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Sanitary and Social Lectures and Essays by Charles Kingsley

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see and hear only what they wish to see and hear--I answer, that
it is not for me as a man to start such a theory; but that if it
be true, it is an additional argument for some education which
will correct this supposed natural defect. And I say deliberately
that there is but one sort of education which will correct it; one
which will teach young women to observe facts accurately, judge
them calmly, and describe them carefully, without adding or
distorting: and that is, some training in natural science.

I beg you not to be startled: but if you are, then test the truth
of my theory by playing to-night at the game called "Russian
Scandal;" in which a story, repeated in secret by one player to
the other, comes out at the end of the game, owing to the
inaccurate and--forgive me if I say it--uneducated brains through
which it has passed, utterly unlike its original; not only
ludicrously maimed and distorted, but often with the most
fantastic additions of events, details, names, dates, places,
which each player will aver that he received from the player
before him. I am afraid that too much of the average gossip of
every city, town, and village is little more than a game of
"Russian Scandal;" with this difference that while one is but a
game, the other is but too mischievous earnest.

But now, if among your party there shall be an average lawyer,
medical man, or man of science, you will find that he, and perhaps
he alone, will be able to retail accurately the story which has
been told him. And why? Simply because his mind has been trained
to deal with facts; to ascertain exactly what he does see or hear,
and to imprint its leading features strongly and clearly on his

Now, you certainly cannot make young ladies barristers or
attorneys; nor employ their brains in getting up cases, civil or
criminal; and as for chemistry, they and their parents may have a
reasonable antipathy to smells, blackened fingers, and occasional
explosions and poisonings. But you may make them something of
botanists, zoologists, geologists.

I could say much on this point: allow me at least to say this: I
verify believe that any young lady who would employ some of her
leisure time in collecting wild flowers, carefully examining them,
verifying them, and arranging them; or who would in her summer
trip to the sea-coast do the same by the common objects of the
shore, instead of wasting her holiday, as one sees hundreds doing,
in lounging on benches on the esplanade, reading worthless novels,
and criticising dresses--that such a young lady, I say, would not
only open her own mind to a world of wonder, beauty, and wisdom,
which, if it did not make her a more reverent and pious soul, she
cannot be the woman which I take for granted she is; but would
save herself from the habit--I had almost said the necessity--of
gossip; because she would have things to think of and not merely
persons; facts instead of fancies; while she would acquire
something of accuracy, of patience, of methodical observation and
judgment, which would stand her in good stead in the events of
daily life, and increase her power of bridling her tongue and her
imagination. "God is in heaven, and thou upon earth; therefore
let thy words be few;" is the lesson which those are learning all
day long who study the works of God with reverent accuracy, lest
by misrepresenting them they should be tempted to say that God has
done that which He has not; and in that wholesome discipline I
long that women as well as men should share.

And now I come to a thrift of the highest kind, as contrasted with
a waste the most deplorable and ruinous of all; thrift of those
faculties which connect us with the unseen and spiritual world;
with humanity, with Christ, with God; thrift of the immortal
spirit. I am not going now to give you a sermon on duty. You
hear such, I doubt not, in church every Sunday, far better than I
can preach to you. I am going to speak rather of thrift of the
heart, thrift of the emotions. How they are wasted in these days
in reading what are called sensation novels, all know but too
well; how British literature--all that the best hearts and
intellects among our forefathers have bequeathed to us--is
neglected for light fiction, the reading of which is, as a lady
well said, "the worst form of intemperance--dram-drinking and
opium-eating, intellectual and moral."

I know that the young will delight--they have delighted in all
ages, and will to the end of time--in fictions which deal with
that "oldest tale which is for ever new." Novels will be read:
but that is all the more reason why women should be trained, by
the perusal of a higher, broader, deeper literature, to
distinguish the good novel from the bad, the moral from the
immoral, the noble from the base, the true work of art from the
sham which hides its shallowness and vulgarity under a tangled
plot and melodramatic situations. She should learn--and that she
can only learn by cultivation--to discern with joy, and drink in
with reverence, the good, the beautiful, and the true; and to turn
with the fine scorn of a pure and strong womanhood from the bad,
the ugly, and the false.

And if any parent should be inclined to reply: "Why lay so much
stress upon educating a girl in British literature? Is it not far
more important to make our daughters read religious books?" I
answer--Of course it is. I take for granted that that is done in
a Christian land. But I beg you to recollect that there are books
and books; and that in these days of a free press it is
impossible, in the long run, to prevent girls reading books of
very different shades of opinion, and very different religious
worth. It may be, therefore, of the very highest importance to a
girl to have her intellect, her taste, her emotions, her moral
sense, in a word, her whole womanhood, so cultivated and regulated
that she shall herself be able to discern the true from the false,
the orthodox from the unorthodox, the truly devout from the merely
sentimental, the Gospel from its counterfeits.

I should have thought that there never had been in Britain, since
the Reformation, a crisis at which young Englishwomen required
more careful cultivation on these matters; if at least they are to
be saved from making themselves and their families miserable; and
from ending--as I have known too many end--with broken hearts,
broken brains, broken health, and an early grave.

Take warning by what you see abroad. In every country where the
women are uneducated, unoccupied; where their only literature is
French novels or translations of them--in every one of those
countries the women, even to the highest, are the slaves of
superstition, and the puppets of priests. In proportion as, in
certain other countries--notably, I will say, in Scotland--the
women are highly educated, family life and family secrets are
sacred, and the woman owns allegiance and devotion to no confessor
or director, but to her own husband or to her own family.

I say plainly, that if any parents wish their daughters to succumb
at least to some quackery or superstition, whether calling itself
scientific, or calling itself religious--and there are too many of
both just now--they cannot more certainly effect their purpose
than by allowing her to grow up ignorant, frivolous, luxurious,
vain; with her emotions excited, but not satisfied, by the reading
of foolish and even immoral novels.

In such a case the more delicate and graceful the organisation,
the more noble and earnest the nature, which has been neglected,
the more certain it is--I know too well what I am saying--to go

The time of depression, disappointment, vacuity, all but despair
must come. The immortal spirit, finding no healthy satisfaction
for its highest aspirations, is but too likely to betake itself to
an unhealthy and exciting superstition. Ashamed of its own long
self-indulgence, it is but too likely to flee from itself into a
morbid asceticism. Not having been taught its God-given and
natural duties in the world, it is but too likely to betake
itself, from the mere craving for action, to self-invented and
unnatural duties out of the world. Ignorant of true science, yet
craving to understand the wonders of nature and of spirit, it is
but too likely to betake itself to non-science--nonsense as it is
usually called--whether of spirit-rapping and mesmerism, or of
miraculous relics and winking pictures. Longing for guidance and
teaching, and never having been taught to guide and teach itself,
it is but too likely to deliver itself up in self-despair to the
guidance and teaching of those who, whether they be quacks or
fanatics, look on uneducated women as their natural prey.

You will see, I am sure, from what I have said, that it is not my
wish that you should become mere learned women; mere female
pedants, as useless and unpleasing as male pedants are wont to be.
The education which I set before you is not to be got by mere
hearing lectures or reading books: for it is an education of your
whole character; a self-education; which really means a committing
of yourself to God, that He may educate you. Hearing lectures is
good, for it will teach you how much there is to be known, and how
little you know. Reading books is good, for it will give you
habits of regular and diligent study. And therefore I urge on you
strongly private study, especially in case a library should be
formed here of books on those most practical subjects of which I
have been speaking. But, after all, both lectures and books are
good, mainly in as far as they furnish matter for reflection:
while the desire to reflect and the ability to reflect must come,
as I believe, from above. The honest craving after light and
power, after knowledge, wisdom, active usefulness, must come--and
may it come to you--by the inspiration of the Spirit of God.

One word more, and I have done. Let me ask women to educate
themselves, not for their own sakes merely, but for the sake of
others. For, whether they will or not, they must educate others.
I do not speak merely of those who may be engaged in the work of
direct teaching; that they ought to be well taught themselves, who
can doubt? I speak of those--and in so doing I speak of every
woman, young and old--who exercise as wife, as mother, as aunt, as
sister, or as friend, an influence, indirect it may be, and
unconscious, but still potent and practical, on the minds and
characters of those about them, especially of men. How potent and
practical that influence is, those know best who know most of the
world and most of human nature. There are those who consider--and
I agree with them--that the education of boys under the age of
twelve years ought to be entrusted as much as possible to women.
Let me ask--of what period of youth and manhood does not the same
hold true? I pity the ignorance and conceit of the man who
fancies that he has nothing left to learn from cultivated women.
I should have thought that the very mission of woman was to be, in
the highest sense, the educator of man from infancy to old age;
that that was the work towards which all the God-given capacities
of women pointed; for which they were to be educated to the
highest pitch. I should have thought that it was the glory of
woman that she was sent into the world to live for others, rather
than for herself; and therefore I should say--Let her smallest
rights be respected, her smallest wrongs redressed: but let her
never be persuaded to forget that she is sent into the world to
teach man--what, I believe, she has been teaching him all along,
even in the savage state--namely, that there is something more
necessary than the claiming of rights, and that is, the performing
of duties; to teach him specially, in these so-called intellectual
days, that there is something more than intellect, and that is--
purity and virtue. Let her never be persuaded to forget that her
calling is not the lower and more earthly one of self-assertion,
but the higher and the diviner calling of self-sacrifice; and let
her never desert that higher life, which lives in others and for
others, like her Redeemer and her Lord.

And if any should answer that this doctrine would keep woman a
dependent and a slave, I rejoin--Not so: it would keep her what
she should be--the mistress of all around her, because mistress of
herself. And more, I should express a fear that those who made
that answer had not yet seen into the mystery of true greatness
and true strength; that they did not yet understand the true
magnanimity, the true royalty of that spirit, by which the Son of
man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give
His life a ransom for many.

Surely that is woman's calling--to teach man: and to teach him
what? To teach him, after all, that his calling is the same as
hers, if he will but see the things which belong to his peace. To
temper his fiercer, coarser, more self-assertive nature, by the
contact of her gentleness, purity, self-sacrifice. To make him
see that not by blare of trumpets, not by noise, wrath, greed,
ambition, intrigue, puffery, is good and lasting work to be done
on earth: but by wise self-distrust, by silent labour, by lofty
self-control, by that charity which hopeth all things, believeth
all things, endureth all things; by such an example, in short, as
women now in tens of thousands set to those around them; such as
they will show more and more, the more their whole womanhood is
educated to employ its powers without waste and without haste in
harmonious unity. Let the woman begin in girlhood, if such be her
happy lot--to quote the words of a great poet, a great
philosopher, and a great Churchman, William Wordsworth--let her
begin, I say -

With all things round about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful dawn;
A dancing shape, an image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and waylay.

Let her develop onwards -

A spirit, yet a woman too,
With household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty.
A countenance in which shall meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A creature not too bright and good
For human nature's daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.

But let her highest and her final development be that which not
nature, but self-education alone can bring--that which makes her
once and for ever -

A being breathing thoughtful breath;
A traveller betwixt life and death.
With reason firm, with temperate will
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill.
A perfect woman, nobly planned,
To warn, to comfort, and command.
And yet a spirit still and bright
With something of an angel light.


Fresh from the Marbles of the British Museum, I went my way
through London streets. My brain was still full of fair and grand
forms; the forms of men and women whose every limb and attitude
betokened perfect health, and grace, and power, and self-
possession and self-restraint so habitual and complete that it had
become unconscious, and undistinguishable from the native freedom
of the savage. For I had been up and down the corridors of those
Greek sculptures, which remain as a perpetual sermon to rich and
poor, amid our artificial, unwholesome, and it may be decaying
pseudo-civilisation, saying with looks more expressive than all
words--Such men and women can be; for such they have been; and
such you may be yet, if you will use that science of which you too
often only boast. Above all, I had been pondering over the awful
and yet tender beauty of the maiden figures from the Parthenon and
its kindred temples. And these, or such as these, I thought to
myself, were the sisters of the men who fought at Marathon and
Salamis; the mothers of many a man among the ten thousand whom
Xenophon led back from Babylon to the Black Sea shore; the
ancestresses of many a man who conquered the East in Alexander's
host, and fought with Porus in the far Punjab. And were these
women mere dolls? These men mere gladiators? Were they not the
parents of philosophy, science, poetry, the plastic arts? We talk
of education now. Are we more educated than were the ancient
Greeks? Do we know anything about education, physical,
intellectual, or aesthetic, and I may say moral likewise--
religious education, of course, in our sense of the world, they
had none--but do we know anything about education of which they
have not taught us at least the rudiments? Are there not some
branches of education which they perfected, once and for ever;
leaving us northern barbarians to follow, or else not to follow,
their example? To produce health, that is, harmony and sympathy,
proportion and grace, in every faculty of mind and body--that was
their notion of education. To produce that, the text-book of
their childhood was the poetry of Homer, and not of--But I am
treading on dangerous ground. It was for this that the seafaring
Greek lad was taught to find his ideal in Ulysses; while his
sister at home found hers, it may be, in Nausicaa. It was for
this, that when perhaps the most complete and exquisite of all the
Greeks, Sophocles the good, beloved by gods and men, represented
on the Athenian stage his drama of Nausicaa, and, as usual, could
not--for he had no voice--himself take a speaking part, he was
content to do one thing in which he specially excelled; and
dressed and masked as a girl, to play at ball amid the chorus of
Nausicaa's maidens.

That drama of Nausicaa is lost; and if I dare say so of any play
of Sophocles', I scarce regret it. It is well, perhaps, that we
have no second conception of the scene, to interfere with the
simplicity, so grand, and yet so tender, of Homer's idyllic

Nausicaa, it must be remembered, is the daughter of a king. But
not of a king in the exclusive modern European or old Eastern
sense. Her father, Alcinous, is simply primus inter pares among a
community of merchants, who are called "kings" likewise; and Mayor
for life--so to speak--of a new trading city, a nascent Genoa or
Venice, on the shore of the Mediterranean. But the girl Nausicaa,
as she sleeps in her "carved chamber," is "like the immortals in
form and face;" and two handmaidens who sleep on each side of the
polished door "have beauty from the Graces."

To her there enters, in the shape of some maiden friend, none less
than Pallas Athene herself, intent on saving worthily her
favourite, the shipwrecked Ulysses; and bids her in a dream go
forth--and wash the clothes. {6}

Nausicaa, wherefore doth thy mother bear
Child so forgetful? This long time doth rest,
Like lumber in the house, much raiment fair.
Soon must thou wed, and be thyself well-drest,
And find thy bridegroom raiment of the best.
These are the things whence good repute is born,
And praises that make glad a parent's breast.
Come, let us both go washing with the morn;
So shalt thou have clothes becoming to be worn.

Know that thy maidenhood is not for long,
Whom the Phoeacian chiefs already woo,
Lords of the land whence thou thyself art sprung.
Soon as the shining dawn comes forth anew,
For wain and mules thy noble father sue,
Which to the place of washing shall convey
Girdles and shawls and rugs of splendid hue,
This for thyself were better than essay
Thither to walk: the place is distant a long way.

Startled by her dream, Nausicaa awakes, and goes to find her
parents -

One by the hearth sat, with the maids around,
And on the skeins of yarn, sea-purpled, spent
Her morning toil. Him to the council bound,
Called by the honoured kings, just going forth she found.

And calling him, as she might now, Pappa phile, Dear Papa, asks
for the mule-waggon: but it is her father's and her five
brothers' clothes she fain would wash, -

Ashamed to name her marriage to her father dear.

But he understood all--and she goes forth in the mule-waggon, with
the clothes, after her mother has put in "a chest of all kinds of
delicate food, and meat, and wine in a goatskin;" and last but not
least, the indispensable cruse of oil for anointing after the
bath, to which both Jews, Greeks, and Romans owed so much health
and beauty. And then we read in the simple verse of a poet too
refined, like the rest of his race, to see anything mean or
ridiculous in that which was not ugly and unnatural, how she and
her maids got into the "polished waggon," "with good wheels," and
she "took the whip and the studded reins," and "beat them till
they started;" and how the mules, "rattled" away, and "pulled
against each other," till

When they came to the fair flowing river
Which feeds good lavatories all the year,
Fitted to cleanse all sullied robes soever,
They from the wain the mules unharnessed there,
And chased them free, to crop their juicy fare
By the swift river, on the margin green;
Then to the waters dashed the clothes they bare
And in the stream-filled trenches stamped them clean.
Which, having washed and cleansed, they spread before
The sunbeams, on the beach, where most did lie
Thick pebbles, by the sea-wave washed ashore.
So, having left them in the heat to dry,
They to the bath went down, and by-and-by,
Rubbed with rich oil, their midday meal essay,
Couched in green turf, the river rolling nigh.
Then, throwing off their veils, at ball they play,
While the white-armed Nausicaa leads the choral lay.

The mere beauty of this scene all will feel, who have the sense of
beauty in them. Yet it is not on that aspect which I wish to
dwell, but on its healthfulness. Exercise is taken, in measured
time, to the sound of song, as a duty almost, as well as an
amusement. For this game of ball, which is here mentioned for the
first time in human literature, nearly three thousand years ago,
was held by the Greeks and by the Romans after them, to be an
almost necessary part of a liberal education; principally,
doubtless, from the development which it produced in the upper
half of the body, not merely to the arms, but to the chest, by
raising and expanding the ribs, and to all the muscles of the
torso, whether perpendicular or oblique. The elasticity and grace
which it was believed to give were so much prized, that a room for
ball-play, and a teacher of the art, were integral parts of every
gymnasium; and the Athenians went so far as to bestow on one
famous ball-player, Aristonicus of Carystia, a statue and the
rights of citizenship. The rough and hardy young Spartans, when
passing from boyhood into manhood, received the title of ball-
players, seemingly from the game which it was then their special
duty to learn. In the case of Nausicaa and her maidens, the game
would just bring into their right places all that is liable to be
contracted and weakened in women, so many of whose occupations
must needs be sedentary and stooping; while the song which
accompanied the game at once filled the lungs regularly and
rhythmically, and prevented violent motion, or unseemly attitude.
We, the civilised, need physiologists to remind us of these simple
facts, and even then do not act on them. Those old half-barbarous
Greeks had found them out for themselves, and, moreover, acted on

But fair Nausicaa must have been--some will say--surely a mere
child of nature, and an uncultivated person?

So far from it, that her whole demeanour and speech show culture
of the very highest sort, full of "sweetness and light."--
Intelligent and fearless, quick to perceive the bearings of her
strange and sudden adventure, quick to perceive the character of
Ulysses, quick to answer his lofty and refined pleading by words
as lofty and refined, and pious withal;--for it is she who speaks
to her handmaids the once so famous words:

Strangers and poor men all are sent from Zeus;
And alms, though small, are sweet.

Clear of intellect, prompt of action, modest of demeanour,
shrinking from the slightest breath of scandal; while she is not
ashamed, when Ulysses, bathed and dressed, looks himself again, to
whisper to her maidens her wish that the Gods might send her such
a spouse.--This is Nausicaa as Homer draws her; and as many a
scholar and poet since Homer has accepted her for the ideal of
noble maidenhood. I ask my readers to study for themselves her
interview with Ulysses, in Mr. Worsley's translation, or rather in
the grand simplicity of the original Greek, {7} and judge whether
Nausicaa is not as perfect a lady as the poet who imagined her--
or, it may be, drew her from life--must have been a perfect
gentleman; both complete in those "manners" which, says the old
proverb, "make the man:" but which are the woman herself; because
with her--who acts more by emotion than by calculation--manners
are the outward and visible tokens of her inward and spiritual
grace, or disgrace; and flow instinctively, whether good or bad,
from the instincts of her inner nature.

True, Nausicaa could neither read nor write. No more, most
probably, could the author of the Odyssey. No more, for that
matter, could Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though they were plainly,
both in mind and manners, most highly-cultivated men. Reading and
writing, of course, have now become necessaries of humanity; and
are to be given to every human being, that he may start fair in
the race of life. But I am not aware that Greek women improved
much, either in manners, morals, or happiness, by acquiring them
in after centuries. A wise man would sooner see his daughter a
Nausicaa than a Sappho, an Aspasia, a Cleopatra, or even an

Full of such thoughts, I went through London streets, among the
Nausicaas of the present day; the girls of the period; the
daughters and hereafter mothers of our future rulers, the great
Demos or commercial middle class of the greatest mercantile city
in the world: and noted what I had noted with fear and sorrow,
many a day, for many a year; a type, and an increasing type, of
young women who certainly had not had the "advantages,"
"educational" and other, of that Greek Nausicaa of old.

Of course, in such a city as London, to which the best of
everything, physical and other, gravitates, I could not but pass,
now and then, beautiful persons, who made me proud of those
grandes Anglaises aux joues rouges, whom the Parisiennes ridicule-
-and envy. But I could not help suspecting that their looks
showed them to be either country-bred, or born of country parents;
and this suspicion was strengthened by the fact that, when
compared with their mothers, the mother's physique was, in the
majority of cases, superior to the daughters'. Painful it was, to
one accustomed to the ruddy well-grown peasant girl, stalwart,
even when, as often, squat and plain, to remark the exceedingly
small size of the average young woman; by which I do not mean mere
want of height--that is a little matter--but want of breadth
likewise; a general want of those large frames, which indicate
usually a power of keeping strong and healthy not merely the
muscles, but the brain itself.

Poor little things. I passed hundreds--I pass hundreds every day-
-trying to hide their littleness by the nasty mass of false hair--
or what does duty for it; and by the ugly and useless hat which is
stuck upon it, making the head thereby look ridiculously large and
heavy; and by the high heels on which they totter onward, having
forgotten, or never learnt, the simple art of walking; their
bodies tilted forward in that ungraceful attitude which is called-
-why that name of all others?--a "Grecian bend;" seemingly kept on
their feet, and kept together at all, in that strange attitude, by
tight stays which prevented all graceful and healthy motion of the
hips or sides; their raiment, meanwhile, being purposely misshapen
in this direction and in that, to hide--it must be presumed--
deficiencies of form. If that chignon and those heels had been
taken off, the figure which would have remained would have been
that too often of a puny girl of sixteen. And yet there was no
doubt that these women were not only full grown, but some of them,
alas! wives and mothers.

Poor little things.--And this they have gained by so-called
civilisation: the power of aping the "fashions" by which the
worn-out "Parisienne" hides her own personal defects; and of
making themselves, by innate want of that taste which the
"Parisienne" possesses, only the cause of something like a sneer
from many a cultivated man; and of something like a sneer, too,
from yonder gipsy woman who passes by, with bold bright face, and
swinging hip, and footstep stately and elastic; far better
dressed, according to all true canons of taste, than most town-
girls; and thanking her fate that she and her "Rom" are no house-
dwellers and gaslight-sightseers, but fatten on free air upon the
open moor.

But the face which is beneath that chignon and that hat? Well--it
is sometimes pretty: but how seldom handsome, which is a higher
quality by far. It is not, strange to say, a well-fed face.
Plenty of money, and perhaps too much, is spent on those fine
clothes. It had been better, to judge from the complexion, if
some of that money had been spent in solid wholesome food. She
looks as if she lived--as she too often does, I hear--on tea and
bread-and-butter, or rather on bread with the minimum of butter.
For as the want of bone indicates a deficiency of phosphatic food,
so does the want of flesh about the cheeks indicate a deficiency
of hydrocarbon. Poor little Nausicaa:- that is not her fault.
Our boasted civilisation has not even taught her what to eat, as
it certainly has not increased her appetite; and she knows not--
what every country fellow knows--that without plenty of butter and
other fatty matters, she is not likely to keep even warm. Better
to eat nasty fat bacon now, than to supply the want of it some few
years hence by nastier cod-liver oil. But there is no one yet to
tell her that, and a dozen other equally simple facts, for her own
sake, and for the sake of that coming Demos which she is to bring
into the world; a Demos which, if we can only keep it healthy in
body and brain, has before it so splendid a future: but which, if
body and brain degrade beneath the influence of modern barbarism,
is but too likely to follow the Demos of ancient Byzantium, or of
modern Paris.

Ay, but her intellect. She is so clever, and she reads so much,
and she is going to be taught to read so much more.

Ah well--there was once a science called Physiognomy. The Greeks,
from what I can learn, knew more of it than any people since:
though the Italian painters and sculptors must have known much;
far more than we. In a more scientific civilisation there will be
such a science once more: but its laws, though still in the
empiric stage, are not altogether forgotten by some. Little
children have often a fine and clear instinct of them. Many
cultivated and experienced women have a fine and clear instinct of
them likewise. And some such would tell us that there is
intellect in plenty in the modern Nausicaa: but not of the
quality which they desire for their country's future good. Self-
consciousness, eagerness, volubility, petulance in countenance, in
gesture, and in voice--which last is too often most harsh and
artificial, the breath being sent forth through the closed teeth,
and almost entirely at the corners of the mouth--and, with all
this, a weariness often about the wrinkling forehead and the
drooping lids;--all these, which are growing too common, not among
the Demos only, nor only in the towns, are signs, they think, of
the unrest of unhealth, physical, intellectual, spiritual. At
least they are as different as two types of physiognomy in the
same race can be, from the expression both of face and gesture, in
those old Greek sculptures, and in the old Italian painters; and,
it must be said, in the portraits of Reynolds, and Gainsborough,
Copley, and Romney. Not such, one thinks, must have been the
mothers of Britain during the latter half of the last century and
the beginning of the present; when their sons, at times, were
holding half the world at bay.

And if Nausicaa has become such in town: what is she when she
goes to the seaside, not to wash the clothes in fresh-water, but
herself in salt--the very salt-water, laden with decaying
organisms, from which, though not polluted further by a dozen
sewers, Ulysses had to cleanse himself, anointing, too, with oil,
ere he was fit to appear in the company of Nausicaa of Greece?
She dirties herself with the dirty saltwater; and probably chills
and tires herself by walking thither and back, and staying in too
long; and then flaunts on the pier, bedizened in garments which,
for monstrosity of form and disharmony of colours, would have set
that Greek Nausicaa's teeth on edge, or those of any average
Hindoo woman now. Or, even sadder still, she sits on chairs and
benches all the weary afternoon, her head drooped on her chest,
over some novel from the "Library;" and then returns to tea and
shrimps, and lodgings of which the fragrance is not unsuggestive,
sometimes not unproductive, of typhoid fever. Ah, poor Nausicaa
of England! That is a sad sight to some who think about the
present, and have read about the past. It is not a sad sight to
see your old father--tradesman, or clerk, or what not--who has
done good work in his day, and hopes to do some more, sitting by
your old mother, who has done good work in her day--among the
rest, that heaviest work of all, the bringing you into the world
and keeping you in it till now--honest, kindly, cheerful folk
enough, and not inefficient in their own calling; though an
average Northumbrian, or Highlander, or Irish Easterling, beside
carrying a brain of five times the intellectual force, could drive
five such men over the cliff with his bare hands. It is not a sad
sight, I say, to see them sitting about upon those seaside
benches, looking out listlessly at the water, and the ships, and
the sunlight, and enjoying, like so many flies upon a wall, the
novel act of doing nothing. It is not the old for whom wise men
are sad: but for you. Where is your vitality? Where is your
"Lebens-gluckseligkeit," your enjoyment of superfluous life and
power? Why you cannot even dance and sing, till now and then, at
night, perhaps, when you ought to lie safe in bed, but when the
weak brain, after receiving the day's nourishment, has roused
itself a second time into a false excitement of gaslight pleasure.
What there is left of it is all going into that foolish book,
which the womanly element in you, still healthy and alive,
delights in; because it places you in fancy in situations in which
you will never stand, and inspires you with emotions, some of
which, it may be, you had better never feel. Poor Nausicaa--old,
some men think, before you have been ever young.

And now they are going to "develop" you; and let you have your
share in "the higher education of women," by making you read more
books, and do more sums, and pass examinations, and stoop over
desks at night after stooping over some other employment all day;
and to teach you Latin, and even Greek!

Well, we will gladly teach you Greek, if you learn thereby to read
the history of Nausicaa of old, and what manner of maiden she was,
and what was her education. You will admire her, doubtless. But
do not let your admiration limit itself to drawing a meagre half-
mediaevalised design of her--as she never looked. Copy in your
own person; and even if you do not descend as low--or rise as
high--as washing the household clothes, at least learn to play at
ball; and sing, in the open air and sunshine, not in theatres and
concert-rooms by gaslight; and take decent care of your own
health; and dress not like a "Parisienne"--nor, of course, like
Nausicaa of old, for that is to ask too much: --but somewhat more
like an average Highland lassie; and try to look like her, and be
like her, of whom Wordsworth sang:

A mien and face
In which full plainly I can trace
Benignity, and home-bred sense,
Ripening in perfect innocence.
Here scattered, like a random seed,
Remote from men, thou dost not need
The embarrassed look of shy distress
And maidenly shamefacedness.
Thou wear'st upon thy forehead clear
The freedom of a mountaineer.
A face with gladness overspread,
Soft smiles, by human kindness bred,
And seemliness complete, that sways
Thy courtesies, about thee plays.
With no restraint, save such as springs
From quick and eager visitings
Of thoughts that lie beyond the reach
Of thy few words of English speech.
A bondage sweetly brooked, a strife
That gives thy gestures grace and life.

Ah, yet unspoilt Nausicaa of the North; descendant of the dark
tender-hearted Celtic girl, and the fair deep-hearted Scandinavian
Viking, thank God for thy heather and fresh air, and the kine thou
tendest, and the wool thou spinnest; and come not to seek thy
fortune, child, in wicked London town; nor import, as they tell me
thou art doing fast, the ugly fashions of that London town, clumsy
copies of Parisian cockneydom, into thy Highland home; nor give up
the healthful and graceful, free and modest dress of thy mother
and thy mother's mother, to disfigure the little kirk on Sabbath
days with crinoline and corset, high-heeled boots, and other
women's hair.

It is proposed, just now, to assimilate the education of girls
more and more to that of boys. If that means that girls are
merely to learn more lessons, and to study what their brothers are
taught, in addition to what their mothers were taught; then it is
to be hoped, at least by physiologists and patriots, that the
scheme will sink into that limbo whither, in a free and tolerably
rational country, all imperfect and ill-considered schemes are
sure to gravitate. But if the proposal be a bona-fide one: then
it must be borne in mind that in the Public schools of England,
and in all private schools, I presume, which take their tone from
them, cricket and football are more or less compulsory, being
considered integral parts of an Englishman's education; and that
they are likely to remain so, in spite of all reclamations:
because masters and boys alike know that games do not, in the long
run, interfere with a boy's work; that the same boy will very
often excel in both; that the games keep him in health for his
work; and the spirit with which he takes to his games when in the
lower school, is a fair test of the spirit with which he will take
to his work when he rises into the higher school; and that nothing
is worse for a boy than to fall into that loafing, tuck-shop-
haunting set, who neither play hard nor work hard, and are usually
extravagant, and often vicious. Moreover, they know well that
games conduce, not merely to physical, but to moral health; that
in the playing-field boys acquire virtues which no books can give
them; not merely daring and endurance, but, better still, temper,
self-restraint, fairness, honour, unenvious approbation of
another's success, and all that "give and take" of life which
stand a man in such good stead when he goes forth into the world,
and without which, indeed, his success is always maimed and

Now: if the promoters of higher education for women will compel
girls to any training analogous to our public-school games; if,
for instance, they will insist on that most natural and wholesome
of all exercises, dancing, in order to develop the lower half of
the body; on singing, to expand the lungs and regulate the breath;
and on some games--ball or what not--which will ensure that raised
chest, and upright carriage, and general strength of the upper
torso, without which full oxygenation of the blood, and therefore
general health, is impossible; if they will sternly forbid tight
stays, high heels, and all which interferes with free growth and
free motion; if they will consider carefully all which has been
written on the "half-time system" by Mr. Chadwick and others; and
accept the certain physical law that, in order to renovate the
brain day by day, the growing creature must have plenty of fresh
air and play, and that the child who learns for four hours and
plays for four hours, will learn more, and learn it more easily,
than the child who learns for the whole eight hours; if, in short,
they will teach girls not merely to understand the Greek tongue,
but to copy somewhat of the Greek physical training, of that
"music and gymnastic" which helped to make the cleverest race of
the old world the ablest race likewise; then they will earn the
gratitude of the patriot and the physiologists, by doing their
best to stay the downward tendencies of the physique, and
therefore ultimately of the morale, in the coming generation of
English women.

I am sorry to say that, as yet, I hear of but one movement in this
direction among the promoters of the "higher education of women."
{8} I trust that the subject will be taken up methodically by
those gifted ladies, who have acquainted themselves, and are
labouring to acquaint other women, with the first principles of
health; and that they may avail to prevent the coming generations,
under the unwholesome stimulant of competitive examinations, and
so forth, from "developing" into so many Chinese--dwarfs--or

October, 1873.

THE AIR-MOTHERS--1869--Die Natur ist die Bewegung

Who are these who follow us softly over the moor in the autumn
eve? Their wings brush and rustle in the fir-boughs, and they
whisper before us and behind, as if they called gently to each
other, like birds flocking homeward to their nests.

The woodpecker on the pine-stems knows them, and laughs aloud for
joy as they pass. The rooks above the pasture know them, and
wheel round and tumble in their play. The brown leaves on the oak
trees know them, and flutter faintly, and beckon as they pass.
And in the chattering of the dry leaves there is a meaning, and a
cry of weary things which long for rest.

"Take us home, take us home, you soft air-mothers, now our fathers
the sunbeams are grown dull. Our green summer beauty is all
draggled, and our faces are grown wan and wan; and the buds, the
children whom we nourished, thrust us off, ungrateful, from our
seats. Waft us down, you soft air-mothers, upon your wings to the
quiet earth, that we may go to our home, as all things go, and
become air and sunlight once again."

And the bold young fir-seeds know them, and rattle impatient in
their cones. "Blow stronger, blow fiercer, slow air-mothers, and
shake us from our prisons of dead wood, that we may fly and spin
away north-eastward, each on his horny wing. Help us but to touch
the moorland yonder, and we will take good care of ourselves
henceforth; we will dive like arrows through the heather, and
drive our sharp beaks into the soil, and rise again as green trees
toward the sunlight, and spread out lusty boughs."

They never think, bold fools, of what is coming to bring them low
in the midst of their pride; of the reckless axe which will fell
them, and the saw which will shape them into logs; and the trains
which will roar and rattle over them, as they lie buried in the
gravel of the way, till they are ground and rotted into powder,
and dug up and flung upon the fire, that they too may return home,
like all things, and become air and sunlight once again.

And the air-mothers hear their prayers, and do their bidding: but
faintly; for they themselves are tired and sad.

Tired and sad are the air-mothers, and their gardens rent and wan.
Look at them as they stream over the black forest, before the dim
south-western sun; long lines and wreaths of melancholy grey,
stained with dull yellow or dead dun. They have come far across
the seas, and done many a wild deed upon their way; and now that
they have reached the land, like shipwrecked sailors, they will
lie down and weep till they can weep no more.

Ah, how different were those soft air-mothers when, invisible to
mortal eyes, they started on their long sky-journey, five thousand
miles across the sea! Out of the blazing caldron which lies
between the two New Worlds, they leapt up when the great sun
called them, in whirls and spouts of clear hot steam; and rushed
of their own passion to the northward, while the whirling earth-
ball whirled them east. So north-eastward they rushed aloft,
across the gay West Indian isles, leaving below the glitter of the
flying-fish, and the sidelong eyes of cruel sharks; above the
cane-fields and the plantain-gardens, and the cocoa-groves which
fringe the shores; above the rocks which throbbed with
earthquakes, and the peaks of old volcanoes, cinder-strewn; while,
far beneath, the ghosts of their dead sisters hurried home upon
the north-east breeze.

Wild deeds they did as they rushed onward, and struggled and
fought among themselves, up and down, and round and backward, in
the fury of their blind hot youth. They heeded not the tree as
they snapped it, nor the ship as they whelmed it in the waves; nor
the cry of the sinking sailor, nor the need of his little ones on
shore; hasty and selfish even as children, and, like children,
tamed by their own rage. For they tired themselves by struggling
with each other, and by tearing the heavy water into waves; and
their wings grew clogged with sea-spray, and soaked more and more
with steam. But at last the sea grew cold beneath them, and their
clear steam shrank to mist; and they saw themselves and each other
wrapped in dull rain-laden clouds. Then they drew their white
cloud-garments round them, and veiled themselves for very shame;
and said: "We have been wild and wayward; and, alas! our pure
bright youth is gone. But we will do one good deed yet ere we
die, and so we shall not have lived in vain. We will glide onward
to the land, and weep there; and refresh all things with soft warm
rain; and make the grass grow, the buds burst; quench the thirst
of man and beast, and wash the soiled world clean."

So they are wandering past us, the air-mothers, to weep the leaves
into their graves; to weep the seeds into their seed-beds, and
weep the soil into the plains; to get the rich earth ready for the
winter, and then creep northward to the ice-world, and there die.

Weary, and still more weary, slowly and more slowly still, they
will journey on far northward, across fast-chilling seas. For a
doom is laid upon them, never to be still again, till they rest at
the North Pole itself, the still axle of the spinning world; and
sink in death around it, and become white snow-clad ghosts.

But will they live again, those chilled air-mothers? Yes, they
must live again. For all things move for ever; and not even
ghosts can rest. So the corpses of their sisters, piling on them
from above, press them outward, press them southward toward the
sun once more; across the floes and round the icebergs, weeping
tears of snow and sleet, while men hate their wild harsh voices,
and shrink before their bitter breath. They know not that the
cold bleak snow-storms, as they hurtle from the black north-east,
bear back the ghosts of the soft air-mothers, as penitents, to
their father, the great sun.

But as they fly southwards, warm life thrills them, and they drop
their loads of sleet and snow; and meet their young live sisters
from the south, and greet them with flash and thunder-peal. And,
please God, before many weeks are over, as we run Westward-Ho, we
shall overtake the ghosts of these air-mothers, hurrying back
toward their father, the great sun. Fresh and bright under the
fresh bright heaven, they will race with us toward our home, to
gain new heat, new life, new power, and set forth about their work
once more. Men call them the south-west wind, those air-mothers;
and their ghosts the north-east trade; and value them, and
rightly, because they bear the traders out and home across the
sea. But wise men, and little children, should look on them with
more seeing eyes; and say, "May not these winds be living
creatures? They, too, are thoughts of God, to whom all live."

For is not our life like their life? Do we not come and go as
they? Out of God's boundless bosom, the fount of life, we came;
through selfish, stormy youth and contrite tears--just not too
late; through manhood not altogether useless; through slow and
chill old age, we return from Whence we came; to the Bosom of God
once more--to go forth again, it may be, with fresh knowledge, and
fresh powers, to nobler work. Amen.

Such was the prophecy which I learnt, or seemed to learn, from the
south-western wind off the Atlantic, on a certain delectable
evening. And it was fulfilled at night, as far as the gentle air-
mothers could fulfil it, for foolish man.

There was a roaring in the woods all night;
The rain came heavily and fell in floods;
But now the sun is rising calm and bright,
The birds are singing in the distant woods;
Over his own sweet voice the stock-dove broods,
The jay makes answer as the magpie chatters,
And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters.

But was I a gloomy and distempered man, if, upon such a morn as
that, I stood on the little bridge across a certain brook, and
watched the water run, with something of a sigh? Or if, when the
schoolboy beside me lamented that the floods would surely be out,
and his day's fishing spoiled, I said to him--"Ah, my boy, that is
a little matter. Look at what you are seeing now, and understand
what barbarism and waste mean. Look at all that beautiful water
which God has sent us hither off the Atlantic, without trouble or
expense to us. Thousands, and tens of thousands, of gallons will
run under this bridge to-day; and what shall we do with it?
Nothing. And yet: think only of the mills which that water would
have turned. Think how it might have kept up health and
cleanliness in poor creatures packed away in the back streets of
the nearest town, or even in London itself. Think even how
country folks, in many parts of England, in three months' time,
may be crying out for rain, and afraid of short crops, and fever,
and scarlatina, and cattle-plague, for want of the very water
which we are now letting run back, wasted, into the sea from
whence it came. And yet we call ourselves a civilised people."

It is not wise, I know, to preach to boys. And yet, sometimes, a
man must speak his heart; even, like Midas's slave, to the reeds
by the river side. And I had so often, fishing up and down full
many a stream, whispered my story to those same river-reeds; and
told them that my Lord the Sovereign Demos had, like old Midas,
asses' ears in spite of all his gold, that I thought I might for
once tell it the boy likewise, in hope that he might help his
generation to mend that which my own generation does not seem like
to mend.

I might have said more to him: but did not. For it is not well
to destroy too early the child's illusion, that people must be
wise because they are grown up, and have votes, and rule--or think
they rule--the world. The child will find out how true that is
soon enough for himself. If the truth be forced on him by the hot
words of those with whom he lives, it is apt to breed in him that
contempt, stormful and therefore barren, which makes revolutions;
and not that pity, calm and therefore helpful, which makes

So I might have said to him, but did not -
And then men pray for rain:

My boy, did you ever hear the old Eastern legend about the
Gipsies? How they were such good musicians, that some great
Indian Sultan sent for the whole tribe, and planted them near his
palace, and gave them land, and ploughs to break it up, and seed
to sow it, that they might dwell there, and play and sing to him.

But when the winter arrived, the Gipsies all came to the Sultan,
and cried that they were starving. "But what have you done with
the seed-corn which I gave you?" "O Light of the Age, we ate it
in the summer." "And what have you done with the ploughs which I
gave you?" "O Glory of the Universe, we burnt them to bake the
corn withal."

Then said that great Sultan--"Like the butterflies you have lived;
and like the butterflies you shall wander." So he drove them out.
And that is how the Gipsies came hither from the East.

Now suppose that the Sultan of all Sultans, who sends the rain,
should make a like answer to us foolish human beings, when we
prayed for rain: "But what have you done with the rain which I
gave you six months since?" "We have let it run into the sea."
"Then, ere you ask for more rain, make places wherein you can keep
it when you have it." "But that would be, in most cases, too
expensive. We can employ our capital more profitably in other

It is not for me to say what answer might be made to such an
excuse. I think a child's still unsophisticated sense of right
and wrong would soon supply one; and probably one--considering the
complexity, and difficulty, and novelty, of the whole question--
somewhat too harsh; as children's judgments are wont to be.

But would it not be well if our children, without being taught to
blame anyone for what is past, were taught something about what
ought to be done now, what must be done soon, with the rainfall of
these islands; and about other and kindred health-questions, on
the solution of which depends, and will depend more and more, the
life of millions? One would have thought that those public
schools and colleges which desire to monopolise the education of
the owners of the soil; of the great employers of labour; of the
clergy; and of all, indeed, who ought to be acquainted with the
duties of property, the conditions of public health, and, in a
word, with the general laws of what is now called Social Science--
one would have thought, I say, that these public schools and
colleges would have taught their scholars somewhat at least about
such matters, that they might go forth into life with at least
some rough notions of the causes which make people healthy or
unhealthy, rich or poor, comfortable or wretched, useful or
dangerous to the State. But as long as our great educational
institutions, safe, or fancying themselves safe, in some enchanted
castle, shut out by ancient magic from the living world, put a
premium on Latin and Greek verses: a wise father will, during the
holidays, talk now and then, I hope, somewhat after this fashion:

"You must understand, my boy, that all the water in the country
comes out of the sky, and from nowhere else; and that, therefore,
to save and store the water when it falls is a question of life
and death to crops, and man, and beast; for with or without water
is life or death. If I took, for instance, the water from the
moors above and turned it over yonder field, I could double, and
more than double, the crops in that field, henceforth."

"Then why do I not do it?"

"Only because the field lies higher than the house; and if--now
here is one thing which you and every civilised man should know--
if you have water-meadows, or any 'irrigated' land, as it is
called, above a house, or, even on a level with it, it is certain
to breed not merely cold and damp, but fever or ague. Our
forefathers did not understand this; and they built their houses,
as this is built, in the lowest places they could find: sometimes
because they wanted to be near ponds, from whence they could get
fish in Lent; but more often, I think, because they wanted to be
sheltered from the wind. They had no glass, as we have, in their
windows, or, at least, only latticed casements, which let in the
wind and cold; and they shrank from high and exposed, and
therefore really healthy, spots. But now that we have good glass,
and sash windows, and doors that will shut tight, we can build
warm houses where we like. And if you ever have to do with the
building of cottages, remember that it is your duty to the people
who will live in them, and therefore to the State, to see that
they stand high and dry, where no water can drain down into their
foundations, and where fog, and the poisonous gases which are
given out by rotting vegetables, cannot drain down either. You
will learn more about all that when you learn, as every civilised
lad should in these days, something about chemistry, and the laws
of fluids and gases. But you know already that flowers are cut
off by frost in the low grounds sooner than in the high; and that
the fog at night always lies along the brooks; and that the sour
moor-smell which warns us to shut our windows at sunset, comes
down from the hill, and not up from the valley. Now all these
things are caused by one and the same law; that cold air is
heavier than warm; and, therefore, like so much water, must run

"But what about the rainfall?"

"Well, I have wandered a little from the rainfall: though not as
far as you fancy; for fever and ague and rheumatism usually mean--
rain in the wrong place. But if you knew how much illness, and
torturing pain, and death, and sorrow arise, even to this very
day, from ignorance of these simple laws, then you would bear them
carefully in mind, and wish to know more about them. But now for
water being life to the beasts. Do you remember--though you are
hardly old enough--the cattle-plague? How the beasts died, or had
to be killed and buried, by tens of thousands; and how misery and
ruin fell on hundreds of honest men and women over many of the
richest counties of England: but how we in this vale had no
cattle-plague; and how there was none--as far as I recollect--in
the uplands of Devon and Cornwall, nor of Wales, nor of the Scotch
Highlands? Now, do you know why that was? Simply because we
here, like those other up-landers, are in such a country as
Palestine was before the foolish Jews cut down all their timber,
and so destroyed their own rainfall--a 'land of brooks of water,
of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills.'
There is hardly a field here that has not, thank God, its running
brook, or its sweet spring, from which our cattle were drinking
their health and life, while in the clay-lands of Cheshire, and in
the Cambridgeshire fens--which were drained utterly dry--the poor
things drank no water, too often, save that of the very same
putrid ponds in which they had been standing all day long, to cool
themselves, and to keep off the flies. I do not say, of course,
that bad water caused the cattle-plague. It came by infection
from the East of Europe. But I say that bad water made the cattle
ready to take it, and made it spread over the country; and when
you are old enough I will give you plenty of proof--some from the
herds of your own kinsmen--that what I say is true."

"And as for pure water being life to human beings: why have we
never fever here, and scarcely ever diseases like fever--zymotics,
as the doctors call them? Or, if a case comes into our parish
from outside, why does the fever never spread? For the very same
reason that we had no cattle-plague. Because we have more pure
water close to every cottage than we need. And this I tell you:
that the only two outbreaks of deadly disease which we have had
here for thirty years, were both of them, as far as I could see,
to be traced to filthy water having got into the poor folks'
wells. Water, you must remember, just as it is life when pure, is
death when foul. For it can carry, unseen to the eve, and even
when it looks clear and sparkling, and tastes soft and sweet,
poisons which have perhaps killed more human beings than ever were
killed in battle. You have read, perhaps, how the Athenians, when
they were dying of the plague, accused the Lacedaemonians outside
the walls of poisoning their wells; or how, in some of the
pestilences of the Middle Ages, the common people used to accuse
the poor harmless Jews of poisoning the wells, and set upon them
and murdered them horribly. They were right, I do not doubt, in
their notion that the well-water was giving them the pestilence:
but they had not sense to see that they were poisoning the wells
themselves by their dirt and carelessness; or, in the case of poor
besieged Athens, probably by mere overcrowding, which has cost
many a life ere now, and will cost more. And I am sorry to tell
you, my little man, that even now too many people have no more
sense than they had, and die in consequence. If you could see a
battle-field, and men shot down, writhing and dying in hundreds by
shell and bullet, would not that seem to you a horrid sight?
Then--I do not wish to make you sad too early, but this is a fact
that everyone should know--that more people, and not strong men
only, but women and little children too, are killed and wounded in
Great Britain every year by bad water and want of water together,
than were killed and wounded in any battle which has been fought
since you were born. Medical men know this well. And when you
are older, you may see it for yourself in the Registrar-General's
reports, blue-books, pamphlets, and so on, without end."

"But why do not people stop such a horrible loss of life?"

"Well, my dear boy, the true causes of it have only been known for
the last thirty or forty years; and we English are, as good King
Alfred found us to his sorrow a thousand years ago, very slow to
move, even when we see a thing ought to be done. Let us hope that
in this matter--we have been so in most matters as yet--we shall
be like the tortoise in the fable, and not the hare; and by moving
slowly, but surely, win the race at last."

"But now think for yourself: and see what you would do to save
these people from being poisoned by bad water. Remember that the
plain question is this: The rain-water comes down from heaven as
water, and nothing but water. Rain-water is the only pure water,
after all. How would you save that for the poor people who have
none? There; run away and hunt rabbits on the moor: but look,
meanwhile, how you would save some of this beautiful and precious
water which is roaring away into the sea."

* * *

"Well? What would you do? Make ponds, you say, like the old
monks' ponds, now all broken down. Dam all the glens across their
mouths, and turn them into reservoirs."

"'Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings'--Well, that will have
to be done. That is being done more and more, more or less well.
The good people of Glasgow did it first, I think; and now the good
people of Manchester, and of other northern towns, have done it,
and have saved many a human life thereby already. But it must be
done, some day, all over England and Wales, and great part of
Scotland. For the mountain tops and moors, my boy, by a beautiful
law of nature, compensate for their own poverty by yielding a
wealth which the rich lowlands cannot yield. You do not
understand? Then see. Yon moor above can grow neither corn nor
grass. But one thing it can grow, and does grow, without which we
should have no corn nor grass, and that is--water. Not only does
far more rain fall up there than falls here down below, but even
in drought the high moors condense the moisture into dew, and so
yield some water, even when the lowlands are burnt up with
drought. The reason of that you must learn hereafter. That it is
so, you should know yourself. For on the high chalk downs, you
know, where farmers make a sheep-pond, they never, if they are
wise, make it in a valley or on a hillside, but on the bleakest
top of the very highest down; and there, if they can once get it
filled with snow and rain in winter, the blessed dews of night
will keep some water in it all the summer through, while the ponds
below are utterly dried up. And even so it is, as I know, with
this very moor. Corn and grass it will not grow, because there is
too little 'staple,' that is, soluble minerals, in the sandy soil.
But how much water it might grow, you may judge roughly for
yourself, by remembering how many brooks like this are running off
it now to carry mere dirt into the river, and then into the sea."

"But why should we not make dams at once; and save the water?"

"Because we cannot afford it. No one would buy the water when we
had stored it. The rich in town and country will always take
care--and quite right they are--to have water enough for
themselves, and for their servants too, whatever it may cost them.
But the poorer people are--and therefore usually, alas! the more
ignorant--the less water they get; and the less they care to have
water; and the less they are inclined to pay for it; and the more,
I am sorry to say, they waste what little they do get; and I am
still more sorry to say, spoil, and even steal and sell--in London
at least--the stop-cocks and lead-pipes which bring the water into
their houses. So that keeping a water-shop is a very troublesome
and uncertain business; and one which is not likely to pay us or
anyone round here."

"But why not let some company manage it, as they manage railways,
and gas, and other things?"

"Ah--you have been overhearing a good deal about companies of
late, I see. But this I will tell you; that when you grow up, and
have a vote and influence, it will be your duty, if you intend to
be a good citizen, not only not to put the water-supply of England
into the hands of fresh companies, but to help to take out of
their hands what water-supply they manage already, especially in
London; and likewise the gas-supply; and the railroads; and
everything else, in a word, which everybody uses, and must use.
For you must understand--at least as soon as you can--that though
the men who make up companies are no worse than other men, and
some of them, as you ought to know, very good men; yet what they
have to look to is their profits; and the less water they supply,
and the worse it is, the more profit they make. For most water, I
am sorry to say, is fouled before the water companies can get to
it, as this water which runs past us will be, and as the Thames
water above London is. Therefore it has to be cleansed, or partly
cleansed, at a very great expense. So water companies have to be
inspected--in plain English, watched--at a very heavy expense to
the nation by Government officers; and compelled to do their best,
and take their utmost care. And so it has come to pass that the
London water is not now nearly as bad as some of it was thirty
years ago, when it was no more fit to drink than that in the
cattle-yard tank. But still we must have more water, and better,
in London; for it is growing year by year. There are more than
three millions of people already in what we call London; and ere
you are an old man there may be between four and five millions.
Now to supply all these people with water is a duty which we must
not leave to any private companies. It must be done by a public
authority, as is fit and proper in a free self-governing country.
In this matter, as in all others, we will try to do what the Royal
Commission told us four years ago we ought to do. I hope that you
will see, though I may not, the day when what we call London, but
which is really nine-tenths of it, only a great nest of separate
villages huddled together, will be divided into three great self-
governing cities, London, Westminster, and Southwark; each with
its own corporation, like that of the venerable and well-governed
city of London; each managing its own water-supply, gas-supply,
and sewage, and other matters besides; and managing them, like
Dublin, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, and other great northern
towns, far more cheaply and far better than any companies can do
it for them."

"But where shall we get water enough for all these millions of
people? There are no mountains near London. But we might give
them the water off our moors."

"No, no, my boy,

"He that will not when he may,
When he will, he shall have nay.

Some fifteen years ago the Londoners might have had water from us;
and I was one of those who did my best to get it for them: but
the water companies did not choose to take it; and now this part
of England is growing so populous and so valuable that it wants
all its little rainfall for itself. So there is another leaf torn
out of the Sibylline books for the poor old water companies. You
do not understand: you will some day. But you may comfort
yourself about London. For it happens to be, I think, the
luckiest city in the world; and if it had not been, we should have
had pestilence on pestilence in it, as terrible as the great
plague of Charles II.'s time. The old Britons, without knowing in
the least what they were doing, settled old London city in the
very centre of the most wonderful natural reservoir in this
island, or perhaps in all Europe; which reaches from Kent into
Wiltshire, and round again into Suffolk; and that is, the dear old
chalk downs."

"Why, they are always dry."

"Yes. But the turf on them never burns up, and the streams which
flow through them never run dry, and seldom or never flood either.
Do you not know, from Winchester, that that is true? Then where
is all the rain and snow gone, which falls on them year by year,
but into the chalk itself, and into the green-sands, too, below
the chalk? There it is, soaked up as by a sponge, in quantity
incalculable; enough, some think, to supply London, let it grow as
huge as it may. I wish I too were sure of that. But the
Commission has shown itself so wise and fair, and brave likewise--
too brave, I am sorry to say, for some who might have supported
them--that it is not for me to gainsay their opinion."

"But if there was not water enough in the chalk, are not the
Londoners rich enough to bring it from any distance?"

"My boy, in this also we will agree with the Commission--that we
ought not to rob Peter to pay Paul, and take water to a distance
which other people close at hand may want. Look at the map of
England and southern Scotland; and see for yourself what is just,
according to geography and nature. There are four mountain-
ranges; four great water-fields. First, the hills of the Border.
Their rainfall ought to be stored for the Lothians and the extreme
north of England. Then the Yorkshire and Derbyshire Hills--the
central chine of England. Their rainfall is being stored already,
to the honour of the shrewd northern men, for the manufacturing
counties east and west of the hills. Then come the Lake
mountains--the finest water-field of all, because more rain by far
falls there than in any place in England. But they will be wanted
to supply Lancashire, and some day Liverpool itself; for Liverpool
is now using rain which belongs more justly to other towns; and
besides, there are plenty of counties and towns, down into
Cheshire, which would be glad of what water Lancashire does not
want. At last come the Snowdon mountains, a noble water-field,
which I know well; for an old dream of mine has been, that ere I
died I should see all the rain of the Carnedds, and the Glyders,
and Siabod, and Snowdon itself, carried across the Conway river to
feed the mining districts of North Wales, where the streams are
now all foul with oil and lead; and then on into the western coal
and iron fields, to Wolverhampton and Birmingham itself: and if I
were the engineer who got that done, I should be happier--prouder
I dare not say--than if I had painted nobler pictures than
Raffaelle, or written nobler plays than Shakespeare. I say that,
boy, in most deliberate earnest. But meanwhile, do you not see
that in districts where coal and iron may be found, and fresh
manufactures may spring up any day in any place, each district has
a right to claim the nearest rainfall for itself? And now, when
we have got the water into its proper place, let us see what we
shall do with it."

"But why do you say 'we'? Can you and I do all this?"

"My boy, are not you and I free citizens; part of the people, the
Commons--as the good old word runs--of this country? And are we
not--or ought we not to be in time--beside that, educated men? By
the people, remember, I mean, not only the hand-working man who
has just got a vote; I mean the clergy of all denominations; and
the gentlemen of the press; and last, but not least, the
scientific men. If those four classes together were to tell every
government--'Free water we will have, and as much as we reasonably
choose;' and tell every candidate for the House of Commons:
'Unless you promise to get us as much free water as we reasonably
choose, we will not return you to Parliament:' then, I think, we
four should put such a 'pressure' on Government as no water
companies, or other vested interests, could long resist. And if
any of those four classes should hang back, and waste their time
and influence over matters far less important and less pressing,
the other three must laugh at them, and more than laugh at them;
and ask them: 'Why have you education, why have you influence,
why have you votes, why are you freemen and not slaves, if not to
preserve the comfort, the decency, the health, the lives of men,
women, and children--most of those latter your own wives and your
own children?'"

"But what shall we do with the water?"

"Well, after all, that is a more practical matter than
speculations grounded on the supposition that all classes will do
their duty. But the first thing we will do will be to give to the
very poorest houses a constant supply, at high pressure; so that
everybody may take as much water as he likes, instead of having to
keep the water in little cisterns, where it gets foul and putrid
only too often."

"But will they not waste it then?"

"So far from it, wherever the water has been laid on at high
pressure, the waste, which is terrible now--some say that in
London one-third of the water is wasted--begins to lessen; and
both water and expense are saved. If you will only think, you
will see one reason why. If a woman leaves a high-pressure tap
running, she will flood her place and her neighbour's too. She
will be like the magician's servant, who called up the demon to
draw water for him; and so he did: but when he had begun he would
not stop, and if the magician had not come home, man and house
would have been washed away."

"But if it saves money, why do not the water companies do it?"

"Because--and really here there are many excuses for the poor old
water companies, when so many of them swerve and gib at the very
mention of constant water-supply, like a poor horse set to draw a
load which he feels is too heavy for him--because, to keep
everything in order among dirty, careless, and often drunken
people, there must be officers with lawful authority--water-
policemen we will call them--who can enter people's houses when
they will, and if they find anything wrong with the water, set it
to rights with a high hand, and even summon the people who have
set it wrong. And that is a power which, in a free country, must
never be given to the servants of any private company, but only to
the officers of a corporation or of the Government."

"And what shall we do with the rest of the water?"

"Well, we shall have, I believe, so much to spare that we may at
least do this: In each district of each city, and the centre of
each town, we may build public baths and lavatories, where poor
men and women may get their warm baths when they will; for now
they usually never bathe at all, because they will not--and ought
not, if they be hard-worked folk--bathe in cold water during nine
months of the year. And there they shall wash their clothes, and
dry them by steam; instead of washing them as now, at home, either
under back sheds, where they catch cold and rheumatism, or too
often, alas! in their own living rooms, in an atmosphere of foul
vapour, which drives the father to the public-house and the
children into the streets; and which not only prevents the clothes
from being thoroughly dried again, but is, my dear boy, as you
will know when you are older, a very hot-bed of disease. And they
shall have other comforts, and even luxuries, these public
lavatories; and be made, in time, graceful and refining, as well
as merely useful. Nay, we will even, I think, have in front of
each of them a real fountain; not like the drinking-fountains--
though they are great and needful boons--which you see here and
there about the streets, with a tiny dribble of water to a great
deal of expensive stone: but real fountains, which shall leap,
and sparkle, and plash, and gurgle; and fill the place with life,
and light, and coolness; and sing in the people's ears the
sweetest of all earthly songs--save the song of a mother over her
child--the song of 'The Laughing Water.'"

"But will not that be a waste?"

"Yes, my boy. And for that very reason, I think we, the people,
will have our fountains; if it be but to make our governments, and
corporations, and all public bodies and officers, remember that
they all--save Her Majesty the Queen--are our servants, and not we
theirs; and that we choose to have water, not only to wash with,
but to play with, if we like. And I believe--for the world, as
you will find, is full not only of just but of generous souls--
that if the water-supply were set really right, there would be
found, in many a city, many a generous man who, over and above his
compulsory water-rate, would give his poor fellow-townsmen such a
real fountain as those which ennoble the great square at
Carcasonne and the great square at Nismes; to be 'a thing of
beauty and a joy for ever.'"

"And now, if you want to go back to your Latin and Greek, you
shall translate for me into Latin--I do not expect you to do it
into Greek, though it would turn very well into Greek, for the
Greeks know all about the matter long before the Romans--what
follows here; and you shall verify the facts and the names, etc.,
in it from your dictionaries of antiquity and biography, that you
may remember all the better what it says. And by that time, I
think, you will have learnt something more useful to yourself,
and, I hope, to your country hereafter, than if you had learnt to
patch together the neatest Greek and Latin verses which have
appeared since the days of Mr. Canning."

* * *

I have often amused myself, by fancying one question which an old
Roman emperor would ask, were he to rise from his grave and visit
the sights of London under the guidance of some minister of state.
The august shade would, doubtless, admire our railroads and
bridges, our cathedrals and our public parks, and much more of
which we need not be ashamed. But after awhile, I think, he would
look round, whether in London or in most of our great cities,
inquiringly and in vain, for one class of buildings, which in his
empire were wont to be almost as conspicuous and as splendid,
because, in public opinion, almost as necessary, as the basilicas
and temples: "And where," he would ask, "are your public baths?"
And if the minister of state who was his guide should answer: "Oh
great Caesar, I really do not know. I believe there are some
somewhere at the back of that ugly building which we call the
National Gallery; and I think there have been some meetings lately
in the East End, and an amateur concert at the Albert Hall, for
restoring, by private subscriptions, some baths and wash-houses in
Bethnal Green, which had fallen to decay. And there may be two or
three more about the metropolis; for parish vestries have powers
by Act of Parliament to establish such places, if they think fit,
and choose to pay for them out of the rates." Then, I think, the
august shade might well make answer: "We used to call you, in old
Rome, northern barbarians. It seems that you have not lost all
your barbarian habits. Are you aware that, in every city in the
Roman empire, there were, as a matter of course, public baths
open, not only to the poorest freeman, but to the slave, usually
for the payment of the smallest current coin, and often
gratuitously? Are you aware that in Rome itself, millionaire
after millionaire, emperor after emperor, from Menenius Agrippa
and Nero down to Diocletian and Constantine, built baths, and yet
more baths; and connected with them gymnasia for exercise,
lecture-rooms, libraries, and porticoes, wherein the people might
have shade, and shelter, and rest? I remark, by-the-bye, that I
have not seen in all your London a single covered place in which
the people may take shelter during a shower. Are you aware that
these baths were of the most magnificent architecture, decorated
with marbles, paintings, sculptures, fountains, what not? And yet
I had heard, in Hades down below, that you prided yourselves here
on the study of the learned languages; and, indeed, taught little
but Greek and Latin at your public schools?"

Then, if the minister should make reply: "Oh yes, we know all
this. Even since the revival of letters in the end of the
fifteenth century a whole literature has been written--a great
deal of it, I fear, by pedants who seldom washed even their hands
and faces--about your Greek and Roman baths. We visit their
colossal ruins in Italy and elsewhere with awe and admiration; and
the discovery of a new Roman bath in any old city of our isles
sets all our antiquaries buzzing with interest."

"Then why," the shade might ask, "do you not copy an example which
you so much admire? Surely England must be much in want, either
of water, or of fuel to heat it with?"

"On the contrary, our rainfall is almost too great; our soil so
damp that we have had to invent a whole art of subsoil drainage
unknown to you; while, as for fuel, our coal-mines make us the
great fuel-exporting people of the world."

What a quiet sneer might curl the lip of a Constantine as he
replied: "Not in vain, as I said, did we call you, some fifteen
hundred years ago, the barbarians of the north. But tell me, good
barbarian, whom I know to be both brave and wise--for the fame of
your young British empire has reached us even in the realms below,
and we recognise in you, with all respect, a people more like us
Romans than any which has appeared on earth for many centuries--
how is it you have forgotten that sacred duty of keeping the
people clean, which you surely at one time learnt from us? When
your ancestors entered our armies, and rose, some of them, to be
great generals, and even emperors, like those two Teuton peasants,
Justin and Justinian, who, long after my days, reigned in my own
Constantinople: then, at least, you saw baths, and used them; and
felt, after the bath, that you were civilised men, and not
'sordidi ac foetentes,' as we used to call you when fresh out of
your bullock-waggons and cattle-pens. How is it that you have
forgotten that lesson?"

The minister, I fear, would have to answer that our ancestors were
barbarous enough, not only to destroy the Roman cities, and
temples, and basilicas, and statues, but the Roman baths likewise;
and then retired, each man to his own freehold in the country, to
live a life not much more cleanly or more graceful than that of
the swine which were his favourite food. But he would have a
right to plead, as an excuse, that not only in England, but
throughout the whole of the conquered Latin empire, the Latin
priesthood, who, in some respects, were--to their honour--the
representatives of Roman civilisation and the protectors of its
remnants, were the determined enemies of its cleanliness; that
they looked on personal dirt--like the old hermits of the Thebaid-
-as a sign of sanctity; and discouraged--as they are said to do
still in some of the Romance countries of Europe--the use of the
bath, as not only luxurious, but also indecent.

At which answer, it seems to me, another sneer might curl the lip
of the august shade, as he said to himself: "This, at least, I
did not expect, when I made Christianity the state religion of my
empire. But you, good barbarian, look clean enough. You do not
look on dirt as a sign of sanctity?"

"On the contrary, sire, the upper classes of our empire boast of
being the cleanliest--perhaps the only perfectly cleanly--people
in the world: except, of course, the savages of the South Seas.
And dirt is so far from being a thing which we admire, that our
scientific men--than whom the world has never seen wiser--have
proved to us, for a whole generation past, that dirt is the
fertile cause of disease and drunkenness, misery, and

"And, therefore," replies the shade, ere he disappears, "of
discontent and revolution: followed by a tyranny endured, as in
Rome and many another place, by men once free; because tyranny
will at least do for them what they are too lazy, and cowardly,
and greedy, to do for themselves. Farewell, and prosper; as you
seem likely to prosper, on the whole. But if you wish me to
consider you a civilised nation: let me hear that you have
brought a great river from the depths of the earth, be they a
thousand fathoms deep, or from your nearest mountains, be they
five hundred miles away; and have washed out London's dirt--and
your own shame. Till then, abstain from judging too harshly a
Constantine, or even a Caracalla; for they, whatever were their
sins, built baths, and kept their people clean. But do your
gymnasia--your schools and universities, teach your youth naught
about all this?"


The more I have contemplated that ancient story of the Fall, the
more it has seemed to me within the range of probability, and even
of experience. It must have happened somewhere for the first
time; for it has happened only too many times since. It has
happened, as far as I can ascertain, in every race, and every age,
and every grade of civilisation. It is happening round us now in
every region of the globe. Always and everywhere, it seems to me,
have poor human beings been tempted to eat of some "tree of
knowledge," that they may be, even for an hour, as gods; wise, but
with a false wisdom; careless, but with a frantic carelessness;
and happy, but with a happiness which, when the excitement is
past, leaves too often--as with that hapless pair in Eden--
depression, shame, and fear. Everywhere, and in all ages, as far
as I can ascertain, has man been inventing stimulants and
narcotics to supply that want of vitality of which he is so
painfully aware; and has asked nature, and not God, to clear the
dull brain, and comfort the weary spirit.

This has been, and will be perhaps for many a century to come,
almost the most fearful failing of this poor, exceptional, over-
organised, diseased, and truly fallen being called Man, who is in
doubt daily whether he be a god or an ape; and in trying wildly to
become the former, ends but too often in becoming the latter.

For man, whether savage or civilised, feels, and has felt in every
age, that there is something wrong with him. He usually confesses
this fact--as is to be expected--of his fellow-men, rather than of
himself; and shows his sense that there is something wrong with
them by complaining of, hating, and killing them. But he cannot
always conceal from himself the fact that he, too, is wrong, as
well as they; and as he will not usually kill himself, he tries
wild ways to make himself at least feel--if not to be--somewhat
"better." Philosophers may bid him be content; and tell him that
he is what he ought to be, and what nature has made him. But he
cares nothing for the philosophers. He knows, usually, that he is
not what he ought to be; that he carries about with him, in most
cases, a body more or less diseased and decrepit, incapable of
doing all the work which he feels that he himself could do, or
expressing all the emotions which he himself longs to express; a
dull brain and dull senses, which cramp the eager infinity within
him; as--so Goethe once said with pity--the horse's single hoof
cramps the fine intelligence and generosity of his nature, and
forbids him even to grasp an object, like the more stupid cat, and
baser monkey. And man has a self, too, within, from which he
longs too often to escape, as from a household ghost; who pulls
out, at unfortunately rude and unwelcome hours, the ledger of
memory. And so when the tempter--be he who he may--says to him,
"Take this, and you will 'feel better.' Take this, and you shall
be as gods, knowing good and evil:" then, if the temptation was,
as the old story says, too much for man while healthy and
unfallen, what must it be for his unhealthy and fallen children?

In vain we say to man:

'Tis life, not death, for which you pant;
'Tis life, whereof your nerves are scant;
More life, and fuller, that you want.

And your tree of knowledge is not the tree of life: it is in
every case, the tree of death; of decrepitude, madness, misery.
He prefers the voice of the tempter: "Thou shalt not surely die."
Nay, he will say at last: "Better be as gods awhile, and die:
than be the crawling, insufficient thing I am; and live."

He--did I say? Alas! I must say she likewise. The sacred story
is only too true to fact, when it represents the woman as falling,
not merely at the same time as the man, but before the man. Only
let us remember that it represents the woman as tempted; tempted,
seemingly, by a rational being, of lower race, and yet of superior
cunning; who must, therefore, have fallen before the woman. Who
or what the being was, who is called the Serpent in our
translation of Genesis, it is not for me to say. We have
absolutely, I think, no facts from which to judge; and Rabbinical
traditions need trouble no man much. But I fancy that a
missionary, preaching on this story to Negroes; telling them
plainly that the "Serpent" meant the first Obeah man; and then
comparing the experiences of that hapless pair in Eden, with their
own after certain orgies not yet extinct in Africa and elsewhere,
would be only too well understood: so well, indeed, that he might
run some risk of eating himself, not of the tree of life, but of
that of death. The sorcerer or sorceress tempting the woman; and
then the woman tempting the man; this seems to be, certainly among
savage peoples, and, alas! too often among civilised peoples also,
the usual course of the world-wide tragedy.

But--paradoxical as it may seem--the woman's yielding before the
man is not altogether to her dishonour, as those old monks used to
allege who hated, and too often tortured, the sex whom they could
not enjoy. It is not to the woman's dishonour, if she felt,
before her husband, higher aspirations than those after mere
animal pleasure. To be as gods, knowing good and evil, is a vain
and foolish, but not a base and brutal, wish. She proved herself
thereby--though at an awful cost--a woman, and not an animal. And
indeed the woman's more delicate organisation, her more vivid
emotions, her more voluble fancy, as well as her mere physical
weakness and weariness, have been to her, in all ages, a special
source of temptation; which it is to her honour that she has
resisted so much better than the physically stronger, and
therefore more culpable, man.

As for what the tree of knowledge was, there really is no need for
us to waste our time in guessing. If it was not one plant, then
it was another. It may have been something which has long since
perished off the earth. It may have been--as some learned men
have guessed--the sacred Soma, or Homa, of the early Brahmin race;
and that may have been a still existing narcotic species of
Asclepias. It certainly was not the vine. The language of the
Hebrew Scripture concerning it, and the sacred use to which it is
consecrated in the Gospels, forbid that notion utterly; at least
to those who know enough of antiquity to pass by, with a smile,
the theory that the wines mentioned in Scripture were not
intoxicating. And yet--as a fresh corroboration of what I am
trying to say--how fearfully has that noble gift to man been
abused for the same end as a hundred other vegetable products,
ever since those mythic days when Dionusos brought the vine from
the far East, amid troops of human Maenads and half-human Satyrs;
and the Bacchae tore Pentheus in pieces on Cithaeron, for daring
to intrude upon their sacred rites; and since those historic days,
too, when, less than two hundred years before the Christian era,
the Bacchic rites spread from Southern Italy into Etruria, and
thence to the matrons of Rome; and under the guidance of Poenia
Annia, a Campanian lady, took at last shapes of which no man must
speak, but which had to be put down with terrible but just
severity, by the Consuls and the Senate.

But it matters little, I say, what this same tree of knowledge
was. Was every vine on earth destroyed to-morrow, and every
vegetable also from which alcohol is now distilled, man would soon
discover something else wherewith to satisfy the insatiate
craving. Has he not done so already? Has not almost every people
had its tree of knowledge, often more deadly than any distilled
liquor, from the absinthe of the cultivated Frenchman, and the
opium of the cultivated Chinese, down to the bush-poisons
wherewith the tropic sorcerer initiates his dupes into the
knowledge of good and evil, and the fungus from which the Samoiede
extracts in autumn a few days of brutal happiness, before the
setting in of the long six months' night? God grant that modern
science may not bring to light fresh substitutes for alcohol,
opium, and the rest; and give the white races, in that state of
effeminate and godless quasi-civilisation which I sometimes fear
is creeping upon them, fresh means of destroying themselves
delicately and pleasantly off the face of the earth.

It is said by some that drunkenness is on the increase in this
island. I have no trusty proof of it: but I can believe it
possible; for every cause of drunkenness seems on the increase.
Overwork of body and mind; circumstances which depress health;
temptation to drink, and drink again, at every corner of the
streets; and finally, money, and ever more money, in the hands of
uneducated people, who have not the desire, and too often not the
means, of spending it in any save the lowest pleasures. These, it
seems to me, are the true causes of drunkenness, increasing or
not. And if we wish to become a more temperate nation, we must
lessen them, if we cannot eradicate them.

First, overwork. We all live too fast, and work too hard. "All
things are full of labour, man cannot utter it." In the heavy
struggle for existence which goes on all around us, each man is
tasked more and more--if he be really worth buying and using--to
the utmost of his powers all day long. The weak have to compete
on equal terms with the strong; and crave, in consequence, for
artificial strength. How we shall stop that I know not, while
every man is "making haste to be rich, and piercing himself
through with many sorrows, and falling into foolish and hurtful
lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." How we
shall stop that, I say, I know not. The old prophet may have been
right when he said: "Surely it is not of the Lord that the people
shall labour in the very fire, and weary themselves for very
vanity;" and in some juster, wiser, more sober system of society--
somewhat more like the Kingdom of The Father come on earth--it may
be that poor human beings will not need to toil so hard, and to
keep themselves up to their work by stimulants, but will have time
to sit down, and look around them, and think of God, and God's
quiet universe, with something of quiet in themselves; something
of rational leisure, and manful sobriety of mind, as well as of

But it seems to me also, that in such a state of society, when--as
it was once well put--"every one has stopped running about like
rats:"--that those who work hard, whether with muscle or with
brain, would not be surrounded, as now, with every circumstance
which tempts toward drink; by every circumstance which depresses
the vital energies, and leaves them an easy prey to pestilence
itself; by bad light, bad air, bad food, bad water, bad smells,
bad occupations, which weaken the muscles, cramp the chest,
disorder the digestion. Let any rational man, fresh from the
country--in which I presume God, having made it, meant all men,
more or less, to live--go through the back streets of any city, or
through whole districts of the "black countries" of England; and
then ask himself: Is it the will of God that His human children
should live and toil in such dens, such deserts, such dark places
of the earth? Lot him ask himself: Can they live and toil there
without contracting a probably diseased habit of body; without
contracting a certainly dull, weary, sordid habit of mind, which
craves for any pleasure, however brutal, to escape from its own
stupidity and emptiness? When I run through, by rail, certain
parts of the iron-producing country--streets of furnaces,
collieries, slag heaps, mud, slop, brick house-rows, smoke, dirt--
and that is all; and when I am told, whether truly or falsely,
that the main thing which the well-paid and well-fed men of those
abominable wastes care for is--good fighting-dogs: I can only
answer, that I am not surprised.

I say--as I have said elsewhere, and shall do my best to say it
again--that the craving for drink and narcotics, especially that
engendered in our great cities, is not a disease, but a symptom of
disease; of a far deeper disease than any which drunkenness can
produce; namely, of the growing degeneracy of a population
striving in vain by stimulants and narcotics to fight against
those slow poisons with which our greedy barbarism, miscalled
civilisation, has surrounded them from the cradle to the grave. I
may be answered that the old German, Angle, Dane, drank heavily.
I know it: but why did they drink, save for the same reason that
the fenman drank, and his wife took opium, at least till the fens
were drained? why but to keep off the depressing effects of the
malaria of swamps and new clearings, which told on them--who
always settled in the lowest grounds--in the shape of fever and
ague? Here it may be answered again that stimulants have been,
during the memory of man, the destruction of the Red Indian race
in America. I reply boldly that I do not believe it. There is
evidence enough in Jacques Cartier's "Voyages to the Rivers of
Canada;" and evidence more than enough in Strachey's "Travaile in
Virginia"--to quote only two authorities out of many--to prove
that the Red Indians, when the white man first met with them,
were, in North and South alike, a diseased, decaying, and, as all
their traditions confess, decreasing race. Such a race would
naturally crave for "the water of life," the "usquebagh," or
whisky, as we have contracted the old name now. But I should have
thought that the white man, by introducing among these poor
creatures iron, fire-arms, blankets, and above all, horses
wherewith to follow the buffalo-herds, which they could never
follow on foot, must have done ten times more towards keeping them
alive, than he has done towards destroying them by giving them the
chance of a week's drunkenness twice a year, when they came in to
his forts to sell the skins which, without his gifts, they would
never have got.

Such a race would, of course, if wanting vitality, crave for
stimulants. But if the stimulants, and not the original want of
vitality, combined with morals utterly detestable, and worthy only
of the gallows--and here I know what I say, and dare not tell what
I know, from eye-witnesses--have been the cause of the Red
Indians' extinction, then how is it, let me ask, that the Irishman
and the Scotsman have, often to their great harm, been drinking as
much whisky--and usually very bad whisky--not merely twice a year,
but as often as they could get it, during the whole Iron Age, and,
for aught anyone can tell, during the Bronze Age, and the Stone
Age before that, and yet are still the most healthy, able,
valiant, and prolific races in Europe? Had they drunk less whisky
they would, doubtless, have been more healthy, able, valiant, and
perhaps even MORE prolific, than they are now. They show no sign,
however, as yet, of going the way of the Red Indian.

But if the craving for stimulants and narcotics is a token of
deficient vitality, then the deadliest foe of that craving, and
all its miserable results, is surely the Sanatory Reformer; the
man who preaches, and--as far as ignorance and vested interests
will allow him, procures--for the masses, pure air, pure sunlight,
pure water, pure dwelling-houses, pure food. Not merely every
fresh drinking-fountain, but every fresh public bath and wash-
house, every fresh open space, every fresh growing tree, every
fresh open window, every fresh flower in that window--each of
these is so much, as the old Persians would have said, conquered
for Ormuzd, the god of light and life, out of the dominion of
Ahriman, the king of darkness and of death; so much taken from the
causes of drunkenness and disease, and added to the causes of
sobriety and health.

Meanwhile one thing is clear: that if this present barbarism and
anarchy of covetousness, miscalled modern civilisation, were tamed
and drilled into something more like a Kingdom of God on earth,
then we should not see the reckless and needless multiplication of
liquor shops, which disgraces this country now.

As a single instance: in one country parish of nine hundred
inhabitants, in which the population has increased only one-ninth
in the last fifty years, there are now practically eight public-
houses, where fifty years ago there were but two. One, that is,
for every hundred and ten--or rather, omitting children, farmers,
shop-keepers, gentlemen, and their households, one for every fifty
of the inhabitants. In the face of the allurements, often of the
basest kind, which these dens offer, the clergyman and the
schoolmaster struggle in vain to keep up night schools and young
men's clubs, and to inculcate habits of providence.

The young labourers over a great part of the south and east, at
least of England--though never so well off, for several
generations, as they are now--are growing up thriftless,
shiftless; inferior, it seems to me, to their grandfathers in
everything, save that they can usually read and write, and their
grandfathers could not; and that they wear smart cheap cloth
clothes, instead of their grandfathers' smock-frocks.

And if it be so in the country, how must it be in towns? There
must come a thorough change in the present licensing system, in
spite of all the "pressure" which certain powerful vested
interests may bring to bear on governments. And it is the duty of
every good citizen, who cares for his countrymen, and for their
children after them, to help in bringing about that change as
speedily as possible.

Again: I said just now that a probable cause of increasing
drunkenness was the increasing material prosperity of thousands
who knew no recreation beyond low animal pleasure. If I am right-
-and I believe that I am right--I must urge on those who wish
drunkenness to decrease, the necessity of providing more, and more
refined, recreation for the people.

Men drink, and women too, remember, not merely to supply
exhaustion, not merely to drive away care; but often simply to
drive away dulness. They have nothing to do save to think over
what they have done in the day, or what they expect to do to-
morrow; and they escape from that dreary round of business thought
in liquor or narcotics. There are still those, by no means of the
hand-working class, but absorbed all day by business, who drink
heavily at night in their own comfortable homes, simply to
recreate their over-burdened minds. Such cases, doubtless, are
far less common than they were fifty years ago: but why? Is not
the decrease of drinking among the richer classes certainly due to
the increased refinement and variety of their tastes and
occupations? In cultivating the aesthetic side of man's nature;
in engaging him with the beautiful, the pure, the wonderful, the
truly natural; with painting, poetry, music, horticulture,
physical science--in all this lies recreation, in the true and
literal sense of that word, namely, the re-creating and mending of
the exhausted mind and feelings, such as no rational man will now
neglect, either for himself, his children, or his workpeople.

But how little of all this is open to the masses, all should know
but too well. How little opportunity the average hand-worker, or
his wife, has of eating of any tree of knowledge, save of the very
basest kind, is but too palpable. We are mending, thank God, in
this respect. Free libraries and museums have sprung up of late
in other cities beside London. God's blessing rest upon them all.
And the Crystal Palace, and still later, the Bethnal Green Museum,
have been, I believe, of far more use than many average sermons
and lectures from many average orators.

But are we not still far behind the old Greeks, and the Romans of
the Empire likewise, in the amount of amusement and instruction,
and even of shelter, which we provide for the people? Recollect
the--to me--disgraceful fact, that there is not, as far as I am
aware, throughout the whole of London, a single portico or other
covered place, in which the people can take refuge during a
shower: and this in the climate of England! Where they do take
refuge on a wet day the publican knows but too well; as he knows
also where thousands of the lower classes, simply for want of any
other place to be in, save their own sordid dwellings, spend as
much as they are permitted of the Sabbath day. Let us put down
"Sunday drinking" by all means, if we can. But let us remember
that by closing the public-houses on Sunday, we prevent no man or
woman from carrying home as much poison as they choose on Saturday
night, to brutalise themselves therewith, perhaps for eight-and-
forty hours. And let us see--in the name of Him who said that He
had made the Sabbath for man, and not man for the Sabbath--let us
see, I say, if we cannot do something to prevent the townsman's
Sabbath being, not a day of rest, but a day of mere idleness; the
day of most temptation, because of most dulness, of the whole

And here, perhaps some sweet soul may look up reprovingly and say:
"He talks of rest. Does he forget, and would he have the working
man forget, that all these outward palliatives will never touch
the seat of the disease, the unrest of the soul within? Does he
forget, and would he have the working man forget, who it was who
said--who only has the right to say: "Come unto Me, all ye who
are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest"? Ah no,
sweet soul. I know your words are true. I know that what we all
want is inward rest; rest of heart and brain; the calm, strong,
self-contained, self-denying character; which needs no stimulants,
for it has no fits of depression; which needs no narcotics, for it
has no fits of excitement; which needs no ascetic restraints, for
it is strong enough to use God's gifts without abusing them; the
character, in a word, which is truly temperate, not in drink or
food merely, but in all desires, thoughts, and actions; freed from
the wild lusts and ambitions to which that old Adam yielded, and,
seeking for light and life by means forbidden, found thereby
disease and death. Yes, I know that; and know, too, that that
rest is found only where you have already found it.

And yet, in such a world as this, governed by a Being who has made
sunshine, and flowers, and green grass, and the song of birds, and
happy human smiles, and who would educate by them--if we would let
Him--His human children from the cradle to the grave; in such a
world as this, will you grudge any particle of that education,
even any harmless substitute for it, to those spirits in prison
whose surroundings too often tempt them, from the cradle to the
grave, to fancy that the world is composed of bricks and iron, and
governed by inspectors and policemen? Preach to those spirits in
prison, as you know far better than we parsons how to preach; but
let them have besides some glimpses of the splendid fact, that
outside their prison-house is a world which God, not man, has
made; wherein grows everywhere that tree of knowledge, which is
likewise the tree of life; and that they have a right to some
small share of its beauty, and its wonder, and its rest, for their
own health of soul and body, and for the health of their children
after them.


The pleasure, gentlemen and ladies, of addressing you here is
mixed in my mind with very solemn feelings; the honour which you
have done me is tempered by humiliating thoughts.

For it was in this very city of Bristol, twenty-seven years ago,
that I received my first lesson in what is now called Social
Science; and yet, alas! more than ten years elapsed ere I could
even spell out that lesson, though it had been written for me (as
well as for all England) in letters of flame, from the one end of
heaven to the other.

I was a school-boy in Clifton up above. I had been hearing of
political disturbances, even of riots, of which I understood
nothing, and for which I cared nothing. But on one memorable
Sunday afternoon I saw an object which was distinctly not
political. Otherwise I should have no right to speak of it here.

It was an afternoon of sullen autumn rain. The fog hung thick

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