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News from Nowhere by William Morris

Part 2 out of 5

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as it was, seemed strangely familiar to me; as if I had seen it
before--in a looking-glass it might be, said I to myself.

"Well," said the old man, "wherever you come from, you are come among
friends. And I see my kinsman Richard Hammond has an air about him
as if he had brought you here for me to do something for you. Is
that so, Dick?"

Dick, who was getting still more absent-minded and kept looking
uneasily at the door, managed to say, "Well, yes, kinsman: our guest
finds things much altered, and cannot understand it; nor can I; so I
thought I would bring him to you, since you know more of all that has
happened within the last two hundred years than any body else does.--
What's that?"

And he turned toward the door again. We heard footsteps outside; the
door opened, and in came a very beautiful young woman, who stopped
short on seeing Dick, and flushed as red as a rose, but faced him
nevertheless. Dick looked at her hard, and half reached out his hand
toward her, and his whole face quivered with emotion.

The old man did not leave them long in this shy discomfort, but said,
smiling with an old man's mirth:

"Dick, my lad, and you, my dear Clara, I rather think that we two
oldsters are in your way; for I think you will have plenty to say to
each other. You had better go into Nelson's room up above; I know he
has gone out; and he has just been covering the walls all over with
mediaeval books, so it will be pretty enough even for you two and
your renewed pleasure."

The girl reached out her hand to Dick, and taking his led him out of
the room, looking straight before her; but it was easy to see that
her blushes came from happiness, not anger; as, indeed, love is far
more self-conscious than wrath.

When the door had shut on them the old man turned to me, still
smiling, and said:

"Frankly, my dear guest, you will do me a great service if you are
come to set my old tongue wagging. My love of talk still abides with
me, or rather grows on me; and though it is pleasant enough to see
these youngsters moving about and playing together so seriously, as
if the whole world depended on their kisses (as indeed it does
somewhat), yet I don't think my tales of the past interest them much.
The last harvest, the last baby, the last knot of carving in the
market-place, is history enough for them. It was different, I think,
when I was a lad, when we were not so assured of peace and continuous
plenty as we are now--Well, well! Without putting you to the
question, let me ask you this: Am I to consider you as an enquirer
who knows a little of our modern ways of life, or as one who comes
from some place where the very foundations of life are different from
ours,--do you know anything or nothing about us?"

He looked at me keenly and with growing wonder in his eyes as he
spoke; and I answered in a low voice:

"I know only so much of your modern life as I could gather from using
my eyes on the way here from Hammersmith, and from asking some
questions of Richard Hammond, most of which he could hardly

The old man smiled at this. "Then," said he, "I am to speak to you

"As if I were a being from another planet," said I.

The old man, whose name, by the bye, like his kinsman's, was Hammond,
smiled and nodded, and wheeling his seat round to me, bade me sit in
a heavy oak chair, and said, as he saw my eyes fix on its curious

"Yes, I am much tied to the past, my past, you understand. These
very pieces of furniture belong to a time before my early days; it
was my father who got them made; if they had been done within the
last fifty years they would have been much cleverer in execution; but
I don't think I should have liked them the better. We were almost
beginning again in those days: and they were brisk, hot-headed
times. But you hear how garrulous I am: ask me questions, ask me
questions about anything, dear guest; since I must talk, make my talk
profitable to you."

I was silent for a minute, and then I said, somewhat nervously:
"Excuse me if I am rude; but I am so much interested in Richard,
since he has been so kind to me, a perfect stranger, that I should
like to ask a question about him."

"Well," said old Hammond, "if he were not 'kind', as you call it, to
a perfect stranger he would be thought a strange person, and people
would be apt to shun him. But ask on, ask on! don't be shy of

Said I: "That beautiful girl, is he going to be married to her?"

"Well," said he, "yes, he is. He has been married to her once
already, and now I should say it is pretty clear that he will be
married to her again."

"Indeed," quoth I, wondering what that meant.

"Here is the whole tale," said old Hammond; "a short one enough; and
now I hope a happy one: they lived together two years the first
time; were both very young; and then she got it into her head that
she was in love with somebody else. So she left poor Dick; I say
POOR Dick, because he had not found any one else. But it did not
last long, only about a year. Then she came to me, as she was in the
habit of bringing her troubles to the old carle, and asked me how
Dick was, and whether he was happy, and all the rest of it. So I saw
how the land lay, and said that he was very unhappy, and not at all
well; which last at any rate was a lie. There, you can guess the
rest. Clara came to have a long talk with me to-day, but Dick will
serve her turn much better. Indeed, if he hadn't chanced in upon me
to-day I should have had to have sent for him to-morrow."

"Dear me," said I. "Have they any children?"

"Yes," said he, "two; they are staying with one of my daughters at
present, where, indeed, Clara has mostly been. I wouldn't lose sight
of her, as I felt sure they would come together again: and Dick, who
is the best of good fellows, really took the matter to heart. You
see, he had no other love to run to, as she had. So I managed it
all; as I have done with such-like matters before."

"Ah," said I, "no doubt you wanted to keep them out of the Divorce
Court: but I suppose it often has to settle such matters."

"Then you suppose nonsense," said he. "I know that there used to be
such lunatic affairs as divorce-courts: but just consider; all the
cases that came into them were matters of property quarrels: and I
think, dear guest," said he, smiling, "that though you do come from
another planet, you can see from the mere outside look of our world
that quarrels about private property could not go on amongst us in
our days."

Indeed, my drive from Hammersmith to Bloomsbury, and all the quiet
happy life I had seen so many hints of; even apart from my shopping,
would have been enough to tell me that "the sacred rights of
property," as we used to think of them, were now no more. So I sat
silent while the old man took up the thread of the discourse again,
and said:

"Well, then, property quarrels being no longer possible, what remains
in these matters that a court of law could deal with? Fancy a court
for enforcing a contract of passion or sentiment! If such a thing
were needed as a reductio ad absurdum of the enforcement of contract,
such a folly would do that for us."

He was silent again a little, and then said: "You must understand
once for all that we have changed these matters; or rather, that our
way of looking at them has changed, as we have changed within the
last two hundred years. We do not deceive ourselves, indeed, or
believe that we can get rid of all the trouble that besets the
dealings between the sexes. We know that we must face the
unhappiness that comes of man and woman confusing the relations
between natural passion, and sentiment, and the friendship which,
when things go well, softens the awakening from passing illusions:
but we are not so mad as to pile up degradation on that unhappiness
by engaging in sordid squabbles about livelihood and position, and
the power of tyrannising over the children who have been the results
of love or lust."

Again he paused awhile, and again went on: "Calf love, mistaken for
a heroism that shall be lifelong, yet early waning into
disappointment; the inexplicable desire that comes on a man of riper
years to be the all-in-all to some one woman, whose ordinary human
kindness and human beauty he has idealised into superhuman
perfection, and made the one object of his desire; or lastly the
reasonable longing of a strong and thoughtful man to become the most
intimate friend of some beautiful and wise woman, the very type of
the beauty and glory of the world which we love so well,--as we exult
in all the pleasure and exaltation of spirit which goes with these
things, so we set ourselves to bear the sorrow which not unseldom
goes with them also; remembering those lines of the ancient poet (I
quote roughly from memory one of the many translations of the
nineteenth century):

'For this the Gods have fashioned man's grief and evil day
That still for man hereafter might be the tale and the lay.'

Well, well, 'tis little likely anyhow that all tales shall be
lacking, or all sorrow cured."

He was silent for some time, and I would not interrupt him. At last
he began again: "But you must know that we of these generations are
strong and healthy of body, and live easily; we pass our lives in
reasonable strife with nature, exercising not one side of ourselves
only, but all sides, taking the keenest pleasure in all the life of
the world. So it is a point of honour with us not to be self-
centred; not to suppose that the world must cease because one man is
sorry; therefore we should think it foolish, or if you will,
criminal, to exaggerate these matters of sentiment and sensibility:
we are no more inclined to eke out our sentimental sorrows than to
cherish our bodily pains; and we recognise that there are other
pleasures besides love-making. You must remember, also, that we are
long-lived, and that therefore beauty both in man and woman is not so
fleeting as it was in the days when we were burdened so heavily by
self-inflicted diseases. So we shake off these griefs in a way which
perhaps the sentimentalists of other times would think contemptible
and unheroic, but which we think necessary and manlike. As on the
other hand, therefore, we have ceased to be commercial in our love-
matters, so also we have ceased to be ARTIFICIALLY foolish. The
folly which comes by nature, the unwisdom of the immature man, or the
older man caught in a trap, we must put up with that, nor are we much
ashamed of it; but to be conventionally sensitive or sentimental--my
friend, I am old and perhaps disappointed, but at least I think we
have cast off SOME of the follies of the older world."

He paused, as if for some words of mine; but I held my peace: then
he went on: "At least, if we suffer from the tyranny and fickleness
of nature or our own want of experience, we neither grimace about it,
nor lie. If there must be sundering betwixt those who meant never to
sunder, so it must be: but there need be no pretext of unity when
the reality of it is gone: nor do we drive those who well know that
they are incapable of it to profess an undying sentiment which they
cannot really feel: thus it is that as that monstrosity of venal
lust is no longer possible, so also it is no longer needed. Don't
misunderstand me. You did not seemed shocked when I told you that
there were no law-courts to enforce contracts of sentiment or
passion; but so curiously are men made, that perhaps you will be
shocked when I tell you that there is no code of public opinion which
takes the place of such courts, and which might be as tyrannical and
unreasonable as they were. I do not say that people don't judge
their neighbours' conduct, sometimes, doubtless, unfairly. But I do
say that there is no unvarying conventional set of rules by which
people are judged; no bed of Procrustes to stretch or cramp their
minds and lives; no hypocritical excommunication which people are
FORCED to pronounce, either by unconsidered habit, or by the
unexpressed threat of the lesser interdict if they are lax in their
hypocrisy. Are you shocked now?"

"N-o--no," said I, with some hesitation. "It is all so different."

"At any rate," said he, "one thing I think I can answer for:
whatever sentiment there is, it is real--and general; it is not
confined to people very specially refined. I am also pretty sure, as
I hinted to you just now, that there is not by a great way as much
suffering involved in these matters either to men or to women as
there used to be. But excuse me for being so prolix on this
question! You know you asked to be treated like a being from another

"Indeed I thank you very much," said I. "Now may I ask you about the
position of women in your society?"

He laughed very heartily for a man of his years, and said: "It is
not without reason that I have got a reputation as a careful student
of history. I believe I really do understand 'the Emancipation of
Women movement' of the nineteenth century. I doubt if any other man
now alive does."

"Well?" said I, a little bit nettled by his merriment.

"'Well," said he, "of course you will see that all that is a dead
controversy now. The men have no longer any opportunity of
tyrannising over the women, or the women over the men; both of which
things took place in those old times. The women do what they can do
best, and what they like best, and the men are neither jealous of it
or injured by it. This is such a commonplace that I am almost
ashamed to state it."

I said, "O; and legislation? do they take any part in that?"

Hammond smiled and said: "I think you may wait for an answer to that
question till we get on to the subject of legislation. There may be
novelties to you in that subject also."

"Very well," I said; "but about this woman question? I saw at the
Guest House that the women were waiting on the men: that seems a
little like reaction doesn't it?"

"Does it?" said the old man; "perhaps you think housekeeping an
unimportant occupation, not deserving of respect. I believe that was
the opinion of the 'advanced' women of the nineteenth century, and
their male backers. If it is yours, I recommend to your notice an
old Norwegian folk-lore tale called How the Man minded the House, or
some such title; the result of which minding was that, after various
tribulations, the man and the family cow balanced each other at the
end of a rope, the man hanging halfway up the chimney, the cow
dangling from the roof, which, after the fashion of the country, was
of turf and sloping down low to the ground. Hard on the cow, _I_
think. Of course no such mishap could happen to such a superior
person as yourself," he added, chuckling.

I sat somewhat uneasy under this dry gibe. Indeed, his manner of
treating this latter part of the question seemed to me a little

"Come, now, my friend," quoth he, "don't you know that it is a great
pleasure to a clever woman to manage a house skilfully, and to do it
so that all the house-mates about her look pleased, and are grateful
to her? And then, you know, everybody likes to be ordered about by a
pretty woman: why, it is one of the pleasantest forms of flirtation.
You are not so old that you cannot remember that. Why, I remember it

And the old fellow chuckled again, and at last fairly burst out

"Excuse me," said he, after a while; "I am not laughing at anything
you could be thinking of; but at that silly nineteenth-century
fashion, current amongst rich so-called cultivated people, of
ignoring all the steps by which their daily dinner was reached, as
matters too low for their lofty intelligence. Useless idiots! Come,
now, I am a 'literary man,' as we queer animals used to be called,
yet I am a pretty good cook myself."

"So am I," said I.

"Well, then," said he, "I really think you can understand me better
than you would seem to do, judging by your words and your silence."

Said I: "Perhaps that is so; but people putting in practice commonly
this sense of interest in the ordinary occupations of life rather
startles me. I will ask you a question or two presently about that.
But I want to return to the position of women amongst you. You have
studied the 'emancipation of women' business of the nineteenth
century: don't you remember that some of the 'superior' women wanted
to emancipate the more intelligent part of their sex from the bearing
of children?"

The old man grew quite serious again. Said he: "I DO remember about
that strange piece of baseless folly, the result, like all other
follies of the period, of the hideous class tyranny which then
obtained. What do we think of it now? you would say. My friend,
that is a question easy to answer. How could it possibly be but that
maternity should be highly honoured amongst us? Surely it is a
matter of course that the natural and necessary pains which the
mother must go through form a bond of union between man and woman, an
extra stimulus to love and affection between them, and that this is
universally recognised. For the rest, remember that all the
ARTIFICIAL burdens of motherhood are now done away with. A mother
has no longer any mere sordid anxieties for the future of her
children. They may indeed turn out better or worse; they may
disappoint her highest hopes; such anxieties as these are a part of
the mingled pleasure and pain which goes to make up the life of
mankind. But at least she is spared the fear (it was most commonly
the certainty) that artificial disabilities would make her children
something less than men and women: she knows that they will live and
act according to the measure of their own faculties. In times past,
it is clear that the 'Society' of the day helped its Judaic god, and
the 'Man of Science' of the time, in visiting the sins of the fathers
upon the children. How to reverse this process, how to take the
sting out of heredity, has for long been one of the most constant
cares of the thoughtful men amongst us. So that, you see, the
ordinarily healthy woman (and almost all our women are both healthy
and at least comely), respected as a child-bearer and rearer of
children, desired as a woman, loved as a companion, unanxious for the
future of her children, has far more instinct for maternity than the
poor drudge and mother of drudges of past days could ever have had;
or than her sister of the upper classes, brought up in affected
ignorance of natural facts, reared in an atmosphere of mingled
prudery and prurience."

"You speak warmly," I said, "but I can see that you are right."

"Yes," he said, "and I will point out to you a token of all the
benefits which we have gained by our freedom. What did you think of
the looks of the people whom you have come across to-day?"

Said I: "I could hardly have believed that there could be so many
good-looking people in any civilised country."

He crowed a little, like the old bird he was. "What! are we still
civilised?" said he. "Well, as to our looks, the English and Jutish
blood, which on the whole is predominant here, used not to produce
much beauty. But I think we have improved it. I know a man who has
a large collection of portraits printed from photographs of the
nineteenth century, and going over those and comparing them with the
everyday faces in these times, puts the improvement in our good looks
beyond a doubt. Now, there are some people who think it not too
fantastic to connect this increase of beauty directly with our
freedom and good sense in the matters we have been speaking of: they
believe that a child born from the natural and healthy love between a
man and a woman, even if that be transient, is likely to turn out
better in all ways, and especially in bodily beauty, than the birth
of the respectable commercial marriage bed, or of the dull despair of
the drudge of that system. They say, Pleasure begets pleasure. What
do you think?"

"I am much of that mind," said I.


"Well," said the old man, shifting in his chair, "you must get on
with your questions, Guest; I have been some time answering this
first one."

Said I: "I want an extra word or two about your ideas of education;
although I gathered from Dick that you let your children run wild and
didn't teach them anything; and in short, that you have so refined
your education, that now you have none."

"Then you gathered left-handed," quoth he. "But of course I
understand your point of view about education, which is that of times
past, when 'the struggle for life,' as men used to phrase it (i.e.,
the struggle for a slave's rations on one side, and for a bouncing
share of the slave-holders' privilege on the other), pinched
'education' for most people into a niggardly dole of not very
accurate information; something to be swallowed by the beginner in
the art of living whether he liked it or not, and was hungry for it
or not: and which had been chewed and digested over and over again
by people who didn't care about it in order to serve it out to other
people who didn't care about it."

I stopped the old man's rising wrath by a laugh, and said: "Well,
YOU were not taught that way, at any rate, so you may let your anger
run off you a little."

"True, true," said he, smiling. "I thank you for correcting my ill-
temper: I always fancy myself as living in any period of which we
may be speaking. But, however, to put it in a cooler way: you
expected to see children thrust into schools when they had reached an
age conventionally supposed to be the due age, whatever their varying
faculties and dispositions might be, and when there, with like
disregard to facts to be subjected to a certain conventional course
of 'learning.' My friend, can't you see that such a proceeding means
ignoring the fact of GROWTH, bodily and mental? No one could come
out of such a mill uninjured; and those only would avoid being
crushed by it who would have the spirit of rebellion strong in them.
Fortunately most children have had that at all times, or I do not
know that we should ever have reached our present position. Now you
see what it all comes to. In the old times all this was the result
of POVERTY. In the nineteenth century, society was so miserably
poor, owing to the systematised robbery on which it was founded, that
real education was impossible for anybody. The whole theory of their
so-called education was that it was necessary to shove a little
information into a child, even if it were by means of torture, and
accompanied by twaddle which it was well known was of no use, or else
he would lack information lifelong: the hurry of poverty forbade
anything else. All that is past; we are no longer hurried, and the
information lies ready to each one's hand when his own inclinations
impel him to seek it. In this as in other matters we have become
wealthy: we can afford to give ourselves time to grow."

"Yes," said I, "but suppose the child, youth, man, never wants the
information, never grows in the direction you might hope him to do:
suppose, for instance, he objects to learning arithmetic or
mathematics; you can't force him when he IS grown; can't you force
him while he is growing, and oughtn't you to do so?"

"Well," said he, "were you forced to learn arithmetic and

"A little," said I.

"And how old are you now?"

"Say fifty-six," said I.

"And how much arithmetic and mathematics do you know now?" quoth the
old man, smiling rather mockingly.

Said I: "None whatever, I am sorry to say."

Hammond laughed quietly, but made no other comment on my admission,
and I dropped the subject of education, perceiving him to be hopeless
on that side.

I thought a little, and said: "You were speaking just now of
households: that sounded to me a little like the customs of past
times; I should have thought you would have lived more in public."

"Phalangsteries, eh?" said he. "Well, we live as we like, and we
like to live as a rule with certain house-mates that we have got used
to. Remember, again, that poverty is extinct, and that the
Fourierist phalangsteries and all their kind, as was but natural at
the time, implied nothing but a refuge from mere destitution. Such a
way of life as that, could only have been conceived of by people
surrounded by the worst form of poverty. But you must understand
therewith, that though separate households are the rule amongst us,
and though they differ in their habits more or less, yet no door is
shut to any good-tempered person who is content to live as the other
house-mates do: only of course it would be unreasonable for one man
to drop into a household and bid the folk of it to alter their habits
to please him, since he can go elsewhere and live as he pleases.
However, I need not say much about all this, as you are going up the
river with Dick, and will find out for yourself by experience how
these matters are managed."

After a pause, I said: "Your big towns, now; how about them?
London, which--which I have read about as the modern Babylon of
civilization, seems to have disappeared."

"Well, well," said old Hammond, "perhaps after all it is more like
ancient Babylon now than the 'modern Babylon' of the nineteenth
century was. But let that pass. After all, there is a good deal of
population in places between here and Hammersmith; nor have you seen
the most populous part of the town yet."

"Tell me, then," said I, "how is it towards the east?"

Said he: "Time was when if you mounted a good horse and rode
straight away from my door here at a round trot for an hour and a
half; you would still be in the thick of London, and the greater part
of that would be 'slums,' as they were called; that is to say, places
of torture for innocent men and women; or worse, stews for rearing
and breeding men and women in such degradation that that torture
should seem to them mere ordinary and natural life."

"I know, I know," I said, rather impatiently. "That was what was;
tell me something of what is. Is any of that left?"

"Not an inch," said he; "but some memory of it abides with us, and I
am glad of it. Once a year, on May-day, we hold a solemn feast in
those easterly communes of London to commemorate The Clearing of
Misery, as it is called. On that day we have music and dancing, and
merry games and happy feasting on the site of some of the worst of
the old slums, the traditional memory of which we have kept. On that
occasion the custom is for the prettiest girls to sing some of the
old revolutionary songs, and those which were the groans of the
discontent, once so hopeless, on the very spots where those terrible
crimes of class-murder were committed day by day for so many years.
To a man like me, who have studied the past so diligently, it is a
curious and touching sight to see some beautiful girl, daintily clad,
and crowned with flowers from the neighbouring meadows, standing
amongst the happy people, on some mound where of old time stood the
wretched apology for a house, a den in which men and women lived
packed amongst the filth like pilchards in a cask; lived in such a
way that they could only have endured it, as I said just now, by
being degraded out of humanity--to hear the terrible words of
threatening and lamentation coming from her sweet and beautiful lips,
and she unconscious of their real meaning: to hear her, for
instance, singing Hood's Song of the Shirt, and to think that all the
time she does not understand what it is all about--a tragedy grown
inconceivable to her and her listeners. Think of that, if you can,
and of how glorious life is grown!"

"Indeed," said I, "it is difficult for me to think of it."

And I sat watching how his eyes glittered, and how the fresh life
seemed to glow in his face, and I wondered how at his age he should
think of the happiness of the world, or indeed anything but his
coming dinner.

"Tell me in detail," said I, "what lies east of Bloomsbury now?"

Said he: "There are but few houses between this and the outer part
of the old city; but in the city we have a thickly-dwelling
population. Our forefathers, in the first clearing of the slums,
were not in a hurry to pull down the houses in what was called at the
end of the nineteenth century the business quarter of the town, and
what later got to be known as the Swindling Kens. You see, these
houses, though they stood hideously thick on the ground, were roomy
and fairly solid in building, and clean, because they were not used
for living in, but as mere gambling booths; so the poor people from
the cleared slums took them for lodgings and dwelt there, till the
folk of those days had time to think of something better for them; so
the buildings were pulled down so gradually that people got used to
living thicker on the ground there than in most places; therefore it
remains the most populous part of London, or perhaps of all these
islands. But it is very pleasant there, partly because of the
splendour of the architecture, which goes further than what you will
see elsewhere. However, this crowding, if it may be called so, does
not go further than a street called Aldgate, a name which perhaps you
may have heard of. Beyond that the houses are scattered wide about
the meadows there, which are very beautiful, especially when you get
on to the lovely river Lea (where old Isaak Walton used to fish, you
know) about the places called Stratford and Old Ford, names which of
course you will not have heard of, though the Romans were busy there
once upon a time."

Not heard of them! thought I to myself. How strange! that I who had
seen the very last remnant of the pleasantness of the meadows by the
Lea destroyed, should have heard them spoken of with pleasantness
come back to them in full measure.

Hammond went on: "When you get down to the Thames side you come on
the Docks, which are works of the nineteenth century, and are still
in use, although not so thronged as they once were, since we
discourage centralisation all we can, and we have long ago dropped
the pretension to be the market of the world. About these Docks are
a good few houses, which, however, are not inhabited by many people
permanently; I mean, those who use them come and go a good deal, the
place being too low and marshy for pleasant dwelling. Past the Docks
eastward and landward it is all flat pasture, once marsh, except for
a few gardens, and there are very few permanent dwellings there:
scarcely anything but a few sheds, and cots for the men who come to
look after the great herds of cattle pasturing there. But however,
what with the beasts and the men, and the scattered red-tiled roofs
and the big hayricks, it does not make a bad holiday to get a quiet
pony and ride about there on a sunny afternoon of autumn, and look
over the river and the craft passing up and down, and on to Shooters'
Hill and the Kentish uplands, and then turn round to the wide green
sea of the Essex marsh-land, with the great domed line of the sky,
and the sun shining down in one flood of peaceful light over the long
distance. There is a place called Canning's Town, and further out,
Silvertown, where the pleasant meadows are at their pleasantest:
doubtless they were once slums, and wretched enough."

The names grated on my ear, but I could not explain why to him. So I
said: "And south of the river, what is it like?"

He said: "You would find it much the same as the land about
Hammersmith. North, again, the land runs up high, and there is an
agreeable and well-built town called Hampstead, which fitly ends
London on that side. It looks down on the north-western end of the
forest you passed through."

I smiled. "So much for what was once London," said I. "Now tell me
about the other towns of the country."

He said: "As to the big murky places which were once, as we know,
the centres of manufacture, they have, like the brick and mortar
desert of London, disappeared; only, since they were centres of
nothing but 'manufacture,' and served no purpose but that of the
gambling market, they have left less signs of their existence than
London. Of course, the great change in the use of mechanical force
made this an easy matter, and some approach to their break-up as
centres would probably have taken place, even if we had not changed
our habits so much: but they being such as they were, no sacrifice
would have seemed too great a price to pay for getting rid of the
'manufacturing districts,' as they used to be called. For the rest,
whatever coal or mineral we need is brought to grass and sent whither
it is needed with as little as possible of dirt, confusion, and the
distressing of quiet people's lives. One is tempted to believe from
what one has read of the condition of those districts in the
nineteenth century, that those who had them under their power
worried, befouled, and degraded men out of malice prepense: but it
was not so; like the mis-education of which we were talking just now,
it came of their dreadful poverty. They were obliged to put up with
everything, and even pretend that they liked it; whereas we can now
deal with things reasonably, and refuse to be saddled with what we do
not want."

I confess I was not sorry to cut short with a question his
glorifications of the age he lived in. Said I: "How about the
smaller towns? I suppose you have swept those away entirely?"

"No, no," said he, "it hasn't gone that way. On the contrary, there
has been but little clearance, though much rebuilding, in the smaller
towns. Their suburbs, indeed, when they had any, have melted away
into the general country, and space and elbow-room has been got in
their centres: but there are the towns still with their streets and
squares and market-places; so that it is by means of these smaller
towns that we of to-day can get some kind of idea of what the towns
of the older world were like;--I mean to say at their best."

"Take Oxford, for instance," said I.

"Yes," said he, "I suppose Oxford was beautiful even in the
nineteenth century. At present it has the great interest of still
preserving a great mass of pre-commercial building, and is a very
beautiful place, yet there are many towns which have become scarcely
less beautiful."

Said I: "In passing, may I ask if it is still a place of learning?"

"Still?" said he, smiling. "Well, it has reverted to some of its
best traditions; so you may imagine how far it is from its
nineteenth-century position. It is real learning, knowledge
cultivated for its own sake--the Art of Knowledge, in short--which is
followed there, not the Commercial learning of the past. Though
perhaps you do not know that in the nineteenth century Oxford and its
less interesting sister Cambridge became definitely commercial. They
(and especially Oxford) were the breeding places of a peculiar class
of parasites, who called themselves cultivated people; they were
indeed cynical enough, as the so-called educated classes of the day
generally were; but they affected an exaggeration of cynicism in
order that they might be thought knowing and worldly-wise. The rich
middle classes (they had no relation with the working classes)
treated them with the kind of contemptuous toleration with which a
mediaeval baron treated his jester; though it must be said that they
were by no means so pleasant as the old jesters were, being, in fact,
THE bores of society. They were laughed at, despised--and paid.
Which last was what they aimed at."

Dear me! thought I, how apt history is to reverse contemporary
judgments. Surely only the worst of them were as bad as that. But I
must admit that they were mostly prigs, and that they WERE
commercial. I said aloud, though more to myself than to Hammond,
"Well, how could they be better than the age that made them?"

"True," he said, "but their pretensions were higher."

"Were they?" said I, smiling.

"You drive me from corner to corner," said he, smiling in turn. "Let
me say at least that they were a poor sequence to the aspirations of
Oxford of 'the barbarous Middle Ages.'"

"Yes, that will do," said I.

"Also," said Hammond, "what I have been saying of them is true in the
main. But ask on!"

I said: "We have heard about London and the manufacturing districts
and the ordinary towns: how about the villages?"

Said Hammond: "You must know that toward the end of the nineteenth
century the villages were almost destroyed, unless where they became
mere adjuncts to the manufacturing districts, or formed a sort of
minor manufacturing districts themselves. Houses were allowed to
fall into decay and actual ruin; trees were cut down for the sake of
the few shillings which the poor sticks would fetch; the building
became inexpressibly mean and hideous. Labour was scarce; but wages
fell nevertheless. All the small country arts of life which once
added to the little pleasures of country people were lost. The
country produce which passed through the hands of the husbandmen
never got so far as their mouths. Incredible shabbiness and
niggardly pinching reigned over the fields and acres which, in spite
of the rude and careless husbandry of the times, were so kind and
bountiful. Had you any inkling of all this?"

"I have heard that it was so," said I "but what followed?"

"The change," said Hammond, "which in these matters took place very
early in our epoch, was most strangely rapid. People flocked into
the country villages, and, so to say, flung themselves upon the freed
land like a wild beast upon his prey; and in a very little time the
villages of England were more populous than they had been since the
fourteenth century, and were still growing fast. Of course, this
invasion of the country was awkward to deal with, and would have
created much misery, if the folk had still been under the bondage of
class monopoly. But as it was, things soon righted themselves.
People found out what they were fit for, and gave up attempting to
push themselves into occupations in which they must needs fail. The
town invaded the country; but the invaders, like the warlike invaders
of early days, yielded to the influence of their surroundings, and
became country people; and in their turn, as they became more
numerous than the townsmen, influenced them also; so that the
difference between town and country grew less and less; and it was
indeed this world of the country vivified by the thought and
briskness of town-bred folk which has produced that happy and
leisurely but eager life of which you have had a first taste. Again
I say, many blunders were made, but we have had time to set them
right. Much was left for the men of my earlier life to deal with.
The crude ideas of the first half of the twentieth century, when men
were still oppressed by the fear of poverty, and did not look enough
to the present pleasure of ordinary daily life, spoilt a great deal
of what the commercial age had left us of external beauty: and I
admit that it was but slowly that men recovered from the injuries
that they inflicted on themselves even after they became free. But
slowly as the recovery came, it DID come; and the more you see of us,
the clearer it will be to you that we are happy. That we live amidst
beauty without any fear of becoming effeminate; that we have plenty
to do, and on the whole enjoy doing it. What more can we ask of

He paused, as if he were seeking for words with which to express his
thought. Then he said:

"This is how we stand. England was once a country of clearings
amongst the woods and wastes, with a few towns interspersed, which
were fortresses for the feudal army, markets for the folk, gathering
places for the craftsmen. It then became a country of huge and foul
workshops and fouler gambling-dens, surrounded by an ill-kept,
poverty-stricken farm, pillaged by the masters of the workshops. It
is now a garden, where nothing is wasted and nothing is spoilt, with
the necessary dwellings, sheds, and workshops scattered up and down
the country, all trim and neat and pretty. For, indeed, we should be
too much ashamed of ourselves if we allowed the making of goods, even
on a large scale, to carry with it the appearance, even, of
desolation and misery. Why, my friend, those housewives we were
talking of just now would teach us better than that."

Said I: "This side of your change is certainly for the better. But
though I shall soon see some of these villages, tell me in a word or
two what they are like, just to prepare me."

"Perhaps," said he, "you have seen a tolerable picture of these
villages as they were before the end of the nineteenth century. Such
things exist."

"I have seen several of such pictures," said I.

"Well," said Hammond, "our villages are something like the best of
such places, with the church or mote-house of the neighbours for
their chief building. Only note that there are no tokens of poverty
about them: no tumble-down picturesque; which, to tell you the
truth, the artist usually availed himself of to veil his incapacity
for drawing architecture. Such things do not please us, even when
they indicate no misery. Like the mediaevals, we like everything
trim and clean, and orderly and bright; as people always do when they
have any sense of architectural power; because then they know that
they can have what they want, and they won't stand any nonsense from
Nature in their dealings with her."

"Besides the villages, are there any scattered country houses?" said

"Yes, plenty," said Hammond; "in fact, except in the wastes and
forests and amongst the sand-hills (like Hindhead in Surrey), it is
not easy to be out of sight of a house; and where the houses are
thinly scattered they run large, and are more like the old colleges
than ordinary houses as they used to be. That is done for the sake
of society, for a good many people can dwell in such houses, as the
country dwellers are not necessarily husbandmen; though they almost
all help in such work at times. The life that goes on in these big
dwellings in the country is very pleasant, especially as some of the
most studious men of our time live in them, and altogether there is a
great variety of mind and mood to be found in them which brightens
and quickens the society there."

"I am rather surprised," said I, "by all this, for it seems to me
that after all the country must be tolerably populous."

"Certainly," said he; "the population is pretty much the same as it
was at the end of the nineteenth century; we have spread it, that is
all. Of course, also, we have helped to populate other countries--
where we were wanted and were called for."

Said I: "One thing, it seems to me, does not go with your word of
'garden' for the country. You have spoken of wastes and forests, and
I myself have seen the beginning of your Middlesex and Essex forest.
Why do you keep such things in a garden? and isn't it very wasteful
to do so?"

"My friend," he said, "we like these pieces of wild nature, and can
afford them, so we have them; let alone that as to the forests, we
need a great deal of timber, and suppose that our sons and sons' sons
will do the like. As to the land being a garden, I have heard that
they used to have shrubberies and rockeries in gardens once; and
though I might not like the artificial ones, I assure you that some
of the natural rockeries of our garden are worth seeing. Go north
this summer and look at the Cumberland and Westmoreland ones,--where,
by the way, you will see some sheep-feeding, so that they are not so
wasteful as you think; not so wasteful as forcing-grounds for fruit
out of season, _I_ think. Go and have a look at the sheep-walks high
up the slopes between Ingleborough and Pen-y-gwent, and tell me if
you think we WASTE the land there by not covering it with factories
for making things that nobody wants, which was the chief business of
the nineteenth century."

"I will try to go there," said I.

"It won't take much trying," said he.


"Now," said I, "I have come to the point of asking questions which I
suppose will be dry for you to answer and difficult for you to
explain; but I have foreseen for some time past that I must ask them,
will I 'nill I. What kind of a government have you? Has
republicanism finally triumphed? or have you come to a mere
dictatorship, which some persons in the nineteenth century used to
prophesy as the ultimate outcome of democracy? Indeed, this last
question does not seem so very unreasonable, since you have turned
your Parliament House into a dung-market. Or where do you house your
present Parliament?"

The old man answered my smile with a hearty laugh, and said: "Well,
well, dung is not the worst kind of corruption; fertility may come of
that, whereas mere dearth came from the other kind, of which those
walls once held the great supporters. Now, dear guest, let me tell
you that our present parliament would be hard to house in one place,
because the whole people is our parliament."

"I don't understand," said I.

"No, I suppose not," said he. "I must now shock you by telling you
that we have no longer anything which you, a native of another
planet, would call a government."

"I am not so much shocked as you might think," said I, "as I know
something about governments. But tell me, how do you manage, and how
have you come to this state of things?"

Said he: "It is true that we have to make some arrangements about
our affairs, concerning which you can ask presently; and it is also
true that everybody does not always agree with the details of these
arrangements; but, further, it is true that a man no more needs an
elaborate system of government, with its army, navy, and police, to
force him to give way to the will of the majority of his EQUALS, than
he wants a similar machinery to make him understand that his head and
a stone wall cannot occupy the same space at the same moment. Do you
want further explanation?"

"Well, yes, I do," quoth I.

Old Hammond settled himself in his chair with a look of enjoyment
which rather alarmed me, and made me dread a scientific disquisition:
so I sighed and abided. He said:

"I suppose you know pretty well what the process of government was in
the bad old times?"

"I am supposed to know," said I.

(Hammond) What was the government of those days? Was it really the
Parliament or any part of it?

(I) No.

(H.) Was not the Parliament on the one side a kind of watch-
committee sitting to see that the interests of the Upper Classes took
no hurt; and on the other side a sort of blind to delude the people
into supposing that they had some share in the management of their
own affairs?

(I) History seems to show us this.

(H.) To what extent did the people manage their own affairs?

(I) I judge from what I have heard that sometimes they forced the
Parliament to make a law to legalise some alteration which had
already taken place.

(H.) Anything else?

(I) I think not. As I am informed, if the people made any attempt
to deal with the CAUSE of their grievances, the law stepped in and
said, this is sedition, revolt, or what not, and slew or tortured the
ringleaders of such attempts.

(H.) If Parliament was not the government then, nor the people
either, what was the government?

(I) Can you tell me?

(H.) I think we shall not be far wrong if we say that government was
the Law-Courts, backed up by the executive, which handled the brute
force that the deluded people allowed them to use for their own
purposes; I mean the army, navy, and police.

(I) Reasonable men must needs think you are right.

(H.) Now as to those Law-Courts. Were they places of fair dealing
according to the ideas of the day? Had a poor man a good chance of
defending his property and person in them?

(I) It is a commonplace that even rich men looked upon a law-suit as
a dire misfortune, even if they gained the case; and as for a poor
one--why, it was considered a miracle of justice and beneficence if a
poor man who had once got into the clutches of the law escaped prison
or utter ruin.

(H.) It seems, then, my son, that the government by law-courts and
police, which was the real government of the nineteenth century, was
not a great success even to the people of that day, living under a
class system which proclaimed inequality and poverty as the law of
God and the bond which held the world together.

(I) So it seems, indeed.

(H.) And now that all this is changed, and the "rights of property,"
which mean the clenching the fist on a piece of goods and crying out
to the neighbours, You shan't have this!--now that all this has
disappeared so utterly that it is no longer possible even to jest
upon its absurdity, is such a Government possible?

(I) It is impossible.

(H.) Yes, happily. But for what other purpose than the protection
of the rich from the poor, the strong from the weak, did this
Government exist?

(I.) I have heard that it was said that their office was to defend
their own citizens against attack from other countries.

(H.) It was said; but was anyone expected to believe this? For
instance, did the English Government defend the English citizen
against the French?

(I) So it was said.

(H.) Then if the French had invaded England and conquered it, they
would not have allowed the English workmen to live well?

(I, laughing) As far as I can make out, the English masters of the
English workmen saw to that: they took from their workmen as much of
their livelihood as they dared, because they wanted it for

(H.) But if the French had conquered, would they not have taken more
still from the English workmen?

(I) I do not think so; for in that case the English workmen would
have died of starvation; and then the French conquest would have
ruined the French, just as if the English horses and cattle had died
of under-feeding. So that after all, the English WORKMEN would have
been no worse off for the conquest: their French Masters could have
got no more from them than their English masters did.

(H.) This is true; and we may admit that the pretensions of the
government to defend the poor (i.e., the useful) people against other
countries come to nothing. But that is but natural; for we have seen
already that it was the function of government to protect the rich
against the poor. But did not the government defend its rich men
against other nations?

(I) I do not remember to have heard that the rich needed defence;
because it is said that even when two nations were at war, the rich
men of each nation gambled with each other pretty much as usual, and
even sold each other weapons wherewith to kill their own countrymen.

(H.) In short, it comes to this, that whereas the so-called
government of protection of property by means of the law-courts meant
destruction of wealth, this defence of the citizens of one country
against those of another country by means of war or the threat of war
meant pretty much the same thing.

(I) I cannot deny it.

(H.) Therefore the government really existed for the destruction of

(I) So it seems. And yet -

(H.) Yet what?

(I) There were many rich people in those times.

(H.) You see the consequences of that fact?

(I) I think I do. But tell me out what they were.

(H.) If the government habitually destroyed wealth, the country must
have been poor?

(I) Yes, certainly.

(H.) Yet amidst this poverty the persons for the sake of whom the
government existed insisted on being rich whatever might happen?

(I) So it was.

(H.) What must happen if in a poor country some people insist on
being rich at the expense of the others?

(I) Unutterable poverty for the others. All this misery, then, was
caused by the destructive government of which we have been speaking?

(H.) Nay, it would be incorrect to say so. The government itself
was but the necessary result of the careless, aimless tyranny of the
times; it was but the machinery of tyranny. Now tyranny has come to
an end, and we no longer need such machinery; we could not possibly
use it since we are free. Therefore in your sense of the word we
have no government. Do you understand this now?

(I) Yes, I do. But I will ask you some more questions as to how you
as free men manage your affairs.

(H.) With all my heart. Ask away.


"Well," I said, "about those 'arrangements' which you spoke of as
taking the place of government, could you give me any account of

"Neighbour," he said, "although we have simplified our lives a great
deal from what they were, and have got rid of many conventionalities
and many sham wants, which used to give our forefathers much trouble,
yet our life is too complex for me to tell you in detail by means of
words how it is arranged; you must find that out by living amongst
us. It is true that I can better tell you what we don't do, than
what we do do."

"Well?" said I.

"This is the way to put it," said he: "We have been living for a
hundred and fifty years, at least, more or less in our present
manner, and a tradition or habit of life has been growing on us; and
that habit has become a habit of acting on the whole for the best.
It is easy for us to live without robbing each other. It would be
possible for us to contend with and rob each other, but it would be
harder for us than refraining from strife and robbery. That is in
short the foundation of our life and our happiness."

"Whereas in the old days," said I, "it was very hard to live without
strife and robbery. That's what you mean, isn't it, by giving me the
negative side of your good conditions?"

"Yes," he said, "it was so hard, that those who habitually acted
fairly to their neighbours were celebrated as saints and heroes, and
were looked up to with the greatest reverence."

"While they were alive?" said I.

"No," said he, "after they were dead."

"But as to these days," I said; "you don't mean to tell me that no
one ever transgresses this habit of good fellowship?"

"Certainly not," said Hammond, "but when the transgressions occur,
everybody, transgressors and all, know them for what they are; the
errors of friends, not the habitual actions of persons driven into
enmity against society."

"I see," said I; "you mean that you have no 'criminal' classes."

"How could we have them," said he, "since there is no rich class to
breed enemies against the state by means of the injustice of the

Said I: "I thought that I understood from something that fell from
you a little while ago that you had abolished civil law. Is that so,

"It abolished itself, my friend," said he. "As I said before, the
civil law-courts were upheld for the defence of private property; for
nobody ever pretended that it was possible to make people act fairly
to each other by means of brute force. Well, private property being
abolished, all the laws and all the legal 'crimes' which it had
manufactured of course came to an end. Thou shalt not steal, had to
be translated into, Thou shalt work in order to live happily. Is
there any need to enforce that commandment by violence?"

"Well," said I, "that is understood, and I agree with it; but how
about crimes of violence? would not their occurrence (and you admit
that they occur) make criminal law necessary?"

Said he: "In your sense of the word, we have no criminal law either.
Let us look at the matter closer, and see whence crimes of violence
spring. By far the greater part of these in past days were the
result of the laws of private property, which forbade the
satisfaction of their natural desires to all but a privileged few,
and of the general visible coercion which came of those laws. All
that cause of violent crime is gone. Again, many violent acts came
from the artificial perversion of the sexual passions, which caused
overweening jealousy and the like miseries. Now, when you look
carefully into these, you will find that what lay at the bottom of
them was mostly the idea (a law-made idea) of the woman being the
property of the man, whether he were husband, father, brother, or
what not. That idea has of course vanished with private property, as
well as certain follies about the 'ruin' of women for following their
natural desires in an illegal way, which of course was a convention
caused by the laws of private property.

"Another cognate cause of crimes of violence was the family tyranny,
which was the subject of so many novels and stories of the past, and
which once more was the result of private property. Of course that
is all ended, since families are held together by no bond of
coercion, legal or social, but by mutual liking and affection, and
everybody is free to come or go as he or she pleases. Furthermore,
our standards of honour and public estimation are very different from
the old ones; success in besting our neighbours is a road to renown
now closed, let us hope for ever. Each man is free to exercise his
special faculty to the utmost, and every one encourages him in so
doing. So that we have got rid of the scowling envy, coupled by the
poets with hatred, and surely with good reason; heaps of unhappiness
and ill-blood were caused by it, which with irritable and passionate
men--i.e., energetic and active men--often led to violence."

I laughed, and said: "So that you now withdraw your admission, and
say that there is no violence amongst you?"

"No," said he, "I withdraw nothing; as I told you, such things will
happen. Hot blood will err sometimes. A man may strike another, and
the stricken strike back again, and the result be a homicide, to put
it at the worst. But what then? Shall we the neighbours make it
worse still? Shall we think so poorly of each other as to suppose
that the slain man calls on us to revenge him, when we know that if
he had been maimed, he would, when in cold blood and able to weigh
all the circumstances, have forgiven his manner? Or will the death
of the slayer bring the slain man to life again and cure the
unhappiness his loss has caused?"

"Yes," I said, "but consider, must not the safety of society be
safeguarded by some punishment?"

"There, neighbour!" said the old man, with some exultation "You have
hit the mark. That PUNISHMENT of which men used to talk so wisely
and act so foolishly, what was it but the expression of their fear?
And they had need to fear, since they--i.e., the rulers of society--
were dwelling like an armed band in a hostile country. But we who
live amongst our friends need neither fear nor punish. Surely if we,
in dread of an occasional rare homicide, an occasional rough blow,
were solemnly and legally to commit homicide and violence, we could
only be a society of ferocious cowards. Don't you think so,

"Yes, I do, when I come to think of it from that side," said I.

"Yet you must understand," said the old man, "that when any violence
is committed, we expect the transgressor to make any atonement
possible to him, and he himself expects it. But again, think if the
destruction or serious injury of a man momentarily overcome by wrath
or folly can be any atonement to the commonwealth? Surely it can
only be an additional injury to it."

Said I: "But suppose the man has a habit of violence,--kills a man a
year, for instance?"

"Such a thing is unknown," said he. "In a society where there is no
punishment to evade, no law to triumph over, remorse will certainly
follow transgression."

"And lesser outbreaks of violence," said I, "how do you deal with
them? for hitherto we have been talking of great tragedies, I

Said Hammond: "If the ill-doer is not sick or mad (in which case he
must be restrained till his sickness or madness is cured) it is clear
that grief and humiliation must follow the ill-deed; and society in
general will make that pretty clear to the ill-doer if he should
chance to be dull to it; and again, some kind of atonement will
follow,--at the least, an open acknowledgement of the grief and
humiliation. Is it so hard to say, I ask your pardon, neighbour?--
Well, sometimes it is hard--and let it be."

"You think that enough?" said I.

"Yes," said he, "and moreover it is all that we CAN do. If in
addition we torture the man, we turn his grief into anger, and the
humiliation he would otherwise feel for HIS wrong-doing is swallowed
up by a hope of revenge for OUR wrong-doing to him. He has paid the
legal penalty, and can 'go and sin again' with comfort. Shall we
commit such a folly, then? Remember Jesus had got the legal penalty
remitted before he said 'Go and sin no more.' Let alone that in a
society of equals you will not find any one to play the part of
torturer or jailer, though many to act as nurse or doctor."

"So," said I, "you consider crime a mere spasmodic disease, which
requires no body of criminal law to deal with it?"

"Pretty much so," said he; "and since, as I have told you, we are a
healthy people generally, so we are not likely to be much troubled
with THIS disease."

"Well, you have no civil law, and no criminal law. But have you no
laws of the market, so to say--no regulation for the exchange of
wares? for you must exchange, even if you have no property."

Said he: "We have no obvious individual exchange, as you saw this
morning when you went a-shopping; but of course there are regulations
of the markets, varying according to the circumstances and guided by
general custom. But as these are matters of general assent, which
nobody dreams of objecting to, so also we have made no provision for
enforcing them: therefore I don't call them laws. In law, whether
it be criminal or civil, execution always follows judgment, and
someone must suffer. When you see the judge on his bench, you see
through him, as clearly as if he were made of glass, the policeman to
emprison, and the soldier to slay some actual living person. Such
follies would make an agreeable market, wouldn't they?"

"Certainly," said I, "that means turning the market into a mere
battle-field, in which many people must suffer as much as in the
battle-field of bullet and bayonet. And from what I have seen I
should suppose that your marketing, great and little, is carried on
in a way that makes it a pleasant occupation."

"You are right, neighbour," said he. "Although there are so many,
indeed by far the greater number amongst us, who would be unhappy if
they were not engaged in actually making things, and things which
turn out beautiful under their hands,--there are many, like the
housekeepers I was speaking of, whose delight is in administration
and organisation, to use long-tailed words; I mean people who like
keeping things together, avoiding waste, seeing that nothing sticks
fast uselessly. Such people are thoroughly happy in their business,
all the more as they are dealing with actual facts, and not merely
passing counters round to see what share they shall have in the
privileged taxation of useful people, which was the business of the
commercial folk in past days. Well, what are you going to ask me


Said I: "How do you manage with politics?"

Said Hammond, smiling: "I am glad that it is of ME that you ask that
question; I do believe that anybody else would make you explain
yourself, or try to do so, till you were sickened of asking
questions. Indeed, I believe I am the only man in England who would
know what you mean; and since I know, I will answer your question
briefly by saying that we are very well off as to politics,--because
we have none. If ever you make a book out of this conversation, put
this in a chapter by itself, after the model of old Horrebow's Snakes
in Iceland."

"I will," said I.


Said I: "How about your relations with foreign nations?"

"I will not affect not to know what you mean," said he, "but I will
tell you at once that the whole system of rival and contending
nations which played so great a part in the 'government' of the world
of civilisation has disappeared along with the inequality betwixt man
and man in society."

"Does not that make the world duller?" said I.

"Why?" said the old man.

"The obliteration of national variety," said I.

"Nonsense," he said, somewhat snappishly. "Cross the water and see.
You will find plenty of variety: the landscape, the building, the
diet, the amusements, all various. The men and women varying in
looks as well as in habits of thought; the costume far more various
than in the commercial period. How should it add to the variety or
dispel the dulness, to coerce certain families or tribes, often
heterogeneous and jarring with one another, into certain artificial
and mechanical groups, and call them nations, and stimulate their
patriotism--i.e., their foolish and envious prejudices?"

"Well--I don't know how," said I.

"That's right," said Hammond cheerily; "you can easily understand
that now we are freed from this folly it is obvious to us that by
means of this very diversity the different strains of blood in the
world can be serviceable and pleasant to each other, without in the
least wanting to rob each other: we are all bent on the same
enterprise, making the most of our lives. And I must tell you
whatever quarrels or misunderstandings arise, they very seldom take
place between people of different race; and consequently since there
is less unreason in them, they are the more readily appeased."

"Good," said I, "but as to those matters of politics; as to general
differences of opinion in one and the same community. Do you assert
that there are none?"

"No, not at all," said he, somewhat snappishly; "but I do say that
differences of opinion about real solid things need not, and with us
do not, crystallise people into parties permanently hostile to one
another, with different theories as to the build of the universe and
the progress of time. Isn't that what politics used to mean?"

"H'm, well," said I, "I am not so sure of that."

Said he: "I take, you, neighbour; they only PRETENDED to this
serious difference of opinion; for if it had existed they could not
have dealt together in the ordinary business of life; couldn't have
eaten together, bought and sold together, gambled together, cheated
other people together, but must have fought whenever they met: which
would not have suited them at all. The game of the masters of
politics was to cajole or force the public to pay the expense of a
luxurious life and exciting amusement for a few cliques of ambitious
persons: and the PRETENCE of serious difference of opinion, belied
by every action of their lives, was quite good enough for that. What
has all that got to do with us?"

Said I: "Why, nothing, I should hope. But I fear--In short, I have
been told that political strife was a necessary result of human

"Human nature!" cried the old boy, impetuously; "what human nature?
The human nature of paupers, of slaves, of slave-holders, or the
human nature of wealthy freemen? Which? Come, tell me that!"

"Well," said I, "I suppose there would be a difference according to
circumstances in people's action about these matters."

"I should think so, indeed," said he. "At all events, experience
shows that it is so. Amongst us, our differences concern matters of
business, and passing events as to them, and could not divide men
permanently. As a rule, the immediate outcome shows which opinion on
a given subject is the right one; it is a matter of fact, not of
speculation. For instance, it is clearly not easy to knock up a
political party on the question as to whether haymaking in such and
such a country-side shall begin this week or next, when all men agree
that it must at latest begin the week after next, and when any man
can go down into the fields himself and see whether the seeds are
ripe enough for the cutting."

Said I: "And you settle these differences, great and small, by the
will of the majority, I suppose?"

"Certainly," said he; "how else could we settle them? You see in
matters which are merely personal which do not affect the welfare of
the community--how a man shall dress, what he shall eat and drink,
what he shall write and read, and so forth--there can be no
difference of opinion, and everybody does as he pleases. But when
the matter is of common interest to the whole community, and the
doing or not doing something affects everybody, the majority must
have their way; unless the minority were to take up arms and show by
force that they were the effective or real majority; which, however,
in a society of men who are free and equal is little likely to
happen; because in such a community the apparent majority IS the real
majority, and the others, as I have hinted before, know that too well
to obstruct from mere pigheadedness; especially as they have had
plenty of opportunity of putting forward their side of the question."

"How is that managed?" said I.

"Well," said he, "let us take one of our units of management, a
commune, or a ward, or a parish (for we have all three names,
indicating little real distinction between them now, though time was
there was a good deal). In such a district, as you would call it,
some neighbours think that something ought to be done or undone: a
new town-hall built; a clearance of inconvenient houses; or say a
stone bridge substituted for some ugly old iron one,--there you have
undoing and doing in one. Well, at the next ordinary meeting of the
neighbours, or Mote, as we call it, according to the ancient tongue
of the times before bureaucracy, a neighbour proposes the change, and
of course, if everybody agrees, there is an end of discussion, except
about details. Equally, if no one backs the proposer,--'seconds
him,' it used to be called--the matter drops for the time being; a
thing not likely to happen amongst reasonable men, however, as the
proposer is sure to have talked it over with others before the Mote.
But supposing the affair proposed and seconded, if a few of the
neighbours disagree to it, if they think that the beastly iron bridge
will serve a little longer and they don't want to be bothered with
building a new one just then, they don't count heads that time, but
put off the formal discussion to the next Mote; and meantime
arguments pro and con are flying about, and some get printed, so that
everybody knows what is going on; and when the Mote comes together
again there is a regular discussion and at last a vote by show of
hands. If the division is a close one, the question is again put off
for further discussion; if the division is a wide one, the minority
are asked if they will yield to the more general opinion, which they
often, nay, most commonly do. If they refuse, the question is
debated a third time, when, if the minority has not perceptibly
grown, they always give way; though I believe there is some half-
forgotten rule by which they might still carry it on further; but I
say, what always happens is that they are convinced, not perhaps that
their view is the wrong one, but they cannot persuade or force the
community to adopt it."

"Very good," said I; "but what happens if the divisions are still

Said he: "As a matter of principle and according to the rule of such
cases, the question must then lapse, and the majority, if so narrow,
has to submit to sitting down under the status quo. But I must tell
you that in point of fact the minority very seldom enforces this
rule, but generally yields in a friendly manner."

"But do you know," said I, "that there is something in all this very
like democracy; and I thought that democracy was considered to be in
a moribund condition many, many years ago."

The old boy's eyes twinkled. "I grant you that our methods have that
drawback. But what is to be done? We can't get ANYONE amongst us to
complain of his not always having his own way in the teeth of the
community, when it is clear that EVERYBODY cannot have that
indulgence. What is to be done?"

"Well," said I, "I don't know."

Said he: "The only alternatives to our method that I can conceive of
are these. First, that we should choose out, or breed, a class of
superior persons capable of judging on all matters without consulting
the neighbours; that, in short, we should get for ourselves what used
to be called an aristocracy of intellect; or, secondly, that for the
purpose of safe-guarding the freedom of the individual will, we
should revert to a system of private property again, and have slaves
and slave-holders once more. What do you think of those two

"Well," said I, "there is a third possibility--to wit, that every man
should be quite independent of every other, and that thus the tyranny
of society should be abolished."

He looked hard at me for a second or two, and then burst out laughing
very heartily; and I confess that I joined him. When he recovered
himself he nodded at me, and said: "Yes, yes, I quite agree with
you--and so we all do."

"Yes," I said, "and besides, it does not press hardly on the
minority: for, take this matter of the bridge, no man is obliged to
work on it if he doesn't agree to its building. At least, I suppose

He smiled, and said: "Shrewdly put; and yet from the point of view
of the native of another planet. If the man of the minority does
find his feelings hurt, doubtless he may relieve them by refusing to
help in building the bridge. But, dear neighbour, that is not a very
effective salve for the wound caused by the 'tyranny of a majority'
in our society; because all work that is done is either beneficial or
hurtful to every member of society. The man is benefited by the
bridge-building if it turns out a good thing, and hurt by it if it
turns out a bad one, whether he puts a hand to it or not; and
meanwhile he is benefiting the bridge-builders by his work, whatever
that may be. In fact, I see no help for him except the pleasure of
saying 'I told you so' if the bridge-building turns out to be a
mistake and hurts him; if it benefits him he must suffer in silence.
A terrible tyranny our Communism, is it not? Folk used often to be
warned against this very unhappiness in times past, when for every
well-fed, contented person you saw a thousand miserable starvelings.
Whereas for us, we grow fat and well-liking on the tyranny; a
tyranny, to say the truth, not to be made visible by any microscope I
know. Don't be afraid, my friend; we are not going to seek for
troubles by calling our peace and plenty and happiness by ill names
whose very meaning we have forgotten!"

He sat musing for a little, and then started and said: "Are there
any more questions, dear guest? The morning is waning fast amidst my


"Yes," said I. "I was expecting Dick and Clara to make their
appearance any moment: but is there time to ask just one or two
questions before they come?"

"Try it, dear neighbour--try it," said old Hammond. "For the more
you ask me the better I am pleased; and at any rate if they do come
and find me in the middle of an answer, they must sit quiet and
pretend to listen till I come to an end. It won't hurt them; they
will find it quite amusing enough to sit side by side, conscious of
their proximity to each other."

I smiled, as I was bound to, and said: "Good; I will go on talking
without noticing them when they come in. Now, this is what I want to
ask you about--to wit, how you get people to work when there is no
reward of labour, and especially how you get them to work

"No reward of labour?" said Hammond, gravely. "The reward of labour
is LIFE. Is that not enough?"

"But no reward for especially good work," quoth I.

"Plenty of reward," said he--"the reward of creation. The wages
which God gets, as people might have said time agone. If you are
going to ask to be paid for the pleasure of creation, which is what
excellence in work means, the next thing we shall hear of will be a
bill sent in for the begetting of children."

"Well, but," said I, "the man of the nineteenth century would say
there is a natural desire towards the procreation of children, and a
natural desire not to work."

"Yes, yes," said he, "I know the ancient platitude,--wholly untrue;
indeed, to us quite meaningless. Fourier, whom all men laughed at,
understood the matter better."

"Why is it meaningless to you?" said I.

He said: "Because it implies that all work is suffering, and we are
so far from thinking that, that, as you may have noticed, whereas we
are not short of wealth, there is a kind of fear growing up amongst
us that we shall one day be short of work. It is a pleasure which we
are afraid of losing, not a pain."

"Yes," said I, "I have noticed that, and I was going to ask you about
that also. But in the meantime, what do you positively mean to
assert about the pleasurableness of work amongst you?"

"This, that ALL work is now pleasurable; either because of the hope
of gain in honour and wealth with which the work is done, which
causes pleasurable excitement, even when the actual work is not
pleasant; or else because it has grown into a pleasurable HABIT, as
in the case with what you may call mechanical work; and lastly (and
most of our work is of this kind) because there is conscious sensuous
pleasure in the work itself; it is done, that is, by artists."

"I see," said I. "Can you now tell me how you have come to this
happy condition? For, to speak plainly, this change from the
conditions of the older world seems to me far greater and more
important than all the other changes you have told me about as to
crime, politics, property, marriage."

"You are right there," said he. "Indeed, you may say rather that it
is this change which makes all the others possible. What is the
object of Revolution? Surely to make people happy. Revolution
having brought its foredoomed change about, how can you prevent the
counter-revolution from setting in except by making people happy?
What! shall we expect peace and stability from unhappiness? The
gathering of grapes from thorns and figs from thistles is a
reasonable expectation compared with that! And happiness without
happy daily work is impossible."

"Most obviously true," said I: for I thought the old boy was
preaching a little. "But answer my question, as to how you gained
this happiness."

"Briefly," said he, "by the absence of artificial coercion, and the
freedom for every man to do what he can do best, joined to the
knowledge of what productions of labour we really wanted. I must
admit that this knowledge we reached slowly and painfully."

"Go on," said I, "give me more detail; explain more fully. For this
subject interests me intensely."

"Yes, I will," said he; "but in order to do so I must weary you by
talking a little about the past. Contrast is necessary for this
explanation. Do you mind?"

"No, no," said I.

Said he, settling himself in his chair again for a long talk: "It is
clear from all that we hear and read, that in the last age of
civilisation men had got into a vicious circle in the matter of
production of wares. They had reached a wonderful facility of
production, and in order to make the most of that facility they had
gradually created (or allowed to grow, rather) a most elaborate
system of buying and selling, which has been called the World-Market;
and that World-Market, once set a-going, forced them to go on making
more and more of these wares, whether they needed them or not. So
that while (of course) they could not free themselves from the toil
of making real necessaries, they created in a never-ending series
sham or artificial necessaries, which became, under the iron rule of
the aforesaid World-Market, of equal importance to them with the real
necessaries which supported life. By all this they burdened
themselves with a prodigious mass of work merely for the sake of
keeping their wretched system going."

"Yes--and then?" said I.

"Why, then, since they had forced themselves to stagger along under
this horrible burden of unnecessary production, it became impossible
for them to look upon labour and its results from any other point of
view than one--to wit, the ceaseless endeavour to expend the least
possible amount of labour on any article made, and yet at the same
time to make as many articles as possible. To this 'cheapening of
production', as it was called, everything was sacrificed: the
happiness of the workman at his work, nay, his most elementary
comfort and bare health, his food, his clothes, his dwelling, his
leisure, his amusement, his education--his life, in short--did not
weigh a grain of sand in the balance against this dire necessity of
'cheap production' of things, a great part of which were not worth
producing at all. Nay, we are told, and we must believe it, so
overwhelming is the evidence, though many of our people scarcely CAN
believe it, that even rich and powerful men, the masters of the poor
devils aforesaid, submitted to live amidst sights and sounds and
smells which it is in the very nature of man to abhor and flee from,
in order that their riches might bolster up this supreme folly. The
whole community, in fact, was cast into the jaws of this ravening
monster, 'the cheap production' forced upon it by the World-Market."

"Dear me!" said I. "But what happened? Did not their cleverness and
facility in production master this chaos of misery at last? Couldn't
they catch up with the World-Market, and then set to work to devise
means for relieving themselves from this fearful task of extra

He smiled bitterly. "Did they even try to?" said he. "I am not
sure. You know that according to the old saw the beetle gets used to
living in dung; and these people, whether they found the dung sweet
or not, certainly lived in it."

His estimate of the life of the nineteenth century made me catch my
breath a little; and I said feebly, "But the labour-saving machines?"

"Heyday!" quoth he. "What's that you are saying? the labour-saving
machines? Yes, they were made to 'save labour' (or, to speak more
plainly, the lives of men) on one piece of work in order that it
might be expended--I will say wasted--on another, probably useless,
piece of work. Friend, all their devices for cheapening labour
simply resulted in increasing the burden of labour. The appetite of
the World-Market grew with what it fed on: the countries within the
ring of 'civilisation' (that is, organised misery) were glutted with
the abortions of the market, and force and fraud were used
unsparingly to 'open up' countries OUTSIDE that pale. This process
of 'opening up' is a strange one to those who have read the
professions of the men of that period and do not understand their
practice; and perhaps shows us at its worst the great vice of the
nineteenth century, the use of hypocrisy and cant to evade the
responsibility of vicarious ferocity. When the civilised World-
Market coveted a country not yet in its clutches, some transparent
pretext was found--the suppression of a slavery different from and
not so cruel as that of commerce; the pushing of a religion no longer
believed in by its promoters; the 'rescue' of some desperado or
homicidal madman whose misdeeds had got him into trouble amongst the
natives of the 'barbarous' country--any stick, in short, which would
beat the dog at all. Then some bold, unprincipled, ignorant
adventurer was found (no difficult task in the days of competition),
and he was bribed to 'create a market' by breaking up whatever
traditional society there might be in the doomed country, and by
destroying whatever leisure or pleasure he found there. He forced
wares on the natives which they did not want, and took their natural
products in 'exchange,' as this form of robbery was called, and
thereby he 'created new wants,' to supply which (that is, to be
allowed to live by their new masters) the hapless, helpless people
had to sell themselves into the slavery of hopeless toil so that they
might have something wherewith to purchase the nullities of
'civilisation.' Ah," said the old man, pointing the dealings of to
the Museum, "I have read books and papers in there, telling strange
stories indeed of civilisation (or organised misery) with 'non-
civilisation'; from the time when the British Government deliberately
sent blankets infected with small-pox as choice gifts to inconvenient
tribes of Red-skins, to the time when Africa was infested by a man
named Stanley, who--"

"Excuse me," said I, "but as you know, time presses; and I want to
keep our question on the straightest line possible; and I want at
once to ask this about these wares made for the World-Market--how
about their quality; these people who were so clever about making
goods, I suppose they made them well?"

"Quality!" said the old man crustily, for he was rather peevish at
being cut short in his story; "how could they possibly attend to such
trifles as the quality of the wares they sold? The best of them were
of a lowish average, the worst were transparent make-shifts for the
things asked for, which nobody would have put up with if they could
have got anything else. It was a current jest of the time that the
wares were made to sell and not to use; a jest which you, as coming
from another planet, may understand, but which our folk could not."

Said I: "What! did they make nothing well?"

"Why, yes," said he, "there was one class of goods which they did
make thoroughly well, and that was the class of machines which were
used for making things. These were usually quite perfect pieces of
workmanship, admirably adapted to the end in view. So that it may be
fairly said that the great achievement of the nineteenth century was
the making of machines which were wonders of invention, skill, and
patience, and which were used for the production of measureless
quantities of worthless make-shifts. In truth, the owners of the
machines did not consider anything which they made as wares, but
simply as means for the enrichment of themselves. Of course the only
admitted test of utility in wares was the finding of buyers for them-
-wise men or fools, as it might chance."

"And people put up with this?" said I.

"For a time," said he.

"And then?"

"And then the overturn," said the old man, smiling, "and the
nineteenth century saw itself as a man who has lost his clothes
whilst bathing, and has to walk naked through the town."

"You are very bitter about that unlucky nineteenth century," said I.

"Naturally," said he, "since I know so much about it."

He was silent a little, and then said: "There are traditions--nay,
real histories--in our family about it: my grandfather was one of
its victims. If you know something about it, you will understand
what he suffered when I tell you that he was in those days a genuine
artist, a man of genius, and a revolutionist."

"I think I do understand," said I: "but now, as it seems, you have
reversed all this?"

"Pretty much so," said he. "The wares which we make are made because
they are needed: men make for their neighbours' use as if they were
making for themselves, not for a vague market of which they know
nothing, and over which they have no control: as there is no buying
and selling, it would be mere insanity to make goods on the chance of
their being wanted; for there is no longer anyone who can be
compelled to buy them. So that whatever is made is good, and
thoroughly fit for its purpose. Nothing can be made except for
genuine use; therefore no inferior goods are made. Moreover, as
aforesaid, we have now found out what we want, so we make no more
than we want; and as we are not driven to make a vast quantity of
useless things we have time and resources enough to consider our
pleasure in making them. All work which would be irksome to do by
hand is done by immensely improved machinery; and in all work which
it is a pleasure to do by hand machinery is done without. There is
no difficulty in finding work which suits the special turn of mind of
everybody; so that no man is sacrificed to the wants of another.
From time to time, when we have found out that some piece of work was
too disagreeable or troublesome, we have given it up and done
altogether without the thing produced by it. Now, surely you can see
that under these circumstances all the work that we do is an exercise
of the mind and body more or less pleasant to be done: so that
instead of avoiding work everybody seeks it: and, since people have
got defter in doing the work generation after generation, it has
become so easy to do, that it seems as if there were less done,
though probably more is produced. I suppose this explains that fear,
which I hinted at just now, of a possible scarcity in work, which
perhaps you have already noticed, and which is a feeling on the
increase, and has been for a score of years."

"But do you think," said I, "that there is any fear of a work-famine
amongst you?"

"No, I do not," said he, "and I will tell why; it is each man's
business to make his own work pleasanter and pleasanter, which of
course tends towards raising the standard of excellence, as no man
enjoys turning out work which is not a credit to him, and also to
greater deliberation in turning it out; and there is such a vast
number of things which can be treated as works of art, that this
alone gives employment to a host of deft people. Again, if art be
inexhaustible, so is science also; and though it is no longer the
only innocent occupation which is thought worth an intelligent man
spending his time upon, as it once was, yet there are, and I suppose
will be, many people who are excited by its conquest of difficulties,
and care for it more than for anything else. Again, as more and more
of pleasure is imported into work, I think we shall take up kinds of
work which produce desirable wares, but which we gave up because we
could not carry them on pleasantly. Moreover, I think that it is
only in parts of Europe which are more advanced than the rest of the
world that you will hear this talk of the fear of a work-famine.
Those lands which were once the colonies of Great Britain, for
instance, and especially America--that part of it, above all, which
was once the United states--are now and will be for a long while a
great resource to us. For these lands, and, I say, especially the
northern parts of America, suffered so terribly from the full force
of the last days of civilisation, and became such horrible places to
live in, that they are now very backward in all that makes life
pleasant. Indeed, one may say that for nearly a hundred years the
people of the northern parts of America have been engaged in
gradually making a dwelling-place out of a stinking dust-heap; and
there is still a great deal to do, especially as the country is so

"Well," said I, "I am exceedingly glad to think that you have such a
prospect of happiness before you. But I should like to ask a few
more questions, and then I have done for to-day."


As I spoke, I heard footsteps near the door; the latch yielded, and
in came our two lovers, looking so handsome that one had no feeling
of shame in looking on at their little-concealed love-making; for
indeed it seemed as if all the world must be in love with them. As
for old Hammond, he looked on them like an artist who has just
painted a picture nearly as well as he thought he could when he began
it, and was perfectly happy. He said:

"Sit down, sit down, young folk, and don't make a noise. Our guest
here has still some questions to ask me."

"Well, I should suppose so," said Dick; "you have only been three
hours and a half together; and it isn't to be hoped that the history
of two centuries could be told in three hours and a half: let alone
that, for all I know, you may have been wandering into the realms of
geography and craftsmanship."

"As to noise, my dear kinsman," said Clara, "you will very soon be
disturbed by the noise of the dinner-bell, which I should think will
be very pleasant music to our guest, who breakfasted early, it seems,
and probably had a tiring day yesterday."

I said: "Well, since you have spoken the word, I begin to feel that
it is so; but I have been feeding myself with wonder this long time
past: really, it's quite true," quoth I, as I saw her smile, O so
prettily! But just then from some tower high up in the air came the
sound of silvery chimes playing a sweet clear tune, that sounded to
my unaccustomed ears like the song of the first blackbird in the
spring, and called a rush of memories to my mind, some of bad times,
some of good, but all sweetened now into mere pleasure.

"No more questions now before dinner," said Clara; and she took my
hand as an affectionate child would, and led me out of the room and
down stairs into the forecourt of the Museum, leaving the two
Hammonds to follow as they pleased.

We went into the market-place which I had been in before, a thinnish
stream of elegantly {1} dressed people going in along with us. We
turned into the cloister and came to a richly moulded and carved
doorway, where a very pretty dark-haired young girl gave us each a
beautiful bunch of summer flowers, and we entered a hall much bigger
than that of the Hammersmith Guest House, more elaborate in its
architecture and perhaps more beautiful. I found it difficult to
keep my eyes off the wall-pictures (for I thought it bad manners to
stare at Clara all the time, though she was quite worth it). I saw
at a glance that their subjects were taken from queer old-world myths
and imaginations which in yesterday's world only about half a dozen
people in the country knew anything about; and when the two Hammonds
sat down opposite to us, I said to the old man, pointing to the

"How strange to see such subjects here!"

"Why?" said he. "I don't see why you should be surprised; everybody
knows the tales; and they are graceful and pleasant subjects, not too
tragic for a place where people mostly eat and drink and amuse
themselves, and yet full of incident."

I smiled, and said: "Well, I scarcely expected to find record of the
Seven Swans and the King of the Golden Mountain and Faithful Henry,
and such curious pleasant imaginations as Jacob Grimm got together
from the childhood of the world, barely lingering even in his time:
I should have thought you would have forgotten such childishness by
this time."

The old man smiled, and said nothing; but Dick turned rather red, and
broke out:

"What DO you mean, guest? I think them very beautiful, I mean not
only the pictures, but the stories; and when we were children we used
to imagine them going on in every wood-end, by the bight of every
stream: every house in the fields was the Fairyland King's House to
us. Don't you remember, Clara?"

"Yes," she said; and it seemed to me as if a slight cloud came over
her fair face. I was going to speak to her on the subject, when the
pretty waitresses came to us smiling, and chattering sweetly like
reed warblers by the river side, and fell to giving us our dinner.
As to this, as at our breakfast, everything was cooked and served
with a daintiness which showed that those who had prepared it were
interested in it; but there was no excess either of quantity or of
gourmandise; everything was simple, though so excellent of its kind;
and it was made clear to us that this was no feast, only an ordinary
meal. The glass, crockery, and plate were very beautiful to my eyes,
used to the study of mediaeval art; but a nineteenth-century club-
haunter would, I daresay, have found them rough and lacking in
finish; the crockery being lead-glazed pot-ware, though beautifully
ornamented; the only porcelain being here and there a piece of old
oriental ware. The glass, again, though elegant and quaint, and very
varied in form, was somewhat bubbled and hornier in texture than the
commercial articles of the nineteenth century. The furniture and
general fittings of the ball were much of a piece with the table-
gear, beautiful in form and highly ornamented, but without the
commercial "finish" of the joiners and cabinet-makers of our time.
Withal, there was a total absence of what the nineteenth century
calls "comfort"--that is, stuffy inconvenience; so that, even apart
from the delightful excitement of the day, I had never eaten my
dinner so pleasantly before.

When we had done eating, and were sitting a little while, with a
bottle of very good Bordeaux wine before us, Clara came back to the
question of the subject-matter of the pictures, as though it had
troubled her.

She looked up at them, and said: "How is it that though we are so
interested with our life for the most part, yet when people take to
writing poems or painting pictures they seldom deal with our modern
life, or if they do, take good care to make their poems or pictures
unlike that life? Are we not good enough to paint ourselves? How is
it that we find the dreadful times of the past so interesting to us--
in pictures and poetry?"

Old Hammond smiled. "It always was so, and I suppose always will
be," said he, "however it may be explained. It is true that in the
nineteenth century, when there was so little art and so much talk
about it, there was a theory that art and imaginative literature
ought to deal with contemporary life; but they never did so; for, if
there was any pretence of it, the author always took care (as Clara
hinted just now) to disguise, or exaggerate, or idealise, and in some
way or another make it strange; so that, for all the verisimilitude
there was, he might just as well have dealt with the times of the

"Well," said Dick, "surely it is but natural to like these things
strange; just as when we were children, as I said just now, we used
to pretend to be so-and-so in such-and-such a place. That's what
these pictures and poems do; and why shouldn't they?"

"Thou hast hit it, Dick," quoth old Hammond; "it is the child-like
part of us that produces works of imagination. When we are children
time passes so slow with us that we seem to have time for

He sighed, and then smiled and said: "At least let us rejoice that
we have got back our childhood again. I drink to the days that are!"

"Second childhood," said I in a low voice, and then blushed at my
double rudeness, and hoped that he hadn't heard. But he had, and
turned to me smiling, and said: "Yes, why not? And for my part, I
hope it may last long; and that the world's next period of wise and
unhappy manhood, if that should happen, will speedily lead us to a
third childhood: if indeed this age be not our third. Meantime, my
friend, you must know that we are too happy, both individually and
collectively, to trouble ourselves about what is to come hereafter."

"Well, for my part," said Clara, "I wish we were interesting enough
to be written or painted about."

Dick answered her with some lover's speech, impossible to be written
down, and then we sat quiet a little.


Dick broke the silence at last, saying: "Guest, forgive us for a
little after-dinner dulness. What would you like to do? Shall we
have out Greylocks and trot back to Hammersmith? or will you come
with us and hear some Welsh folk sing in a hall close by here? or
would you like presently to come with me into the City and see some
really fine building? or--what shall it be?"

"Well," said I, "as I am a stranger, I must let you choose for me."

In point of fact, I did not by any means want to be 'amused' just
then; and also I rather felt as if the old man, with his knowledge of
past times, and even a kind of inverted sympathy for them caused by
his active hatred of them, was as it were a blanket for me against
the cold of this very new world, where I was, so to say, stripped
bare of every habitual thought and way of acting; and I did not want
to leave him too soon. He came to my rescue at once, and said -

"Wait a bit, Dick; there is someone else to be consulted besides you
and the guest here, and that is I. I am not going to lose the
pleasure of his company just now, especially as I know he has
something else to ask me. So go to your Welshmen, by all means; but
first of all bring us another bottle of wine to this nook, and then
be off as soon as you like; and come again and fetch our friend to go
westward, but not too soon."

Dick nodded smilingly, and the old man and I were soon alone in the
great hall, the afternoon sun gleaming on the red wine in our tall
quaint-shaped glasses. Then said Hammond:

"Does anything especially puzzle you about our way of living, now you
have heard a good deal and seen a little of it?"

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