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Mankind in the Making by H. G. Wells

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standard of comfort and equipment, and it is manifest the mother cannot
be earning her own living before and about the time of the child's
birth, nor, unless she is going to employ a highly skilled,
trustworthy, and probably expensive person as nurse, for some year or
so after it. She or the nurse must be of a certain standard of
intelligence and education, trained to be observant and keep her
temper, and she must speak her language with a good, clear accent.
Moreover, behind the mother and readily available, must be a highly-
skilled medical man.

Not to have these things means a handicap. Not to have that very
watchful feeding and attention at first means a loss of nutrition, a
retarding of growth, that will either never be recovered or will be
recovered later at the expense of mental development or physical
strength. The early handicap may also involve a derangement of the
digestion, a liability to stomachic and other troubles, that may last
throughout life. Not to have the singing and talking, and the varied
interest of coloured objects and toys, means a falling away from the
best mental development, and a taciturn nurse, or a nurse with a base
accent, means backwardness and needless difficulty with the beginning
of speech. Not to be born within reach of abundant changes of clothing
and abundant water, means--however industrious and cleanly the
instincts of nurse and mother--a lack of the highest possible
cleanliness and a lack of health and vitality. And the absence of
highly-skilled medical advice, or the attentions of over-worked and
under-qualified practitioners, may convert a transitory crisis or a
passing ailment into permanent injury or fatal disorder.

It is very doubtful if these most favourable conditions fall to the lot
of more than a quarter of the children born to-day even in England,
where infant mortality is at its lowest. The rest start handicapped.
They start handicapped, and fail to reach their highest possible
development. They are born of mothers preoccupied by the necessity of
earning a living or by vain occupations, or already battered and
exhausted by immoderate child-bearing; they are born into insanity and
ugly or inconvenient homes, their mothers or nurses are ignorant and
incapable, there is insufficient food or incompetent advice, there is,
if they are town children, nothing for their lungs but vitiated air,
and there is not enough sunlight for them. And accordingly they fall
away at the very outset from what they might be, and for the most part
they never recover their lost start.

Just what this handicap amounts to, so far as it works out in physical
consequences, is to be gauged by certain almost classical figures,
which I have here ventured to present again in graphic form. These
figures do not present our total failure, they merely show how far the
less fortunate section of the community falls short of the more
fortunate. They are taken from Clifford Allbutt's _System of
Medicine_ (art. "Hygiene of Youth," Dr. Clement Dukes). 15,564 boys
and young men were measured and weighed to get these figures. The black
columns indicate the weight (+9 lbs. of clothes) and height
respectively of youths of the town artisan population, for the various
ages from ten to twenty-five indicated at the heads of the columns. The
white additions to these columns indicate the additional weight and
height of the more favoured classes at the same ages. Public school-
boys, naval and military cadets, medical and university students, were
taken to represent the more favoured classes. It will be noted that
while the growth in height of the lower class boy falls short from the
very earliest years, the strain of the adolescent period tells upon his
weight, and no doubt upon his general stamina, most conspicuously.
These figures, it must be borne in mind, deal with the living members
of each class at the ages given. The mortality, however, in the black
or lower class is probably far higher than in the upper class year by
year, and if this could be allowed for it would greatly increase the
apparent failure of the lower class. And these matters of height and
weight are only coarse material deficiencies. They serve to suggest,
but they do not serve to gauge, the far graver and sadder loss, the
invisible and immeasurable loss through mental and moral qualities
undeveloped, through activities warped and crippled and vitality and
courage lowered.

Moreover, defective as are these urban artisans, they are, after all,
much more "picked" than the youth of the upper classes. They are
survivors of a much more stringent process of selection than goes on
amidst the more hygienic upper and middle-class conditions. The
opposite three columns represent the mortality of children under five
in Rutlandshire, where it is lowest, in the year 1900, in Dorsetshire,
a reasonably good county, and in Lancashire, the worst in England, for
the same year. Each entire column represents 1,000 births, and the
blackened portion represents the proportion of that 1,000 dead before
the fifth birthday. Now, unless we are going to assume that the
children born in Lancashire are inherently weaker than the children
born in Rutland or Dorset--and there is not the shadow of a reason why
we should believe that--we must suppose that at least 161 children out
of every 1,000 in Lancashire were killed by the conditions into which
they were born. That excess of blackness in the third column over that
in the first represents a holocaust of children, that goes on year by
year, a perennial massacre of the innocents, out of which no political
capital can be made, and which is accordingly outside the sphere of
practical politics altogether as things are at present. The same men
who spouted infinite mischief because a totally unforeseen and
unavoidable epidemic of measles killed some thousands of children in
South Africa, who, for some idiotic or wicked vote-catching purpose,
attempted to turn that epidemic to the permanent embitterment of Dutch
and English, these same men allow thousands and thousands of avoidable
deaths of English children close at hand to pass absolutely unnoticed.
The fact that more than 21,000 little children died needlessly in
Lancashire in that very same year means nothing to them at all. It
cannot be used to embitter race against race, and to hamper that
process of world unification which it is their pious purpose to delay.

It does not at all follow that even the Rutland 103 represents the
possible minimum of infant mortality. One learns from the Register-
General's returns for 1891 that among the causes of death specified in
the three counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, and Hereford, where infant
mortality is scarcely half what it is in the three vilest towns in
England in this respect, Preston, Leicester, and Blackburn, the number
of children killed by injury at birth is three times as great as it is
in these same towns. Unclassified "violence" also accounts for more
infant deaths in the country than in towns. This suggests pretty
clearly a delayed and uncertain medical attendance and rough
conditions, and it points us to still better possibilities. These
diagrams and these facts justify together a reasonable hope that the
mortality of infants under five throughout England might be brought to
less than one-third what it is in child-destroying Lancashire at the
present time, to a figure that is well under ninety in the thousand.

A portion of infant and child mortality represents no doubt the
lingering and wasteful removal from this world of beings with inherent
defects, beings who, for the most part, ought never to have been born,
and need not have been born under conditions of greater foresight.
These, however, are the merest small fraction of our infant mortality.
It leaves untouched the fact that a vast multitude of children of
untainted blood and good mental and moral possibilities, as many,
perhaps, as 100 in each 1,000 born, die yearly through insufficient
food, insufficient good air, and insufficient attention. The plain and
simple truth is that they are born needlessly. There are still too many
births for our civilisation to look after, we are still unfit to be
trusted with a rising birth-rate. [Footnote: It is a digression from
the argument of this Paper, but I would like to point out here a very
popular misconception about the birth-rate which needs exposure. It is
known that the birth-rate is falling in all European countries--a fall
which has a very direct relation to a rise in the mean standard of
comfort and the average age at marriage--and alarmists foretell a time
when nations will be extinguished through this decline. They ascribe it
to a certain decay in religious faith, to the advance of science and
scepticism, and so forth; it is a part, they say, of a general
demoralization. The thing is a popular cant and quite unsupported by
facts. The decline in the birth-rate is--so far as England and Wales
goes--partly a real decline due to a decline in gross immorality,
partly to a real decline due to the later age at which women marry, and
partly a statistical decline due to an increased proportion of people
too old or too young for child-bearing. Wherever the infant mortality
is falling there is an apparent misleading fall in the birth-rate due
to the "loading" of the population with children. Here are the sort of
figures that are generally given. They are the figures for England and
Wales for two typical periods.

Period 1846-1850 33 8 births per 1000
Period 1896-1900 28 0 births per 1000
5.8 fall in the birth-rate.

This as it stands is very striking. But if we take the death-rates of
these two periods we find that they have fallen also.

Period 1846-1850 23 3 deaths per 1000
Period 1896-1900 17 7 deaths per 1000
5.6 fall in the death-rate.

Let us subtract death-rate from birth-rate and that will give the
effective rate of increase of the population.

Period 1846-1850 10 5 effective rate of increase
Period 1896-1900 10 3 effective rate of increase
.2 fall in the rate of increase.

But now comes a curious thing that those who praise the good old pre-
Board School days--the golden age of virtuous innocence--ignore. The
_Illegitimate births_ in 1846-1850 numbered 2.2 per 1000, in 1896-
1900 they numbered 1.2 per 1000. So that if it were not for this fall
in illegitimate births the period 1896-1900 would show a positive rise
in the effective rate of increase of .8 per thousand. The eminent
persons therefore who ascribe our falling birth-rate to irreligion and
so forth, either speak without knowledge or with some sort of knowledge
beyond my ken. England is, as a matter of fact, becoming not only more
hygienic and rational, but more moral and more temperate. The highly
moral, healthy, prolific, pious England of the past is just another
poetical delusion of the healthy savage type.]

These poor little souls are born, amidst tears and suffering they gain
such love as they may, they learn to feel and suffer, they struggle and
cry for food, for air, for the right to develop; and our civilisation
at present has neither the courage to kill them outright quickly,
cleanly, and painlessly, nor the heart and courage and ability to give
them what they need. They are overlooked and misused, they go short of
food and air, they fight their pitiful little battle for life against
the cruellest odds; and they are beaten. Battered, emaciated, pitiful,
they are thrust out of life, borne out of our regardless world, stiff
little life-soiled sacrifices to the spirit of disorder against which
it is man's preeminent duty to battle. There has been all the pain in
their lives, there has been the radiated pain of their misery, there
has been the waste of their grudged and insufficient food, and all the
pain and labour of their mothers, and all the world is the sadder for
them because they have lived in vain.

§ 2.

Now, since our imaginary New Republic, which is to set itself to the
making of a better generation of men, will find the possibility of
improving the race by selective breeding too remote for anything but
further organised inquiry, it is evident that its first point of attack
will have to be the wastage of such births as the world gets to-day.
Throughout the world the New Republic will address itself to this
problem, and when a working solution has been obtained, then the New
Republican on press and platform, the New Republican in pulpit and
theatre, the New Republican upon electoral committee and in the ballot
box, will press weightily to see that solution realised. Upon the
theory of New Republicanism as it was discussed in our first paper an
effective solution (effective enough, let us say, to abolish seventy or
eighty per cent.) of this scandal of infantile suffering would have
precedence over almost every existing political consideration.

The problem of securing the maximum chance of life and health for every
baby born into the world is an extremely complicated one, and the
reader must not too hastily assume that a pithy, complete recipe is
attempted here. Yet, complicated though the problem is, there does not
occur any demonstrable impossibility such as there is in the question
of selective breeding. I believe that a solution is possible, that its
broad lines may be already stated, and that it could very easily be
worked out to an immediate practical application.

Let us glance first at a solution that is now widely understood to be
incorrect. Philanthropic people in the past have attempted, and many
are still striving, to meet the birth waste by the very obvious
expedients of lying-in hospitals, orphanages and foundling
institutions, waifs' homes, Barnardo institutions and the like, and
within certain narrow limits these things no doubt serve a useful
purpose in individual cases. But nowadays there is an increasing
indisposition to meet the general problem by such methods, because
nowadays people are alive to certain ulterior consequences that were at
first overlooked. Any extensive relief of parental responsibility we
now know pretty certainly will serve to encourage and stimulate births
in just those strata of society where it would seem to be highly
reasonable to believe they are least desirable. It is just where the
chances for a child are least that passions are grossest, basest, and
most heedless, and stand in the greatest need of a sense of the gravity
of possible consequences to control their play, and to render it
socially innocuous. If we were to take over or assist all the children
born below a certain level of comfort, or, rather, if we were to take
over their mothers before the birth occurred, and bring up that great
mass of children under the best conditions for them--supposing this to
be possible--it would only leave our successors in the next generation
a heavier task of the same sort. The assisted population would grow
generation by generation relatively to the assisting until the Sinbad
of Charity broke down. And quite early in the history of Charities it
was found that a very grave impediment to their beneficial action lay
in one of the most commendable qualities to be found in poor and
poorish people, and that is pride. While Charities, perhaps, catch the
quite hopeless cases, they leave untouched the far more extensive mass
of births in non-pauper, not very prosperous homes--the lower middle-
class homes in towns, for example, which supply a large proportion of
poorly developed adults to our community. Mr. Seebohm Rowntree, in his
"Poverty" (that noble, able, valuable book), has shown that nearly
thirty per cent. at least of a typical English town population goes
short of the physical necessities of life. These people are fiercely
defensive in such matters as this, and one may no more usurp and share
their parental responsibility, badly though they discharge it, than one
may handle the litter of a she-wolf.

These considerations alone would suffice to make us very suspicious of
the philanthropic method of direct assistance, so far as the remedial
aspect goes. But there is another more sweeping and comprehensive
objection to this method. Philanthropic institutions, as a matter of
fact, rarely succeed in doing what they profess and intend to do.

I do not allude here to the countless swindlers and sham institutions
that levy a tremendous tribute upon the heedless good. Quite apart from
that wastage altogether, and speaking only of such _bonâ fide_
institutions as would satisfy Mr. Labouchere, they do not work. It is
one thing for the influential and opulent inactive person of good
intentions to provide a magnificent building and a lavish endowment for
some specific purpose, and quite another to attain in reality the
ostensible end of the display. It is easy to create a general effect of
providing comfort and tender care for helpless women who are becoming
mothers, and of tending and training and educating their children, but,
in cold fact, it is impossible to get enough capable and devoted people
to do the work. In cold fact, lying-in hospitals have a tendency to
become austere, hard, unsympathetic, wholesale concerns, with a
disposition to confuse and substitute moral for physical well-being. In
cold fact, orphanages do not present any perplexing resemblance to an
earthly paradise. However warm the heart behind the cheque, the human
being at the other end of the chain is apt to find the charity no more
than a rather inhuman machine. Shining devotees there are, but able,
courageous, and vigorous people are rare, and the world urges a
thousand better employments upon them than the care of inferior mothers
and inferior children. Exceptionally good people owe the world the duty
of parentage themselves, and it follows that the rank and file of those
in the service of Charity falls far below the standard necessary to
give these poor children that chance in the world the cheque-writing
philanthropist believes he is giving them. The great proportion of the
servants and administrators of Charities are doing that work because
they can get nothing better to do--and it is not considered remarkably
high-class work. These things have to be reckoned with by every
philanthropic person with sufficient faith to believe that an
enterprise may not only look well, but do well. One gets a Waugh or a
Barnardo now and then, a gleam of efficiency in the waste, and for the
rest this spectacle of stinted thought and unstinted giving, this
modern Charity, is often no more than a pretentious wholesale
substitute for retail misery and disaster. Fourteen million pounds a
year, I am told, go to British Charities, and I doubt if anything like
a fair million's worth of palliative amelioration is attained for this
expenditure. As for any permanent improvement, I doubt if all these
Charities together achieve a net advance that could not be got by the
discreet and able expenditure of ten or twelve thousand pounds.

It is one of the grimmest ironies in life, that athwart the memory of
sainted founders should be written the most tragic consequences. The
Foundling Hospital of London, established by Coram--to save infant
lives!--buried, between 1756 and 1760, 10,534 children out of 14,934
received, and the Dublin Foundling Hospital (suppressed in 1835) had a
mortality of eighty per cent. The two great Russian institutions are, I
gather, about equally deadly with seventy-five per cent., and the
Italian institutes run to about ninety per cent. The Florentine boasts
a very beautiful and touching series of _putti_ by Delia Robbia,
that does little or nothing to diminish its death-rate. So far from
preventing infant murder these places, with the noblest intentions in
the world, have, for all practical purposes, organized it. The London
Foundling, be it noted, in the reorganized form it assumed after its
first massacres, is not a Foundling Hospital at all. An extremely
limited number of children, the illegitimate children of recommended
respectable but unfortunate mothers, are converted into admirable
bandsmen for the defence of the Empire or trained to be servants for
people who feel the need of well-trained servants, at a gross cost that
might well fill the mind of many a poor clergyman's son with amazement
and envy. And this is probably a particularly well-managed charity. It
is doing all that can be expected of it, and stands far above the
general Charitable average.

Every Poor Law Authority comes into the tangles of these perplexities.
Upon the hands of every one of them come deserted children, the
children of convicted criminals, the children of pauper families, a
miscellaneous pitiful succession of responsibilities. The enterprises
they are forced to undertake to meet these charges rest on taxation, a
financial basis far stabler than the fitful good intentions of the
rich, but apart from this advantage there is little about them to
differentiate them from Charities. The method of treatment varies from
a barrack system, in which the children are herded in huge asylums like
those places between Sutton and Banstead, to what is perhaps
preferable, the system of boarding-out little groups of children with
suitable poor people. Provided such boarded-out children are
systematically weighed, measured and examined, and at once withdrawn
when they drop below average mental and bodily progress, it would seem
more likely that a reasonable percentage should grow into ordinary
useful citizens under these latter conditions than under the former.

It is well, however, to anticipate a very probable side result if we
make the boarding out of pauper children a regular rural industry.
There will arise in many rural homes a very strong pecuniary inducement
to limit the family. Side by side will be a couple with eight children
--of their own, struggling hard to keep them, and another family with,
let us say, two children of their own blood and six "boarded-out,"
living in relative opulence. That side consequence must be anticipated.
For my own part and for the reasons given in the second of these
papers, I do not see that it is a very serious one so far as the future
goes, because I do not think there is much to choose between the
"heredity" of the rural and the urban strain. It is nonsense to pretend
that we shall get the fine flower of the cottage population to board
pauper children; we shall induce respectable inferior people living in
healthy conditions to take care of an inferior sort of children rescued
from unhealthy disreputable conditions--that is all. The average
inherent quality of the resultant adults will be about the same
whichever element predominates.

Possibly this indifference may seem undesirable. But we must bear in
mind that the whole problem is hard to cope with, it is an aspect of
failure, and no sentimental juggling with facts will convert the
business into a beautiful or desirable thing. Somehow or other we have
to pay. All expedients must be palliatives, all will involve
sacrifices; we must, no doubt, adopt some of them for our present
necessities, but they are like famine relief works, to adopt them in
permanence is a counsel of despair.

Clearly it is not along these lines that the capable men-makers we
suppose to be attacking the problem will spend much of their energies.
All the experiences of Charities and Poor-Law Authorities simply
confirm our postulate of the necessity of a standard of comfort if a
child is to have a really good initial chance in the world. The only
conceivable solution of this problem is one that will ensure that no
child, or only a few accidental and exceptional children, will be born
outside these advantages. It is no good trying to sentimentalize the
issue away. This is the end we must attain, to attain any effectual
permanent improvement in the conditions of childhood. A certain number
of people have to be discouraged and prevented from parentage, and a
great number of homes have to be improved. How can we ensure these
ends, or how far can we go towards ensuring them?

The first step to ensuring them is certainly to do all we can to
discourage reckless parentage, and to render it improbable and
difficult. We must make sure that whatever we do for the children, the
burden of parental responsibility must not be lightened a feather-
weight. All the experience of two hundred years of charity and poor law
legislation sustains that. But to accept that as a first principle is
one thing, and to apply it by using a wretched little child as our
instrument in the exemplary punishment of its parent is another. At
present that is our hideous practice. So long as the parents are not
convicted criminals, so long as they do not practise indictable cruelty
upon their offspring, so long as the children themselves fall short of
criminality, we insist upon the parent "keeping" the child. It may be
manifest the child is ill-fed, harshly treated, insufficiently clothed,
dirty and living among surroundings harmful to body and soul alike, but
we merely take the quivering damaged victim and point the moral to the
parent. "This is what comes of your recklessness," we say. "Aren't you
ashamed of it?" And after inscrutable meditations the fond parent
usually answers us by sending out the child to beg or sell matches or
by some equally effective retort. Now a great number of excellent
people pretend that this is a dilemma. "Take the child away," it is
argued, "and you remove one of the chief obstacles to the reckless
reproduction of the unfit. Leave it in the parents' hands and you must
have the cruelty." But really this is not a dilemma at all. There is a
quite excellent middle way. It may not be within the sphere of
practical politics at present--if not, it is work for the New Republic
to get it there--but it would practically settle all this problem of
neglected children. This way is simply to make the parent the debtor to
society on account of the child for adequate food, clothing, and care
for at least the first twelve or thirteen years of life, and in the
event of parental default to invest the local authority with
exceptional powers of recovery in this matter. It would be quite easy
to set up a minimum standard of clothing, cleanliness, growth,
nutrition and education, and provide, that if that standard was not
maintained by a child, or if the child was found to be bruised or
maimed without the parents being able to account for these injuries,
the child should be at once removed from the parental care, and the
parents charged with the cost of a suitable maintenance--which need not
be excessively cheap. If the parents failed in the payments they could
be put into celibate labour establishments to work off as much of the
debt as they could, and they would not be released until their debt was
fully discharged. Legislation of this type would not only secure all
and more of the advantages children of the least desirable sort now get
from charities and public institutions, but it would certainly invest
parentage with a quite unprecedented gravity for the reckless, and it
would enormously reduce the number of births of the least desirable
sort. Into this net, for example, every habitual drunkard who was a
parent would, for his own good and the world's, be almost certain to
fall. [Footnote: Mr. C. G. Stuart Menteath has favored me with some
valuable comments upon this point. He writes: "I agree that calling
such persons as have shown themselves incapable of parental duties
debtors to the State, would help to reconcile popular ideas of the
'liberty of the subject' with the enforcement as well as the passing of
such laws. But the notions of drastically enforcing parental duties,
and of discouraging and even prohibiting the marriages of those unable
to show their ability to perform these duties, has long prevailed. See
Nicholl's _History of the Poor Law_ (1898, New Edition), i. 229,
and ii. 140, 278, where you will find chargeable bastardy has been
punishable in the first offence by one year's imprisonment, and in the
second, by imprisonment until sureties are given, which thus might
amount to imprisonment for life. See also, J. S. Mill, _Political
Economy_, Bk. II., ch. ii., for extreme legislation on the Continent
against the marriage of people unable to support a family. In Denmark
there seem to be very severe laws impeding the marriage of those who
have been paupers. The English law was sufficiently effective to
produce infanticide, so that a law was passed making concealment of
birth almost infanticide."]

So much for the worst fringe of this question, the maltreated children,
the children of the slum, the children of drunkards and criminals, and
the illegitimate. But the bulk of the children of deficient growth, the
bulk of the excessive mortality, lies above the level of such
intervention, and the method of attack of the New Republican must be
less direct. Happily there already exists a complicated mass of
legislation that without any essential change of principle could be
applied to this object.

The first of the expedients which would lead to a permanent improvement
in these matters is the establishment of a minimum of soundness and
sanitary convenience in houses, below which standard it shall be
illegal to inhabit a house at all. There should be a certain relation
between the size of rooms and their ventilating appliances, a certain
minimum of lighting, certain conditions of open space about the house
and sane rules about foundations and materials. These regulations would
vary with the local density of population--many things are permissible
in Romney marsh, for example, which the south-west wind sweeps
everlastingly, that would be deadly in Rotherhithe. At present in
England there are local building regulations, for the most part
vexatious and stupid to an almost incredible degree, and compiled
without either imagination or understanding, but it should be possible
to substitute for these a national minimum of habitability without any
violent revolution. A house that failed to come up to this minimum--
which might begin very low and be raised at intervals of years--would,
after due notice, be pulled down. It might be pulled down and the site
taken over and managed by the local authority--allowing its owner a
portion of its value in compensation--if it was evident his failure to
keep up to the standard had an adequate excuse. In time it might be
possible to level up the minimum standard of all tenements in towns and
urban districts at any rate to the possession of a properly equipped
bathroom for example, without which, for hardworking people, regular
cleanliness is a practical impossibility. This process of levelling-up
the minimum tenement would be enormously aided by a philanthropic
society which would devote itself to the study of building methods and
materials, to the evolution of conveniences, and the direction of
invention to lessening the cost and complication of building wholesome

The state of repair of inhabited buildings is also already a matter of
public concern. All that is needed is a slow, persistent tightening-up
of the standard. This would ensure, at any rate, that the outer shell
of the child's surroundings gave it a fair chance in life. In the next
place comes legislation against overcrowding. There must be a maximum
number of inhabitants to any tenement, and a really sane law will be
far more stringent to secure space and air for young children than for
adults. There is little reason, except the possible harbouring of
parasites and infectious disease, why five or six adults should not
share a cask on a dust heap as a domicile--if it pleases them. But
directly children come in we touch the future. The minimum permissible
tenement for a maximum of two adults and a very young child is one
properly ventilated room capable of being heated, with close and easy
access to sanitary conveniences, a constant supply of water and easy
means of getting warm water. More than one child should mean another
room, and it seems only reasonable if we go so far as this, to go
further and require a minimum of furniture and equipment, a fire-guard,
for instance, and a separate bed or cot for the child. In a civilized
community little children should not sleep with adults, and the killing
of children by "accidental" overlaying should be a punishable offence.
[Footnote: In the returns I have quoted from Blackburn, Leicester, and
Preston the number of deaths from suffocation per 100,000 infants born
was 232 in the first year of life. ]

If a woman does not wish to be dealt with as a half-hearted murderess
she should not behave like one. It should also be punishable on the
part of a mother to leave children below a certain age alone for longer
than a certain interval. It is absurd to punish people as we do, for
the injuries inflicted by them upon their children during
uncontrollable anger, and not to punish them for the injuries inflicted
by uncontrolled carelessness. Such legislation should ensure children
space, air and attention. [Footnote: It is less within the range of
commonly grasped ideas, it is therefore less within the range of
practical expedients, to point out that a graduated scale of building
regulation might be contrived for use in different localities.
Districts could be classed in grades determined by the position of each
district in the scale of infant mortality, and in those in which the
rate was highest the hygienic standard could be made most stringent and
onerous upon the house owner. This would force up the price of house-
room, and that would force up the price of labour, and this would give
the proprietors of unwholesome industries a personal interest in
hygienic conditions about them. It would also tend to force population
out of districts intrinsically unhealthy into districts intrinsically
healthy. The statistics of low-grade districts could be examined to
discover the distinctive diseases which determine their lowness of
grade, and if these were preventable diseases they could be controlled
by special regulations. A further extension of these principles might
be made. Direct inducements to attract the high birth-rates towards
exceptionally healthy districts could be contrived by a differential
rating of sound families with children in such districts, the burthen
of heavy rates could be thrown upon silly and selfish landowners who
attempted to stifle sound populations by using highly habitable areas
as golf links, private parks, game preserves, and the like, and public-
spirited people could combine to facilitate communications that would
render life in such districts compatible with industrial occupation.
Such deliberate redistribution of population as this differential
treatment of districts involves, is, however, quite beyond the
available power and intelligence of our public control at present, and
I suggest it here as something that our grandchildren perhaps may begin
to consider. But if in the obscurity of this footnote I may let myself
go, I would point out that, in the future, a time may come when
locomotion will be so swift and convenient and cheap that it will be
unnecessary to spread out the homes of our great communities where the
industrial and trading centres are gathered together; it will be
unnecessary for each district to sustain the renewal and increase of
its own population. Certain wide regions will become specifically
administrative and central--the home lands, the mother lands, the
centres of education and population, and others will become
specifically fields of action. Something of this kind is to a slight
degree already the case with Scotland, which sends out its hardy and
capable sons wherever the world has need of them; the Swiss mountains,
too, send their sons far and wide in the world; and on the other hand,
with regard to certain elements of population, at any rate, London and
the Gold Coast and, I suspect, some regions in the United States of
America, receive to consume.]

But it will be urged that these things are likely to bear rather
severely on the very poor parent. To which a growing number of people
will reply that the parent should not be a parent under circumstances
that do not offer a fair prospect of sound child-birth and nurture. It
is no good trying to eat our cake and have it; if the parent does not
suffer the child will, and of the two, we, of the New Republic, have no
doubt that the child is the more important thing.

It may be objected, however, that existing economic conditions make
life very uncertain for many very sound and wholesome kinds of people,
and that it is oppressive and likely to rob the State of good citizens
to render parentage burthensome, and to surround it with penalties. But
that directs our attention to a second scheme of expedients which have
crystallized about the expression, the Minimum Wage. The cardinal idea
of this group of expedients is this, that it is unjust and cruel in the
present and detrimental to the future of the world to let any one be
fully employed at a rate of payment at which a wholesome, healthy, and,
by the standards of comfort at the time, a reasonable happy life is
impossible. _It is better in the long run that people whose character
and capacity will not render it worth while to employ them at the
Minimum Wage should not be employed at all._ The sweated employment
of such people, as Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb show most conclusively in
their great work, "Industrial Democracy," arrests the development of
labour-saving machinery, replaces and throws out of employment superior
and socially more valuable labour, enables these half capables to
establish base families of inadequately fed and tended children (which
presently collapse upon public and private charity), and so lowers and
keeps down the national standard of life. As these writers show very
clearly, an industry that cannot adequately sustain sound workers is
not in reality a source of public wealth at all, but a disease and a
parasite upon the public body. It is eating up citizens the State has
had the expense of educating, and very often the indirect cost of
rearing. Obviously the minimum wage for a civilized adult male should
be sufficient to cover the rent of the minimum tenement permissible
with three or four children, the maintenance of himself and his wife
and children above the minimum standard of comfort, his insurance
against premature or accidental death or temporary economic or physical
disablement, some minimum provision for old age and a certain margin
for the exercise of his individual freedom. [Footnote: An excellent
account of experiments already tried in the establishment of a Minimum
Wage will be found in W.P. Reeves' _State Experiments in Australia
and New Zealand_, vol. ii., p. 47 _et seq_.]

So that while those who are bent on this conception of making economy
in life and suffering the guiding principle of their public and social
activity, are seeking to brace up the quality of the home on the one
hand, they must also do all they can to bring about the realization of
this ideal of a minimum wage on the other. In the case of government
and public employment and of large, well-organized industries, the way
is straight and open, and the outlook very hopeful. Wherever licenses,
tariffs, and any sort of registration occurs there are practicable
means of bringing in this expedient. But where the employment is
shifting and sporadic, or free from regulation, there we have a rent in
our social sieve, and the submissive, eager inferior will still come
in, the failures of our own race, the immigrant from baser lands,
desperately and disastrously underselling our sound citizens. Obviously
we must use every contrivance we can to mend these rents, by promoting
the organization of employments in any way that will not hamper
progress in economic production. And if we can persuade the Trade
Unions--and there is every sign that the old mediaeval guild conception
of water-tight trade limitations is losing its hold upon those
organizations--to facilitate the movement of workers from trade to
trade under the shifting stress of changing employment and of changing
economy of production, we shall have gone far to bring the
possibilities of the rising operative up to the standard of the minimum
home permissible for children.

These things--if we could bring them about--would leave us with a sort
of clarified Problem of the Unemployed on our hands. Our Minimum Wage
would have strained these people out, and, provided there existed what
is already growing up, an intelligent system of employment bureaus, we
should have much more reason to conclude than we have at present, that
they were mainly unemployed because of a real incapacity in character,
strength, or intelligence for efficient citizenship. Our raised
standards of housing, our persecution of overcrowding, and our
obstruction of employment below the minimum wage, would have swept out
the rookeries and hiding-places of these people of the Abyss. They
would exist, but they would not multiply--and that is our supreme end.
They would be tramping on roads where mendicity laws would prevail,
there would be no house-room for them, no squatting-places. The casual
wards would catch them and register them, and telephone one to the
other about them. It is rare that children come into this world without
a parent or so being traceable. Everything would converge to convince
these people that to bear children into such an unfavourable atmosphere
is an extremely inconvenient and undesirable thing. They would not have
many children, and such children as they had would fall easily into our
organized net and get the protection of the criticised and improved
development of the existing charitable institutions. [Footnote: "I
wonder whether there is any legal flaw in the second section of the
Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act of 1894, which may have been
_specially_ aimed at beggars with offspring. It is specially
punishable to beg having an infant in their arms, quite apart from
teaching the infant in question to beg. Or is this law insufficiently
enforced through popular apathy?"--C. G. STUART MENTEATH.] This is the
best we can do for those poor little creatures. As for that increasing
section of the Abyss that will contrive to live childless, these papers
have no quarrel with them. A childless wastrel is a terminating evil,
and it may be, a picturesque evil. I must confess that a lazy rogue is
very much to my taste, provided there is no tragedy of children to
smear the joke with misery. And if he or she neither taints nor tempts
the children, who are our care, a childless weakling we may freely let
our pity and mercy go out to. To go childless is in them a virtue for
which they merit our thanks.

These are the first necessities, then, in the Making of Men and the
bettering of the world, this courageous interference with what so many
people call "Nature's methods" and "Nature's laws," though, indeed,
they are no more than the methods and laws of the beasts. By such
expedients we may hope to see, first, a certain fall in the birth-rate,
a fall chiefly in the birth-rate of improvident, vicious, and feeble
types, a continuation, in fact, of that fall that is already so
conspicuous in illegitimate births in Great Britain; secondly, a
certain, almost certainly more considerable fall in the death-rate of
infants and young children, and that fall in the infantile death-rate
will serve to indicate, thirdly, a fall no statistics will fully
demonstrate in what I may call the partial death-rate, the dwarfing and
limiting of that innumerable host of children who do, in an underfed,
meagre sort of a way, survive. This raising of the standard of homes
will do a work that will not end with the children; the death-line will
sag downward for all the first twenty or thirty years of life. Dull-
minded, indolent, prosperous people will say that all this is no more
than a proposal to make man better by machinery, that you cannot reform
the world by Board of Trade Regulations and all the rest of it. They
will say that such work as this is a scheme of grim materialism, and
that the Soul of Man gains no benefit by this "so-called Progress,"
that it is not birth-rates that want raising but Ideals. We shall deal
later with Ideals in general. Here I will mention only one, and that
is, unhappily, only an Ideal Argument. I wish I could get together all
these people who are so scornful of materialistic things, out of the
excessively comfortable houses they inhabit, and I wish I could
concentrate them in a good typical East London slum--five or six
together in each room, one lodging with another, and I wish I could
leave them there to demonstrate the superiority of high ideals to
purely material considerations for the rest of their earthly career
while we others went on with our sordid work unencumbered by their

Think what these dry-looking projects of building and trade regulation,
and inspection and sanitation, mean in reality! think of the promise
they hold out to us of tears and suffering abolished, of lives
invigorated and enlarged!

[Endnote 1

I am greatly obliged to Mr. J. Leaver for a copy of the following



"Attention is drawn to the frequency with which the death of young
children is caused owing to their clothing taking fire at unprotected
firegrates. During the years 1899 and 1900 inquests were held on the
bodies of 1684 YOUNG CHILDREN whose death had resulted from burning,
and in 1425 of these cases the fire by which the burning was caused was
unprotected by a guard.

"With a view to prevent such deplorable loss of life it is suggested to
Parents and Guardians, who have the care of young children, that it is
very desirable that efficient fire-guards should be provided, in order
to render it impossible for children to obtain access to the fire-

"The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.
"Metropolitan Police Office,
"New Scotland Yard,
"January 28th, 1902."]



§ 1

The newborn child is at first no more than an animal. Indeed, it is
among the lowest and most helpless of all animals, a mere vegetative
lump; assimilation incarnate--wailing. It is for the first day in its
life deaf, it squints blindly at the world, its limbs are beyond its
control, its hands clutch drowningly at anything whatever that drifts
upon this vast sea of being into which it has plunged so amazingly. And
imperceptibly, subtly, so subtly that never at any time can we mark
with certainty the increment of its coming, there creeps into this soft
and claimant little creature a mind, a will, a personality, the
beginning of all that is real and spiritual in man. In a little while
there are eyes full of interest and clutching hands full of purpose,
smiles and frowns, the babbling beginning of expression and affections
and aversions. Before the first year is out there is obedience and
rebellion, choice and self-control, speech has commenced, and the
struggle of the newcomer to stand on his feet in this world of men. The
process is unanalyzable; given a certain measure of care and
protection, these things come spontaneously; with the merest rough
encouragement of things and voices about the child, they are evoked.

But every day the inherent impulse makes a larger demand upon the
surroundings of the child, if it is to do its best and fullest.
Obviously, quite apart from physical consequences, the environment of a
little child may be good or bad, better or worse for it in a thousand
different ways. It may be distracting or over-stimulating, it may evoke
and increase fear, it may be drab and dull and depressing, it may be
stupefying, it may be misleading and productive of vicious habits of
mind. And our business is to find just what is the best possible
environment, the one that will give the soundest and fullest growth,
not only of body but of intelligence.

Now from the very earliest phase the infant stands in need of a
succession of interesting things. At first these are mere vague sense
impressions, but in a month or so there is a distinct looking at
objects; presently follows reaching and clutching, and soon the little
creature is urgent for fresh things to see, handle, hear, fresh
experiences of all sorts, fresh combinations of things already known.
The newborn mind is soon as hungry as the body. And if a healthy well-
fed child cries, it is probably by reason of this unsatisfied hunger,
it lacks an interest, it is bored, that dismal vacant suffering that
punishes the failure of living things to live fully and completely. As
Mr. Charles Booth has pointed out in his _Life and Labour of the
People_, it is probable that in this respect the children of the
relatively poor are least at a disadvantage. The very poor infant
passes its life in the family room, there is a going and coming, and
interesting activity of domestic work on the part of its mother, the
preparation of meals, the intermittent presence of the father, the
whole gamut of its mother's unsophisticated temper. It is carried into
crowded and eventful streets at all hours. It participates in pothouse
soirées and assists at the business of shopping. It may not lead a very
hygienic life, but it does not lead a dull one. Contrast with its lot
that of the lonely child of some woman of fashion, leading its
beautifully non-bacterial life in a carefully secluded nursery under
the control of a virtuous, punctual, invariable, conscientious rather
than emotional nurse. The poor little soul wails as often for events as
the slum baby does for nourishment. Into its grey nursery there rushes
every day, or every other day, a breathless, preoccupied, excessively
dressed, cleverish, many-sided, fundamentally silly, and universally
incapable woman, vociferates a little conventional affection, slaps a
kiss or so upon her offspring, and goes off again to collect that daily
meed of admiration and cheap envy which is the gusto of her world.
After that gushing, rustling, incomprehensible passage, the child
relapses into the boring care of its bored hireling for another day.
The nurse writes her letters, mends her clothes, reads and thinks of
the natural interests of her own life, and the child is "good" just in
proportion to the extent to which it doesn't "worry."

That, of course, is an extreme case. It assumes a particularly bad
mother and a particularly ill-chosen nurse, and what is probably only a
transitory phase of sexual debasement. The average nurse of the upper-
class child is often a woman of highly developed motherly instincts,
and it is probable that our upper class and our upper middle-class is
passing or has already passed through that phase of thought which has
made solitary children so common in the last decade or so. The
effective contrast must not take us too far. We must remember that all
women do not possess the passion for nursing, and that some of those
who are defective in this direction may be, for all that, women of
exceptional gifts and capacity, and fully capable of offspring.
Civilization is based on the organized subdivision of labour, and, as
the able lady who writes as "L'amie Inconnue" in the _County
Gentleman_ has pointed out in a very helpful criticism of the
original version of this paper, it is as absurd to require every woman
to be a nursery mother as it is, to require every man to till the soil.
We move from homogeneous to heterogeneous conditions, and we must
beware of every generalization we make.

For all that, one is inclined to think the ideal average environment
should contain the almost constant presence of the mother, for no one
is so likely to be continuously various and interesting and untiring as
she, and only as an exception, for exceptional mothers and nurses, can
we admit the mother-substitute. When we admit her we admit other
things. It is entirely on account of such an ideal environment, we must
remember, that monogamy finds its practical sanction; it claims to
ensure the presiding mother the maximum of security and self-respect. A
woman who enjoys the full rights of a wife to maintenance and exclusive
attention, without a complete discharge of the duties of motherhood,
profits by the imputation of things she has failed to perform. She may
be justified by other things, by an effectual co-operation with her
husband in joint labours for example, but she has altered her footing
none the less. To secure an ideal environment for children in as many
cases as possible is the second of the two great practical ends--the
first being sound births, for which the restrictions of sexual morality
exist. In addition there is the third almost equally important matter
of adult efficiency; we have to adjust affairs, if we can, to secure
the maximum of health, sane happiness and vigorous mental and physical
activity, and to abolish, as far as possible, passionate broodings,
over-stimulated appetites, disease, and destructive indulgence. Apart
from these aspects, sexual morality is outside the scope of the New
Republican altogether. . . . Do not let this passage be misunderstood.
I do not mean that a New Republican ignores sexual morality except on
these grounds, but so far as his New Republicanism goes he does, just
as a member of the Aeronautical Society, so far as his aeronautical
interests go, or as an ecclesiastical architect, so far as his
architecture goes.

The ideal environment should, without any doubt at all, centre about a
nursery--a clean, airy, brightly lit, brilliantly adorned room, into
which there should be a frequent coming and going of things and people;
but from the time the child begins to recognize objects and individuals
it should be taken for little spells into other rooms and different
surroundings. In the homely, convenient, servantless abode over which
the able-bodied, capable, skilful, civilized women of the ordinary sort
will preside in the future, the child will naturally follow its
mother's morning activities from room to room. Its mother will talk to
it, chance visitors will sign to it. There should be a public or
private garden available where its perambulator could stand in fine
weather; and its promenades should not be too much a matter of routine.
To go along a road with some traffic is better for a child than to go
along a secluded path between hedges; a street corner is better than a
laurel plantation as a pitch for perambulators.

When a child is five or six months old it will have got a certain use
and grip with its hands, and it will want to handle and examine and
test the properties of as many objects as it can. Gifts begin. There
seems scope for a wiser selection in these early gifts. At present it
is chiefly woolly animals with bells inside them, woolly balls, and so
forth, that reach the baby's hands. There is no reason at all why a
child's attention should be so predominantly fixed on wool. These toys
are coloured very tastefully, but as Preyer has advanced strong reasons
for supposing that the child's discrimination of colours is extremely
rudimentary until the second year has begun, these tasteful
arrangements are simply an appeal to the parent. Light, dark, yellow,
perhaps red and "other colours" seem to constitute the colour system of
a very young infant. It is to the parent, too, that the humorous and
realistic quality of the animal forms appeal. The parent does the
shopping and has to be amused. The parent who ought to have a doll
instead of a child is sufficiently abundant in our world to dominate
the shops, and there is a vast traffic in facetious baby toys,
facetious nursery furniture, "art" cushions and "quaint" baby clothing,
all amazingly delightful things for grown-up people. These things are
bought and grouped about the child, the child is taught tricks to
complete the picture, and parentage becomes a very amusing afternoon
employment. So long as convenience is not sacrificed to the æsthetic
needs of the nursery, and so long as common may compete with "art"
toys, there is no great harm done, but it is well to understand how
irrelevant these things are to the real needs of a child's development.

A child of a year or less has neither knowledge nor imagination to see
the point of these animal resemblances--much less to appreciate either
quaintness or prettiness. That comes only in the second year. He is
much more interested in the crumpling and tearing of paper, in the
crumpling of chintz, and in the taking off and replacing of the lid of
a little box. I think it would be possible to devise a much more
entertaining set of toys for an infant than is at present procurable,
but, unhappily, they would not appeal to the intelligence of the
average parent. There would be, for example, one or two little boxes of
different shapes and substances, with lids to take off and on, one or
two rubber things that would bend and twist about and admit of chewing,
a ball and a box made of china, a fluffy, flexible thing like a
rabbit's tail, with the vertebræ replaced by cane, a velvet-covered
ball, a powder puff, and so on. They could all be plainly and vividly
coloured with some non-soluble inodorous colour. They would be about on
the cot and on the rug where the child was put to kick and crawl. They
would have to be too large to swallow, and they would all get pulled
and mauled about until they were more or less destroyed. Some would
probably survive for many years as precious treasures, as beloved
objects, as powers and symbols in the mysterious secret fetichism of
childhood--confidants and sympathetic friends.

§ 2

While the child is engaged with its first toys, and with the collection
of rudimentary sense impressions, it is also developing a remarkable
variety of noises and babblements from which it will presently
disentangle speech. Day by day it will show a stronger and stronger
bias to associate definite sounds with definite objects and ideas, a
bias so comparatively powerful in the mind of man as to distinguish him
from all other living creatures. Other creatures may think, may, in a
sort of concrete way, come almost indefinably near reason (as Professor
Lloyd Morgan in his very delightful _Animal Life and Intelligence_
has shown); but man alone has in speech the apparatus, the possibility,
at any rate, of being a reasoning and reasonable creature. It is, of
course, not his only apparatus. Men may think out things with drawings,
with little models, with signs and symbols upon paper, but speech is
the common way, the high road, the current coin of thought.

With speech humanity begins. With the dawn of speech the child ceases
to be an animal we cherish, and crosses the boundary into distinctly
human intercourse. There begins in its mind the development of the most
wonderful of all conceivable apparatus, a subtle and intricate
keyboard, that will end at last with thirty or forty or fifty thousand
keys. This queer, staring, soft little being in its mother's arms is
organizing something within itself, beside which the most wonderful
orchestra one can imagine is a lump of rude clumsiness. There will come
a time when, at the merest touch upon those keys, image will follow
image and emotion develop into emotion, when the whole creation, the
deeps of space, the minutest beauties of the microscope, cities,
armies, passions, splendours, sorrows, will leap out of darkness into
the conscious being of thought, when this interwoven net of brief,
small sounds will form the centre of a web that will hold together in
its threads the universe, the All, visible and invisible, material and
immaterial, real and imagined, of a human mind. And if we are to make
the best of a child, it is in no way secondary to its physical health
and growth that it should acquire a great and thorough command over
speech, not merely that it should speak, but, what is far more vital,
that it should understand swiftly and subtly things written and said.
Indeed, this is more than any physical need. The body is the substance
and the implement; the mind, built and compact of language, is the man.
All that has gone before, all that we have discussed of sound birth and
physical growth and care, is no more than the making ready of the soil
for the mind that is to grow therein. As we come to this matter of
language, we come a step nearer to the intimate realities of our
subject--we come to the mental plant that is to bear the flower and the
ripe fruit of the individual life. The next phase of our inquiry,
therefore, is to examine how we can get this mental plant, this
foundation substance, this abundant mastered language best developed in
the individual, and how far we may go to ensure this best development
for all children born into the world.

From the ninth month onward the child begins serious attempts to talk.
In order that it may learn to do this as easily as possible, it
requires to be surrounded by people speaking one language, and speaking
it with a uniform accent. Those who are most in the child's hearing
should endeavour to speak--even when they are not addressing the child
--deliberately and clearly. All authorities are agreed upon the
mischievous effect of what is called "baby talk," the use of an
extensive sham vocabulary, a sort of deciduous milk vocabulary that
will presently have to be shed again. Froebel and Preyer join hands on
this. The child's funny little perversions of speech are really genuine
attempts to say the right word, and we simply cause trouble and hamper
development if we give back to the seeking mind its own blunders again.
When a child wants to indicate milk, it wants to say milk, and not
"mooka" or "mik," and when it wants to indicate bed, the needed word is
not "bedder" or "bye-bye," but "bed." But we give the little thing no
chance to get on in this way until suddenly one day we discover it is
"time the child spoke plainly." Preyer has pointed out very
instructively the way in which the quite sufficiently difficult matter
of the use of I, mine, me, my, you, yours, and your is made still more
difficult by those about the child adopting irregularly the
experimental idioms it produces. When a child says to its mother, "Me
go mome," it is doing its best to speak English, and its remark should
be received without worrying comment; but when a mother says to her
child, "Me go mome," she is simply wasting an opportunity of teaching
her child its mother-tongue. One sympathizes with her all too readily,
one understands the sweetness to her of these soft, infantile
mispronunciations; but, indeed, she ought to understand; it is her
primary business to know better than her feelings in this affair.

In learning to speak, the children of the more prosperous classes are
probably at a considerable advantage when compared with their poorer
fellow children. They hear a clearer and more uniform intonation than
the blurred, uncertain speech of our commonalty, that has resulted from
the reaction of the great synthetic process, of the past century upon
dialects. But this natural advantage of the richer child is discounted
in one of two ways: in the first place by the mother, in the second by
the nurse. The mother in the more prosperous classes is often much more
vain and trivial than the lower-class woman; she looks to her children
for amusement, and makes them contributors to her "effect," and, by
taking up their quaint and pretty mispronunciations, and devising
humorous additions to their natural baby talk, she teaches them to be
much greater babies than they could ever possibly be themselves. They
specialise as charming babies until their mother tires of the pose, and
then they are thrust back into the nursery to recover leeway, if they
can, under the care of governess or nurse.

The second disadvantage of the upper-class child is the foreign nurse
or nursery governess. There is a widely diffused idea that a child is
particularly apt to master and retain languages, and people try and
inoculate with French and German as Lord Herbert of Cherbury would have
inoculated children with antidotes, for all the ills their flesh was
heir to--even, poor little wretches, to an anticipatory _regimen_
for gout. The root error of these attempts to form infantile polyglots
is embodied in an unverified quotation from Byron's _Beppo,_ dear
to pedagogic writers--

"Wax to receive and marble to retain"

runs the line--which the curious may discover to be a description of
the faithful lover, though it has become as firmly associated with the
child-mind as has Sterne's "tempering the wind to the shorn lamb" with
Holy Writ. And this idea of infantile receptivity and retentiveness is
held by an unthinking world, in spite of the universally accessible
fact that hardly one of us can remember anything that happened before
the age of five, and very little that happened before seven or eight,
and that children of five or six, removed into foreign surroundings,
will in a year or so--if special measures are not taken--reconstruct
their idiom, and absolutely forget every word of their mother-tongue.
This foreign nurse comes into the child's world, bringing with her
quite weird errors in the quantities, the accent and idiom of the
mother-tongue, and greatly increasing the difficulty and delay on the
road to thought and speech. And this attempt to acquire a foreign
language prematurely at the expense of the mother-tongue, to pick it up
cheaply by making the nurse an informal teacher of languages, entirely
ignores a fact upon which I would lay the utmost stress in this paper--
which, indeed, is the gist of this paper--that only a very small
minority of English or American people have more than half mastered the
splendid heritage of their native speech. To this neglected and most
significant limitation the amount of public attention given at present
is quite surprisingly small. [Footnote: My friend, Mr. L. Cope
Cornford, writes _apropos_ of this, and I think I cannot do better
than print what he says as a corrective to my own assertions: "All you
say on the importance of letting a child hear good English cleanly
accented is admirable; but we think you have perhaps overlooked the
importance of ear-training as such, which should begin by the time the
child can utter its first attempts at speech. By ear-training I mean
the differentiation of sounds--articulate, inarticulate, and musical--
fixing the child's attention and causing it to _imitate_. As every
sound requires a particular movement of the vocal apparatus, the child
will soon be able to adapt its apparatus unconsciously and to
distinguish accurately. And if it does not so learn before the age of
five or six, it probably will never do so. By the age of two--or less--
the child should be able to _imitate_ exactly any speech-sound.
Our youngsters can do so; and, consequently, the fact that they had a
nurse with a Sussex accent ceased to matter, because they learned to
distinguish her talk from correct English. So in the case of a foreign
nurse; the result of a foreigner's influence would be good in this way,
that it would train a child to a _new series of speech-sounds_,
thus enlarging its ear capacity. Nor need it necessarily adopt these
speech-sounds as those which it should use; it merely knows them; and
if the foreigner have a good accent, and speaks her own tongue well,
the child's ear is trained for life, _irrespective of expression_.
Experience shows that a child can keep separate in its mind two or
three languages--at first the speech-sounds, later the expression.
_Modes of expression_ need not begin till after five, or later.
With regard to music, every child should begin to undergo a simple
course of ear-training on the sol-fa system as elaborated and taught by
McNaught, because the faculty of so learning is lost--atrophied--by the
age of twelve or fourteen. But, beginning early--as early as possible--
every child, 'musical' or not, can be trained, just as every child,
'artistic' or not, may be taught to draw accurately up to a certain

There can be little or no dispute that the English language in its
completeness presents a range too ample and appliances too subtle for
the needs of the great majority of those who profess to speak it. I do
not refer to the half-civilized and altogether barbaric races who are
coming under its sway, but to the people we are breeding of our own
race--the barbarians of our streets, our suburban "white niggers," with
a thousand a year and the conceit of Imperial destinies. They live in
our mother-tongue as some half-civilized invaders might live in a
gigantic and splendidly equipped palace. They misuse this, they waste
that, they leave whole corridors and wings unexplored, to fall into
disuse and decay. I doubt if the ordinary member of the prosperous
classes in England has much more than a third of the English language
in use, and more than a half in knowledge, and as we go down the social
scale we may come at last to strata having but a tenth part of our full
vocabulary, and much of that blurred and vaguely understood. The speech
of the Colonist is even poorer than the speech of the home-staying
English. In America, just as in Great Britain and her Colonies, there
is the same limitation and the same disuse. Partly, of course, this is
due to the pettiness of our thought and experience, and so far it can
only be remedied by a general intellectual amplification; but partly it
is due to the general ignorance of English prevailing throughout the
world. It is atrociously taught, and taught by ignorant men. It is
atrociously and meanly written. So far as this second cause of sheer
ignorance goes, the gaps in knowledge are continually resulting in
slang and the addition of needless neologisms to the language. People
come upon ideas that they know no English to express, and strike out
the new phrase in a fine burst of ignorant discovery. There are
Americans in particular who are amazingly apt at this sort of thing.
They take an enormous pride in the jargon they are perpetually
increasing--they boast of it, they give exhibition performances in it,
they seem to regard it as the culminating flower of their continental
Republic--as though the Old World had never heard of shoddy. But,
indeed, they are in no better case than that unfortunate lady at
Earlswood who esteems newspapers stitched with unravelled carpet and
trimmed with orange peel, the extreme of human splendour. In truth,
their pride is baseless, and this slang of theirs no sort of
distinction whatever. Let me assure them that in our heavier way we in
this island are just as busy defiling our common inheritance. We can
send a team of linguists to America who will murder and misunderstand
the language against any eleven the Americans may select.

Of course there is a natural and necessary growth and development in a
living language, a growth that no one may arrest. In appliances, in
politics, in science, in philosophical interpretation, there is a
perpetual necessity for new words, words to express new ideas and new
relationships, words free from ambiguity and encumbering associations.
But the neologisms of the street and the saloon rarely supply any
occasion of this kind. For the most part they are just the stupid
efforts of ignorant men to supply the unnecessary. And side by side
with the invention of inferior cheap substitutes for existing words and
phrases, and infinitely more serious than that invention, goes on a
perpetual misuse and distortion of those that are insufficiently known.
These are processes not of growth but of decay--they distort, they
render obsolete, and they destroy. The obsolescence and destruction of
words and phrases cuts us off from the nobility of our past, from the
severed masses of our race overseas, far more effectually than any
growth of neologisms. A language may grow--our language must grow--it
may be clarified and refined and strengthened, but it need not suffer
the fate of an algal filament, and pass constantly into rottenness and
decay whenever growth is no longer in progress. That has been the fate
of languages in the past because of the feebler organization, the
slenderer, slower intercommunication, and, above all, the insufficient
records of human communities; but the time has come now--or, at the
worst, is rapidly coming--when this will cease to be a fated thing. We
may have a far more copious and varied tongue than had Addison or
Spenser--that is no disaster--but there is no reason why we should not
keep fast hold of all they had. There is no reason why the whole fine
tongue of Elizabethan England should not be at our disposal still.
Conceivably Addison would find the rich, allusive English of George
Meredith obscure; conceivably we might find a thousand words and
phrases of the year 2000 strange and perplexing; but there is no reason
why a time should ever come when what has been written well in English
since Elizabethan days should no longer be understandable and fine.

The prevailing ignorance of English in the English-speaking
communities, enormously hampers the development of the racial
consciousness. Except for those who wish to bawl the crudest thoughts,
there is no means of reaching the whole mass of these communities to-
day. So far as material requirements go it would be possible to fling a
thought broadcast like seed over the whole world to-day, it would be
possible to get a book into the hands of half the adults of our race.
But at the hands and eyes one stops--there is a gap in the brains. Only
thoughts that can be expressed in the meanest commonplaces will ever
reach the minds of the majority of the English-speaking peoples under
present conditions.

A writer who aims to be widely read to-day must perpetually halt, must
perpetually hesitate at the words that arise in his mind; he must ask
himself how many people will stick at this word altogether or miss the
meaning it should carry; he must ransack his memory for a commonplace
periphrase, an ingenious rearrangement of the familiar; he must omit or
overaccentuate at every turn. Such simple and necessary words as
"obsolescent," "deliquescent," "segregation," for example, must be
abandoned by the man who would write down to the general reader; he
must use "impertinent" as if it were a synonym for "impudent" and
"indecent" as the equivalent of "obscene." And in the face of this wide
ignorance of English, seeing how few people can either read or write
English with any subtlety, and how disastrously this reacts upon the
general development of thought and understanding amidst the English-
speaking peoples, it would be preposterous even if the attempt were
successful, to complicate the first linguistic struggles of the infant
with the beginnings of a second language. But people deal thus lightly
with the mother-tongue because they know so little of it that they do
not even suspect their own ignorance of its burthen and its powers.
They speak a little set of ready-made phrases, they write it scarcely
at all, and all they read is the weak and shallow prose of popular
fiction and the daily press. That is knowing a language within the
meaning of their minds, and such a knowledge a child may very well be
left to "pick up" as it may. Side by side with this they will presently
set themselves to erect a similar "knowledge" of two or three other
languages. One is constantly meeting not only women but men who will
solemnly profess to "know" English and Latin, French, German and
Italian, perhaps Greek, who are in fact--beyond the limited range of
food, clothing, shelter, trade, crude nationalism, social conventions
and personal vanity--no better than the deaf and dumb. In spite of the
fact that they will sit with books in their hands, visibly reading,
turning pages, pencilling comments, in spite of the fact that they will
discuss authors and repeat criticisms, it is as hopeless to express new
thoughts to them as it would be to seek for appreciation in the ear of
a hippopotamus. Their linguistic instruments are no more capable of
contemporary thought than a tin whistle, a xylophone, and a drum are
capable of rendering the Eroica Symphony.

In being also ignorant of itself, this wide ignorance of English
partakes of all that is most hopeless in ignorance. Except among a few
writers and critics, there is little sense of defect in this matter.
The common man does not know that his limited vocabulary limits his
thoughts. He knows that there are "long words" and rare words in the
tongue, but he does not know that this implies the existence of
definite meanings beyond his mental range. His poor collection of
everyday words, worn-out phrases and battered tropes, constitute what
he calls "plain English," and speech beyond these limits he seriously
believes to be no more than the back-slang of the educated class, a
mere elaboration and darkening of intercourse to secure privacy and
distinction. No doubt there is justification enough for his suspicion
in the exploits of pretentious and garrulous souls. But it is the
superficial justification of a profound and disastrous error. A gap in
a man's vocabulary is a hole and tatter in his mind; words he has may
indeed be weakly connected or wrongly connected--one may find the whole
keyboard jerry-built, for example, in the English-speaking Baboo--but
words he has not signify ideas that he has no means of clearly
apprehending, they are patches of imperfect mental existence, factors
in the total amount of his personal failure to live.

This world-wide ignorance of English, this darkest cloud almost upon
the fair future of our confederated peoples, is something more than a
passive ignorance. It is active, it is aggressive. In England at any
rate, if one talks beyond the range of white-nigger English, one
commits a social breach. There are countless "book words" well-bred
people never use. A writer with any tenderness for half-forgotten
phrases, any disposition to sublimate the mingling of unaccustomed
words, runs as grave a risk of organized disregard as if he tampered
with the improper. The leaden censures of the _Times,_ for
example, await any excursion beyond its own battered circumlocutions.
Even nowadays, and when they are veterans, Mr. George Meredith and Mr.
Henley get ever and again a screed of abuse from some hot champion of
Lower Division Civil Service prose. "Plain English" such a one will
call his desideratum, as one might call the viands on a New Cut barrow
"plain food." The hostility to the complete language is everywhere. I
wonder just how many homes may not be witnessing the self-same scene as
I write. Some little child is struggling with the unmanageable treasure
of a new-found word, has produced it at last, a nice long word,
forthwith to be "laughed out" of such foolish ambitions by its anxious
parent. People train their children not to speak English beyond a
threadbare minimum, they resent it upon platform and in pulpit, and
they avoid it in books. Schoolmasters as a class know little of the
language. In none of our schools, not even in the more efficient of our
elementary schools, is English adequately taught. And these people
expect the South African Dutch to take over their neglected tongue! As
though the poor partial King's English of the British Colonist was one
whit better than the Taal! To give them the reality of what English
might be: that were a different matter altogether.

These things it is the clear business of our New Republicans to alter.
It follows, indeed, but it is in no way secondary to the work of
securing sound births and healthy childhoods, that we should secure a
vigorous, ample mental basis for the minds born with these bodies. We
have to save, to revive this scattered, warped, tarnished and neglected
language of ours, if we wish to save the future of our world. We should
save not only the world of those who at present speak English, but the
world of many kindred and associated peoples who would willingly enter
into our synthesis, could we make it wide enough and sane enough and
noble enough for their honour.

To expect that so ample a cause as this should find any support among
the festering confusion of the old politics is to expect too much.
There is no party for the English language anywhere in the world. We
have to take this problem as we took our former problem and deal with
it as though the old politics, which slough so slowly, were already
happily excised. To begin with, we may give our attention to the
foundation of this foundation, to the growth of speech in the
developing child.

From the first the child should hear a clear and uniform pronunciation
about it, a precise and careful idiom and words definitely used. Since
language is to bring people together and not to keep them apart, it
would be well if throughout the English-speaking world there could be
one accent, one idiom, and one intonation. This there never has been
yet, but there is no reason at all why it should not be. There is
arising even now a standard of good English to which many dialects and
many influences are contributing. From the Highlanders and the Irish,
for example, the English of the South are learning the possibilities of
the aspirate _h_ and _wh_, which latter had entirely and the
former very largely dropped out of use among them a hundred years ago.
The drawling speech of Wessex and New England--for the main features of
what people call Yankee intonation are to be found in perfection in the
cottages of Hampshire and West Sussex--are being quickened, perhaps
from the same sources. The Scotch are acquiring the English use of
_shall_ and _will,_ and the confusion of reconstruction is
world-wide among our vowels. The German _w_ of Mr. Samuel Weller
has been obliterated within the space of a generation or so. There is
no reason at all why this natural development of the uniform English of
the coming age should not be greatly forwarded by our deliberate
efforts, why it should not be possible within a little while to define
a standard pronunciation of our tongue. It is a less important issue by
far than that of a uniform vocabulary and phraseology, but it is still
a very notable need.

We have available now for the first time, in the more highly evolved
forms of phonograph and telephone, a means of storing, analyzing,
transmitting, and referring to sounds, that should be of very
considerable value in the attempt to render a good and beautiful
pronunciation of English uniform throughout the world. It would not be
unreasonable to require from all those who are qualifying for the work
of education, the reading aloud of long passages in the standard
accent. At present there is no requirement of this sort in England, and
too often our elementary teachers at any rate, instead of being
missionaries of linguistic purity, are centres of diffusion for blurred
and vicious perversions of our speech. They must read and recite aloud
in their qualifying examinations, it is true, but under no specific
prohibition of provincial intonations. In the pulpit and the stage,
moreover, we have ready to hand most potent instruments of
dissemination, that need nothing but a little sharpening to help
greatly towards this end. At the entrance of almost all professions
nowadays stands an examination that includes English, and there would
be nothing revolutionary in adding to that written paper an oral test
in the standard pronunciation. By active exertion to bring these things
about the New Republican could do much to secure that every child of
our English-speaking people throughout the world would hear in school
and church and entertainment the same clear and definite accent. The
child's mother and nurse would be helped to acquire almost insensibly a
sound and confident pronunciation. No observant man who has lived at
all broadly, meeting and talking with people of diverse culture and
tradition, but knows how much our intercourse is cumbered by
hesitations about quantity and accent, and petty differences of phrase
and idiom, and how greatly intonation and accent may warp and limit our

And while they are doing this for the general linguistic atmosphere,
the New Republicans could also attempt something to reach the children
in detail.

By instinct nearly every mother wants to teach. Some teach by instinct,
but for the most part there is a need of guidance in their teaching. At
present these first and very important phases in education are guided
almost entirely by tradition. The necessary singing and talking to very
young children is done in imitation of similar singing and talking; it
is probably done no better, it may possibly be done much worse, than it
was done two hundred years ago. A very great amount of permanent
improvement in human affairs might be secured in this direction by the
expenditure of a few thousand pounds in the systematic study of the
most educational method of dealing with children in the first two or
three years of life, and in the intelligent propagation of the
knowledge obtained. There exist already, it is true, a number of Child
Study Associations, Parents' Unions, and the like, but for the most
part these are quite ineffectual talking societies, akin to Browning
Societies, Literary and Natural History Societies: they attain a
trifling amount of mutual improvement at their best, the members read
papers to one another, and a few medical men and schools secure a
needed advertisement. They have no organization, no concentration of
their energy, and their chief effect seems to be to present an interest
in education as if it were a harmless, pointless fad. But if a few men
of means and capacity were to organize a committee with adequate funds,
secure the services of specially endowed men for the exhaustive study
of developing speech, publish a digested report, and, with the
assistance of a good writer or so, produce very cheaply, advertise
vigorously, and disseminate widely a small, clearly printed, clearly
written book of pithy instructions for mothers and nurses in this
matter of early speech they would quite certainly effect a great
improvement in the mental foundations of the coming generation. We do
not yet appreciate the fact that for the first time in the history of
the world there exists a state of society in which almost every nurse
and mother reads. It is no longer necessary to rely wholly upon
instinct and tradition, therefore, for the early stages of a child's
instruction. We can reinforce and organize these things through the
printed word.

For example, an important factor in the early stage of speech-teaching
is the nursery rhyme. A little child, towards the end of the first
year, having accumulated a really very comprehensive selection of
sounds and noises by that time, begins to imitate first the associated
motions, and then the sounds of various nursery rhymes--"Pat-a-cake,"
for example. In the book I imagine, there would be, among many other
things, a series of little versicles, old and new, in which, to the
accompaniment of simple gestures, all the elementary sounds of the
language could be easily and agreeably made familiar to the child's
ears. [Footnote: Messrs. Heath of Boston, U.S.A., have sent me a book
of Nursery Rhymes, arranged by Mr. Charles Welsh, which is certainly
the best thing I have seen in this way. It is worthy of note that the
neglect of pedagogic study in Great Britain is forcing the intelligent
British parent and teacher to rely more and more upon American
publishers for children's books. The work of English writers is often
very tasteful and pretty, but of the smallest educational value. ]

And the same book I think might well contain a list of foundation
things and words and certain elementary forms of expression which the
child should become perfectly familiar with in the first three or four
years of life. Much of each little child's vocabulary is its personal
adventure, and Heaven save us all from system in excess! But I think it
would be possible for a subtle psychologist to trace through the easy
natural tangle of the personal briar-rose of speech certain necessary
strands, that hold the whole growth together and render its later
expansion easy and swift and strong. Whatever else the child gets, it
must get these fundamental strands well and early if it is to do its
best. If they do not develop now their imperfection will cause delay
and difficulty later. There are, for example, among these fundamental
necessities, idioms to express comparison, to express position in space
and time, elementary conceptions of form and colour, of tense and mood,
the pronouns and the like. No doubt, in one way or another, most of
these forms are acquired by every child, but there is no reason why
their acquisition should not be watched with the help of a wisely
framed list, and any deficiency deliberately and carefully supplied. It
would have to be a wisely framed list, it would demand the utmost
effort of the best intelligence, and that is why something more than
the tradesman enterprise of publishers is needed in this work. The
publisher's ideal of an author of an educational work is a clever girl
in her teens working for pocket-money. What is wanted is a little
quintessential book better and cheaper than any publisher, publishing
for gain, could possibly produce, a book so good that imitation would
be difficult, and so cheap and universally sold that no imitation would
be profitable.

Upon this foundation of a sound accent and a basic vocabulary must be
built the general fabric of the language. For the most part this must
be done in the school. At present in Great Britain a considerable
proportion of schoolmasters and schoolmistresses--more particularly
those in secondary and private schools--are too ill-educated to do this
properly; there is excellent reason for supposing things are very
little better in America; and, to begin with, it must be the care of
every good New Republican to bring about a better state of things in
this most lamentable profession. Until the teacher can read and write,
in the fullest sense of these words, it is idle to expect him or her to
teach the pupil to do these things. As matters are at present, the
attempt is scarcely made. In the elementary and lower secondary schools
ill-chosen reading-books are scampered through and abandoned all too
soon in favour of more pretentious "subjects," and a certain
preposterous nonsense called English Grammar is passed through the
pupil--stuff which happily no mind can retain. Little girls and boys of
twelve or thirteen, who cannot understand, and never will understand
anything but the vulgarest English, and who will never in their lives
achieve a properly punctuated letter, are taught such mysteries as that
there are eight--I believe it is eight--sorts of nominative, and that
there is (or is not) a gerundive in English, and trained month after
month and year after year to perform the oddest operations, a non-
analytical analysis, and a ritual called parsing that must be seen to
be believed. It is no good mincing the truth about all this sort of
thing. These devices are resorted to by the school teachers of the
present just as the Rules of Double and Single Alligation and Double
Rule of Three, and all the rest of that solemn tomfoolery, were
"taught" by the arithmetic teachers in the academies of the eighteenth
century, because they are utterly ignorant, and know themselves to be
utterly ignorant, of the reality of the subject, and because,
therefore, they have to humbug the parent and pass the time by unreal
inventions. The case is not a bit better in the higher grade schools.
They do not do so much of the bogus teaching of English, but they do
nothing whatever in its place.

Now it is little use to goad the members of an ill-trained, ill-
treated, ill-organized, poorly respected and much-abused [Footnote:
_Peccavi._] profession with reproaches for doing what they cannot
do, or to clamour for legislation that will give more school time or
heavier subsidies to the pretence of teaching what very few people are
able to teach. We all know how atrociously English is taught, but
proclaiming that will not mend matters a bit, it will only render
matters worse by making schoolmasters and schoolmistresses shameless
and effortless, unless we also show how well English may be taught. The
sane course is to begin by establishing the proper way to do the thing,
to develop a proper method and demonstrate what can be done by that
method in a few selected schools, to prepare and render acceptable the
necessary class-books, and then to use examination and inspector, grant
in aid, training college, lecture, book and pamphlet to spread the
sound expedients. We want an English Language Society, of affluent and
vigorous people, that will undertake this work. And one chief duty of
that society will be to devise, to arrange and select, to print
handsomely, to illustrate beautifully and to sell cheaply and
vigorously _everywhere,_ a series of reading books, and perhaps of
teachers' companions to these reading books, that shall serve as the
basis of instruction in Standard English throughout the whole world.
These books, as I conceive them, would begin as reading primers, they
would progress through a long series of subtly graded stories, passages
and extracts until they had given the complete range of our tongue.
They would be read from, recited from, quoted in exemplification and
imitated by the pupils. Such splendid matter as Henley and Whibley's
collection of Elizabethan Prose, for example, might well find a place
toward the end of that series of books. There would be an anthology of
English lyrics, of all the best short stories in our language, of all
the best episodes. From these readers the pupil would pass, still often
reading and reciting aloud, to such a series of masterpieces as an
efficient English Language Society could force upon every school. At
present in English schools a library is an exception rather than a
rule, and your clerical head-master on public occasions will cheerfully
denounce the "trash" reading, "snippet" reading habits of the age, with
that defect lying like a feather on his expert conscience. A school
without an easily accessible library of at least a thousand volumes is
really scarcely a school at all--it is a dispensary without bottles, a
kitchen without a pantry. For all that, if the inquiring New Republican
find two hundred linen-covered volumes of the _Eric, or Little by
Little_ type, mean goody-goody thought dressed in its appropriate
language, stored away in some damp cupboard of his son's school, and
accessible once a week, he may feel assured things are above the
average there. My imaginary English Language Society would make it a
fundamental duty, firstly to render that library of at least a thousand
volumes or so specially cheap and easily procurable, and secondly, by
pamphlets and agitation, to render it a compulsory minimum requirement
for every grade of school. It is far more important, and it would be
far less costly even as things are, than the cheapest sort of chemical
laboratory a school could have, and it should cost scarcely more than a
school piano.

I know very little of the practical teaching of English, my own very
fragmentary knowledge of the more familiar clichés of our tongue was
acquired in a haphazard fashion, but I am inclined to think that in
addition to much reading aloud and recitation from memory the work of
instruction might consist very largely of continually more extensive
efforts towards original composition. Paraphrasing is a good exercise,
provided that it does not consist in turning good and beautiful English
into bad. I do not see why it should not follow the reverse direction.
Selected passages of mean, stereotyped, garrulous or inexact prose
might very well be rewritten, under the direction of an intelligent
master. Retelling a story that has just been read and discussed, with a
change of incident perhaps, would also not be a bad sort of exercise,
writing passages in imitation of set passages and the like. Written
descriptions of things displayed to a class should also be instructive.
Caught at the right age, most little girls, and many little boys I
believe, would learn very pleasantly to write simple verse. This they
should be encouraged to read aloud. At a later stage the more settled
poetic forms, the ballade, the sonnet, the rondeau, for example, should
afford a good practice in handling language. Pupils should be
encouraged to import fresh words into their work--even if the effect is
a little startling at times--they should hunt the dictionary for
material. A good book for the upper forms in schools dealing in a
really intelligent and instructive way with Latin and Greek, so far as
it is necessary to know these languages in order to use and manipulate
technical English freely, would, I conceive, be of very great service.
It must be a good exercise to write precise definitions of words. Logic
also is an integral portion of the study of the mother-tongue.

But to throw out suggestions in this way is an easy task. The
educational papers are full of this sort of thing, educational
conferences resound with it. What the world is not full of is the
capacity to organize these things, to drag them, struggling and
clinging to a thousand unanticipated difficulties, from the region of
the counsel of perfection to the region of manifest practicability. For
that there is needed attention, industry, and an intelligent use of a
fair sum of money. We want an industrious committee, and we want one or
two rich men. A series of books, a model course of instruction, has to
be planned and made, tried over, criticised, revised and altered. When
the right way is no longer indicated by prophetic persons pointing in a
mist, but marked out, levelled, mapped and fenced, then the scholastic
profession, wherever the English language is spoken, has to be lured
and driven along it. The New Republican must make his course cheap,
attractive, easy for the teacher and good for the teacher's pocket and
reputation. Just as there are plays that, as actors say, "act
themselves," so, with a profession that is rarely at its best and often
at its worst, and which at its worst consists of remarkably dull young
men and remarkably dreary young women, those who want English well
taught must see to it that they provide a series of books and
instructors that will teach by themselves, whatever the teacher does to
prevent them.

Surely this enterprise of text-books and teachers, of standard
phonographs and cheaply published classics, is no fantastic impossible
dream! So far as money goes--if only money were the one thing needful--
a hundred thousand pounds would be a sufficient fund from first to last
for all of it. Yet modest as its proportions are, its consequences,
were it done by able men throwing their hearts into it, might be of
incalculable greatness. By such expedients and efforts as these we
might enormously forward the establishment of that foundation of a
world-wide spacious language, the foundation upon which there will
arise for our children subtler understandings, ampler imaginations,
sounder judgments and clearer resolutions, and all that makes at last a
nobler world of men.

But in this discussion of school libraries and the like, we wander a
little from our immediate topic of mental beginnings.

§ 3

At the end of the fifth year, as the natural outcome of its instinctive
effort to experiment and learn, acting amidst wisely ordered
surroundings, the little child should have acquired a certain definite
foundation for the educational structure. It should have a vast variety
of perceptions stored in its mind, and a vocabulary of three or four
thousand words, and among these, and holding them together, there
should be certain structural and cardinal ideas. They are ideas that
will have been gradually and imperceptibly instilled, and they are
necessary as the basis of a sound mental existence. There must be, to
begin with, a developing sense and feeling for truth and for duty as
something distinct and occasionally conflicting with immediate impulse
and desire, and there must be certain clear intellectual elements
established already almost impregnably in the mind, certain primary
distinctions and classifications. Many children are called stupid, and
begin their educational career with needless difficulty through an
unsoundness of these fundamental intellectual elements, an unsoundness
in no way inherent, but the result of accident and neglect. And a
starting handicap of this sort may go on increasing right through the
whole life.

The child at five, unless it is colour blind, should know the range of
colours by name, and distinguish them easily, blue and green not
excepted; it should be able to distinguish pink from pale red and
crimson from scarlet. [Footnote: There could be a set of colour bands
in the book that the English Language Society might publish.] Many
children through the neglect of those about them do not distinguish
these colours until a very much later age. I think also--in spite of
the fact that many adults go vague and ignorant on these points--that a
child of five may have been taught to distinguish between a square, a
circle, an oval, a triangle and an oblong, and to use these words. It
is easier to keep hold of ideas with words than without them, and none
of these words should be impossible by five. The child should also know
familiarly by means of toys, wood blocks and so on, many elementary
solid forms. It is matter of regret that in common language we have no
easy, convenient words for many of these forms, and instead of being
learnt easily and naturally in play, they are left undistinguished, and
have to be studied later under circumstances of forbidding
technicality. It would be quite easy to teach the child in an
incidental way to distinguish cube, cylinder, cone, sphere (or ball),
prolate spheroid (which might be called "egg"), oblate spheroid (which
might be called "squatty ball"), the pyramid, and various
parallelepipeds, as, for example, the square slab, the oblong slab, the
brick, and post. He could have these things added to his box of bricks
by degrees, he would build with them and combine them and play with
them over and over again, and absorb an intimate knowledge of their
properties, just at the age when such knowledge is almost instinctively
sought and is most pleasant and easy in its acquisition. These things
need not be specially forced upon him. In no way should he be led to
emphasize them or give a priggish importance to his knowledge of them.
They will come into his toys and play mingled with a thousand other
interests, the fortifying powder of clear general ideas, amidst the jam
of play.

In addition the child should be able to count, [Footnote: There can be
little doubt that many of us were taught to count very badly, and that
we were hampered in our arithmetic throughout life by this defect.
Counting should be taught be means of small cubes, which the child can
arrange and rearrange in groups. It should have at least over a hundred
of these cubes--if possible a thousand; they will be useful as toy
bricks, and for innumerable purposes. Our civilization is now wedded to
a decimal system of counting, and, to begin with, it will be well to
teach the child to count up to ten and to stop there for a time. It is
suggested by Mrs. Mary Everest Boole that it is very confusing to have
distinctive names for eleven and twelve, which the child is apt to
class with the single numbers and contrast with the teens, and she
proposes at the beginning (_The Cultivation of the Mathematical
Imagination_, Colchester: Benham & Co.) to use the words "one-ten,"
"two-ten," thirteen, fourteen, etc., for the second decade in counting.
Her proposal is entirely in harmony with the general drift of the
admirably suggestive diagrams of number order collected by Mr. Francis
Gallon. Diagram after diagram displays the same hitch at twelve, the
predominance in the mind of an individualized series over
quantitatively equal spaces until the twenties are attained. Many
diagrams also display the mental scar of the clock face, the early
counting is overmuch associated with a dial. One might perhaps head off
the establishment of that image, and supply a more serviceable
foundation for memories by equipping the nursery with a vertical scale
of numbers divided into equal parts up to two or three hundred, with
each decade tinted. When the child has learnt to count up to a hundred
with cubes, it should be given an abacus, and it should also be
encouraged to count and check quantities with all sorts of things,
marbles, apples, bricks in a wall, pebbles, spots on dominoes, and so
on; taught to play guessing games with marbles in a hand, and the like.
The abacus, the hundred square and the thousand cube, will then in all
probability become its cardinal numerical memories. Playing cards
(without corner indices) and dominoes supply good recognizable
arrangements of numbers, and train a child to grasp a number at a
glance. The child should not be taught the Arabic numerals until it has
counted for a year or more. Experience speaks here. I know one case
only too well of a man who learnt his Arabic numerals prematurely,
before he had acquired any sound experimental knowledge of numerical
quantity, and, as a consequence, his numerical ideas are incurably
associated with the peculiarities of the figures. When he hears the
word seven he does not really think of seven or seven-ness at all, even
now, he thinks of a number rather like four and very unlike six. Then
again, six and nine are mysteriously and unreasonably linked in his
mind, and so are three and five. He confuses numbers like sixty-three
and sixty-five, and finds it hard to keep seventy-four distinct from
forty-seven. Consequently, when it came to the multiplication table, he
learnt each table as an arbitrary arrangement of relationships, and
with an extraordinary amount of needless labour and punishment. But
obviously with cubes or abacus at hand, it would be the easiest thing
in the world for a child to construct and learn its own multiplication
table whenever the need arose.] it should be capable of some mental and
experimental arithmetic, and I am told that a child of five should be
able to give the _sol-fa_ names to notes, and sing these names at
their proper pitch. Possibly in social intercourse the child will have
picked up names for some of the letters of the alphabet, but there is
no great hurry for that before five certainly, or even later. There is
still a vast amount of things immediately about the child that need to
be thoroughly learnt, and a premature attack on letters divides
attention from these more appropriate and educational objects. It
should, for the reason given in the footnote, be still ignorant of the
Arabic numerals. It should be able to handle a pencil and amuse itself
with freehand of this sort:--and its mind should be quite
uncontaminated by that imbecile drawing upon squared paper by means of
which ignorant teachers destroy both the desire and the capacity to
sketch in so many little children. Such sketching could be enormously
benefited by a really intelligent teacher who would watch the child's
efforts, and draw with the child just a little above its level. For
example, the teacher might stimulate effort by rejoining to such a
sketch as the above, something in this vein:--

The child will already be a great student of picture-books at five,
something of a critic (after the manner of the realistic school), and
it will be easy to egg it almost imperceptibly to a level where copying
from simple outline illustrations will become possible. About five, a
present of some one of the plastic substitutes for modelling clay now
sold by educational dealers, _plasticine_ for example, will be a
discreet and acceptable present to the child--if not to its nurse.

The child's imagination will also be awake and active at five. He will
look out on the world with anthropomorphic (or rather with pædomorphic)
eyes. He will be living on a great flat earth--unless some officious
person has tried to muddle his wits by telling him the earth is round;
amidst trees, animals, men, houses, engines, utensils, that are all
capable of being good or naughty, all fond of nice things and hostile
to nasty ones, all thumpable and perishable, and all conceivably
esurient. And the child should know of Fairy Land. The beautiful fancy
of the "Little People," even if you do not give it to him, he will very
probably get for himself; they will lurk always just out of reach of
his desiring curious eyes, amidst the grass and flowers and behind the
wainscot and in the shadows of the bedroom. He will come upon their
traces; they will do him little kindnesses. Their affairs should
interweave with the affairs of the child's dolls and brick castles and
toy furniture. At first the child will scarcely be in a world of
sustained stories, but very eager for anecdotes and simple short tales.

This is the hopeful foundation upon which at or about the fifth year
the formal education of every child in a really civilized community
ought to begin. [Footnote: One may note here, perhaps, the desirability
too often disregarded by over-solicitous parents, and particularly by
the parents of the solitary children who are now so common, of keeping
the child a little out of focus, letting it play by itself whenever it
will, never calling attention to it in a manner that awakens it to the
fact of an audience, never talking about it in its presence. Solitary
children commonly get too much control, they are forced and beguiled
upward rather than allowed to grow, their egotism is over-stimulated,
and they miss many of the benefits of play and competition. It seems a
pity, too, in the case of so many well-to-do people, that having
equipped nurseries they should not put them to a fuller use--if in no
other way than by admitting foster children. None of this has been very
fully analyzed, of course (there are enormous areas of valuable
research in these matters waiting for people of intelligence and
leisure, or of intelligence and means), but the opinion that solitary
children are handicapped by their loneliness is very strong. It is
nearly certain that as a rule they make less agreeable boys and girls,
but to me at any rate it is not nearly so certain that they make adult
failures. It would be interesting to learn just what proportion of
solitary children there is on the roll of those who have become great
in our world. One thinks of John Ruskin, a particularly fine specimen
of the highly focussed single son. Prig perhaps he was, but this world
has a certain need of such prigs. A correspondent (a schoolmistress of
experience) who has collected statistics in her own neighbourhood, is
strongly of opinion not only that solitary children are below the
average, but that all elder children are inferior in quality. I do not
believe this, but it would be interesting and valuable if some one
could find time for a wide and thorough investigation of this



So far we have concerned ourselves with the introductory and foundation
matter of the New Republican project, with the measures and methods
that may be resorted to, firstly, if we would raise the general quality
of the children out of whom we have to make the next generation, and,
secondly, if we would replace divergent dialects and partial and
confused expression by a uniform, ample and thorough knowledge of
English throughout the English-speaking world. These two things are
necessary preliminaries to the complete attainment of the more
essential nucleus in the New Republican idea. So much has been
discussed. This essential nucleus, thus stripped, reveals itself as the
systematic direction of the moulding forces that play upon the
developing citizen, towards his improvement, with a view to a new
generation of individuals, a new social state, at a higher level than
that at which we live to-day, a new generation which will apply the
greater power, ampler knowledge and more definite will our endeavours
will give it, to raise its successor still higher in the scale of life.
Or we may put the thing in another and more concrete and vivid way. On
the one hand imagine an average little child let us say in its second
year. We have discussed all that can be done to secure that this
average little child shall be well born, well fed, well cared for, and
we will imagine all that can be done has been done. Accordingly, we
have a sturdy, beautiful healthy little creature to go upon, just
beginning to walk, just beginning to clutch at things with its hands,
to reach out to and apprehend things with its eyes, with its ears, with
the hopeful commencement of speech. We want to arrange matters so that
this little being shall develop into its best possible adult form. That
is our remaining problem.

Is our contemporary average citizen the best that could have been made
out of the vague extensive possibilities that resided in him when he
was a child of two? It has been shown already that in height and weight
he, demonstrably, is not, and it has been suggested, I hope almost as
convincingly, that in that complex apparatus of acquisition and
expression, language, he is also needlessly deficient. And even upon
this defective foundation, it is submitted, he still fails, morally,
mentally, socially, aesthetically, to be as much as he might be. "As
much as he might be," is far too ironically mild. The average citizen
of our great state to-day is, I would respectfully submit, scarcely
more than a dirty clout about his own buried talents.

I do not say he might not be infinitely worse, but can any one believe
that, given better conditions, he might not have been infinitely
better? Is it necessary to argue for a thing so obvious to all clear-
sighted men? Is it necessary, even if it were possible, that I should
borrow the mantle of Mr. George Gissing or the force of Mr. Arthur
Morrison, and set myself in cold blood to measure the enormous defect
of myself and my fellows by the standards of a remote perfection, to
gauge the extent of this complex muddle of artificial and avoidable
shortcomings through which we struggle? Must one, indeed, pass in
review once more, bucolic stupidity, commercial cunning, urban
vulgarity, religious hypocrisy, political clap-trap, and all the raw
disorder of our incipient civilization before the point will be
conceded? What benefit is there in any such revision? rather it may
overwhelm us with the magnitude of what we seek to do. Let us not dwell
on it, on all the average civilized man still fails to achieve; admit
his imperfection, and for the rest let us keep steadfastly before us
that fair, alluring and reasonable conception of all that, even now,
the average man might be.

Yet one is tempted by the effective contrast to put against that clean
and beautiful child some vivid presentation of the average thing, to
sketch in a few simple lines the mean and graceless creature of our
modern life, his ill-made clothes, his clumsy, half-fearful, half-
brutal bearing, his coarse defective speech, his dreary unintelligent
work, his shabby, impossible, bathless, artless, comfortless home; one
is provoked to suggest him in some phase of typical activity, "enjoying
himself" on a Bank Holiday, or rejoicing, peacock feather in hand, hat
askew, and voice completely gone, on some occasion of public festivity
--on the defeat of a numerically inferior enemy for example, or the
decision of some great international issue at baseball or cricket.
This, one would say, we have made out of that, and so point the New
Republican question, "Cannot we do better?" But the thing has been done
so often without ever the breath of a remedy. Our business is with
remedies. We mean to do better, we live to do better, and with no more
than a glance at our present failures we will set ourselves to that.

To do better we must begin with a careful analysis of the process of
this man's making, of the great complex of circumstances which mould
the vague possibilities of the average child into the reality of the
citizen of the modern state.

We may begin upon this complex most hopefully by picking out a few of
the conspicuous and typical elements and using them as a basis for an
exhaustive classification. To begin with, of course, there is the home.
For our present purpose it will be convenient to use "home" as a
general expression for that limited group of human beings who share the
board and lodging of the growing imperial citizen, and whose
personalities are in constant, close contact with his until he reaches
fifteen or sixteen. Typically, the chief figures of this group are
mother, brothers and sisters, and father, to which are often added
nursemaid, governess, and other servants. Beyond these are playmates
again. Beyond these acquaintances figure. Home has indeed nowadays, in
our world, no very definite boundaries--no such boundaries as it has,
for example, on the veldt. In the case of a growing number of English
upper middle-class children, moreover, and of the children of a growing
element in the life of the eastern United States, the home functions
are delegated in a very large degree to the preparatory school. It is a
distinction that needs to be emphasized that many so-called schools are
really homes, often very excellent homes, with which schools, often
very inefficient schools, are united. All this we must lump together--
it is, indeed, woven together almost inextricably--when we speak of
home as a formative factor. The home, so far as its hygienic conditions
go, we have already dealt with, and we have dealt, too, with the great
neglected necessity, the absolute necessity if our peoples are to keep
together, of making and keeping the language of the home uniform
throughout our world-wide community. Purely intellectual development
beyond the matter of language we may leave for a space. There remains
the distinctive mental and moral function of the home, the
determination by precept, example, and implication of the cardinal
habits of the developing citizen, his general demeanour, his
fundamental beliefs about all the common and essential things of life.

This group of people, who constitute the home, will be in constant
reaction upon him. If as a whole they bear themselves with grace and
serenity, say and do kindly things, control rage, and occupy themselves
constantly, they will do much to impose these qualities upon the new-
comer. If they quarrel one with another, behave coarsely and
spitefully, loiter and lounge abundantly, these things will also stamp
the child. A raging father, a scared deceitful mother, vulgarly acting,
vulgarly thinking friends, all leave an almost indelible impress.
Precept may play a part in the home, but it is a small part, unless it
is endorsed by conduct. What these people do, on the whole, believe in
and act upon, the child will tend to believe in and act upon; what they
believe they believe, but do not act upon, the child will acquire also
as a non-operative belief; their practices, habits, and prejudices will
be enormously prepotent in his life. If, for example, the parent talks
constantly of the contemptible dirtiness of Boers and foreigners, and
of the extreme beauty of cleanliness and--even obviously--rarely
washes, the child will grow to the same professions and the same
practical denial. This home circle it is that will describe what, in
modified Herbartian phraseology, one may call the child's initial
circle of thought; it is a circle many things will subsequently enlarge
and modify, but of which they have the centering at least and the
establishment of the radial trends, almost beyond redemption. The
effect of home influence, indeed, constitutes with most of us a sort of
secondary heredity, interweaving with, and sometimes almost
indistinguishable from, the real unalterable primary heredity, a moral
shaping by suggestion, example, and influence, that is a sort of
spiritual parallel to physical procreation.

It is not simply personalities that are operative in the home
influence. There is also the implications of the various relations
between one member of the home circle and another. I am inclined to
think that the social conceptions, for example, that are accepted in a
child's home world are very rarely shaken in afterlife. People who have
been brought up in households where there is an organized under-world
of servants are incurably different in their social outlook from those
who have passed a servantless childhood. They never quite emancipate
themselves from the conception of an essential class difference, of a
class of beings inferior to themselves. They may theorise about
equality--but theory is not belief. They will do a hundred things to
servants that between equals would be, for various reasons, impossible.
The Englishwoman and the Anglicised American woman of the more
pretentious classes honestly regards a servant as physically, morally,
and intellectually different from herself, capable of things that would
be incredibly arduous to a lady, capable of things that would be
incredibly disgraceful, under obligations of conduct no lady observes,
incapable of the refinement to which every lady pretends. It is one of
the most amazing aspects of contemporary life, to converse with some
smart, affected, profoundly uneducated, flirtatious woman about her
housemaid's followers. There is such an identity; there is such an
abyss. But at present that contrast is not our concern. Our concern at
present is with the fact that the social constitution of the home
almost invariably shapes the fundamental social conceptions for life,
just as its average temperament shapes manners and bearing and its
moral tone begets moral predisposition. If the average sensual man of
our civilization is noisy and undignified in his bearing, disposed to
insult and despise those he believes to be his social inferiors,
competitive and disobliging to his equals; abject, servile, and
dishonest to those he regards as his betters; if his wife is a silly,
shallow, gossiping spendthrift, unfit to rear the children she
occasionally bears, perpetually snubbing social inferiors and
perpetually cringing to social superiors, it is probable that we have
to blame the home, not particularly any specific class of homes, but
our general home atmosphere, for the great part of these
characteristics. If we would make the average man of the coming years
gentler in manner, more deliberate in judgment, steadier in purpose,
upright, considerate, and free, we must look first to the possibility
of improving the tone and quality of the average home.

Now the substance and constitution of the home, the relations and order
of its various members, have been, and are, traditional. But it is a
tradition that has always been capable of modification in each
generation. In the unlettered, untravelling past, the factor of
tradition was altogether dominant. Sons and daughters married and set
up homes, morally, intellectually, economically, like those of their
parents. Over great areas homogeneous traditions held, and it needed
wars and conquests, or it needed missionaries and persecutors and
conflicts, or it needed many generations of intercourse and filtration
before a new tradition could replace or graft itself upon the old. But
in the past hundred years or so the home conditions of the children of
our English-speaking population have shown a disposition to break from
tradition under influences that are increasing, and to become much more
heterogeneous than were any home conditions before. The ways in which
these modifications of the old home tradition have arisen will indicate
the means and methods by which further modifications may be expected
and attempted in the future.

Modification has come to the average home tradition through two
distinct, though no doubt finally interdependent channels. The first of
these channels is the channel of changing economic necessities, using
the phrase to cover everything from domestic conveniences at the one
extreme to the financial foundation of the home at the other, and the
next is the influx of new systems of thought, of feeling, and of
interpretation about the general issues of life.

There are in Great Britain three main interdependent systems of home
tradition undergoing modification and readjustment. They date from the
days before mechanism and science began their revolutionary
intervention in human affairs, and they derive from the three main
classes of the old aristocratic, agricultural, and trading state,
namely, the aristocratic, the middle, and the labour class. There are
local, there are even racial modifications, there are minor classes and
subspecies, but the rough triple classification will serve. In America
the dominant home tradition is that of the transplanted English middle
class. The English aristocratic tradition has flourished and faded in
the Southern States; the British servile and peasant tradition has
never found any growth in America, and has, in the persons of the Irish
chiefly, been imported in an imperfect condition, only to fade. The
various home traditions of the nineteenth century immigrants have
either, if widely different, succumbed, or if not very different
assimilated themselves to the ruling tradition. The most marked non-
British influence has been the intermixture of Teutonic Protestantism.

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