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Essays in Rebellion by Henry W. Nevinson

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When your Committee invited me to deliver the Moncure Conway address
this year, I was even more surprised at their choice of subject than at
their choice of person. For the chosen subject was Peace, and my chief
study, interest, and means of livelihood for some twenty years past has
been War. It seemed to me like inviting a butcher to lecture on
vegetarianism. So I wrote, with regret, to refuse. But your Committee
very generously repeated the invitation, giving me free permission to
take my own line upon the subject; and then I perceived that you did not
ask for the mere celebration of an established doctrine, but were still
prepared to join in pursuit, following the track of reason wherever it
might lead, as became the traditions of this classic building, which I
sometimes think of as reason's last lair. I perceived that what you
demanded was not panegyric, or immutable commonplace, but, above all
things, sincerity. And sincerity is a dog with nose to the ground,
uncertain of the trail, often losing the scent, often harking back, but
possessed by an honest determination to hunt down the truth, if by any
means it can be caught.

It is one of my many regrets for wasted opportunity that I never heard
Moncure Conway; but, with a view to this address, I have lately read a
good deal of his writings. Especially I have read the _Autobiography_,
an attractive record and commentary on the intellectual history of
rapidly-changing years, most of which I remember. On the question of
peace Moncure Conway was uncompromising--very nearly uncompromising.
Many Americans feel taller when they think of Lexington and the shot
that echoed round the world. Moncure Conway only saw lynchers in the
champions of freedom who flung the tea-chests into the sea; and in the
War of Independence he saw nothing but St. George Washington spearing a
George the Third dragon.[8] He quotes with approval the saying of Quaker
Mifflin to Washington: "General, the worst peace is better than the best
war."[9] Many Americans regard the Civil War between North and South
with admiration as a stupendous contest either for freedom and unity, or
for self-government and good manners. Moncure Conway was strongly and
consistently opposed to it. The question of slavery did not affect his
opposition. He thought few men had wrought so much evil as John Brown of
Harper's Ferry, whose soul marched with the Northern Armies.[10] "I
hated violence more than slavery," he wrote, "and much as I disliked
President Buchanan, I thought him right in declining to coerce the
seceding States."[11] Just before the war began, he wrote in a famous
pamphlet: "War is always wrong; it is because the victories of Peace
require so much more courage than those of war that they are rarely
won."[12] "I see in the Union War," he wrote, "a great catastrophe."
"Alas! the promises of the sword are always broken--always." And in the
concluding pages of his _Autobiography_, as though uttering his final
message to the world, he wrote:

"There can arise no important literature, nor art, nor real
freedom and happiness, among any people until they feel
their uniform a livery, and see in every battlefield an inglorious
arena of human degradation.... The only cause that can
uplift the genius of a people as the anti-slavery cause did in
America is the war against war."

For the very last words of his _Autobiography_ he wrote:

"And now, at the end of my work, I offer yet a new plan
for ending war--namely, that the friends of peace and justice
shall insist on a demand that every declaration of war shall be
regarded as a sentence of death by one people on another; and
shall be made only after a full and formal judicial inquiry and
trial, at which the accused people shall be fairly represented.... The
meanest prisoner cannot be executed without a trial. A
declaration of war is the most terrible of sentences: it sentences
a people to be slain and mutilated, their women to be widowed,
their children orphaned, their cities burned, their commerce
destroyed. The real motives of every declaration of war are
unavowed and unavowable. Let them be dragged into the
light! No war would ever occur after a fair judicial trial by a
tribunal in any country open to its citizens.

"Implore peace, O my reader, from whom I now part. Implore
peace, not of deified thunderclouds, but of every man,
woman, or child thou shalt meet. Do not merely offer the
prayer, 'Give peace in our time,' but do thy part to answer it!
Then, at least, though the world be at strife, there shall be
peace in thee."[13]

That sounds uncompromising. We cannot doubt that one of the main motives
of Conway's life was "War against War." He suffered for peace; he lost
friends and influence for peace; we may almost say he was exiled for
peace. Those are the marks of sincerity. He, if anyone, we might
suppose, was a "Peace-at-any-price man." But let us remember one passage
in an address delivered only a few months before his death. In that
address, on William Penn, given in April 1907 (he died in the following
November), speaking of Mr. Carnegie's proposal for a compulsory Court of
International Arbitration, he said:

"In order to prevent swift attacks of one nation on another without
notice, or outrages on weak and helpless tribes, there shall be selected
from the armaments of the world a combination armament to act as the
international police.... Even if in the last resort there were needed
such united force of mankind to prevent any one nation from breaking the
peace in which the interests of all nations are involved, that would not
be an act of war, but civilisation's self-defence. Self-defence is not
war, although the phrase is often used to disguise aggression."[14]

Speaking with all respect for a distinguished man's memory, I disagree
with every word of those sentences. An international police, directed by
the combined Powers, would almost certainly develop into a tremendous
engine of injustice and oppression. The Holy Alliance after Napoleon's
overthrow aimed at an international police, and we want no more Holy
Alliances. I would not trust a single government in the world to enter
into such a combination. I would rather trust Satan to combine with sin.
Think of the fate of Egypt from Arabi's time up to the present, or of
Turkey controlled by the Powers, or of Persia and Morocco to-day! But
the point to notice is that you cannot alter things by altering names.
The united force of civilisation brought to bear upon any nation,
however guilty, would be an act of war, however much you called it
international police. Civilisation's self-defence would be war. Every
form of self-defence by violence, whether it disguises aggression or
not, is war. For many generations every war has been excused as
self-defence of one kind or another. I can hardly imagine a modern war
that would not be excused by both sides as defensive. By making these
admissions--by maintaining that self-defence is not war--Moncure
Conway gives away the whole case of the "peace-at-any-price man," He
comes down from the ideal positions of the early Quakers, the modern
Tolstoyans, and the Salvation Army. They preach non-resistance to evil
consistently. Like all extremists who have no reservations, but will
trust to their principle though it slay them, they have gained a certain
glow, a fervour of life, which shrivels up our ordinary compromises and
political considerations. But by advocating civilisation's self-defence
in the form of a combined international armament, Moncure Conway
abandoned that vantage ground. He became sensible, arguable, uncertain,
submitting himself to the balances of reason and expediency like the
rest of us.

A certain glow, a fervour of life--those are signs that always
distinguish extremists--men and women who are willing literally to die
for their cause. I did not find those signs at the Hague Peace
Conference, when I was sent there in 1907 as being a war correspondent.
Such an assembly ought to have marked an immense advance in human
history. It was the sort of thing that last-century poets dreamed of as
the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World. It surpassed Prince
Albert's vision of an eternity of International Exhibitions. One would
have expected such an occasion to be heralded by Schiller's _Ode to Joy_
sounding through the triumph of the Choral Symphony. Long and dubious
has been the music's struggle with pain, but at last, in great
simplicity, the voices of the men give out the immortal theme, and the
whole universe joins in harmony with a thunder of exultation:

"Seid umschlungen, Millionen,
Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!"

Surely at the Hague Conference, in the fulfilment of time, peace had
come on earth and goodwill among men. Here once more would sound the
song that the morning stars sang together, when all the sons of God
shouted for joy.

As loaders in that celestial chorus, I found about 400 frock-coated,
top-hatted gentlemen from various parts of the world--elderly
diplomatists, ambassadors inured to the stifling atmosphere of courts,
Foreign Ministers who had served their time of intrigue, professors who
worshipped law, worthy officials primed with a stock of phrases about
"the noble sentiments of justice and humanity," but reared in the
deadening circle of uniforms, decorations, and insincere courtesy,
having no more knowledge of the people's desires than of the people's
bacon, and instructed to maintain the cause of peace chiefly by
safeguarding their country's military interests. An atmosphere of
suspicion and secrecy surrounded them, more dense than the fog of war.
For their president they elected an ambassador who had grown old in the
service of three Tsars, and now represented a tyrant who refused the
first principles of peace to his own people, and repressed the struggle
for freedom by methods of barbarism such as no general could use against
a belligerent in the stress of war without incurring the execration of

With commendable industry, those delegates at this Second Peace
Conference devoted themselves to careful preparations for the next war,
especially for the next naval war. They appeared to me like two farmers
making arrangements to abstain from burning each other's hay-ricks.
"Look here," says one, "this rick-burning's a dangerous and expensive
job. Let us give up wax vestas, and stick to safety matches." "Done!"
says the other. "Now mind! Only safety matches in future!" and they part
with mutual satisfaction, conscious of thrift and Christian forbearance.
Or, again, I thought the situation might be expressed in the form of a
fable, how the Fox of the Conference said to the Rabbit of Peace, "With
what sauce, Brer Rabbit, would you like to be eaten?" "Please, Mr. Fox,
I don't want to be eaten at all," said the Rabbit "Now," answered the
Fox, "you are gettin' away from the pint."

Something, no doubt, has been gained. Even the jealous diplomatists and
cautious lawyers at The Hague have secured something. Mankind had
gradually learnt that certain forms of horror were too horrible for
average civilisation, and The Hague confirmed man's veto, in some
particulars. Laying mines at sea and the destruction of private property
at sea were not forbidden, nor were the rights of belligerents extended
to subject races or rebels. Men and women are still exposed to every
kind of torture and brutality, provided the brutalities are practised by
their own superior government. But it is something, certainly, to have
gained a permanent Court of Arbitration for the trial of disputed points
between nations. The points are at present minor, it is true. Questions
affecting honour, vital interests, and independence are expressly
excluded. But the habit of referring any question at all to arbitration
is a gain, if only we could trust the members of the Court. So long as
those members are appointed by the present governments of Europe, there
is danger of the Court becoming merely another engine in the hands of
despotism, as was proved by the conduct of the Savarkar case at The
Hague in February 1911. But the field of reference will grow
imperceptibly, and we have had President Taft protesting that he desires
an Arbitration Treaty with England from which even questions of honour,
vital interests, and independence shall not be excluded.[15] Out of the
eater cometh forth meat. Even a blood-stained Tsar's proposals for peace
have not been entirely without effect. But in the midst of the warring
diplomatists at The Hague one could discover none of that glow, that
fervour of devotion to peace, which distinguished the early Quakers and
is still felt among a few fine enthusiasts. The first duty imposed upon
every representative at The Hague was to get everyone to do as much as
possible for peace, except himself. It is not so that the world is

Neither in the representatives nor in their governments can we find any
principle or passionate desire for peace. The emperors, kings, and men
of wealth, birth, and leisure who impudently claim the right of deciding
questions of peace and war in all nations, display no objection to war,
provided it looks profitable. Provided it looks profitable--what a vista
of devilry those words call up! What a theme for satire! But also, to
some extent, and in the present day, what ground for hope!

They bring us suddenly face to face with a little book which will leave
its mark, not only on the mind, but, perhaps, on the actual and external
history of man. In my opinion, the next Nobel prize should be shared
equally between Mr. J.A. Hobson and Mr. Lane, the younger writer who
calls himself Norman Angell. Between them they have completely analysed
the motives, the pretexts, the hypocrisies, the deceptions, the
corruptions, and the fallacies of modern war.[16] When we say that the
men who impudently claim the control of foreign politics among the
nations display no objection to war, provided it looks profitable, we
enter at once the sphere of that "Great Illusion" which is the
distinguishing theme of Norman Angell's pamphlet.

His main contention is that in modern times, owing to the
interdependence of nations, especially in trade, the readiness of
communication, the conduct of commerce and finance almost entirely by
the exchange of bills and cheques, the complicated banking relations,
and the solidarity of credit in all great capitals, so that if London
credit is shaken the finance of Berlin, Paris, St. Petersburg, and New
York feels the shock almost equally--for all these reasons modern war
cannot be profitable even to the victorious Power.

To advocates of peace, here comes a gleam of hope at last--perhaps the
strongest gleam that has reached us yet. Upon the kings of the earth,
sitting, as Milton said, with awful eye; upon diplomatists, ambassadors,
Foreign Office officials, courtiers, clergy, and the governing class in
general, appeals to pity, mercy, humanity, religion, or reason have had
no effect whatever. If you think I speak too strongly, look around you.
Name within the last century any ruler or minister who has been guided
by humanity or religion in the question of peace or war. Name any ruler
who has abstained from war because force is no argument. With the
possible exception of Mr. Gladstone in the cases of the _Alabama_ and
Majuba Hill, I can think of none. Against that one possible exception
place all the wars of a century past, including three that were among
the most terrible in human history--the Napoleonic war, the
Franco-German, and the Russo-Japanese. And as to the sweet influences of
Christianity, remember the Russian Archbishops, how they blessed the
sacred Icons that were to lead the Russian peasants to the slaughter of
Japanese peasants. Remember our Archbishop of Canterbury in February
1911 deeply regretting that a previous engagement prevented him from
passing on the blessing of the Apostles to the battleship _Thunderer_.
Remember how he sent his wife as a substitute to occupy the Apostolic
position in the hope that the hand which rocks the cradle might prove
equally efficacious.

Against the pugnacity and courage which urge our rulers to send other
people to die for them, the claims of humanity, reason, and religion
have no effect. The new hope is that self-interest may succeed where the
motives that act upon most decent people almost invariably fail. Norman
Angell's appeal goes straight to the pocket, and his choice of that
objective inspires hope. If rulers can no longer plead that by war they
are advancing the material interests of their State, if it is recognised
that even a victorious war involves as great disaster as defeat, or even
greater (and it is remarkable that, in one of his latest speeches,
Moltke maintained that, next to defeat, the greatest disaster which
could befall any State was victory)--if it can be shown that, in a war
between great nations, trade does not follow the flag, but moves rapidly
in the other direction, then one of the pretexts of our rulers will be
removed, one veil of hypocrisy will be stripped off. To that extent the
hope of peace will have grown brighter, and that extent is large.

On the whole, it is the brightest hope that has lately risen--or the
brightest but one which we will speak of later on. I would only hint at
two considerations which may obscure it. Granted that in modern times
war-power or victory does not give prosperity; that the invader cannot
destroy or capture the enemy's trade; that his own finance is equally
disturbed; and that the most enormous indemnity can add nothing to the
victorious nation's actual wealth--granted all this, nevertheless, the
warlike, though vicarious, heroism of our rulers might not on this
account be restrained. In many, if not most, recent wars the object has
not been national aggrandisement, or even national commerce, but private
gain. We have but to think of the South African War, so cleverly
engineered in the gold-mining interest, or of the Russo-Japanese war,
where so many thousands died for the Russian aristocracy's timber
concessions on the Yalu. Or, as permanent incitements to warfare, we may
think of all the manufacturers of armaments, the enormous companies that
fatten on blood and iron, the contractors, purveyors, horse-breeders,
tailors, advertisers, army-coaches, landowners, and well-to-do families
whose wealth, livelihood, or position depends mainly upon the
continuance of warlike preparations, and whose personal interests are
enormously increased by actual war. When a nation is pouring out its
wealth at the rate of L2,000,000 or even L10,000,000 a week, as in the
future it may well do, much of it will run away to waste, but most of it
will stick to one finger or another; and the dirtier the finger the more
will stick. It seems silly, it seems almost incredible, that, only a few
generations ago, the peoples of Europe were engaged in killing each
other as fast as possible over a question of dynasty--whether this or
that poor forked radish of a mortal should be called King of Spain or
King of France. But in our own days men kill each other for dynasties of
cash--for wealthy firms and intermarried families. Nations fight that
private companies may show a higher percentage on dividends. It is
silly; it is almost incredible. But to shareholders and speculators
instigated by these motives Norman Angell's appeal is futile. Even a
victorious war may spell disaster to the nation; but even defeat spells
cash for them.

Holland was in February 1911 compelled to buy twenty-four inferior big
guns from Krupp, without contract or competition, for the defence of her
Javanese possessions, which no one thinks of attacking. Do you suppose
that Krupp's Company regards war as disadvantageous, or circulates
Norman Angell's book for a new gospel? "What plunder!" cried Bluecher,
looking over London from St. Paul's. Nowadays he would not wait to
plunder a foreign nation; he would invest in a Dreadnought company, and
plunder his own. Our naval expenditure in 1911-12 amounted to
L46,000,000; our army expenditure to nearly L28,000,000--a total of
L73,650,000 for what is called defence! Ten years ago we were in the
midst of a most expensive war. Nevertheless, in ten years the annual
expenditure upon armaments has increased by L14,000,000--far more than
enough to double our Old Age Pensions. Within thirty years the naval
estimates have more than quadrupled. Are we to suppose that no one grows
fat on the people's money? _Quidquid delirant reges_. The kings of the
earth stood up and violently raged together; their subjects died. But
now the kings of the earth are raging financiers with a shrewd eye to
business, and their subjects starve to pay them. We used to be told that
the man who paid the piper called the tune. Do the people call the tune
of peace or war? Not at all. The ruling classes both call the tune and
pocket the pay.

There is one other point that may obscure the hope arising from Norman
Angell's book. His main contention concerns wars between great Powers,
nearly equally matched--Powers of high civilisation, with elaborate
systems of credit and complicated interdependence of trade. But most
recent wars have been attacks--defensive attacks, of course--upon small,
powerless, and semi-civilised nations by the great Powers. Under the
pretext of extending law and order, justice, peace, good government,
and the blessings of the Christian faith, a great Power attacks a small
and half-organised people with the object of taking up the White Man's
Burden, capturing markets, contracting for railways, and extending
territory. To wars of this kind, I think, Norman Angell's comforting
theory does not apply--the great illusion does not come in. A strong
Power may conquer Morocco, or Persia, or seize Bosnia, or enslave
Finland, or penetrate Tibet, or maintain its hold on India, or occupy
Egypt, or even destroy the Dutch Republics of South Africa, without
disorganising its own commerce or raising a panic on its own credit.
Most actual fighting has lately been of this character. It aims at the
suppression of freedom in small or unarmed nationalities, the absorption
of independent countries into great empires. It is the modern
counterpart of the slave-trade. It is supported by similar arguments,
and may be quite lucrative, as the slave-trade was.

Actual warfare generally takes this form now, but behind it one may
always feel the latent or diplomatic warfare that consists in the
calculation of armaments. A great Power says: "How much of Persia,
Turkey, China, or Morocco do I dare to swallow? Germany, Russia, France,
Japan, England, or Spain (as the case may be) will not like it if I
swallow much. But what force could she bring against me, if it came to
extremities, and what force could I set against hers?" Then the Powers
set to counting up army corps and Dreadnoughts. In Dreadnoughts they
seldom get their addition-sums right, but they do their poor best,
strike a balance, and declare that a satisfactory agreement has been
come to. This latent war is expensive, but cheaper than real war--and it
is not bloody; it does not shock credit, though it weakens it; it does
not ruin commerce, though it hampers it. The drain upon the nations is
exhausting, but it does not kill men so horribly, and our rulers do not
feel it; for the people pay, and the concession-hunters, the
contractors, the company directors, and suchlike people with whom our
rulers chiefly associate, grow very fat.

If, then, Norman Angell's hopeful theory applies only partially to these
common wars of Imperial aggrandisement and the perpetual diplomatic war
by comparison of armaments, to what may we look for hope? Lord Rosebery
would be the last person to whom one would look for hope in general. His
hope is too like despair for prudence to smother. Yet, in his speech at
the Press banquet during the Imperial Conference of 1909, when he spoke
of our modern civilisation "rattling into barbarism," he gave a hint of
the movement to which alone I am inclined to trust. "I can only
foresee," he exclaimed, "the working-classes of Europe uniting in a
great federation to cry: 'We will have no more of this madness and
foolery, which is grinding us to powder!'" The words may not have been
entirely sincere--something had to be said for the Liberal Press tables,
which cheered while the Imperialists sat glum; but there, I believe,
lies the ultimate and only possible chance of hope. We must
revolutionise our Governments; we must recognise the abject folly of
allowing these vital questions of peace, war, and armaments to be
decided according to the caprice or advantage of a single man, a clique
of courtiers, a gang of adventurers, or the Cabal of a Cabinet formed
from the very classes which have most to gain and least to lose, whether
from actual war or the competition in armaments. Over this Executive,
whether it is called Emperor, King, Court, or Cabinet, the people of the
nation has no control--or nothing like adequate control--in foreign
affairs and questions of war. In England in the year 1910 not a single
hour was allowed for Foreign Office debate in the Commons. In no country
of Europe have the men and women of the State a real voice in a matter
which touches every man and every woman so closely as war touches
them--even distant war, but far more the kind of war that devastates the
larder, sweeps out the drawing-room, encamps in the back garden, and at
any moment may reduce the family by half.[17] One remembers that picture
in Carlyle, how thirty souls from the British village of Dumdrudge are
brought face to face with thirty souls from a French Dumdrudge, after
infinite effort. The word "Fire!" is given, and they blow the souls out
of one another:

"Had these men any quarrel?" asks the Sartor. "Busy as
the Devil is, not the smallest! They lived far enough apart--were
the entirest strangers; nay, in so wide a Universe there
was even, unconsciously, by Commerce, some mutual helpfulness
between them. How then? Simpleton! their Governors had
fallen out; and, instead of shooting one another, had the
cunning to make these poor blockheads shoot."

Slowly and dimly the Dumdrudges of the world--the peasants and
artisans, the working people, the people who have most right to
count--are beginning to recognise the absurdity of paying and dying for
wars of which they know nothing, and in the quarrels of kings and
ministers for whom they have neither reverence nor love. "What is the
British Empire to me," I heard a Whitechapel man say, "when I have to
open the window before I get room to put on my trousers?" A section of
the country was opposed to the Crimean War; a far larger section was
opposed to the Boer War. Both were ridiculed, persecuted, and
maltreated; but nearly everyone now admits that both were right. In the
next unjust or unreasonable war the peace party will be stronger still.
Something has thus been gained; but the greatest gain ever yet won for
the cause of peace was the refusal of the Catalonian reservists to serve
in the war against the Riff mountaineers of Morocco in July 1909. "Risk
our lives and the subsistence of our little families to secure dividends
for shareholders in mining concessions illegally inveigled from a
semi-savage chieftain? Never! We will raise hell rather, and die in
revolution upon our native streets." So Barcelona flared to heaven, and
for nearly a week the people held the vast city. I have seen many noble,
as well as many terrible, events, but none more noble or of finer
promise for mankind than the sudden uprising of the Catalan working
people against a dastardly and inglorious war, waged for the benefit of
a few speculators in Paris and Madrid. Ferrer had no direct part in that
rising; his only part lay in sowing the seed of freedom by his writings.
It was a pity he had no other part. He lost an opportunity such as comes
in few men's lives--and he was executed just the same.[18]

The event was small and brief, but it was one of the most significant in
modern times. If the working classes refuse to fight, what will the
kings, ministers, speculators, and contractors do? Will they go out to
fight each other? Then, indeed, warfare would become a blessing
undisguised, and we could freely join the poet in calling carnage God's
daughter. When I was a child I drew up a scheme for a vast British army
recruited from our lunatic asylums. With lunatic soldiers, as I
explained to my mother, the heavier our losses, the greater would be our
gain. It seems to me still a promising idea. But an army recruited from
kings, lords, Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, speculators,
contractors, and officials--the people who are the primary originators
of our wars--would have even greater advantages, and the losses in
battle would be balanced by still greater compensations.

The Barcelona rising was, indeed, full of promise. It marked the gradual
approach of a time when the working-people, who always supply most of
the men to be killed in war, will refuse to fight for the ruling
classes, as they would now refuse to fight for dynasties. If they refuse
to fight in the ordinary Government wars, either war will cease, or it
will rise to the higher stage of war between class and class. It will
become either civil war--the most terrible and difficult, but the finest
kind of war, because some principle of the highest value must be at
stake before civil war can arise; or it will become a combined war of
the classes in various countries between whom there is a feeling of
sympathy and common interest. That would take the form of a civil war
extended throughout Europe, and perhaps America and the highly-developed
parts of Asia. The allied forces in the various countries would then
strike where the need was greatest, the French or English army corps of
working-men going to the assistance of Russian or German working-men
against the forces of despotism or capital. But a social war on that
scale, however desirable, is like the Spanish fleet in the _Critic_--it
is not yet in sight. The growing perfection of modern arms gives too
enormous an advantage to established forces. The movement is much more
likely to take the Barcelona form of refusal to fight; and if the
peoples of Europe could combine in that determination, the effect would
be irresistible. This international movement is, in fact, very slowly,
growing. The telegraph, the railway, cheap tickets, Cook's tours, the
power of reading, and even the peculiar language taught as French in our
schools, combine to wear away the hostility of peoples. The "beastly
foreigner" is almost extinct. The man who has been for a week in
Germany, or for a trip to lovely Lucerne, feels a reflected glory in
saying those foreigners are not so bad. There was a fine old song with a
refrain, "He's a good 'un when you know him, but you've got to know him
first." Well, we are getting to know the foreigner whom we once called

Ultimately the best, the only hope for peace lies in the determination
of the peoples not to do anything so silly as to settle the quarrels of
their rulers by killing each other. But then come the deeper questions:
Do people love peace? Do they hate war? Would the total abolition of war
be a good thing for the world? After a lengthy period of peace there
usually arises a craving for battle. Nearly fifty years of peace
followed the defeat of the Persians in Greece, and at the end of that
time, just before the Peloponnesian War, which was to bring ruin on the
country, Thucydides tells us that all Greece, being ignorant of the
realities of war, stood a-tiptoe with excitement. It was the same in
England just before our disastrous South African War, when readers of
Kipling glutted themselves with imaginary slaughter, and Henley cried to
our country that her whelps wanted blooding. In England this martial
spirit was more violent than in Greece, because, when war actually came,
the Greeks were themselves exposed to all its horrors and sufferings,
but in England the bloodthirsty mind could enjoy the conflict in a
suburban train with a half-penny paper. As in bull-fights or
gladiatorial shows, the spectators watched the expensive but
entertaining scene of blood and death from a safe and comfortable
distance. They gave the cash and let the credit go; they thoroughly
appreciated the rumble of a distant drum. "Blood! blood!" they cried.
"Give us more blood to make our own blood circulate more agreeably under
our unbroken skins!" Christianity joined in the cry through the mouths
of its best accredited representatives. As at the Crucifixion it is
written, "On that day Herod and Pilate were friends," so on the outbreak
of a singularly unjust, avaricious, and cruel war, the Christian
Churches of England displayed for the first and last time some signs of
unity. Canterbury and Armagh kissed each other, and the City Temple
applauded the embraces of unrighteousness and war. Dean Farrar of
Canterbury, concluding his glorification of the hell which I then saw
enacted in South Africa, quoted with heartfelt approval the Archbishop
of Armagh's poem:--

"And, as I note how nobly natures form
Under the war's red rain, I deem it true
That He who made the earthquake and the storm
Perhaps makes battles too.

Thus as the heaven's many-coloured flames
At sunset are but dust in rich disguise,
The ascending earthquake-dust of battle frames
God's picture in the skies."[19]

We are no longer compelled to regard the dogmas of Christianity or the
opinions of eminent Christians as authoritative. The appeal to
Christianity, which used to be regarded as decisive in favour of peace,
is no longer decisive one way or other. Christ's own teaching is
submitted to critical examination like any other teacher's, and I should
be the last to decry the representatives of the Prince of Peace for
acclaiming the virtues of war, if they think their Master was mistaken.
When bishops and deans and leading Nonconformists thirst for war's red
rain, we must take account of their craving as part of man's nature. We
must remember also that war has popular elements sometimes overlooked in
its general horror. It is believed that in the American Civil War nearly
a million men lost their lives; but against this loss we must set the
peculiar longevity with which the survivors have been endowed, and the
increasing number of heroes who enjoyed the State's reward for their
services of fifty years before. Even during the South African War
certain compensations were found. A charitable lady went on a visit of
condolence to a poor woman whose husband's name had just appeared in the
list of the killed at Spion Kop. "Ah, Mum," exclaimed the widow with
feeling, "you don't know how many happy homes this war has made!"

Before we absolutely condemn war we must take account of these
religious, medicinal, and domestic considerations. On the side of peace
I think it is of little avail to plead the horrors and unreason of war.
We all know how horrible and silly it is for two countries to pretend to
settle a dispute by ordering large numbers of innocent men to kill each
other. If horrors would stop it, anyone who has known war could a tale
unfold surpassing all that the ghost of Hamlet's father had seen in
hell. There are sights on a battlefield under shell-fire, and in a
country devastated by troops, so horrible that even war correspondents
have silently agreed to leave them undescribed. But the truth is that
people who are not present in war enjoy the horror. That is what they
like reading about in their back-gardens, clubs, and city offices. The
more you talk of the horrors of war the more warlike they become, and I
have met no one quite so bloodthirsty as the warrior of peace. Nor is it
any good pleading for reason when about ninety-nine per cent. of every
man's motives are not reasonable, but spring from passion, taste, or
interest. The appeal even to expense falls flat in a country like ours,
where about 200,000 horses, valued at L12,000,000, and maintained at a
charge of L8,000,000 a year, are kept entirely for the pursuit of foxes,
which are preserved alive at great cost in order that they may be
pursued to death.[20] Protests against the horrors, the unreason, and
even the expense of war have hitherto had very small effect.

The real argument in favour of war welcomes horror, defies reason, and
disregards expense. There are certain military qualities and aspects of
life, it says, that are worth preserving at the cost of all the horror,
unreason, and waste of war. The stern military character, brave but
tender, is a type of human nature for which we cannot pay too much.
Consider physical courage alone, how valuable it is, and how rare. With
what speed the citizen runs at the first glimpse of danger! With what
pleasure or shamefaced cowardice citizens look on while women are being
violently and indecently assaulted when attempting to vindicate their
political rights! How gladly everyone shouts with the largest crowd!
Consider how many noble actions men leave undone through fear of being
hurt or killed. "Dogs! would you live for ever?" cried Frederick the
Great to his soldiers, in defeat; and most of us would certainly answer:
"Yes, we would, if you please!" Only through war, or the training for
war, says the argument, can this loathly cowardice be kept in check.
Only by war can the spirit be maintained that redeems the world from
sinking into a Pigs' Paradise. Only in the expectation or reality of war
can life be kept sweet, strong, and at its height. War is life in
extremes; it is worth preserving even for its discipline and training.

"Manhood training [said Mr. Garvin, editor of the _Observer_,
in the issue of January 22, 1911]--manhood training has become
the basis of public life, not only in every great European
State, but in young democratic countries, like Australia and
South Africa. 'One vote, one rifle,' says ex-President Steyn.... As
a means of developing the physical efficiency of whole
nations, of increasing their patriotic cohesion, of implanting in
individuals the sense of political reality and responsibility, no
substitute for manhood training has yet been discovered."

This kind of argument implies despair of perpetual, or even of
long-continued, peace. It is true that those who advocate a national
training of all our manhood for war generally urge upon us that it is
the best security for peace. In the same way, peaceful Anarchists might
plead that they maintained several enormous bomb-factories in order to
impress upon rulers the advantages of freedom. But if peace were the
real and only object of Conscription, and if Conscription precluded the
probability of war, military training, after some years, would almost
certainly decline, and its supposed advantages would be lost. When you
breed game-cocks, they will fight; but if you forbid cock-fighting, the
breed will decline. You cannot have training for war without the
expectation of war. For many years I was a strong advocate of national
service, even though I knew it would never be adopted in this country
until we had seen the realities of war in our very midst, and had sat in
morning trains to the City stopped by the enemy's batteries outside
Liverpool Street and London Bridge. I also foresaw the extreme
difficulty of enforcing military training upon Quakers, the Salvation
Army, the Peace Society, and many Nonconformists and Rationalists.
Nevertheless, twenty-five years ago I advocated Conscription in a
carefully-reasoned article that appeared in Mr. Stead's _Pall Mall
Gazette_. It was received with a howl of rage and derision by both
parties in the State, and by all newspapers that noticed it at all. It
is significant--perhaps terribly significant--that it would not be
received with derision now, but that nearly the whole of one party and
the great majority of newspapers would welcome it only too gladly.

It seemed to me at that time--and it seems to me still--one of the most
horrible things in modern British life that we bribe the unemployed,
that we compel them by fear of starvation, to do our killing and dying
for us. I have passed more men into the army, probably, than any
recruiting sergeant, and I have never known a man who wished to recruit
unless he was unemployed. The Recruiting Report issued by the War Office
for 1911 shows ninety per cent. of the recruits "out of work." I should
have put the percentage still higher. But when you next see a full
company of a hundred soldiers, and reflect that ninety of them have been
persuaded to kill and die for you simply through fear of starvation
under our country's social system--I say, whether you seek peace or
admire war, the thought is horrible; it is hardly to be endured.

To wipe out this hideous shame, to put ourselves all in one boat, and,
if war is licensed murder, at all events to share the murder that we
license, and not to starve the poor into criminals for our own relief,
perhaps Conscription would not be too high a price to pay. Other
advantages are more obvious--the physical advantage of two years'
regular food and healthy air and exercise for rich and poor alike, the
social advantage of the mixture of all classes in the ranks, the moral
advantage of giving the effeminate sons of luxury a stern and bitter
time. For all this we would willingly pay a very heavy price. I would
pay almost any price.

But should we pay the price of compulsion? That is the only price that
makes me hesitate. I used to cherish a frail belief in discipline and
obedience to authority and the State. My belief in discipline is still
alive--discipline in the sense of entire mutual confidence between
comrades fighting for the same cause; but I have come to regard
obedience to external authority as one of the most dangerous virtues. I
doubt if any possible advantage could balance an increase of that
danger; and every form of military life is almost certain to increase
it. To me the chief peril of our time is the growing power of the State,
its growing interference in personal opinion and personal life, the
intrusion of an inhuman being called an expert or official into the most
intimate, inexplicable, and changing affairs of our lives and souls, and
the arrogant social legislation of a secret and self-appointed Cabal or
Cabinet, which refuses even to consult the wishes of that half of the
population which social restrictions touch most nearly. If general
military service would tend to increase respect and obedience to
external authority of this kind, it might be too big a price to pay for
all its other advantages. And I do think it would tend to increase that
abhorrent virtue of indiscriminate obedience. Put a man in uniform, and
ten to one he will shoot his mother, if you order him. Yet the shame of
our present enlistment by hunger is so overwhelming that I confess I
still hesitate between the two systems, if we must assume that the
continuance of war is inevitable, or to be desired.

Is it inevitable? Is it to be desired? If it were dying out in the
world, should we make efforts to preserve war artificially, as we
preserve sport, which would die out unless we maintained it at great
expense? The sportsman is an amateur butcher--a butcher for love. Ought
we to maintain soldiers for love--for fear of losing the advantages of
war? Those advantages are thought considerable. War has inspired much
art and much literature. It is the background or foreground in nearly
all history; it sheds a gleam of uniforms and romance upon a drab world;
it delivers us from the horrors of peace--the softness, the monotony,
the sensual corruption, the enfeebling relaxation. No one desires a
population slack of nerve, soft of body, cruel through fear of pain, and
incapable of endurance or high endeavour.

"It is a calumny on men," said Carlyle, "to say they are
roused to heroic action by ease, hope of pleasure, recompense
in this world or the next. Difficulty, abnegation, martyrdom,
death, are the allurements that act on the heart of man."[21]

At times war appears as a kind of Last Judgment, sentencing folly and
sensuality to hell. The shame of France was consumed by the fire of
1870, and her true genius was restored. Abominable as the Boer War was,
the mind of England was less pestilential after it than before. Passion
purifies, and surely there can be no passion stronger than one which
drives you to kill or die.

The trouble is that, in modern wars, passion does not drive _you_, but
you drive someone else, who probably feels no passion at all. It is
thought a reproach against an unwarlike soldier that "he has never seen
a shot fired in anger." But in these days he might have been through
many battles without seeing a shot fired in anger. Except in the
Balkans, few fire in anger now. What passion can an unemployed workman
feel when he is firing at an invisible unemployed workman or semi-savage
in the interest of a mining concession? Nor is it true that war in these
days encourages eugenics by promoting the survival of the fittest. On
the contrary, the fittest, the bravest, and the biggest are the most
likely to be killed. The smallest, the cowards, the men who get behind
stones and stick there, will probably survive. And as to the dangers of
effeminate peace, it is only the very small circle of the rich, the
overfed, the over-educated, and the over-sensitive who are exposed to
them. There is no present fear of the working classes becoming too soft.
The molten iron, the flaming mine, the whirling machine, the engulfing
sea, and hunger always at the door take care of that. Every working man
lives in perpetual danger. Compared to him, and compared to any woman in
childbirth, a soldier is secure, even under fire. The daily peril, the
daily toil, the fear for the daily bread harden most working men and
women enough, and for that very reason we should welcome the fine
suggestion of Professor William James--his last great service--that the
rich and highly educated should pass through a conscription of labour
side by side with the working classes, who would heartily enjoy the
sight of young dukes, capitalists, barristers, and curates toiling in
the stokeholes, coal-mines, factories, and fishing-fleets, to the
incalculable advantage of their souls and bodies.

So the balance swings this way and that, and neither scale will
definitely settle down. It is very likely that the bias of temperament
makes us incapable of decision. What is called the personal equation
holds the two scales of our minds painfully equal, and while we meditate
perpetual peace we suddenly hear the trumpet blowing. In many of us a
primitive instinct survives which blinds and warps the reason, and calls
us like a bugle to the silly and atrocious field. For the immediate
future, I can only hope, as I confidently believe, that the present age
of capitalist war will pass, as the age of dynastic war has passed, for
ever into the inferno where slavery and religious persecution now lie
burning, though they seemed so natural and strong. I think it will not
much longer be possible to fool the working classes into wars for
concessions or the extension of empires. I believe that already the
peoples of the greatest countries are awakening to the folly of
entrusting their foreign politics, involving questions of peace and war,
to the guidance of rulers, Ministers, and diplomatists who serve the
interests of their own class, and have no knowledge or care for the
desires or interests of the vast populations beneath them. I look
forward to the time when the extreme arbitrament of war will be resorted
to mainly in the form of civil or class contentions, involving one or
other of the noblest and most profound principles of human existence. Or
if war is to be international, we may hope that the finest peoples of
the world will resolve only to declare it in defence of the threatened
independence of some small but gallant race, or for the assistance of
rebel peoples in revolt for freedom against an intolerable tyranny.

I suppose a man's truest happiness lies in the keenest energy, the
conquest of difficulties, the highest fulfilment of his own nature; and
I think it possible that, under the conditions of our existence as men,
the finest happiness--the happiness of ecstasy--can only exist against a
very dark background, or in quick succession after extreme toil and
danger. It can only blaze like lightning against the thunder-cloud, or
like the sun's radiance after storm. For most of us other perils or
disasters or calls for energy supply that terrific background to joy;
but it is none the less significant that most people who have shared in
perilous and violent contests would, in retrospect, choose to omit any
part of active and happy lives rather than the wars and revolutions in
which they have been present, no matter how terrible the misery, the
sickness, the hunger and thirst, the fear and danger, the loss of
friends, the overwhelming horror, and even the defeat.

We must not take as argument a personal note that may sound only from a
primitive and unregenerate mind. But when I look back upon the long
travail of our race, it appears to me still impossible to adopt the
peace position of non-resistance. As a matter of bare fact, in reviewing
history would not all of us most desire to have chased the enslaving
Persian host into the sea at Marathon, to have driven the Austrians back
from the Swiss mountains, to have charged with Joan of Arc at Orleans,
to have gone with Garibaldi and his Thousand to the wild redemption of
Sicily's freedom, to have severed the invader's sinews with De Wet, to
have shaken an ancient tyranny with the Russian revolutionists, or to
have cleaned up the Sultan's shambles with the Young Turks? Probably
there is no man or woman who would not choose scenes and actions like
those, if the choice were offered. To very few do such opportunities
come; but we must hold ourselves in daily readiness. We do well to extol
peace, to confront the dangers, labour, and temptations of peace, and
to hope for the general happiness of man in her continuance. But from
time to time there come awful moments to which Heaven has joined great
issues, when the fire kindles, the savage indignation tears the heart,
and the soul, arising against some incarnate symbol of iniquity,
exclaims, "By God, you shall not do that. I will kill you rather. I will
rather die!"


[Footnote 7: An address delivered at South Place Institute in London on
Moncure Conway's birthday, March 17, 1911.]

[Footnote 8: Address on William Penn at Dickinson College, April 1907
(_Addresses and Reprints_, p. 415).]

[Footnote 9: _Ibid_., p. 411.]

[Footnote 10: _Autobiography_, vol. i. p. 239.]

[Footnote 11: _Ibid_., vol. i. p. 320.]

[Footnote 12: _Autobiography_, vol. i. p. 341 (from "The Rejected

[Footnote 13: _Autobiography_, vol. ii. pp. 453, 454.]

[Footnote 14: _Addresses and Reprints_, p. 432.]

[Footnote 15: Speech before the American International Arbitration
Society, January 1911.]

[Footnote 16: See Mr. Hobson's _Imperialism_ and _The Psychology of
Jingoism_; Norman Angell's _The Great Illusion_.]

[Footnote 17: "It is especially in the domain of war that we, the
bearers of men's bodies, who supply its most valuable munition, who, not
amid the clamour and ardour of battle, but singly and alone, with a
three-in-the-morning courage, shed our blood and face death that the
battlefield may have its food--a food more precious to us than our
heart's blood; it is we especially who, in the domain of war, have our
word to say--a word no man can say for us. It is our intention to enter
into the domain of war, and to labour there till, in the course of
generations, we have extinguished it"--Olive Schreiner's _Woman and
Labour_, p. 178.]

[Footnote 18: Of course, other causes combined for the Barcelona
outbreak--hatred of the religious orders, chiefly economic, and the
Catalonian hatred of Castile; but the refusal of reservists to embark
for Melilla was the occasion and the main cause.]

[Footnote 19: Quoted in J.A. Hobson's _Psychology of Jingoism_, p. 52.]

[Footnote 20: Figures from an article by Mr. Leonard Willoughby in the
_Pall Mall Magazine_ for November 1910.]

[Footnote 21: _The Hero as Prophet_, p. 65.]



From the early morning of Sunday, August 18, 1909, till evening came,
the Square of St. Peter's in Rome and the interior of the great basilica
itself were thronged from end to end with worshippers and pilgrims. The
scene was brilliant with innumerable lamps, with the robes of many
cardinals and the vestments of bishops, archbishops, and all the ranks
of priesthood. The ceremony of adding one more to the calendar of the
Blessed was performed, a solemn "Te Deum" was sung in praise of God's
eternal greatness, and Pontifical Mass was celebrated, with all the
splendour of ancient ritual and music of the grandest harmony. In the
afternoon Christ's Vicar himself entered from his palace, attended by
fifteen cardinals, seventy of the archbishops and bishops of France,
with an equal number of their rank from elsewhere, and, amid the
gleaming lights of scarlet and gold, of green and violet, of jewels and
holy flames, he prostrated himself before the figure of the Blessed One,
to whom effectual prayer might now be offered even by the Head of the
Church militant here on earth. Till late at night the vast cathedral was
crowded with increasing multitudes assembled for the honour of one whom
the Church which judges securely as the world, commanded them to revere.

It was a simple peasant girl--"just the simplest peasant you could ever
see"--whom the Head of the Church thus worshipped and crowds delighted
to honour. Short and deep-chested she was, capable of a man's endurance,
and with black hair cut like a boy's. She could not write or read, was
so ignorant as to astonish ladies, and had only the peasant arts. The
earliest description tells of her "common red frock carefully patched."
"I could beat any woman in Rouen at spinning and stitching," she said to
her judges, who, to be sure, had no special knowledge of anything beyond
theology. "I'm only a poor girl, and can't ride or fight," she said when
first she conceived her mission, and she had just the common instincts
of the working woman. We may suppose her fond of children, for wherever
she went she held the newborn babies at the font. She hated death and
cruelty. "The sight of French blood," she said, "always makes my hair
stand on end," and even to the enemy she always offered peace. "Or, if
you want to fight," she sent a message to the Duke of Burgundy, "you
might go and fight the Saracens." She never killed anyone, she said at
her trial. Just an ordinary peasant girl she seemed--"la plus simple
bergerette qu'on veit onques"--with no apparent distinction but a sweet
and attractive voice. To be sure, she could put that sweet voice to
shrewd use when she pleased. "What tongue do your Visions speak?" a
theologian kept asking her. "A better tongue than yours!" she answered
with the retort of an open-air meeting. But in those days there were
theologians who would try the patience of a saint, and Joan of Arc is
not a saint even yet, having been only Beatified on that Sunday, nearly
five centuries after her death.

And she was only nineteen when they burnt her. At least, she thought
she was about nineteen, but was not quite sure. Few years had passed
since she was a child dancing under the big trees which fairies haunted
still. Her days of glory had lasted only a few months, and now she had
lain week after week in prison, weighed down with chains and balls of
iron, watched day and night by men in the cell, because she always
claimed a prisoner's right to escape if she could. Her trial before the
Bishop of Beauvais and all the learning and theology of Paris University
lasted nearly three months. Sometimes forty men were present, sometimes
over sixty, for it was a remarkable case, and gave fine opportunity for
the display of the superhuman knowledge and wisdom upon which divines
exist. Human compassion they displayed also, hurrying away just before
the burning began one May morning, and shedding tears of pity over the
sins of one so young. Indeed, their preachings and exhortations to her
whilst the stake and fire were being arranged continued so long that the
rude English soldiers, so often deaf to the beauty of theology, asked
whether they were going to be kept waiting there past dinner-time.

However, the verdict of divine and human law could never be really
doubtful from the first, for the charges on which she was found guilty
comprehended many grievous sins. The inscription placed over her head as
she stood while the flames were being kindled declared this Joan, who
called herself the Maid, to be a liar, a plague, a deceiver of the
people, a sorceress, superstitious, a blasphemer of God, presumptuous, a
misbeliever in the faith of Christ, a boaster, idolatress, cruel,
dissolute, a witch of devils, apostate, schismatic, and heretic. It was
a heavy crime-sheet for a mere girl, and there was no knowing into what
a monster she might grow up. So the Bishop of Beauvais could not well
hesitate in pronouncing the final sentence whereby, to avoid further
infection to its members, this rotten limb, Joan, was cast out from the
unity of the Church, torn from its body, and delivered to the secular
power, with a request for moderation in the execution of the sentence.
Accordingly she was burnt alive, and the Voices and Visions to which she
had trusted did not save her from the agony of flames.

At first sight the contrast between these two scenes, enacted by the
authority of the same Church, may appear a little bewildering. It might
tempt us to criticise the consistency of ecclesiastic judgment, did we
not know that in theology, as in metaphysics, extreme contradictions are
capable of ultimate reconciliation. The Church's attitude was, in fact,
definitely fixed in January 1909 by the Papal proclamation declaring
that the girl's virtues were heroic and her miracles authentic. One can
only regret that the discovery was not made sooner, in time to save her
from the fire, when her clerical judges came to the very opposite
conclusion. Yet we must not hastily condemn them for an error which,
even apart from theological guidance, most of us laymen would probably
have committed.

Let us for a moment imagine Joan herself appearing in the England of
to-day on much the same mission. It is not difficult to picture the
contempt, the derision, the ribaldry, with which she would be greeted.
In nearly every point her reception would be the same as it was, except
that fewer people would believe in her inspiration. We have only to read
her trial, or even the account given in _Henry VI_, to know what we
should say of her now. There would be the same reproaches of
unwomanliness, the same reminders that a woman's sphere is the home, the
same plea that she should leave serious affairs to men, who, indeed, had
carried them on so well that the whole country was tormented with
perpetual panic of an enemy over sea. There would be the same taunts of
immodesty, the same filthy songs. Since science has presumed to take the
place of theology, we should talk about hysteria instead of witchcraft,
and hallucination instead of demoniacal possession. Physiologists would
expound her enthusiasm as functional disorder of the thyroid gland.
Historians would draw parallels between her recurring Voices and the
"tarantism" of the Middle Ages. Superior people would smile with polite
curiosity. The vulgar would yell in crowds and throw filth in her face.
The scenes of the fifteenth century in France would be exactly repeated,
except that we should not actually burn her in Trafalgar Square. If she
escaped the madhouse, the gaol and forcible feeding would be always

So that we must not be hard on that theological conclave which made the
mistake of burning a Blessed One alive. They were inspired by the
highest motives, political and divine, and they made the fullest use of
their knowledge of spiritual things. Being under divine direction, they
could not allow any weak sentiment of pity or human consideration to
influence their judgment. Their only error was in their failure to
discern the authenticity of the girl's miracles, and we must call that a
venial error, since it has taken the Church nearly five centuries to
give a final decision on the point. The authenticity of miracles! Of all
questions that is the most difficult for a contemporary to decide. In
the case of Joan's judges, indeed, the solution of this mystery must
have been almost impossible, unless they were gifted with prophecy; for
most of her miracles were performed only after her death, or at least
only then became known. And as to the bare facts they knew of her
life--the realities that everyone might have seen or heard, and many
thousands had shared in--there was nothing miraculous about them,
nothing to detain the attention of theologians. They were natural

For a hundred years the country had been rent and devastated by foreign
war. The enemy still clutched its very centre. The south-west quarter of
the kingdom was his beyond question. By treaty his young king was heir
to the whole. The land was depopulated by plague and impoverished by
vain revolution. Continuous civil strife tore the people asunder, and
the most powerful of the factions fought for the invader's claim. Armies
ate up the years like locusts, and there was no refuge for the poor, no
preservation of wealth for men or honour for women. Even religion was
distracted by schism, divided against herself into two, perhaps into
three, conflicting churches. In the midst of the misery and tumult this
girl appears, possessed by one thought only--the pity for her country.
Modest beyond all common decency; most sensitive to pain, for it always
made her cry; conscious, as she said, that in battle she ran as much
risk of being killed as anyone else, she rode among men as one of
themselves, bareheaded, swinging her axe, charging with her standard
which all must follow, heartening her countrymen for the cause of
France, striking the invading enemy with the terrors of a spirit. Just a
clear-witted, womanly girl, except that her cause had driven fear from
her heart, and occupied all her soul, to the exclusion of lesser things.
"Pity she isn't an Englishwoman!" said one of the enemy who was near her
after a battle, and he meant it for the most delicate praise. In a few
months she changed the face of her country, revived the hope, inspired
the courage, rekindled the belief, re-established the unity, staggered
the invader with a blow in the heart, and crowned her king as the symbol
of national glory. Within a few months she had set France upon the
assured road to future greatness. Little over twenty years after they
burnt her there was hardly a trace of foreign foot upon French soil.

It was all quite natural, of course. The theologians who condemned her
to death, and those who have now raised her to Beatitude, were concerned
with the authenticity of her miracles, and there is nothing miraculous
in thus raising a nation from the dead. Considering the difficulty of
their task, we may forgive the clergy some apparent inconsistency in
their treatment. But for myself, as a mere layman, I should be content
to call any human being Blessed for the natural magic of such a history;
and compared with that deed of hers, I would not turn my head to witness
the most astonishing miracle ever performed in all the records of the



It is strange to think that up to August of 1910, a woman was alive who
had won the highest fame many years before most people now living were
born. To remember her is like turning the pages of an illustrated
newspaper half-a-century old. Again we see the men with long and pointed
whiskers, the women with ballooning skirts, bag nets for the hair, and
little bonnets or porkpie hats, a feather raking fore and aft. Those
were the years when Gladstone was still a subordinate statesman, earning
credit for finance, Dickens was writing _Hard Times_, Carlyle was
beginning his _Frederick_, Ruskin was at work on _Modern Painters_,
Browning composing his _Men and Women_, Thackeray publishing _The
Newcomes_, George Eliot wondering whether she was capable of
imagination. It all seems very long ago since that October night when
that woman sailed for Boulogne with her thirty-eight chosen nurses on
the way to Scutari. I suppose that never in the world's history has the
change in thought and manners been so rapid and far-reaching as in the
two generations that have arisen in our country since that night. And it
is certain that Florence Nightingale, when she embarked without fuss in
the packet, was quite unconscious how much she was contributing to so
vast a transformation.

One memory almost alone still keeps a familiar air, suggesting
something that lies perhaps permanently at the basis of man's nature.
The present-day detractors of all things new, of every step in advance,
every breach in routine, every promise of emancipation, and every
departure from the commonplace, would feel themselves quite at home
among the evil tongues that spewed their venom upon a courageous and
noble-hearted woman. They would recognise as akin to themselves the
calumny, scandal, ridicule, and malignity with which their natural
predecessors pursued her from the moment that she took up her heroic
task to the time when her glory stilled their filthy breath. She went
under Government direction; the Queen mentioned her with interest in a
letter; even the _Times_ supported her, for in those days the _Times_
frequently stood as champion for some noble cause, and its own
correspondent, William Russell, had himself first made the suggestion
that led to her departure. But neither the Queen, the Government, nor
the _Times_ could silence the born backbiters of greatness. Cowards,
startled at the sight of courage, were alert with jealousy.
Pleasure-seekers, stung in the midst of comfort, sniffed with
depreciation. Culture, in pursuit of prettiness, passed by with artistic
indifference. The narrow mind attributed motives and designs. The snake
of disguised concupiscence sounded its rattle. That refined and
respectable women should go on such an errand--how could propriety
endure it? No lady could thus expose herself without the loss of
feminine bloom. If decent women took to this kind of service, where
would the charm of womanhood be fled? "They are impelled by vanity, and
seek the notoriety of scandal," said the envious. "None of them will
stand the mere labour of it for a month, if we know anything," said the
physiologists. "They will run at the first rat," said masculine wit.
"Let them stay at home and nurse babies," cried the suburbs. "These
Nightingales will in due time become ringdoves," sneered _Punch_.

With all that sort of thing we are familiar, and every age has known it.
The shifts to which the _Times_ was driven in defence show the nature of
the assaults:

"Young," it wrote of Florence Nightingale, "young (about
the age of our Queen), graceful, feminine, rich, popular, she holds
a singularly gentle and persuasive influence over all with whom
she comes in contact. Her friends and acquaintance are of all
classes and persuasions, but her happiest place is at home, in
the centre of a very large band of accomplished relatives, and
in simplest obedience to her admiring parents."

"About the age of our Queen," "rich," "feminine," "happiest at home,"
"with accomplished relatives," and "simply obedient to her parents," she
being then thirty-five--those were the points that the _Times_ knew
would weigh most in answer to her accusers. With all that sort of thing,
as I said, we are familiar still; but there was one additional line of
abuse that has at last become obsolete. For weeks after her arrival at
Scutari, the papers rang with controversy over her religious beliefs.
She had taken Romish Sisters with her; she had been partly trained in a
convent. She was a Papist in disguise, they cried; her purpose was to
clutch the dying soldier's spirit and send it to a non-existent
Purgatory, instead of to the Hell it probably deserved. She was the
incarnation of the Scarlet Woman; she was worse, she was a Puseyite, a
traitor in the camp of England's decent Church. "No," cried the others,
"she is worse even than a Puseyite. She is a Unitarian; it is doubtful
whether her father's belief in the Athanasian Creed is intelligent and
sincere." Finally, the climax in her iniquities of mind and conduct
reached its height and she was publicly denounced as a Supralapsarian. I
doubt whether, at the present day, the coward's horror at the sight of
courage, the politician's alarm at the sound of principle, or envy's
utmost malignity would go so far as to call a woman that.

I dwell on the opposition and abuse that beset Florence Nightingale's
undertaking, because they are pleasanter and more instructive than the
sentimentality into which her detractors converted their abuse when her
achievement was publicly glorified. It is significant that, in its
minute account of the Crimean War, the _Annual Register_ of the time
appears to have made no mention of her till the war was over and she had
received a jewel from the Queen. Then it uttered its little complaint
that "the gentler sex seems altogether excluded from public reward."
Well, it is matter for small regret that a great woman should not be
offered such titles as are bestowed upon the failures in Cabinets, the
contributors to party funds, and the party traitors whom it is hoped to
restrain from treachery. But whether a peerage would have honoured her
or not, there is no question of the disservice done to the truth of her
character by those whose sentimental titles of "Lady with the Lamp,"
"Leader of the Angel Band," "Queen of the Gracious Dynasty,"
"Ministering angel, thou!" and all the rest of it have created an ideal
as false as it is mawkish. Did the sentimentalists, at first so
horrified at her action, really suppose that the service which in the
end they were compelled to admire could ever have been accomplished by a
soft and maudlin being such as their imagination created, all brimming
eyes and heartfelt sighs, angelic draperies and white-winged shadows
that hairy soldiers turned to kiss?

To those who have read her books and the letters written to her by one
of the sanest and least ecstatic men of her day, or have conversed with
people who knew her well, it is evident that Florence Nightingale was at
no point like that. Her temptations led to love of mastery and
impatience with fools. Like all great organisers, quick and practical in
determination, she found extreme difficulty in suffering fools gladly.
To relieve her irritation at their folly, she used to write her private
opinions of their value on the blotting-paper while they chattered. It
was not for angelic sympathy or enthusiasm that Sidney Herbert chose her
in his famous invitation, but for "administrative capacity and
experience." Those were the real secrets of her great accomplishment,
and one remembers her own scorn of "the commonly received idea that it
requires nothing but a disappointment in love, or incapacity for other
things, to turn a woman into a good nurse." It was a practical and
organising power for getting things done that distinguished the
remarkable women of the last century, and perhaps of all ages, far more
than the soft and sugary qualities which sentimentality has delighted to
plaster on its ideal of womanhood, while it talks its pretty nonsense
about chivalry and the weakness of woman being her strength. As
instances, one could recall Elizabeth Fry, Sister Dora, Josephine
Butler, Mary Kingsley, Octavia Hill, Dr. Garrett Anderson, Mrs. F.G.
Hogg (whose labour secured the Employment of Children Act and the
Children's Courts), and a crowd more in education, medicine, natural
science, and political life. But, indeed, we need only point to Queen
Victoria herself, her strong but narrow nature torn by the false ideal
which made her protest that no good woman was fit to reign, while all
the time she was reigning with a persistent industry, a mastery of
detail, and a truthfulness of dealing rare among any rulers, and at
intervals illuminated by sudden glory.

"Woman is the practical sex," said George Meredith, almost with
over-emphasis, and certainly the saying was true of Florence
Nightingale. In far the best appreciation of her that has appeared--an
appreciation written by Harriet Martineau, who herself died about forty
years ago--that distinguished woman says: "She effected two great
things--a mighty reform in the cure of the sick, and an opening for her
sex into the region of serious business." The reform of hospital life
and sick nursing, whether military or civil, is near fulfilment now, and
it is hard to imagine such a scene as those Scutari wards where, in
William Russell's words, the sick were tended by the sick and the dying
by the dying, while rats fed upon the corpses and the filth could not be
described. But though her other and much greater service is, owing to
its very magnitude, still far from fulfilment, it is perhaps even harder
for us to imagine the network of custom, prejudice, and sentiment
through which she forced the opening of which Harriet Martineau speaks.



His crime was that he actually married the girl. It had always been the
fashion for an Austrian Archduke to keep an opera-dancer, whether he
liked it or not, just as he always kept a racehorse, even though he
cared nothing about racing. For any scion of the Imperial House she was
a necessary part of the surroundings, an item in the entourage of Court.
He maintained her just as our Royal Family pay subscriptions to
charities, or lay the foundation-stone of a church. It was expected of
him. _Noblesse oblige_. Descent from the House of Hapsburg involves its
duties as well as its rights. The opera-dancer was as essential to
Archducal existence as the seventy-seventh quartering on the Hapsburg
arms. She was the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual
Imperialness. She justified the title of "Transparency." She was the
mark of true heredity, like the Hapsburg lip. As the advertisements say,
no Archduke should be without one.

But really to love an opera-dancer was a scandal for derision, moving
all the Courts of the Empire to scorn. Actually to marry her was a crime
beyond forgiveness. It shook the Throne. It came very near the sin of
treason, for which the penalties prescribed may hardly be whispered in
polite ears. To mingle the Imperial blood with a creature born without
a title, and to demand human and divine sanction for the deed! It
brought a blush to the cheek of heraldry. What of the possible results
of a union with a being from the stage? Only if illegitimate, could such
results legitimately be recognised; only if ignoble in the eyes of
morality, could they be received without censure among the nobility. It
was not fair to put all one's Imperial relations, to say nothing of the
Court officials, the Lord High Chamberlain, the Keepers of the Pedigree,
the Diamond Sticks in Waiting, the Grooms of the Bedchamber, and the
Valets Extraordinary--it was not fair to put their poor brains into such
a quandary of contradiction and perplexity. And who shall tell the
divine wrath of that august figure, obscurely visible in the recesses of
ancestral homes, upon whose brow had descended the diadem of Roman
Emperors, the crown of Christ's Vicar in things terrestrial, and who,
when he was not actually wearing the symbol of Imperial supremacy,
enjoyed the absolute right to assume the regalia of eight kingdoms in
turn, including the sacred kingdom of Jerusalem, and possessed
forty-three other titles to pre-eminent nobility, not counting the
etceteras with which each separate string of titles was concluded? Who,
without profanity, shall tell his wrath?

It was the Archduke Johann Salvator of Austria, head of the Tuscan
branch of the House of Hapsburg, who confronted in his own person that
Imperial wrath, and committed the inexpiable crime of marriage. It is
true that he was not entirely to blame. He did not succumb without a
struggle, and his efforts to resist the temptation to legality appear to
have been sincere. Indeed, as has so often happened since the days of
Eve, it was chiefly the woman's fault. He honestly endeavoured to make
her his mistress, in accordance with all Archducal precedent, but she
persistently, nay, obstinately, refused the honour of Imperial shame.
With a rigidity that in other circumstances might, perhaps, have been
commended, but, in relation to an Archduke, can only be described as
designing, she insisted upon marriage. She was but Fraulein Milli
Stubel, light-skirted dancer at the Court Opera-House, but, with
unexampled hardihood, she maintained her headlong course along the
criminal path of virtue. What could a man do when exposed to temptation
so severe?

The Archduke was in love, and love is an incalculable force, driving all
of us at times irresistibly to deeds of civil and ecclesiastical
wedlock. He was a soldier, a good soldier, in itself an unusual and
suspicious characteristic in one of the Hapsburg blood. He was a
musician and a man of culture--qualities that, in a prince, must be
taken as dangerous indications of an unbalanced mind. He was an intimate
friend of the Crown Prince Rudolph, that bewildering personality, whose
own fate was so unhappy, so obscure. Skill in war, intelligence,
knowledge, friendship all marked him out as a man only too likely to
bring discredit on Archducal tradition. His peers in birth shook their
heads, and muttered the German synonym for "crank." Worse than all, he
was in love--in love with a woman of dangerous virtue. What could such a
man do against temptation? Struggle as he might, he could not long repel
the seductive advances of honourable action. He loved, he fell, he

In London, of all places, this crime against all the natural dictates of
Society was ultimately perpetrated. We do not know what church lent
itself to the deed, or what hotel gave shelter to the culprits' shame.
By hunting up the marriage register of Johann Orth (to such shifts may
an Archduke be reduced in the pursuit of virtue), one might, perhaps,
discover the name of the officiating clergyman, and we can confidently
assume he will not be found upon the bench of Bishops. But it is all
many years ago now, and directly after the marriage, as though in the
vain hope of concealing every trace of his offence, Johann Orth
purchased a little German ship, which he called by the symbolic name of
_Santa Margherita_--for St. Margaret suffered martyrdom for the sin of
rejecting a ruler's dishonourable proposals--and so they sailed for
South America. By what means the wedded fugitives purposed there to
support their guiltless passion, is uncertain. But we know that they
arrived, that the captain gave himself out as ill, and left the ship,
together with most of the crew, no doubt in apprehension of divine
vengeance, if they should seem any longer to participate in the breach
of royal etiquette. We further know that, in July 1890, the legal lovers
sailed from Buenos Ayres, with a fresh crew, the Archduke himself in
command, and were never heard of more.

An Austrian cruiser was sent to search the coasts, in vain. No letters
came; no ship has ever hailed the vessel of their iniquity. The
insurance companies have long paid the claims upon the Archduke's
premiums for his life, and that fact alone is almost as desirable an
evidence as a death-certificate to his heir. But one Sunday in July
1910, the Imperial Court of Austria also issued an edict to appear
simultaneously in the chief official gazettes of the habitable globe,
declaring that, unless within six months further particulars were
supplied concerning one, namely, the Archduke Johann Salvator, of the
House of Austria and Tuscany, otherwise and hereinafter known as Johann
Orth, master mariner, and concerning his alleged decease, together with
that of one Milli Orth, _nee_ Stubel, his reputed accomplice in
matrimony, the property, estates, effects, titles, jewels, family
vaults, and other goods of the aforesaid Johann Orth, should forthwith
and therewithal pass into the possession of the Archduke Joseph
Ferdinand, nephew and presumptive heir of the aforesaid Johann Orth, to
the estimated value of L150,000 sterling, in excess or defect thereof as
the case might be, it being thereafter presumed that the aforesaid
Johann Orth, together with the aforesaid Milli Orth, his reputed
accomplice in matrimony, did meet or encounter their death upon the high
seas by the act or other intervention of God.

Oh, never believe it! There is an unsuspected island in untravelled
seas. Like the island of Tirnanog, which is the Irish land of eternal
youth, it lies below the sunset, brighter than the island-valley of

"Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea."

To that island have those star-like lovers fared, since they gave the
world and all its Imperial Courts the slip. There they have discovered
an innocent and lovely race, adorned only with shells and the flowers of
hibiscus; and, intermingled with that race, in accordance with
indigenous marriage ceremonies, the crew of the _Santa Margherita_ now
rear a dusky brood. In her last extant letter, addressed to the leader
of the _corps de ballet_ at the Ring Theatre in Vienna, Madame Milli
Orth herself hinted at a No-Man's Land, which they were seeking as the
home of their future happiness. They have found it now, having trodden
the golden path of rays. There palls not wealth, or state, or any rank,
nor ever Court snores loudly, but men and women meet each evening to
discuss the next day's occupation, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer
collects the unearned increment in the form of the shell called Venus'
ear. For a time, indeed, Johann Orth attempted to maintain a kind of
kingship, on the strength of his superior pedigree. But when a
democratic cabin-boy one day turned and told him to stow his Hapsburg
lip, the beautiful ex-opera-dancer burst out laughing, and Johann agreed
in future to be called Archduke only on Sundays. With their eldest son,
now a fine young man coming to maturity, the title is expected to



Mr. Clarkson, of the Education Office, was enjoying his breakfast with
his accustomed equanimity and leisure. Having skimmed the Literary
Supplement of the _Times_, and recalled a phrase from a symphony on his
piano, he began opening his letters. But at the third he paused in
sudden perplexity, holding his coffee-cup half raised. After a while the
brightness of adventurous decision came into his eyes, and he set the
cup down, almost too violently, on the saucer.

"I'll do it!" he cried, with the resolute air of an explorer
contemplating the Antarctic. "The world is too much with me. I will
recover my true personality in the wilderness. I will commune with my
own heart and be still!"

He rang the bell hurriedly, lest his purpose should weaken.

"Oh, Mrs. Wilson," he said carelessly, "I am going away for a few days."

"Visiting at some gentleman's seat to shoot the gamebirds, I make no
doubt," answered the landlady.

"Why, no; not precisely that," said Mr. Clarkson. "The fact is, Mr.
Davies, a literary friend of mine--quite the best authority on Jacobean
verse--offers me his house, just by way of a joke. The house will be
empty, and he says he only wants me to defend his notes on the _History
of the Masque_ from burglary. I shall take him at his word."

"You alone in a house, sir? There's a thing!" exclaimed the landlady.

"A thing to be thankful for," Mr. Clarkson replied. "George Sand always
longed to inhabit an empty house."

"Mr. Sand's neither here nor there," answered the landlady firmly. "But
you're not fit, sir, begging your pardon. Unless a person comes in the
morning to do for you."

"I shall prefer complete solitude," said Mr. Clarkson. "The calm of the
uninterrupted morning has for me the greatest attraction."

"You'll excuse me mentioning such things," she continued, "but there's
the washing-up and bed-making."

"Excellent athletic exercises!" cried Mr. Clarkson. "In Xenophon's
charming picture of married life we see the model husband instructing
the young wife to leave off painting and adorning herself, and to seek
the true beauty of health and strength by housework and turning beds."

"There's many on us had ought to be beauties, then, without paint nor
yet powder," said the landlady, turning away with a little sigh. And
when Mr. Clarkson drove off that evening with his bag, she stood by the
railings and said to the lady next door: "There goes my gentleman, and
him no more fit to do for hisself than a babe unborn, and no more idea
of cooking than a crocodile!"

The question of cooking did not occur to Mr. Clarkson till he had
entered the semi-detached suburban residence with his friend's latchkey,
groped about for the electric lights, and discovered there was nothing
to eat in the house, whereas he was accustomed to a biscuit or two and a
little whisky and soda before going to bed.

"Never mind," he thought. "Enterprise implies sacrifice, and hunger will
be a new experience. I can buy something for breakfast in the morning."

So he spent a placid hour in reading the titles of his friend's books,
and then retired to the bedroom prepared for him.

He woke in the morning with a sense of profound tranquillity, and
thought with admiration of the Dean of his College, whose one rule of
life was never to allow anyone to call him. "This is worth a little
subsequent trouble, if, indeed, trouble is involved," he murmured to
himself, as he turned over and settled down to sleep again. But hardly
had he dozed off when he was startled by an aggressive double-knock at
the front door. He hoped it would not recur; but it did recur, and was
accompanied by prolonged ringing of an electric bell. Feeling that his
peace was broken, he put on his slippers and crept downstairs.

"What do you want?" he said at the door.

"Post," came a voice. Undoing the bolts, he put out a naked arm. "Even
if you are the post," he remarked, "you need not sound the Last

"Davies," said the postman, crammed a bundle of proofs into the
expectant hand, and departed.

Mr. Clarkson turned into the kitchen. It presented a rather dreary
aspect. The range and fire-irons looked as though they had been out all
night. The grate was piled with ashes, like a crater.

"No wonder," said Mr. Clarkson, "that ashes are the popular comparison
for a heart of extinguished affections. Could anything be more
desolate, more hopeless, or, I may say, more disagreeable? To how many a
disappointed cook that simile must come home when first she gets down in
the morning!"

He took the poker and began raking gently between the bars. But no
matter how tenderly he raked, his hands appeared to grow black of
themselves, and great clouds of dust floated about the room and covered

"This _must_ be the way to do it," he said, pausing in perplexity; "I
suppose a certain amount of dirt is inevitable when you are grappling
with reality. But my pyjamas will be in a filthy state."

Taking them off, he hung them on the banisters, and, with a passing
thought of Lady Godiva, closed the kitchen door and advanced again
towards the grate, still grasping the poker in his hand. Then he set
himself to grapple with reality in earnest. The ashes crashed together,
dust rose in columns, iron rang on iron, as in war's smithy. But little
by little the victory was achieved, and lines of paper, wood, and coal
gave promise of brighter things. He wiped his sweating brow, tingeing it
with a still deeper black, and, catching sight of himself in a servant's
looking-glass over the mantelpiece, he said, "There is no doubt man was
intended by nature to be a coloured race."

But while he was thinking what wisdom the Vestal Virgins showed in never
letting their fire go out, another crash came at the door, followed by
the war-whoop of a scalp-hunter. "I seem to recognise that noise," he
thought, "but I can't possibly open the door in this condition."

Creeping down the passage, he said "Who's there?" through the

"Milko!" came the repeated yell.

"Would there be any objection to your depositing the milk upon the
doorstep?" asked Mr. Clarkson.

"Righto!" came the answer, and steps retreated with a clang of pails.

"Why do the common people love to add 'o' to their words?" Mr. Clarkson
reflected. "Is it that they unconsciously appreciate 'o' as the most
beautiful of vowel sounds? But I wonder whether I ought to have blacked
that range before I lighted the fire? The ironwork certainly looks
rather pre-Dreadnought! What I require most just now is a hot bath, and
I'd soon have one if I only knew which of these little slides to pull
out. But if I pulled out the wrong one, there might be an explosion, and
then what would become of the _History of the Masque?_"

So he put on a kettle, and waited uneasily for it to sing as a kettle
should. "Now I'll shave," he said; "and when I am less like that too
conscientious Othello, I'll go out and buy something for breakfast."

The bath was distinctly cool, but when he got out there was a
satisfaction in the water's hue, and, though chilled to the bone, he
carried his pyjamas upstairs with a feeling of something accomplished.
On entering his bedroom, he was confronted by his disordered pillow, and
a bed like a map of Switzerland in high relief. "Courage!" he cried, "I
will make it at once. The secret of labour-saving is organisation."

So, with a certain asperity, he dragged off the clothes, and flung the
mattress over, while the bedstead rolled about under the unaccustomed
violence. "Rightly does the Scot talk about sorting a bed!" he thought,
as he wrenched the blankets asunder, and stood wondering whether the
black border should be tucked in at the sides or the feet. At last he
pulled the counterpane fairly smooth, but in an evil moment, looking
under the bed, he perceived large quantities of fluffy and coagulated

"I know what that is," he said. "That's called flue, and it must be
removed. Swift advised the chambermaid, if she was in haste, to sweep
the dust into a corner of the room, but leave her brush upon it, that it
might not be seen, for that would disgrace her. Well, there is no one to
see me, so I must do it as I can."

He crawled under the bed, and gathering the flue together in his two
hands, began throwing it out of the window. "Pity it isn't nesting
season for the birds," he said, as he watched it float away. But this
process was too slow; so taking his towel, he dusted the drawers, the
washing-stand, and the greater part of the floor, shaking the towel out
of the window, until, in his eagerness, he dropped it into the back
garden, and it lay extended upon the wash-house roof.

Tranquillity had now vanished, and solitude was losing some of its
charm. It was quite time he started for the office, but he had not begun
to dress, and, except for the kettle, which he could hear boiling over
downstairs, there was not a gleam of breakfast. After washing again, he
put on his clothes hurriedly, and determined to postpone the remainder
of his physical exercise till his return in the evening.

Running downstairs, he saw his dirty boots staring him in the face. "Is
there any peace in ever climbing up the climbing wave?" he quoted, with
a sinking heart. There was no help for it. The things had to be
cleaned, or people would wonder where he had been. Searching in a
cupboard full of oily rags, grimy leathers, and other filthy
instruments, he found the blacking and the brushes, and presently the
boots began to shine in patches here and there. Then he washed again,
and as he flung open the front door, he kicked the milk all down the
steps. It ran in a broad, white stream along the tiled pavement to the

"There goes breakfast!" he thought, but the disaster reached further.
Hastily fetching a pail of water, he soused it over the steps, with the
result that all the whitening came off and mingled with the milk upon
the tiles. A second pail only heightened the deplorable aspect, and he
splashed large quantities of the water over his trousers and boots. He
felt it running through his socks. It was impossible to go to the office
like that, or to leave his friend's house in such a state.

He took off his coat and began pushing the milky water to and fro with a
broom. Seeing the maid next door making great wet curves on her steps
with a sort of stone, he called to her to ask how she did it.

"Same as other people, saucy," she retorted at once.

"Is that a bath-brick you are manipulating?" Mr. Clarkson asked.

"Bath-brick, indeed! What do you take me for?" she replied, and
continued swirling the stuff round and round.

After a further search in the cupboard, Mr. Clarkson discovered a
similar piece of stone, and stooping down, began to swirl it about in
the same manner. The stuff was deposited in yellowish curves, which he
believed would turn white. But it showed the marks so obviously that, to
break up the outlines, he carefully dabbed the steps all over with the
flat of his hands. "The effect will be like an Academician's stippling,"
he thought, but when he had swept the surface of the garden path into
the road, he scrutinised his handiwork with some satisfaction.

Hardly had he cleaned his boots again, washed again, and changed his
socks, when there came another knocking at the door, polite and
important this time. He found a well-dressed man, with tall hat,
frock-coat, and umbrella, who inquired if he could speak to the

"Mr. Davies is away," said Mr. Clarkson, fixing his eyes on the
stranger's boots. "I beg your pardon, but may I remind you that you are
standing on my steps? I'm afraid you will whiten the soles of your
boots, I mean."

"Thank you, that's of no consequence," said the stranger, entering, and
leaving two great brown footprints on the step and several white ones on
the passage. "But I thought I might venture to submit to your
consideration a pound of our unsurpassable tea."

"Tea?" cried Mr. Clarkson, with joyous eagerness. "I suppose you don't
happen to have milk, sugar, bread and butter, and an egg or two
concealed about your person, do you?"

"I am not a conjuror," said the stranger, resuming his hat with some

An hour later, Mr. Clarkson was enjoying at his Club a meal that he
endeavoured to regard as lunch, and on reaching the office in the
afternoon he apologised for having been unavoidably detained at home.

"There's no place like home," replied his elderly colleague, with his
usual inanity.

"Perhaps fortunately, there is not," said Mr. Clarkson, and attempting
to straighten his aching back and ease his suffering limbs, he added, "I
am coming to the conclusion that woman's place is the home."



George Eliot warned us somewhere not to expect Isaiah and Plato in every
country house, and the warning was characteristic of the time when one
really might have met Ruskin or Herbert Spencer. How uncalled for it
would be now! If Isaiah or Plato were to appear at any country house,
what a shock it would give the company, even if no one present had heard
of their names and death before! We do not know how prophets and
philosophers would behave in a country house, but, to judge from their
books, their conversation could not fail to embarrass. What would they
say when the daughter of the house inquired if her Toy-Pom was not
really rather a darling, or the host proclaimed to the world that he
never took potatoes with fish? What would the host and daughter say if
their guest began to prophesy or discuss the nature of justice? There is
something irreligious in the incongruity of the scene.

The age of the wise, in those astonishing eighteen-seventies, was
succeeded by the age of the epigram, when someone was always expected to
say something witty, and it was passed on, like a sporting tip, through
widening circles. Such sayings as "I can resist everything but
temptation" were much sought after. Common sense became piquant if
reversed, and the good, plain man disappeared in laughter. When a
languid creature told him it was always too late to mend, and never too
young to learn, he was disconcerted. The bases of existence were shaken
by little earthquakes, and he did not know where to stand or what to
say. He felt it was nonsense, but as everyone laughed and applauded he
supposed they were all too clever for him--too clever by half, and he
went away sadder, but no wiser. "If Christ were again on earth," said
Carlyle, of an earlier generation, "Mr. Milnes (Lord Houghton) would ask
him to breakfast, and the clubs would all be talking of the good things
he had said." Frivolity only changes its form, but the epigrams of the
early 'nineties were not Christlike, and Mr. Milnes would have been as
much astray among them as the good, plain man.

The epigrammatist still lingers, and sometimes dines; but his roses have
faded, and the weariness of his audience is no longer a pose. A tragic
ghost, he feels like one who treads alone some banquet-hall, not,
indeed, deserted, but filled with another company, and that is so much
drearier. The faces that used to smile on him are gone, the present
faces only stare and if he told them now that it may be better to have
loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but both are good, they
would conceal a shiver of boredom under politeness. It is recognised
that life with an epigrammatist has become unendurable. "Witty?" (if one
may quote again the Carlyle whom English people are forgetting) "O be
not witty: none of us is bound to be witty under penalties. A
fashionable wit? If you ask me which, he or a death's head, will be the
cheerier company for me, pray send _not_ him."

Evidently there are some creatures too bright if not too good for human
nature's daily food. They are like the pudding that was all raisins,
because the cook had forgotten to put in the suet. Sensible people put
in the suet pretty thick, and they find it fortifying. Here in England,
for instance, it has been the standing sneer of upstart pertness that
ordinary men and women always set out upon their conversations with the
weather. Well, and why on earth should they not? In every part of the
world the weather is the most important subject. India may suffer from
unrest, but the Indian's first thought is whether she suffers from
drought. Russia may seethe with revolution, but ninety-nine per cent. of
Russians are thinking of the crops. France may be disturbed about
Germany, but Frenchmen know the sun promises such a vintage as never
was. War may threaten Russia, but the outbreak depends upon the harvest.
Certainly, in our barren wildernesses of city it does not much matter
whether it rains or shines, except to the top hats and long skirts of
the inhabitants. But mankind cannot live on smuts and sulphur, and our
discussions on the weather keep us in touch with the kindly fruits of
the earth; we show we are not weaned from Nature, but still remember the
cornfields and orchards by which we live. Every cloud and wind, every
ray of sunshine comes filled with unconscious memories, and secret
influences extend to our very souls with every change in weather. Like
fishes, we do not bite when the east wind blows; like ducks and eels, we
sicken or go mad in thunder.

Why should we fuddle our conversation with paradoxes and intellectual
interests when nature presents us with this sempiternal theme? Ruskin
observed that Pusey never seemed to know what sort of a day it was. That
showed a mind too absent from terrestrial things, too much occupied
with immortality. Here in England the variety of the weather affords a
special incitement to discussion. It is like a fellow-creature or a
race-meeting; the sporting element is added, and you never know what a
single day may bring forth. Shallow wits may laugh at such talk, but
neither the publishers' lists nor the Cowes Regatta, neither the Veto
nor the Insurance Act can compare for a moment with the question whether
it will rain this week. Why, then, should we not talk about rain, and
leave plays and books and pictures and politics and scandal to narrow
and abnormal minds? To adapt a Baconian phrase, the weather is the one
subject that you cannot dull by jading it too far.

Nor does it arouse the evil passions of imparting information or
contradicting opinions. When someone says, "It is a fine day," or "It's
good weather for ducks," he does not wish to convey a new fact. I have
known only one man who desired to contradict such statements, and,
looking up at the sky, would have liked to order the sun in or out
rather than agree; and he was a Territorial officer, so that command was
in his nature. But mention the Lords, or the Church, or the Suffrage,
and what a turmoil and tearing of hair! What sandstorms of information,
what semi-courteous contradiction! Whither has the sweet gregariousness
of human converse strayed? Black looks flash from the miracle of a
seeing eye; bad blood rushes to thinking foreheads; the bonds of hell
are loosed; pale gods sit trembling in their twilight. "O sons of Adam,
the sun still shines, and a spell of fair weather never did no harm, as
we heard tell on; but don't you think a drop of rain to-night would
favour the roots? You'll excuse a farmer's grumbling."

People do not associate in order to receive epigrammatic shocks, nor to
be fed up with information and have their views put right. They
associate for society. They feel more secure, more open-hearted and
cheerful, when together. Sheep know in their hearts that numbers are no
protection against the dog, who is so much cleverer and more terrible
than they; but still they like to keep in the flock. It is always
comfortable to sit beside a man as foolish as oneself and hear him say
that East is East and West is West; or that men are men, and women are
women; or that the world is a small place after all, truth is stranger
than fiction, listeners never hear any good of themselves, and a true
friend is known in adversity. That gives the sense of perfect
comradeship. There is here no tiresome rivalry of wits, no plaguy
intellectual effort. One feels one's proper level at once, and needs no
longer go scrambling up the heights with banners of strange devices. At
such moments of pleasant and unadventurous intercourse, it will be found
very soothing to reply that cold hands show a warm heart, that only
town-dwellers really love the country, that night is darkest before the
dawn, that there are always faults on both sides, that an Englishman's
home is his castle, but travel expands the mind, and marriage is a

Such sentences, delivered alternately, will supply all the requisites of
intercourse. The philosopher rightly esteemed no knowledge of value
unless it was known already, and all these things have been known a very
long time. Sometimes, it is true, a conversation may become more
directly informative and yet remain amicable, as when the man on the
steamer acquaints you with the facts that lettuce contains opium, that
Lincoln's Inn Fields is the size of the Great Pyramid's base, that Mr.
Gladstone took sixty bites to the mouthful, that hot tea is a cooling
drink, that a Frenchwoman knows how to put on her clothes, that the
engineer on board is sure to be a Scotsman, that fish is good for the
brain because it contains phosphorus, that cheese will digest everything
but itself, that there are more acres in England than words in the
Bible, and that the cigars smoked in a year would go ten thousand and a
quarter times round the earth if placed end to end. These facts are also
familiar to everyone beforehand, and they present a solid basis for
gregarious conversation. They put the merest stranger at his ease. They
make one feel at home.

Some of the trades and professions secure the same object by special
phrases. When you hear that the horses are fat as butter, the men keen
as mustard, and everything right as rain, you know you are back to the
army again. The kindly mention of the Great Lexicographer, the Wizard of
the North, the Sage of Chelsea, and London's Particular calls up the
vision of a street descending into the vale of St. Paul's. But such
phrases are fleeting. They hardly last four generations of mankind, and
already they wither to decay. "Every cloud has a silver lining," "It's a
poor heart that never rejoices," "There are as good fish in the sea as
ever were caught"--those are the observations that give stability and
permanence to the intercourse of man. They are not clever; they contain
no paradox; like the Ugly Duckling, they cannot emit sparks. But one's
heart leaps up at hearing them, as at the sight of a rainbow. For, like
the rainbow, they are an assurance that while the earth remaineth,
seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night,
shall never cease.



Here it is cool under thick alders, close to the water's edge, where
frogs are doing their very best to sing. Hidden in some depth of the
sky, the Dog Star rages, and overhead the mid-day sun marches across his
blazing barrack-square. Far away the heathen violently rage; the world
is full of rumours of war, and the kings of the earth take counsel
together against liberty and peace. But here under thick alders it is
cool, and the deep water of the lake that lies brooding within the
silent crater of these Alban hills, stretches before us an unruffled
surface of green and indigo profoundly mingled. Wandering about among
overgrown and indistinguishable gardens under the woods, women and girls
are gathering strawberries and loading them up in great wicker baskets
for the market of Rome. The sound of sawing comes from a few old houses
by the lake-side, that once were mills turned by the nymph Egeria's
stream, where Ovid drank. Opposite, across the lake, on the top of the
old crater's edge, stands a brown village--the church tower, unoccupied
"palace," huddled walls and roofs piled up the steep, as Italian
villages are made. That is Genzano. On the precipitous crag high above
our heads stands a more ancient village, with fortress tower, unoccupied
castle, crumbling gates, and the walls and roofs of dwellings huddled
around them. That is Nemi, the village of the sacred wood.

Except where the rock is too steep for growth, the slopes of the deep
hollow are covered with trees and bushes on every side. But the trees
are thickest where the slope falls most gently--so gently that from the
foot of the crater to the water's edge the ground for a few hundred
yards might almost be called a bit of plain. Under the trees there the
best strawberries grow, and there stood the temple of mysterious and
blood-stained rites. Prowling continually round and round one of the
trees, the ghastly priest was for centuries there to be seen:

"The priest who slew the slayer,
And shall himself be slain."

No one can tell in what prehistoric age the succession of murdering and
murdered priests first began that vigil for their lives. It continued
with recurrent slaughter through Rome's greatest years. About the time
when Virgil was still alive, or perhaps just after Christ himself was
born, the geographer Strabo appears actually to have seen that living
assassin and victim lurking in the wood; for he vividly describes him
"with sword always drawn, turning his eyes on every side, ready to
defend himself against an onslaught." Possibly the priest suspected
Strabo himself for his outlandish look and tongue, for only a runaway
slave might murder and succeed him. Possibly it was that self-same
priest whom Caligula, a few years after Christ's death, hired a stalwart
ruffian to finish off, because he was growing old and decrepit, having
defended himself from onslaughts too long. Upon the lake the Emperor
constructed two fine house-boats, devoted to the habits that
house-boats generally induce (you may still fish up bits of their
splendour from the bottom, if you have luck), and very likely it was
annoying to watch the old man still doddering round his tree with drawn
sword. One would like to ask whether the crazy tyrant was aware how well
he was fulfilling the ancient rite by ordaining the slaughter of
decrepitude. And one would like to ask also whether the stalwart ruffian
himself took up the line of consecrated and ghastly succession. Someone,
at all events, took it up; for in the bland age of the Antonines the
priest was still there, pacing with drawn sword, turning his eyes in
every direction, lest his successor should spring upon him unawares.

In the opening chapter, which states the central problem, still slowly
being worked out in the great series of _The Golden Bough_, Dr. Frazer
has drawn the well-known picture of that haunted man. "The dreamy blue,"
he writes:

"The dreamy blue of Italian skies, the dappled shade of
summer woods, and the sparkle of waves in the sun, can have
accorded but ill with that stern and sinister figure. Rather
we picture to ourselves the scene as it may have been witnessed
by a belated wayfarer on one of those wild autumn nights
when the dead leaves are falling thick, and the winds seem to
sing the dirge of the dying year. It is a sombre picture, set to
melancholy music--the background of forest showing black and
jagged against a lowering and stormy sky, the sighing of the
wind in the branches, the rustle of the withered leaves under
foot, the lapping of the cold water on the shore, and, in the
foreground, pacing to and fro, now in twilight and now in
gloom, a dark figure with a glitter of steel at the shoulder
whenever the pale moon, riding clear of the cloud-rack, peers
down at him through the matted boughs."

For the priest himself it can hardly have been a happy life. Thanks to
Dr. Frazer, we now partly know how much of man's religious hope and fear
that sinister figure represented. But he himself had no conception of
all this, nor can we suppose that even if he had possessed Dr. Frazer's
own wealth of knowledge, it would have cheered him much. When violent
death impends on every moment and lurks in every shade, it is small
consolation to reflect that you stand as a holy emblem, protector of a
symbolic tree, the mystic mate both of the tree itself and of the
goddess of fertility in man and beast and plant. There is no comfort in
the knowledge that the slave who waits to kill you, as you killed your
predecessor in the office, only obeys the widespread injunction of
primitive religion whereby the divine powers incarnate in the priest are
maintained active and wholesome with all the fervour and sprightliness
of youth. Such knowledge would not relax the perpetual strain of terror,
nor could the priest have displayed an intelligent and scientific
interest in all the queer mythologies forcibly dragged in and combined
to explain his presence there--Orestes fleeing like a runaway from the
blood-stained Euxine shore; or Hippolytus, faithful worshipper of the
unwedded goddess, rent by wild horses, and by Diana's prayer to the
medicine-god subsequently pieced together into life; or Virbius,
counterpart of Hippolytus; or perhaps even the two-faced Janus himself,
looking before and after. The finest conjectures of research, though
illustrated in the person of the priest himself, could have supplied him
with no antidote to those terrors of ambushed assassination.

In his investigations among the "sword-dancers" of Northern England, Mr.
Cecil Sharp has discovered that at Earsdon, after the usual captain's
song, a strange interlude occurs, in which two of the dancers feign a
quarrel, and one is killed and carried out for burial amid the
lamentations of the "Bessy." A travelled doctor, however, arrives, and
calls to the dead man, "Jack! take a drop of my bottle, that'll go down
your thrittle-throttle." Whereupon up jumps Jack and shakes his sword,
and the dance proceeds amid the rejoicings of Bessy and the rest. So
priest slays priest, the British Diana laments her hero slain, the
British Aesculapius, in verse inferior to Euripides, tends him back to
life, and who in that Northumbrian dance could fail to recognise a rite
sprung from the same primitive worship as the myths of Nemi? But if one
had been able to stand beside that murderous and apprehensive priest,
and to foretell to him that in future centuries, long after his form of
religion had died away, far off in Britain, beside the wall of the
Empire's frontier, his tragedy would thus be burlesqued by Bessy, Jack,
and the doctor, one may doubt if he would have expressed any kind of
scientific interest, or have even smiled, as, sword in hand, he prowled
around his sacred tree, peering on every side.

Why, then, did he do it? How came it that there was always a candidate
for that bloody deed and disquieting existence? It is true that the
competition for the post appears to have decreased with years.
Originally, the priest's murder seems to have been an annual affair,
regular as the "grotter" which we are called upon to remember every
August in London streets, or as the Guy Faux, whose fires will in future
ages be connected with autumnal myths or with the disappearance of
Adonis or Thammuz yearly wounded. The virtues of fertility's god had to
be renewed each spring; year by year the priest was slain; and only by
a subsequent concession to human weakness was he allowed to retain his
life till he could no longer defend it. The change seems to show that,
as time went on, the privileges of the office were regarded with less
eagerness, and it was more difficult to find one man a year anxious to
be killed.

But with what motive, century after century, no matter at what interval
of years, did a volunteer always come forward to slay and to be slain?
Certainly, the priest had to be a runaway slave; but was Roman slavery
so hideous that a life of unending terror by day and night was to be
preferred--a life enslaved as a horse's chained to the grinding mill in
a brickyard, and without the horse's hours of stabled peace? Hunger will
drive to much, but even when the risky encounter with one's predecessor
had been successfully accomplished, what enjoyment could there be in
meals eaten in bitter haste, with one hand upon the sword? As to money,
what should all the wealth of the shrine profit a man compelled, in
Bishop Ken's language, to live each day as it were his last? Promise of
future and eternal bliss? The religion held out no sure and certain hope
of such a state. Joy in the divine service? It is not to vigorous
runaway slaves that we look for ecstatic rapture in performing heaven's
will. Upon the priest was bestowed the title of "King of the Wood." Can
it be that for that barren honour a human being dyed his hands with
murder and risked momentary assassination for the remainder of his
lifetime? Well, we have heard of the Man who would be King, and empty
titles still are sought by political services equally repellent.

But, for ourselves, in that forlorn and hag-ridden figure we more
naturally see a symbol of the generations that slay the slayer and shall
themselves be slain. It is thus that each generation comes knocking at
the door--comes, rather, so suddenly and unannounced, clutching at the
Tree of Life, and with the glittering sword of youth beating down its
worn-out defenders. New blood, new thoughts and hopes each generation
brings to resuscitate the genius of fertility and growth. Often it longs
imperiously to summon a stalwart ruffian, who will finish off
decrepitude and make an end; but hardly has the younger generation
itself assumed the office and taken its stand as the Warder of the Tree,
when its life and hopes in turn are threatened, and among the
ambuscading woods it hears a footstep coming and sees the gleam of a
drawn sword. Let us not think too precisely on such events. But rather
let us climb the toilsome track up to the little town, where Cicero once
waited to meet the assassin Brutus after the murder of the world's
greatest man; and there, in the ancient inn still called "Diana's
Looking-glass" from the old name of the beautiful and mysterious lake
which lies in profoundly mingled green and indigo below it, let us
forget impending doom over a twopenny quart of wine and a plate of
little cuttlefish stewed in garlic, after which any priest might
confront his successor with equanimity.



Sometimes, for a moment, the curtain of the past is rolled up, the seven
seals of its book are loosened, and we are allowed to know more of the
history than the round number of soldiers with which a general crossed a
river, or the succession that brought one crazy voluptuary to follow
another upon the Imperial throne. We do not refuse gratitude for what we
ordinarily receive. To the general it made all the difference whether he
had a thousand soldiers more or less, and to us it makes some. To the
Imperial maniac it was of consequence that his predecessor in the
government of civilised mankind was slain before him, and for us the
information counts for something, too; just as one meets travellers who
satisfy an artistic craving by enumerating the columns of a ruined
shrine, and seeing that they agree with the guidebook. But it is not
often that historians tell us what we really want to know, or that
artists will stoop to our questionings. We would willingly go wrong over
a thousand or two of those soldiers, if we might catch the language of
just one of them as he waded into the river; and how many a simpering
Venus would we grind into face-powder if we could follow for just one
day the thoughts of a single priest who once guarded her temple! But,
occupied with grandeur and beauty, the artists and historians move upon
their own elevated plane, and it is only by furtive glimpses that we
catch sight of the common and unclean underworld of life, always
lumbering along with much the same chaotic noise of hungry desires and
incessant labour, of animalism and spiritual aspiration.

One such glimpse we are given in that book of _The Golden Ass_, now
issued by the Clarendon Press, in Mr. H.E. Butler's English version, but
hitherto best known through a chapter in Walter Pater's _Marius_, or by
William Adlington's sixteenth century rendering, included among _The
Tudor Translations_. It is a strange and incoherent picture that the
book presents. Pater well compares it to a dream: "Story within
story--stories with the sudden, unlooked-for changes of dreams." And, as
though to suit this dream-like inconsequence, the scene is laid in

Book of the day: