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Studies in Literature by John Morley

Part 4 out of 4

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Perhaps Carlyle would have agreed that Mr. Mill's famous pair of
essays on Bentham and Coleridge have served the purpose which he had
in his mind, though we may well regret the loss of such a picture of
Bentham's philosophic personality as he would surely have given us. It
is touching to think of him whom we all know as the most honoured name
among living veterans of letters,[1] passing through the vexed ordeal
of the young recruit, and battling for his own against the waywardness
of critics and the blindness of publishers. In 1831 he writes to Mr.
Napier: "All manner of perplexities have occurred in the publishing
of my poor book, which perplexities I could only cut asunder, not
unloose; so the MS. like an unhappy ghost still lingers on the wrong
side of Styx; the Charon of ---- Street durst not risk it in his
_sutilis cymba_, so it leaped ashore again." And three months later:
"I have given up the notion of hawking my little Manuscript Book about
any further; for a long time it has lain quiet in its drawer, waiting
for a better day." And yet this little book was nothing less than the
History of the French Revolution.

[Footnote 1: Carlyle died on February 5, 1881.]

It might be a lesson to small men to see the reasonableness, sense,
and patience of these greater men. Macaulay's letters show him to have
been a pattern of good sense and considerateness. Mr. Carlyle seems
indeed to have found Jeffrey's editorial vigour more than could be

"My respected friend your predecessor had some difficulty with me
in adjusting the respective prerogatives of Author and Editor, for
though not, as I hope, insensible to fair reason, I used sometimes
to rebel against what I reckoned mere authority, and this partly
perhaps as a matter of literary conscience; being wont to write
nothing without studying it if possible to the bottom, and writing
always with an almost painful feeling of scrupulosity, that light
editorial hacking and hewing to right and left was in general
nowise to my mind."

But we feel that the fault must have lain with Jeffrey; the
qualifications that Lord Cockburn admired so much were not likely to
be to the taste of a man of Mr. Carlyle's grit. That did not prevent
the most original of Mr. Napier's contributors from being one of the
most just and reasonable.

"I have, barely within my time, finished that paper
['Characteristics'], to which you are now heartily welcome, if you
have room for it. The doctrines here set forth have mostly long
been familiar convictions with me; yet it is perhaps only within
the last twelvemonth that the public utterance of some of them
could have seemed a duty. I have striven to express myself with
what guardedness was possible; and, as there will now be no time
for correcting proofs, I must leave it wholly in your editorial
hands. Nay, should it on due consideration appear to you in your
place (for I see that matter dimly, and nothing is clear but my
own mind and the general condition of the world), unadvisable to
print the paper at all, then pray understand, my dear Sir, now and
always, that I am no unreasonable man; but if dogmatic enough (as
Jeffrey used to call it) in my own beliefs, also truly desirous to
be just towards those of others. I shall, in all sincerity, beg of
you to do, without fear of offence (for in _no_ point of view will
there be any), what you yourself see good. A mighty work lies
before the writers of this time."

It is always interesting, to the man of letters at any rate if not
to his neighbours, to find what was first thought by men of admitted
competence of the beginnings of writers who are now seen to have made
a mark on the world. "When the reputation of authors is made," said
Sainte-Beuve, "it is easy to speak of them _convenablement_: we have
only to guide ourselves by the common opinion. But at the start, at
the moment when they are trying their first flight and are in part
ignorant of themselves, then to judge them with tact, with precision,
not to exaggerate their scope, to predict their flight, or divine
their limits, to put the reasonable objections in the midst of all
due respect--this is the quality of the critic who is born to be a
critic." We have been speaking of Mr. Carlyle. This is what Jeffrey
thought of him in 1832:--

"I fear Carlyle will not do, that is, if you do not take the
liberties and the pains with him that I did, by striking out
freely, and writing in occasionally. The misfortune is, that he
is very obstinate, and unluckily in a place like this, he finds
people enough to abet and applaud him, to intercept the operation
of the otherwise infallible remedy of general avoidance and
neglect. It is a great pity, for he is a man of genius and
industry, and with the capacity of being an elegant and impressive

The notion of Jeffrey occasionally writing elegantly and impressively
into Carlyle's proof-sheets is rather striking. Some of Jeffrey's
other criticisms sound very curiously in our ear in these days. It
is startling to find Mill's _Logic_ described (1843) as a "great
unreadable book, and its elaborate demonstration of axioms and
truisms." A couple of years later Jeffrey admits, in speaking of Mr.
Mill's paper on Guizot--"Though I have long thought very highly of his
powers as a reasoner, I scarcely gave him credit for such large and
sound views of _realities_ and practical results as are displayed
in this article." Sir James Stephen--the distinguished sire of two
distinguished contributors, who may remind more than one editor of our
generation of the Horatian saying, that

"Fortes creantur fortibus et bonis,
... neque imbellera feroces
Progenerant aquilae columbam"

--this excellent writer took a more just measure of the book which
Jeffrey thought unreadable.

"My more immediate object in writing is to remind you of John
Mill's book [System of Logic], of which I have lately been reading
a considerable part, and I have done so with the conviction that
it is one of the most remarkable productions of this nineteenth
century. Exceedingly debatable indeed, but most worthy of debate,
are many of his favourite tenets, especially those of the last
two or three chapters. No man is fit to encounter him who is not
thoroughly conversant with the moral sciences which he handles;
and remembering what you told me of your own studies under Dugald
Stewart, I cannot but recommend the affair to your own personal
attention. You will find very few men fit to be trusted with it.
You ought to be aware that, although with great circumspection,
not to say timidity, Mill is an opponent of Religion in the
abstract, not of any particular form of it. That is, he evidently
maintains that superhuman influences on the mind of man are but a
dream, whence the inevitable conclusion that all acts of devotion
and prayer are but a superstition. That such is his real meaning,
however darkly conveyed, is indisputable. You are well aware that
it is in direct conflict with my own deepest and most cherished
convictions. Yet to condemn him for holding, and for calmly
publishing such views, is but to add to the difficulties of fair
and full discussion, and to render truth (or supposed truth), less
certain and valuable than if it had invited, and encountered,
and triumphed over every assault of every honest antagonist. I,
therefore, wish Mill to be treated respectfully and handsomely."

Few of Mr. Napier's correspondents seem to have been more considerate.
At one period (1844) a long time had passed without any contribution
from Sir James Stephen's pen appearing in the Review. Mr. Senior
wrote a hint on the subject to the editor, and Napier seems to have
communicated with Sir James Stephen, who replied in a model strain.

"Have you any offer of a paper or papers from my friend John
Austin? If you have, and if you are not aware what manner of man
he is, it may not be amiss that you should be apprised that in
these parts he enjoys, and deservedly, a very high and yet a
peculiar reputation. I have a great attachment to him. He is, in
the best sense of the word, a philosopher, an earnest and humble
lover of wisdom. I know not anywhere a larger minded man, and yet,
eloquent as he is in speech, there is, in his written style, an
involution and a lack of vivacity which renders his writings a
sealed book to almost every one. Whether he will be able to assume
an easier and a lighter manner, I do not know. If not, I rather
fear for him when he stands at your bar. All I ask is, that you
would convey your judgment in measured and (as far as you can
honestly) in courteous terms; for he is, for so considerable a
man, strangely sensitive. You must have an odd story to tell of
your intercourse with the knights of the Order of the Quill."

And the letter closed with what an editor values more even than
decently Christian treatment, namely the suggestion of a fine subject.
This became the admirable essay on the Clapham Sect.

The author of one of the two or three most delightful biographies
in all literature has published the letter to Mr. Napier in which
Macaulay speaks pretty plainly what he thought about Brougham and the
extent of his services to the Review. Brougham in turn hated Macaulay,
whom he calls the third or greatest bore in society that he has ever
known. He is furious--and here Brougham was certainly not wrong--over
the "most profligate political morality" of Macaulay's essay on Clive.

"In my eyes, his defence of Clive, and the audacious ground of
it, merit execration. It is a most serious, and, to me, a painful
subject. No--no--all the sentences a man can turn, even if he made
them in pure taste, and not in Tom's snip-snap taste of the lower
empire,--all won't avail against a rotten morality. The first and
most sacred duty of a public man, and, above all, an author, is
to keep by honest and true doctrine--never to relax--never to
countenance vice--ever to hold fast by virtue. What? Are we
gravely to be told, at this time of day, that a set-off may be
allowed for public, and, therefore, atrocious crimes, though he
admits that a common felon pleads it in vain? Gracious God, where
is this to end! What horrors will it not excuse! Tiberius's great
capacity, his first-rate wit, that which made him the charm of
society, will next, I suppose, be set up to give a splendour to
the inhabitants of Capreae. Why, Olive's address, and his skill,
and his courage are not at all more certain, nor are they
qualities of a different cast. Every great ruffian, who has filled
the world with blood and tears, will be sure of an acquittal,
because of his talents and his success. After I had, and chiefly
in the _Edinburgh Review_, been trying to restore a better, a
purer, a higher standard of morals, and to wean men from the silly
love of military glory, for which they are the first to pay, I
find the _Edinburgh Review_ preaching, not merely the old and
common heresies, but ten thousand times worse, adopting a vile
principle never yet avowed in terms, though too often and too much
taken for a guide, unknown to those who followed it, in forming
their judgments of great and successful criminals."

Of the essay on Warren Hastings he thought better, "bating some
vulgarity and Macaulay's usual want of all power of reasoning."
Lord Cockburn wrote to Mr. Napier (1844) a word or two on Macaulay.
"Delighting as I do," says Lord Cockburn, "in his thoughts, views, and
knowledge, I feel too often compelled to curse and roar at his words
and the structure of his composition. As a corrupter of style, he is
more dangerous to the young than Gibbon. His seductive powers greater,
his defects worse." All good critics now accept this as true. Jeffrey,
by the way, speaking of the same essay, thinks that Macaulay rates
Chatham too high. "I have always had an impression," he says, "(though
perhaps an ignorant and unjust one), that there was more good luck
than wisdom in his foreign policy, and very little to admire (except
his personal purity) in any part of his domestic administration."

It is interesting to find a record, in the energetic speech of
contemporary hatred, of the way in which orthodox science regarded a
once famous book of heterodox philosophy. Here is Professor Sedgwick
on the _Vestiges of Creation_:--

"I now know the Vestiges well, and I detest the book for its
shallowness, for the intense vulgarity of its philosophy, for its
gross, unblushing materialism, for its silly credulity in catering
out of every fool's dish, for its utter ignorance of what is meant
by induction, for its gross (and I dare to say, filthy) views of
physiology,--most ignorant and most false,--and for Its shameful
shuffling of the facts of geology so as to make them play a
rogue's game. I believe some woman is the author; partly from the
fair dress and agreeable exterior of the Vestiges: and partly from
the utter ignorance the book displays of all sound physical logic.
A _man_ who knew so much of the surface of Physics must, at least
on some one point or other, have taken a deeper plunge; but _all_
parts of the book are shallow.... From the bottom of my soul, I
loathe and detest the Vestiges. 'Tis a rank pill of asafoetida and
arsenic, covered with gold leaf. I do, therefore, trust that your
contributor has stamped with an iron heel upon the head of the
filthy abortion, and put an end to its crawlings. There is not one
subject the author handles bearing on life, of which he does not
take a degrading view."

Mr. Napier seems to have asked him to write on the book, and
Sedgwick's article, the first he ever wrote for a review, eventually
appeared (1845),--without, it is to be hoped, too much of the raging
contempt of the above and other letters. "I do feel contempt, and,
I hope, I shall express it. Eats hatched by the incubations of a
goose--dogs playing dominos--monkeys breeding men and women--all
distinctions between natural and moral done away--the Bible proved
all a lie, and mental philosophy one mass of folly, all of it to be
pounded down, and done over again in the cooking vessels of Gall and
Spurzheim!" This was the beginning of a long campaign, which is just
now drawing near its close. Let us at least be glad that orthodoxy,
whether scientific or religious, has mended his temper. One among
other causes of the improvement, as we have already said, is probably
to be found in the greater self-restraint which comes from the fact of
the writer appearing in his own proper person.


[Footnote 1: On the writer's retirement from the editorship of the
_Fortnightly Review_, in 1882.]

The present number of the Review marks the close of a task which was
confided to me no less than fifteen years ago--_grande mortalis cevi
spatium_, a long span of one's mortal days. Fifteen years are enough
to bring a man from youth to middle age, to test the working value of
convictions, to measure the advance of principles and beliefs, and,
alas! to cut off many early associates and to extinguish many lights.
It is hardly possible that a Review should have been conducted for so
considerable a time without the commission of some mistakes; articles
admitted which might as well have been left out, opinions expressed
which have a crudish look in the mellow light of years, phrases
dropped in the heat or hurry of the moment which one would fain
obliterate. Many a regret must rise in men's minds on any occasion
that compels them to look back over a long reach of years. The
disparity between aim and performance, the unfulfilled promise, the
wrong turnings taken at critical points--as an accident of the hour
draws us to take stock of a complete period of our lives, all these
things rise up in private and internal judgment against anybody who is
not either too stupid or too fatuously complacent to recognise facts
when he sees them. But the mood passes. Time, happily, is merciful,
and men's memories are benignly short.

More painful is the recollection of those earlier contributors of ours
who have vanished from the world. Periodical literature is like the
manna in the wilderness; it quickly loses its freshness, and to turn
over thirty volumes of old Reviews can hardly be exhilarating at the
best: least of all so, when it recalls friends and coadjutors who
can give their help no more. George Henry Lewes, the founder of the
Review, and always cordially interested in its fortunes, has not
survived to see the end of the reign of his successor, His vivacious
intelligence had probably done as much as he was competent to do for
his generation, but there were other important contributors, now gone,
of whom this could not be said. In the region of political theory, the
loss of J.E. Cairnes was truly lamentable and untimely. He had, as
Mill said of him, "that rare qualification among writers on political
and social subjects--a genuine scientific intellect." Not a month
passes in which one does not feel how great an advantage it would have
been to be able to go down to Blackheath, and discuss the perplexities
of the time in that genial and manly companionship, where facts were
weighed with so much care, where conclusions were measured with such
breadth and comprehension, and where even the great stolid idols of
the Cave and the Market Place were never too rudely buffeted. Of
a very different order of mind from Cairnes, but not less to be
permanently regretted by all of us who knew him, was Mr. Bagehot,
whose books on the English Constitution, on Physics and Politics,
and the fragment on the Postulates of Political Economy, were all
published in these pages. He wrote, in fact, the first article in
the first number. Though himself extremely cool and sceptical about
political improvement of every sort, he took abundant interest in more
ardent friends. Perhaps it was that they amused him; in return his
good-natured ironies put them wholesomely on their mettle. As has been
well said of him, he had a unique power of animation without combat;
it was all stimulus and yet no contest; his talk was full of youth,
yet had all the wisdom of mature judgment _(R.H. Hutton)_. Those who
were least willing to assent to Bagehot's practical maxims in judging
current affairs, yet were well aware how much they profited by his
Socratic objections, and knew, too, what real acquaintance with men
and business, what honest sympathy and friendliness, and what serious
judgment and interest all lay under his playful and racy humour.

More untimely, in one sense, than any other was the death of Professor
Clifford, whose articles in this Review attracted so much attention,
and I fear that I may add, gave for a season so much offence six or
seven years ago. Cairnes was scarcely fifty when he died, and Bagehot
was fifty-one, but Clifford was only four-and-thirty. Yet in this
brief space he had not merely won a reputation as a mathematician of
the first order, but had made a real mark on his time, both by the
substance of his speculations in science, religion, and ethics, and
by the curious audacity with which he proclaimed at the pitch of his
voice on the housetops religious opinions that had hitherto been kept
among the family secrets of the _domus Socratica_. It is melancholy
to think that exciting work, done under pressure of time of his own
imposing, should have been the chief cause of his premature decline.
How intense that pressure was the reader may measure by the fact that
a paper of his on _The Unseen Universe_, which filled eighteen pages
of the Review, was composed at a single sitting that lasted from a
quarter to ten in the evening till nine o'clock the following morning.
As one revolves these and other names of eminent men who actively
helped to make the Review what it has been, it would be impossible to
omit the most eminent of them all. Time has done something to impair
the philosophical reputation and the political celebrity of J.S. Mill;
but it cannot alter the affectionate memory in which some of us must
always hold his wisdom and goodness, his rare union of moral ardour
with a calm and settled mind. He took the warmest interest In this
Review from the moment when I took it up, partly from the friendship
with which he honoured me, but much more because he wished to
encourage what was then--though it is now happily no longer--the only
attempt to conduct a periodical on the principles of free discussion
and personal responsibility. While recalling these and others who are
no more, it was naturally impossible for me to forget the constant
and valuable help that has been so freely given to me, often at much
sacrifice of their own convenience, by those friends and contributors
who are still with us. No conductor ever laid down his _baton_ with a
more cordial and sincere sense of gratitude to those who took their
several parts in his performance.

One chief experiment which the Review was established to try was that
of signed articles. When Mr. Lewes wrote his Farewell Causerie, as I
am doing now, he said: "That we have been enabled to bring together
men so various in opinion and so distinguished in power has been
mainly owing to the principle adopted of allowing each writer perfect
freedom; which could only have been allowed under the condition of
personal responsibility. The question of signing articles had long
been debated; it has now been tested. The arguments in favour of
it were mainly of a moral order; the arguments against it, while
admitting the morality, mainly asserted its inexpediency. The question
of expediency has, I venture to say, been materially enlightened
by the success of the Review." The success of other periodicals,
conducted still more rigorously on the principle that every article
ought to bear its writer's signature, leaves no further doubt on the
subject; so that it is now almost impossible to realise that only
fifteen or sixteen years ago scarcely anybody of the class called
practical could believe that the sacred principle of the Anonymous was
doomed. One of the shrewdest publishers in Edinburgh, and also himself
the editor of a famous magazine, once said to me while Mr. Lewes was
still editor of this Review, that he had always thought highly of our
friend's judgment "until he had taken up the senseless notion of
a magazine with signed articles and open to both sides of every
question." Nobody will call the notion senseless any longer. The
question is rather how long the exclusively anonymous periodicals will
resist the innovation.

Personally I have attached less stern importance to signature as an
unvarying rule than did my predecessor; though, even he was compelled
by obvious considerations of convenience to make his chronique of
current affairs anonymous. Our practice has been signature as the
standing rule, occasionally suspended in favour of anonymity when
there seemed to be sufficient reason. On the whole it may be said that
the change from anonymous to signed articles has followed the course
of most changes. It has not led to one-half either of the evils or of
the advantages that its advocates and its opponents foretold. That
it has produced some charlatanry, can hardly be denied. Readers are
tempted to postpone serious and persistent interest in subjects, to a
semi-personal curiosity about the casual and unconnected deliverances
of the literary or social star of the hour. That this conception has
been worked out with signal ability in more cases than one; that it
has made periodical literature full of actuality; that it has tickled
and delighted the palate--is all most true. The obvious danger is lest
we should be tempted to think more of the man who speaks than of the
precise value of what he says.

One indirect effect that is not unworthy of notice in the new system
is its tendency to narrow the openings for the writer by profession.
If an article is to be signed, the editor will naturally seek the name
of an expert of special weight and competence on the matter in hand. A
reviewer on the staff of a famous journal once received for his week's
task, _General Hamley on the Art of War_, a three-volume novel, a work
on dainty dishes, and a translation of Pindar. This was perhaps taxing
versatility and omniscience over-much, and it may be taken for granted
that the writer made no serious contribution to tactics, cookery,
or scholarship. But being a man of a certain intelligence, passably
honest, and reasonably painstaking, probably he produced reviews
sufficiently useful and just to answer their purpose. On the new
system we should have an article on General Hamley's work by Sir
Garnet Wolseley, and one on the cookery-book from M. Trompette. It is
not certain that this is all pure gain. There is a something to be
said for the writer by profession, who, without being an expert, will
take trouble to work up his subject, to learn what is said and thought
about it, to penetrate to the real points, to get the same mastery
over it as an advocate or a judge does over a patent case or a suit
about rubrics and vestments. He is at least as likely as the expert to
tell the reader all that he wants to know, and at least as likely to
be free from bias and injurious prepossession.

Nor does experience, so far as it has yet gone, quite bear out Mr.
Lewes's train of argument that the "first condition of all writing is
sincerity, and that one means of securing sincerity is to insist on
personal responsibility," and that this personal responsibility
can only be secured by signing articles. The old talk of "literary
bravoes," "men in masks," "anonymous assassins," and so forth, is out
of date. Longer experience has only confirmed the present writer's
opinion, expressed here from the very beginning: "Everybody who knows
the composition of any respectable journal in London knows very well
that the articles which those of our own way of thinking dislike
most intensely are written by men whom to call bravoes in any sense
whatever would be simply monstrous. Let us say, as loudly as we
choose, if we see good reason, that they are half informed about some
of the things which they so authoritatively discuss; that they are
under strong class feeling; that they have not mastered the doctrines
which they are opposing; that they have not sufficiently meditated
their subject; that they have not given themselves time to do justice
even to their scanty knowledge. Journalists are open to charges of
this kind; but to think of them as a shameless body, thirsting for the
blood of better men than themselves, or ready to act as an editor's
instrument for money, involves a thoroughly unjust misconception."

As to the comparative effects of the two systems on literary quality,
no prudent observer with adequate experience will lay down an
unalterable rule. Habit no doubt counts for a great deal, but
apart from habit there are differences of temperament and peculiar
sensibilities. Some men write best when they sign what they write;
they find impersonality a mystification and an incumbrance; anonymity
makes them stiff, pompous, and over-magisterial. With others,
however, the effect is just the reverse. If they sign, they become
self-conscious, stilted, and even pretentious; it is only when they
are anonymous that they recover simplicity and ease. It is as if an
actor who is the soul of what is natural under the disguises of his
part, should become extremely artificial if he were compelled to come
upon the stage in his own proper clothes and speaking only in his
ordinary voice.

The newspaper press has not yet followed the example of the new
Reviews, but we are probably not far from the time when here, too, the
practice of signature will make its way. There was a silly cry at one
time for making the disuse of anonymity compulsory by law. But we
shall no more see this than we shall see legal penalties imposed
for publishing a book without an index, though that also has been
suggested. The same end will be reached by other ways. Within the last
few years a truly surprising shock has been given to the idea of a
newspaper, "as a sort of impersonal thing, coming from nobody knows
where, the readers never thinking of the writer, nor caring whether
he thinks what he writes, so long as _they_ think what he writes."
Of course it is still true, and will most likely always remain true,
that, like the Athenian Sophist, great newspapers will teach the
conventional prejudices of those who pay for it. A writer will long
be able to say that, like the Sophist, the newspaper reflects the
morality, the intelligence, the tone of sentiment, of its public, and
if the latter is vicious, so is the former. But there is infinitely
less of this than there used to be. The press is more and more taking
the tone of a man speaking to a man. The childish imposture of
the editorial We is already thoroughly exploded. The names of all
important journalists are now coming to be as publicly known as the
names of important members of parliament. There is even something over
and above this. More than one editor has boldly aspired to create
and educate a public of his own, and he has succeeded. The press is
growing to be much more personal, in the sense that its most important
directors are taking to themselves the right of pursuing an individual
line of their own, with far less respect than of old to the supposed
exigencies of party or the _communiques_ of political leaders. The
editor of a Review of great eminence said to the present writer (who,
for his own part, took a slightly more modest view) that he regarded
himself as equal in importance to seventy-five Members of Parliament.
It is not altogether easy to weigh and measure with this degree of
precision. But what is certain is that there are journalists on both
sides in politics to whom the public looks for original suggestion,
and from whom leading politicians seek not merely such mechanical
support as they expect from their adherents in the House of Commons,
nor merely the uses of the vane to show which way the wind blows, but
ideas, guidance, and counsel, as from persons of co-equal authority
with themselves. England is still a long way from the point at which
French journalism has arrived in this matter. We cannot count an
effective host of Girardins, Lemoinnes, Abouts, or even Cassagnacs and
Rocheforts, each recognised as the exponent of his own opinions, and
each read because the opinions written are known to be his own. But
there is a distinctly nearer approach to this as the general state of
English journalism than there was twenty years ago.

Of course nobody of sense supposes that any journalist, however
independent and however possessed by the spirit of his personal
responsibility, tries to form his opinions out of his own head,
without reference to the view of the men practically engaged in public
affairs, the temper of Parliament and the feeling of constituencies,
and so forth. All these are part of the elements that go to the
formation of his own judgment, and he will certainly not neglect to
find out as much about them as he possibly can. Nor, again, does the
increase of the personal sentiment about our public prints lessen the
general working fidelity of their conductors to a party. It is their
duty, no doubt, to discuss the merits of measures as they arise. In
this respect any one can see how radically they differ from the Member
of Parliament, whose business is not only to discuss but to act. The
Member of Parliament must look at the effect of his vote in more
lights than one. Besides the merits of the given measure, it is his
duty to think of the wishes of those who chose him to represent them;
and if, moreover, the effect of voting against a measure of which
he disapproves would be to overthrow a whole Ministry of which he
strongly approves, then, unless some very vital principle indeed were
involved, to give such a vote would be to prefer a small object to
a great one, and would indicate a very queasy monkish sort of
conscience. The journalist is not in the same position. He is an
observer and a critic, and can afford, and is bound, to speak the
truth. But even in his case, the disagreement, as Burke said, "will
be only enough to indulge freedom, without violating concord or
disturbing arrangement." There is a certain "partiality which becomes
a well-chosen friendship." "Men thinking freely will, in particular
instances, think differently. But still as the greater part of the
measures which arise in the course of public business are related to,
or dependent on, some great leading general principles in government,
a man must be peculiarly unfortunate in the choice of his political
company if he does not agree with them at least nine times in ten."
The doctrine that was good enough for Burke in this matter may be
counted good enough for most of us. Some of the current talk about
political independence is mere hypocrisy; some of it is mere vanity.
For the new priest of Literature is quite as liable to the defects of
spiritual pride and ambition as the old priest of the Church, and it
is quite as well for him that he should be on his guard against these
scarlet and high-crested sins.

The success of Reviews, of which our own was the first English type,
marks a very considerable revolution in the intellectual habits of the
time. They have brought abstract discussion from the library down to
the parlour, and from the serious student down to the first man in
the street. We have passed through a perfect cyclone of religious
polemics. The popularity of such Reviews means that really large
audiences, _le gros public_, are eagerly interested In the radical
discussion of propositions which twenty years ago were only publicly
maintained, and then in their crudest, least true, and most repulsive
form, in obscure debating societies and little secularist clubs.
Everybody, male or female, who reads anything serious at all, now
reads a dozen essays a year to show, with infinite varieties of
approach and of demonstration, that we can never know whether there be
a Supreme Being or not, whether the soul survives the body, or whether
mind is more and other than a mere function of matter. No article
that has appeared in any periodical for a generation back excited so
profound a sensation as Mr. Huxley's memorable paper On the Physical
Basis of Life, published in this Review in February 1869. It created
just the same kind of stir that, in a political epoch, was made by
such a pamphlet as the _Conduct of the Allies_ or the _Reflections on
the French Revolution_. This excitement was a sign that controversies
which had hitherto been confined to books and treatises were now to be
admitted to popular periodicals, and that the common man of the world
would now listen and have an opinion of his own on the bases of
belief, just as he listens and judges in politics or art, or letters.
The clergy no longer have the pulpit to themselves, for the new
Reviews became more powerful pulpits, in which heretics were at least
as welcome as orthodox. Speculation has become entirely democratised.
This is a tremendous change to have come about in little more than a
dozen years. How far it goes, let us not be too sure. It is no new
discovery that what looks like complete tolerance may be in reality
only complete indifference. Intellectual fairness is often only
another name for indolence and inconclusiveness of mind, just as love
of truth is sometimes a fine phrase for temper. To be piquant counts
for much, and the interest of seeing on the drawing-room tables of
devout Catholics and high-flying Anglicans article after article,
sending divinities, creeds, and Churches all headlong into limbo, was
indeed piquant. Much of all this elegant dabbling in infidelity has
been a caprice of fashion. The Agnostic has had his day with the fine
ladies, like the black footboy of other times, or the spirit-rapper
and table-turner of our own. What we have been watching, after all,
was perhaps a tournament, not a battle.

It would not be very easy for us now, and perhaps it would not be
particularly becoming at any time, to analyse the position that has
been assigned to this Review in common esteem. Those who have watched
it from without can judge better than those who have worked within.
Though it has been open, so far as editorial goodwill was concerned,
to opinions from many sides, the Review has unquestionably gathered
round it some of the associations of sect. What that sect is, people
have found it difficult to describe with anything like precision. For
a long time it was the fashion to label the Review as Comtist, and
it would be singularly ungrateful to deny that it has had no more
effective contributors than some of the best-known disciples of Comte.
By-and-by it was felt that this was too narrow. It was nearer the
truth to call it the organ of Positivists in the wider sense of that
designation. But even this would not cover many directly political
articles that have appeared in our pages, and made a mark in their
time. The memorable programme of Free Labour, Free Land, Free Schools,
Free Church had nothing at all Positivist about it. Nor could that
programme and many besides from the same pen and others be compressed
under the nickname of Academic Liberalism. There was too strong a
flavour of action for the academic and the philosophic. This passion
for a label, after all, is an infirmity. Yet people justly perceived
that there seemed to be a certain undefinable concurrence among
writers coming from different schools and handling very different
subjects. Perhaps the instinct was right which fancied that it
discerned some common drift, a certain pervading atmosphere, and
scented a subtle connection between speculations on the Physical Basis
of Life and the Unseen Universe, and articles on Trades Unions and
National Education.

So far as the Review has been more specially identified with one set
of opinions than another, it has been due to the fact that a certain
dissent from received theologies has been found in company with new
ideas of social and political reform. This suspicious combination at
one time aroused considerable anger. The notion of anything like an
intervention of the literary and scientific class in political affairs
touched a certain jealousy which is always to be looked for in the
positive and practical man. They think as Napoleon thought of men of
letters and savans:--"Ce sont des coquettes avec lesquelles il faut
entretenir un commerce de galanterie, et dont il ne faut jamais songer
a faire ni sa femme ni son ministre." Men will listen to your views
about the Unknowable with a composure that instantly disappears if
your argument comes too near to the Rates and Taxes. It is amusing, as
we read the newspapers to-day, to think that Mr. Harrison's powerful
defence of Trades Unions fifteen years ago caused the Review to be
regarded as an incendiary publication. Some papers that appeared here
on National Education were thought to indicate a deliberate plot for
suppressing the Holy Scriptures in the land. Extravagant misjudgment
of this kind has passed away. But it was far from being a mistake to
suppose that the line taken here by many writers did mean that there
was a new Radicalism in the air, which went a good deal deeper than
fidgeting about an estimate or the amount of the Queen's contribution
to her own taxes. Time has verified what was serious in those early
apprehensions. Principles and aims are coming into prominence in the
social activity of to-day which would hardly have found a hearing
twenty years ago, and it would be sufficient justification for the
past of our Review if some writers in it have been instrumental in the
process of showing how such principles and aims meet the requirements
of the new time. Reformers must always be open to the taunt that they
find nothing in the world good enough for them. "You write," said a
popular novelist to one of this unthanked tribe, "as if you believed
that everything is bad." "Nay," said the other, "but I do believe that
everything might be better." Such a belief naturally breeds a spirit
which the easy-goers of the world resent as a spirit of ceaseless
complaint and scolding. Hence our Liberalism here has often been
taxed with being ungenial, discontented, and even querulous. But such
Liberals will wrap themselves in their own virtue, remembering the
cheering apophthegm that "those who are dissatisfied are the sole
benefactors of the world."

This will not be found, I think, too lofty, or too thrasonical an
estimate of what has been attempted. A certain number of people have
been persuaded to share opinions that fifteen years ago were more
unpopular than they are now. A certain resistance has been offered to
the stubborn influence of prejudice and use and wont. The original
scheme of the Review, even if there had been no other obstacle,
prevented it from being the organ of a systematic and constructive
policy. There is not, in fact, a body of systematic political thought
at work in our own day. The Liberals of the Benthamite school surveyed
society and institutions as a whole; they connected their advocacy of
political and legal changes with carefully formed theories of human
nature; they considered the great art of Government in connection with
the character of man, his proper education, his potential capacities.
Yet, as we then said, it cannot be pretended that we are less in need
of systematic politics than our fathers were sixty years since, or
that general principles are now more generally settled even among
members of the same party than they were then. The perplexities of
to-day are as embarrassing as any in our history, and they may prove
even more dangerous. The renovation of Parliamentary government; the
transformation of the conditions of the ownership and occupation of
land; the relations between the Government at home and our adventurers
abroad in contact with inferior races; the limitations on free
contract and the rights of majorities to restrict the private acts
of minorities; these are only some of the questions that time and
circumstances are pressing upon us. These are in the political and
legislative sphere alone. In Education, in Economics, the problems are
as many. Yet ideas are hardly ripe for realisation. We shall need
to see great schools before we can make sure of powerful parties.
Meanwhile, whatever gives freedom and variety to thought, and
earnestness to men's interest in the world, must contribute to a good

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