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Selections from the Prose Works of Matthew Arnold by Matthew Arnold

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which says, as Bishop Wilson has admirably put it, that "to promote the
kingdom of God is to increase and hasten one's own happiness."[394]

But, finally, perfection,--as culture from a thorough disinterested
study of human nature and human experience learns to conceive it,--is a
harmonious expansion of _all_ the powers which make the beauty and worth
of human nature, and is not consistent with the over-development of any
one power at the expense of the rest. Here culture goes beyond religion
as religion is generally conceived by us.

If culture, then, is a study of perfection, and of harmonious
perfection, general perfection, and perfection which consists in
becoming something rather than in having something, in an inward
condition of the mind and spirit, not in an outward set of
circumstances,--it is clear that culture, instead or being the
frivolous and useless thing which Mr. Bright,[395] and Mr. Frederic
Harrison,[396] and many other Liberals are apt to call it, has a very
important function to fulfil for mankind. And this function is
particularly important in our modern world, of which the whole
civilization is, to a much greater degree than the civilization of
Greece and Rome, mechanical and external, and tends constantly to become
more so. But above all in our own country has culture a weighty part to
perform, because here that mechanical character, which civilization
tends to take everywhere, is shown in the most eminent degree. Indeed
nearly all the characters of perfection, as culture teaches us to fix
them, meet in this country with some powerful tendency which thwarts
them and sets them at defiance. The idea of perfection as an _inward_
condition of the mind and spirit is at variance with the mechanical and
material civilization in esteem with us, and nowhere, as I have said, so
much in esteem as with us. The idea of perfection as a _general_
expansion of the human family is at variance with our strong
individualism, our hatred of all limits to the unrestrained swing of the
individual's personality, our maxim of "every man for himself." Above
all, the idea of perfection as a _harmonious_ expansion of human nature
is at variance with our want of flexibility, with our inaptitude for
seeing more than one side of a thing, with our intense energetic
absorption in the particular pursuit we happen to be following. So
culture has a rough task to achieve in this country. Its preachers have,
and are likely long to have, a hard time of it, and they will much
oftener be regarded, for a great while to come, as elegant or spurious
Jeremiahs than as friends and benefactors. That, however, will not
prevent their doing in the end good service if they persevere. And,
meanwhile, the mode of action they have to pursue, and the sort of
habits they must fight against, ought to be made quite clear for every
one to see, who may be willing to look at the matter attentively and

Faith in machinery is, I said, our besetting danger; often in machinery
most absurdly disproportioned to the end which this machinery, if it is
to do any good at all, is to serve; but always in machinery, as if it
had a value in and for itself. What is freedom but machinery? what is
population but machinery? what is coal but machinery? what are railroads
but machinery? what is wealth but machinery? what are, even, religious
organizations but machinery? Now almost every voice in England is
accustomed to speak of these things as if they were precious ends in
themselves, and therefore had some of the characters of perfection
indisputably joined to them. I have before now noticed Mr.
Roebuck's[397] stock argument for proving the greatness and happiness of
England as she is, and for quite stopping the mouths of all gainsayers.
Mr. Roebuck is never weary of reiterating this argument of his, so I do
not know why I should be weary of noticing it. "May not every man in
England say what he likes?"--Mr. Roebuck perpetually asks: and that, he
thinks, is quite sufficient, and when every man may say what he likes,
our aspirations ought to be satisfied. But the aspirations of culture,
which is the study of perfection, are not satisfied, unless what men
say, when they may say what they like, is worth saying,--has good in
it, and more good than bad. In the same way the _Times_, replying to
some foreign strictures on the dress, looks, and behavior of the English
abroad, urges that the English ideal is that every one should be free to
do and to look just as he likes. But culture indefatigably tries, not to
make what each raw person may like, the rule by which he fashions
himself; but to draw ever nearer to a sense of what is indeed beautiful,
graceful, and becoming, and to get the raw person to like that.

And in the same way with respect to railroads and coal. Every one must
have observed the strange language current during the late discussions
as to the possible failure of our supplies of coal. Our coal, thousands
of people were saying, is the real basis of our national greatness; if
our coal runs short, there is an end of the greatness of England. But
what _is_ greatness?--culture makes us ask. Greatness is a spiritual
condition worthy to excite love, interest, and admiration; and the
outward proof of possessing greatness is that we excite love, interest,
and admiration. If England were swallowed up by the sea to-morrow, which
of the two, a hundred years hence, would most excite the love, interest,
and admiration of mankind,--would most, therefore, show the evidences of
having possessed greatness,--the England of the last twenty years, or
the England of Elizabeth, of a time of splendid spiritual effort, but
when our coal, and our industrial operations depending on coal, were
very little developed? Well, then, what an unsound habit of mind it must
be which makes us talk of things like coal or iron as constituting the
greatness of England, and how salutary a friend is culture, bent on
seeing things as they are, and thus dissipating delusions of this kind
and fixing standards of perfection that are real!

Wealth, again, that end to which our prodigious works for material
advantage are directed,--the commonest of commonplaces tells us how men
are always apt to regard wealth as a precious end in itself: and
certainly they have never been so apt thus to regard it as they are in
England at the present time. Never did people believe anything more
firmly than nine Englishmen out of ten at the present day believe that
our greatness and welfare are proved by our being so very rich. Now, the
use of culture is that it helps us, by means of its spiritual standard
of perfection, to regard wealth as but machinery, and not only to say as
a matter of words that we regard wealth as but machinery, but really to
perceive and feel that it is so. If it were not for this purging effect
wrought upon our minds by culture, the whole world, the future as well
as the present, would inevitably belong to the Philistines. The people
who believe most that our greatness and welfare are proved by our being
very rich, and who most give their lives and thoughts to becoming rich,
are just the very people whom we call Philistines. Culture says:
"Consider these people, then, their way of life, their habits, their
manners, the very tones of their voice; look at them attentively;
observe the literature they read, the things which give them pleasure,
the words which come forth out of their mouths, the thoughts which make
the furniture of their minds; would any amount of wealth be worth having
with the condition that one was to become just like these people by
having it?" And thus culture begets a dissatisfaction which is of the
highest possible value in stemming the common tide of men's thoughts in
a wealthy and industrial community, and which saves the future, as one
may hope, from being vulgarized, even if it cannot save the present.

Population, again, and bodily health and vigor, are things which are
nowhere treated in such an unintelligent, misleading, exaggerated way as
in England. Both are really machinery; yet how many people all around us
do we see rest in them and fail to look beyond them! Why, one has heard
people, fresh from reading certain articles of the _Times_ on the
Registrar-General's returns of marriages and births in this country, who
would talk of our large English families in quite a solemn strain, as if
they had something in itself beautiful, elevating, and meritorious in
them; as if the British Philistine would have only to present himself
before the Great Judge with his twelve children, in order to be received
among the sheep as a matter of right!

But bodily health and vigor, it may be said, are not to be classed with
wealth and population as mere machinery; they have a more real and
essential value. True; but only as they are more intimately connected
with a perfect spiritual condition than wealth or population are. The
moment we disjoin them from the idea of a perfect spiritual condition,
and pursue them, as we do pursue them, for their own sake and as ends in
themselves, our worship of them becomes as mere worship of machinery, as
our worship of wealth or population, and as unintelligent and
vulgarizing a worship as that is. Every one with anything like an
adequate idea of human perfection has distinctly marked this
subordination to higher and spiritual ends of the cultivation of bodily
vigor and activity. "Bodily exercise profiteth little; but godliness is
profitable unto all things,"[398] says the author of the Epistle to
Timothy. And the utilitarian Franklin says just as explicitly:--"Eat and
drink such an exact quantity as suits the constitution of thy body, _in
reference to the services of the mind_."[399] But the point of view of
culture, keeping the mark of human perfection simply and broadly in
view, and not assigning to this perfection, as religion or
utilitarianism assigns to it, a special and limited character, this
point of view, I say, of culture is best given by these words of
Epictetus: "It is a sign of[Greek: aphuia]," says he,--that is, of a
nature not finely tempered,--"to give yourselves up to things which
relate to the body; to make, for instance, a great fuss about exercise,
a great fuss about eating, a great fuss about drinking, a great fuss
about walking, a great fuss about riding. All these things ought to be
done merely by the way: the formation of the spirit and character must
be our real concern."[400] This is admirable; and, indeed, the Greek
word[Greek: euphuia], a finely tempered nature, gives exactly the
notion of perfection as culture brings us to conceive it: a harmonious
perfection, a perfection in which the characters of beauty and
intelligence are both present, which unites "the two noblest of
things,"--as Swift, who of one of the two, at any rate, had himself all
too little, most happily calls them in his _Battle of the Books_,--"the
two noblest of things, _sweetness and light_."[401] The[Greek:
euphuaes] is the man who tends towards sweetness and light; the[Greek:
aphuaes], on the other hand, is our Philistine. The immense spiritual
significance of the Greeks is due to their having been inspired with
this central and happy idea of the essential character of human
perfection; and Mr. Bright's misconception of culture, as a smattering
of Greek and Latin, comes itself, after all, from this wonderful
significance of the Greeks having affected the very machinery of our
education, and is in itself a kind of homage to it.

In thus making sweetness and light to be characters of perfection,
culture is of like spirit with poetry, follows one law with poetry. Far
more than on our freedom, our population, and our industrialism, many
amongst us rely upon our religious organizations to save us. I have
called religion a yet more important manifestation of human nature than
poetry, because it has worked on a broader scale for perfection, and
with greater masses of men. But the idea of beauty and of a human nature
perfect on all its sides, which is the dominant idea of poetry, is a
true and invaluable idea, though it has not yet had the success that the
idea of conquering the obvious faults of our animality, and of a human
nature perfect on the moral side,--which is the dominant idea of
religion,--has been enabled to have; and it is destined, adding to
itself the religious idea of a devout energy, to transform and govern
the other.

The best art and poetry of the Greeks, in which religion and poetry are
one, in which the idea of beauty and of a human nature perfect on all
sides adds to itself a religious and devout energy, and works in the
strength of that, is on this account of such surpassing interest and
instructiveness for us, though it was,--as, having regard to the human
race in general, and, indeed, having regard to the Greeks themselves, we
must own,--a premature attempt, an attempt which for success needed the
moral and religious fibre in humanity to be more braced and developed
than it had yet been. But Greece did not err in having the idea of
beauty, harmony, and complete human perfection, so present and
paramount. It is impossible to have this idea too present and paramount;
only, the moral fibre must be braced too. And we, because we have braced
the moral fibre, are not on that account in the right way, if at the
same time the idea of beauty, harmony, and complete human perfection, is
wanting or misapprehended amongst us; and evidently it _is_ wanting or
misapprehended at present. And when we rely as we do on our religious
organizations, which in themselves do not and cannot give us this idea,
and think we have done enough if we make them spread and prevail, then,
I say, we fall into our common fault of overvaluing machinery.

Nothing is more common than for people to confound the inward peace and
satisfaction which follows the subduing of the obvious faults of our
animality with what I may call absolute inward peace and satisfaction,--
the peace and satisfaction which are reached as we draw near to complete
spiritual perfection, and not merely to moral perfection, or rather to
relative moral perfection. No people in the world have done more and
struggled more to attain this relative moral perfection than our English
race has. For no people in the world has the command to _resist the
devil_, to _overcome the wicked one_, in the nearest and most obvious
sense of those words, had such a pressing force and reality. And we have
had our reward, not only in the great worldly prosperity which our
obedience to this command has brought us, but also, and far more, in
great inward peace and satisfaction. But to me few things are more
pathetic than to see people, on the strength of the inward peace and
satisfaction which their rudimentary efforts towards perfection have
brought them, employ, concerning their incomplete perfection and the
religious organizations within which they have found it, language which
properly applies only to complete perfection, and is a far-off echo of
the human soul's prophecy of it. Religion itself, I need hardly say,
supplies them in abundance with this grand language. And very freely do
they use it; yet it is really the severest possible criticism of such an
incomplete perfection as alone we have yet reached through our religious

The impulse of the English race towards moral development and
self-conquest has nowhere so powerfully manifested itself as in
Puritanism. Nowhere has Puritanism found so adequate an expression as in
the religious organization of the Independents.[402] The modern
Independents have a newspaper, the _Nonnconformist_, written with great
sincerity and ability. The motto, the standard, the profession of faith
which this organ of theirs carries aloft, is: "The Dissidence of Dissent
and the Protestantism of the Protestant religion."[403] There is
sweetness and light, and an ideal of complete harmonious human
perfection! One need not go to culture and poetry to find language to
judge it. Religion, with its instinct for perfection, supplies language
to judge it, language, too, which is in our mouths every day. "Finally,
be of one mind, united in feeling,"[404] says St. Peter. There is an
ideal which judges the Puritan ideal: "The Dissidence of Dissent and the
Protestantism of the Protestant religion!" And religious organizations
like this are what people believe in, rest in, would give their lives
for! Such, I say, is the wonderful virtue of even the beginnings of
perfection, of having conquered even the plain faults of our animality,
that the religious organization which has helped us to do it can seem to
us something precious, salutary, and to be propagated, even when it
wears such a brand of imperfection on its forehead as this. And men have
got such a habit of giving to the language of religion a special
application, of making it a mere jargon, that for the condemnation which
religion itself passes on the shortcomings of their religious
organizations they have no ear; they are sure to cheat themselves and to
explain this condemnation away. They can only be reached by the
criticism which culture, like poetry, speaking a language not to be
sophisticated, and resolutely testing these organizations by the ideal
of a human perfection complete on all sides, applies to them.

But men of culture and poetry, it will be said, are again and again
failing, and failing conspicuously, in the necessary first stage to a
harmonious perfection, in the subduing of the great obvious faults of
our animality, which it is the glory of these religious organizations to
have helped us to subdue. True, they do often so fail. They have often
been without the virtues as well as the faults of the Puritan; it has
been one of their dangers that they so felt the Puritan's faults that
they too much neglected the practice of his virtues. I will not,
however, exculpate them at the Puritan's expense. They have often failed
in morality, and morality is indispensable. And they have been punished
for their failure, as the Puritan has been rewarded for his performance.
They have been punished wherein they erred; but their ideal of beauty,
of sweetness and light, and a human nature complete on all its sides,
remains the true ideal of perfection still; just as the Puritan's ideal
of perfection remains narrow and inadequate, although for what he did
well he has been richly rewarded. Notwithstanding the mighty results of
the Pilgrim Fathers' voyage, they and their standard of perfection are
rightly judged when we figure to ourselves Shakespeare or Virgil,--souls
in whom sweetness and light, and all that in human nature is most
humane, were eminent,--accompanying them on their voyage, and think what
intolerable company Shakespeare and Virgil would have found them! In the
same way let us judge the religious organizations which we see all
around us. Do not let us deny the good and the happiness which they have
accomplished; but do not let us fail to see clearly that their idea of
human perfection is narrow and inadequate, and that the Dissidence of
Dissent and the Protestantism of the Protestant religion will never
bring humanity to its true goal. As I said with regard to wealth: Let us
look at the life of those who live in and for it,--so I say with regard
to the religious organizations. Look at the life imaged in such a
newspaper as the _Nonnconformist_,--a life of jealousy of the
Establishment, disputes, tea-meetings, openings of chapels, sermons; and
then think of it as an ideal of a human life completing itself on all
sides, and aspiring with all its organs after sweetness, light, and

Another newspaper, representing, like the _Nonconformist_, one of the
religious organizations of this country, was a short time ago giving an
account of the crowd at Epsom[405] on the Derby day, and of all the vice
and hideousness which was to be seen in that crowd; and then the writer
turned suddenly round upon Professor Huxley, and asked him how he
proposed to cure all this vice and hideousness without religion. I
confess I felt disposed to ask the asker this question: and how do you
propose to cure it with such a religion as yours? How is the ideal of a
life so unlovely, so unattractive, so incomplete, so narrow, so far
removed from a true and satisfying ideal of human perfection, as is the
life of your religious organization as you yourself reflect it, to
conquer and transform all this vice and hideousness? Indeed, the
strongest plea for the study of perfection as pursued by culture, the
clearest proof of the actual inadequacy of the idea of perfection held
by the religious organizations,--expressing, as I have said, the most
widespread effort which the human race has yet made after perfection,--
is to be found in the state of our life and society with these in
possession of it, and having been in possession of it I know not how
many hundred years. We are all of us included in some religious
organization or other; we all call ourselves, in the sublime and
aspiring language of religion which I have before noticed, _children of
God_. Children of God;--it is an immense pretension!--and how are we to
justify it? By the works which we do, and the words which we speak. And
the work which we collective children of God do, our grand centre of
life, our _city_ which we have builded for us to dwell in, is London!
London, with its unutterable external hideousness, and with its internal
canker of _publice egestas, privatim opulentia_,[406]--to use the words
which Sallust puts into Cato's mouth about Rome,--unequalled in the
world! The word, again, which we children of God speak, the voice which
most hits our collective thought, the newspaper with the largest
circulation in England, nay, with the largest circulation in the whole
world, is the _Daily Telegraph_![407] I say that when our religious
organizations--which I admit to express the most considerable effort
after perfection that our race has yet made--land us in no better result
than this, it is high time to examine carefully their idea of
perfection, to see whether it does not leave out of account sides and
forces of human nature which we might turn to great use; whether it
would not be more operative if it were more complete. And I say that the
English reliance on our religious organizations and on their ideas of
human perfection just as they stand, is like our reliance on freedom, on
muscular Christianity, on population, on coal, on wealth,--mere belief
in machinery, and unfruitful; and that it is wholesomely counteracted by
culture, bent on seeing things as they are, and on drawing the human
race onwards to a more complete, a harmonious perfection.

Culture, however, shows its single-minded love of perfection, its desire
simply to make reason and the will of God prevail, its freedom from
fanaticism, by its attitude towards all this machinery, even while it
insists that it _is_ machinery. Fanatics, seeing the mischief men do
themselves by their blind belief in some machinery or other,--whether it
is wealth and industrialism, or whether it is the cultivation of bodily
strength and activity, or whether it is a political organization,--or
whether it is a religious organization,--oppose with might and main the
tendency to this or that political and religious organization, or to
games and athletic exercises, or to wealth and industrialism, and try
violently to stop it. But the flexibility which sweetness and light
give, and which is one of the rewards of culture pursued in good faith,
enables a man to see that a tendency may be necessary, and even, as a
preparation for something in the future, salutary, and yet that the
generations or individuals who obey this tendency are sacrificed to it,
that they fall short of the hope of perfection by following it; and that
its mischiefs are to be criticized, lest it should take too firm a hold
and last after it has served its purpose.

Mr. Gladstone well pointed out, in a speech at Paris,--and others have
pointed out the same thing,--how necessary is the present great
movement towards wealth and industrialism, in order to lay broad
foundations of material well-being for the society of the future. The
worst of these justifications is, that they are generally addressed to
the very people engaged, body and soul, in the movement in question; at
all events, that they are always seized with the greatest avidity by
these people, and taken by them as quite justifying their life; and that
thus they tend to harden them in their sins. Now, culture admits the
necessity of the movement towards fortune-making and exaggerated
industrialism, readily allows that the future may derive benefit from
it; but insists, at the same time, that the passing generations of
industrialists,--forming, for the most part, the stout main body of
Philistinism,--are sacrificed to it. In the same way, the result of all
the games and sports which occupy the passing generation of boys and
young men may be the establishment of a better and sounder physical type
for the future to work with. Culture does not set itself against the
games and sports; it congratulates the future, and hopes it will make a
good use of its improved physical basis; but it points out that our
passing generation of boys and young men is, meantime, sacrificed.
Puritanism was perhaps necessary to develop the moral fibre of the
English race, Nonconformity to break the yoke of ecclesiastical
domination over men's minds and to prepare the way for freedom of
thought in the distant future; still, culture points out that the
harmonious perfection of generations of Puritans and Nonconformists has
been, in consequence, sacrificed. Freedom of speech may be necessary for
the society of the future, but the young lions[408] of the _Daily
Telegraph_ in the meanwhile are sacrificed. A voice for every man in his
country's government may be necessary for the society of the future, but
meanwhile Mr. Beales[409]and Mr. Bradlaugh[410] are sacrificed.

Oxford, the Oxford of the past, has many faults; and she has heavily
paid for them in defeat, in isolation, in want of hold upon the modern
world. Yet we in Oxford, brought up amidst the beauty and sweetness of
that beautiful place, have not failed to seize one truth,--the truth
that beauty and sweetness are essential characters of a complete human
perfection. When I insist on this, I am all in the faith and tradition
of Oxford. I say boldly that this our sentiment for beauty and
sweetness, our sentiment against hideousness and rawness, has been at
the bottom of our attachment to so many beaten causes, of our opposition
to so many triumphant movements. And the sentiment is true, and has
never been wholly defeated, and has shown its power even in its defeat.
We have not won our political battles, we have not carried our main
points, we have not stopped our adversaries' advance, we have not
marched victoriously with the modern world; but we have told silently
upon the mind of the country, we have prepared currents of feeling which
sap our adversaries' position when it seems gained, we have kept up our
own communications with the future. Look at the course of the great
movement which shook Oxford to its centre some thirty years ago! It was
directed, as any one who reads Dr. Newman's _Apology_[411] may see,
against what in one word may be called "Liberalism." Liberalism
prevailed; it was the appointed force to do the work of the hour; it was
necessary, it was inevitable that it should prevail. The Oxford movement
was broken, it failed; our wrecks are scattered on every shore:--

"Quae regio in terris nostri non plena laboris?"[412]

But what was it, this liberalism, as Dr. Newman saw it, and as it really
broke the Oxford movement? It was the great middle-class liberalism,
which had for the cardinal points of its belief the Reform Bill of
1832,[413] and local self-government, in politics; in the social sphere,
free-trade, unrestricted competition, and the making of large industrial
fortunes; in the religious sphere, the Dissidence of Dissent and the
Protestantism of the Protestant religion. I do not say that other and
more intelligent forces than this were not opposed to the Oxford
movement: but this was the force which really beat it; this was the
force which Dr. Newman felt himself fighting with; this was the force
which till only the other day seemed to be the paramount force in this
country, and to be in possession of the future; this was the force whose
achievements fill Mr. Lowe[414] with such inexpressible admiration, and
whose rule he was so horror-struck to see threatened. And where is this
great force of Philistinism now? It is thrust into the second rank, it
is become a power of yesterday, it has lost the future. A new power has
suddenly appeared, a power which it is impossible yet to judge fully,
but which is certainly a wholly different force from middle-class
liberalism; different in its cardinal points of belief, different in its
tendencies in every sphere. It loves and admires neither the legislation
of middle-class Parliaments, nor the local self-government of
middle-class vestries, nor the unrestricted competition of middle-class
industrialists, nor the dissidence of middle-class Dissent and the
Protestantism of middle-class Protestant religion. I am not now praising
this new force, or saying that its own ideals are better; all I say is,
that they are wholly different. And who will estimate how much the
currents of feeling created by Dr. Newman's movements, the keen desire
for beauty and sweetness which it nourished, the deep aversion it
manifested to the hardness and vulgarity of middle-class liberalism, the
strong light it turned on the hideous and grotesque illusions of
middle-class Protestantism,--who will estimate how much all these
contributed to swell the tide of secret dissatisfaction which has mined
the ground under self-confident liberalism of the last thirty years, and
has prepared the way for its sudden collapse and supersession? It is in
this manner that the sentiment of Oxford for beauty and sweetness
conquers, and in this manner long may it continue to conquer!

In this manner it works to the same end as culture, and there is plenty
of work for it yet to do. I have said that the new and more democratic
force which is now superseding our old middle-class liberalism cannot
yet be rightly judged. It has its main tendencies still to form. We hear
promises of its giving us administrative reform, law reform, reform of
education, and I know not what; but those promises come rather from its
advocates, wishing to make a good plea for it and to justify it for
superseding middle-class liberalism, than from clear tendencies which it
has itself yet developed. But meanwhile it has plenty of
well-intentioned friends against whom culture may with advantage
continue to uphold steadily its ideal of human perfection; that this is
_an inward spiritual activity, having for its characters increased
sweetness, increased light, increased life, increased sympathy_. Mr.
Bright, who has a foot in both worlds, the world of middle-class
liberalism and the world of democracy, but who brings most of his ideas
from the world of middle-class liberalism in which he was bred, always
inclines to inculcate that faith in machinery to which, as we have seen,
Englishmen are so prone, and which has been the bane of middle-class
liberalism. He complains with a sorrowful indignation of people who
"appear to have no proper estimate of the value of the franchise"; he
leads his disciples to believe--what the Englishman is always too ready
to believe--that the having a vote, like the having a large family, or
a large business, or large muscles, has in itself some edifying and
perfecting effect upon human nature. Or else he cries out to the
democracy,--"the men," as he calls them," upon whose shoulders the
greatness of England rests,"--he cries out to them: "See what you have
done! I look over this country and see the cities you have built, the
railroads you have made, the manufactures you have produced, the cargoes
which freight the ships of the greatest mercantile navy the world has
ever seen! I see that you have converted by your labors what was once a
wilderness, these islands, into a fruitful garden; I know that you have
created this wealth, and are a nation whose name is a word of power
throughout all the world." Why, this is just the very style of laudation
with which Mr. Roebuck or Mr. Lowe debauches the minds of the middle
classes, and makes such Philistines of them. It is the same fashion of
teaching a man to value himself not on what he _is_, not on his progress
in sweetness and light, but on the number of the railroads he has
constructed, or the bigness of the tabernacle he has built. Only the
middle classes are told they have done it all with their energy,
self-reliance, and capital, and the democracy are told they have done it
all with their hands and sinews. But teaching the democracy to put its
trust in achievements of this kind is merely training them to be
Philistines to take the place of the Philistines whom they are
superseding; and they, too, like the middle class, will be encouraged to
sit down at the banquet of the future without having on a wedding
garment, and nothing excellent can then come from them. Those who know
their besetting faults, or those who have watched them and listened to
them, or those who will read the instructive account recently given of
them by one of themselves, the _Journeyman Engineer_, will agree that
the idea which culture sets before us of perfection,--an increased
spiritual activity, having for its characters increased sweetness,
increased light, increased life, increased sympathy,--is an idea which
the new democracy needs far more than the idea of the blessedness of the
franchise, or the wonderfulness of its own industrial performances.

Other well-meaning friends of this new power are for leading it, not in
the old ruts of middle-class Philistinism, but in ways which are
naturally alluring to the feet of democracy, though in this country they
are novel and untried ways. I may call them the ways of Jacobinism.[415]
Violent indignation with the past, abstract systems of renovation
applied wholesale, a new doctrine drawn up in black and white for
elaborating down to the very smallest details a rational society for the
future,--these are the ways of Jacobinism. Mr. Frederic Harrison[416]
and other disciples of Comte,[417]--one of them, Mr. Congreve,[418] is
an old friend of mine, and I am glad to have an opportunity of publicly
expressing my respect for his talents and character,--are among the
friends of democracy who are for leading it in paths of this kind. Mr.
Frederic Harrison is very hostile to culture, and from a natural enough
motive; for culture is the eternal opponent of the two things which are
the signal marks of Jacobinism,--its fierceness, and its addiction to
an abstract system. Culture is always assigning to system-makers and
systems a smaller share in the bent of human destiny than their friends
like. A current in people's minds sets towards new ideas; people are
dissatisfied with their old narrow stock of Philistine ideas,
Anglo-Saxon ideas, or any other; and some man, some Bentham[419] or
Comte, who has the real merit of having early and strongly felt and
helped the new current, but who brings plenty of narrowness and mistakes
of his own into his feeling and help of it, is credited with being the
author of the whole current, the fit person to be entrusted with its
regulation and to guide the human race.

The excellent German historian of the mythology of Rome, Preller,[420]
relating the introduction at Rome under the Tarquins of the worship of
Apollo, the god of light, healing, and reconciliation, will have us
observe that it was not so much the Tarquins who brought to Rome the new
worship of Apollo, as a current in the mind of the Roman people which
set powerfully at that time towards a new worship of this kind, and away
from the old run of Latin and Sabine religious ideas. In a similar way,
culture directs our attention to the natural current there is in human
affairs, and to its continual working, and will not let us rivet our
faith upon any one man and his doings. It makes us see not only his good
side, but also how much in him was of necessity limited and transient;
nay, it even feels a pleasure, a sense of an increased freedom and of an
ampler future, in so doing.

I remember, when I was under the influence of a mind to which I feel the
greatest obligations, the mind of a man who was the very incarnation of
sanity and clear sense, a man the most considerable, it seems to me,
whom America has yet produced,--Benjamin Franklin,--I remember the
relief with which, after long feeling the sway of Franklin's
imperturbable common-sense, I came upon a project of his for a new
version of the Book of Job,[421] to replace the old version, the style
of which, says Franklin, has become obsolete, and thence less
agreeable. "I give," he continues, "a few verses, which may serve as a
sample of the kind of version I would recommend." We all recollect the
famous verse in our translation: "Then Satan answered the Lord and said:
'Doth Job fear God for nought?'" Franklin makes this: "Does your Majesty
imagine that Job's good conduct is the effect of mere personal
attachment and affection?" I well remember how, when first I read that,
I drew a deep breath of relief and said to myself: "After all, there is
a stretch of humanity beyond Franklin's victorious good sense!" So,
after hearing Bentham cried loudly up as the renovator of modern
society, and Bentham's mind and ideas proposed as the rulers of our
future, I open the _Deontology._[422] There I read: "While Xenophon was
writing his history and Euclid teaching geometry, Socrates and Plato
were talking nonsense under pretense of talking wisdom and morality.
This morality of theirs consisted in words; this wisdom of theirs was
the denial of matters known to every man's experience." From the moment
of reading that, I am delivered from the bondage of Bentham! the
fanaticism of his adherents can touch me no longer. I feel the
inadequacy of his mind and ideas for supplying the rule of human
society, for perfection.

Culture tends always thus to deal with the men of a system, of
disciples, of a school; with men like Comte, or the late Mr. Buckle,
[423] or Mr. Mill.[424] However much it may find to admire in these
personages, or in some of them, it nevertheless remembers the text: "Be
not ye called Rabbi!" and it soon passes on from any Rabbi. But
Jacobinism loves a Rabbi; it does not want to pass on from its Rabbi in
pursuit of a future and still unreached perfection; it wants its Rabbi
and his ideas to stand for perfection, that they may with the more
authority recast the world; and for Jacobinism, therefore, culture,--
eternally passing onwards and seeking,--is an impertinence and an
offence. But culture, just because it resists this tendency of
Jacobinism to impose on us a man with limitations and errors of his own
along with the true ideas of which he is the organ, really does the
world and Jacobinism itself a service.

So, too, Jacobinism, in its fierce hatred of the past and of those whom
it makes liable for the sins of the past, cannot away with the
inexhaustible indulgence proper to culture, the consideration of
circumstances, the severe judgment of actions joined to the merciful
judgment of persons. "The man of culture is in politics," cries Mr.
Frederic Harrison, "one of the poorest mortals alive!" Mr. Frederic
Harrison wants to be doing business, and he complains that the man of
culture stops him with a "turn for small fault-finding, love of selfish
ease, and indecision in action." Of what use is culture, he asks, except
for "a critic of new books or a professor of _belles-lettres_?"[425]
Why, it is of use because, in presence of the fierce exasperation which
breathes, or rather, I may say, hisses through the whole production in
which Mr. Frederic Harrison asks that question, it reminds us that the
perfection of human nature is sweetness and light. It is of use,
because, like religion,--that other effort after perfection,--it
testifies that, where bitter envying and strife are, there is confusion
and every evil work.

The pursuit of perfection, then, is the pursuit of sweetness and light.
He who works for sweetness and light, works to make reason and the will
of God prevail. He who works for machinery, he who works for hatred,
works only for confusion. Culture looks beyond machinery, culture hates
hatred; culture has one great passion, the passion for sweetness and
light. It has one even yet greater!--the passion for making them
_prevail_. It is not satisfied till we _all_ come to a perfect man; it
knows that the sweetness and light of the few must be imperfect until
the raw and unkindled masses of humanity are touched with sweetness and
light. If I have not shrunk from saying that we must work for sweetness
and light, so neither have I shrunk from saying that we must have a
broad basis, must have sweetness and light for as many as possible.
Again and again I have insisted how those are the happy moments of
humanity, how those are the marking epochs of a people's life, how those
are the flowering times for literature and art and all the creative
power of genius, when there is a _national_ glow of life and thought,
when the whole of society is in the fullest measure permeated by
thought, sensible to beauty, intelligent and alive. Only it must be
_real_ thought and _real_ beauty; _real_ sweetness and _real_ light.
Plenty of people will try to give the masses, as they call them, an
intellectual food prepared and adapted in the way they think proper for
the actual condition of the masses. The ordinary popular literature is
an example of this way of working on the masses. Plenty of people will
try to indoctrinate the masses with the set of ideas and judgments
constituting the creed of their own profession or party. Our religious
and political organizations give an example of this way of working on
the masses. I condemn neither way; but culture works differently. It
does not try to teach down to the level of inferior classes; it does not
try to win them for this or that sect of its own, with ready-made
judgments and watchwords. It seeks to do away with classes; to make the
best that has been thought and known in the world current everywhere; to
make all men live in an atmosphere of sweetness and light, where they
may use ideas, as it uses them itself, freely,--nourished, and not bound
by them.

This is the _social idea_; and the men of culture are the true apostles
of equality. The great men of culture are those who have had a passion
for diffusing, for making prevail, for carrying from one end of society
to the other, the best knowledge, the best ideas of their time; who have
labored to divest knowledge of all that was harsh, uncouth, difficult,
abstract, professional, exclusive; to humanize it, to make it efficient
outside the clique of the cultivated and learned, yet still remaining
the _best_ knowledge and thought of the time, and a true source,
therefore, of sweetness and light. Such a man was Abelard[426] in the
Middle Ages, in spite of all his imperfections; and thence the boundless
emotion and enthusiasm which Abelard excited. Such were Lessing[427]
and Herder[428] in Germany, at the end of the last century; and their
services to Germany were in this way inestimably precious. Generations
will pass, and literary monuments will accumulate, and works far more
perfect than the works of Lessing and Herder will be produced in
Germany; and yet the names of these two men will fill a German with a
reverence and enthusiasm such as the names of the most gifted masters
will hardly awaken. And why? Because they _humanized_ knowledge; because
they broadened the basis of life and intelligence; because they worked
powerfully to diffuse sweetness and light, to make reason and the will
of God prevail. With Saint Augustine they said: "Let us not leave thee
alone to make in the secret of thy knowledge, as thou didst before the
creation of the firmament, the division of light from darkness; let the
children of thy spirit, placed in their firmament, make their light
shine upon the earth, mark the division of night and day, and announce
the revolution of the times; for the old order is passed, and the new
arises; the night is spent, the day is come forth; and thou shalt crown
the year with thy blessing, when thou shalt send forth laborers into thy
harvest sown by other hands than theirs; when thou shalt send forth new
laborers to new seed-times, whereof the harvest shall be not yet."[429]


This fundamental ground is our preference of doing to thinking. Now this
preference is a main element in our nature and as we study it we find
ourselves opening up a number of large questions on every side.

Let me go back for a moment to Bishop Wilson,[431] who says: "First,
never go against the best light you have; secondly, take care that your
light be not darkness." We show, as a nation, laudable energy and
persistence in walking according to the best light we have, but are not
quite careful enough, perhaps, to see that our light be not darkness.
This is only another version of the old story that energy is our strong
point and favorable characteristic, rather than intelligence. But we may
give to this idea a more general form still, in which it will have a yet
larger range of application. We may regard this energy driving at
practice, this paramount sense of the obligation of duty, self-control,
and work, this earnestness in going manfully with the best light we
have, as one force. And we may regard the intelligence driving at those
ideas which are, after all, the basis of right practice, the ardent
sense for all the new and changing combinations of them which man's
development brings with it, the indomitable impulse to know and adjust
them perfectly, as another force. And these two forces we may regard as
in some sense rivals,--rivals not by the necessity of their own nature,
but as exhibited in man and his history,--and rivals dividing the empire
of the world between them. And to give these forces names from the two
races of men who have supplied the most signal and splendid
manifestations of them, we may call them respectively the forces of
Hebraism and Hellenism. Hebraism and Hellenism,--between these two
points of influence moves our world. At one time it feels more
powerfully the attraction of one of them, at another time of the other;
and it ought to be, though it never is, evenly and happily balanced
between them.

The final aim of both Hellenism and Hebraism, as of all great spiritual
disciplines, is no doubt the same: man's perfection or salvation. The
very language which they both of them use in schooling us to reach this
aim is often identical. Even when their language indicates by
variation,--sometimes a broad variation, often a but slight and subtle
variation,--the different courses of thought which are uppermost in each
discipline, even then the unity of the final end and aim is still
apparent. To employ the actual words of that discipline with which we
ourselves are all of us most familiar, and the words of which,
therefore, come most home to us, that final end and aim is "that we
might be partakers of the divine nature."[432] These are the words of a
Hebrew apostle, but of Hellenism and Hebraism alike this is, I say, the
aim. When the two are confronted, as they very often are confronted, it
is nearly always with what I may call a rhetorical purpose; the
speaker's whole design is to exalt and enthrone one of the two, and he
uses the other only as a foil and to enable him the better to give
effect to his purpose. Obviously, with us, it is usually Hellenism which
is thus reduced to minister to the triumph of Hebraism. There is a
sermon on Greece and the Greek spirit by a man never to be mentioned
without interest and respect, Frederick Robertson,[433] in which this
rhetorical use of Greece and the Greek spirit, and the inadequate
exhibition of them necessarily consequent upon this, is almost
ludicrous, and would be censurable if it were not to be explained by the
exigencies of a sermon. On the other hand, Heinrich Heine,[434] and
other writers of his sort give us the spectacle of the tables completely
turned, and of Hebraism brought in just as a foil and contrast to
Hellenism, and to make the superiority of Hellenism more manifest. In
both these cases there is injustice and misrepresentation. The aim and
end of both Hebraism and Hellenism is, as I have said, one and the same,
and this aim and end is august and admirable.

Still, they pursue this aim by very different courses. The uppermost
idea with Hellenism is to see things as they really are; the uppermost
idea with Hebraism is conduct and obedience. Nothing can do away with
this ineffaceable difference. The Greek quarrel with the body and its
desires is, that they hinder right thinking; the Hebrew quarrel with
them is, that they hinder right acting. "He that keepeth the law, happy
is he";[435] "Blessed is the man that feareth the Eternal, that
delighteth greatly in his commandments";--[436] that is the Hebrew
notion of felicity; and, pursued with passion and tenacity, this notion
would not let the Hebrew rest till, as is well known, he had at last got
out of the law a network of prescriptions to enwrap his whole life, to
govern every moment of it, every impulse, every action. The Greek notion
of felicity, on the other hand, is perfectly conveyed in these words of
a great French moralist: "_C'est le bonheur des hommes_,"--when? when
they abhor that which is evil?--no; when they exercise themselves in the
law of the Lord day and night?--no; when they die daily?--no; when they
walk about the New Jerusalem with palms in their hands?--no; but when
they think aright, when their thought hits: "_quand ils pensent juste_."
At the bottom of both the Greek and the Hebrew notion is the desire,
native in man, for reason and the will of God, the feeling after the
universal order,--in a word, the love of God. But, while Hebraism seizes
upon certain plain, capital intimations of, the universal order, and
rivets itself, one may say, with unequalled grandeur of earnestness and
intensity on the study and observance of them, the bent of Hellenism is
to follow, with flexible activity, the whole play of the universal
order, to be apprehensive of missing any part of it, of sacrificing one
part to another, to slip away from resting in this or that intimation of
it, however capital. An unclouded clearness of mind, an unimpeded play
of thought, is what this bent drives at. The governing idea of Hellenism
is _spontaneity of consciousness_; that of Hebraism, _strictness of

Christianity changed nothing in this essential bent of Hebraism to set
doing above knowing. Self-conquest, self-devotion, the following not our
own individual will, but the will of God, _obedience_, is the
fundamental idea of this form, also, of the discipline to which we have
attached the general name of Hebraism. Only, as the old law and the
network of prescriptions with which it enveloped human life were
evidently a motive-power not driving and searching enough to produce the
result aimed at,--patient continuance in well-doing, self-conquest,--
Christianity substituted for them boundless devotion to that inspiring
and affecting pattern of self-conquest offered by Jesus Christ; and by
the new motive-power, of which the essence was this, though the love and
admiration of Christian churches have for centuries been employed in
varying, amplifying, and adorning the plain description of it,
Christianity, as St. Paul truly says, "establishes the law,"[437] and in
the strength of the ampler power which she has thus supplied to fulfill
it, has accomplished the miracles, which we all see, of her history.

So long as we do not forget that both Hellenism and Hebraism are
profound and admirable manifestations of man's life, tendencies, and
powers, and that both of them aim at a like final result, we can hardly
insist too strongly on the divergence of line and of operation with
which they proceed. It is a divergence so great that it most truly, as
the prophet Zechariah says, "has raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy
sons, O Greece!"[438] The difference whether it is by doing or by
knowing that we set most store, and the practical consequences which
follow from this difference, leave their mark on all the history of our
race and of its development. Language may be abundantly quoted from both
Hellenism and Hebraism to make it seem that one follows the same current
as the other towards the same goal. They are, truly, borne towards the
same goal; but the currents which bear them are infinitely different. It
is true, Solomon will praise knowing: "Understanding is a well-spring of
life unto him that hath it."[439] And in the New Testament, again, Jesus
Christ is a "light,"[440] and "truth makes us free."[441] It is true,
Aristotle will undervalue knowing: "In what concerns virtue," says he,
"three things are necessary--knowledge, deliberate will, and
perseverance; but, whereas the two last are all-important, the first is
a matter of little importance."[442] It is true that with the same
impatience with which St. James enjoins a man to be not a forgetful
hearer, but a _doer of the work_,[443] Epictetus[444] exhorts us to _do_
what we have demonstrated to ourselves we ought to do; or he taunts us
with futility, for being armed at all points to prove that lying is
wrong, yet all the time continuing to lie. It is true, Plato, in words
which are almost the words of the New Testament or the Imitation, calls
life a learning to die.[445] But underneath the superficial agreement
the fundamental divergence still subsists. The understanding of Solomon
is "the walking in the way of the commandments"; this is "the way of
peace," and it is of this that blessedness comes. In the New Testament,
the truth which gives us the peace of God and makes us free, is the love
of Christ constraining us[446] to crucify, as he did, and with a like
purpose of moral regeneration, the flesh with its affections and lusts,
and thus establishing, as we have seen, the law. The moral virtues, on
the other hand, are with Aristotle but the porch[447] and access to the
intellectual, and with these last is blessedness. That partaking of the
divine life, which both Hellenism and Hebraism, as we have said, fix as
their crowning aim, Plato expressly denies to the man of practical
virtue merely, of self-conquest with any other motive than that of
perfect intellectual vision. He reserves it for the lover of pure
knowledge, of seeing things as they really are,--the[Greek:

Both Hellenism and Hebraism arise out of the wants of human nature, and
address themselves to satisfying those wants. But their methods are so
different, they lay stress on such different points, and call into being
by their respective disciplines such different activities, that the face
which human nature presents when it passes from the hands of one of them
to those of the other, is no longer the same. To get rid of one's
ignorance, to see things as they are, and by seeing them as they are to
see them in their beauty, is the simple and attractive ideal which
Hellenism holds out before human nature; and from the simplicity and
charm of this ideal, Hellenism, and human life in the hands of
Hellenism, is invested with a kind of aerial ease, clearness, and
radiancy; they are full of what we call sweetness and light.
Difficulties are kept out of view, and the beauty and rationalness of
the ideal have all our thoughts. "The best man is he who most tries to
perfect himself, and the happiest man is he who most feels that he _is_
perfecting himself,"[449]--this account of the matter by Socrates, the
true Socrates of the _Memorabilia_, has something so simple,
spontaneous, and unsophisticated about it, that it seems to fill us with
clearness and hope when we hear it. But there is a saying which I have
heard attributed to Mr. Carlyle about Socrates--a very happy saying,
whether it is really Mr. Carlyle's or not,--which excellently marks the
essential point in which Hebraism differs from Hellenism. "Socrates,"
this saying goes, "is terribly _at ease in Zion_." Hebraism--and here is
the source of its wonderful strength--has always been severely
preoccupied with an awful sense of the impossibility of being at ease in
Zion; of the difficulties which oppose themselves to man's pursuit or
attainment of that perfection of which Socrates talks so hopefully, and,
as from this point of view one might almost say, so glibly. It is all
very well to talk of getting rid of one's ignorance, of seeing things in
their reality, seeing them in their beauty; but how is this to be done
when there is something which thwarts and spoils all our efforts?

This something is _sin_; and the space which sin fills in Hebraism, as
compared with Hellenism, is indeed prodigious. This obstacle to
perfection fills the whole scene, and perfection appears remote and
rising away from earth, in the background. Under the name of sin, the
difficulties of knowing oneself and conquering oneself which impede
man's passage to perfection, become, for Hebraism, a positive, active
entity hostile to man, a mysterious power which I heard Dr. Pusey[450]
the other day, in one of his impressive sermons, compare to a hideous
hunchback seated on our shoulders, and which it is the main business of
our lives to hate and oppose. The discipline of the Old Testament may be
summed up as a discipline teaching us to abhor and flee from sin; the
discipline of the New Testament, as a discipline teaching us to die to
it. As Hellenism speaks of thinking clearly, seeing things in their
essence and beauty, as a grand and precious feat for man to achieve, so
Hebraism speaks of becoming conscious of sin, of awakening to a sense of
sin, as a feat of this kind. It is obvious to what wide divergence these
differing tendencies, actively followed, must lead. As one passes and
repasses from Hellenism to Hebraism, from Plato to St. Paul, one feels
inclined to rub one's eyes and ask oneself whether man is indeed a
gentle and simple being, showing the traces of a noble and divine
nature; or an unhappy chained captive, laboring with groanings that
cannot be uttered to free himself from the body of this death.

Apparently it was the Hellenic conception of human nature which was
unsound, for the world could not live by it. Absolutely to call it
unsound, however, is to fall into the common error of its Hebraizing
enemies; but it was unsound at that particular moment of man's
development, it was premature. The indispensable basis of conduct and
self-control, the platform upon which alone the perfection aimed at by
Greece can come into bloom, was not to be reached by our race so easily;
centuries of probation and discipline were needed to bring us to it.
Therefore the bright promise of Hellenism faded, and Hebraism ruled the
world. Then was seen that astonishing spectacle, so well marked by the
often-quoted words of the prophet Zechariah, when men of all languages
and nations took hold of the skirt of him that was a Jew, saying:--"_We
will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you_."[451] And the
Hebraism which thus received and ruled a world all gone out of the way
and altogether become unprofitable, was, and could not but be, the
later, the more spiritual, the more attractive development of Hebraism.
It was Christianity; that is to say, Hebraism aiming at self-conquest
and rescue from the thrall of vile affections, not by obedience to the
letter of a law, but by conformity to the image of a self-sacrificing
example. To a world stricken with moral enervation Christianity offered
its spectacle of an inspired self-sacrifice; to men who refused
themselves nothing, it showed one who refused himself everything;--"_my
Saviour banished joy!_"[452] says George Herbert. When the _alma Venus_,
the life-giving and joy-giving power of nature, so fondly cherished by
the pagan world, could not save her followers from self-dissatisfaction
and ennui, the severe words of the apostle came bracingly and
refreshingly: "Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of
these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of
disobedience."[453] Through age after age and generation after
generation, our race, or all that part of our race which was most living
and progressive, was _baptized into a death_; and endeavored, by
suffering in the flesh, to cease from sin. Of this endeavor, the
animating labors and afflictions of early Christianity, the touching
asceticism of mediaeval Christianity, are the great historical
manifestations. Literary monuments of it, each in its own way
incomparable, remain in the _Epistles_ of St. Paul, in St. Augustine's
_Confessions_, and in the two original and simplest books of the

Of two disciplines laying their main stress, the one, on clear
intelligence, the other, on firm obedience; the one, on comprehensively
knowing the ground of one's duty, the other, on diligently practising
it; the one, on taking all possible care (to use Bishop Wilson's words
again) that the light we have be not darkness, the other, that according
to the best light we have we diligently walk,--the priority naturally
belongs to that discipline which braces all man's moral powers, and
founds for him an indispensable basis of character. And, therefore, it
is justly said of the Jewish people, who were charged with setting
powerfully forth that side of the divine order to which the words
_conscience_ and _self-conquest_ point, that they were "entrusted with
the oracles of God";[455] as it is justly said of Christianity, which
followed Judaism and which set forth this side with a much deeper
effectiveness and a much wider influence, that the wisdom of the old
pagan world was foolishness[456] compared to it. No words of devotion
and admiration can be too strong to render thanks to these beneficent
forces which have so borne forward humanity in its appointed work of
coming to the knowledge and possession of itself; above all, in those
great moments when their action was the wholesomest and the most

But the evolution of these forces, separately and in themselves, is not
the whole evolution of humanity,--their single history is not the whole
history of man; whereas their admirers are always apt to make it stand
for the whole history. Hebraism and Hellenism are, neither of them, the
_law_ of human development, as their admirers are prone to make them;
they are, each of them, _contributions_ to human development,--august
contributions, invaluable contributions; and each showing itself to us
more august, more invaluable, more preponderant over the other,
according to the moment in which we take them, and the relation in which
we stand to them. The nations of our modern world, children of that
immense and salutary movement which broke up the pagan world, inevitably
stand to Hellenism in a relation which dwarfs it, and to Hebraism in a
relation which magnifies it. They are inevitably prone to take Hebraism
as the law of human development, and not as simply a contribution to it,
however precious. And yet the lesson must perforce be learned, that the
human spirit is wider than the most priceless of the forces which bear
it onward, and that to the whole development of man Hebraism itself is,
like Hellenism, but a contribution.

Perhaps we may help ourselves to see this clearer by an illustration
drawn from the treatment of a single great idea which has profoundly
engaged the human spirit, and has given it eminent opportunities for
showing its nobleness and energy. It surely must be perceived that the
idea of immortality, as this idea rises in its generality before the
human spirit, is something grander, truer, and more satisfying, than it
is in the particular forms by which St. Paul, in the famous fifteenth
chapter of the Epistle to the Corinthians, and Plato, in the
_Phaedo_[457] endeavor to develop and establish it. Surely we cannot but
feel, that the argumentation with which the Hebrew apostle goes about to
expound this great idea is, after all, confused and inconclusive; and
that the reasoning, drawn from analogies of likeness and equality, which
is employed upon it by the Greek philosopher, is over-subtle and
sterile. Above and beyond the inadequate solutions which Hebraism and
Hellenism here attempt, extends the immense and august problem itself,
and the human spirit which gave birth to it. And this single
illustration may suggest to us how the same thing happens in other cases

But meanwhile, by alternations of Hebraism and Hellenism, of a man's
intellectual and moral impulses, of the effort to see things as they
really are, and the effort to win peace by self-conquest, the human
spirit proceeds; and each of these two forces has its appointed hours of
culmination and seasons of rule. As the great movement of Christianity
was a triumph of Hebraism and man's moral impulses, so the great
movement which goes by the name of the Renascence[458] was an uprising
and reinstatement of man's intellectual impulses and of Hellenism. We in
England, the devoted children of Protestantism, chiefly know the
Renascence by its subordinate and secondary side of the Reformation. The
Reformation has been often called a Hebraizing revival, a return to the
ardor and sincereness of primitive Christianity. No one, however, can
study the development of Protestantism and of Protestant churches
without feeling that into the Reforrmation, too,--Hebraizing child of
the Renascence and offspring of its fervor, rather than its
intelligence, as it undoubtedly was,--the subtle Hellenic leaven of the
Renascence found its way, and that the exact respective parts, in the
Reformation, of Hebraism and of Hellenism, are not easy to separate. But
what we may with truth say is, that all which Protestantism was to
itself clearly conscious of, all which it succeeded in clearly setting
forth in words, had the characters of Hebraism rather than of Hellenism.
The Reformation was strong, in that it was an earnest return to the
Bible and to doing from the heart the will of God as there written. It
was weak, in that it never consciously grasped or applied the central
idea of the Renascence,--the Hellenic idea of pursuing, in all lines of
activity, the law and science, to use Plato's words, of things as they
really are. Whatever direct superiority, therefore, Protestantism had
over Catholicism was a moral superiority, a superiority arising out of
its greater sincerity and earnestness,--at the moment of its apparition
at any rate,--in dealing with the heart and conscience. Its pretensions
to an intellectual superiority are in general quite illusory. For
Hellenism, for the thinking side in man as distinguished from the acting
side, the attitude of mind of Protestantism towards the Bible in no
respect differs from the attitude of mind of Catholicism towards the
Church. The mental habit of him who imagines that Balaam's ass spoke, in
no respect differs from the mental habit of him who imagines that a
Madonna of wood or stone winked; and the one, who says that God's Church
makes him believe what he believes, and the other, who says that God's
Word makes him believe what he believes, are for the philosopher
perfectly alike in not really and truly knowing, when they say _God's
Church_ and _God's Word_, what it is they say, or whereof they affirm.

In the sixteenth century, therefore, Hellenism re-entered the world,
and again stood in presence of Hebraism,--a Hebraism renewed and purged.
Now, it has not been enough observed, how, in the seventeenth century, a
fate befell Hellenism in some respects analogous to that which befell it
at the commencement of our era. The Renascence, that great reawakening
of Hellenism, that irresistible return of humanity to nature and to
seeing things as they are, which in art, in literature, and in physics,
produced such splendid fruits, had, like the anterior Hellenism of the
pagan world, a side of moral weakness and of relaxation or insensibility
of the moral fibre, which in Italy showed itself with the most startling
plainness, but which in France, England, and other countries was very
apparent, too. Again this loss of spiritual balance, this exclusive
preponderance given to man's perceiving and knowing side, this unnatural
defect of his feeling and acting side, provoked a reaction. Let us trace
that reaction where it most nearly concerns us.

Science has now made visible to everybody the great and pregnant
elements of difference which lie in race, and in how signal a manner
they make the genius and history of an Indo-European people vary from
those of a Semitic people. Hellenism is of Indo-European growth,
Hebraism is of Semitic growth; and we English, a nation of Indo-European
stock, seem to belong naturally to the movement of Hellenism. But
nothing more strongly marks the essential unity of man, than the
affinities we can perceive, in this point or that, between members of
one family of peoples and members of another. And no affinity of this
kind is more strongly marked than that likeness in the strength and
prominence of the moral fibre, which, notwithstanding immense elements
of difference, knits in some special sort the genius and history of us
English, and our American descendants across the Atlantic, to the genius
and history of the Hebrew people. Puritanism, which has been so great a
power in the English nation, and in the strongest part of the English
nation, was originally the reaction in the seventeenth century of the
conscience and moral sense of our race, against the moral indifference
and lax rule of conduct which in the sixteenth century came in with the
Renascence. It was a reaction of Hebraism against Hellenism; and it
powerfully manifested itself, as was natural, in a people with much of
what we call a Hebraizing turn, with a signal affinity for the bent
which, was the master-bent of Hebrew life. Eminently Indo-European by
its _humor_, by the power it shows, through this gift, of imaginatively
acknowledging the multiform aspects of the problem of life, and of thus
getting itself unfixed from its own over-certainty, of smiling at its
own over-tenacity, our race has yet (and a great part of its strength
lies here), in matters of practical life and moral conduct, a strong
share of the assuredness, the tenacity, the intensity of the Hebrews.
This turn manifested itself in Puritanism, and has had a great part in
shaping our history for the last two hundred years. Undoubtedly it
checked and changed amongst us that movement of the Renascence which we
see producing in the reign of Elizabeth such wonderful fruits.
Undoubtedly it stopped the prominent rule and direct development of that
order of ideas which we call by the name of Hellenism, and gave the
first rank to a different order of ideas. Apparently, too, as we said of
the former defeat of Hellenism, if Hellenism was defeated, this shows
that Hellenism was imperfect, and that its ascendency at that moment
would not have been for the world's good.

Yet there is a very important difference between the defeat inflicted on
Hellenism by Christianity eighteen hundred years ago, and the check
given to the Renascence by Puritanism. The greatness of the difference
is well measured by the difference in force, beauty, significance, and
usefulness, between primitive Christianity and Protestantism. Eighteen
hundred years ago it was altogether the hour of Hebraism. Primitive
Christianity was legitimately and truly the ascendant force in the world
at that time, and the way of mankind's progress lay through its full
development. Another hour in man's development began in the fifteenth
century, and the main road of his progress then lay for a time through
Hellenism. Puritanism was no longer the central current of the world's
progress, it was a side stream crossing the central current and checking
it. The cross and the check may have been necessary and salutary, but
that does not do away with the essential difference between the main
stream of man's advance and a cross or side stream. For more than two
hundred years the main stream of man's advance has moved towards knowing
himself and the world, seeing things as they are, spontaneity of
consciousness; the main impulse of a great part, and that the strongest
part, of our nation has been towards strictness of conscience. They have
made the secondary the principal at the wrong moment, and the principal
they have at the wrong moment treated as secondary. This contravention
of the natural order has produced, as such contravention always must
produce, a certain confusion and false movement, of which we are now
beginning to feel, in almost every direction, the inconvenience. In all
directions our habitual causes of action seem to be losing
efficaciousness, credit, and control, both with others and even with
ourselves. Everywhere we see the beginnings of confusion, and we want a
clue to some sound order and authority. This we can only get by going
back upon the actual instincts and forces which rule our life, seeing
them as they really are, connecting them with other instincts and
forces, and enlarging our whole view and rule of life.


When we talk of man's advance towards his full humanity, we think of an
advance, not along one line only, but several. Certain races and
nations, as we know, are on certain lines preeminent and representative.
The Hebrew nation was preeminent on one great line. "What nation," it
was justly asked by their lawgiver, "hath statutes and judgments so
righteous as the law which I set before you this day? Keep therefore and
do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of
the nations which shall hear all these statutes and say: Surely this
great nation is a wise and understanding people!" The Hellenic race was
preeminent on other lines. Isocrates[460] could say of Athens: "Our city
has left the rest of the world so far behind in philosophy and
eloquence, that those educated by Athens have become the teachers of the
rest of mankind; and so well has she done her part, that the name of
Greeks seems no longer to stand for a race but to stand for intelligence
itself, and they who share in our culture are called Greeks even before
those who are merely of our own blood." The power of intellect and
science, the power of beauty, the power of social life and manners,--
these are what Greece so felt, and fixed, and may stand for. They are
great elements in our humanization. The power of conduct is another
great element; and this was so felt and fixed by Israel that we can
never with justice refuse to permit Israel, in spite of all his
shortcomings, to stand for it.

So you see that in being humanized we have to move along several lines,
and that on certain lines certain nations find their strength and take a
lead. We may elucidate the thing yet further. Nations now existing may
be said to feel or to have felt the power of this or that element in our
humanization so signally that they are characterized by it. No one who
knows this country would deny that it is characterized, in a remarkable
degree, by a sense of the power of conduct. Our feeling for religion is
one part of this; our industry is another. What foreigners so much
remark in us--our public spirit, our love, amidst all our liberty, for
public order and for stability--are parts of it too. Then the power of
beauty was so felt by the Italians that their art revived, as we know,
the almost lost idea of beauty, and the serious and successful pursuit
of it. Cardinal Antonelli,[461] speaking to me about the education of
the common people in Rome, said that they were illiterate, indeed, but
whoever mingled with them at any public show, and heard them pass
judgment on the beauty or ugliness of what came before them,--"_e
brutto_," "_e bello_,"--would find that their judgment agreed admirably,
in general, with just what the most cultivated people would say. Even at
the present time, then, the Italians are preeminent in feeling the power
of beauty. The power of knowledge, in the same way, is eminently an
influence with the Germans. This by no means implies, as is sometimes
supposed, a high and fine general culture. What it implies is a strong
sense of the necessity of knowing _scientifically_, as the expression
is, the things which have to be known by us; of knowing them
systematically, by the regular and right process, and in the only real
way. And this sense the Germans especially have. Finally, there is the
power of social life and manners. And even the Athenians themselves,
perhaps, have hardly felt this power so much as the French.

Voltaire, in a famous passage[462] where he extols the age of Louis the
Fourteenth and ranks it with the chief epochs in the civilization of our
race, has to specify the gift bestowed on us by the age of Louis the
Fourteenth, as the age of Pericles, for instance, bestowed on us its art
and literature, and the Italian Renascence its revival of art and
literature. And Voltaire shows all his acuteness in fixing on the gift
to name. It is not the sort of gift which we expect to see named. The
great gift of the age of Louis the Fourteenth to the world, says
Voltaire, was this: _l'esprit de societe_, the spirit of society, the
social spirit. And another French writer, looking for the good points in
the old French nobility, remarks that this at any rate is to be said in
their favor: they established a high and charming ideal of social
intercourse and manners, for a nation formed to profit by such an ideal,
and which has profited by it ever since. And in America, perhaps, we see
the disadvantages of having social equality before there has been any
such high standard of social life and manners formed.

We are not disposed in England, most of us, to attach all this
importance to social intercourse and manners. Yet Burke says: "There
ought to be a system of manners in every nation which a well-formed mind
would be disposed to relish." And the power of social life and manners
is truly, as we have seen, one of the great elements in our
humanization. Unless we have cultivated it, we are incomplete. The
impulse for cultivating it is not, indeed, a moral impulse. It is by no
means identical with the moral impulse to help our neighbor and to do
him good. Yet in many ways it works to a like end. It brings men
together, makes them feel the need of one another, be considerate of one
another, understand one another. But, above all things, it is a promoter
of equality. It is by the humanity of their manners that men are made
equal. "A man thinks to show himself my equal," says Goethe, "by being
_grob_,--that is to say, coarse and rude; he does not show himself my
equal, he shows himself _grob_." But a community having humane manners
is a community of equals, and in such a community great social
inequalities have really no meaning, while they are at the same time a
menace and an embarrassment to perfect ease of social intercourse. A
community with the spirit of society is eminently, therefore, a
community with the spirit of equality. A nation with a genius for
society, like the French or the Athenians, is irresistibly drawn towards
equality. From the first moment when the French people, with its
congenital sense for the power of social intercourse and manners, came
into existence, it was on the road to equality. When it had once got a
high standard of social manners abundantly established, and at the same
time the natural, material necessity for the feudal inequality of
classes and property pressed upon it no longer, the French people
introduced equality and made the French Revolution. It was not the
spirit of philanthropy which mainly impelled the French to that
Revolution, neither was it the spirit of envy, neither was it the love
of abstract ideas, though all these did something towards it; but what
did most was the spirit of society.

The well-being of the many comes out more and more distinctly, in
proportion as time goes on, as the object we must pursue. An individual
or a class, concentrating their efforts upon their own well-being
exclusively, do but beget troubles both for others and for themselves
also. No individual life can be truly prosperous, passed, as Obermann
says, in the midst of men who suffer; _passee au milieu des generations
qui souffrent_. To the noble soul, it cannot be happy; to the ignoble,
it cannot be secure. Socialistic and communistic schemes have generally,
however, a fatal defect; they are content with too low and material a
standard of well-being. That instinct of perfection, which is the
master-power in humanity, always rebels at this, and frustrates the
work. Many are to be made partakers of well-being, true; but the ideal
of well-being is not to be, on that account, lowered and coarsened. M.
de Laveleye,[463] the political economist, who is a Belgian and a
Protestant, and whose testimony, therefore, we may the more readily take
about France, says that France, being the country of Europe where the
soil is more divided than anywhere except in Switzerland and Norway, is
at the same time the country where material well-being is most widely
spread, where wealth has of late years increased most, and where
population is least outrunning the limits, which, for the comfort and
progress of the working classes themselves, seem necessary. This may go
for a good deal. It supplies an answer to what Sir Erskine May[464] says
about the bad effects of equality upon French prosperity. But I will
quote to you from Mr. Hamerton[465] what goes, I think, for yet more.
Mr. Hamerton is an excellent observer and reporter, and has lived for
many years in France. He says of the French peasantry that they are
exceedingly ignorant. So they are. But he adds: "They are at the same
time full of intelligence; their manners are excellent, they have
delicate perceptions, they have tact, they have a certain refinement
which a brutalized peasantry could not possibly have. If you talk to one
of them at his own home, or in his field, he will enter into
conversation with you quite easily, and sustain his part in a perfectly
becoming way, with a pleasant combination of dignity and quiet humor.
The interval between him and a Kentish laborer is enormous."

This is, indeed, worth your attention. Of course all mankind are, as Mr.
Gladstone says, of our own flesh and blood. But you know how often it
happens in England that a cultivated person, a person of the sort that
Mr. Charles Sumner[466] describes, talking to one of the lower class, or
even of the middle class, feels and cannot but feel, that there is
somehow a wall of partition between himself and the other, that they
seem to belong to two different worlds. Thoughts, feelings, perceptions,
susceptibilities, language, manners,--everything is different. Whereas,
with a French peasant, the most cultivated man may find himself in
sympathy, may feel that he is talking to an equal. This is an experience
which has been made a thousand times, and which may be made again any
day. And it may be carried beyond the range of mere conversation, it may
be extended to things like pleasures, recreations, eating and drinking,
and so on. In general the pleasures, recreations, eating and drinking of
English people, when once you get below that class which Mr. Charles
Sumner calls the class of gentlemen, are to one of that class
unpalatable and impossible. In France there is not this incompatibility.
Whether he mix with high or low, the gentleman feels himself in a world
not alien or repulsive, but a world where people make the same sort of
demands upon life, in things of this sort, which he himself does. In all
these respects France is the country where the people, as distinguished
from a wealthy refined class, most lives what we call a humane life, the
life of civilized man.

Of course, fastidious persons can and do pick holes in it. There is just
now, in France, a _noblesse_ newly revived, full of pretension, full of
airs and graces and disdains; but its sphere is narrow, and out of its
own sphere no one cares very much for it. There is a general equality in
a humane kind of life. This is the secret of the passionate attachment
with which France inspires all Frenchmen, in spite of her fearful
troubles, her checked prosperity, her disconnected units, and the rest
of it. There is so much of the goodness and agreeableness of life there,
and for so many. It is the secret of her having been able to attach so
ardently to her the German and Protestant people of Alsace,[467] while
we have been so little able to attach the Celtic and Catholic people of
Ireland. France brings the Alsatians into a social system so full of the
goodness and agreeableness of life; we offer to the Irish no such
attraction. It is the secret, finally, of the prevalence which we have
remarked in other continental countries of a legislation tending, like
that of France, to social equality. The social system which equality
creates in France is, in the eyes of others, such a giver of the
goodness and agreeableness of life, that they seek to get the goodness
by getting the equality.

Yet France has had her fearful troubles, as Sir Erskine May justly says.
She suffers too, he adds, from demoralization and intellectual stoppage.
Let us admit, if he likes, this to be true also. His error is that he
attributes all this to equality. Equality, as we have seen, has brought
France to a really admirable and enviable pitch of humanization in one
important line. And this, the work of equality, is so much a good in Sir
Erskine May's eyes, that he has mistaken it for the whole of which it is
a part, frankly identifies it with civilization, and is inclined to
pronounce France the most civilized of nations.

But we have seen how much goes to full humanization, to true
civilization, besides the power of social life and manners. There is the
power of conduct, the power of intellect and knowledge, the power of
beauty. The power of conduct is the greatest of all. And without in the
least wishing to preach, I must observe, as a mere matter of natural
fact and experience, that for the power of conduct France has never had
anything like the same sense which she has had for the power of social
life and manners. Michelet,[468] himself a Frenchman, gives us the
reason why the Reformation did not succeed in France. It did not
succeed, he says, because _la France ne voulait pas de reforme morale_--
moral reform France would not have; and the Reformation was above all a
moral movement. The sense in France for the power of conduct has not
greatly deepened, I think, since. The sense for the power of intellect
and knowledge has not been adequate either. The sense for beauty has not
been adequate. Intelligence and beauty have been, in general, but so far
reached, as they can be and are reached by men who, of the elements of
perfect humanization, lay thorough hold upon one only,--the power of
social intercourse and manners. I speak of France in general; she has
had, and she has, individuals who stand out and who form exceptions.
Well, then, if a nation laying no sufficient hold upon the powers of
beauty and knowledge, and a most failing and feeble hold upon the power
of conduct, comes to demoralization and intellectual stoppage and
fearful troubles, we need not be inordinately surprised. What we should
rather marvel at is the healing and bountiful operation of Nature,
whereby the laying firm hold on one real element in our humanization has
had for France results so beneficent.

And thus, when Sir Erskine May gets bewildered between France's equality
and fearful troubles on the one hand, and the civilization of France on
the other, let us suggest to him that perhaps he is bewildered by his
data because he combines them ill. France has not exemplary disaster and
ruin as the fruits of equality, and at the same time, and independently
of this, an exemplary civilization. She has a large measure of happiness
and success as the fruits of equality, and she has a very large measure
of dangers and troubles as the fruits of something else.

We have more to do, however, than to help Sir Erskine May out of his
scrape about France. We have to see whether the considerations which we
have been employing may not be of use to us about England.

We shall not have much difficulty in admitting whatever good is to be
said of ourselves, and we will try not to be unfair by excluding all
that is not so favorable. Indeed, our less favorable side is the one
which we should be the most anxious to note, in order that we may mend
it. But we will begin with the good. Our people has energy and honesty
as its good characteristics. We have a strong sense for the chief power
in the life and progress of man,--the power of conduct. So far we speak
of the English people as a whole. Then we have a rich, refined, and
splendid aristocracy. And we have, according to Mr. Charles Sumner's
acute and true remark, a class of gentlemen, not of the nobility, but
well-bred, cultivated, and refined, larger than is to be found in any
other country. For these last we have Mr. Sumner's testimony. As to the
splendor of our aristocracy, all the world is agreed. Then we have a
middle class and a lower class; and they, after all, are the immense
bulk of the nation.

Let us see how the civilization of these classes appears to a Frenchman,
who has witnessed, in his own country, the considerable humanization of
these classes by equality. To such an observer our middle class divides
itself into a serious portion and a gay or rowdy portion; both are a
marvel to him. With the gay or rowdy portion we need not much concern
ourselves; we shall figure it to our minds sufficiently if we conceive
it as the source of that war-song produced in these recent days of

"We don't want to fight, but by jingo, if we do,
We've got the ships, we've got the men, and we're got the money

We may also partly judge its standard of life, and the needs of its
nature, by the modern English theatre, perhaps the most contemptible in
Europe. But the real strength of the English middle class is in its
serious portion. And of this a Frenchman, who was here some little time
ago as the correspondent, I think, of the _Siecle_ newspaper, and whose
letters were afterwards published in a volume, writes as follows. He had
been attending some of the Moody and Sankey[470] meetings, and he says:
"To understand the success of Messrs. Moody and Sankey, one must be
familiar with English manners, one must know the mind-deadening
influence of a narrow Biblism, one must have experienced the sense of
acute ennui, which the aspect and the frequentation of this great
division of English society produce in others, the want of elasticity
and the chronic ennui which characterize this class itself, petrified in
a narrow Protestantism and in a perpetual reading of the Bible."

You know the French;--a little more Biblism, one may take leave to say,
would do them no harm. But an audience like this--and here, as I said,
is the advantage of an audience like this--will have no difficulty in
admitting the amount of truth which there is in the Frenchman's picture.
It is the picture of a class which, driven by its sense for the power of
conduct, in the beginning of the seventeenth century entered,--as I have
more than once said, and as I may more than once have occasion in future
to say,--_entered the prison of Puritanism, and had the key turned upon
its spirit there for two hundred years_.[471] They did not know, good
and earnest people as they were, that to the building up of human life
there belong all those other powers also,--the power of intellect and
knowledge, the power of beauty, the power of social life and manners.
And something, by what they became, they gained, and the whole nation
with them; they deepened and fixed for this nation the sense of conduct.
But they created a type of life and manners, of which they themselves,
indeed, are slow to recognize the faults, but which is fatally condemned
by its hideousness, its immense ennui, and against which the instinct of
self-preservation in humanity rebels.

Partisans fight against facts in vain. Mr. Goldwin Smith,[472] a writer
of eloquence and power, although too prone to acerbity, is a partisan of
the Puritans, and of the nonconformists who are the special inheritors
of the Puritan tradition. He angrily resents the imputation upon that
Puritan type of life, by which the life of our serious middle class has
been formed, that it was doomed to hideousness, to immense ennui. He
protests that it had beauty, amenity, accomplishment. Let us go to
facts. Charles the First, who, with all his faults, had the just idea
that art and letters are great civilizers, made, as you know, a famous
collection of pictures,--our first National Gallery. It was, I suppose,
the best collection at that time north of the Alps. It contained nine
Raphaels, eleven Correggios, twenty-eight Titians. What became of that
collection? The journals of the House of Commons will tell you. There
you may see the Puritan Parliament disposing of this Whitehall or York
House collection as follows: "Ordered, that all such pictures and
statues there as are without any superstition, shall be forthwith
sold.... Ordered, that all such pictures there as have the
representation of the Second Person in the Trinity upon them, shall be
forthwith burnt. Ordered, that all such pictures there as have the
representation of the Virgin Mary upon them, shall be forthwith burnt."
There we have the weak side of our parliamentary government and our
serious middle class. We are incapable of sending Mr. Gladstone to be
tried at the Old Bailey because he proclaims his antipathy to Lord
Beaconsfield. A majority in our House of Commons is incapable of
hailing, with frantic laughter and applause, a string of indecent jests
against Christianity and its Founder. But we are not, or were not
incapable of producing a Parliament which burns or sells the
masterpieces of Italian art. And one may surely say of such a Puritan
Parliament, and of those who determine its line for it, that they had
not the spirit of beauty.

What shall we say of amenity? Milton was born a humanist, but the
Puritan temper, as we know, mastered him. There is nothing more unlovely
and unamiable than Milton the Puritan disputant. Some one answers his
_Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce_. "I mean not," rejoins Milton, "to
dispute philosophy with this pork, who never read any." However, he does
reply to him, and throughout the reply Milton's great joke is, that his
adversary, who was anonymous, is a serving-man. "Finally, he winds up
his text with much doubt and trepidation; for it may be his trenchers
were not scraped, and that which never yet afforded corn of favor to his
noddle--the salt-cellar--was not rubbed; and therefore, in this haste,
easily granting that his answers fall foul upon each other, and praying
you would not think he writes as a prophet, but as a man, he runs to the
black jack, fills his flagon, spreads the table, and serves up
dinner."[473] There you have the same spirit of urbanity and amenity, as
much of it, and as little, as generally informs the religious
controversies of our Puritan middle class to this day.

But Mr. Goldwin Smith[474] insists, and picks out his own exemplar of
the Puritan type of life and manners; and even here let us follow him.
He picks out the most favorable specimen he can find,--Colonel
Hutchinson,[475] whose well-known memoirs, written by his widow, we have
all read with interest. "Lucy Hutchinson," says Mr. Goldwin Smith, "is
painting what she thought a perfect Puritan would be; and her picture
presents to us not a coarse, crop-eared, and snuffling fanatic, but a
highly accomplished, refined, gallant, and most amiable, though
religious and seriously minded, gentleman." Let us, I say, in this
example of Mr. Goldwin Smith's own choosing, lay our finger upon the
points where this type deflects from the truly humane ideal.

Mrs. Hutchinson relates a story which gives us a good notion of what the
amiable and accomplished social intercourse, even of a picked Puritan
family, was. Her husband was governor of Nottingham. He had occasion,
she said, "to go and break up a private meeting in the cannoneer's
chamber"; and in the cannoneer's chamber "were found some notes
concerning paedobaptism,[476] which, being brought into the governor's
lodgings, his wife having perused them and compared them with the
Scriptures, found not what to say against the truths they asserted
concerning the mis-application of that ordinance to infants." Soon
afterwards she expects her confinement, and communicates the cannoneer's
doubts about paedobaptism to her husband. The fatal cannoneer makes a
breach in him too. "Then he bought and read all the eminent treatises on
both sides, which at that time came thick from the presses, and still
was cleared in the error of the paedobaptists." Finally, Mrs. Hutchinson
is confined. Then the governor "invited all the ministers to dinner, and
propounded his doubt and the ground thereof to them. None of them could
defend their practice with any satisfactory reason, but the tradition of
the Church from the primitive times, and their main buckler of federal
holiness, which Tombs and Denne had excellently overthrown. He and his
wife then, professing themselves unsatisfied, desired their opinions."
With the opinions I will not trouble you, but hasten to the result:
"Whereupon that infant was not baptised."

No doubt to a large division of English society at this very day, that
sort of dinner and discussion, and indeed, the whole manner of life and
conversation here suggested by Mrs. Hutchinson's narrative, will seem
both natural and amiable, and such as to meet the needs of man as a
religious and social creature. You know the conversation which reigns in
thousands of middle-class families at this hour, about nunneries,
teetotalism, the confessional, eternal punishment, ritualism,
disestablishment. It goes wherever the class goes which is moulded on
the Puritan type of life. In the long winter evenings of Toronto Mr.
Goldwin Smith has had, probably, abundant experience of it. What is its
enemy? The instinct of self-preservation in humanity. Men make crude
types and try to impose them, but to no purpose. "_L'homme s'agite, Dieu
le mene_,"[477] says Bossuet. "There are many devices in a man's heart;
nevertheless the counsel of the Eternal, that shall stand."[478] Those
who offer us the Puritan type of life offer us a religion not true, the
claims of intellect and knowledge not satisfied, the claim of beauty not
satisfied, the claim of manners not satisfied. In its strong sense for
conduct that life touches truth; but its other imperfections hinder it
from employing even this sense aright. The type mastered our nation for
a time. Then came the reaction. The nation said: "This type, at any
rate, is amiss; we are not going to be all like _that!_" The type
retired into our middle class, and fortified itself there. It seeks to
endure, to emerge, to deny its own imperfections, to impose itself
again;--impossible! If we continue to live, we must outgrow it. The very
class in which it is rooted, our middle class, will have to acknowledge
the type's inadequacy, will have to acknowledge the hideousness, the
immense ennui of the life which this type has created, will have to
transform itself thoroughly. It will have to admit the large part of
truth which there is in the criticisms of our Frenchman, whom we have
too long forgotten.

After our middle class he turns his attention to our lower class. And of
the lower and larger portion of this, the portion not bordering on the
middle class and sharing its faults, he says: "I consider this multitude
to be absolutely devoid, not only of political principles, but even of
the most simple notions of good and evil. Certainly it does not appeal,
this mob, to the principles of '89, which you English make game of; it
does not insist on the rights of man; what it wants is beer, gin, and

That is a description of what Mr. Bright[480] would call the residuum,
only our author seems to think the residuum a very large body. And its
condition strikes him with amazement and horror. And surely well it may.
Let us recall Mr. Hamerton's account of the most illiterate class in
France; what an amount of civilization they have notwithstanding! And
this is always to be understood, in hearing or reading a Frenchman's
praise of England. He envies our liberty, our public spirit, our trade,
our stability. But there is always a reserve in his mind. He never means
for a moment that he would like to change with us. Life seems to him so
much better a thing in France for so many more people, that, in spite of
the fearful troubles of France, it is best to be a Frenchman. A
Frenchman might agree with Mr. Cobden,[481] that life is good in England
for those people who have at least L5000 a year. But the civilization of
that immense majority who have not L5000 a year, or, L500, or even
L100,--of our middle and lower class,--seems to him too deplorable.

And now what has this condition of our middle and lower class to tell us
about equality? How is it, must we not ask, how is it that, being
without fearful troubles, having so many achievements to show and so
much success, having as a nation a deep sense for conduct, having signal
energy and honesty, having a splendid aristocracy, having an
exceptionally large class of gentlemen, we are yet so little civilized?
How is it that our middle and lower classes, in spite of the individuals
among them who are raised by happy gifts of nature to a more humane
life, in spite of the seriousness of the middle class, in spite of the
honesty and power of true work, the _virtus verusque labor_, which are
to be found in abundance throughout the lower, do yet present, as a
whole, the characters which we have seen?

And really it seems as if the current of our discourse carried us of
itself to but one conclusion. It seems as if we could not avoid
concluding, that just as France owes her fearful troubles to other
things and her civilizedness to equality, so we owe our immunity from
fearful troubles to other things, and our uncivilizedness to inequality.
"Knowledge is easy," says the wise man, "to him that understandeth";[482]
easy, he means, to him who will use his mind simply and rationally, and
not to make him think he can know what he cannot, or to maintain, _per
fas et nefas_, a false thesis with which he fancies his interests to be
bound up. And to him who will use his mind as the wise man recommends,
surely it is easy to see that our shortcomings in civilization are due
to our inequality; or, in other words, that the great inequality of
classes and property, which came to us from the Middle Age and which we
maintain because we have the religion of inequality, that this
constitution of things, I say, has the natural and necessary effect,
under present circumstances, of materializing our upper class,
vulgarizing our middle class, and brutalizing our lower class.[483] And
this is to fail in civilization.

For only just look how the facts combine themselves. I have said little
as yet about our aristocratic class, except that it is splendid. Yet
these, "our often very unhappy brethren," as Burke calls them, are by no
means matter for nothing but ecstasy. Our charity ought certainly, Burke
says, to "extend a due and anxious sensation of pity to the distresses
of the miserable great." Burke's extremely strong language about their
miseries and defects I will not quote. For my part, I am always disposed
to marvel that human beings, in a position so false, should be so good
as these are. Their reason for existing was to serve as a number of
centres in a world disintegrated after the ruin of the Roman Empire, and
slowly re-constituting itself. Numerous centres of material force were
needed, and these a feudal aristocracy supplied. Their large and
hereditary estates served this public end. The owners had a positive
function, for which their estates were essential. In our modern world
the function is gone; and the great estates, with an infinitely
multiplied power of ministering to mere pleasure and indulgence, remain.
The energy and honesty of our race does not leave itself without witness
in this class, and nowhere are there more conspicuous examples of
individuals raised by happy gifts of nature far above their fellows and
their circumstances. For distinction of all kinds this class has an
esteem. Everything which succeeds they tend to welcome, to win over, to
put on their side; genius may generally make, if it will, not bad terms
for itself with them. But the total result of the class, its effect on
society at large and on national progress, are what we must regard. And
on the whole, with no necessary function to fulfil, never conversant
with life as it really is, tempted, flattered, and spoiled from
childhood to old age, our aristocratic class is inevitably materialized,
and the more so the more the development of industry and ingenuity
augments the means of luxury. Every one can see how bad is the action of
such an aristocracy upon the class of newly enriched people, whose great
danger is a materialistic ideal, just because it is the ideal they can
easiest comprehend. Nor is the mischief of this action now compensated
by signal services of a public kind. Turn even to that sphere which
aristocracies think specially their own, and where they have under other
circumstances been really effective,--the sphere of politics. When there
is need, as now, for any large forecast of the course of human affairs,
for an acquaintance with the ideas which in the end sway mankind, and
for an estimate of their power, aristocracies are out of their element,
and materialized aristocracies most of all. In the immense spiritual
movement of our day, the English aristocracy, as I have elsewhere said,
always reminds me of Pilate confronting the phenomenon of Christianity.
Nor can a materialized class have any serious and fruitful sense for the
power of beauty. They may imagine themselves to be in pursuit of beauty;
but how often, alas, does the pursuit come to little more than dabbling
a little in what they are pleased to call art, and making a great deal
of what they are pleased to call love!

Let us return to their merits. For the power of manners an aristocratic
class, whether materialized or not, will always, from its circumstances,
have a strong sense. And although for this power of social life and
manners, so important to civilization, our English race has no special
natural turn, in our aristocracy this power emerges and marks them. When
the day of general humanization comes, they will have fixed the standard
of manners. The English simplicity, too, makes the best of the English
aristocracy more frank and natural than the best of the like class
anywhere else, and even the worst of them it makes free from the
incredible fatuities and absurdities of the worst. Then the sense of
conduct they share with their countrymen at large. In no class has it
such trials to undergo; in none is it more often and more grievously
overborne. But really the right comment on this is the comment of
Pepys[484] upon the evil courses of Charles the Second and the Duke of
York and the court of that day: "At all which I am sorry; but it is the
effect of idleness, and having nothing else to employ their great
spirits upon."

Heaven forbid that I should speak in dispraise of that unique and most
English class which Mr. Charles Sumner extols--the large class of
gentlemen, not of the landed class or of the nobility, but cultivated
and refined. They are a seemly product of the energy and of the power to
rise in our race. Without, in general, rank and splendor and wealth and
luxury to polish them, they have made their own the high standard of
life and manners of an aristocratic and refined class. Not having all
the dissipations and distractions of this class, they are much more
seriously alive to the power of intellect and knowledge, to the power of
beauty. The sense of conduct, too, meets with fewer trials in this
class. To some extent, however, their contiguousness to the aristocratic
class has now the effect of materializing them, as it does the class of
newly enriched people. The most palpable action is on the young amongst
them, and on their standard of life and enjoyment. But in general, for
this whole class, established facts, the materialism which they see
regnant, too much block their mental horizon, and limit the
possibilities of things to them. They are deficient in openness and
flexibility of mind, in free play of ideas, in faith and ardor.
Civilized they are, but they are not much of a civilizing force; they
are somehow bounded and ineffective.

So on the middle class they produce singularly little effect. What the
middle class sees is that splendid piece of materialism, the
aristocratic class, with a wealth and luxury utterly out of their reach,
with a standard of social life and manners, the offspring of that wealth
and luxury, seeming utterly out of their reach also. And thus they are
thrown back upon themselves--upon a defective type of religion, a narrow
range of intellect and knowledge, a stunted sense of beauty, a low
standard of manners. And the lower class see before them the
aristocratic class, and its civilization, such as it is, even infinitely
more out of _their_ reach than out of that of the middle class; while
the life of the middle class, with its unlovely types of religion,
thought, beauty, and manners, has naturally, in general, no great
attractions for them either. And so they, too, are thrown back upon
themselves; upon their beer, their gin, and their _fun_. Now, then, you
will understand what I meant by saying that our inequality materializes
our upper class, vulgarizes our middle class, brutalizes our lower.

And the greater the inequality the more marked is its bad action upon
the middle and lower classes. In Scotland the landed aristocracy fills
the scene, as is well known, still more than in England; the other
classes are more squeezed back and effaced. And the social civilization
of the lower middle class and of the poorest class, in Scotland, is an
example of the consequences. Compared with the same class even in
England, the Scottish lower middle class is most visibly, to vary Mr.
Charles Sumner's phrase, _less_ well-bred, _less_ careful in personal
habits and in social conventions, _less_ refined. Let any one who doubts
it go, after issuing from the aristocratic solitudes which possess Loch
Lomond, let him go and observe the shopkeepers and the middle class in
Dumbarton, and Greenock, and Gourock, and the places along the mouth of
the Clyde. And for the poorest class, who that has seen it can ever
forget the hardly human horror, the abjection and uncivilizedness of

What a strange religion, then, is our religion of inequality! Romance
often helps a religion to hold its ground, and romance is good in its
way; but ours is not even a romantic religion. No doubt our aristocracy
is an object of very strong public interest. The _Times_ itself bestows
a leading article by way of epithalamium on the Duke of Norfolk's
marriage. And those journals of a new type, full of talent, and which
interest me particularly because they seem as if they were written by
the young lion[485] of our youth,--the young lion grown mellow and, as
the French say, _viveur_, arrived at his full and ripe knowledge of the
world, and minded to enjoy the smooth evening of his days,--those
journals, in the main a sort of social gazette of the aristocracy, are
apparently not read by that class only which they most concern, but are
read with great avidity by other classes also. And the common people,
too, have undoubtedly, as Mr. Gladstone says, a wonderful preference for
a lord. Yet our aristocracy, from the action upon it of the Wars of the
Roses, the Tudors, and the political necessities of George the Third, is
for the imagination a singularly modern and uninteresting one. Its
splendor of station, its wealth, show, and luxury, is then what the
other classes really admire in it; and this is not an elevating
admiration. Such an admiration will never lift us out of our vulgarity
and brutality, if we chance to be vulgar and brutal to start with; it
will rather feed them and be fed by them. So that when Mr. Gladstone
invites us to call our love of inequality "the complement of the love of
freedom or its negative pole, or the shadow which the love of freedom
casts, or the reverberation of its voice in the halls of the
constitution," we must surely answer that all this mystical eloquence is
not in the least necessary to explain so simple a matter; that our love
of inequality is really the vulgarity in us, and the brutality, admiring
and worshipping the splendid materiality.

Our present social organization, however, will and must endure until our
middle class is provided with some better ideal of life than it has now.
Our present organization has been an appointed stage in our growth; it
has been of good use, and has enabled us to do great things. But the use
is at an end, and the stage is over. Ask yourselves if you do not
sometimes feel in yourselves a sense, that in spite of the strenuous
efforts for good of so many excellent persons amongst us, we begin
somehow to flounder and to beat the air; that we seem to be finding
ourselves stopped on this line of advance and on that, and to be
threatened with a sort of standstill. It is that we are trying to live
on with a social organization of which the day is over. Certainly
equality will never of itself alone give us a perfect civilization. But,
with such inequality as ours, a perfect civilization is impossible.

To that conclusion, facts, and the stream itself of this discourse, do
seem, I think, to carry us irresistibly. We arrive at it because they so
choose, not because we so choose. Our tendencies are all the other way.
We are all of us politicians, and in one of two camps, the Liberal or
the Conservative. Liberals tend to accept the middle class as it is, and
to praise the nonconformists; while Conservatives tend to accept the
upper class as it is, and to praise the aristocracy. And yet here we are
at the conclusion, that whereas one of the great obstacles to our
civilization is, as I have often said, British nonconformity, another
main obstacle to our civilization is British aristocracy! And this while
we are yet forced to recognize excellent special qualities as well as
the general English energy and honesty, and a number of emergent humane
individuals, in both nonconformists and aristocracy. Clearly such a
conclusion can be none of our own seeking.

Then again, to remedy our inequality, there must be a change in the law
of bequest, as there has been in France; and the faults and
inconveniences of the present French law of bequest are obvious. It
tends to over-divide property; it is unequal in operation, and can be
eluded by people limiting their families; it makes the children, however
ill they may behave, independent of the parent. To be sure, Mr.
Mill[486] and others have shown that a law of bequest fixing the
maximum, whether of land or money, which any one individual may take by
bequest or inheritance, but in other respects leaving the testator quite
free, has none of the inconveniences of the French law, and is in every
way preferable. But evidently these are not questions of practical
politics. Just imagine Lord Hartington[487] going down to Glasgow, and
meeting his Scotch Liberals there, and saying to them: "You are ill at
ease, and you are calling for change, and very justly. But the cause of
your being ill at ease is not what you suppose. The cause of your being
ill at ease is the profound imperfectness of your social civilization.
Your social civilization is, indeed, such as I forbear to characterize.
But the remedy is not disestablishment. The remedy is social equality.
Let me direct your attention to a reform in the law of bequest and
entail." One can hardly speak of such a thing without laughing. No, the
matter is at present one for the thoughts of those who think. It is a
thing to be turned over in the minds of those who, on the one hand, have
the spirit of scientific inquirers, bent on seeing things as they really
are; and, on the other hand, the spirit of friends of the humane life,
lovers of perfection. To your thoughts I commit it. And perhaps, the
more you think of it, the more you will be persuaded that Menander[488]
showed his wisdom quite as much when he said _Choose equality_, as when
he assured us that _Evil communications corrupt good manners_.




[1] ~Poetry and the Classics~. Published as Preface to _Poems_: 1853
(dated Fox How, Ambleside, October 1, 1853). It was reprinted in Irish
Essays, 1882.

[2] ~the poem~. _Empedocles on Etna_.

[3] ~the Sophists~. "A name given by the Greeks about the middle of the
fifth century B.C. to certain teachers of a superior grade who,
distinguishing themselves from philosophers on the one hand and from
artists and craftsmen on the other, claimed to prepare their pupils, not
for any particular study or profession, but for civic life."
_Encyclopaedia Britannica_.


[4] _Poetics_, 4.

[5] _Theognis_, ll. 54-56.


[6] ~"The poet," it is said~. In the _Spectator_ of April 2, 1853. The
words quoted were not used with reference to poems of mine.[Arnold.]


[7] ~Dido~. See the _Iliad_, the _Oresteia_ (_Agamemnon, Choepharae_, and
_Eumenides_) of AEschylus, and the _AEneid_.

[8] ~Hermann and Dorothea, Childe Harold, Jocelyn, the Excursion~. Long
narrative poems by Goethe, Byron, Lamartine, and Wordsworth.


[9] ~Oedipus~. See the _Oedipus Tyrannus_ and _Oedipus Coloneus_ of


[10] ~grand style~. Arnold, while admitting that the term ~grand~ style,
which he repeatedly uses, is incapable of exact verbal definition,
describes it most adequately in the essay _On Translating Homer_: "I
think it will be found that the grand style arises in poetry when a
noble nature, poetically gifted, treats with simplicity or with severity
a serious subject." See _On the Study of Celtic Literature and on
Translating Homer_, ed. 1895, pp. 264-69.

[11] ~Orestes, or Merope, or Alcmaeon~. The story of ~Orestes~ was
dramatized by AEschylus, by Sophocles, and by Euripides. Merope was the
subject of a lost tragedy by Euripides and of several modern plays,
including one by Matthew Arnold himself. The story of ~Alcmaeon~ was the
subject of several tragedies which have not been preserved.


[12] ~Polybius~. A Greek historian (c. 204-122 B.C.)


[13]. ~Menander~. See _Contribution of the Celts, Selections_, Note 3,
p. 177.[Transcriber's note: this is Footnote 255 in this e-text.]


[14] ~rien a dire~. He says all that he wishes to, but unfortunately he
has nothing to say.


[15] Boccaccio's _Decameron_, 4th day, 5th novel.

[16] ~Henry Hallam~ (1777-1859). English historian. See his
_Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth
and Seventeenth Centuries_, chap. 23, Sec.Sec. 51, 52.


[17] ~Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot~ (1787-1874), historian, orator,
and statesman of France.


[18] ~Pittacus~, of Mytilene in Lesbos (c. 650-569 B.C.), was one of the
Seven Sages of Greece. His favorite sayings were: "It is hard to be
excellent" ([Greek: chalepon esthlon emenai]), and "Know when to act."


[19] ~Barthold Georg Niebuhr~ (1776-1831) was a German statesman and
historian. His _Roman History_ (1827-32) is an epoch-making work. For
his opinion of his age see his Life and Letters, London, 1852, II, 396.


[20] _AEneid_, XII, 894-95.



[21] Reprinted from _The National Review_, November, 1864, in the
_Essays in Criticism_, Macmillan & Co., 1865.

[22] In _On Translating Homer_, ed. 1903, pp. 216-17.

[23] An essay called _Wordsworth: The Man and the Poet_, published in
_The North British Review_ for August, 1864, vol. 41. ~John Campbell
Shairp~ (1819-85), Scottish critic and man of letters, was professor of
poetry at Oxford from 1877 to 1884. The best of his lectures from this
chair were published in 1881 as _Aspects of Poetry_.

[24] I cannot help thinking that a practice, common in England during
the last century, and still followed in France, of printing a notice of
this kind,--a notice by a competent critic,--to serve as an introduction
to an eminent author's works, might be revived among us with advantage.
To introduce all succeeding editions of Wordsworth, Mr. Shairp's notice
might, it seems to me, excellently serve; it is written from the point
of view of an admirer, nay, of a disciple, and that is right; but then
the disciple must be also, as in this case he is, a critic, a man of
letters, not, as too often happens, some relation or friend with no
qualification for his task except affection for his author.[Arnold.]

[25] See _Memoirs of William Wordsworth_, ed. 1851, II, 151, letter to
Bernard Barton.


[26] ~Irene~. An unsuccessful play of Dr. Johnson's.


[27] ~Preface~. Prefixed to the second edition (1800) of the _Lyrical


[28] ~The old woman~. At the first attempt to read the newly prescribed
liturgy in St. Giles's Church, Edinburgh, on July 23, 1637, a riot took
place, in which the "fauld-stools," or folding stools, of the
congregation were hurled as missiles. An untrustworthy tradition
attributes the flinging of the first stool to a certain Jenny or Janet


[29] _Pensees de J. Joubert_, ed. 1850, I, 355, titre 15, 2.


[30] ~French Revolution~. The latter part of Burke's life was largely
devoted to a conflict with the upholders of the French Revolution.
_Reflections on the Revolution in France_, 1790, and _Letters on a
Regicide Peace_, 1796, are his most famous writings in this cause.


[31] ~Richard Price, D.D.~ (1723-91), was strongly opposed to the war
with America and in sympathy with the French revolutionists.

[32] From Goldsmith's epitaph on Burke in the _Retaliation_.


[33] ~Num. XXII~, 35.

[34] ~William Eden, First Baron Auckland~ (1745-1814), English
statesman. Among other services he represented English interests in
Holland during the critical years 1790-93.


[35] ~Revue des deux Mondes~. The best-known of the French magazines
devoted to literature, art, and general criticism, founded in Paris in
1831 by Francois Buloz.


[36] ~Home and Foreign Review~. Published in London 1862-64.


[37] ~Charles Bowyer Adderley, First Baron Norton~ (1814-1905), English
politician, inherited valuable estates in Warwickshire. He was a strong
churchman and especially interested in education and the colonies.

[38] ~John Arthur Roebuck~ (1801-79), a leading radical and utilitarian
reformer, conspicuous for his eloquence, honesty, and strong hostility

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