "he eschewed wine, spirits, and coffee, lived on fruit and vegetables, dispensed with a fire in the depth of winter, and slept composedly with the snow falling on his counterpane."  Though he appears to have been sincerely attached to his wife, a rich banker's only child, who died while he was suffering his first incarceration, he was almost devoid of family affection.  For a long time he would not allow his son to be taught to read, declaring that he would do better without that accomplishment.  The son, brought up a peasant, was so little under his father's influence that he identified himself with the party of Reaction.  As to his own brother, the political economist, Blanqui repudiated the relationship.  "My brother," said he, "is a bourgeois, and consequently a canaille."  But his sister, Madame Antoine, attended him in his last days.

    Blanqui had never any clear idea of what he wanted to accomplish, or of how he meant to accomplish it.  It was necessary to destroy everything in order to place something else in its stead.  "We must begin," he observed to a gentleman who visited him in prison, "by making a tabula rasa of existing abuses.  What exists is so bad that what is put in its place will always be better than what exists."  It was as a destructive and an anarchist that he claimed the approbation of the populace.  He had neither system nor programme.  Indeed, he had a horror of the people who concocted them.  M. Ranc related in the Voltaire, the Radical paper of Paris, that the surest way to exasperate Blanqui was to ask him what he would do if the people next day placed supreme power in his hands.  "I shall act," he would reply with evident irritation, "according to circumstances."  So it would seem that the old revolutionist was himself an Opportunist.  That he saw the ludicrousness of hoping to transform society of a sudden is clear from another statement of M. Ranc's.  Blanqui, Ranc, and Regnard were projecting a new journal in 1869.  Ranc was to write on politics, Regnard on philosophy, Blanqui on the social question.  "The subject assigned to me," said Blanqui, "is difficult.  Do you not see that Socialism is in the stage of criticism?"  The same doubts found expression in a speech which he delivered in Milan, only a few weeks before his death, on the occasion of the unveiling of a monument to the heroes who had fallen at Mentana.  "Citizens," said he, "I put no faith in those who pretend to solve the social question in a few hours.  When, in prison, I worked out an intricate problem of mathematics or astronomy, I only discovered its solution after the lapse of many months.  Often I could not solve it at all; I waited, and resumed my task years after.  And for the solution of such a problem as the social question, it is not months or even years that will suffice, for one must reckon by centuries.  Those who assert the contrary are seeking to lead you astray."

    It was natural that a man of Blanqui's temperament and antecedents should live in an atmosphere of suspicion.  He suspected everybody, and, in turn, he was himself suspected.  During the excitement which followed the Revolution of February, Blanqui was the president of a club which demanded as a first instalment the heads of three hundred thousand citizens!  This was the moment chosen for revealing the fact that he had played false to his friends Barbès and Bernard after the affair of 1839.  The statements then published would have been incredible but for the circumstance that Barbès, the Bayard of the Democracy, is said to have believed them.  The two revolutionists never acted together afterwards.  It is difficult, for all that, to reconcile the accusation with the other incidents in Blanqui's career.  A man who could spend thirty-seven years of his life in prison for the sake of his opinions must have been sincere.  It was the sincerity of fanaticism, if you will, but it was infinitely more worthy of respect than the falsehood which is true only to itself.  "Liberty and the Republic," says M. de Girardin, "never had a more fatal friend than Blanqui."  The fault of his life was precisely the fault which Irreconcilables have always been bent upon committing.


 
CHAPTER LVII

DEGENERACY


OLD people are apt to institute invidious comparisons between the days of their youth and the days of their decline.  Maybe the reason is that youth is the season of optimism and age the season of pessimism, though optimism is not invariably a sign of youth nor pessimism invariably a sign of age.  But the world cannot always be getting worse, else some day it would come to deserve the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.  My own opinion is, trying to recollect the state of things in the thirties and comparing it with the state of things in the new century, that there has been decided improvement in some directions, but decided retrogression in others.  The worst complaint one has to make against the later generations is that they have failed to make the best use, or indeed any use at all, of the enormous advantages they enjoy over the generations that preceded them.

    Let us begin with education.  The masses of the people were entirely ignorant when I was a lad; indeed, as I have said before, it was a distinction to be able to read and write.  Now the masses of the people are at least partly educated—not only able to read and write, but able to do many other clever things besides.  There are evidences of intellectual improvement beyond a doubt; but where are the evidences of moral improvement?  As a matter of fact, we are in no respect better, but in some respects worse, than our grandfathers were.  We have greater freedom, but less inclination to turn it to the best advantage; more knowledge, but less desire to use it for the best purposes.  Nothing is more disappointing to early reformers than the comparatively little benefit that has accrued to society from the millions of money that have been spent and that are being spent on School Boards and Board Schools.  A dear old friend of mine—the late Alderman Lucas, of Gateshead, whose whole public life was devoted to disinterested efforts for the welfare of the community—put into words, a few years before his lamented death, the thoughts of all his reflective contemporaries.  "We were assured," he wrote, "that when compulsory education became general we should see Paradise restored.  Social and political questions would be considered on their merits; every man would have liberty to think out all questions concerning his welfare without molestation; crime would gradually disappear before the light of education; and a general transformation of the people (for the better of course) would speedily take place."  Some of these anticipations I put myself into a pamphlet published in 1860.

    But what has been the result?  Let Alderman Lucas answer:—"Intolerance of the worst description is to be found in all directions; brutality in its most horrible forms is still going on; cruelty to the weak and helpless abounds far more than we can estimate; and disregard of authority, if not general, is found almost everywhere.  The great object of the lives of multitudes is how to minister to their self gratification and love of pleasure.  One of the main causes of this deplorable state of things is the insufficiency of modern education.  The mind is crammed, but the sentiments are left uncultivated."  Hence it is that the manners of the people have not improved, that the intelligence of the people has not increased, that the respect of the people (or those who call themselves the people) for the rights of others has almost ceased to exist.  Suffering people are pushed to the wall, agéd people into the gutter, while our very pavements testify to the disgusting habits of the time.  These and other evils come of cultivating the intellect, while neglecting the conscience.  To complete the catalogue of popular faults and foibles which popular education has failed to correct, the masses of the people are as prone to fall victims to plausible delusions or sophisms as they were in more ignorant ages.

    The effect on the Press, or on a large portion of the Press, has been disastrous.  When few people could read, the matter provided was mostly of an elevating character—rarely of a debasing character: for the few in all ages have invariably been more refined than the many.  But since our children have been taught to read without being taught to think, and since everybody can read, whether able to think or not, the general quality of popular reading has distinctly deteriorated.  Newspapers find it necessary to play to the groundlings and the gallery, pandering to the lowest tastes because the lowest tastes pervade the biggest multitudes.  And so vulgar sensationalism has taken the place of sober earnestness.  Instead of being the instructors of the people, many of our newspapers have become mere ministers to the passions of the people.  Some of them that profess to be intended for family reading even descended a few years ago to the level of the "penny dreadful," publishing stories that were founded on the most atrocious crimes of the age.  A daily paper that was established in London to advance the interests of a great political party—its chief promoter was a university professor—borrowed from the American Press one of its worst features.  All the news of the day was furnished with vulgar headings.  Even sad and sorrowful news was made the occasion of coarse jests.  It seemed as if the scholarly gentlemen who had set out to exalt a great party had set out also to degrade the general multitude.

    Periodicals did not escape the lamentable infection.  The most popular of the new periodicals owed its early success to an ingenious method of picking and stealing from all and sundry.  It soon had imitators no better than itself.  And so the superior publications of Chambers and Cassell were to a large extent superseded by a series of slangy and superficial serials which could not support themselves by their own merits, for they made no pretence to originality or skill, and which had to be bolstered up by evasions of the Lottery Act, and such panderings to the gambling propensities of the people as the missing word competitions.  Worse than these publications were others that came as near to the vilest indecency in print and illustration as the law will allow.  The taste that was thus encouraged was further sustained by some of the new magazines, which rival each other in the publication of stories of rapine and outrage, supplemented by pictures of abortions and similarly repulsive subjects.

    The disease that has eaten into the vitals of the Press has shown itself also in Fiction and the Drama.  It is recorded that Sir Walter Scott, shortly before he died, consoled himself with the reflection that he had done nothing with his pen that any upright or pure-minded man might regret.  "I have been perhaps," he said, "the most voluminous author of my day; and it is a great comfort for me to think that I have tried to unsettle no man's faith, to corrupt no man's principles, and that I have written nothing which, on my death-bed, I should wish blotted out."  Some of the "voluminous authors" of our day—they are not numerous, perhaps, but they are sufficiently repugnant—may hereafter, when in the same straits as the great novelist, wish that they, too, had tried to corrupt no man's principles.  There are books now on the shelves of our libraries, with noted (though I will not say distinguished) names attached to them, which Sir Walter Scott would have gone to the pillory or the gallows rather than have written.  Sarah Grand, herself by no means squeamish, said of one of them that the author seemed "to want us to return to the customs of the poultry yard."  And then we had an English Zola who revelled in the details of a lying-in hospital.  And then—most repulsive of all—the novelist who laid down the abandoned doctrine that the father of a woman's child was no more anybody's concern than the cut or fashion of her under-garments.  If the people—for women as well as men have been connected with the work of pollution—if the people who have produced these books should be remembered at all in the annals of literature, they will have to be classified with the creatures who, in past ages, prostituted their talents to pander to the vices of their time.

    The plea of realism which is sometimes put forward on behalf of odious authors is a paltry plea.  It is not even real itself.  "If," says an American critic, "there is any greater humbug and hypocrisy than 'realism' can be, I do not know what it is.  Take, for instance, the single detail of profanity in the 'conversation' of a story.  Is there a living realist who would be willing to put down in cold black and white to the extent of a foolscap page the habitual language of certain types with which he deals in fiction?  And if he did so, would he be willing to keep that piece of paper over-night even under lock and key?"  When Henry Vizetelly—our old acquaintance of the Illustrated Times—published translations of some of Zola's realism, which in this case was simply another name for mere beastliness, he was prosecuted for misdemeanour, fined a hundred pounds, and ordered to be of "good behaviour" afterwards.  Yet not long subsequently "gentlemen of the Press" entertained Zola himself at a public function in London!  More recently, one of the most eminent of American authors, writing in a leading American magazine, set himself to exalt the French writer on the ground that there is nothing immoral in his obscenity!  Fine literary people, women as well as men, seem to be afflicted with a paralysis of the moral sense when they can note nothing offensive in indecency, just as those unfortunate people who can smell nothing evil in a cesspool or a pig-sty are afflicted with a paralysis of the physical sense.  There is filth enough in real life which one cannot avoid seeing without going to books for it.  We know that sewers and stenches exist; but some of our modern writers have sought to introduce them into our kitchens and our drawing-rooms.  The race of authors must indeed have degenerated when they actually itch for the opportunity of embalming in literature the unthinkable blasphemies of the stews.

    The stage has no more escaped the contagion of decadency than has literature.  Patrons of theatres have been nauseated with the loathsome suggestiveness of the problem play.  Harlots and strumpets have been made the heroines of dramas, and accomplished actresses have not hesitated to represent these disreputable characters behind the footlights.  Why, it is not so long ago that three or four plays idealising the adventures of a courtesan of the most dissolute period of English history were running in our theatres at the same time.  But perhaps the most odious production of all—a production which had not even the saving grace of literary merit—came from America.  It was the work of an obscure playwright of that country; it was founded on a story by an obscene French writer; and it was produced by a leading actor at a leading theatre in London.  As brutal an incident as it is possible to conceive as occurring among the vilest people on earth was actually presented on the stage.  We may judge of the nature of the play by the statement of one of the critics that the "revolting details" of the plot could not be described in print without outraging decency and offending the reader.  Yet there were women writers who could not or would not see the gross immorality of the production, and who spoke of the disgusting incident on which the plot turned as a "strong situation."  Nor was it till many remonstrances had been addressed to him that the manager withdrew the hideous thing.

    But, after all, we are not so depraved in theatrical matters as some other countries.  One hears of plays and performances in France and Belgium which are fit only for satyrs.  As for America, one of the principal members of a band of thieves and murderers known as the James Boys actually appeared on the stage in scenes that depicted his own atrocious exploits.  More recently the news was considered sufficiently important to be telegraphed from New York to Cincinnati that a star actor was "about to bring out a play founded on the Whitechapel murders," he himself appearing in "the dual rôle of Jack the Ripper and a clergyman"!

    Impartially reviewing the circumstances of the present and the past, I venture to say that the penny dreadful of my young days did far less harm to the morals of the people than the disgusting rubbish that finds a place in the plays and novels of our own time.  Nor is it to be less deplored that critics and pressmen, even those of the highest standing, pass without censure books and dramas of the worst character, precisely as though they had no duty to condemn the gross and repulsive foulness that is cast before the public.


 
CHAPTER LVIII

THE DECLINE OF MAN


MEN who have done the best for the world have the best right to be disappointed with the result of their efforts.  "With few exceptions," wrote Mazzini to Mathilde Blind, "I despise the present generation, and only in humanity as it will be in the future do I find any consolation."  Kossuth concurred in the sentiment of Mazzini, for he wrote on his ninetieth birthday:—"I do not believe in humanity as now developed.  As for society, it is a vile beast."  It is not a little curious that Napoleon entertained much the same disparaging opinion of our race.  "Mankind," he said to Gourgaud, at St. Helena, "must be very bad to be as bad as I consider it."  And Marie Corelli clenches the austere indictment:—"Humanity has cursed and killed every great benefactor it ever had, including Christ."  For the rest, it will not be easy for those of us who have lived long on the earth to dispute this further judgment of the same writer:—"No beast of the field is so beastly as man at his worst."

    The records of crime and the circumstances of society go far to justify these harsh and unpalatable verdicts.  We have never for any length of time been without a favourite miscreant since Probert, Hunt, and Thurtell were tried for the murder of William Weare.  This was in 1824.  Four years later—I am taking into account only the princes of crime—the populace was greatly interested in the murder of Maria Martin and the yet more horrible misdeeds of Burke and Hare.  Greenacre came next—Greenacre, who carried about in public conveyances the head of his victim wrapped in a paper parcel.  The baleful procession was continued by Courvoisier in 1839; Daniel Good in 1842; Tawell and Hocker in 1845; Mrs. Manning and James Bloomfield Rush in 1849; Palmer, the Rugeley poisoner, in 1856; Madeleine Smith in 1857; George Victor Towneley in 1863; Muller in 1864; Dr. Pritchard, Charlotte Winsor, and Constance Kent in 1865; Mary Anne Cotton in 1873; Wainwright in 1875; Peace in 1879; Lefroy in 1881; the Phoenix Park assassins in 1882.  And then came the Whitechapel fiend [Ed.—"Jack the Ripper."], followed by many other monsters.  But some of these crimes indicated less cowardly brutality on the part of the criminals, besides bringing less shame and disgrace on society, than the despicable assaults on women that occupy, every working day, the attention of our police-courts.

    The editor of the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle took the trouble in 1884, in the hope of shaming the brutes who make us disgusted with our own species, to compile a record of a week's wife-beating.  The cases were thirty in number.  Yet it was from a few of the leading newspapers only that the list was compiled, and it was pointed out, as is well known, that but a small proportion of the most infamous cases find their way into such journals.  If it had been possible to prepare a complete catalogue of these brutal offences, there is no doubt that the number would have risen to hundreds.  Hundreds of wife-beatings every week!  Nothing shows the degeneracy of the British race so much as the cowardice displayed in the ill-treatment of the weaker sex.  Has there been any improvement since 1884?  A blackguard who had deserted his wife in Sunderland told the magistrates in 1899 that the "only enjoyment a working man had was getting drunk."  But a still more contemptible specimen of manhood turned up at Teddington the same year.  The prisoner in this case was charged, not with deserting, but with assaulting his wife.  The poor woman stated that "he had always been in the habit of knocking her about."  When asked by the magistrates what he meant by such conduct, the ruffian replied in an injured tone" that "it was the only recreation he had."  Foreigners, when they read such cases as those of Sunderland and Teddington, may be almost excused if they put us down as a nation of sots and savages.

    Some of us are sots and dastards, and some are dastards without being sots.  The new century has supplied many examples of both forms.  A woman was being murdered on Yarmouth sands.  Her cries for help were heard by a young man (the man in this case must be understood in a quite restricted sense) who was passing.  But the prudent young man went on his way, not only without rendering, but without seeking, assistance.  An equally scandalous case of indifference was disclosed at the Norwich Assizes.  The widow of a soldier who had died for his country in South Africa, lived alone with her baby in a cottage at the village of Stokesby.  The poor woman's sorrow and loneliness might have been expected to ensure pity and protection.  Instead, they seem to have inspired a brutal youth of seventeen to attempt a criminal assault.  The attack was made while the widow was calmly sleeping with her baby.  There was a fierce struggle, and then the knife.  The woman's screams were heard by a man living in the adjoining cottage.  Here again no assistance was rendered or sought.  While the murderer resumed his work next morning as if nothing had happened, his victim remained without aid all night, and died the following day.  The jury, with that strange tenderness for criminals which has lately become a fashion, recommended the murderer to mercy, though it is not recorded that they had anything to say about the cowardly neighbour.

    A still worse case of poltroonery occurred on the first day of the new century.  It took place at Broomhill Colliery, in Northumberland.  There a ruffian miner named Craig struck and kicked his wife in such a way that she died a few days later.  And part of the striking and kicking took place in the very presence of three other miners—John Joicey, Richard Grey, and John Richardson—whose only excuse for permitting it was that they had been "first-footing."  Joicey, indeed, had listened behind a door for half an hour to the beating and kicking before he and the others ventured into the house where the murderer had already half-killed his victim.  The sickening story told by this man and the other witnesses at the trial must have made the people who heard or read it ashamed of their own species.

    Drink was the cause of the Broomhill atrocity, as, indeed, it is of most of the other crimes committed in this country.  Yet drunkenness is no longer a matter of shame.  On the contrary, it is sometimes a matter of pride.  The sots who can drink the most or get drunk the oftenest consider themselves heroes and heroines, and are even so considered by others.  The drunkard was once a disgrace, but we have got past this squeamish notion now.  Workmen, it is alleged, will work no longer than they can earn money enough for a three days' booze.  And social clubs and political clubs are being established in all our industrial villages to enable them to drink all day and every day, Sundays included.  Three youths of sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen years of age, in a case heard at the Moot Hall Police Court, Newcastle, admitted having drunk in the space of three hours nine or ten glasses of beer each.  We talk of swine.  Why, swine are almost gentlemen alongside such swill-tubs as these.

    While there has been shown in recent years a marked decline in mortality from ordinary diseases, the deaths from intemperance rose from 45 per million in 1878 to 77 per million in 1897.  The North of England has probably contributed more than its share to this loss of life; for to Durham, Northumberland, and Lancashire belong the distinction of being the three most dissipated counties in the kingdom.  As compared with soberer districts, they stand convicted of producing more than a thousand drunkards as against less than 150.  Though the national drink bill for 1900 (£160,891,718) was a million and a quarter less than the corresponding expenditure in 1899, it was yet equal to an outlay of £3 18s. 8d. for every unit of the population.  The rents of all the farms and houses in the country fall short of the money we spend annually on intoxicants.  We are indeed a drunken nation.  And the effect of our evil habits on the future of our race must be calamitous.  If we do not want to become a nation of degenerates, we must cease to become a nation of drunkards.

    Since drink, taken to excess, makes either demons or imbeciles of its victims, it may fairly be held accountable for part at least of that alarming increase of insanity which has been recorded in late years.  Lunatics have increased in proportion to the population far faster than the population itself.  The total number of lunatics in England and Wales in 1899 was 105,086, being an increase of 3,114 over the corresponding number for 1898.  Mr. H. H. Asquith informed a meeting held in this present year, 1903, that besides the 110,000 persons actually confined in lunatic asylums, "he believed there were at least 100,000 more in what was known as the outer zone of lunacy."  It is calculated that the growth of mad people in the administrative County of London alone is at the rate of 500 a year, requiring the erection every four years of a new asylum, at the cost of £600,000.  The progression of madness was steady from the middle to the end of last century.  Thus in 1859 there was one official lunatic to every 536 persons; in 1869 one to 418; in 1889 one to 337; and in 1899 one to 302.  It is easy for a statistician to calculate how long it will be, at this rate, before the whole population is liable to be confined in lunatic asylums.

    Mr. Arnold White has more than once called attention to what he calls the multiplication of the unfit.  "Our higher civilization," he says, "is multiplying from its lower specimens, and our voters are being propagated increasingly from idle, unthrifty, and unemployable invalids.  Scientific men declare that there are nine sorts of idiots and six sorts of madmen.  All these fifteen kinds of idiots and madmen are cheerfully multiplying with impunity. [32]  Yet the dogma is still current among religious and kindly souls that a man who cannot maintain himself possesses an inalienable right to engender degenerate offspring, to whom no parental responsibility is due."  A professor of the University of Bonn traced the progeny of a woman named Jurke, a drunken and thievish vagabond who died in 1740.  There was 834 altogether—106 of them bastards, 142 of them beggars, 181 of them prostitutes, 76 of them criminals, and 7 of them murderers.  And it is a grievous charge against some of our charitable institutions that they contribute to the maintenance and multiplication of persons who are so mentally and morally diseased that they must always be a burden on others.

    There is a sort of degeneracy again in the everlasting craving for excitement.  We make a business of pleasure, not a pleasure of business.  Seriousness has gone out of fashion.  All we seem to want is amusement or indulgence.  And our amusements are not always elevating.  Intellectual pastimes are but little patronised, while brutal sports are always sure of a large following.  Chess-masters have to be content with modest prizes of a hundred or two hundred pounds; but two pugilists fought in America for stakes amounting to £9,000!  Glove fights in England are often as brutal as the old prize-fights.  It was said of the Chartists of Swalwell that they got up a boxing-match for the benefit of the Chartist prisoners.  Much the same spirit prevails yet.  During the election for 1892, the proceedings at a political meeting were suspended in order to watch a fight between two supporters of the rival candidates, and a member of Parliament, after the fight had concluded, called for "three cheers for the Morley man!"  Blood sports are still as popular as ever, where the law allows them.  Nor would the sports of the bull-ring, with all their horrible accompaniments, lack patrons among us if permission could be obtained for introducing them.  Even football, splendid pastime as it is, is being ruined by the introduction of the professional and gambling elements.  Hence the rowdyism which sometimes takes place when the favourite team gets beaten.

    Gambling is a species of insanity that takes possession of all classes—rich as well as poor, women as well as men.  The cases of three wastrels who had reduced themselves from affluence to bankruptcy (in one case beggary) by betting and extravagance were investigated in 1898.  One had wasted £11,000 in four months, and was then in prison for obtaining money under false pretences; another had got rid of £30,000 in three years, was in debt to the tune of between two and three thousand pounds, and had no assets save a punt of the value of £10; the third, a peer of the realm, who had inherited an annual income of £15,000 eight years before, and whose debts amounted to £166,000, with assets nil, confessed that he had in one season lost as much as £20,000 on horse-racing alone.  As gambling and the society of gamblers conduce to loose morals and loose conversation, society is increasingly demoralised by the growth of the gambling spirit.  And so we get evil habits and evil conversation—coarseness and vulgarity all round.

    While the conditions of life have vastly improved during the last seventy years, greater efforts than ever being made by society and the Legislature to add to the comforts of the people, I am sorry to have to confess that I see no evidence of any moral progress whatever.  There was far less drunkenness when I was a boy than there is now.  People were more thrifty, less given to scamp or shirk their work, and more disposed to rely on their own efforts than on the efforts of others.  On the other hand, there is better teaching now than there was then, fewer class distinctions, less cause for discontent among the poor, and more social and political freedom.  One must not therefore despair.  Mazzini had hope in humanity as it will be in the future.  We should be false to our faith in the destinies of the human race, if we did not believe that degeneracy is only a passing symptom, and that the onward march of mankind will one day be resumed—all the more reliantly and resolutely resumed because of the present retrogression.


 
CHAPTER LIX

APROPOS


A CHAPTER of good stories, though I have told some of them before in another place, may be àpropos here.  As far as I know, only two of them were Joe Millers, except as gossip among friends, when I first put them in print.  However, whether new or not—chestnuts or tinker's news—they will perhaps be amusing.

    Let us begin with a lawyer's story—told to me by a lawyer, too.  There lived in Newcastle a good many years ago a clever attorney of the name of Philip Stanton.  Mr. Stanton had for one of his clients a well-known Quaker bachelor of that time.  During a consultation, the client complained of the useless verbiage employed in legal documents.  The man of law explained, however, that precise and elaborate expressions were really necessary in all such instruments.  "For instance," he said, "if an earthquake were to occur in Newcastle, the ordinary newspaper report would probably read as follows:—'Mr. Bachelor and his housekeeper were thrown out of bed.'  But a lawyer, drawing up a legal account of the occurrence, would say : 'Mr. Bachelor and his housekeeper were thrown out of their respective beds!'"

    Another lawyer, John Clayton, was Town Clerk of Newcastle and a gentleman of great wealth.  So far as the public knew, he did not dispense much in charities: for, as he was said to have remarked himself, he was "never an ostentatious giver."  Mr. Clayton was a bachelor, and the heir to all his wealth was his nephew, Nathaniel George Clayton.  When a collector for one of the institutions in the town called upon him to solicit a subscription, he was handed a sovereign.  "Oh, but, Mr. Clayton," said the collector, "I would not like to see your name to so small a sum.  Mr. Nathaniel George is down for five pounds." "Ah!" replied Mr. Clayton, "my nephew has great expectations: I have none."

    Ralph Park Philipson succeeded John Clayton as Town Clerk of Newcastle.  He was a shrewd lawyer, too, and for many years the chief adviser of the Whig party in the town.  Among the members of the Town Council at the time was Ralph Dodds.  Ralphy Dodds, as he was generally called, was a curious customer.  He was also a magistrate, an alderman, and chairman of the Town Improvement Committee.  One day, during a discussion in committee on some legal subject, a member quoted the opinion of Baron Martin.  "Wey, ma man," interposed the chairman, as he patted Mr. Philipson on the back, "here's wor Baron Martin."

    Mr. Dodds in his early days obtained the contract for the plastering work at Ravensworth Castle.  The contractor was not known to the then Lord Ravensworth, nor was the then Lord Ravensworth known to the plasterer.  While the work was in progress, the two met in the new building.  Seeing a stranger, the noble lord asked him rather haughtily who he was.  The reply was startling: "Aa's Ralphy Dodds the plaisterer: whe the h- are ye?"

    Harking back to the lawyers, there is another story of Ravensworth Castle.  But first as to the etiquette of visiting.  "If," says an authority on the subject, "you go to a house in response to a card of invitation, you may take it for granted that the maid knows you are expected, or should know; you walk in, and merely wait in the hall while she asks you your name and announces you.  To do otherwise might convey an impression that you are not an expected guest."  A Newcastle lawyer who did "otherwise" met with a most unpleasant experience.  The lawyer practised in a Court of Petty Sessions over which a later Lord Ravensworth frequently presided.  One day his lordship, wandering about his estate, fell in with a hunting party (the lawyer being of the number), whom he invited to dine with him the next evening.  The lawyer, like the rest of the hunters, presented himself at the castle.  All the other guests had arrived, and, in fact, were already seated.  The legal gentleman, however, instead of acting as an invited guest should have done, inquired if Lord Ravensworth was at home.  "Yes," said the butler, "but his lordship is at dinner.  If you will give me your card, I will take it to him."  The card was presented.  "Oh!" said the noble lord, looking at the name, but not recognising that the owner was one of the party he had invited to dine, "tell Mr. Parchment I will see him at the Court in the morning."  And so the poor lawyer, through failing to understand the etiquette of visiting, had to trudge back to town, some three or four miles distant, without his dinner.

    And now for a small story, not of lawyers, but of the law.  A poor woman applied to the Registrar of a County Court in the North of England for a longer time to pay a debt she had been ordered to discharge in instalments.  "But I can only do this," said the Registrar, "for one of two reasons—illness or unavoidable accident.  You do not look ill, and you have not, I suppose, met with an unavoidable accident."  "Oh, yes, I have, sir," replied the debtor, "I've had a baby!"

    It was fear of the law, or of the public inquiry which the law enforces in the case of a sudden or violent death, that led a servant girl to act strangely.  The members of a Newcastle family—I shouldn't be far wrong if I said it was my own—were sitting down to the Sunday's dinner.  The joint was just served, and the diners were on the tiptoe of expectation.  But there's many a slip, etc.  Crash!  Down came the ceiling with its heavy plaster ornament.  The chandelier was smashed: so was the table: so was everything on the table.  Joint and vegetables, bread and salt, water jug and cruet-stand, plates, dishes, glasses, knives, forks, spoons—all were piled in a heap on the floor.  The ladies screamed, the children shrieked, the gentlemen shouted.  The noise of the falling debris was hardly so loud as the cries of the disappointed bairns.  For that day's dinner the family had to make the best of pudding and cheese.  Notwithstanding the uproar, it was noticed that the servant girl did not put in an appearance.  "Why, Susan," said the mistress of the house, "did you not hear the noise?"  "Hear it, mum?" replied Susan; "aa shud think se."  "Why, then, did you not come to see what was the matter?"  "Not me, mum," was Susan's answer: "aa didn't want te be caalled te ne coroner's inquests!"

    It happened not so long ago that a candidate for a Northern borough fell in with an old friend who belonged to the opposite party.  Liberal and Conservative adjourned to the club, where they fraternised heartily.  There was much political excitement at the time.  The excitement or something else made the old friends hilarious.  As the Conservative was the least incapable of the two, he volunteered to see the candidate home.  When the door was opened and the lady of the house appeared in the hall, the Conservative pointed to his helpless companion.  "Look there, Mrs. H-hicks," he hiccupped; "see what them d——d Radicals have done for your hus-husband!"

    Of this same Conservative another story was told years before.  He was the son of a wealthy coal-owner, and became in the end a wealthy coal-owner himself.  But he was kept under restraint in his youth, and was, until he succeeded to his father's estate and fortune, allowed only a moderate amount of pocket-money.  It was during this period of subservience that he met some other golden youths in a bar-room.  Told there that the father of one of his friends had just died, he exclaimed as he dejectedly thrust his hands deep into his pockets, "Ugh! everybody's father dies but mine!"

    Two friends, journalists, who had been to see a boat-race on the Tyne, were returning up Dean Street, when they saw the announcement that a fat woman was on exhibition in a shop.  "Let us go in," said one, and the other assented.  The interview over, they retired.  As they reached the door into the street, they heard the showman bawling to the crowd: "Mark the character of the haristocracy as they leave the pavilion!"  I need not say that the aristocracy hastened to hide themselves among the common people.

    A good story was picked up in Shields by a dear old colleague, the late Robert Sutherland.  During one of the periodical depressions in the shipping trade, a farmer in the neighbourhood, who had lost heavily on shipping shares, came home one day after a shareholders' meeting, called for his gun, and began firing away at the ducks on his pond.  When asked what he was doing this for, he angrily muttered, "Ne mair floatin' property for me ; ne mair floatin' property for me!"

    Of Irish stories there is no end.  Two were told me by a friend, who avowed that the incidents occurred in his own presence.  A tourist on a jaunting car, seeing an angler in a Wicklow stream, asked the driver whether he was getting any sport.  "Sport!" exclaimed the driver: "shure he'd have got more bites if he'd kept in bed!"  The scene of the second story was New York.  An Irish labourer, watching some Italians at what they called work, said to a bystander: "D'ye see thim apologies for min, sor?  And yet they make Popes of thim in Italy."  Now for one of my own.  I was travelling with some friends in the vicinity of the Devil's Bit Mountain—the mountain which gets its name from the legend that the fiend, finding himself surrounded by old women, cut his way to the sea by making a gap in the hills.  The legend was duly related by the driver of the jaunting car.  "Do you believe it?" inquired one of the party.  "Bedad!" returned Pat, "but he's left his marrk annyhow!"

    The late Alexander Shannon Stevenson brought from Scotland a triad of good stories a few months before he died.  Mr. Young, the famous paraffin oil man, was approached by a neighbour with the suggestion that a missionary should be appointed to look after the spiritual welfare of his workpeople.  "It's no a bit o' guid," said Young; "aw paid a missionary mysel' a hunnerd a year for twa years, and he didna save a dom'd soul!"  A pious old lady was invited to pay a visit to a friend.  "Varra weel," she replied, "aw'll come if aw'm spared; but if aw'm no, ye'll no expect me."  Mr. Balfour should include the third story in the next edition of his treatise on the "royal game."  It is the keeper of one of the best golf courses in Scotland who speaks. "The Awmighty," said he, "must hae had a guid heed for goaf when He made yon green!"

    John Lawrence Toole was always playing tricks at somebody's expense before he unhappily became helpless from paralysis.  One of his tricks, when he was acting Paul Pry, was to introduce the names of his local friends to the company on the stage.  Thus on a certain occasion, knowing I was in the theatre, for I had just seen him in his dressing room, he said he had "just popped in" to say that he had that very morning seen a big cabbage or a big gooseberry in "Mr. Adams's garden."  It was the only time I was ever in an actor's dressing-room.  Mr. Disraeli is credited with the caustic saying that when royalty is concerned you have to lay on flattery with a trowel.  Mr. Toole, I thought, had found it necessary, when making up for Paul Pry, to lay on paint with the same implement.  Miss Eliza Johnstone and Miss Kate Carlyon were leading ladies of Mr. Toole's company when he went touring in the provinces.  It was upon these and others (as Miss Carlyon told me) that he once played this pleasant trick.  "My dear," said Toole to Miss Carlyon, "I want to make you a little present.  But keep it quite secret from the rest.  I know how jealous you ladies are of one another."  The present was a brooch, I believe.  And then he went to the other ladies in turn, presenting a similar trinket to each, and laying the same injunction in every case.  But the secret couldn't be kept—J. L. knew that well enough.  Great was the confusion of the recipients when, confiding to their bosom friends the marks of favour they had received from their chief, they discovered that precisely the same favours had been distributed all round!

    The district of Tyneside was visited in 1886 by two lecturers who represented opposite schools of thought.  One was a Russian exile who advocated anarchy; another was a member of a noble family who advocated individualism.  The two met at the same table, when the talk turned on methods of propagandism.  Did the anarchist, asked the individualist, believe in dynamite?  "No," he responded, as calmly as if he had been answering a question about the sort of soup he preferred "no, I do not pelieve in dynamite."  The individualist, one of the gentlest men that ever lived, rubbed his hands, and said he was delighted to hear him say so.  "No," the anarchist went on in the same impassive tone, "dynamite does not do what is expected.  It killed soldiers and servants at the Winter Palace, but not the Czar.  Pesides, it makes people dislike the party which uses it.  No, dynamite is not goot.  Ze dagger is petter!"

    Another lecturer who for fifty years and more has often been heard in Newcastle and all parts of the country had chambers in London conveniently provided with gas fires.  One day he locked up his chambers and went on a three months' tour, and when he came back in the dog days his gas fire was still burning!

    An absent-minded beggar of a different sort was the custodian of an editor's sanctum who absented himself with the keys.  The editor was Frederick Guest Tomlins, author of a "History of England," whose acquaintance I made when he came to beg a copy of the "Tyrannicide" pamphlet for the purpose of making it the subject of one of his weekly contributions to a London newspaper.  One morning, when Tomlins was editing Douglas Jerrold's Newspaper, he found his office door locked and no office-boy on the premises.  The boy appeared at length, and explained that he had been up all night.  "It's this way, sir," he said: "my uncle was hung at the Old Bailey this morning, and although we weren't on speaking terms with him, I thought, as one of the family, I ought to go and see the last of him."  "Quite right," replied Tomlins, "never neglect your family duties; but when another of your relations is to be hanged, please to leave the office key under the mat."

    Mr. Tomlins at the time I knew him supplemented his literary labours by keeping a shop for the sale of rare old books near the British Museum.  But he loved his books so well that he once roundly abused a customer who wanted to buy one.  It is George Agustus Sala who tells the story.  The customer called at the shop, and asked for a particular volume marked in the catalogue.  The bookseller mounted a ladder, picked out a book from the upper shelves, and began reading it.  And he stood reading it for so long a time that the other had to remind him that he was waiting below.  Then Tomlins replaced the book, descended the ladder, and told the customer that it was like his impudence to want to rob him of such a treasure!

    My last story is also about an editor.  During a great industrial crisis—I think it was the Nine Hours Strike—his paper had taken strong views on the side of the working people.  One day a deputation of capitalists called to remonstrate with him on the subject.  The deputation hinted that he would damage his paper.  This stirred him up.  "Well, gentlemen," said he, "the working man's penny is as good as yours, and there's a d——d sight more of 'em!"


 
CHAPTER LX

PEOPLE OF SOME IMPORTANCE IN THEIR DAY


WHEN Mr. Bradlaugh once announced a lecture on "Dead Men I have Known," I pointed out the solecism in the title; whereupon he altered it to "Dead Men whom I Knew when Living."  The new title was clumsier, but more correct, than the old.  I have already mentioned in the course of this narrative some of the dead men whom I also knew when living.  These recollections may now be supplemented by references to a few others—some dead, some still living—whom I have seen, or heard, or known.

    First as to public speakers.  Immense interest was taken in the affairs of Italy from 1849 down to the time when the unity and independence of the country were accomplished.  It was in 1849 that Garibaldi made that heroic defence of Rome which first gave him a European reputation.  Conspicuous in the defence, as an orator inspiring the populace, was an Italian priest, Father Gavazzi.  Father Gavazzi came to England in 1850, where he lectured for many years—first in Italian and then in English—first on political subjects and then on subjects connected with the Church.  I heard him in Italian the year he came.  The melodious language and the striking attitudes of the orator were most impressive.  More impressive still was the use which he made of a long cloak that he wore.  Gavazzi turned this long cloak to as much advantage as Dr. Parker in his younger years used to turn his long hair.  Another famous orator of the same period was John B. Gough.  He came from America, and he advocated temperance.  Gough thrilled his audiences as he depicted the drunkard's doom.  It was impossible to listen without admiration to his impassioned appeals.  But there was one exquisite passage about water introduced into some of his addresses which he is said to have borrowed from somebody else.  For all that, John B. Gough was really a great orator.  George Thompson was as famous at that time for his denunciations of slavery as Gough for his denunciations of drink.  Unfortunately, having no resources but his eloquence, he had to become the paid advocate of the movements to which he gave his assistance.  John Arthur Roebuck was an incisive speaker, rather than an orator.  But his speeches were marred by egotism.  I have preserved the report of one in which the personal pronoun appears in almost every line, and sometimes twice or thrice in the same line.  Mr. Roebuck once likened himself to a watch-dog, Tear 'Em, and ever afterwards the populace gave him that name.  Mr. Disraeli was a clever debater—the inventor, too, of many clever phrases.  It was not given to him, however, to sway the multitude.  When he was visiting Manchester on the occasion of a great Conservative gathering in Pomona Gardens, he was invited to distribute the prizes that had been won at an educational institution in the town.  The long address he then delivered, I recollect, was intolerably dull.  Mr. Gladstone, his great rival, was sometimes verbose and often obscure, but he knew how to illuminate the driest of subjects.  Perhaps his versatility was never better shown than in 1880, when, on his way to Midlothian, he delivered fervent speeches at every railway station on the road.  The crowd at the Central Station, Newcastle, was enormous.  It surged from side to side of the platform alongside the train in a manner that threatened perilous consequences.  The appearance of Mr. Gladstone at the window of his carriage was the signal for immense cheering.  I heard the single word "Gentlemen," and then was swept to another part of the platform.  The rest was dumb show, except to the porters and reporters on the top of the carriage.  Dr. Parker has just been mentioned.  It was at Cavendish Chapel, Manchester, that he made so effective (albeit so theatrical) a use of his hair.  The hair, dark and abundant then, was grey and scanty when I heard him at Bournemouth forty years later.  All his somewhat pompous mannerisms notwithstanding, the old Hexham boy was a powerful preacher.  Very different was the style of the old Newcastle boy, Thomas Binney, whose little treatise on the possibility of making the best of both worlds had an immense vogue in the middle years of the century.  A long tramp I made one Sunday morning at that time to the Weigh House Chapel, in the very centre of the City of London, was not unrewarded, though Mr. Binney's sermon was devoted to the not very attractive theme of Church Government and Discipline.  While Mr. Binney was preaching near the Monument, Robert Montgomery was ministering to a congregation in the neighbourhood of Tottenham Court Road.  Montgomery had also published a notable book—the poem entitled "Satan."  Macaulay scarified it in a famous review, and the title attached itself to the name of the author, so that he is known to this day as "Satan Montgomery."  I recollect nothing of the poet's sermon save a dainty phrase or two that occurred in it. [33]  Henry Ward Beecher was a more powerful preacher than any of those yet named.  I crossed over from New York to Brooklyn to hear him in 1882—it was before the great Brooklyn Bridge had been built.  The church outside was about as handsome as a barn.  Inside, however, the seats were so conveniently arranged that everybody faced the preacher.  There was no pulpit, but, instead, a broad platform, at either end of which was a huge spittoon, something of the shape and size of a washing-tub.  Mr. Beecher paced up and down the platform as he delivered himself of many fine passages—many humorous passages, too, which set the congregation "teetering on the precipice of a laugh."  A more eccentric preacher than Beecher was Peter Mackenzie, who used to make his congregation laugh outright.  When Peter occupied the pulpit at Jesmond Wesleyan Church, Newcastle, the performance was almost as good as a play.  It was less a sermon than an entertainment.  All the same, the preacher was terribly in earnest, for he perspired like a race-horse.  Other eminent preachers have been lecturers also.  Mr. Spurgeon, lecturing on the use of anecdote in the pulpit, kept a large audience in the Town Hall, Newcastle, amused and delighted for more than an hour as he told story after story.  The Town Hall was crammed on another occasion when Dr. Morley Punshon enchained and enchanted the crowd with his eloquence.  Dr. Punshon was a Wesleyan; so is Mr. Fred. W. Macdonald, an ex-President of the Conference, and an uncle of Rudyard Kipling's.  No pleasanter lecture was ever delivered in my hearing than that which Mr. Macdonald gave in Newcastle on his experiences in America.

    Novelists have quite as much claim to attention as preachers and lecturers.  The great novelist of the sea, the legitimate successor of Captain Marryat, is undoubtedly William Clark Russell.  Mr. Russell began his literary life as a journalist.  For some time he was a member of the staff of the Newcastle Chronicle.  When he left to join the staff of the Daily Telegraph, he was followed to London by the esteem and regret of all his colleagues.  Alas! he was soon afterwards seized with paralysis, and has now for many years been compelled to take the air in a bath chair at Bath.  But his physical helplessness has not impaired his intellectual productiveness.  Twice a year or so he adds to the gaiety of nations by a new novel of the sea.  All the moods of the changeful waste are described in his books with wonderful fidelity.  Not less wonderful is the fertility of an imagination that can work out one exciting plot after another within the comparatively narrow scope afforded by a brig or a schooner.  Many of Hall Caine's stories have had a comparatively narrow field too—the Isle of Man.  It was while he was writing "The Bondman" that he came to Newcastle to get local colouring for a little story he contributed to one of the Christmas numbers of the Weekly Chronicle.  He did not remain long; but he remained long enough to leave the impression, strengthened by subsequent correspondence, of a genial gentleman without pride or pretence of any sort.  Joseph Hatton, whose pleasant novels, numerous enough to fill a library, are fit for anybody's reading, is as genial, as accessible, and as devoid of humbug or assumption as Hall Caine.  And so with John Strange Winter, who, relieved by her husband of the care and worry of business, devotes the major part of a happy married life to the production of tales that are as popular as they are short.  Mrs. Stannard (to give her her real name) deserves credit for a great public service when she scotched and crushed a threatened revival of the crinoline.

    Both Literature and the Press owe a deep debt of gratitude to the men who in earlier days fought and struggled to remove the taxes on knowledge.  This object was completely accomplished at the end of a twelve years' agitation.  Collet Dobson Collet, who was educated for the law, but who became a musician, acted as secretary to the Society for the Repeal of the Taxes on Knowledge from its inception to its dissolution.  Mr. Collet, in the first or second year of the movement, came on a mission to Cheltenham, bringing with him, I remember, what might have been his own swimming bath.  Not long before he had been deputed with W. J. Linton to visit Paris and congratulate the French Republic in the name of the Reformers of London on the downfall of Louis Philippe.  Lloyd Jones, Edward Truelove, and George Jacob Holyoake were more or less intimately associated with the knowledge movement.  As a popular lecturer on social and political questions, Lloyd Jones spent much of his time among the Durham miners; yet the miners of one of the divisions of that county rejected his advances when he offered them his services as a candidate for Parliament.  I don't think he ever recovered from the disappointment he then suffered, for he died soon afterwards.  Edward Truelove, who lived to the age of ninety, had two great heroes—Robert Owen and Thomas Paine.  Other heroes he had too—Mazzini, Kossuth, Comte, Bradlaugh.  Never a revolutionist appeared in any part of the world, provided he had for his object the elevation or liberation of the oppressed, without finding in Edward Truelove a warm sympathiser and helper.  Neither did any cause of advancement, political or social, economic or intellectual, present itself for approval without finding in the same quarter an earnest and enthusiastic adherent.  I cannot call to mind a popular movement of his time in which Mr. Truelove did not bear a hand.  But, as I have said, Owen and Paine were his leading lights.  Relics of both were among his most cherished possessions.  It was on Paine's own writing-table that Moncure Conway wrote in Truelove's house at Hornsey the opening sentences of his biography of the great needleman.  A man of absolute sincerity, pure as a girl and unselfish as a saint, Edward Truelove was as defiant as Danton when the occasion needed.  And he needed all his fortitude and endurance when, for publishing a philanthropic pamphlet by Robert Dale Owen, son of the old Socialist, he had, at the age of seventy and over, to submit for months to the treatment of the lowest criminal.  George Jacob Holyoake, long connected with Truelove in many enterprises for the welfare and improvement of mankind, published in the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, and subsequently in two stately volumes, his reminiscences of an agitator's life.  Now considerably over eighty years of age, though he was never at any time a strong or a robust man, he can look back at many triumphs which he had a share in achieving.

    Enthusiasts are sometimes the salt of the earth.  One I knew was William Maccall, the apostle of Individualism.  A big and brawny Scot, he never lost, nor cared to lose, the traces of his nationality: for his dialect was broad as his shoulders, and his speech as picturesque as the highlands of his native country.  Henry George, the author of "Progress and Poverty," was an enthusiast of a different quality.  When he came to Newcastle to propagate his ideas, he was confident of his ability to revolutionise society; nor did this confidence desert him when he returned to America.  What he might have accomplished, if he had been elected Mayor of New York, as he had some prospect of being when he died suddenly in the midst of the contest, will now never be known.  The movement he initiated died with him.  George Crawshay was an enthusiast of a still different calibre—an enthusiast for many things, for the Charter at one time, for the repeal of the Corn Laws at another, for the Poles, the Danes, and the Turks.  A scholar and a philanthropist, he entertained Emerson when that great thinker visited Newcastle.  Though he had command of great wealth throughout his early and middle life, the vicissitudes of industry swept it all away, and he died without a penny.  But he never repined.  During his last days, while confined to what proved, to be his death bed, he wrote many notable things for the Weekly Chronicle, all marked by dainty taste and rare culture.  A love-story of his—a record of reality, not a figment of imagination—was the most beautiful piece of the kind I ever read.  It is sad to know that, when he left the town he and his firm had so long and so bountifully served, and left it penniless, he departed, as Joseph Cowen wrote, "without a sign of sympathy or a syllable of regret."


 
CHAPTER LXI

SCRAPINGS OF MEMORY


AFTER all has been said, there is always something more to be said.  Let us gather up the fragments that remain.

    Place to the ladies!  This is only polite.  But one must expect to be called a brute if one speaks one's mind on some of their manners and fashions.  Time was when ladies, taking to heart the admonitions which the old parsons gave to the poor, were "content with the condition of life in which God had placed them."  But this was before the advent of the "new woman"—before the advent of the "girl of the period" even.  Everybody must lament the decay of that old-fashioned courtesy which lent so great a charm to social and public intercourse.  But ladies themselves are perhaps not altogether blameless for the change.  Some of them, as we know, show such entire contempt for the comfort of others—as, in theatres, for instance, when they refuse to remove their obstructive hats—that they arouse a not unnatural indignation.  Moreover, the "new woman" has set up claims which must in the end prove fatal to all the ancient privileges the sex enjoyed.  If women want to stand on the same footing as men, they must of course be prepared to submit to the same buffetings.  Besides, it sometimes happens that ladies are deficient in manners themselves, especially when travelling in public vehicles.  A lady enters a tramcar, and a gentleman resigns his seat to her.  "I beg your pardon?" says the gentleman.  "I did not speak," says the lady.  "Oh," returns the gentleman, "I thought you said 'Thank you'!"  A rebuke of this sort does not often need to be administered.  But it ought not to be needed at all.  It is only when ladies show consideration for the comfort of others that they can expect the deference and attention that were almost invariably extended to them in my young days.

    Fashions are continually changing.  The man of seventy who endeavours to recall their peculiarities, or even the order of their succession, will soon find himself in a difficulty.  But there is one fashion that nobody who lived in the early sixties is likely to forget.  I mean the crinoline.  That dreadful arrangement was responsible for hundreds of miserable deaths.  Rarely a week passed while our women were wearing it without a fatality due to its use being recorded.  But neither danger nor inconvenience—not even inevitable exposure in a high wind or a narrow passage—deterred our women from retaining the hateful structure for many years.  When a lady in a crinoline wanted to sit down, she had to lift up the hinder hoops of which it was composed and sit on them.  I once went with a party of ladies and gentlemen for a drive into the country, when the crinolines had all to be surreptitiously taken off and stuffed under the seat.  It was a tiresome time for everybody then.  Many a man, sitting near the door of an omnibus on a rainy day, had his shirt-front and even his face smeared by the dirty skirts of the ladies who entered the vehicle after him.  We may know from this that the fashion was—well, anything but decent. [34]

    The chignon flourished at the same time as the crinoline.  If you take a look at Leech's drawings in Punch at the period, you will see how hideous both looked.  Even the Pope denounced the chignon; for in the March of 1869 Pius the Ninth invited all "Christian mothers and daughters of Mary" to form a league against it.  "The doing up of chignons and the arranging of tresses several times a day," his Holiness declared, "occupy the time which should be devoted to religious duties, pious works, and family affairs."  The chignon, a huge excrescence fixed to the back of the head, was accompanied by pads—resembling polonies in shape and size—which were hung on each side of the face.  These pads were of course concealed under the hair—except at night, when they were hung (like Kilkenny cats on a clothes line) over the back of a chair.  It must be admitted that the chignon, encased in a chenile net, had its uses when Belinda happened to have a back fall on the ice.  But no use that anybody ever knew could be claimed for the polonies.

    The fashions just mentioned were dirty and dangerous.  But they were followed by others that were perhaps even more reprehensible—trailing skirts, and the wearing of the carcases of birds as millinery decorations.

    Trailing skirts were a fearful nuisance; for anybody who walked behind a lady on a dusty day in town was certain to get smothered.  What condition the lady herself was in can only be imagined.  Our women were all Dorothy Draggletails then.  They swept up and carried home in their garments much of the nameless filth of the streets.  Investigations made by an Italian doctor indicate that the microbes thus introduced into the household might easily have been fatal to an ailing child.  The skirt had always to be dusted in dry weather, but in wet weather it had to be scraped.  Yet women submitted to this foul fashion for several years. [35]

    "Of all the forces that regulate human society," it has been said, "fashion is one of the most irresistible, the most irresponsible, and the least intelligent.  Inscrutable in its origin, impalpable in its authority, it is independent alike of humanity, taste, and sense."  And fashion for nearly thirty years has proved more than a match for humanity.  The craze for wearing first the feathers and then the wings and bodies of birds was in full flood in the middle of the seventies.  It was in 1876 that Professor Newton, protesting against the barbarous custom, wrote that "feathers on the outside of any biped but a bird naturally suggest the association of tar."  But neither ridicule nor remonstrance has availed to stay the cruelty.  Millions and millions of birds have been destroyed to gratify a vanity which does not differ in its essence or its outward show from that of a Red Indian.  Some species, once numerous, have been practically extirpated, while rarer and more beautiful species will soon be known no more on earth.  It is women—the so-called gentle sex—that have worked this awful havoc.  If they cannot be shamed into tenderness, one could almost wish that they could be stoned into it.

    Men have their fashions as well as women.  The shape of the hat, for instance, is continually changing, as is the cut of the coat and the trousers.  Middle-aged people will recollect when the latter articles were so fashioned as to make the wearer look like a peg-top.  Even in the matter of tobacco-smoking there have been changes.  The habit is now almost universal—boys and even children, owing to the introduction of cigarettes, having acquired it.  Unfortunately, it has induced another habit—the disgusting habit of spitting always and everywhere.  But in my young days, smoking, though common, was by no means general.  Perhaps the difficulty of getting a light before the invention of the lucifer match had something to do with the slender patronage of the weed.  Working men smoked clay pipes, and carried their tobacco in brass boxes.  The clay pipe is still in vogue, but the brass box is now a curiosity.  Churchwardens were an evening luxury, and meerschaums appurtenances of richer folk.  And now briarwood pipes and india-rubber pouches have taken the place of the older conveniences.

    But of the habit itself, what shall one say?  As a pretty old smoker—off and on I have smoked for more than fifty years—I have this to say, that smoking is merely a habit, pleasant enough when you have acquired it, but not indispensable to human happiness if you haven't.  Much has been said about the slavery of the habit.  It is fascinating rather than enslaving.  I once abandoned it altogether, and only took to it again when I began to write for the press.  Since then I have had no desire to discard the practice, and see no reason for discarding it.  The experience of others may be different.  There is, for example, the story of Max Müller and Alfred Tennyson.  The talk turned on tobacco.  The professor confessed that he had formerly been the slave of the pipe, but had asserted his independence by entirely renouncing it.  "Well," said the poet, "anybody could do the same."  Forthwith out of the window went his whole stock of pipes.  The next day he was complacent, the day after he was moody, the third day he was miserable.  Tennyson was then seen in the garden collecting his precious gods, never to be discarded again till the day he "crossed the bar."  Similar was the experience of a Newcastle friend—a town councillor now dead.  One evening he made a compact with another devotee of the soothing weed that neither should smoke again without his friend's consent.  Next morning, immediately after breakfast, both were hunting all over the town for each other!

    Diseases and accidents are common to us all.  I have had experience of both.  Once an attempt to protect a poor woman from a pack of dastardly boys led to weeks in bed from a sprained ankle.  The boys were pelting the old dame with stones.  She was so deaf that she did not hear the stones rattling around her head.  I made a pretence of chasing the assailants, turned suddenly round, wrenched my foot on the curb-stone, and then—agony!  Sick and faint and unable to walk, I crawled to a main street where I could hail a cab.  While I was propped against a wall, waiting in awful pain for a cab to come along, the poor creature whom I had perhaps saved from fatal injuries, totally unconscious of her danger or mine, passed on her way home.  Inscrutable indeed are the ways of Providence.  Of another accident, though I was the subject, some one else was the victim.  It arose from a telegraphic blunder.  Not being able to keep an appointment, I instructed one of my children to send a telegram.  The message, as prepared, ran thus:—"Don't expect any one to-night; father is in bed."  As delivered, however, it ran thus: "Don't expect any one to-night; father is dead."  When the telegram was received, the lady of the house went into hysterics, remained in a distressing condition for several hours, and did not recover from the shock for many days afterwards.  "Whenever, in telegraphic or telephonic circles, curious mistakes are discussed," wrote the chief of the department in Newcastle, "this is one of the worst that can be recalled."  As the false report somehow got abroad in the town, people seemed to feel, I thought, that I had no right to be seen in the streets after all they had heard.  Blood-poisoning, the result of scamping work in a new house, was not only nearly fatal, but the parent of a whole crop of diseases.  Sydney Smith once remarked: "I have gout, asthma, bronchitis, and seven other maladies, but am otherwise very well."  James Payn, the novelist, shortly before he died, wrote in a similar strain: "I have had a fine old time with many disorders.  For extreme agony, there are few things to beat rheumatic fever.  As regards intolerant discomfort, there is nothing to vie with eczema; but for helpless, hopeless misery, with a struggle for life every five minutes—a night with bronchitis."  Well, asthma is pretty bad too.  Dr. Horace Dobell relates the case of a gentleman who, travelling from Leeds or Manchester to Bournemouth, had to spend the time of the journey on his knees at the bottom of the railway carriage, gasping for air.  A lady of my acquaintance had to sleep in a chair for months on end because she could not breathe in bed.  Another patient could not rest in any bedroom in his house, and had at last to fix his couch in a sort of coal-hole, among pots and pans and other kitchen utensils.  Such are the dreadful peculiarities of asthma.  When the disorder is complicated with bronchitis, as it often is, a new misery is added to life.  The wheezing and whistling in the sufferer's throat, comparable sometimes to the droning of a foghorn, sometimes to the wail and yelp of a ship's syren, disturb the household, wake up the sufferer from a fitful sleep, and rob even death of its terrors.  But for excruciating agony there is nothing equal to sciatica.  It is curious, though, that every form of painful disease seems preferable to every other form when you are free from all but one.  When I am writhing from sciatica, I think I would prefer asthma; and when I am gasping from asthma, I think I would prefer sciatica.  But the happy discoveries of modern days have given relief from many intolerable ailments.  The effects of morphia are wonderful.  First the pain begins to subside; then it disappears altogether; and then ensues a feeling of perfect peace—not sleep, nor the desire for sleep, but absolute and ecstatic enchantment.  Such was my experience at heavenly intervals when enduring for months the torments of sciatica.

    Yet there are vile complaints, the fruit of the lowest vices, which the public opinion of the day will not allow the faculty to prevent.  I attended a meeting which was called in the sixties to consider the extension of the Contagious Diseases Act.  The chairman of the meeting was the Mayor of Newcastle, Mr. Henry Angus.  Most of the principal practitioners of the town were present—Dr. Charlton, Dr. Embleton, Dr. Arnison, Dr. Brady, Dr. Gregson, Dr. Hardcastle, Dr. Philipson, Dr. Russell.  So were some of the leaders of the religious world—Archdeacon Prest, the Rev. Clement Moody (Vicar of Newcastle), and the Rev. Dr. John Collingwood Bruce.  Indeed, the movement, judging from the people who took a prominent part in promoting it, seemed to be of a religious and philanthropic character.  Nevertheless, it provoked one of the most unpleasant agitations of the century—almost as unpleasant as that which arose later from the publication of the "Maiden Tribute."  The opposition which the proposal of the Newcastle philanthropists brought out had the effect in the end of stopping all legislation of the nature indicated.


 
CHAPTER LXII

MORE SCRAPINGS


NEWCASTLE, since the present scribbler knew it, has been the scene of many exciting public meetings in the Town Hall.  One of the earliest he recollects was called to consider a subject on which there was great division of opinion.  The meeting was divided too.  Sir John Fife occupied the chair.  The gallant knight, after vainly endeavouring to obtain a hearing for the speakers, stepped down from his seat, strutted across the platform, and exclaimed at the top of his voice, as if he had been dispersing his regiment of volunteers, "I dissolve you as a disorderly meeting."

    During the agitation for the disestablishment of the Irish Church, a ticket meeting was called by the Church party.  A great gun was there from Dublin—the Rev. Tresham Gregg.  There had been other meetings in the neighbourhood, called in the same way, at which the resolutions adopted were represented to embody the opinions of the inhabitants.  As soon as the proceedings in the Town Hall had been opened, the late Dr. Rutherford ascended the platform, and demanded an assurance from the promoters that no attempt would be made to pass off that meeting as a meeting of the inhabitants of Newcastle.  Immense hubbub and excitement followed.  Dr. Rutherford, however, was encouraged to persist by a small but determined section of the audience.  The result was that the meeting was dissolved.  As the gathering dispersed, a reverend gentleman was seen on the stairs holding out a ticket to the crowd, and exclaiming in a voice broken with anger and emotion, "They have come here with a lie in their right hand to disturb the proceedings."  From that time to this, ticket meetings have never been popular in Newcastle.

    No meetings in the Town Hall have ever been so crammed or so enthusiastic as those which Mr. Cowen addressed when he was seeking the suffrages of the electors or giving an account of his stewardship.  Once there was a fearful crush to hear him when it was announced that he was going to address his constituents.  The hon. member was himself so crushed and injured that there was no address at all.  The time was critical, and some of Mr. Cowen's good-natured friends suggested that the whole thing was a feint; yet from the injuries he sustained he never completely recovered.  On that occasion or some other the seats in the body of the hall had been removed so as to give room for a larger gathering.  The consequence was disastrous.  The pressure from both ends of the floor was so terrible that the audience seemed to bulge up in the middle.  Many people in the midst of it had to be rescued in a fainting and exhausted condition by the occupants of the side elevations.  I have witnessed many exhilarating scenes, but never any that equalled the delirium Mr. Cowen produced by a magnificent peroration about Arnold of Winkelreid and the gallant Greeks who leapt from Suli's rock.

    During the short time he was member for Newcastle, Mr. Ashton Dilke had some exasperating experiences.  One was when he called his first meeting after he had been elected.  Infuriated Irishmen came from all parts of Tyneside, prevented the hon. member from speaking, and eventually stormed and captured the platform.  It was not a meeting—it was a pandemonium.  Irishmen on a later occasion were just as much infuriated against Michael Davitt.  For some reason or other, Mr. Davitt had incurred the displeasure of the Fenians, and the Fenians had planned an organized attack upon their fellow-countryman and his friends.  When the platform was invaded by a hostile and threatening mob, Mr. Davitt drew a revolver from his pocket to defend himself.  Fortunately, he had no occasion to use it: else the audience in the Town Hall, as an Irish Chief Constable of Newcastle said of another meeting that was broken up in the same place, might have been "floating in blood."

    Besides disorderly meetings, party politics sometimes produce ludicrous things—party poetry, for instance.  It is sad rubbish generally—a shade worse, perhaps, than the common run of comic songs of the day.  When Mr. Surr William Duncan was Conservative candidate for the Wisbech Division of Cambridgeshire in 1892, the Hon. Mrs. Brand was said to have sung with great success at Liberal gatherings, a song which contained the following couplet:—


We have kept Surr William Duncan out,
And shoved the Tories up the spout.


Conservative poets have been equal to the occasion also.  Here are some sample lines from a ditty that was chanted with much amusement at a banquet in Edinburgh:—


The G.O.M. will rise,
                            By and by,
To a mansion in the sky,
                            By and by,
Unless—oh! tale of woe!—
He unfortunately go
To the regions down below,
                            By and by.


But worse is in store for the country if the party spirit should be allowed to ride rough-shod over it.  The formation of a society of political agents is bringing us nearer and nearer to that system of "machine politics" which has produced so much corruption in the United States.  As matters have looked in recent years, it seems likely that we shall not be long before there is a Tammany Hall [Ed.--see "Our American Cousins", Chpt. XV.] in England—an institution which will make the ballot a fraud and popular government a scandal.  One of the casuistic questions which election agents, who would appear to be qualifying themselves for Jesuit priests, have been asked to answer is this:—"What form of words would you advise for the use of a candidate anxious to pledge himself to the Temperance party without losing the support of the liquor interest?"  If this be a specimen of the examination which professional politicians are expected to go through, we may bid farewell to what honesty and sincerity yet pertains to our political life.  Nobody knows better than Mr. Bryce, whose great work on the "American Commonwealth" is a standard and a warning, the rascality and rottenness which the "spoils system" has introduced into the body politic of the United States.  Yet, when he was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1893, he actually followed, in respect to the appointment of magistrates, very nearly the same policy as that which has had demoralizing results on the other side of the Atlantic.

    But politics afford a pleasant occupation to people who are socially inclined.  The House of Commons has been described as the best club in London.  I became for the time being a convert to that opinion when I once spent a night in it.  We were the guests of the late John Candlish, then one of the members for Sunderland.  Mr. Candlish showed us everything and everywhere—the legislative chamber, the library, the dining-room, the smoke-room.  We practically sat in the House itself, though the business in hand was neither important nor very interesting.  I recollect recognising many of the members from the struts and attitudes I had seen caricatured in the cartoons of Vanity Fair.  But the strangest thing I saw there was an Irish member who was born without arms or legs.  This was Mr. Kavanagh.  We saw him in the smoke-room.  Nothing particular was noticeable about him as he sat smoking and drinking and chatting with his friends, for he had been fitted with a contrivance which enabled him to hold his cigar and lift his glass.  But the division bell rang.  Then all was commotion.  And the last we saw of Mr. Kavanagh was a figure with a dark skirt hurriedly disappearing on the back of another member.  The agility of the hon. gentleman in mounting his friend's shoulders was less astonishing than the fact we were told that he was in the habit of riding to hounds.  That night in the House of Commons was an agreeable finish to a short holiday.  One would perhaps think less highly of the performance, however, if one had to sit it out every night, and sometimes all night, for six months of the year.

    Legislators who have every facility for getting drunk themselves—facilities that are not always neglected, for even Mr. Disraeli, according to Mr. Gladstone, had his "midnight manner"—can hardly be expected to put too tight a rein on other people.  So temperance legislation, at all events until lately, made slow progress.  Not that any legislation will do much to correct a habit that has long been reckoned one of the worst foibles of the English race.  Dr. Johnson told Boswell that he remembered the time "when all decent people in Leicester got drunk every night, and were not the worse thought of."  Decent people, or people who thought themselves decent, got drunk long after Johnson's time.  A circumstance will illustrate the point.  The drinking glasses we now call tumblers seem to owe their name to a new fashion that was introduced into this country at the close of the eighteenth century.  They were then called "tumbling glasses," for the reason that they were so made (somewhat after the shape of soda-water bottles) that they tumbled over unless held in the hand.  Indeed, the object of these "tumbling glasses" was apparently to make the persons who used them drink more than they probably would have done otherwise.  A correspondent of Notes and Queries, writing on this subject, quoted from an old diary kept by a great-uncle of his in the year 1803, in which occurred the following entry:—"Had a few friends to dine; tried my new 'tumbling glasses'; very successful—all got drunk early."  But people in the "hupper suckles" got drunk early at the end as well as the beginning of the century—early in the day even.  There was a fashionable wedding in Northumberland in 1896.  Two days before the marriage a reporter was sent out to glean particulars at the ancestral mansion of the bride.  The bride's father was found drunk at noon.  "Can you tell me," he was asked by the reporter, "anything about the bridegroom?"  "Bridegroom?" came the dazed reply: "well, they call him Archie, but d—d if I know what else they call him!"

    The origin of other names besides that of "tumbler" is apt to get obscure unless fixed before it is too late.  Take as an example the name Jingo, meaning a sort of national swashbuckler.  According to the "National Dictionary of Biography," the late Professor Minto, a member of the staff of the Daily News, claimed that he was the first to give the word "the currency of respectable print."  But let the facts be fairly stated.  During the excitement occasioned by the Russo-Turkish war, a music-hall performer named MacDermott obtained a great amount of kudos by singing a war-like song, the chorus of which ran something like this:—


We don't want to fight;
    But, by Jingo, if we do,
We've got the men, we've got the ships,
    And we've got the money too.


The song, in spite of its absurdity, took hold of the public mind, so that the refrain was heard and chanted everywhere.  It came to pass that Mr. Bradlaugh and Mr. Auberon Herbert called a peace meeting in Hyde Park on Sunday, May 10th, 1878.  The park, however, was invaded by a boisterous crowd, who roared the music-hall song, marched to the Turkish Embassy, and kept things lively for the rest of the day.  Thereupon my old friend George Jacob Holyoake wrote to the Daily News suggesting that the war party should take the name of the patron saint of the music-halls, St. Jingo, and so he headed his letter, "The Jingoes in the Park." [Ed.see G. J. Holyoake, "Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life", Chpt. XCVIII.]  The suggestion was adopted at once; advocates of a war policy became known as Jingoes; and the designation has since been appropriated by many foreign countries.  This statement of the origin of the name is not invalidated by the fact that Sir George Otto Trevelyan (then Mr. Trevelyan, member for the Border Burghs) quoted the musichall song in a speech at Selkirk in the January previous.  The song was one thing; the proposal that the war party should be baptised Jingoes another thing.

    There is no obscurity about the origin of Primrose Day and of the political organization called the Primrose League [Ed.see also Gerald Massey, "Election LyricsThe Primrose Dame"].  The anniversary and the association were so christened because the primrose was supposed to be the favourite flower of Lord Beaconsfield, the Mr. Disraeli of an earlier period.  But the assumption about the flower is alleged to have been due to a mistake.  James Payn explained the matter.  When Lord Beaconsfield died, Queen Victoria sent a huge wreath of primroses, bearing the inscription, "His favourite flower."  The fashionable world at once jumped to the conclusion that the Queen meant the deceased statesman, whereas Payn declares that "his" in the royal mind always signified something belonging to the Prince Consort.  The explanation is plausible.  Throughout Disraeli's novels it appears there is only one mention of primroses, and that is in "Lothair," where Lord St. Jerome remarks that "they make excellent salad."  Payn was of opinion that nothing could have been conceived more out of character for Lord Beaconsfield than a preference for a simple flower.  The peacock was his favourite bird.  Reasoning from analogy, one would therefore suppose that the peony or the sunflower would have been more in harmony with his gaudy taste.

    The weaknesses and follies of our people notwithstanding, we are all proud of our native land.  It was Robertson of Brighton who said or wrote:—"Blessings on thee, my dear old blundering country: she never long mistakes an actor for a hero or a hero for an actor."  Two sailors were talking about their respective countries.  "If I were not a Frenchman," said one, "I would like to be an Englishman."  "If I were not an Englishman," said the other, "I would like to be an Englishman."  And so say all of us!  England is not always right; but she is oftener right than any other country in the world.  It is true that she occasionally conquers new territories; but the territories that are thus conquered, thanks to an enlightened policy that has seldom varied, are not exploited simply and solely for her own advantage.  She does not shut up her possessions, as France has shut up Madagascar or as Russia would shut up China.  There is little need, therefore, for any Englishman to raise the cry of some foolish Americans—"Our country, right or wrong."  The influence and prospects of the British race can only be ruined by the vices and stupidities of the British race itself.  The pursuit of narrow and sordid interests in preference to broad and patriotic interests—solicitude for the advantage of a class instead of the welfare of the nation at large—would sooner or later be fatal to us all.  So also would be the sacrifice of the general prosperity to the gross indulgences of the individual.  Thrift and industry, probity and sobriety, will ensure the salvation of any race on earth.  They will prove the salvation of ours.  For the rest, there is the idea of obligation.  Thomas Drummond laid down the doctrine that property has its duties as well as its rights.  When we have learnt the still better lesson of Joseph Mazzini—that the duties of man are as divinely ordained as the rights of man—we may march on our way, defiant and rejoicing.



FINIS.


_________________________


FOOTNOTES.


32.    Sir James Crichton Browne lately quoted a case in which the ten children of a half-witted father were all imbeciles.

33.    Sir John Bowring, in some autobiographical reminiscences that were published after his death, says:—"Montgomery's real patronymic was Gomery—the son of the clown of that name—but he sought to aristocratise his designation, and wished to be called 'The Poet Montgomery,' an ambition which gave no little offence to James Montgomery, the veritable poet, who stands in the first rank of devotional minstrels."

34.    Àpropos of the crinoline, which was a cage-like arrangement of wires and tapes, the following little story may be appreciated:—When the ceremony of laying the foundation-stone of the proposed new docks on the Black Middens at North Shields was performed by Sir Joseph Cowen, chairman of the Tyne Commissioners (the stone was laid in the sixties, but the docks were never made), the latter part of the proceedings, as I well remember, was marred by a drenching shower.  Among the gentlemen who assisted at the ceremony was Chevalier Brightman, the Austrian Consul, whose official uniform was a gorgeous affair—duck trousers, scarlet coat, cocked hat, white plumes, etc.  Mr. Brightman got drenched like the rest of us.  On his way home he called at a cottage in search of a change of raiment.  But the only change the poor woman could offer him was a crinoline!

35.    Written in 1901.  And now (1903) the foul fashion is rampant again.

 


 

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